The 4G dashcam is one of the biggest innovations in car security in years. But even as it’s barely off the ground, the market is undergoing a reorganization.
Dashcams with a 4G connection act like a Ring Video Doorbell for your car. You can be notified of a break-in and then peer in and around the car in real time. The market started about two years ago. And while it’s won a sizeable consumer audience, it is now expanding into a corporate fleet sales, creating a new opportunity for car audio shops to sell to fleets.
The market is also undergoing a shift in ownership.
As, you know, Directed, which planned to introduce its first 4G dashcam this year, has been purchased by VOXX, which has no immediate plans to bring the product to market.
Owlcam was one of the first companies to offer a 4G dashcam, which it calls a car security camera. In January it stopped operations and some of its assets were seized by the bank. But not before the company managed to sell tens of thousands of Owlcam systems to consumers, proving a demand for 4G dashcams.
In February, Owlcam technology rights were purchased by Xirgo, an iOT hardware/software company, which plans to introduce a similar product for the corporate fleet market.
Consumer company Waylens is also broadening its focus to fleet sales. And Thinkware plans to offer both consumer and fleet versions of its T700 system possibly in Q1.
4G dashcams go a step beyond typical WiFi-connected dashcams in that they give you a real time connection to your car, even if you are not near a WiFi hotspot. A parent can “peer” into the car cabin if their teen is driving too fast. If their parked car is side swiped they can also “peer” in and around the car in real time and capture video footage of the minutes surrounding the event. The system typically includes a front facing and a cabin facing camera, or in the case of Waylens, a 360-degree camera.
For fleets, 4G dashcams let you peer into the truck cab to check on drivers. You can be notified of a hard braking event and then check on the driver in real time.
Waylens sold through Best Buy on a trial that ended. It still sells to consumers, but over the past year it has found an additional audience in fleet managers, who began approaching the company. It developed a modified version of its Secure360 with fleet management software and is now encouraging its 12 volt dealers to enter fleet sales.
“A lot of [12 volt] dealers know people who have fleets of varying sizes, whether it’s someone with three plumbing trucks or 20-30 construction vehicles or 50-100 HVAC vehicles and the business opportunity that this represents is purely incremental for both the dealers and the distributors because it’s a different customer base,” said Waylens VP Sales Everett Morss.
In addition, for the consumer market, Morss said, “We have several products under development that we are not ready to discuss.”
This month, Xirgo announced that Owlcam will continue to sell to consumers with the help of a third party, Callpass, a GPS tracking company. Already, 40 percent of Owlcam customers have renewed their subscriptions, said Callpass.
Xirgo Senior VP Sales & Marketing Michael Lavery said, while the company purchased Owlcam to use the technology for professional fleets, “We found they had a solid and substantial consumer following and many customers were happy with the product.”
Owlcam remains the only consumer 4G car security camera that allows two-way voice operation. For example, if the Owlcam app alerts you that your teen is driving erratically, you can not only “peer” into the car, but you can warn him to pay attention. A fleet manager could also talk directly to a van driver.
Owlcam was sold mainly direct to consumers and through Best Buy and Amazon. It has no plans to sell through other brick and mortar retailers for 2020. But CallPass President Jason Ashton says, “We never say never,” so the possibility of selling to brick and mortar shops is not off the table.
A new version of Owlcam will be offered in Q4, with infra red lighting for better night viewing. Additionally, the company will offer facial recognition, so the driver is automatically recognized. The new device will be cheaper than the original Owlcam, which sells for $365.
Harman also announced its entry into the 4G dashcam market in January. Although its “dash” is not offered under the consumer products division, it was said to be available to retailers as well as OEM.