With Blink’s camera chip and a few AA batteries, Amazon goes low-energy
At the end of 2017, Amazon quietly purchased Blink, a smart home security camera company known for its relatively affordable pricing and tiny, always-on camera modules. According to a Reuters report, Amazon didn’t just buy Blink for its security cameras—the online retailer reportedly bought the company for about $90 million to glean access to its energy-efficient chip technology that gives Blink cameras years of battery life.
When news of the acquisition broke, most thought that Amazon would use Blink to enhance its own smart camera projects. Amazon launched Key just a few months prior to buying Blink, a system that uses Amazon’s own Cloud Cam and a smart lock to let couriers into homes to drop off packages.
The Amazon Cloud Cam needed for Key can also be purchased separately for basic home monitoring for $119, and it uses a microUSB port for power. On the flip side, Blink’s cameras are powered by AA batteries, and its embedded, energy-efficient chip allows those batteries to last up to two years at a time. Much like other smart home security cameras, Blink cameras record HD video, monitor motion, and send alerts to users when a disturbance is detected.
Blink’s security system is one of the most flexible available, thanks to its low price—a bundle of two cameras and a sync module costs $169—and untethered cameras. It’s clear why Amazon would want to tap into Blink’s chip technology: it could use those chips to extend the battery life of its own smart home security camera and any other IoT devices it debuts in the future. Battery life is a big concern for smart home devices, most of which require a constant source of power to work as promised. Having Blink’s chip technology under Amazon’s own roof could also lessen future dependence on chip manufacturers, lowering production costs and making it easier for the company to branch out into other smart home technologies.
Blink’s chip technology came from its owner, Immedia Semiconductor, which was started by ex-Broadcom employees in 2008. The group originally targeted the laptop industry with video conferencing chips, later switching to making its own cameras after laptop makers continued to buy more affordable chips from other suppliers.
Ars reached out to Blink for more information. The company still makes indoor and outdoor cameras under the Blink name (and it announced its first smart video doorbell at CES last month), and currently there are no signs of Amazon squashing Blink’s business in favor of its own. But Amazon’s smart home device business isn’t slowing down—last year, the company released a slew of new Echo devices in addition to the Cloud Cam and smart lock needed for Amazon Key access. It’s possible that, at the very least, we’ll see Blink cameras integrate more with Amazon devices and services in the future.