What it's like to spend a year with an app-powered security camera
For about a year I've been using Canary's all-in-one home security system to monitor my apartment. I live in New York City, and it's already saved me from a possible rat infestation.
Canary bills itself as an all-in-one home security system for $200 and no required monthly fees. The New York startup's sleek, cylindrical piece of hardware features a 1080p video camera with infrared night vision and a motion detector. It also has a (quite loud) siren and the ability to detect the room temperature and air humidity.
Where Canary really shines is its mobile app, which lets you look through the device's camera from anywhere via your home internet connection. You can't pan or zoom as you watch, but the camera's wide-angle lens should capture most of any room you place it in.
When the camera auto-detects activity in its field of vision, it sends you a push notification and starts recording. Upon viewing the footage or a live feed of what's happening, you can sound the internal siren and call your local police department.
Alex Heath / Tech Insider
In theory, a notification from Canary should be the most important notification you ever receive. It's meant to be acted upon immediately because it could mean that you're being robbed or your home is burning down. But when the app constantly sends notifications, they lose their importance in the user's mind and their effectiveness is lost.
To Canary's credit, the company's engineers have largely fixed this issue with app updates in July and November 2015, the latter of which added a much-needed sensitivity slider for how many notifications you get.
The Canary has three mode settings: alarmed, disarmed, and privacy. The first will send you a notification when activity is detected, the second will record motion without alerting you, while the last mode completely shuts the device off.
The app's auto-mode switching uses your iPhone's location to determine when you leave and arrive home and adjust your Canary's mode appropriately. You probably don't want yourself recorded at home, so you can opt to have it shut down when you arrive and arm itself when you leave each day.
The Canary app can support different members of a household, which lets it recognize multiple people and log when registered users come and go.
Alex Heath / Tech Insider
Overall, the Canary is a good marriage of hardware and software. Setup is easy, and the camera is reliable at picking up activity. I wouldn't have recommended buying a Canary this time last year, but the last few app updates have fixed most of the software problems I experienced during my early days of testing.
If you're in the market for a home security system, I would consider a Canary. There's also the Google-owned Dropcam to consider at the same price, but I don't see the same pace of innovation happening with Dropcam right now. Canary is working on adding a speaker to its device so you can talk to people and a web version of its app for accessing on any device.
Canary as a company is flush with capital and its executives have assured me that there's a long term vision in place for the product. If anything, the investment in buying a Canary will pay off if it ever catches a burglar, which has been known to happen.
You can buy a Canary for about $190 in black or white on Amazon with Prime two-day shipping.
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