In recent years, a few companies have taken a stab at creating consumer-friendly networked video systems that allow you to monitor your home remotely over the Web or on your mobile phone. With time, these systems, which people use to check in on their pets, property, nannies--or whatever--have improved in terms of reliability and ease of setup, but all too often there are some shortcomings.
Enter the Dropcam, a network-enabled Webcam produced by 88Volts, and using hardware made by a company called Axis. Two models are currently available: the standard Dropcam ($200), which just captures video, and the Dropcam Echo ($280), which captures both video and audio.
Once you buy the Dropcam of your choice, you connect it to your router/computer via a wired Ethernet connection (don't worry, Wi-Fi is available, but that comes later--see below). You then sign up for a Dropcam account online, key in a number associated with your Dropcam, and set up up the camera in a few steps. All in all, the process isn't unlike that of linking a Netflix account to a Blu-ray player or game console.
Both models are Wi-Fi-enabled and, as part of the wired setup, you're prompted to link the Dropcam to your wireless network. Once you complete that part of the setup (if your network has a password, you enter it once, and you're good to go), you can then disconnect the Dropcam from the Ethernet connection and place it anywhere in your house that's within range of your network. Each Dropcam comes with a mounting accessory and an AC adapter (the Dropcam has to be plugged in and powered up).