Ecobee SmartCamera

In the process of building a new house, I’ve been putting a lot of thought into what I want to do camera-wise. I’ve even considered putting in Nest cameras outdoors (bridging to HomeKit via Starling Home Hub) and then HomeKit cameras indoors. As part of that process, I’ve been purchasing every HomeKit camera on the market, so this week, I am looking at the Ecobee SmartCamera as a potential option to build around.

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I hear from a lot of readers about the privacy implications of having cameras in your home. While I don’t put them in bathrooms or my bedroom, I am a fan of having them in other home areas. There are two reasons why: The first is when a camera is recording to HomeKit Secure Video, I am the only one who can access the recordings.

What is HomeKit Secure Video?

HomeKit Secure Video was first announced at WWDC 2019. Apple, known for its commitment to privacy, began allowing HomeKit enabled cameras to build support for using iCloud storage for video storage/playback. It requires a 200GB iCloud storage plan to support one camera and a 2TB storage plan to support up to five cameras. You must have a Home Hub set up to make it all work. You can use the HomePod, Apple TV, or an iPad as a Home Hub.

As we saw in 2019, Ring had to fire employees that had improperly accessed cameras.

According to The Intercept, Ring’s engineers and executives have “highly privileged access” to live camera feeds from customers’ devices. This includes both doorbells facing the outside world, as well as cameras inside a person’s home. A team tasked with annotating video to aid in object recognition captured “people kissing, firing guns, and stealing.” [Update: According to Ring, annotation is only conducted on “publicly shared Ring videos.”] U.S. employees specifically had access to a video portal intended for technical support that reportedly allowed “unfiltered, round-the-clock live feeds from some customer cameras.” What’s surprising is how this support tool was not restricted to only employees that dealt with customers.

Ring has disputed some of the claims, but the damage was done in my eyes. I will only allow cameras inside my house that use end-to-end encryption. I don’t want to have to hope companies have strict security and auditing of customer cameras. I like the system to be designed where they don’t need high protection for customer camera footage because they don’t even have access to it. HomeKit Secure Video is to home video footage as iMessage is to messaging. It’s secure from the ground up, and it should be the expectation for all consumers when it comes to video.

As our world becomes more connected, it’s even more important to consider the security of your data from the beginning. In a few decades, there will no longer be homes vs. smart homes. All homes will be smart homes. By starting with a secure foundation, customers can know that they can have all the benefits of modern conveniences while knowing their privacy is still intact.

One of the aspects of HomeKit cameras I’ve come to appreciate and use quite heavily is turning off streaming/recording when I am home but still using the Ecobee SmartCamera as a sensor for presence detection to trigger other automations.

Why Ecobee SmartCamera?

While the ecobee camera didn’t originally launch with HomeKit Secure Video support, it was later added. The camera also launched at a much higher price ($129) than it retails for today. If you watch for deals on 9to5Toys, you can easily find it for less than $90.

Where the Ecobee SmartCamera isn’t the lowest cost HomeKit camera on the market (eufy is) or the best build quality (CircleView is), it does strike a really nice balance of being affordable, but also being made out of premium materials with a design that will fit in nicely in your home.

Setup process

Because ecobee makes other products, you can start with the ecobee app for setting it up. Since I didn’t plan to use any of ecobee’s Haven security services with the camera, I skipped this process. From a security perspective, I like only using the Home app to manage and monitor cameras.

Using the Home app, I scanned the Ecobee SmartCamera’s HomeKit QR code and then worked through Apple’s setup process by adding it to a room, setting when I want it to record, stream, detect the presence of people, or nothing at all.

Overall impressions of Ecobee SmartCamera

I am using the Ecobee SmartCamera to monitor my entryway in my current house at the moment. Although I have a eufy doorbell covering the entrance to my home, I like the peace of mind of having another camera inside of HomeKit recording who is coming and going from my house. The camera quality is fantastic (1080p) with a wide field of vision, and it looks great in the daytime or at night. If you are looking for a great-looking camera for HomeKit Secure Video, check out the Ecobee SmartCamera.

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About the Author

Bradley Chambers

Bradley lives in Chattanooga, TN where he manages Apple devices for a private school. 

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