Owl Car Cam brings 24-hour outside and inside monitoring to your vehicle

If you’ve ever noticed an unexplained dent or ding on your car, the Owl Car Cam may be able to help you track down the culprit. This new always-connected camera that monitors your vehicle from both the inside and out, can notify you of any safety event, such as a break-in or crash.

Using LTE connectivity, the Owl Car Cam can instantly remotely send video of events to the Owl Cam app on your phone. Although the camera is always recording, it only retains and uploads video that is triggered by a safety event or through a voice-activated feature that allows you to capture and tag memorable moments, like a meteor streaking across the sky or an in-car sing-along during a road trip. You can also set the camera to record live continuously, if you wish. Videos are stored locally — up to 24 hours of footage — which is then recorded over when it hits the limit. With LTE service, you can connect to the camera to see a live view or play back recorded footage. LTE service is not required to use the camera, but you lose some functionality.

owl car cam
Besides monitoring your vehicle for theft and accidents, you can also capture interesting moments from the road, simply by using a voice command.

The Owl Car Cam also has several interesting features to guard against break-ins. Since the camera is paired to your phone, it knows when an authorized driver is approaching your car. If someone attempts to break into it, two LED floodlights are activated and you’re immediately notified via the app. You’ll be able to watch a live-feed of inside the vehicle and use a built-in intercom to let the intruder know that you’ve contacted authorities.

owl car cam camera 8
The Owl Car Cam has lights that turn on to help you locate your vehicle or in case of a break-in.

Because the camera is continuously capturing more to the story than a single-lens dashcam, it could help you prove your case during an insurance claim. And if you’re pulled over, Owl says the camera keeps “everyone on their best behavior and to make sure you have what you need to tell your side of the story.”

When developing the Owl Car Cam, CEO Andy Hodge, who previously led development teams at Apple (iPod), Microsoft (HoloLens), and Dropcam, told Digital Trends that user privacy was a key concern. As such, the camera features an interesting privacy feature that restricts video access to the associated driver. For example, if you share a vehicle with your significant other, you will only be able to access video recorded when you’re behind the wheel.

As for specs, the device uses two 4-megapixel, 120-degree cameras, one on either side — a 1440p camera on the front (outside), and a lower-resolution 720p camera on the back (inside). The idea here is that it’s more important to get a higher quality image of what happens outside the car. However, resolution dumbs down to 480p when you’re in 24-hour live-recording mode. Video frame rate is 30 frames per second, but it uses the HEVC codec; newer iPhones running the latest version of iOS will support this codec, but you might have issues with playback on older phones or computers.

The display is a small 2.4-inch, touch-capable LCD. In addition to various sensors to detect movement, the Owl Car Cam has GPS, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth, as well as the aforementioned LTE radio. The device is lightweight and fits in your palm. It has a mono speaker, but it captures audio in stereo. The whole thing runs on a 2.4GHz, 8-core processor with 3GB of onboard memory.

Limited compatibility

There are some limitations to the Owl Car Cam. You’ll need to make sure your vehicle has an OBD port under the steering column, since this port is used to power the device. If your car was manufactured after 1996, you’ll likely be in the clear.

More limiting, however, is the Owl Car Cam’s compatibility with smartphones. Currently the camera only works with iPhones running iOS 11 or higher. When we talked with Hodge earlier this month, he mentioned that the company hopes to have an Android app available in the future, but did not provide an estimate for its release.

First impressions

We had an opportunity to see the Owl Car Cam in action earlier this month and were impressed. We spent about an hour with the camera on a busy New York City street and were able to witness it automatically capture several different events. Both the camera and app worked perfectly and the video quality was excellent. In many ways it’s similar to a camera you would use to monitor your home.

While the Owl Car Cam is primarily meant to act as a security device, or evidence to prove you’re not at fault during an accident or traffic violation, we like the social sharing abilities. The Owl Car Cam allows you to capture and tag any short event in the vehicle with your voice; this event is then transferred to the Owl Cam app where you can easily share it on any social media platform. There is a fun aspect to this camera: With its inside and outside recording, you can not only capture the outdoor scenery during a drive, but also the reaction from the people inside the car. We think the Owl Car Cam could benefit drivers for car-hailing services like Uber and Lyft.

