A look at new cloud-connected dash cams with a cellular connection built in so they can send break-in alerts to your phone and video straight to the cloud.
There is a new breed of smarter, more connected dash cams hitting the market. They have a cellular connection built in so they can alert you to any movement near your car, break-ins and more. Additionally, the cameras send video clips straight to the cloud and let you live stream a view from your car.
Although dash cams haven't taken off in a big way here in the United States, these new smarter cams might help.
I took a look at two cameras: The Owlcam and a camera from PureGear called the PureCam. Both have an LTE connection inside, similar to your cell phone.
The Owlcam started the cellular trend. It's the first LTE connected car camera. It's like having a Nest cam in your car. There are two cameras that aim inside and out. There's also voice control, speech recognition, GPS, WiFi and Bluetooth as well as a bunch of sensors. Add some artificial intelligence smarts on top and Owl is the Rolls Royce of dash cams.
"AI means you get video of the important stuff sent to your phone, anywhere anytime when your phone is driving and when it’s parked," explained JP Labrosse, a co-founder of Owl, the company behind the cam.
The feature you'll like the most: the camera instantly uploads video clips of anything that happens to your car to the cloud - even when it's parked.
"It recognizes crashes and break-ins… sends that video through the cloud straight to your phone. So you have that video," said Labrosse.
Typical dash cams store video onboard in a memory card. Sending the video to the cloud is a better bet so it's safe even if your car is damaged or stolen.
There is also an OnStar-type feature built into the unit as well.
"It will sense a crash and a live operator will make an audio call through the camera, check if you're ok - if you’re not ok or you can’t pick up, we will actually deploy emergency services on your behalf," said Labrosse.
Owlcam costs $350 dollars and that includes a year's worth of subscription fees. After that, it's $10 a month or $99 a year for the connectivity features.
PureGear is known for its mobile accessories, now they're making a connected dash cam as well. The difference here is that the PureCam lets you pop in your own SIM card, so you can potentially add it to your wireless family plan.
"You have dual cameras that can record simultaneously both inside and outside the vehicle and you're also able to livestream during all of this from virtually anywhere in the world," explained Arthur Chen of PureGear.
The PureCam also has built-in GPS so you can always see where you parked. I tested this camera by installing it in my car and the setup process is pretty simple. The toughest part is running the cable from the camera to your car's OBD port, which is usually under your steering wheel. This is how the camera is powered, you can't plug it in any other way.
The PureCam also has a G-shock sensor that automatically starts recording if it notices movement around your car - including a break-in or a hit and run. You can adjust the sensitivity, I found that when my kid threw a football that hit my hood, it trigged the recording. These recordings are automatically sent to the cloud and you get an alert on your phone.
After having this feature for a few weeks now, I can't imagine life without it. You always know when something happens to your car.
"So even if your PureCam gets destroyed in a car crash or somebody steals it in a break-in, you're able to access all that from the cloud," explained Chen.
My favorite part: PureCam lets you use your own SIM card. This means you might be able to add it to your family plan with GPS providers including T-Mobile and AT&T. Additionally, you could purchase a plan from PureGear or just buy a prepaid SIM and pop it in.
One more benefit: the camera doubles as a WiFi hotspot for your car, which is handy if your kids like to stream in the backseat.
"They can easily connect to the PureCam WiFi and stream their YouTube, play their online games," said Chen.
I love having the PureCam in my car, and seeing some of the video clips of us getting in and out of the car as a family or valet folks parking my car can be hilarious.
The biggest downside: the software. Right now the PureCam app is poorly designed. It has the functionality you need but it can be complicated and tricky to operate. I've told PureGear this and I do believe it will be improved in a future app update.
The PureCam is $200.