Avaak Paves the Way for Video Cameras Everywhere

camera_mountSay cheese. You’re on camera, or at least you will be soon enough, thanks in part to a company called Avaak, which launched its Vue personal video network today. The company has created a small, cheap(ish) wireless camera system that allows you to monitor your home, office or even your neighborhood remotely.

Not that we’re trying to get all Big Brother on you. The Avaak technology is actually pretty cool. The Vue costs $299 and comes with a gateway, two 2-megapixel video cameras and four mounts. Plug an Ethernet cable into the gateway, stick the magnetic cameras on to the mounts and push a button. The gateway finds all the cameras nearby without the use of a computer. The video is encrypted and beamed to a private account on VueZone.com, where users can log in to watch. Additional cameras are $50$99.

Avaak (which means “dust” in Hebrew) developed its own “FrameMesh” protocol that enables the low-power wireless transmission of video. The technology was originally developed in conjunction with the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) and the Office of Naval Research to allow the military to monitor monitor buildings and other places cleared of a threat. According to Avaak reps, a camera can run for a year on a single lithium-ion battery. The cameras have the same range as Wi-Fi, or further with a signal-boosting extender.

Once online, users can monitor, record and share still images or video broadcast. There is no sound for the video in this generation of product, and recording needs to be done manually or at set intervals. There is also no motion sensing functionality yet, so it can’t act like a real home-monitoring system. The web site provides 2 GB of storage, allows you to upload video to places like YouTube and access is bundled with the product for the first year. After that the cost for the online account is $19.95 a year.

Avaak thinks the initial market for this is for busy families with a lot going on at home, like latchkey kids or elderly parents who might need to be checked on. The company also sees it being used for personal video sharing — but that seems unlikely considering the lack of sound and competing higher-quality video options. Other uses could include crowd-sourced neighborhood watch systems, or Google Earth integrations to provide live street views. Personally, it seems like a cool way to check in on my dog while I’m at work.

The availability of cheap, near-disposable video cameras for monitoring immediately conjures up notions of the surveillance society, but Avaak co-founder and CTO Gioia Messinger shrugs that off, noting that in any city, you are already being monitored. Interesting side note: in her previous work, Messinger helped develop the “pillcam,” a video camera that you swallow to beam images of your innards.

Based in San Diego with 30 employees, Avaak was founded in 2004 and raised $7 million in Series A funding last year from Trinity Ventures, InterWest Parnters and Leapfrog Ventures.