Friday, December 11, 2015

Special needs smartphone: draft sample sub-chapter on Google Nest Cam use

Early version …

….Some people with cognitive disabilities may be prone to impulsive anger, and may need monitoring when home with siblings but no parents. A teen with ADHD and autism may alleviate boredom by pestering a sibling. Head injury related to seizure activity could lead to extended unconsciousness. Kitchen hygiene neglect may be causing roommate or landlord problems.

These are all familiar problems for supporters of special needs teens and adults. In each case we’d like to be able to peek around the corner, even while we’re at work or simply away from home. We can do just that with a smartphone and some gear, we can even make warnings and ultimatums come out of thin air.

The gear is something like Google’s “Nest Cam”, formerly known as the DropCam. The Nest Cam is marketed as a home security device for $200 plus a $100/year fee for access of up to 10 days of stored video. At the moment it requires a WiFi network; Nest doesn’t sell a mobile cellular version.

For the situations mosts of us are dealing with we don’t need the stored video, we just need to be able to launch the Nest Cam app on our iPhone or Android and see what the camera shows. The Nest Cam has a speaker; the app lets us “speak” from the camera and see and hear responses. It’s not suited to conversation, but it works well for “Stop That!”. The smartphone software can be be used with multiple Nest Cams.

There are less expensive competitors, but the Nest Cam comes with excellent Android and iOS smartphone software and lifetime access to secure, reliable, on-demand streaming video backed by Google’s infrastructure. For our particular needs it’s the only solution worth looking at.

The Nest Cam has a single power USB power cord. It can be mounted on a wall, but most users will place it on a convenient shelf. It’s relatively easy to connect it to an encrypted home WiFi network. When you connect to a Nest Cam from a smartphone it begins streaming video to a secure Google server and from there to your phone. At that point you can see, and more importantly hear, what’s happening at the camera locale. Depending on what you’re seeing you may sign off, phone, or use the built-in speakers to deliver a suggestion.

The standard Nest Cam configuration turns a red light on when in use, but the light can be disabled. If the video-active light is disabled there’s no way to know if the video is streaming or not.

On demand notification-free monitoring has an ominous flavor. In practice, of course, it depends on the context. The average teenager does not want Mom or Dad doing secret observation, but if it keeps their older brother calm and well behaved around the XBOX many will welcome it. In some cases a special needs teen or adult will find the existence of the camera calming, so that in practice it is rarely used.

In other cases the camera may be masked and the video light will warn that an audio channel is opened. Then video may be enabled or not depending on the circumstances. In other circumstances video might be activated only if both text message and phone call go unanswered. There are many ways to use this technology wisely and to everyone’s mutual satisfaction….

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