The entrepreneur has built a free service, Sensr.net, that makes it easy to share and store video feeds and turns cheap webcams into motion detectors
In 2006, Adam Beguelin sold his startup, a video-search site called Truveo, to AOL (AOL) for $50 million. Then he decided to pack up his family and move to Vietnam for a year of kite-surfing and cultural exploration. He didn't want to wait around for his place in California to sell, so before he left he rigged two webcams to monitor the open houses.
The difficulties of getting that setup to work gave Beguelin, 47, the idea for his next venture. He's now back in the U.S. and working on Sensr.net, a site that makes it easy to view, share, and store video feeds from network cameras, which connect to the Internet without need for a PC. (Some webcams, including those packaged with new laptops, require additional software.) Sensr lets you monitor video from such cameras using any Internet-connected device. Sensr also applies its motion-detection algorithms to each feed, turning even the cheapest webcam into a surveillance device. If a camera is aimed at, say, the front door, Sensr recognizes when a visitor—or a burglar—opens it and can send a text-message alert to the homeowner. The site stores an unlimited amount of low-quality video and for a small monthly fee will start keeping high-definition feeds later this year.
Beguelin says his service, which will also make it easy to share videos on YouTube (GOOG), Facebook, and Twitter, is "about socializing these devices." Just as Facebook has become the hub for online identities, he hopes Sensr will become the hub for Web-connected cameras everywhere. He hopes cafés and restaurants will set up cameras so that customers can log on to Sensr, search for their local hot spot, and see how long the line is before leaving home. Ketan Kothari, an entrepreneur in Palo Alto, Calif., who heads to India during the Bay Area's rainy winter months, says he uses the service to monitor his flood-prone basement and arrange cleanups from abroad.
Sensr is "more for early adopters" at this point, says John Honovich, founder of IP Video Market Info. Internet services that focus on webcam features are still at a "very early market stage." Sensr, based in Incline Village, Nev., received $1.5 million in venture capital funding in January.
Before turning to entrepreneurship, Beguelin taught computer science at Carnegie Mellon and co-founded its Silicon Valley campus. The sabbatical in Vietnam was not just a way to decompress but also a chance to help "our kids to understand their heritage," says Beguelin, whose wife is from Vietnam. He's now exchanged his kite-surfing gear for what he says is "a lot" of cameras all over his home. "For a while, I was trying to catch a rat under the house," he says. "I had a night-vision camera so I could check the traps."
Sold video-search site Truveo to AOL for $50 million in 2006
Learned to kite-surf during a yearlong sabbatical in Vietnam
Sensr.net shares, stores, and helps monitor webcam video