Amazon launches security drone that flies inside houses

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The FINANCIAL – – On Thursday, Amazon’s Ring division unveiled the $249 Ring Always Home Cam. This a small drone that hums as it flies around houses filming everything, ostensibly for security purposes. This autonomous indoor security camera works with Ring Alarm and flies to pre-selected locations so you can easily check on your home. The drone is small and light, with a high-definition camera, and it can automatically fly on preset paths to specific spots in your home, streaming video to your smartphone of what it sees along the way.

Users can set up paths for the drone via a smartphone app, or if the drone detects motion in a part of your home it can fly on its own to that spot and take video of what’s going on. Set for release next year, the drone is meant for indoor use only, and it can be set to work with the Ring Alarm system so that it will fly a preset route if the alarm is triggered. The drone’s camera appears to be mounted on a short trunk extending below its propellers (which are housed in a square cage), and will only record when the drone is flying, said Leila Rouhi, president of Ring, as she introduced the device. The camera is blocked when the drone is sitting in its dock, she said, according to CNN.

Amazon says its new Ring surveillance drone is scheduled to go on sale in 2021 for $249 (once FCC authorization is obtained), and the company says it built in the product with “privacy in mind.” In a live blog of the virtual announcement event, Amazon said the Always Home Cam “only records when in flight; when it’s not in use it sits in a dock and the camera is physically blocked.” The company added that the drone is “loud enough so you hear when it’s in motion,”  as reported by Vox.

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Reaction to the surveillance drone was spirited — but not in the way Amazon might have hoped. “In a country with no laws regulating digital privacy, anyone who buys this from a company with a history of privacy problems is insane,” tweeted Walt Mossberg, a longtime tech product reviewer who is a member of the nonprofit News Literacy Project’s board. Ring said the drone could be used to check whether a homeowner had left the stove on or a window open, and promised that it would record only while flying. It would also make a humming sound so it would be clear when it was filming. But privacy was still the primary concern for most flabbergasted Twitter users, The New York Times wrote. 

Jamie Siminoff, Ring’s founder, wrote in a blog post that the Always Home Cam will allow people to monitor multiple areas of their home with just one device, instead of purchasing several cameras. The drone is connected to a Ring Alarm, the company’s smart home security system. If the system detects suspicious activity, the Always Home Cam automatically flies over “to see what’s happening.” Siminoff said the Always Home Cam was built with “privacy and security top of mind.” “It cannot be manually controlled, ensuring that it will only record and see what is important to you,” Siminoff added, according to CNBC.

A demonstration video of the flying camera in action depicts a would-be thief breaking into a house, only to be scared off when the absent homeowner sends the drone in the thief’s direction. The device still needs authorization from the Federal Communications Commission, the demo video noted. Rouhi noted on Thursday that the Ring system would include end-to-end video encryption as an option. Amazon is also rolling out several car alarms under the Ring line. In addition to a Ring car alarm, Amazon is offering a car camera that functions as an alarm. The camera is pre-set to record traffic stops with a voice command and can be set to alert others when someone is pulled over, CBS News wrote.

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Amazon isn’t the only company with new devices. Apple has announced Apple Watch Series 6, introducing a revolutionary Blood Oxygen feature that offers users even more insight into their overall wellness. Apple is joining forces with researchers to conduct three health studies that include using Apple Watch to explore how blood oxygen levels can be used in future health applications. This year, Apple will collaborate with the University of California, Irvine, and Anthem, the second-largest insurer in the U.S, to examine how longitudinal measurements of blood oxygen and other physiological signals can help manage and control asthma. Apple Watch Series 6 expands the health capabilities of previous Apple Watch models with a new feature that conveniently measures the oxygen saturation of the user’s blood, so they can better understand their overall fitness and wellness. Read more

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