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Smart Home: Security that flies and buzzes

30. November 2020 Published by Raphael Doerr

Even though it will not yet be available in Germany, the Ring thing now presented by Amazon shows us what awaits us in the future in terms of security and surveillance: a flying eyed named Always Home Cam. The Amazon subsidiary Ring, which specializes in smart home products, has namely presented a drone called Always Home Cam that monitors homes for security when the people who live there are away.

It’s very simple in principle: You do a tour with the drone of the house or rooms to be monitored. That way you teach the AI in the drone a fixed route that it will fly at specified times to take a look at every desired corner of the home and record videos of them. What the drone sees is also what the user sees on their smartphone, if they want to, and the short videos are saved automatically. The maximum flight time, however, is only five minutes, so the house or apartment shouldn’t be all that big. If the Always Home Cam is connected to a Ring alarm system, it can also fly around, if necessary, to investigate why the alarm has gone off.

Security buzzing and humming at home

The Ring Always Home Cam is a flying camera drone that sends live images to the smartphone. It flies either on command to a specific place or responds to noise and movement when you’re not at home. Amazon does, however, disarm potential espionage flights: The drone is deliberately very loud so that you notice when you’re being filmed. Recording only takes place during the flight. If the battery’s low, the Always Home Cam automatically flies back to its charging station. In the United States, the flying surveillance camera that is to provide security is expected in 2021 and should cost around $250. Whether and if it will be available in Germany is not known.

To make sure nobody gets it into their head that the flying surveillance camera could secretly film something that wasn’t planned, the manufacturer has made sure that the Always Home Cam hums during recording at a certain volume so that it attracts the attention of people in the vicinity. In addition, the charging station blocks the camera’s and the camera only records when it’s in flight. The loud buzzing does, of course, have a down side: The burglar hears it as well, which may, if the worst happens result in the drone being destroyed. And the surveillance drone isn’t that bright either, since it always flies a predefined route, which means that the camera is unable to investigate unusual noises or movements fully independently[1] It remains to be seen how the drone does in practice and what clever ideas the burglars come up with to fend it off. What is sure to remain before the drone is possibly destroyed are nice videos and, with any luck, also the burglar’s face.

As the American magazine Wired writes, the flying drone announced by Amazon at the annual hardware event stole the show from the other innovations presented, such as new Echo products, Alexa updates and a talking microwave, since it showed how far Amazon is willing to go to get inside every room in your home. As Jamie Siminoff, Ring’s founder and “chief inventor”, explained to the magazine The Verge, the idea behind the Always Home Cam is to provide a number of viewing angles throughout the home without having to use multiple cameras.

According to Ring, the camera can be used for simple things like checking whether the oven is on, a window has been left open, or a door is locked when you’re not at home. It has technology to avoid obstacles, which helps it avoid objects on its path. The sheathed propellers prevent material damage or injuries to pets or a person that the drone might collide with. If the flying camera discovers something while you’re not at home, the user will be notified via the Ring app installed on their smartphone. Manual control via the app is not possible.

You can see how it all works on YouTube.

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