Here are some observations I had after a few days with the new Canary, a smart-phone-enabled security camera, in my home:
• My hair is getting a little thin on top.
• I use my hands way too much when I’m arguing with someone.
• My gut is way too beer-gutty when I’m sitting down.
• So that’s what my ass looks like when I walk.
• I am an odd-shaped human.
• Bodies are weird.
Now, that’s not exactly what I should glean from the Canary, but luckily my place hasn’t been broken into, so security wasn’t needed. But products like Canary live in a world of not “if” but “when” you’ll be in need of some extra security. And it’s a world expanding beyond the ADTs of the world to DIY kits that better cameras and improved smartphones have allowed. This sleek 6-inch-tall column (choice of white, silver or black) surveils your space, recording video, alerting you of action, and monitoring the temperature, humidity, and air quality. Canary puts our tinge of paranoia in a package stylish enough for the Brooklyn set to leave out among reclaimed wood and artfully arranged bookcases. And it may be the sleekest, simplest, no-fuss security systems you can buy.
I was intrigued when I first discovered the Canary through its 2013 Indiegogo campaign that earned nearly $2 million. It reminded me of the security system in my first house—one I never bothered to figure out until it randomly blared a siren in the middle of the night and I had no choice but to physically rip the speaker out of the wall. At the very least, an ADT security system like that cost $99 dollars to install and $37 a month after that. Those sort of systems are more suitable for homeowners protecting their castle, but I assume many of you are like me—you may not want to install an entire system and might rather just plug in a pretty device. There are a few of those now. One of the best ones is Nest’s DropCam, which cost $200. But DropCam doesn’t check the temperature and air. For that you’ll need the Nest Thermostat ($250) and more installation. Meanwhile, Canary cost $250, doesn’t require a monthly service, and is a one-plug, all-in-one device. And I’m a simple guy, so that appealed to me.
The Canary was incredibly easy to set up. I just downloaded the app and it walked me through the process. Within moments I was watching myself stare into the HAL 9000-esque lens. And I was in high-def. The video quality is great. The night-vision video is exceptionally good. The audio is fine. The HomeHealth sensors—temperature, humidity and air quality—are all accurate. The device itself is so sleek and unobtrusive that I forgot it was in the apartment. And if someone was snooping around, I doubt they’d assume it was a security camera. One device, with its wide-angle lens, covered my entire studio apartment, but if necessary, you can link up to four devices in one location.
Like I said before, since no one broke into my apartment over the last couple weeks, the only activity I could really study was my own. Watching seven-second lagged video-stream on the Canary iPhone app was a weird out-of-body experience. What’s even weirder is looking back at saved video clips (logged whenever major activity is detected). This came in handy when I wanted to re-watch the aforementioned argument to prove that I said what I thought I said. This would also come in handy if I needed to prove that my landlord did in fact enter my apartment without my permission.
But that activity-detection sensor is almost too sensitive, leading the Canary to send me alerts whenever the night-vision setting kicked on, or when a bird flew by the window. The company claims that the algorithm improves over time as it learns your routine (creepy?). I didn’t notice much of a difference over a couple weeks, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it stopped alerting me every time I came in the door. Whenever something would trigger the sensor, I’d receive the alert, watch the video, and realize that no one was trying to break into my apartment to steal anything valuable (like a $250 security camera). But if I were to see someone breaking in, then the app lets me sound a siren or call local emergency numbers.
I only have two issues with the Canary. First, it isn’t that dependable if you lose electricity or WiFi. If either happens, the app just shows that the Canary is offline and you’re left wondering if someone disconnected it. Second, my self-esteem could benefit from a lower-resolution camera.
The Canary also doesn’t connect with other non-Canary devices. So if you’re looking to turn your dumb-home into a smarthome, then you should get a Dropcam. But if you just want to easily monitor your apartment and check the temperature and air, then this is the best device for you.
How much you need this: 6.7 out of 10.