Startup 'Owl' launches wireless security camera for your car

PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) -- From alarm systems to security cameras, there's a whole industry dedicated to protecting your home -- but now, a Bay Area startup wants to bring that same sort of security to your car.

We've all seen the videos: burglars caught in the act by somebody's home security camera. The founders of Palo Alto-based Owl Camera saw them too.

"Definitely, stuff happens in the home, but it's really hard to look through those statistics without seeing that way more happens around the car," said Owl Camera founder and CEO Andy Hodge.

In San Francisco alone, there were 28,000 reported car break-ins last year, according to Owl's research, which gave them a pretty good clue there would be a market for a tiny security camera made especially for cars.

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The Owl team includes designers and engineers who worked on the original Dropcam, later acquired by Nest and also members of the original iPod, iPhone and HoloLens teams. In other words, they're people who are used to starting from scratch to build hardware around a problem they want to solve.

In this case, Hodge said, that problem is: "How do you cut the cord on security, right? Because security shouldn't just stop when i step off my sidewalk into the street."

Most home security cameras record everything all the time, and often stream that video to the cloud. But in a car, where power isn't unlimited and internet access isn't free, the Owl team had to find a different approach: Figuring out how to capture just what users are likely to want, and getting it to them quickly, wherever they are

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"Take the way video security works in the home, and kind of turn it upside down," Hodge said.
The $350 Owl camera connects to the cloud with cellular. The service is free for a year, then $10 a month. It doesn't stream all the time. Much like a car alarm, it waits for something to happen, like an impact. If that impact is a break-in, the interior camera turns on blinding white lights.

"You can also, with a 2-way intercom, talk to the person that's in your car," said chief product officer J.P. Labrosse.

The unexpected lights and voice can sometimes scare off a thief, he said, as evidenced by similar features available on home security cameras from companies like Nest.

The Owl Camera also works while you're driving, automatically sensing and recording an accident, or recording on demand using the magic words, "OK, presto!" to save a clip that starts 10 seconds before the command was given.

Of course, Owl's makers will argue the real magic is that your car can finally tell you when it's in distress.

"You would think that your car would say, 'hey, come help me!' right?" Hodge said.

Click here for more information on the Owl Camera.

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