In-home cameras that beam footage to cloud storage are inherently more prone to attacks than those that record locally. No matter the encryption scheme in play, there’s always a risk of captured clips taking an unintended detour on their way from a router to the datacenter.
That’s why Simtoo-owned SimShine, an AI consultancy startup headquartered in Shenzhen, China, developed one of its first cameras — SimCam Alloy — with an offline focus. To bring the first-gen model to market, the company in March launched a Kickstarter campaign that went on to raise $310,095 in funding from over 1,200 backers. And to kick production into high gear, SimShine secured $8 million in a funding round led by Cheetah Mobile, with participation from Skychee, Skyview Fund, and Oak Pacific Investment.
TechCrunch previously reported the pre-series A funding.
For the uninitiated, SimShine got its start in 2017 and the following year became a top Intel solutions provider in Asia. In 2018, it founded an R&D lab with robotics professors from the Wuhan Institute of Technology in Wuhan, Hubei, and shortly afterward the company established a subsidiary — SimCam — in Shenzhen that was focused on developing AI-enhanced security cameras.
One of the fruits of their labor — the Alloy — has a Sony IMX 1/2.3-inch 5-megapixel sensor (with a 140-degree field of view and 8 times digital zoom) that sits on a 360-degree motorized gimbal and can record in 1080p and see up to 50 feet away in near-darkness, thanks to a proprietary night vision mode SimCam calls “Starlight.” The Alloy’s IP65 weatherproof shell boasts a built-in mic and 1-watt, 100-decibel siren to ward off intruders, and the camera’s local recording function (which requires a sold-separately microSD or network-attached storage) eliminates the need for a constant data connection.
A 12-core Intel Movidius video processing unit accelerates the SimShine’s on-device algorithms, which can detect whether objects within view — like packages, doors, animals, and vehicles — are in motion. The unit is able to distinguish among faces uploaded to it via a smartphone companion app and to use that data to trigger smart home device routines, like switching on lights and fans.
To be sure, Nest offers comparable functionality in Activity Zones, which let you define an area of interest in the camera’s view and notify you when motion is detected. But Activity Zones are locked behind a Nest Aware subscription — there’s no monthly fee associated with the Alloy.
From the aforementioned app, users can outline the regions they want the Alloy to watch over and can rewind up to five seconds before (and 20 seconds after) a detected subject or event. (The app organizes everything automatically into separate lists by camera names, detection types, dates, and time.) Using the SimCam Alloy’s software development kit, those with programming knowledge can devise their own AI triggers, like detecting a license plate, catching a dog in the act of stealing food, or opening a garage door.
“SimShine has found a huge gap in the overseas market of home security,” said VP of Cheetah Mobile Su Liang, who added that SimShine plans to use this latest raise to accelerate product development and expand its team. “By training [a] large amount of data, SimShine has overcome the difficulties of customizing AI models for various use scenarios.”
SimShine has yet to announce the SimCam Alloy’s pricing and preorder details, but it’s expected to ship to Kickstarter backers in the coming months.