Netgear launches its Arlo smart home brand with a camera

Netgear, a company better known for routers, home storage gear and other networking equipment for consumers, has jumped on the smart home bandwagon with an IP camera. The camera is the first of many products that Netgear hopes to launch under a new home automation brand called Arlo.

The Arlo camera is an impressive beast that will be available online and in retail outlets in January. It offers HD, night vision and indoor/outdoor functionality, and it’s battery operated so you can place it wherever you want. The camera comes with a base station that handles some of the logic required by the camera and by the eventual rules engine that will govern Netgear’s Arlo home automation gear. A package of two cameras and a base station will cost $349.99, while additional cameras will cost $169.99 each. Battery life is about four to six months.

Erich Volkert, Netgear’s senior director of product management, explained some of the camera’s features and described to me how someone might program the cameras to work together. For example, if you have a wide angle on your house, you might set it up to start recording when the camera near your front door detects movement. That way you might catch a better glimpse of the person who came to the front door.

But the camera is only the first step. Volkert says that [company]Netgear[/company] will launch other products next year, although for now the focus will be on a semi-closed ecosystem so Netgear customers get a simple and easy-to-use experience. This means that Netgear will work with select partners such as [company]LIFX[/company] to build scenarios that might be useful around the home.

The idea reminds me of Nest’s work so far in offering customers a stable of partners that have built features designed to work with [company]Nest[/company]. The user doesn’t have to figure out what she wants to program, she just has to select if she wants to enable a new feature between the two products. That model is fundamentally different from Netgear rival Belkin’s approach to the smart home. Belkin’s WeMo devices tie into a variety of third-party services and devices from [company]If This Then That[/company] to [company]SmartThings[/company]’ platform. [company]D-Link[/company], another router and home networking equipment maker, has also launched a line of connected cameras, outlets and more but I’ve not heard much about them or tested them.

Netgear also said Wednesday that it has joined the AllSeen Alliance, which is promoting the AllJoyn protocol for devices to interact in a mesh network around the home. Volkert says that Netgear has not yet implemented AllJoyn on the Arlo gear. As it considers that, it will also plan to add the capabilities of the Arlo base station into other Netgear products, such as routers and storage devices. But that is a complicated undertaking that Volkert says will take significant time.