- USB Hubs and Outlet Extenders
You can keep tabs on your home with security cameras, motion detectors, and other surveillance products. But if you’d like to keep an eye on your property without drawing attention to your devices, here are seven smart home products that will help you accomplish this task in an incognito fashion.
The Amazon Echo Show and Google Nest Hub lineup are two of the most popular smart display families on the market. Once connected to Wi-Fi, you’ll be able to use these incredible devices to stream music, watch Netflix, play games, set reminders, control the many smart home peripherals in your home, and so much more. Both the Echo Show and Nest Hub also have front-facing cameras.
While the main purpose of these cams is video call applications like Amazon’s Drop In and Google Duo, you’ll also be able to use the lens for surveillance purposes when you’re not at home. Or maybe you’re hanging out upstairs, and you want to see what’s going on downstairs.
If you want to use this feature with the Echo Show, all you need is access to the Alexa app. Once you’ve enabled “Home Monitoring” in the Echo Show settings, you’ll be able to see a live view of whatever your Echo Show lens is aimed at. You’ll even be able to double-tap to zoom in, pinch to zoom out, and pan left and right if you’re using an Echo Show 10.
Do keep in mind though that the Nest Hub Max is the only Google smart display that can function as a live view cam, because it’s the only display that the company extends some of its Nest Cam integrations to. To access the cam’s live view, launch the Google Home app, tap and hold the Nest Hub Max in the device queue, then select “Set Up Nest Cam.”
Unlike the Echo Show lineup, the Nest Hub Max will also provide up to three hours of motion-triggered snapshot notifications. You’ll also have the option of purchasing a Nest Aware subscription (pricing starts at $6 per month) if you want your Nest Hub Max to record 24/7. The Nest Aware plan will also let you store these recordings for up to 30 days.
Discrete security cams are sometimes better than more robust standalone models that call attention to themselves. While the latter can act as a visual deterrent for conniving crooks and porch pirates, a hidden cam may have a better shot of capturing the perpetrators living within your four walls. Too many cookies missing from the cookie jar? You may want to invest in a camera-equipped Bluetooth speaker to stick on the kitchen counter.
While you’ll be able to find these speakers from a number of different brands, we’re partial to this model from Rikshsim. Not only does this cylindrical speaker deliver impressive sound quality, but the built-in 1080p camera (housed on the side of the device) brings an impressive bevy of features to the table. We’re talking motion detection, loop recording, night vision, and local storage, thanks to the microSD card slot (which supports up to 128GB and must be formatted to FAT32).
There’s also Sopkvl’s inconspicuous offering, which offers many of the same features as the Rikshsim model, and you can also use the Sopkvl app to manually pan the cam left and right (similar to the Echo Show 10). We also like that multiple users can access live footage at the same time.
The puck-shaped, automated butlers of our smart home, better known as robot vacuums, are even more capable than meets the eye. Brands like iRobot, Shark, and Roborock have been producing excellent robot vacuums for many years now, and on top of all the cleaning tech, some of these vacuums also feature built-in cameras.
What’s different about a bot vac’s lens though, is that the vacuum itself will often use these cameras for certain mapping and navigation features. In most cases, this is all these bot cams can be used for, but there do exist a handful of vacs that open up the camera to controllable, live view footage, such as the Ecovacs Deebot X1 Omni.
In addition to all of its fantastic cleaning and automation capabilities, the X1 also includes a live monitoring cam that you’ll be able to access from the Ecovacs app. There’s no motion tracking to speak of, but you will be able to manually pilot the X1 around your home. You’ll also be able to initiate two-way audio and video calls, which is great for pet owners and those of us with live-in family members that could use checking in on every once in a while.
When it comes to hidden cams, sometimes being a fly on the ceiling is even better than being a fly on the wall. Next to light fixtures and emergency sprinklers, smoke detectors are some of the only tech that gets mounted directly to our ceiling. This just so happens to be an ideal place for security cameras, too, which is why we now have “dummy” smoke detectors with built-in hidden cams.
These products are available from a number of manufacturers, although we’d like to draw your attention to this offering from Nanshiba. Instead of sticking the lens on the part of the detector facing the ground, the developers re-housed it on the side of the alarm body. This provides a full 125-degree field of view, on top of motion-triggered event recordings and device notifications when activity is detected.
The vast majority of smoke detectors with hidden cams will not detect smoke, carbon monoxide, radon, or other harmful pollutants. So make sure the room you’d like to monitor actually has a functioning smoke detector in it or nearby.
We thought it best to include this category after smoke detectors, because both device types share one key trait: they don’t actually do the thing that they’re named for. Smoke detectors with hidden cams will not detect smoke or other pollutants, and camera-equipped light bulbs do not actually provide traditional illumination.
In the case of a product like this Galayou two-pack, one can only call these “bulbs” because they screw into regular light bulb sockets for power. That being said, we don’t think many thieves are going to be double-checking your lighting fixtures for hidden cameras. Like many of the other products in this article, you’ll need to connect the bulb to a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi network to access footage remotely.
Once online, you’ll be able to enjoy features like motion tracking, two-way audio, and a built-in siren with flashing lights that can be armed and disarmed. The Galayou bulbs also accept up to a 128GB microSD card, allowing for 24/7 loop recording.
USB Hubs and Outlet Extenders
Does someone keep bumming your stapler and not returning it? This is your chance to unveil the culprit! One of the most versatile hidden cam devices you’ll find are USB hubs and outlet extenders. These gadgets are particularly useful for space-starved work stations that could do with another few outlets and ports, but the lens location on many of these products is often quite discrete too.
This model from Luohe is one of the best deals we’ve found on this type of hardware. For less than $100, the outlet extender provides up to four additional AC plugs, two USB-A ports, and one USB-C connection, on top of an exceptional 2K camera that delivers a 120-degree field of view and connects to both 2.4GHz and 5GHz network bands. Once online, you’ll be able to use the Luohe app to see a live view of the extender’s location.
For those of us who want our cams to be even more discrete, the company also makes a single outlet USB hub that has two USB-A ports, a hidden 1080p cam with a 90-degree field of view, and a hidden microSD card slot.
Even if you’re the kind of household that favors smartphone alarms over run-of-the-mill clock devices, a dedicated plug-and-play alarm clock is still a fairly common bedside companion. They’re also an ideal place to stick a hidden camera, especially since these products often face out toward the room they’re placed in, giving the lens an optimal vantage point for surveillance.
This Librefly model has a sleek and modern look, as well as a craftily-hidden front-facing HD camera. Compatible with 2.4GHz Wi-Fi networks, the Librefly app provides live views, motion-triggered notifications, powerful night vision, as well as local storage via microSD (sold separately).