iFamCare’s Helmet Home & Pet Video Camera ($150-$170) is an indoor home camera which was initially funded on Indiegogo. The aptly named Helmet allows users to keep an eye on their home from afar, with up to 1080p video, sound, and a microphone. Users can pan the camera 360 degrees, and tilt it up to 70 degrees. Any specific “pet” aspect of the camera comes into play with the included laser — that particular feature is more likely going to appeal to cats than dogs. Other features include night vision, an air quality monitor, push notifications, and support for multiple users. A microSD card can be inserted into the back of Helmet for extra video/photo storage. The camera comes with a mount, so it can be affixed to a wall, ceiling, or another surface. We received the white version of Helmet; oddly, the black version is $20 more expensive.
Helmet looks like a full-faced racing helmet — think of The Stig from Top Gear — held up upon a plastic base. The pet laser is mounted above the camera, and speakers are placed on the sides. The back of Helmet has a reset button and status light, a micro-USB port to plug in the included AC adapter — Helmet isn’t battery-powered — and a microSD port. (A microSD card does not come with the camera). It’s probably not the most attractive home camera design we’ve seen, but it’s also certainly not offensive in any way. It gets the job done.
Helmet’s setup process is easy and inviting — it only requires a Wi-Fi network and the free iFamCare app. (Note that your home’s router must be set to the 2.4Ghz band, not 5Ghz.) After a quick setup within the app, requiring us to make a password, we had Helmet up and running within minutes. Once Helmet is setup on a Wi-Fi network, it can be watched while on the same network, or while away from home, via LTE or 4G. We found there was a slight lag, but otherwise, we didn’t have trouble connecting or watching video. There were times when the app told us the camera went offline — we’re not sure when or why, but reconnecting was quick and easy.
Once you’re setup, you can click on any linked camera to get a live feed. Video is pretty good, as far as these cameras go. It claims to be 1080p, but you still shouldn’t expect the same quality you’d get on your TV or anything like that. Night vision quality is also more than acceptable. Two-way sound works, too, but we did have an echo issue at times when using the microphone. The camera can be moved remotely by sliding your finger across the screen while viewing the live feed. Users also have the option to take pictures and record video — those photos and video can be shared with an online community. As to why you’d want to do that, we’re not exactly sure, but the option is there, and some other folks seem to be sharing.
Like most of these home cameras, Helmet can be set up with activity and sound alerts, both of which can be relayed to a user via push notification. During our testing, we got quite a few notifications when nothing really seemed to be going on. You can adjust for sensitivity, however, so if you’re really into the idea of getting alerts, you’re probably going to have to do some trial-and-error to get it just where you want it.
Other notable Helmet features include an air quality sensor — the air in our testing area was apparently top-rate — and the laser. Users can turn the laser on or off, and also make it move around in a couple different patterns, no doubt to entice a kitty that may be lounging around nearby. The laser pattern will last for about 10 seconds, and record a clip of the action. It may not be as tricked-out as those pet cameras that can dole out treats, but it’s a fun, if non-essential, feature.
If the app’s storage or a microSD card aren’t enough for users, iFamCare apparently offers cloud storage. We’re not sure how or when the cloud storage is activated, as the company’s website only claims, “At this point no additional cloud charges are applied.” That makes it unclear when and if anything is being kept in the cloud — it’s possible cloud storage isn’t available yet — and it also brings up some other questions. Many of these home cameras make some sort of claim regarding encryption or privacy, but we saw no references to anything of the sort on Helmet’s packaging, in its manual, or on iFamCare’s website. If you’re comfortable enough with the app needing a login, and the camera being connected to a secure Wi-Fi network, that may be enough for you, but others might be looking for something a bit more concrete.
iFamCare’s Helmet is a solid option as a basic home and pet video camera. It has a few minor issues, such as the camera dropping offline at times, and some microphone echoing. We’re also a tad concerned about iFamCare’s lack of any statement regarding encryption and security. While we wouldn’t recommend Helmet as a serious all-day home security option — or as a baby monitor — it’s a great general camera that can be used to check in on the home and the pets at times during the day, especially considering its quick connection process and ease of use. Helmet earns our strong general recommendation.
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Compatibility: Bluetooth iPads, iPhones, iPods