Flir FX takes aim at both home surveillance and action cameras

Flir is taking on both Dropcam and GoPro with the Flir FX. This little camera is a roughly 2x2x1-inch block with a circular lens sitting front and center. There's an available home base that it can mount onto for home security purposes, as well as options for exterior mounts, car mounts, and even a waterproof sport case that you can strap onto your helmet, bike, or what-have-you (à la GoPro). With Wi-Fi, remote monitoring, and a nifty "RapidRecap" feature that compresses hours of activity into minutes, Flir's system is going toe-to-toe with Google-owned Dropcam.

It does, of course, all center around the camera. It's a 1/3-inch 4MP sensor behind a 24.5mm ƒ/2.5 160º lens. It records video at 1080p 30fps when in action cam mode, and 720p when acting as a security camera (due to upload bandwidth concerns). Like the Dropcam Pro, the Flir FX has an array of infrared LEDs that fire up to give the camera night vision capabilities as well. Everything is recorded onto a microSD card, and the camera has a 1130mAh battery inside that gives it up to two hours of continuous recording.

What really separates the Flir FX from Dropcam is the RapidRecap feature. This takes a day's worth of surveillance and compresses it into a shorter time. It starts with uploading recorded footage to the Flir Cloud, and then when triggered by the user the system analyzes the footage for movement, and isolates those instances. But instead of just running a steam of the moments where action was detected, RapidRecap overlays them on top of each other, intelligently making sure it'll still be accessible, and labels each instance with a timecode that tracks along with the movement. And to avoid having to deal with the camera tracking, say, cars passing by the window, you can easily select areas that the camera will monitor with a simple grid system through the Flir app.

Think of it this way: in an 8-hour period in your hypothetical living room, your housekeeper passed through four times, your kids got back from school, and the dog ran through a dozen times. With RapidRecap, each of those instances is played at the same time: you see four housekeepers, a dozen dogs, and a pair of kids coming through the front door — all with timecodes tracking them through the frame. If you want to isolate a specific moment without everything else that happened that day, there's a list of the discrete clips included available for you to check out as well.

The idea behind RapidRecap is to give you everything you need for the day's activity, but without having to sift through hours, or even minutes, of footage. Imagine the same scenario as above, but at some point while you were gone for the day a vase on the table by the door was broken. Now instead of scrubbing through hours of footage looking for what broke the vase and when, or worse, trying to interrogate the kids, the housekeeper, and the dog, RapidRecap will show everything happening at once. Watch the vase, see that it was the kids being careless (i.e. being kids) when they got in and hitting the table with a bag when bursting through the door. Mystery solved.

The processing for RapidRecap does happen all in the cloud and through the Flir FX app for iPhone and Android. The basic free service stores your video for 48 hours (i.e. you can go back and review footage from 48 hours ago), and lets you generate three RapidRecap videos per month that each span up to 6 hours from the last 24 hours. If you upgrade to the Flir Cloud Plus for $9.99/month ($99.95/year) you'll get 7 days of storage and an unlimited hour of 8-hour RapidRecap videos. Lastly is the Flir Cloud Premium tier at $19.99/month ($199.95/year) with 30 days of cloud storage and 12-hour recaps made up from video dating back up to 7 days (useful for if you've been on vacation and something happened while you were gone).

Flir FX is available from retail in two configurations: a $199 indoor kit with the indoor base (it includes an extra battery for a combined 4 hours of life) and an outdoor kit for $249 with the outdoor housing. Both are available now from Amazon and will see limited brick-and-mortar availability for at least a few weeks.

We just got our hands on the Flir FX a few days ago and are putting it through its paces right now, so look out for a proper review in the coming days.

Derek Kessler

Derek Kessler is Special Projects Manager for Mobile Nations. He's been writing about tech since 2009, has far more phones than is considered humane, still carries a torch for Palm (the old one), and got a Tesla because it was the biggest gadget he could find. You can follow him on Twitter at @derekakessler.