Earlier this month, Panasonic announced a new home security camera that’s integrated into the stem of a floor lamp. The terrifyingly named HomeHawk Floor is designed to be discreet — the whole idea is to let you monitor the inside of your home without the need for obvious cameras everywhere. Panasonic has launched an Indiegogo campaign to sell the lamp for prices starting at $185, as reported by Android Police.
The company boasts that the camera is capable of recording 1080p HD footage through its 140-degree, eye-level wide-angle lens. It has a motion sensor and the ability to save two seconds of footage recorded before the sensor detects movement, a mic and speaker for two-way communication, and an app for iOS and Android. It works with “major voice assistants,” which I assume means Alexa and Google Assistant, although Panasonic hasn’t signed those deals just yet. And it can run for 90 minutes on eight AA batteries, should the power go out in your home.
Concealing the camera in a standard appliance definitely has its appeal, and follows the trends of other smart home products that integrate smart speakers and other sensors into everyday appliances. But a camera is considerably different than, say, a motion sensor or even a smart speaker — there are much greater privacy implications at play, especially when you consider that this type of product could easily be installed in an Airbnb rental.
There have been many reports of Airbnb owners hiding cameras in the homes to capture the activities of their renters, so this isn’t exactly a new concern. Airbnb’s terms and conditions state that hosts are required to inform renters of the presence of cameras and if a recording is taking place. But while you may be able to sniff out a camera hidden on a mantle or shelf by looking for random power cords or holes drilled into walls, it’s not likely you’re going to spot a camera that’s integrated into an appliance that looks like it’s supposed to be there in the first place.
Admittedly, Panasonic’s design isn’t the most camouflaged — if you look at the lamp from a few feet away, you will probably see the big, wide-angle lens staring back at you. But if this type of product proves popular, you can expect these designs to be refined and updated to the point where they are far less obvious.
Mostly, though, a camera integrated into an appliance is just kind of creepy, even if you never intend on using it to spy on your visitors. Standard in-home cameras are technically also capable of the same privacy invasion, but their obviousness makes them a bit more palatable because, well, they look like cameras. Instead, the HomeHawk could make it feel like you’re on the set of your own episode of Candid Camera, which isn’t something I particularly want.