As private investigators and especially surveillance investigators we rely heavily on using the latest technologies and apps are no exception. Like lots of industries now, private investigators live with their smart phone in hand. You could almost detect an entire surveillance team in London by watching people who are on their phone in the street all day with it wired to a power bank in their pocket!
Apps are everything that make up a smart phone and almost everyone has used an app in some shape or form now. Their uses are so ranging and they have literally re-engineered how we manage our lives.
Below are my thoughts on which apps are essential for private investigators who work mostly in surveillance. They are in order of category as best as I can instead of importance.
Most important thing to note is all apps mentioned are free to download and use although some will have adverts.
Whilst not as many people use this messaging app compared with WhatsApp it is fast becoming more and more popular. As it deemed more secure private investigators especially are switching over despite it not having as many features as WhatsApp. It is a good one to have downloaded and ready to go.
This app is truly brilliant as it turns your smart phone into a walkie talkie. It enables you to use a push to talk button on your phone and send a voice message to your private channel. If you’re using Apple Air Pods or headphones it will use the microphone from them and give you instant covert communications. One downfall is it hinders use of your smart phone as you won’t be able to use this app and take or make calls.
Whilst it is not the best go to source of open-source information private investigators use it is a very handy tool to use on your smart phone. It enables you to do quick searches for people and ideally get an identity photo or a range of photos to aid you with your surveillance task. We all use Facebook for stalking after all.
As private investigators we nearly always send our photos and videos with the time stamped onto the image. This makes it evidential and gives a clear indication of when the incident pictured happened. This app is currently the one I use as it time stamps video and photos very quickly and enables some editing of the time stamp to make it more presentable compared to other apps.
For all Lawmate covert camera products this is the app that is the interface between your covert camera and you. From this app you can download and share videos and pictures instantly through either WhatsApp or Signal. You can even use it to view your covert camera live meaning you don’t have to directly watch your subject.
Camrote is the app for Wi-Fi controlling a Sony camcorder. Panasonic Image Viewer is the app for Wi-Fi controlling your Panasonic camcorder. These apps are brilliant for allowing you to set up your camcorder when you can’t open or see the screen and monitor it ready for recording. My best example of this, I once sat in a café opposite a doorway our subject had earlier entered into and set up my Sony camcorder in the sleeve of my jacket whilst I controlled it via Camrote. This meant I was staring at the doorway like a lunatic remaining covert and as soon as that door was opening, I hit record and got a great video of my subject leaving with a lady who wasn’t his partner.
Currently the go to app for connecting with the wide range of vehicle trackers on the market. It’s user-friendly panel means you can share this app with your clients who can get to grips with it in 10 minutes. The app allows you to change all the necessary details you need such as reporting times and text/SMS notifications.
There are better apps to use as a sat nav only such as Waze I admit however the features Google Maps has been unparalleled. To be able to use streetview on your phone and share exact locations straight via WhatsApp with a link are what make Google Maps so good in my opinion. Alongside that it includes all the details for an address registered as a busines so it has great uses for small bits of open-source information too.
One of the sneakiest apps we use as private investigators. Hushed is an app that lets you rent a mobile phone number whilst still using your current smart phone. Hushed is essentially a burner phone app which enables you to safely hand out your ‘phone number’ without giving away your real phone number. This one is quickly being picked up by cheating partners so beware.
A simple app for captioning and labelling your photos. It lets you paint over photos and add things like pointing arrows. Super handy for quick briefings over WhatsApp when you label a Google Maps screenshot.
This app has been a life saver in the past when identifying a subject from a not-so-great photo. It lets you put two photos side by side to share for your colleague’s input. So you add a new photo of a potential subject next to the photo you currently have and you can directly tell if it’s the same person.
Simple, fast and easy. This turns your phone into a PDF scanner instantly and lets your share that PDF document instantly.
I mentioned in my opening paragraphs that apps have changed the way we manage our lives and with that calendar apps are now huge. FamCal enables you to sync with your family members and input all your work and meetings as far in advance as you like. You can set it to notify you ahead of meetings and gives a very clear picture to you and your family of your working movements as once your diary starts filling up its best to manage it somehow!
A must have app in general. It lets you look in any area of the UK at the parking options and how much each one costs. It lets users input data so you get the latest prices and an opinion of how secure that car park is.
A very handy app for private investigators to share exactly what vehicle a registration plate is registered to. Especially useful to double check and verify a registration given to you from a client or another investigator. This app clearly shows the make model and colour of the car along with tax and MOT details.
This is the app I use personally for checking train times as it offers a clear view of all trains and not just a hand full of specific rail operators.
An amazing app which is used by many industries but for investigators waiting on a planes arrival this enables you to watch it come in and land.
There a few of these available now but I use this one in particular because it works UK wide and enables me to see the stops for a specific bus route and plan accordingly whether I’m following a subject on a bus or waiting to get on a bus I’ve never been on before. It also shows live bus times which is very useful.
It is almost inevitable in the modern day as a private investigator you will end up on the tube. Whether that is to commute to a meeting to you’re doing surveillance. You are very likely to be going to London at some point. The Tube Map works without mobile data so even when you’re on the tube you can use the Tube Map to plan your route or to check for upcoming stops your subject may be using.
The last app is purely to help your budget. Travelodge in my opinion offer the cheapest chain hotel option and are very good for the price you pay. Beware however if booking late (which surveillance operatives do very often) you may have to travel to get a good price with a Travelodge as they are very popular with other trades who book way in advance.
That concludes the 21 essential apps for private investigators that I regard as completely essential to working as a private investigator. There will be others I have missed or not mentioned that some will think are even more essential but these are all on my phone currently and used very often for surveillance operations in particular.
If you do have any that you feel are essential please let me know in the comments section. As always thank you so much for reading!