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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.

No system integration

Canary says it "will consider the possibility of integrating with other smart devices in ways that add significant value." As it stands, you can't use the Canary to trigger lights to come on in response to an emergency event, because it can't exchange data with a smoke or CO detector. Canary won't record video when a door or window unexpectedly opens, because it can't exchange messages with door/window sensors. There's no IFTTT support, no means of connecting it to a thermostat to help with air-quality issues, no means of integrating it with a WeMo, Peq, or other connected-home system, and the list goes on.

What you can do is deploy up to four Canarys at each location, which is terrific if you live in a large home or just want to monitor more than one room. The Canary has a very good camera (with a 147-degree viewing angle) that records video in 1080p resolution, but you can only watch that video on a mobile device. Canary encrypts your video clips and stores them in the cloud, but the company doesn't have a web app that would let you watch them on a bigger screen. According to Canary's website, that feature should become available later in 2015.

Canary's free service plan stores videos for 12 hours and allows you to save up to 5 videos in the cloud. (I'll go over the company's upcoming paid plans later). But there is no provision for downloading video clips to your own storage device, which means you won't be able to provide police with forensic evidence if you suffer a break-in (apart from showing them your phone, of course). A month-old note on Canary's blog says that a download feature is "coming soon" and suggests using a third-party screen-capture app as a workaround in the meantime.

Canary relies on your router — it can connect via Wi-Fi (2.4GHz only) or with an Ethernet cable — but it has no cellular failover protection. If your Internet connection goes down, you won't be able to reach the Canary and the Canary won't be able to upload its video clips to the cloud. Canary relies on an AC power adapter and has no backup battery. So if you suffer a power outage, or an intruder discovers the device and unplugs it, you'll be in the same boat (the camera should capture anyone approaching it, but if you have a slow Internet connection, the clip might not get uploaded before the Canary loses power). To be fair, adding any or all of those features would increase the Canary's cost, but they are limitations a potential buyer should be aware of.

 

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