In the tidy collection of new products and services that Amazon announced this month — including , an (it swivels!), a and a — the is the device that’s generating the buzz from both smart home aficionados and privacy advocates.
Wi-Fi security cameras are nothing new, but like last year’s and ( and ), the Ring Always Home Cam will combine familiar tech with a wildcard new feature — in this case, an indoor drone. Basically, it’s a security camera that flies room to room inside your place, shooting video that it then can stream or upload to the cloud.
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 just 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” that happens to be mounted on a drone, rather than as a drone with a security camera. That said, the idea is that you can 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 .
How does it 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 five 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 obstacles. Instead, the drone will return to its dock and notify the owner it encountered a problem.
How is Amazon handling security and privacy issues?
First, the Always Home Cam’s physical camera is actually covered when the device is docked, so it can’t record or stream video while it’s charging. 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.
By the time the Always Home Cam goes on sale next year, Ring expects to have end-to-end encryption available for the device as well as its other security cameras (the feature is expected to roll out later this year). That means, at least in theory, that you and only you will be able to access your data (including video recordings) saved in Ring’s cloud.
When can I get it (and for how much)?
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 an Amazon Echo ($51 at Amazon), you won’t have to buy anything else to enjoy . Amazon updates its digital assistant Alexa constantly — . Not all features are created equal, however — right now.