NetGear is launching a line of HD cameras designed for some of the peculiar requirements of service providers who have home automation offerings.

Simultaneously, the company is introducing an Android-based HDMI dongle that service providers can use in lieu of a set-top box (STB) to provide a basic video tier accompanied by Android apps, which can include a guide and storefront. The dongle is being positioned as a service provider alternative to devices such as Google’s Chromecast or Apple’s AppleTV.

NetGear’s Ocuity HD cameras can go beyond the typical webcam with the addition of a range of optional features that include rechargeable batteries, SD card slots to equip the devices with memory, along with audio input, with both audio and video sensors that can trigger the unit.

Service providers have been careful with home automation services because of concerns about privacy. They have been especially careful with audio, because depending on how it is implemented, they can even run afoul not only of various privacy laws, but also of wiretapping laws, explained Jeff Wilson, Netgear director of product marketing.

The Ocuity cameras use their microphones primarily as sensors, alone or in combination with video. The camera combined with the microphone can be combined to become an effective occupancy detector. Netgear cameras use this combination to replace infrared motion detectors.

The audio system can also detect a range of specific sounds – one example is breaking glass – that would trigger the unit to turn on.

A microphone with echo cancellation and built-in speaker enables both security and health-and-wellness checks. Parents can even talk with their kids through a virtual intercom created by an app linking Ocuity 500 to their smartphones, the company said.

If the home system is connected to emergency services, the unit can then be set to act as an intercom, Fisher said.

The Ocuity 100 takes 720p resolution HD video and interfaces with a home router with an 802.11n Wi-Fi connection (the link is selectable dual-mode). The Ocuity 500 offers the same networking and HD capabilities, but also features a magnetic mounting system (called MagnaFast) so that the camera can be placed almost anywhere in the home.

The battery can send about 2 hours worth of streaming video before becoming depleted. Storage can be useful under a variety of circumstances; one example would be storing video if the broadband connection goes down to relay later.

The Ocuity 500 Wireless IP Camera (HMNC500) and Ocuity 100 Wireless IP Camera (HMNC100) will become available in the first quarter of 2014 through leading security and home automation service providers. End pricing will vary depending on the service provider offering, but is likely to be in the $65 - $75 range, Fisher said.

Separately, the company introduced its NeoMediacast HDMI Dongle (NTV300D) integrates the Android SDK, giving service providers the tools to build their own premium content store. Any Android apps a service provider has already developed will also be supported.

Combined with NTV300D support for DRM, this offers service providers a low-cost alternative to set-top boxes. By supporting this seamless portability of existing Android applications and the cost-effective development of new applications, the NeoMediacast Dongle enables service providers to instantly turn any TV into a Smart TV, NetGear said.

The dongle can connect to any gateway – including NetGear’s own, of course – to enable cloud-based service. “We’re good at Wi-Fi, and we’re good at distributing video to the TV,” said Naveen Chhangani, NetGear’s worldwide director product marketing/management. “So this can be used for a cloud-based user interface and EPG.”

The dongle offers Miracast-enabled wireless display, so that consumers can share content from their mobile screens to big screen TVs. It has full HD 1080p/60 decode, the company said, along with integrated DRM support (Microsoft PlayReady, Google Widevine and Adobe RTMPe).

It includes 802.11ac wireless connectivity, and support for Bluetooth 4.0. It is USB powered, includes a micro SD slot for playback/storage, and has a micro USB (OTG) port for secondary storage.

The NeoMediacast HDMI Dongle is scheduled to become available for service provider deployments in the first half of 2014.