Surveillance gadgets for the holidays

We can gripe all we want about privacy, but the plain fact is that we can now be recorded for video and sound just about anywhere.

Of course this is useful for fun for people interested in tracking others, and that’ where surveillance gadgets come into play. With super-small HD video recorders, we’re seeing all sorts of surveillance and video recording equipment getting pushed in the consumer market. Now anyone can channel their inner 007 and spy on others.

Above we have a photo of the new Sony Digital Binoculars priced at $1,999.

Look into the first fully digital, 3D, high-def-recording binoculars and you’re not gazing through glass, you’re observing dual independent electronic viewfinders. Why’s that better? You can adjust the image, focus instantly, and with the push of a button start recording the identical view in 1080p high-def, and 3D. The possibilities for the DEV-5 are limitless—birding, sports action, checking out that apartment across the street with the hot neighbor who always leaves the lights on… ok, maybe not (better to simply take advice from The Girl Next Door by getting her tips on love, sex, and dating sent right to your inbox).

Along the same lines we have the Pivothead HD Recording Sunglasses which can be used to record everything around you with POV video. You can record your adventures, but also record other people of course.

Just keep in mind your local privacy laws when using these devices. It’s one thing to record video out in public, but it’s quite another to record people when they have an expectation of privacy.

Ultimate security gadget during a storm

OK, so maybe that a bit of an exaggeration, but this portable radio/flashlight that can be powered by a crank shaft, a solar strip or conventional methods can really come in handy during and after a storm, or while you’re out in the middle of nowhere like on a camping vacation. The Etón FRX3 Radio can also charge up your cell phone, and that’s a really important feature.

Privacy, telematics and car insurance

Here’s a fascinating story of how car insurance companies can monitor your driving.

When Zshavina Meacher of Cleveland traded in her car for a new 2011 Chevy Malibu last summer, her insurance premium jumped to $510 every six months. Her insurer, Progressive Corp., asked her whether she wanted to cut her rate.

If Meacher agreed to install a device in her car that monitors how safely she drives and the results were good, her rates would go down. If the results weren’t so good, her rates would stay the same. She agreed.

During the first few weeks, the device told Meacher that she slammed on her brakes a lot. She stopped the hard braking.
In February, the 23-year-old’s insurance bill dropped by $120 per six months, or 24 percent.

Meacher is happy her rates went down. And Progressive is happy the risk of Meacher getting into an accident went down. Fewer claims will help keep Mayfield-based Progressive profitable.

If you haven’t heard of telematics — a device that monitors your driving — then get ready. While Progressive started dabbling in telematics in the 1990s, it started pushing it in 2010 with its “Snapshot” program, and other insurers have stepped up interest in the last year.

Of course this is voluntary monitoring, and safe drivers can save money on their car insurance, but it raises all sorts of privacy issues. What’s next? Will health insurers want constant monitoring of our heart rates to see if we are exercising?

Securing your mobile phone from criminals

Closeup of a female speaking outside on a cell phone. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Security issues are continually shoved to the forefront of headlines as crime rates rise, populations increase and the economy struggles. Everyone wants to be safe – and to keep their possessions and loved ones safe, as well – but financial considerations make it impossible for many working class Americans to get the surveillance cameras, security systems and other tools needed to do the job.

But many people fail to realize all the ways that a cell phone can help families stay safe. With built-in cameras, recording devices, GPS systems and tons of apps, with proper training most anyone can use the phone as a security device. Make sure teens with phones know this valuable information, and remind coworkers and spouses of these tips to keep them safe, too.

Apps are available that alert friends and family members in case of an emergency. Simply engage the app and it notifies several people via numbers preprogrammed into the phone, so that someone nearby can offer help. The numbers you desire are called or sent text messages, so that if someone is in trouble it isn’t necessary to stop and call everyone who may or may not be in a position to assist. These apps can be true lifesavers. Both landline phones and cellular numbers can be programmed to call.

Other apps will periodically send the GPS location of the phone to a designated person so they can help make sure you’re safe at all times. This is the perfect app for parents who worry about teens out with friends, but is also a great thing for moms toting small children around town and for traveling business people who are frequently in high-risk locations and situations. Anyone who is frequently out and about can benefit from this safety app.

Another security app available has a panic button which can be activated whenever the phone user feels threatened or is in danger. The button begins a countdown, and if the user doesn’t disable it within the set period of time, the phone automatically sends a message to a previously chosen person. The app then continues to track the location of the phone user, so if there is foul play, they’re easily located. This app can be activated as the user leaves work after dark, and if that person never arrives safely to the car, the phone signals the alert.

Some apps can also be preprogrammed to call emergency numbers, such as the police and fire department, in addition to or instead of friends and family members. These apps work much like alerts used by disabled and elderly people who live alone. This app is an excellent choice for single people and people living or working in locations far from home – such as college students.

For people serious about the security of their family members, these apps offer peace of mind, and are potential life savers. This is an excellent way to put the GPS capabilities of the phone to good use. Need a new security system? You may already have one on hand.

Supreme Court rules unanimously in GPS case

A recent case highlighted new challenges for privacy in the modern world. Cops placed a GPS tracker on the car of a criminal suspect without getting a warrant. Fortunately, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld a lower court decision that ruled that this was a violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution which prevents unreasonable searches without a warrant.

The court, however, declined to go further. Issues on other types of electronic surveillance will be left to another day.