I spy with my little hidden camera...


A spy camera bulb and a spy camera disguised in a clock. PHOTOS | SALATON NJAU |

You’ve got to watch your back. That seems to be the new security brief for individuals and companies if the demand for mini cameras is anything to go by.

These cameras are mounted cleverly on every item at home and at work. Managers and parents respectively want to know who is misusing company resources and to be sure they are living with the right person at home for a nanny.

Whether it is for your car alarm and tracking device or for your nanny camera, the business of spying has become bigger with technological advancements.

Demand for closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras used in business premises is slowly reducing as people go for “silent” mini spy cameras.

Used by journalists, entrepreneurs, suspecting spouses, parents and even politicians, the spy cameras have brought both the good and the bad out of various scenarios.

Some of the best-selling mini cameras are on wall and table clocks, pens, sunglasses and car alarms.

Smoke detectors

Others can be found on wrist watches, coat hooks, table mirrors, flash disks, button pin holes, caps, wall paintings, neck ties, ID cards, cigarette lighters, smoke detectors and even bulbs. The list is long.

All these items are used as modern surveillance pieces to survey, monitor and expose unsuspecting individuals bent on doing anything other than good.

Patrick Njema of Patts Communications, an online company that sells spy cameras, says huge demand pushed him from selling CCTV cameras, which are more expensive.

“Installing CCTV cameras is more expensive than most small business people can afford. The camera itself costs up to Sh50,000 so they requested for smaller and easy to operate cameras,” he said.

The prices of spy cameras range from as little as Sh4,500 for a flash disk recorder to Sh9,800 for a remote surveillance clock camera. A spy pen goes for Sh5,500 while a spy wall clock is Sh8,500.

He would buy the nanny cameras cheaply from various electronic shops in Nairobi because they were not popular. Then more Kenyans became aware of their capabilities and demand sky-rocketed.

He sold them to his previous clients who were pleased and he now sells more than 30 pieces monthly.

Alice Masiga of Intelwise Technologies says most of the people buying spy cameras are keen on monitoring the use of company assets.

“The company started stocking spy cameras in 2010 but demand has since grown to 50 pieces per month,” said Ms Masiga, adding there is a new type of customers only interested in hiring the gadgets.

James Thairu, a supermarket owner, says he installed the gadgets to control theft.

He has installed two cameras and says they are better than CCTV cameras, which are more expensive and complicated. Couples also use them to monitor activities at home when they are away. Reports of nannies beating up children while parents are at work have partly contributed to the increasing demand.

A video taken by a hidden camera showing a house help torturing a child in Uganda confirmed the fears of many parents and pushed them to invest in spy cameras to record what goes on while they are away.

It was then that “For Babies and Mums” and “Kilimani Mums” which are Facebook pages dedicated to mothers, went abuzz with potential buyers asking for the contacts of spy camera retailers. Mr Njema told the Business Daily he “made a fortune” then.

Standard features of the gadgets include a voice recorder, video recorder and a rechargeable battery. Some also accept a memory card and SIM card that allow a user to dial in and listen to conversations.

Harrison Muya, the founder of, says most of the cameras are easy to use, can be connected to the Internet or use a memory card.

“Most offices and homes now have Wi-Fi which we can connect to these cameras,” said Mr Muya.

The GSM spy camera, for example, has an 8GB memory card and a SIM card slot while the table clocks have a 32GB memory capacity.

Morals, ethics

Depending on battery life and capacity, they can record for between three hours and four days.

Technological advancements have also made it possible to get real-time photos, which one can receive through mobile devices using an app linked to the spy cameras.

The apps are easily downloaded from the online stores of various mobile phone operating systems.

However, moral and ethical questions linger on the use of hidden cameras especially in homes where owners rely on the video evidence to mete out punishment. General use guidelines, for example, require that people are warned that a property is under camera surveillance.

But others have faulted this requirement, saying it is superfluous to install a spy camera especially in a private residence and announce its existence.

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