In my previous column, we looked at the Wyze Cam smart camera, which retails for $19.99 at www.wyzecam.com. We discussed the camera’s robust functionality, attractive price point and (unlike higher priced cameras) its free 14-day cloud storage. In part, Wyze achieves this price point by only storing video in the cloud in 12-second clips after the camera detects motion. We raised the issue of motion-detection sensors that trigger events in your home on Shabbat and promised to provide a solution. In this article we’ll present a solution that may be a foundation for many smart home applications.
I mentioned in the last column that while the Wyze Cam app does allow for turning off the motion detection at certain times during the day, it does not allow you to choose the day of the week, or to choose times based on sunset for Shabbat. Plugging the camera into a smart switch that turns the entire camera off for Shabbat is a solution, but one that leaves you without recording activity, negating the primary purpose of a security camera.
Addressing the 24/7 recording requirement turns out to be easy. The Wyze Cam offers an option to install a micro SD card and set the camera to record continuously. This changes the camera’s reliance on just motion; instead it records 24/7. The size of your SD card will dictate the length of playback available as the camera will overwrite older recordings as it needs space. A 32 GB SD card will give you a few days of continuous recording. If you simply turn off the motion detection and choose continuous recordings, most halachic authorities would agree that this is permissible on Shabbat. The motion detection, however, is a key feature that you would only want to turn off on Shabbat and Yom Tov, but the app itself will not allow this.
I placed a development request to the company to at least allow day-of-the-week scheduling and sunrise and sunset times for motion detection, but at this time the app still does not offer this. Additionally, this would only address Shabbat but not Yom Tov which, of course, occurs on weekdays as well.
Recently, the Wyze Cam enabled IFTTT connectivity, which I believe can resolve all the camera’s Shabbat and Yom Tov issues concerning motion detection. IFTTT stands for If This, Then That and it allows many devices to integrate with other services. In our case, the “If” will be if it is Shabbat or Yom Tov and the “Then That” will be to turn off the Wyze Cam motion sensing. We can also create the reverse, which is to turn the motion sensor back on Motzei Shabbat.
IFTTT is a free app that can be loaded onto any Apple or Android device. Once you sign in, there are a growing number of services and devices you can integrate. In our case, we will be integrating a Google Calendar pre-loaded with candle lighting and Havdalah times for both Shabbat and Yom Tov.
I created a series of public Google calendars pre-loaded with all candle lighting and Havdalah dates and times for several years. These calendars and IFTTT can be integrated to address Shabbat and Yom Tov issues with the Wyze Cam and potentially many other devices. There are no other events on these calendars besides Shabbat and Yom Tov. It will not tell you when Tisha B’Av is or when Chanukah falls out, as we only want notifications for days when melacha is prohibited. I created a calendar for several time zones. There is one for New York metro, Chicago, LA, etc., and, of course, one for Jerusalem. If you need another time zone, send me an email ([email protected]) and I will be happy to add it.
To add the appropriate Tribe Tech Review Public Google Calendar to your personal calendar, please see detailed instructions and links on my blog at tribetechreview.wordpress.com.
I created two Applets on IFTTT as TribeTechReview. One to link the Google Calendar and turn off the Wyze Cam motion detection for Shabbat and Yom Tov and then another Applet to turn them back on after Havdalah. You can search for the TribeTechreview Applets by searching for the keywords “Shabbat” or “Yom Tov”. To integrate IFTTT with both the Google Calendar and Wyze Cam you will need to login to both services on the IFTTT Platform. The App will prompt you for the appropriate login when required.
I set up the default candle lighting Applet to trigger 15 minutes before the listed candle lighting time to provide a buffer so that small execution delays or minor time-zone differences should not be an issue. I tested both the candle lighting and Havdalah Applets over several weeks and it worked flawlessly and ran within a few minutes of the scheduled time. This solution will work even if your phone is powered off.
The IFTTT integration is truly a potential breakthrough for shomer Shabbat consumers of smart home technology. I would like to see even more hardware companies integrate it as it can be the basis of solving the many Shabbat issues that seem to be emerging in home automation. With the Wyze Cam’s IFTTT integration, I can give the camera a high Tribe Tech level 4 of 5 rating for being Shabbat and Yom Tov compliant with third-party integration. In fact, good things do come in small packages. Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!
By Dov Pavel
Dov Pavel is a tech enthusiast who is not affiliated with any of the companies whose products he reviews. The opinions he expresses are solely his own. Dov is not a halachic authority. Readers should consult their own rabbi as needed. Dov lives in Teaneck with his wife and three children.