Review: iCam app streams webcam to your iPhone

I was pretty shocked when I read on Gizmodo that a man had used the iCam iPhone app to watch as someone burglarized his home. Not just because the story was so crazy, but because I often wondered what I would do if I witnessed my home getting robbed while using that exact same iPhone app. I’ve been testing the iCam app for several weeks and, while it won’t keep intruders out of your home, it will certainly give you some piece of mind while you are traveling.

The iCam app allows you to monitor your webcam via your iPhone (or iPod Touch) from anywhere so long as you have an Edge, 3G or WiFi signal. Obviously, WiFi is ideal for monitoring the video, but I was surprised with how well it streamed over 3G, as well. You can also enable motion detector alerts which will push notifications to you whenever your webcam senses movement. This is ideal for people wanting to use iCam for home security.

In order to use iCam, you must first download the free software to your computer (available for both Mac OS and Windows) and download the $4.99 app to your iPhone. A very simple setup process links your webcam to your iPhone, allowing you to remotely view your camera feed from anywhere you have a signal.

I tested the app while remotely keeping an eye on my two dogs. iCam allows you to stream up to four webcams directly to your iPhone, so my girlfriend and I set up both of our MacBooks in the bedroom while our dogs stayed behind. Leaving your dogs at home can be stressful, so having the ability to check in on them no matter where we are definitely intrigued us.

When you open the iCam app on your iPhone, you see thumbnail views of every feed that you linked to your phone. In the photo above, you can see our two camera feeds. Tapping on one of the small boxes opens that feed in full screen, as shown here:

Additionally, you can set iCam to take still images of any motion activities that it detects. Curious pet owners will finally see what their dogs and cats do when left alone and victims of burglaries may just have a critical piece of evidence to show to law enforcement officials.

On a few occasions, iCam failed to sync with my webcam. I remedied this once by repeating the initial setup and two other times the situation resolved itself when I closed the iPhone app, waited a few minutes and relaunched it.

Overall, the iCam app is worthy of its $4.99 price tag. It provides piece of mind, shows only a few signs of being infrequently buggy and offers more than enough features beyond just the video streaming to make it both useful and entertaining (at least for people watching their pets while also out with friends).

If you have pets (or perhaps a babysitter that you don’t trust) or want an inexpensive home monitoring system, then iCam might just be right for you.

The iCam app is available in the iTunes App Store and the software for your computer is available on the company’s website.

Round the World in 80 Sounds: What’s World Music?

What is World Music? How has such a bland, vague term come to describe the rich and divergent music of thousands of cultures, from sub-Saharan Gnawa to Colombian Cumbia and Tuvan Throat Singing? For too long, it’s been the descriptor anywhere we buy or hear international music, from record stores to digital outlets like iTunes, relegating hundreds of diverse artists to a single heap because of their “otherness.” In fact, World Music is a Western term describing music outside the traditional “pop music canon:” the familiar American and European bands that long-dominated our radios and laptops. But World Music is on its way out: a hunger for the varied sounds from around the globe is rising to take its place.

The term “World Music” is a relatively recent phenomenon. Coined by a musicologist by the name of Robert E. Brown in the 1960’s, it was created to describe styles of ethnic or folk music found in more remote corners of the globe. World Music actually worked OK for much of the last 50 years, as long as the Western World remained the center of economic, political and cultural force. In the 20th Century, the West dominated the global airwaves, with icons like Michael Jackson and The Beatles winning hearts and record players from Bogota to Beijing. But by the end of the 90’s, it was clear the term was increasingly irrelevant.

As we push into the 21st Century, the Western dominance of the global music scene has waned. A new global musical consciousness springs up in its place, driven by the power of a global economy and music distribution systems where digital files and streaming videos are the norm. The hot sounds of 2010 don’t just come from New York and London – instead, rhythms ricochet across the globe, from Angola to Argentina and to Angkor Wat, finding eager listeners and receptive audiences in the farthest corners of our planet. It’s not just that music lovers are just discovering new global favorites, it’s also having a profound impact on what we listen to at home. The DNA of this global music phenomenon has worked its way into the music of our favorite singers and bands, from M.I.A. to Shakira to Vampire Weekend.

The global phenomenon of music is also tied to travel. Wherever we go, music permeates our consciousness, buzzing from tinny taxi radios, echoing off the chambers of metro tunnels and pumping from giant speakers. But alluring as it may be, discovering global music can also be confusing and intimidating. There are enough countries, artists and weird musical genres to make your head spin. What’s a traveling music-lover to do?

Today we’re unveiling a new feature here at Gadling called “Round the World in 80 Sounds.” The phenomena of global travel and music are inextricably intertwined. Each Thursday over the course of the coming weeks and months we’ll be taking a look at some of the world’s most fascinating music personalities, emerging musical trends and musically inclined destinations. We’ll introduce you to new styles of music you haven’t heard, and help you to take a fresh look at some of your old favorites with a global eye. What qualifies as World Music in 2010? Everything and nothing, it seems, all at once. Prepare to take a journey into the fascinating world of music today as we head Round the World in 80 Sounds.

Curious about the sounds of the world? Read future Round the World in 80 Sounds posts HERE.

Daily deal – HAVA Titanium HD streamer with WiFi for $85

My daily deal for today is for the HAVA HD TV streamer. I mentioned this device several weeks ago in my “watch TV in your hotel room” article, at the time, the unit sold for about $180.

Today only, you’ll find the HAVA Titanium HD WiFi at for just $79.99 (plus $5 shipping).

As the title says – this is for the WiFi version, so you get the HAVA Titanium and their WiFi kit, all for under $80.

With the HAVA, you can watch whatever is on TV at home, anywhere in the world. The viewer application runs on Windows, Windows Mobile, Symbian and even for the Nokia Internet Tablet.

In addition to streaming live TV, the HAVA Titanium can act as a DVR and a media player, when you connect a USB memory stick or hard drive to its USB port.

UPDATE: Item sold out about an hour after this article went live. Sorry!

Flickr adds video

If you’ve spent more than two minutes on the Internet recently, you already know and love photo-sharing site Flickr. Today the site is breaking some interesting new functionality, allowing pro users to post videos of up to 90 seconds. Rumors of video have apparently been floating around on site’s message boards for some time now, though today marked the feature’s official launch. Users haven’t wasted any time pulling together video-focused sharing groups to take advantage of the new feature.

Some people are questioning the wisdom of Flickr’s decision. Why, they point out, would Flickr launch video sharing when sites like YouTube already dominate most online video attention? I tend to disagree with this view because I think Flickr video can occupy an interesting niche for photographers. If you consider the way most people capture travel video these days, it tends to be short snippets from point-and-shoot digital cameras. When you upload these files, computers don’t really distinguish between photo and video – everything is usually lumped into the same folder. Thus there’s an interesting opportunity to allow users to share their photos and videos all in one place. Flickr is also limiting their video size to 150 megabytes or 90 seconds, which to me also emphasizes they’re looking to capture short camera clips, not your three hour long wedding ceremony (as heartwarming as it might be).

Only paying pro users can use Flickr Video for now, but perhaps they will open it up to others in the near future. Check out the help page to get started.