However, since the camera doesn’t record what happens behind the car, you can’t capture situations like a fender bender caused by a car hitting yours from behind, whether you’re on the road or parked. With so many accidents occurring at the rear, obviously, a dashcam like this is limited in capturing those events.

Pricing and availability

Currently you can only purchase the Owl Car Cam on the Owl website. During our interview with Hodge, he mentioned the company would like to offer the product in major retailers later in the year. The Owl Car Cam currently sells for $349, bundled with a year of LTE service and video hosting. The company plans to sell the camera later in the year as a standalone device for $299; monthly service will be available for $10. The LTE service includes 60 minutes of live view or 60 video alerts. Owl has not said what would happen if you go over the limit — whether it just stops recording, records over older footage, or charge a fee for extra storage — but this could be another limiting issue for some users.


Check out the best Green Monday deals for those last-minute gifts

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone, but that doesn't mean you've missed your chance of finding a great deal. We're talking about Green Monday, of course, and it falls on December 10.
Home Theater

The best Dolby Atmos movies for your home theater sound as good as they look

If you've got your hands on some sweet Dolby Atmos gear, the next step is to find films that take advantage of it. These are our picks in every genre for the best Dolby Atmos movies currently available on Blu-ray and streaming services.

These are the best action cameras money can buy

Action cameras are great tools for capturing videos of your everyday activities, whether it's a birthday party or the steepest slope you've ever descended on your snowboard. These are the best money can buy.

Best deals on home security cameras to save you from package thieves

Home security camera systems can help keep your home and your family safe. Amazon's deals on Blink security cameras and Ring Video Doorbells also help you save money on devices you can access regardless of your current location.

These winter-warrior cars will never leave you out in the cold

Snow can be an absolute pain if your vehicle isn't optimized to handle that sort of terrain. If brutal snowstorms are an annual part of your life, we recommend you pick up one of these winter-ready vehicles.

2020 Toyota Supra caught hiding in a trailer without a shred of camouflage

Toyota's plan to once again lure enthusiasts into showrooms involves bringing back the Supra, one of its most emblematic nameplates. Here's what we know so far about the upcoming coupe, which Toyota is developing jointly with BMW.

Driving a prototype 2020 Passat at Volkswagen’s Arizona Proving Ground

Volkswagen’s Arizona Proving Ground is where new cars are tested to the breaking point, including the 2020 Passat midsize sedan. Ride along as the new Passat completes testing ahead of its 2019 launch.

NYC mandates minimum wage for Uber, Lyft, other app-based rideshare drivers

New York City's Taxi and Limousine Commission approved a rule that drivers for companies such as Uber and Lyft must be paid at least minimum wage, even though they are independent contractors. The new pay rate includes operating costs.

LM Industries’ autonomous shuttles head to Phoenix, Sacramento campuses

LM Industries will deploy Olli low-speed autonomous shuttles at school campuses in Arizona and California as part of its ongoing "fleet challenge," which asks local groups to propose uses for autonomous vehicles.

Bosch’s CES-bound shuttle concept takes us on a trip to a not-too-distant future

Bosch envisions a future in which driverless shuttles occupy their own market segment. The German firm won't build the shuttles, but it wants to provide everything else, ranging from the drive system to the apps used to hail them.
Emerging Tech

A lidar-equipped truck knows exactly how much de-icer to apply on roads

Lidar is best known as the laser-based technology that helps self-driving cars sense their surroundings. But the city of Knoxville has another, more seasonal use for it: De-icing roads.
Product Review

Boring takes a back seat as 2019 Corolla Hatchback mixes fun with practicality

We drive the 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback, the latest hatchback to bear the Corolla name. As the best-selling nameplate in automotive history, Toyota has high expectations to meet. This model mostly lives up to the legacy.

Hertz speeds up car rentals with biometric scan technology

Biometric security technology that uses face, fingerprint, and voice recognition is gaining traction, with Hertz emerging as the latest company to incorporate it into its daily operations.
Product Review

Inside Maserati's Levante SUV beats the heart of a Ferrari

Maserati’s luxury SUV gets a shot in the arm by way of Ferrari-derived V8 power, but is it enough to go toe-to-toe with the established players in the high performance sport-utility segment? Let’s find out.