Eric Schmidt

Still, Lighthouse’s software goes a step further than other cameras with the face data it compiles. Inside its mobile app, a voice assistant helps you review footage from specific timeframes and set up alerts without having to sift through menus. The assistant supports all kinds of custom parameters, such as when someone shows up in a certain time period, with specific people, or with people the camera doesn’t recognize. You can have some alerts go off when you’re already at home, and some go off when you’re not. And if you just want to review the day’s footage, Lighthouse presents a time-lapse that slows down whenever people are in the picture.

The Creepy Line

We didn’t have a lot of visitors during my time with Lighthouse, but when people did come by, I felt an obligation to point out the camera and explain how it worked. This is arguably good etiquette with any security camera, but it felt like a necessity with Lighthouse given that it was quietly building profiles of everyone’s faces and storing them in the cloud.

From a data security standpoint, Lighthouse offers plenty of assurances. The company uses “bank-grade” TLS encryption for every connection, and a method called “key stretching” to protect users’ passwords. Video gets wiped after 30 days, and while Lighthouse keeps face information in perpetuity, the company says it’ll never look at users’ data. (One exception: You can report misidentified faces to have a “trained AI expert” look over the relevant video.)

Even so, Lighthouse is going a step further with data hoarding than the other connected devices we’ve been letting into our homes. Smart speakers like the Amazon Echo and Google Home don’t upload a continuous audio feed in search of useful tidbits. Instead, they listen for specific wake phrases to ensure they’re taking only what they need. Other connected cameras do upload continuous video feeds, but in years past the intention was around home security, and ensuring that law enforcement could access footage of criminal activity.

[Image: courtesy of Lighthouse]
By comparison, Lighthouse is creating a searchable database of everything that happens under its watch, and it’s using this information to push beyond home security. While the camera does offer a Privacy Mode that can stop recording when users who’ve installed the app are nearby, this nullifies the presence detection on which Lighthouse is staking its business: “Our ultimate vision for Lighthouse is to provide useful and accessible intelligence for all physical spaces,” the company says in today’s blog post.

A lot of good can come from that vision. Today, for instance, Lighthouse can tell you that your kids are home safe from school, or show that your dog has been acting strangely when you’re not around. It can also quietly capture some magic moments, like the bout of play fighting that broke out between my four-year-old son and myself after dinner last week. When IFTTT integration arrives later this year, Lighthouse’s presence detection could help accurately control smart lights, speakers, thermostats, and other connected devices. Someday, its motion recognition could tell you if an elderly family member is on the ground and immobile.

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