A former Apple engineer who worked on the first iPhone is making a super-smart camera for your car -- here's how it works

Owl
  • A former Apple executive who worked on the iPod and Dropcam has a new startup making a super-smart dashboard camera.
  • The company and camera are called Owl, and the camera comes with a built-in LTE connection so it can alert you to fender benders and break-ins even when you’re not in your car or it’s not turned on.
  • The company has raised $US18 million in venture funding from firms including defy.vc, Khosla Ventures, and Menlo Ventures.

People in Silicon Valley often spend a lot of time driving. It’s just what you have to do if you work in tech at a big company.

Perhaps that’s why one of the most interesting new car gadgets is coming from a Palo Alto startup led by former Apple and Microsoft engineers.

Owl is a new kind of car camera that combines both a dashcam and a camera pointed into the interior of the car. But unlike cheap dashcams, Owl has a cellular LTE connection and can store 24 hours of video – it’s a real computer, which allows it to provide a much slicker user interface than saving recorded video on a removable SD card, which is how most dashcams store video.

It’s the first product out of Owl, a startup co-founded by CEO Andy Hodge, who worked on the iPod at Apple back in the Steve Jobs era. More recently, he spent some time at Microsoft and then Dropcam, the camera startup that was bought by Google. It was at Dropcam where he realised how important video cameras are, and his experience there are why he decided to start Owl, he told Business Insider in an interview.

The Owl camera is a security camera for your car, but it also can be used to share fun clips to social media, Hodge said, including “Carpool Karaoke”-style moments happening inside the vehicle.

The Owl is currently on sale for $US349, which includes a year of LTE service, which will eventually cost $US10 per month.

Here’s how it works:


The Owl is a smart camera that lives on the dashboard of your car.

Owl

Here’s a closer look at the device. It has cameras on both its front and the back.

Owl

It films the road in front of the car, like a dash cam, allowing you to get footage of interesting things that have happened on the road in front of you.

Owl

It’s also useful to have your own visual record of a traffic stop, too.

Owl

The camera also records what’s going on inside the vehicle too, which can be used to scare off a burglar who’s breaking into your car.

Owl(This break-in was staged, Owl said.)

The camera can also be used to film fun clips, “Carpool Karaoke”-style.

Owl

And if something happens to your car — like a hit and run — you’ll get a notification. The Owl cam is constantly connected to the internet with an LTE connection.

Owl

The Owl cam records 24 hours of video before it starts overwriting what’s in its memory. This allows it to capture events even if the user didn’t specifically tell it to start filming. To save something you just saw, you say, “OK Presto” and give the clip a name.

Owl

Then it’s sent to the Owl app on your phone. In the app, you can trim the clip, give it a title, and send it to friends or social media.

Owl

It’s easy to share videos to social networks like Instagram.

Owl

You set Owl up by plugging it into the OBD port in your car.

Owl

Hodge says the OBD port is only used for power and knowing when the car is turned on, and the company is taking automotive information security and privacy very seriously.


Then you run a wire on your dashboard where it meets the windshield.

Owl

Owl also provides a very permanent-feeling mount for the camera.

Owl

Finally, put the camera on the mount.

Owl

Because Owl has an LTE connection, when it saves a video, it goes to the cloud — not over Bluetooth to your phone. That being said, you do have to pair the two devices by scanning a QR code.

Owl

It’s a cool product from a young company.

Owl

This is the first product out of Owl, a startup co-founded by CEO Andy Hodge, who worked on the iPod at Apple back in the Steve Jobs era.

Owl is based in Palo Alto and has raised $US18 million in venture funding from investors including defy.vc, Khosla Ventures, Menlo Ventures, Moment Ventures, and Sherpa Capital. It counts key iPod executives Jon Rubenstein and David Tupman as advisors.

The young hardware startup now has 38 employees, Hodge said.

Owl is shipping on Thursday.


Watch Owl’s complete commercial here:

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