Sunday, 1 February 2015

Review: Snap Sights, Protect what is most precious to you.



*I have not been paid for this review. Snap Sights approached me and asked me to trial their system and write a review on the system. All the opinions below are mine and are honest and accurate.


In this modern world, we worry more and more about our children's safety than ever before. Possibly because in the age of modern technology and global news, we are much more aware of the dangers and risks to our children's safety.


If you lived in the UK fifty years ago, you wouldn't have known is a child was kidnapped in America. In fact, you were unlikely to know if a child had been hurt in Liverpool if you lived in London. All the information at your fingertips was mainly local and it wasn't accessible within minutes of the event occurring.


Now we get a step by step, blow by blow account as the events are happening. Take, for example, the tragic Air Asia crash in December 2014, we had live, up to the minute coverage of the unfolding events and regular updates as further news came in.


More and more families now have both parents working, and they have the dilemma of finding the best and most appropriate childcare for both their children's needs and to accommodate the working hours and flexibility demanded by their jobs.


Here in the Middle East it is still really common to have people who are employed by you, full time, to work in your household. We have an amazing maid (who actually is more of a housekeeper) with us in Dubai who works with us full time and keeps the house in order, cooking and cleaning and even the shopping. In Dubai having domestic staff isn't just the realm of the rich and famous, it is something that many many families out here are able to afford.


We also have nurseries that are expensive and that do not operate much in the way of extended hours. There are very few nurseries that are open past 5:30pm and in the real world, it is often impossible for either parents to get back from work in time to collect their children. If there children are in school then it's even more difficult because they finish school at 2:30pm and the after school activities don't run as late as parents would need them to.


There isn't (as far as I'm aware) a system of registered childminders here, so that doesn't appear to be an option. So in a world where parents are often on another continent from family, and there are very few friends willing to take on your child full time, one of the main options is to have a nanny to look after your children.


It's hard for any parent to leave their child in a registered and inspected nursery, but far harder to leave them in the care of someone with no formal qualifications (save for having children of their own) where there is no one else around to be the eyes and ears if something does go wrong (however unlikely).


That is where Snap Sights comes in. Snap Sights is registered with Dubai Police's Department of Protective Services and they install surveillance cameras in your home, which are monitored by their team of female operatives. The surveillance cameras can also be viewed by the parents via their computer of smart phone.


The operatives who monitor the live video streams do so for the time periods set by the parents and they notify the parents should anything happen to their child. This spans from the obvious abuse cases to a child being left alone in a room for longer than appropriate.


I had the Snap Sights system installed in our home for a period of two weeks in order to test the system. The cameras were placed in the living room, our daughter's room and our son's room. Here is my review of the system and Snap Sights as a whole:


The Installation:


As previously arranged two Snap Sights employees turned up at exactly the pre-arranged time, with a text message sent five minutes before arrival to notify me that they were on their way. The two men were extremely efficient in accessing our wifi network and router (something I know little about) and worked hard to install the cameras and the system as quickly as possible.


They talked through the best location for the cameras with me and took screen shots of the view each camera had, so that if the camera was moved from the position agreed, I would be notified. They also set up the computer so that I could view the cameras and walked me through setting up the system on my iPhone. They couldn't have been more helpful or thorough.


The System:


I was expecting to like this system purely because I think that it's a great idea. The ability to check in to see what is going on in your own home is fantastic, and to know that someone is watching even when you can't is even better.


What I didn't expect was how much I would like it. The service that Snap Sights provide is exceptional. I received numerous text messages during the two week trial alerting me to various things that they felt I needed to know. I have to admit that I didn't often log into the system to watch for myself, but the times that I did all cameras were working perfectly and I didn't have any trouble accessing the system.


I am a Stay At Home Mum so I was usually there with my two children, but the staff at Snap Sights were definitely aware when I wasn't there. So if I had left my children with Mary, and she left the house with them, I received a text message to tell me that they had left the house.


I also received a text message if my son had woken from his nap, and he hadn't been attended to within a few minutes. Whilst it's normal for him to wake and not make much noise, and therefore not be noticed for a few minutes, it was reassuring that they were aware of the time that he had been awake without someone going in to him.


If the cameras were moved, or one of them lost the feed (One did because over the weekend I disconnected it by mistake), I received a text message. A member of the Snap Sights team also requested that they come back out to reposition the camera in the living room because they had spotted a different location which would enable them to see more of the room. When they came out, they were again efficient and polite.


The thing that impressed me most about Snap Sights is the way they dealt with injuries. My two year old decided to climb onto the sofa in her room, which was already full of the duvet that usually lies on the floor by her bed (in case she falls out, which she often does), and jumped onto the duvet. It slid off the sofa and S crashed onto the floor and hit her head on the tiles.


Thankfully she was fine and only a couple of bruises to show for it. However, not only did Snap Sights call me to let me know, and then send a follow up text, they also sent me the CCTV clip of the incident. I was actually in the house when it happened but S was alone in her bedroom. It was great to be able to playback what had actually happened and see it for myself, so that I knew exactly how it had happened and how bad the fall was.


The text messages did drop off a little in the second week, but I expect that is because the people monitoring the cameras were getting used to the ebb and flow of the household. They no longer text when I left the house with the kids, for example, which they had done the first week.


The one area of the system that wasn't as exciting as I had expected it to be was their "Happy Moments Video" that is sent out to show parents clips of their children so that they can see their child at play or doing new things. The video I was sent only included my son, not my daughter, and it was mainly L in bed or sitting on the floor. 


I had to update this section because when I shared my view with their co-founder, the team at Snap Sights went back over the "Happy Moments" video and re-did the first one I received, and sent me a second one for the second week. They were actually really lovely, given it's taken from CCTV footage and it was really sweet to see the week back in colour, even though I'd been there the whole time!




All in all I was really impressed with the system. I felt like it worked well in our house, and if I was going back to work full time and leaving the kids at home with someone, I would definitely have Snap Sights on board. Mainly for peace of mind, and so that I can see exactly what happens when things go wrong. Accidents happen and kids are always full of bumps and bruises, but it's reassuring for both the parent and the person minding the child if they know that the parent can see exactly what happened.


The monthly fee is pretty much where I expected it to be, given the level of monitoring and the level of service I received. It's not a cheap system, but then it is an investment in your children's safety and to bring you peace of mind. It's also significant;y cheaper than putting your children into nursery full time, especially if you have two or more children.


Snap Sights also operate a referral programme. For every person who signs up to Snap Sights, the person who referred them will receive a month of free monitoring.


For more information on Snap Sights please visit their website or email their Co-Founder Basak San Sasal on basak@snapsights.ae