Owl Car Cam: A Security Camera For Your CarBy - 11/15/2018
Let’s take a break from security cameras for a while to talk about car security. According to multiple studies, merely having a car alarm is no longer enough to deter thieves or thugs from trying to break into your car. For one, thieves have become more tech savvy. They can silence a car alarm within minutes just by clipping a few wires. Two, false alarms are so common that most passersby no longer pay any attention to blaring car alarms. Which begs the question, “How can you make your car more secure?” Owl, a Palo Alto, California based company, offers a solution: Owl Car Cam, a security camera for your car.
What Is Owl Car Cam?
At first glance, Owl Car Cam is just like any other dashcam. It mounts on your car’s dashboard, it has a forward-facing camera, and it has an inside-facing display. But if you look closer, you’ll find a few other components. There’s an inside facing camera, an RGB LED light beacon, a couple of white LEDs, microphones, and speakers. These extra components turn Owl from a normal dashcam to a car security camera.
Before you invest your time reading about Owl, you must first know that it doesn’t work on all car types. It only supports cars with an OBD II port, so any car manufactured before 1996 is off the table. It also doesn’t support Tesla Model 3 cars.
Installing Owl Car Cam
If your car is compatible, installing Owl is fairly easy. Like most security cameras, Owl requires a power source, and as it doesn’t have an onboard battery, it has to rely on your car’s battery for power even when your car is off. It ships with an OBD II adapter and a magnetic power cable. Simply plug the adapter into your car’s OBD II port, attach the cable to the adapter, and plug Owl into the cable. Once installed, you will be asked to scan the QR code on Owl’s screen using the Owl Cam app. Once done, you’re all set.
The company behind Owl is well-aware of the obvious worries one might have like, “Will it drain your car’s battery?” According to Owl, the camera is designed to never use more than 5% of a fully charged car battery. Also, if it senses a voltage drop, which could mean that your car’s battery is almost dead, Owl will automatically swap to standby mode and will only resume normal operation once you start your car. Owl will also go into standby mode if you leave your car turned off for more than 24 hours.
Another common concern is the operating temperature. The temperature inside a car parked in the sun can quickly reach 160°F. Will Owl overheat? To protect itself from overheating, Owl automatically shuts off when its components reach 200°F. It will only turn back on when they cool down. The same thing happens on cold nights to protect your car’s battery.
How Owl Car Cam Works
In Driving Mode, Owl functions as a dash cam. It records everything to its 64GB onboard storage device. The forward-facing camera captures 1440p videos, and the inside-facing camera captures 720p videos. By default, only the 1440p camera is active in Driving Mode, but you can turn on the inside-facing camera by swiping up on Owl’s display or using the app (not recommended while driving).
Another thing to note is that Owl saves videos using a 14-day loop. After that, videos are automatically deleted. The only way you can retrieve recorded videos before they’re deleted is by connecting Owl to Wi-Fi and downloading the videos using the Owl Cam smartphone app.
While driving, you can also create video tags by saying “OK Presto” or by tapping Owl’s display. Video tags are 1-minute clips of anything you find interesting. They are sent directly to your phone over LTE if there’s enough coverage, but if there isn’t, they are stored onboard until LTE becomes available.
In Guard Mode, Owl records if something comes up like a bump, impact, or broken glass. If an event is detected, Owl sends an Instant Alert Video to your phone. You can also access the camera’s live feed. While viewing the live feed, you can use the two-way voice feature to initiate a conversation. Meanwhile, back in your car, Owl will flash its two bright LEDs to do its part in scaring away the potential intruder.
Do take note that Owl can only remain in Guard Mode for a maximum of 72 hours. If you’re planning on leaving your car unattended for extended periods, I recommend using an immobilizer or other methods.
Owl LTE Service Plans
Since Owl uses LTE, there’s an added monthly cost of $10 (or $99 if paid annually) for the Owl LTE service. The LTE service is available in all 50 US states and includes 60 data credits per month. The credits are spent on video tags (on-demand clip recording), live viewing, and video history downloads. Each video tag you create will cost you 1 data credit. Each minute you spend on live viewing sessions will also count against your monthly data allocation. And every minute of video history you download to your phone from Owl via LTE will cost you 1 credit. You’re free to mix-and-match credits and if you run out of monthly data credits, you can purchase 60 additional credits for $5 via the Owl App.
How about alert clips? If you subscribe to the Owl LTE service, alert clips are free. You can receive an unlimited number of alert notifications and videos without additional charge.
Without a paid plan, you can still record continuously while driving, capture event videos in Guard mode, and create video tags, but you won’t be able to receive notifications, alert clips, or video tags on your phone. Without subscribing to the LTE service, you can only retrieve stored videos by connecting your device to Wi-Fi, and you will lose access to live videos. So for best results, I recommend using Owl with the LTE service.
Optional: Automatic Crash Response
Besides its built-in features, Owl offers an optional, OnStar-like subscription service. If Owl detects that you have had an accident, it will immediately report the event to Owl’s emergency response center using LTE. A live agent will then check on you by calling your registered phone number and reaching out via Owl’s built-in intercom. If they verify that you’ve been in an accident and need help, they’ll call 911 on your behalf.
Automatic Crash Response isn’t a free feature. It requires a $7.99 per month or $79.00 per year (discounted) subscription fee. On top of that, it requires that you have an LTE service subscription. Existing Owl Car Cam users are entitled to a 3-month free trial of the Automatic Crash Response service.
Owl claims to be the first security camera for cars, which is technically true. However, last year, we reviewed a similar product, the Waylens Secure360. The difference is that, Secure360 uses a 360° camera to offer a view of the road and the inside of your car simultaneously. Owl uses two cameras. Another difference is that Secure360 is more dashcam-like. You can add a microSD card to make it record continuously for extended periods. Owl can only use its dashcam feature for 12 hours per day. Like Owl, Secure360 can alert you to possible car break-ins, record event videos, and capture clips on demand. Secure360 comes in two versions: the Wi-Fi only version ($250), which only sends alerts when connected to Wi-Fi, and the LTE version ($350), which uses LTE signals like Owl.
Another product that floated in my head while writing about Owl was Arlo Go. Arlo Go is a battery-powered, LTE-enabled security camera. While it’s not specifically designed for cars, in theory, Arlo Go could work as a car security camera. However, take note that it’s only designed to work in temperatures as high as 113°. I advise to use it to monitor parking areas and garages.
Pricing & Availability
Owl Car Cam is now available for purchase for $349.00. The package includes the Owl Car Cam device, everything you need to install it (OBD II adapter, power cable, suction-cup mount, etc.), and 1-year access to the Owl LTE Service.
Photo Credit: Owl
— Owl Cameras (@owlcameras) April 10, 2018