Perch: Surveillance with a Heart
“My biggest challenge is to get people to hang this thing on the wall,” Danny Robinson, CEO of Perch, tells me. And indeed, it is a problem. Behind a really interesting and weird startup idea.
The audio version of this column includes a short interview with Perch CEO Danny Robinson.
Perch is a little app for families that runs on a smartphone persistently. That is, you dedicate an old phone or device to the app, mount said device on a wall in a central location (like the kitchen) and just let it run.
When someone walks into the camera’s field of view, it automatically starts recording, and then it sends the video it just took to phone of the family member who’s presumably not home (either at work, or traveling). It can tell the difference between an “ambient” video (the kids coming home from school) and a “direct” video of someone sending a message (the kid coming up to the camera and saying, “Hey, Dad, look at the A I got on this test!”). It alerts the remote user differently for the two message types.
Dear old Dad can send messages back, too.
The service is free for consumers, but you have to B.Y.O device. Robinson hopes a dedicated, cheap, branded Android Perch device is in the company’s future. Plans for a paid service are also in the works.
Perch is not Skype or Facetime, Robinson says, since you don’t have to make a call to use it. “We’ve removed the friction,” he says. It’s not a surveillance product, either, although it did start as one (Redhand).
Perch is emotional. Robinson goes Don Draper with the Perch pitch. With it, he says, he can travel far and wide and “The kids feel like I’m there.” He says other early users have been moved to tears by the connection it fosters in their families. If anything, Perch should be compared to the micro-social networking products like Pair, Quilt, and JustFamily. It’s a surveillance guy’s realization that people will pay more attention to, and perhaps more money for, an app that makes them feel not paranoid, but loved.
Audio of this column:
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