One of the best features of Wyze’s budget-priced security cameras is their people detection functionality, but the company just announced that it’s planning on removing the feature—temporarily, it says—next month.
According to an email sent to Wyze cam users on Tuesday, the company says it’s pulling the free people detection feature because Xnor.ai, the Seattle-based, on-device AI company upon which Wyze’s people detection functionality relies, has terminated its lease agreement with the camera manufacturer.
However, Wyze promises to come up with its own people detection feature sometimes next year, and that the feature will still be free once it arrives.
In the meantime, a firmware update slated from mid-January 2020 will disable people detection for current Wyze Cam users, according to the company. “While this is a setback for our team and user community, it is temporary and we are eager to make it up to you in the future,” the company said in its email blast.
One huge benefit to the Xnor.ai people detection functionality used by Wyze cameras is that it’s based on “edge-AI” that runs on the actual camera hardware rather than having to be uploaded to the cloud.
Beyond the fact that on-device people detection helps to allay privacy fears, it also (according to Wyze) means that the company is spared the cost of server fees, which generally get passed on to users.
Losing people detection functionality, even temporarily, is a blow for Wyze and its budget-priced cameras. The pint-sized, well reviewed Wyze Cam v2 costs just $20, while the slightly larger Wyze Cam Pan goes for $30, which is still impressively inexpensive for a smart security camera.
The news is particularly ill-timed given that Wyze just rolled out a $1.49-a-month cloud storage plan for its cameras only last week.
People detection is one of the most sought-after features when it comes to smart security cameras. Without it, security cams (including Wyze cameras) can be triggered by almost any kind of movement, including branches blowing in the wind, lights turning on and off, or pets strolling into the frame. My own Wyze camera once began shooting footage when (quite literally) a large particle of dust floated by at night.
Despite the hiccup, Wyze says it is confident that it can launch its own people detection feature next year, although the company admits that it may have to lean on the cloud rather than on-device AI.