DXers with RDS and HD Radio-capable receivers now have a new and interesting way of seeing everything that comes across their radio’s screens while they are away — literally.
Wyze is a home security camera company that sells “WyzeCam,” an HD-quality home security camera. I purchased a few cameras for my home in the previous month, and I have used them for their intended purpose until I realized that the device opens up a new world of capabilities for the average DXer.
Although I always have two radios continuously recording during the Sporadic E season, the problem is that I can only record audio from them, not screenshots unless I was physically in front of the radios with a camera. Taking a picture of the radio’s screen serves as proof of reception of a distant FM signal if identifying information, such as the station’s call letters, is visible on the screen. It can help a DXer identify an otherwise impossible signal.
WyzeCam cameras detect motion and sound and will send alerts to your smartphone as it happens. These 12-second alert videos are stored for free in the cloud for two weeks. If you put an SD card into the camera, you have 24/7 recording capabilities with the ability to download the videos to your computer. I wondered: would the camera’s motion detection capability pick up the sudden, unexpected appearance of decoded RDS or HD Radio text on a radio screen?
I decided to test my theory the other day. I put my Sony SDR-S3HD radio on 99.4 FM, a frequency immediately next to local 99.5 WIHT Washington, DC, a station that runs HD Radio. I tuned up to 99.5 FM and let WIHT’s HD signal decode. A few seconds later, the Wyze app on my phone told me that I had a new alert video from motion detection.
I opened up the alert video and sure enough, it showed the radio screen tuning from 99.4 to 99.5 FM, followed by the HD Radio decode of WIHT. Had WIHT been a station never received on my radio, I would’ve considered this a slam dunk positive ID.
Using a camera to monitor radio screens is not new. I’ve read about other DXers using webcams and camcorders to do the same thing I did above for years. However, the difference with the WyzeCam is that it couples the technology with smartphone push notifications. For the DXer, this means you will be alerted whenever your capable radio screen picks up text.
Even with such a neat way to record unattended RDS or HD decodes, this setup does have its limits. The camera must be about 6 inches away from the radio screen to be useful — too close, and the screen is blurry as the camera lacks an up-close focus. Too far away, and the bright radio screen may be drowned out in the alert video. The camera’s fishbowl lens, optimized for a wide angle when monitoring a room, distorts the edges of the recorded radio screen image. The alert videos are also short (12 seconds long) and about half of that time is what led up to the alert, so you won’t see a lot of the actual decode. Using an SD card will bypass this limitation. And, of course, your ability to be successful at doing all of this is fundamentally limited by how many cameras and capable radios you own.
Even with these limited downfalls, at $19.99 plus shipping each, the WyzeCam is an inexpensive solution that could allow a DXer to positively log a signal that they would, otherwise, never receive. As for now, the company only ships the devices within the United States.
Disclaimer: The website and the author of this article is in no way affiliated with Wyze/WyzeCam. This is an honest review from a regular customer.