What if your security camera wasn’t fixed to a wall, but free to move around your house and check from room to room while you’re away from home? Does that sound wonderful, creepy or something in between? However you feel about it, it’s the premise of Amazon’s new Ring Always Home Cam, a security camera that’s — get this — also a drone that flies around the inside of your house shooting video it then can stream or upload to the cloud.
The Ring Always Home Cam is a security drone that flies around the inside of your house
You read that right. Amazon announced its new flying security camera alongside updated Echo and Echo Dot smart speakers and a mailbox sensor, but this out-of-the-box approach to home security is the one generating buzz from both smart home aficionados and privacy advocates.
Wi-Fi security cameras are nothing new, but like last year’s Echo Frames and Echo Loop (smart glasses and ring), the Ring Always Home Cam will combine familiar tech with a wildcard new feature — in this case, an indoor drone. That might sound neat, but coming from a company that just this year faced public outcry for its policy of sharing users’ doorbell camera footage with the police, the Ring Always Home Cam raises more than a few privacy questions, not the least of which is how Amazon plans to keep people’s personal data secure. Here’s what we know so far.
Why did Amazon’s Ring build an indoor drone?
Ring would prefer you think of the Always Home Cam as more like a “purpose-driven security camera” (in marketing-speak) that happens to be mounted on a drone, rather than as a drone with a security camera.
The idea is to capture surveillance footage of your entire house with just one security camera that pilots through your rooms. Although, for the price (keep reading for more details), you could just as easily buy about 12 Wyze cams.
How does Always Home Cam work?
You program a flight path by literally carrying the Ring Always Home Cam through your house, rather than steering it with a remote control.
Once it’s learned the route, the camera can fly for up to 5 minutes before it has to recharge, which takes about an hour in the included dock. You can view either a live feed of the Always Home Cam’s rounds in the Ring app, or a recording saved in Ring’s cloud, which requires either $3-a-month subscription to cover one Ring device or $10 a month for every Ring device you own.
The device works with a Ring Alarm security kit and should respond to unexpected activity while the system is set to “away” mode by leaving its dock to fly around and see what’s going on. Amazon says onboard “obstacle avoidance technology” keeps it from flying into unexpected objects, like your cat. Instead, the drone will return to its dock and notify the owner it encountered a problem.
What about security and privacy?
The Always Home Cam’s physical camera is covered when the device is docked, so it can’t record or stream video while it’s charging. It only patrols when it senses you’ve gone. It will only fly along a predetermined path, and can’t be manually controlled.
It should only begin to record when it starts flying around your home, Amazon said. If it flies while anyone is home, Amazon says the engine is designed to hum loudly enough that anyone in the same room will hear the drone passing by. In its launch presentation, Amazon referred to this as “privacy you can hear.”
By the time the Always Home Cam goes on sale (more below), Ring expects to have end-to-end encryption available for the security drone. End-to-end encryption is also expected to roll out to Ring’s other security cameras later this year, adding a layer of protection designed to deter hacking and security flaws.
That means, at least in theory, that you and only you will be able to access your data saved to Ring’s servers, including video recordings.
Ring Always Home Cam price and sale date
Amazon says the Ring Always Home Cam will be available “in 2021” and will cost $250. That’s the same price as Ring’s motion-activated floodlight camera and just $50 more than the Ring spotlight camera, both of which are stationary.
If you already have another stationary Amazon device, the Amazon Echo , you won’t have to buy anything else to enjoy these new just-announced features. Amazon updates its digital assistant Alexa constantly — here’s another batch of newly announced Alexa actions. Not all features are created equal, however — here are some you should turn off right now.