Cameras for BYOD

Camera/Camcorder – At the recent Pepcom event on September 29, I saw several small cameras that were targeting the Bring Your Own Display (BYOD) market, where the display in question was a mobile smartphone or tablet display.

VSN Mobile (Fort Lauderdale, FL) was showing its camera, the V.360°, that will produce a 360° panoramic image from a single 16MP camera sensor. The catadioptric optical system includes two mirrors plus lenses to map the 360° panoramic image onto the flat sensor. The vertical field of view is +45° and -15° for a total of 60°.

The distorted image on the sensor is rendered to a flat image by a quad core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 2.3Ghz processor. Internal memory can be expanded with a Micro SD card. The camera can stream the image live over Bluetooth at a reduced frame rate and resolution to your mobile device. The full resolution of the video image is 6480 x 1080 at 30Hz. The camera will also take 8MP still images.  Connectivity is via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, HDMI 1.4a or micro USB 3.0.

The camera is (slightly) submersible and is specified for 1 meter underwater for up to 30 minutes, level IPX7. That’s according to the literature, which cites a Military Specification underwater test and the IP67 immersion test. The rep at Pepcom said that, unofficially, it is good for deeper and longer underwater than that. The camera is compatible with both traditional camera mounts and GoPro mounts.

The rep at Pepcom said that the V.360° would be available in November. Pricing hasn’t been set yet, but he said it would be under $500. He also said apps would be available for both iOS and Android 4.4 or higher.

JK Imaging LTD., who licenses the Kodak name for its Kodak Pixpro line of digital cameras, showed a similar 360° camera called the Action Cam SP360. This unit also uses a single 16MP image sensor to produce the 360° panorama. Instead of a combination of lenses and mirrors that VSN Mobile uses, this camera uses a more conventional fish-eye lens. Specifications on this camera are not available and the units at Pepcom were not shown in operation. The unit by itself is not waterproof but waterproof accessories are expected to be available, along with accessories for extreme outdoor use.

According to the representative at Pepcom, the camera should be available in October, prices will be $349 for the camera and either the Aqua or Extreme housing, or $399 for the camera with both the Aqua and Extreme housings.

Seek Thermal (Santa Barbara, CA), a startup founded in 2012, was showing perhaps the most unusual BYOD camera I have seen. This is a thermal imaging camera that images in the infrared (7.3 – 13µm) and provides a false-color image of temperatures in the -40C to 330C range with approximately 1°C accuracy. Like most thermal imaging systems, resolution is low and the image sensor has  an array of 206 x 156, for a total of 32K pixels. The sensor has a 12µm pixel pitch and a 36° field of view.

The camera is not wireless – it plugs directly into your smartphone or tablet. Two versions are available, one for Android and one for Apple products with the Lightning connector. Seek Thermal provides a compatibility list indicating which Android and Apple products work with its camera.

Why would anyone want thermal imaging? Seek Thermal suggests several key applications:

  • Safety and Security: Scan a dark parking lot before heading to your car; scan the yard before investigating strange noises.
  • Home Improvement: Identify leaky windows and doors, insufficient insulation, and other sources of energy loss; trace water damage up a wall or across a ceiling to its source; and identify the location of clogs in pipes.
  • Pet Owners: Scan the yard for predators before letting your dog out at night; find your dog or cat in the dark.
  • Cooking: Measure the heat distribution across your BBQ or griddle; instantly measure the surface temperature of food; detect the propane level in your tank.
  • Boating: Detect and locate objects on the water at night.

Seek Thermal says previously thermal imaging cameras cost $3000 and more, limiting their use by consumers. The Seek Thermal camera is available now on the company’s website for $199. Later it will go into general distribution at a $299 price point. – Matthew Brennesholtz