Wolfcom surveillance company says civilian body cameras are next big thing
Cops have body cams, but is that enough to keep them honest? More and more civilians are starting to arm themselves with the discreet surveillance devices.
Body cameras allow people to record and document what's happening around them, not only during sentimental moments but also for political events like protests that could erupt into violence. In an age where police are filming constant video footage, it makes sense to also have your own body camera with a live feed option, like your own personal paparazzi.
Peter Austin Onruang, founder and president of Wolfcom and creator of civilian body cam VENTURE, started his love affair with technology in the spy industry.
“When I started my company, I was 31, but I have been planning since I was 21. I knew I wanted Wolfcom, short for Wolf Commander – inspired by Captain Kirk, a company that would boldly go where others would not. I started out with auto security and would travel to Asia to tour factories, meet engineers and see car alarms. Years later, we moved into security surveillance equipment, which worked great and made a lot of money. In 2007, we got into hidden cameras and opened the Hollywood Spy Shop, the largest in LA. We did home bugging devices, cars, ‘bug sweeping’ close to studios. Any stories about a peeping Tom, we were on TV,” said Onruang.
One day, he noticed a lot of police officers coming to the store, and he would observe them from the store camera. An officer kept coming in and would browse and never buy anything. The next time he came in, Onruang talked to him and asked what was he looking for?
“He said, ‘You have all these pinhole button cameras, these are geared toward private investigators. I have over 30 pounds of gear. Maybe you could incorporate a camera into something I’m already wearing,’” said Onruang.
Onruang immediately thought of a camera incorporated into a police officer’s two-way radio mic. Wolfcom's third-eye police body camera launched in 2011, and the phone was ringing off the hook. He couldn’t supply them fast enough.
“When talking to that officer, I began thinking about the future and I foresaw a kid getting shot by a cop and a president talking about body cameras. That happened with Obama. It’s been in my thoughts since 2008 to 2009, and over 1,000 civilians contact us wanting to buy body cameras. If you look at all this division, there’s a greater need for a body camera than ever, recording all the time with hands free. If you’re holding your cell phone, officers might assume that is a weapon at night. Or perhaps recording a concert and enjoying it instead.”
His customer base keeps expanding as his technology improves, such as with his clients at Vacaville Police Department.
“Technology always changes. Each camera lasts about 2 1/2 years until a new version comes out. Battery life, functions become available, and the wear and tear on a body camera is like a smartphone. The technology evolves past the smartphone,” said Vacaville Police Department’s Sgt. Adam Senf.
The civilian body camera will be exactly like the police quality, minus the law enforcement features. It will have Wi-Fi, an app and a live streamable option for all those rising social media stars. There are a few options on how to download videos, such as the free mobile app to record onto your phone or activate recording to the memory card in the camera.
“I have tried our prototype version of the body camera for civilians and love the new features with the mobile app. Being able to see what the camera is seeing is so useful and being able to live stream the feed straight to my Facebook Page is so convenient. Now when I’m at an event, I don’t have to have my phone out. I can just clip the camera on and enjoy the event,” said Tiffany Wang, president of Wolfcom. “The body cameras are important for everybody because anybody could be wrongfully accused no matter what they do. Every person should be able to protect themselves.”
VENTURE will not be available to the public until February 2018. It can be purchased now at early-bird pricing with 60 percent off on Indiegogo.