REVIEW UPDATE: Canary Home Security

REVIEW UPDATE: Canary Home Security

Better every day.

We originally took at look at the Canary home security system earlier this year; at that time, we recommended it on a trial basis as we experienced some outages and bugs related to early software for a brand new device. Since a lot has changed over the past few months (and that review is one of the most popular posts on our blog), it’s time to provide an updated look at one of the year’s most disruptive new gadgets.

Can we fully recommend Canary as a device worth your time and money? Read on to find out.

Dependability

I’ve been using my original Canary for about five months now, and I added a second unit to the mix just over a month ago. Although my initial experience started out kind of rocky (due to frequent service outages), I’m happy to report that our Canaries and their cloud services have stabilized considerably over the summer months. Buffering to view the live stream seems to have improved as well, with feeds loading in 4-6 seconds instead of the stutter-filled 10+ seconds I was seeing back in March.

Multiple Cameras

As I just mentioned, I decided to pick up another Canary last month to give me a better picture of our whole home while we’re away. I’m actually pretty surprised by how much a multi-Canary setup improves the entire Canary experience.

You can have up to four Canary units per location, each of which is accessible with a simple swipe on the Canary app’s home screen. Each unit has its own “Watch Live” view, and keeps its own “home health” stats. The surprising part is how well they’re integrated together otherwise… Recorded clips are located side-by-side in the timeline, making it simple to follow activity as it transitions from one part of the house to the other. You can also name the location of each Canary (thanks to a great recent software update), giving you a clear head’s up of where activity has been detected in the house.

Using multiple Canary units

Even with only two units, I’m shocked at how the whole setup goes from feeling like an enhanced web cam to a full-on surveillance system. Even better? The newly released cloud plans are priced per location, not device. More on why that’s awesome in just a second.

Apple Watch App

Something I didn’t expect to see so quickly was the development of a handy little companion app for my Apple Watch. I rarely use apps on my watch since they’re almost universally terrible at this point (supposedly that’s changing this fall with the full SDK), but I’ve used the Canary watch app several times over the last week alone. It provides a quick look at the status of your system, which users are home, and a screen grab of the last recorded activity.

The Canary Apple Watch App

Better still, it loads extremely fast (something that’s quite an achievement compared with my other apps) and the data is actually useful in a watch context. A few seconds after leaving for a date night, Lauren and I both received alerts of activity detected downstairs. Because we knew it was just the kids goofing off with our sitter, I was able to quickly open the app on my watch, and force touch the screen and disarm the (automatically armed) Canary alerts. Very cool.

Automatic Arming and Disarming

Although I originally disabled the automatic (location-based) arming and disarming, we turned it back on once my wife installed the app on her phone. As it turns out, it’s surprisingly useful, and honestly kind of a game-changer. Instead of routinely arming the Canary only when leaving for extended trips, it now automatically arms itself when we run to Target as a family, and disarms itself the second we pull in the garage. It’s intelligent too; if one of us is still at the house, it will remain disarmed. It’s a great way to automatically keep an eye on the house.

If you’re worried about the geolocation features effecting your battery life, don’t be. I’ve had it on for weeks now, and I haven’t noticed a tangible difference in my iPhone 6’s battery life whatsoever. I don’t know what kind of magic they cooked up behind the scenes, but it works flawlessly.

Useful Sensors

In my initial review, I mentioned that Canary’s sensor data was fun, but not that useful in practice. As it turns out, it can be pretty handy after all.

We were having problems with our AC unit last week and couldn’t figure out what the culprit was. Thanks to Canary’s temperature tracking, we were able to pinpoint when it was turning off and on in the middle of the night, which was a huge help to the repairman as he ran through his diagnostics.

Those sensors have also been particularly helpful in testing another new product in our household; keep an eye out for that review in the next few weeks 🙂

Cloud Recording Plans

Now for the controversial part: Canary recently announced that it’s moving its users to tiered cloud recording plans, but I think they’re a fantastic deal.

Canary Cloud Recording plans

Canary starts with a free plan, which includes 12-hours of cloud recording, a few saved clips in the cloud, and three downloaded clips for the life of the device. The plans go up from there with 2 days for $49/yr, 7 days for $99/yr, and 30 days for $299/yr. Those prices are especially compelling once you realize that the plans cover all Canaries from a single location – up to four, in fact.

To put that in perspective, 10-days of stored clips from Nest Cam (formally Dropcam) for 4 units would cost you $250/yr. 7-days of stored clips with 4 Canary units would cost you $99/yr. That’s a significantly better deal in my opinion.

Don’t overlook that free option either. Unless you’re storing your video clips locally, I can’t think of another company offering video storage in the cloud for free. 12 hours is probably enough for most folks to stay on top of happenings at their house, which makes it extremely attractive. The only bummer is the artificial limit on downloading clips. 3 for life is ridiculous, and hopefully they’ll fix that soon.

Closing Thoughts

Canary is a product that’s living up to its promises more every day. They’ve been adding bug fixes and new features at a steady clip since the beginning of the year, and they’re gaining momentum at a healthy pace. Based off of these developments, I’m changing my rating to 4/5 stars, and fully recommending the product. It might be just the security upgrade you’re looking for.

Author

Eric is the creator of At Home in the Future and has been a passionate fan of the future since he was seven. He's a web developer by trade, and serves as the Director of Communication and Technology for a large church in Nashville, TN (where he and his family are building a high tech home in the woods).

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