Review – Canary Smart Home Security System

Mobile devices have made it super-simple to control your home from inside your home or outside of the country. All you need is a network connection and a mobile app and can you can control lights, entertainment, and home security from pretty much anywhere.

What makes Canary Smart Home security system so special is it’s a full-featured home security system that does it all in one unit. I needed a home security system, but didn’t want mess around with a complex install or paying a monthly monitoring fee. So when Canary matured from a crowd-funded project to an actual until sold online, I scooped one up to use in our small home.

Design

Canary smart home security front view

White Canary unit with black strip that hides camera, mic, and sensors

Canary is a 6-inch tall and 3-inch wide cylindrical tube and comes in your choice of a Black, White, or Silver color. It doesn’t look like a smart home security system. My first thought when I took it out of the box was that it reminds me of a high-tech air freshener unit. Which makes sense that it doesn’t look like something that’s recording intruders. Heaven forbid, if robbers do break in, I don’t think it would register as something they need to disable.

My Canary unit would look good on our built-in bookshelf in our home that has a straight line of sight to our front door and most of the main floor, but it needs a wall outlet for power, so I chose to put it on our end table next to our couch where it can still see most of our home.

Features

When I say this thing is full-featured, I’m not kidding. The main features include a camera with automatic night-vision, a microphone, and motion detector. Those features alone qualify it to keep an eye on your home. I’m not going to front I must admit, for $249, I’m going to need this smart home security system to do more…and it does.

The camera not only enables me to watch a live stream of my home activity, when it detects movement, Canary auto records video and audio and sends it to the cloud so I can go back and view event and activity history for the past 7 days. The 1080p, wide-angle, 3x digital zoom camera records pretty good video quality as well that can capture a large area without pan and tilt functionality. Going back and viewing some of my own video via the mobile app, I could clearly make out my living room and family’s faces and voices as they entered/exited the house.

Canary also auto detects when I come home or leave the house via geo-fencing. This means I don’t have to manually arm the system. It knows when my me, my wife, and my mother-in law comes and goes based on our location. I can also choose what happens when you come and go. For instance, when I come home, I can set it to disarm the system, which will still let my wife view the camera while she’s away. Or I set it for “privacy mode”, that disables the audio/video when one of us comes home. At any time, I can change the mode via the mobile app for complete control.

Additional creature comforts include the ability to monitor the temperature, humidity, air quality with the ability to view charts of your overall home’s quality.

canary smart home security app

Functionality

Like I mentioned before, there are no sensors, alarms, or keypads to install. Everything is done via the mobile app, including the setting up the Canary unit. In the box is a 3.5mm (headphone jack) cord to connect the Canary unit to my iPhone to walk through the process of connecting to the unit to my home wireless network (there is also an included ethernet cable if your prefer a wired connection) and setting up my “home” location.

After installing the latest Canary update, and disconnecting my iPhone I was good to go. After strategically placing the unit in an area of my home that receives the most amount of traffic, I never have to touch it again. Adding additional home members, arming/disarming unit, and viewing the camera and monitoring events is all done via the mobile app.

canary smart home security app home screen

Canary app for iPhone home screen

My home consists of only one floor, so all I needed was one Canary located in an area that can watch all entry/exit points. If you have multiple levels with multiple entry points, multiple units may be a good idea. You can add additional units to your home and keep an eye on all of them from one mobile app.

Opening the Canary app will give you a quick overview of your system’s status

  • Security mode: Armed/Disarmed/Privacy
  • Temperature, humidity, air quality
  • View all family members and their status (home/away)
  • View the camera’s live stream (if not in privacy mode) with the option to sound an audible alert or contact local emergency numbers.

A quick swipe up on the screen will unveil all the current and past events. This is where you view any activity that was triggered due to motion detection and/or when family members left or arrived at home.

In this view, you can tag events that occurred due to the unit detecting movement. I must admit, the Canary is sensitive, and will send push notifications to all members if it detects even the slightest movement. This could be other people, family members, sunlight, reflections, shadows, activity from a TV left on…anything.

So in the beginning I thought my unit was malfunctioning. But as I went in and started tagging all of the activity (most of them were based on sunlight or shadows, due to a big window in our family room), Canary smart home security started learning those movements, and the number of notifications started to decrease as it learned more about our family’s daily activity while we were home, and our home’s activity while we were away.

In addition to tagging events, you can also comment on activity. This helps when multiple family members have access to your unit. In my case, Mrs. Tech gets notifications, as well as her mother (she comes and watches the kids every so often). I can go in, view the activity, tag what kind of movement it detected, ensure that “everything is fine” and make a note to let everyone know what’s going on.

(click images for full-view)

 

Heaven forbid, if something were to happen, and I needed to recall a certain event, the free plan lets me record and space specific events (up to 5 clips) and saves up to 12 hours of cloud video storage. For even greater protection, Canary offers plans that gives uses the ability to save more clips for longer periods of time, as well as call center monitoring, starting at $9.99/month.

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Location challenges

The only issues I had with the unit was related to detecting family members in the home, especially when it came to my mother in-laws Android device. Going through the settings, her location matched that of our locations (we have iPhones), and she was connected to our home wifi, and all of her phone’s GPS settings were on. It still had a hard time detecting if she was at our home. As a result, we all got “motion detected” activity alerts as she entered and moved around our home. There has been an update since then, so I will have to go back and retest to see if this issue was resolved.

In regards to location, the unit also had a hard time finding our exact address, But since Canary uses geo-fencing, it still knows we are home when we get in a specific area even though it displays our “home” as an address a couple doors down. That may not be Canary’s fault, since there are a ton a homes and several streets squeezed into our little area. It was just weird that the unit was not pin-pointing our exact address.

Canary is new, so I’m sure they working to work any bugs out of the system. Even with those specific challenges, I would still definitely recommend the Canary Smart Home Security System as, I feel a little safer knowing that it only took a couple of minutes to add an extra layer of security in our home. Not to mention that we can peek in on what our kids are doing when we call in reinforcements Momma Tech in-Law, or a baby sitter to watch them while we have “Grown Folks Night Out” #GFNO

No affiliate links were harmed in the making of this post

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Terrance Gaines
terrance@brothatech.com

Terrance Gaines is an Apple Certified Support Professional living in Atlanta. When he is not spending time with his lovely wife and two smart, sweet, and sassy daughters, he's providing individuals and small biz owners with exceptional, comprehensive, and affordable technology support that will enable people to do great things. For more information, visit terrancegaines.com

  • Great review! We’ve been looking for something like this for our home. I sent this to my husb so he can check it out and give it the green light.

    • Glad I could help. Just make sure to figure out if you need one or multiple units for multiple entryways/floors in your home