Subscribe / Unsubscribe Enewsletters | Login | Register

Pencil Banner

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.

Canary has a number of tips on its website for improving its geofencing performance, and one of them suggests not installing the Canary app on a device — such as a tablet or digital media player — that you don't carry with you everywhere you go. That's common sense, when you think about it, but I bet there was a "Eureka!" moment when it dawned on the company's engineers why early users were complaining about Canary not being able to determine their locations.

I armed Canary while I remained home, so that I could test its detection capabilities, but the device would automatically disarm itself after a few minutes (sometimes after just a few minutes, other times after more than 20 minutes). That's reasonable behavior, I suppose, except for the fact that the app doesn't notify you after it's being disarmed. More importantly, the status report on the home screen continued to report that it was armed. Yes, I'm being picky here, because you normally would not arm while you're home, but it bothers me that the timeline was correct, but the main screen — which is what you and anyone else with the app would count on to know the Canary's status — was not.

When the system is armed, it records video clips — with audio and a time stamp — each time its motion sensor is triggered (with a 10-minute buffer in between triggers, so as not to record lots of largely redundant clips). In my tests, there was just a 10-second delay between motion detection and my receiving an alert on my phone, but it takes an annoyingly long time to initiate clip playback — upwards of 25 seconds, in my experience. That's a painfully long wait when you're worried that someone has broken into your home.

Canary sends a message to everyone who lives in the home who has the app installed, so that anyone can review the clip and take action if warranted. You can also designate family members and trusted friends or neighbors who don't live in the home as backup contacts. If the primary contacts don't respond to an alert, the message will cascade down your phone tree until someone responds. The app even has integrated text posts, so you can let each other know what's going on, complete with an "everything's fine" button if you don't feel the need to elaborate about a false alarm. Put that feature in the "great feature that wasn't promised" column.

Video playback is somewhat buggy, though; the play/pause button doesn't work consistently, and the 10-second rewind button doesn't work at all. On the bright side, a clip remains buffered once you've played it, so that you can watch it again without delay — at least as long as you don't navigate away from that screen. The app can display clips organized three different ways: All recorded clips, only the clips that were recorded while the system was armed, or a list of only the clips you've saved. The third view lets you see a list of the most important clips instead of scrolling through everything to find the ones you're looking for.


Previous Page  1  2  3  4  5  Next Page 

Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.