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Canary, the DIY home-security system, goes from crowd-funding sensation to mainstream retail product

Michael Brown | March 26, 2015
Backers contributed more than US$2 million to Canary's Indiegogo campaign. Now you can buy one at retail.

On July 22 2013, the folks at Canary launched a crowd-funding campaign to raise $100,000 to develop a home-security system that just about any household could afford. At the completion of their 34-day campaign, more than 7,000 backers had flooded the company with nearly $2 million in cash. Canary began shipping finished product to those backers in late October, 2014. Today, it's embarking on what the company says is one of the largest retail releases of a crowd-funded product, with four major retail partners: Amazon, Best Buy, Home Depot, and Verizon Wireless.

As Canary co-founder Adam Sager told me at the kick-off of Canary's crowd-funding effort in 2013: "The [home-security] market is dominated by the major installers with expensive, complicated solutions on the one hand, and by DIY systems which for the most part are pared-down products from the major installers on the other." Canary, he said, would be as effective as those expensive custom-installed systems at a fraction of the price. If you'd been an early backer, the device would have cost $199. The retail price announced today still sounds like a remarkable value at $249. I say "sounds like" because we've yet to get our hands on a review unit that we can evaluate. That's coming soon, according to Sager.

Most home-security systems — including the one in my own home — depend on a raft of sensors on doors and windows, and motion detectors that are mounted in common areas. These are supplemented by discrete smoke and CO detectors, and everything communicates with a central control panel that's connected to your Wi-Fi network, backed up by a battery and a GSM module in case of a power failure. Security cameras, and the cloud storage needed to make them useful, are typically a pricey option.

The reason Canary is so inexpensive is that it's an all-in-one, self-contained unit. The cylindrical enclosure houses a smoke and heat detector, a high-definition microphone, a motion sensor, an accelerometer, a security camera with night vision, a capacitive touch sensor, an air-quality monitor that can detect both carbon-monoxide and volatile organic chemicals, a humidity sensor, a 110dB siren, Bluetooth, and a Wi-Fi client adapter.

The Canary doesn't include a battery backup or a GSM module, so if a burglar cuts your power, the service that connects your home to the Internet, or both, you won't be alerted to a break-in. The device doesn't include any hooks to lighting controls or other connected-home systems either, so you won't be able to arm or disarm the system when you lock your smart door locks, or have the lights turn on if the motion sensor detects an intruder's presence when your home should be unoccupied.


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