A company called Owl is introducing its first product today: the LTE-connected Owl Car Cam. It’s essentially a dash cam that films both the inside and outside a car. You can watch the feed live on the company’s companion iOS / Android app (inside footage records at 1440p and outside footage records at 720p), or save certain 20-second moments to revisit in the future. The device is essentially a home security setup, like Nest or Canary, but for the car.
Owl calls its gadget a full security system because it’s always on and detects break-ins and accidents through sound detection and accelerometers. It sends users a push notification when something is going on, so they can watch the incident live or go check on their car. If they’re sleeping through the whole incident, Owl records 10 seconds before and 10 seconds after it first detects something happening. Users can also review the past 24 hours through the app, although it’ll be a lot of footage with no flagged content to jump to. If you know the time something happened, though, you can go straight there, cut a clip, and save it.
That saving part is important to Owl. The company encourages users to share their clips on social networks, like YouTube or Facebook. The company’s designed a whole feature around this sharing aspect: users can tell the Owl Car Cam to save a specific moment, like a meteor streaking across the sky, as they’re driving. Drivers use the phrase, “OK Presto,” to tell the device to save a 20-second clip. (The company says they chose “presto” because it’s “phonetically distinct” and won’t be accidentally activated.) Drivers can then name that clip and revisit the footage without having to cycle through 24 hours’ worth of content.
The system costs $349 at launch, which includes 10 months of LTE service. After launch, the price drops to $299, but comes with an added $10 / month charge for service. So far, the company isn’t charging based on cloud storage, but that could always change, as we’ve seen with home security cameras.
This isn’t the first dash cam to include LTE service. Acer introduced its Vision360 camera this past year for $414, although it appears to only be available in Europe and might not even be on sale yet. Owl says its price includes the convenience of not having to deal with a carrier to get your dash cam online, which is fair enough. (Owl goes through AT&T.) But I worry that the market for dash cams has already been saturated. Every cab driver in New York City already has one installed, as do people who value video footage. Owl thinks there are plenty of people who want to record police incidents, though, and that the camera setup is easier than a cellphone.
Still, I’m not sure people will want to pay a premium and a subscription fee just to have LTE service. People definitely enjoy streaming their car rides on services like Twitch, but Owl is an expensive alternative to just using your phone and keeping it charged. The incident detection is interesting, though, and could be worth the price if it works well.