A Digital Eye for Your Home, Business (or Family), Anywhere With Dropcam Pro

Dropcam ReviewWith my cloud office, I can work / live in Toronto, Montreal or anywhere with excellent espresso bars. But who keeps an eye on my home or office when I’m gone. Insurance policies often no longer cover damages resulting from floods or hot water tank leaks. Hmmm. That’s why I checked out these next generation of video monitoring systems to address my 21st century problem.

My Perfect Video Monitoring System Should Allow Me to:
  1. View my video camera anywhere with my iPhone, Android, iPad or any computer;
  2. Receive email or text alerts of any detection, and allow others to receive notifications and viewing privileges
  3. Connect through Wi-Fi
  4. Walk through a simple setup, even for non geeks and grandparents
The Test

I tested a few video monitoring systems before choosing a winner:

  1. Lorex Digital Wireless system (399.99$CDN): Good for outdoor use but too complicated to install and did not meet my criteria #1, 2, 3 and 4.
  2. Belkin NetCam HD: Great price (129,00$CDN), easy to set up, even with an iPad. Great customer service, even on Sunday. All 4 criteria were met. The big issue for me was NetCam HD’s inability to connect with Apple Airport Express Wi-Fi base station. The quality of the video streaming was a little blurry, but hey, it worked.
  3. Dropcam Pro: This is by far, my top rated gadget of the year for the business nomad (219$CDN). Let me explain.

Why Dropcam Pro:

  • HD video premium quality: you can see clearly
  • Top audio quality: you can hear footsteps
  • 60 second setup: yes, it’s true
  • Mobile (iTunes & Android) apps to watch free live streaming, anywhere in the world (with Wi-Fi, of course)
  • 130 degrees field of view
  • High powered infrared night vision
  • Zoom in 8X
  • Motion and audio disturbance alerts via text or email messages, instantly (with settings preferences)
  • Share or delegate alert notifications: share the fun. Include friends or family on video monitoring duty
  • Compatible with Apple’s products, such as iPhone, iPad, Mac, Airport Wi-Fi base station
  • Optional cloud recording with 7 or 30 days subscription service ($99 to $299 annual subscription pricing)
  • Activity recognition included in the subscription service: Dropcam learns your motion patterns so to limit false alerts
  • Location awareness based on where you are
  • Responsive customer service.

Dropcam has a great support team. When I first completed my setup, I could not understand why I had this translucent and backwards “Hello” appearing during my night video. I emailed a screenshot of this problem to Dropcam support. Within 10 minutes, I had a gentle reminder to remove the protective seal off my video camera.

The ultimate seal of approval came from my parents. They now have a sump pump channel on Dropcam.  All in all, Dropcam is the perfect Wi-Fi video monitoring system. Don’t leave home without it.

Dropcam Pro

On Reinventing Lawyers, Consultants and Other Pros: Are You Ready?

Work DifferentlyThe most interesting professionals I’ve met this summer were either fired, independent or living in a trailer. I couldn’t have met a happier bunch. Ironically, according to Forbes Magazine, the unhappiest professional is the associate attorney. The reasons are well documented: lack of control, billable hour syndrome, office politics and if you ask me, the shiny dress code and the mahogany furniture (see Dan Pink’s The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us).

You don’t need to be fired to find your motivational angle. You simply need an “inspired workspace”. Inspired workplaces (or digital workspace) come in different business models so let’s look at a few examples of what is working lately.

#1: Working on Projects Remotely

Teams are now increasingly built around projects. For example, our team is working on a public road project in Canada. Our team was self-selected and is comprised of two lawyers, an investment banker and a renegade engineer. All are independent professionals. We are all located in different parts of North America. We basically use Google Docs and Basecamp to coordinate in real time our project. One guy actually hired three analysts from Europe and Pakistan on oDesk to crunch numbers for a complex infrastructure financing deal in Toronto. It saved him two weeks of time all for under $1000.00. I do the billing, expenses and time tracking. I use Freshbooks because I hate accounting. Freshbooks is amazing. More on Freshbooks next post. The advantage of this type of digital workspace is that it allows you the freedom to choose your project, team mates all the while gaining some very “niche” experience. It also allows you to personalize your own branding.

#2: Virtual & New Business Model Firms

Two colleagues have recently joined law firms with fresh new business model approaches and they love it. For example, Cognition LLP  is a Toronto next-generation firm whereas Delegatus is a Montreal based dynamic law firm. Both firms have adopted both virtual and physical environments where lawyers can operate in. This means you can now work from home or from the cottage without raising eyebrows.  UpCounsel is a US based virtual business law firm. A super cool example of the “new kind” of accounting cloud firm is Bench.co. (I wish they were in Canada.) If you are an independent or solo professional, there is no reason why you should not consider your own virtual law firm. The advantage of a virtual firm is that you are part of a branded digital ecosystem for your web presence, email, cloud phone, billing and on occasion, a real boardroom. The disadvantage remains that many view virtual law firms as a technologically too complicated.

#3: Working from Home

Dan Pink’s Free Agent Nation catapulted the work from home movement into the spotlight back in the early 2000. Today, your personal technology is very likely more powerful than most employers (one of Canada’s largest city is still stuck on MS Office 2003). Hence, there is no reason why you would shy away from giving business advice in your jeans and deliver a professional looking report from the comfort of your home office. People working from home can now tune in to podcasts such as Home Work for better ideas, workflows and resources.

Are you Ready?

The most frequent question I get from professionals is…. what are the basic steps I can do to start digitizing my business (aka inspired workspace)? Simple: Start with digitizing your name. Get rid of your “myname@hotmail or gmail” and the likes. Personalize your name, even with something as basic as “myfirstname@lastname. You will own your digital rights to your name forever and move it around should you change internet provider. Here’s a blueprint on how:

1. Digitize your name AKA “Register your Domain Name”.  Use GoDaddy or Funio. I use them both. GoDaddy can be confusing with all the silly questions (trying to up-sell you). Funio is straight forward but pricer.

2. Get your personalized email address with your new digital name.

3. Get Google Apps for Business so you can have your own cloud storage space, online calendar and contact management system.

Need help organizing that? Contact me.


Rethinking Innovative Workspace

Ottawa Workspace

Cool workspace in Ottawa

Rethinking the way you work is to change where you work. Home can be a great place if you love your space.

When working from home, we convert the dining room table into a boardroom or workspace during the day. If you are using a laptop, you will soon find yourself with sore shoulders or neck. This happens when the elbows are level with your hands on the laptop. That leads to long term injury.

The trick is to find that table that allows for optimal biomechanics. You want your elbows to drop naturally when typing. You also want your hands to be lower than your elbows when using your computer. This provides a better biomechanics.

I decided to rethink my work table / dining room table. I also wanted a work table to double up as a conference room table without compromising on design of a great dining table. I found this great solid oak table in Ottawa at Alteriors. The chairs were higher than normal to allow the “hovering” of my elbows over the table. This seems to address the biomechanics of working at a dining table for extended periods of time. The table and chairs are designed by Edmonton based IZM group. The price point is steep but it is an “Iconoclast” table. Of course.