The Newest Wyze Camera Update Kills Person Detection, But Motion Detection Stays

A woman and her son playing in a living room, with a Wyze camera in the background.
Wyze

Last July, Wyze announced a surprising new feature for its cameras—free person detection. You didn’t need the cloud or subscription fees to benefit. That was due to reliance on an outside company named Xnor.ai that specializes in edge computing. Unfortunately, that good news comes to an end today. Wyze just released a firmware update to remove person detection—with a promise to bring it back.

Before we get into the details here, it’s worth noting that won’t lose motion detection—just person detection specifically. Motion and noise detection will both stay intact after this update.

Why You’re Losing Features

A black Wyze camera with a tilted head.
Wyze

Wyze cameras are great because you get most the features of a $200 security camera for less than $50. Person detection was always a miss, though, because usually that involves setting up advanced algorithms hosted in the cloud, uploading video, examining it, and sending back results as quickly as possible. That’s cost-prohibitive for a company that lives on cutthroat pricing.

So it was a surprise when Wyze announced the feature was coming to its cameras. To make that happen, it partnered with Xnor.ai to enable edge computing on Wyze cameras. Instead of uploading to the cloud, the camera would process the data and determine the results. It was an impressive feat—one that couldn’t last.

Unfortunately, part of Xnor.ai’s contract with Wyze stipulated that it could end the service at any time and without warning. The company proceeded to do exactly that, and Wyze notified users last November that it would need to remove the feature in an upcoming firmware update.

If you’re wondering why Xnor.ai would suddenly break the contract, the answer became clear earlier this month—because Apple announced it bought the company. The implication here is that Apple wants the technology for its products and naturally wouldn’t want to share it with competitors.

In any case, Wyze didn’t have a choice in the matter. The company notified users as quickly possible in an effort of transparency, then promised to bring the feature back somehow.

Wyze admits that the new version will most likely require cloud processing, but it’s promising not to charge users in spite of that fact. Since then, it’s been a waiting game for the impending firmware to arrive that kills the feature—and that day is today.

You CAN Keep the Feature—But You Shouldn’t

Today, Wyze released firmware for Wyze Cam and Wyze Cam Pan that removes the Xnor.ai integrations. If you install the firmware, you will lose person detection. That’s not all the firmware does—it also adds support for SD card ejection (a surprisingly late addition), fixes issues with audio and video syncing, and other problems as well.

However, you don’t have to take the firmware update. You could ignore it, and since the Xnor.ai person detection is a locally processes feature, you’d keep it. You could, in theory, stay on old firmware until Wyze re-releases the new version of person detection.

But you probably shouldn’t unless you have a really good reason to keep person detection. As already seen in this firmware updates, Wyze cameras aren’t perfect (no hardware is). You’ll be missing out on new features and, more importantly, important security updates. Plus it’s worth keeping in mind that you’re not losing motion detection here, just person detection specifically.

If Wyze discovers a major issue with the cameras that leaves them vulnerable, you won’t get the patch to correct the problem if you refuse firmware upgrades.

Overall, it’s not a great situation for anyone (except maybe Xnor.ai and its buyout). But at least Wyze has been upfront about the situation and is trying to restore the feature—even it costs the company. Ultimately, it’s a reminder that your smart home can break anytime and there’s not a lot you can do about it.

Source: Wyze

Josh Hendrickson Josh Hendrickson
Josh Hendrickson has worked in IT for nearly a decade, including four years spent repairing and servicing computers for Microsoft. He’s also a smarthome enthusiast who built his own smart mirror with just a frame, some electronics, a Raspberry Pi, and open-source code. Read Full Bio »

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