Eight Essential Gadgets For An Undercover Action Man
The new tech no self-respecting spy should ever be without
The only time any of us is usually aware that spies exist is when they mess up. But their shadowy world is increasingly entering the mainstream consciousness, as enemies domestic and foreign, real-world and cyber, queue up to take down governments around the world. There are enemies everywhere. Earth’s a dangerous place. Fortunately, for every chaos-making bad guy, there’s a stealth army of top secret operatives in organisations we’ll probably never know much about fighting back on the frontline, quietly neutralising threats as we walk past oblivious. These agents use cunning. They use combat skills. And they use a lot of cool technology. Celebrating this, and the second chapter of our MR PORTER Kingsman collection in honour of Kingsman: The Golden Circle, here’s our pick of the latest, real-world spy tech you can own right now.
01. The smartwatch
Kingsman + TAG Heuer Connected Modular 45
Every gentleman spy worth his salt needs a watch. But we’re not talking any old watch. No, the instrument strapped to his wrist has to be capable of far more than telling the time. Consider the many and varied timepieces worn over the years by the most famous fictional spy of all – James Bond. How apt, then, that the latest instalment of Kingsman, a franchise that tips its bowler hat on more than one occasion to the Bond universe, should feature as its very own gadget watch TAG Heuer’s luxury smartwatch, the Connected Modular 45. The Kingsman Special Edition comes fitted with rose-gold lugs and an elegant brown leather strap, with a second strap in tan alcantara included in the box. Key features include GPS functionality, an NFC payment sensor, a pin-sharp AMOLED screen and a microphone with which wearers can activate Google Assistant. It’s all that you’d expect of a modern smartwatch, in other words, but in a physical case that looks and feels like a luxury Swiss watch.
02. The covert camera
For round-the-clock surveillance, humans are mostly useless. We need food, shelter and sleep. The rechargeable Arlo Pro camera, however, is relentless. There are no wires, so it can be placed anywhere, discreetly monitoring anything and everything that crosses its super-wide, 130-degree field of view. Passive infrared sensor motion-detection technology alerts you in real time to movement via a smartphone app, and it’ll also record what it sees directly to the Cloud, in HD. You can tune in live to that stream over Wi-Fi via the app, and even interrogate the subject, thanks to two-way audio. We all know that the bad guys make their moves under the cover of darkness. No problem. The Arlo Pro is equipped with night vision, picking out movement whatever the hour, and even in a squall. This all-seeing sentry is totally weatherproof.
03. The in-ear translator
Bragi Dash Pro
Spies travel the world to collect intelligence and thwart enemies. But what happens if you’re not fluent in the local language? Bragi’s Dash Pro is what happens. These intelligent, wireless, Bluetooth earphones have a clever operating system that works with the iTranslate app to give you access to 40 languages. Simply pair to the app and you can run conversations through it, with the option of running the resulting dialogue through the Dash Pro, directly into your ears. So whether you’re sitting quietly listening in to enemy agents as they meet at a restaurant, or drilling a foreign asset for fresh intel, you’ll understand everything. The Dash Pro also packs in passive noise isolation to cut ambient interference and 4GB of internal memory, if you need to review audio on the fly. The OS also allows you to use head gestures to control it, and it will even track fitness – no excuse to skip training just because you’re spying.
04. The night-vision scope
FLIR Scout II
Darkness levels the playing field. They can’t see you, you can’t see them. But with the Scout II, you can see their heat. This portable, lightweight and compact handheld scope detects heat signatures (even if the subject has since moved) up to almost 500m away, revealing the target on bright 640 x 480 LCD screen. Simple to use, it fires up in seconds, can electronically zoom in and even freeze frame, so you can fully identify the signature as friend or foe. Unsure? Switch through the different heat “palettes” on offer – just like the trophy-collecting alien’s vision from Predator – including White Hot (for situations featuring a broad range of temperatures), Black Hot (for sharper detail) and InstAlert (for situations where objects have similar temperatures, which lights up the target as almost blood red). Built to last, it’s weather-tight and can withstand drops and even dunks in shallow water.
05. The AI smart mirror
Government-sponsored killers rise early and need the latest intelligence briefings promptly. So why wait until you reach HQ? With the Duo mirror, you can find out exactly what’s happening while you brush your teeth, because it’s a smart mirror. And at just 19mm thick, you’d never know it was anything other than something to stare into. But that glass is actually a 27in HD display, which, through an umbilical link to a box of computer cleverness, will pipe through the latest news, weather, videos and more. While that is indeed smart, the star attraction here is Albert, the Duo’s own AI assistant, who, just like Apple’s Siri or Google’s Assistant, will answer questions, tell you your agenda, search the internet for you and generally do your bidding. Albert can also control other smart devices in the home – just ask him. Or her. Albert’s fully customisable, down to name, sex and accent.
06. The self-destructing PC
When you’re privy to sensitive data that could bring down governments, you need to address the thorny issue of where to keep all your top secret digital files. ORWL (pronounced Orwell) is the answer. It’s an open-source, small PC (a 6in-diameter orb) that runs Windows or Linux and makes a big deal of security. There’s two-factor authentication, a password and a unique, physical Bluetooth/NFC key fob – and that’s just to turn it on. If the encrypted key fob is out of range (10m), the PC locks itself, puts the processor to sleep, cuts the USB ports and turns off the HDMI, so that no data can be accessed. If it’s moved, an accelerometer also shuts it down. And as the ultimate fail-safe, the motherboard is enclosed in two tamper-proof sleeves and an active shell. Attempt to breach any of these, and ORWL erases everything.
07. The pocket drone
Covert operatives globally rely on billion-dollar satellites – in space – and expensive military hardware to get their real-time aerial reconnaissance. For the rest of us, Chinese drone giant DJI has Spark, a cheaper, simpler solution that’s just as effective. Weighing just 300g and roughly the size of a smartphone (if your smartphone had propeller arms), it’s an ultra-portable drone packed with the latest UAV technology. In the field, it launches directly off your hand, and is controlled either by the app or gesture control. With 16 minutes of flight time, it can hover in a single spot for 15 minutes and the maximum service ceiling is 4,000m (country-specific restrictions apply). Intelligent flight modes include ActiveTrack, where Spark tracks a subject, matching the speed. Engage sport mode for fleeing agents and it’ll hit 31mph without a fuss. It’ll transmit 1080p HD video over Wi-Fi up to 1.25 miles, stabilised thanks to a 2-axis gimbal, and can photograph 12MP stills. There’s no escape.
08. The global tracker
Bluetooth trackers only work up to about 35ft from your smartphone, while real-deal, spy-grade GPS trackers usually cost the Earth and are the size of a small moon. Not so the Ping. This is the world’s smallest GPS tracker, a 40mm x 40mm tile that works anywhere in the world and has a rechargeable battery that will survive up to three weeks without power. And it’s waterproof to 10m. Simply toss it into the pocket or bag of a target and you can follow their trail wherever they are, right across the globe, via the smartphone app. Go undercover yourself minus your smartphone, and you can use the simple one-touch check-in (just press Ping, once) to let HQ know you’ve arrived at the location. Each new Ping includes a one-year data plan, after which global coverage (157 countries) is just $36 (£28) a year.