The Evolution of Spy Cameras

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In the ten-plus years that we have been selling surveillance equipment, vehicle tracking devices and spy cameras, we have seen a dramatic evolution in technology combined with a significant decrease in price across the board. The most significant evolution that we have witnessed is that in the area of hidden spy cameras. In less than a decade, the “nanny cam” has gone from being a clumsy piece of less-than-reliable equipment to a stealthy electronic work of art. Let’s discuss the evolution of spy cameras from where there were just a few short years ago to where they are now.

Transmitter to Receiver to VCR

The original nanny cam that we manufactured and sold was our most popular spy camera system for the better half of the decade starting in 2000. The cube clock radio model outsold all other variations of this concept combined. Even though we disguised spy cams in plants, teddy bears, books, lamps, exit signs and countless other items, the clock radio accounted for more than ninety percent of our overall spy camera sales.

State of the art at the time, this generation of spy camera was still a bit cumbersome. The “guts” of the clock radio contained two main components; one tiny pinhole spy video camera and one wireless transmitter. When a customer purchased a nanny cam system from us, or any other online spy store, they received more than just a clock radio that was ready to record. Along with the clock radio itself that contained the camera and transmitter, they were also provided with a receiver, A/V cables and an adaptor to power the four-channel receiver.

The tricky part came when it was time to actually set up the spy camera system. The provided receiver had to be plugged into either a monitor somewhere nearby or, into a VCR if the customer wanted to record the events that transpired as the nanny cam was engaged. This required the user to place a VCR somewhere in the house within 100 feet of the camera’s location in another room or on another floor altogether. The included receiver was then plugged into the VCR and the user hit the “record” button. Showtime…well, not exactly. A standard VCR cassette can only record up to about eight hours maximum, which creates a problem.

Let’s say that a couple wants to keep an eye on the nanny during the day when they are at work. Prior to leaving the house in the morning, they plug in the nanny cam spy camera and turn on the VCR to start recording. Upon arriving home at the end of the day, if they want to review the activities of the day, they must fast-forward through eight hours of video tape, many times looking at nothing. At the time, this was the only means available to check on the nanny, baby sitter or caregiver. This daily process was tedious at best. Fortunately, technology soon evolved.


The concept of motion-activation was a major breakthrough in the spy camera industry. Although the technology has existed for decades, it wasn’t until the mid 2000’s that it became available (and affordable) for everyday consumers. No longer did the customer have to scroll through countless hours of blank VHS tape in order to find that nothing eventful was captured that day. Now, with a motion-activated spy camera, you were only recording when there was activity in the room. If there was nothing happening, then there was no recording. As a result, the user might only have to review 30 or 60 minutes of tape, rather than eight hours of mostly static recording.

Another technology that complimented the motion-activation feature of the spy camera was the increasing popularity of the DVR, which has now all but entirely replaced the VCR. With a DVR, there was no tape involved since everything was now being recorded digitally, frame by frame. The advent of motion-activation combined with the convenience of the DVR made spy camera users very happy. When it seemed like things couldn’t improve much more, technology improved the spy camera once again.

Built-in DVR’s and Micro SD Cards

The need for a self-contained, all-in-one spy camera system was there, and by around 2006, the solution arrived. To everyone’s delight, the motion-activated spy camera with a built-in internal memory and micro SD card slot for additional recording time was now available to the public. Wireless transmitters, receivers, VCR’s and VHS cassettes were now obsolete. This new generation of hidden spy cameras allowed the user to “arm” the device and leave for days or weeks at a time. When it was time to review what the spy camera had recorded, the user simply removed the SD card for the camera and plugged it directly into the USB card reader on his or her computer. Since the camera only records when there is activity in the area, reviewing what has been captured has become a quick and easy process. Most people, including yours truly, thought “how could a spy camera get any better?” which brings us to the latest generation of spy cam technology.

Remote Live Viewing

Just when you thought that a better spy camera would be impossible to create, out comes the latest technology featuring live, remote-viewing capabilities. With this new platform, your laptop computer now becomes both a server and a DVR.

How it works: The user places the spy camera in his home, office or any other setting he wishes to record and stream live video from. For example, a guy owns a restaurant in Key West but frequently travels to Los Angeles to meet with suppliers. He still wants to keep an eye on his business when he is on the road, so he installs several of our live, remote-view video camera systems on the premises. Now, from anywhere on the planet that offers an internet connection, he can log on to his remote spy camera system and watch live what is happening at his establishment. He can also simultaneously record onto his computer what the camera captures 24 hours a day, seven days a week. These cameras can be hard-wired directly to the computer or function wirelessly. All that is required is for the software program to be loaded and a small receiver to be plugged directly on the US B port of the computer on the premises.

This technology also comes in handy for parents of teenagers who are left at home unsupervised, husbands or wives who may suspect the other of cheating or infidelity and adult children of elderly residents in long-term care facilities. The applications for live remote-view spy cameras are virtually unlimited.

What’s Next?

Every time we think that technology cannot possibly improve, we are always surprised in the advances we see, especially when it comes to hidden wireless spy camera systems. We are always excited when new spy devices are introduced to the marketplace. When that happens, you can be sure that Spy Gear Pros will be at the forefront to offer the latest and greatest covert surveillance equipment products to our customers.