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Canary review: A sophisticated home-security system packed inside a camera

Michael Brown | June 11, 2015
The Canary I've finally had a chance to review isn't as sophisticated as the Canary I wrote about when its manufacturer was crowdfunding its development. That doesn't mean it's a bad product--it has a strong price/performance ratio for a $249 home-security system--it just means its developer's ambition exceeded its grasp in a few key areas. And in some other areas, the developer wasn't ambitious enough.

The Canary I've finally had a chance to review isn't as sophisticated as the Canary I wrote about when its manufacturer was crowdfunding its development. That doesn't mean it's a bad product — it has a strong price/performance ratio for a $249 home-security system — it just means its developer's ambition exceeded its grasp in a few key areas. And in some other areas, the developer wasn't ambitious enough.

Two years ago, Canary CEO Adam Sager criticized the DIY home-security solutions of the time as "pared-down products from the major installers" such as ADT and Vivint. Canary, he told me, would be inexpensive because it wouldn't rely on positioning pricey sensors all over the home. His vision was to place all the necessary sensors — an air-quality sampler, a motion detector, a humidity sensor, a temperature gauge, and a three-axis accelerometer — in a single enclosure that would also house a microphone and a security camera. And that pretty much describes the Canary you can buy today.

The key areas where tfhe Canary fell short of Sager's vision are related to how those components are put to use. Where Sager's vision fell short is the decision to have one device do the entire job. Canary would be a better product if it supported sensors in other places in the home, and if it could be integrated with other connected-home systems.

How it works

Canary has three operating modes: Armed, Disarmed, and Privacy. In either of the first two states, the Canary will record video and audio whenever motion is detected. Once you've set the Canary up — and true to the company's advertising, this takes just a few minutes, including installing the app on your Android or iOS phone — it uses your phone's geolocation data to determine whether you're at home or away.

Based on your location during setup, the app will auto-populate the phone numbers for your local emergency responders — ambulance, fire, and police — so that you can reach them with one button press when you need to. If you catch an intruder inside your house — or if you just want to scare the crap out of your significant other — you can trigger a 90dB siren — from within the app.

When the last person registered to the system leaves the house, Canary will automatically arm itself. But the device seemed to have a difficult time determining when I was away with my Android phone, so it didn't consistently arm the system when I left the house. And since the app doesn't inform you when it's changing modes, the only way to know for sure that the system is armed is to pull out your phone and check. I don't know about you, but there's no way I'd remember to do that every time I leave the house.

 

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