In the break room, there were problems. Minor ones, mostly — errant dishes not returned to their home, coffee brewed but not cleaned up after, German cakes cut, served, but never fully disposed of. And in this world of petty cleaning sloth, a solution was needed. A way to observe, to hold accountable, and, occasionally, to interact with the crew and encourage (or demand) final cleanliness. Logi (the new name for the brand Logitech) recently introduced the Circle, a device they pitch as a feel-good piece of tech for checking in on (this is not “monitoring”) your family, work, dog, parakeet, baby sitter, wine cellar, spare garage, tool shed, bomb shelter, elderly parent, or, in this case, break room. I arranged it on a high shelf with a warning to my coworkers, as a solution.
Circle is white, about the size of a tennis ball, and has the blank, dull, Hal-from-Space-Odyssey video device stare (minus the red dot). A speaker circles the camera and creates a silver halo around the black orb. It’s designed to look as friendly and unimposing as a camera can look. Logi’s design is intentional — white is a color associated with light, warmth, cleanliness, unobtrusiveness, not invasion, and small things are less intimidating. Just a quiet accompaniment to the break room, to ensure civility in dish-ware protocol.
The camera setup was simple — just connect the camera to the smartphone app, then connect the camera to the local wi-fi network, and you’re online. From there, the feed is displayed on your device with HD video and audio, with a minor delay (a second or two). A 10-foot cord keeps the camera charged, and a small light at the top of the camera will blink white while someone is actively watching (no secrets here). Users can talk through the camera, and conversations can be had in a sort of Anderson-Cooper-on-the-other-side-of-the-world way (“You planning on cleaning that pot?”). This is the interaction part of the camera, and with a 12-hour battery life, it allows users to carry the camera around during conversations or to show someone something in another room (Nest, for comparison, has to be connected to its cord to be powered on).
Logi Circle Tech Specs
2-way talk and listen
135-degree wide angle
8x zoom on live and recorded footage
Free 24-hour cloud storage
Shareable video clips
Connects to iOS 8.1 or Android 4.4
12-hour battery life
USB power adapter
In the end, it’s not Facetime (which, honestly, is better for communicating via video remotely), but the selling point of the camera isn’t the interactive aspect, it’s the smart monitoring. Circle activates with movement, recording when some significant change happens in the view of the camera. It will then record this activity, and keep it in cloud storage until the end of the day (the storage is from midnight to midnight). When logging into the app, users can review specific moments of the day and download them to their phone, or they can tap into the Day Summary, a 30-second fast-forwarded clip of the activities of the day. The Day Summary can also be downloaded, for no charge (there is no subscription, as with Nest Aware). Or, for those who need to be alerted if something goes on, push notifications will notify users of live activity via smartphone.
Rather than scrolling through all activities and clicking each recording, hoping to see something significant, the Day Summary provides an overview of activities, which users can then explore into more depth if needed. This summary offers a snapshot of a day in a digestible form, and in two weeks of using the camera as I travelled around the country, it provided an ample overview of what happened in that break room, all seen in less than a minute. Dish abandonment stopped, and people often waved a friendly hello. Solution found — not in a cold and menacing monitoring system, but in an endearing orb providing a crisp live feed. It’s a solution where your clean dishes, friends, children, tools, grandparents, dogs, parakeets, wine, babysitter — and coworkers, of course — will thank you with a smile.