With a built-in alarm and a host of sensors is the latest app controlled webcam really smart enough to catch a burglar, or is it just a case of bye bye birdie?

Canary is the latest home security hub that lets you keep an eye on your house via an app on your phone, but unlike Nest Cam, Netatmo and the rest of the current crop of smart security cameras you can sound an 90+ dB alarm or call the emergency services if the hub detects a disturbance.

Canary in use

Like the Nest, Canary adapts to the day-to-day activity in your house and learns what’s normal, so it won’t alert you if the dog jumps on the sofa or the robot vacuum makes its dairy rounds, but it will send you a warning if unusual activity takes place. Just like Nest Auto Away, Canary can automatically arm the alarm when it senses you’ve left the house – using your Wi-Fi and phone’s GPS, and turn everything off when you come home.

As well as a Full HD resolution wide angle camera with automatic night vision, noise and motion detection Canary also packs in an accelerometer, air quality, humidity and a temperature sensor which, aside from telling you how warm the lounge is, can detect sudden spikes in heat potentially alerting you to a fire.

Canary doesn’t look like a home alarm. The stylish and surprisingly discreet box, available in black, white or silver, could easily pass for a designer hard drive or Bluetooth speaker. This helps it to blend in and reduce the feeling you’re being spied on in your own home.

Canary setup

Getting the Canary up and running is wonderfully simple. Download the Canary app (iOS or Android), open an account and input some basic details including name, contact details and location and once ready it takes you through each step of the process in just a few minutes. It suggests suitable locations – common sense really – where you might expect to catch the bad guys, so in the hallway, main living rooms or by the back door.

Be aware however that despite the camera’s impressively wide field of view the lens is fixed, so you won’t be able to pan around the room. Worth considering when choosing a suitable location.

Canary in the kitchen

Mercifully the Canary app does all the technical setup work for you just by talking to your phone using the bundled 3.5mm cable. Plug them both in and all relevant settings and Wi-Fi details will be instantly updated leaving the camera ready to go.

In order for Canary to work properly you’ll need to invite all other phone carrying family members or flat mates to download the app and register their details. Once installed the app will be able to tell when specific people are at home, and start to learn daily routines, and also disarm the siren when everyone comes home.

We also like the fact that in the event of an alert, if the main contact doesn’t take action, the message will be sent to other registered users until someone responds. You can even send messages via the app to let family members know all is OK if it’s a false alarm.

Canary in use

When Canary senses motion or vibration, it starts recording a short video clip. You will then receive an alert via the app giving you the chance to either watch the camera ‘live’ or see the recorded clip. These are stored in the cloud for a minimum of 12 hours (longer if you subscribe, see below) which hopefully is long enough to review any missed alerts and call the cops if you’ve caught a cat burglar!

Caught the notorious bike and dog thief in action? Nope, just another false alert.

In order for the Canary to learn it’s important you log the different types of video clip – pets, reflections, shadows, family members etc. In theory this should help to improve the accuracy of the system and reduce the umber of false alerts you get sent.

Canary in action

Screengrab of a video playback; excellent resolution with only around 10 second time lag.

 

In our test we still received a least half a dozen false alerts each day – usually the dog or a breeze blowing a curtain was to blame – which isn’t ideal, but not as trigger happy as some cameras we’ve used. The problem is, the more alerts we receive, the more we ignore them when they ping through on the phone. In the event of an actual emergency that could be disastrous.

That said, we were impressed by the geolocation technology that tracked our phone’s GPS and knew when the whole family (or those registered at any rate) was home. More often than not Canary armed itself automatically when the house became empty, instantly recording any motion, and disabled itself when the family returned home.

It’s worth noting, there is also a Privacy setting which stops recording altogether. Ideal if, for whatever reason, you don’t want your evenings taped for posterity!

Canary: UK price

At £159 each Canary isn’t cheap, but it does far more than most current smart cams for around the same price and if budgets can stretch you can also link up to four Canary units together via the same app providing comprehensive coverage of your home. In the US you can already buy a twin pack at a discounted rate, but this is not yet available in the UK.

Without a subscription you get 12 hours of video history, three video downloads and five video bookmarks for free, which is the bare minimum. For two days of timeline, unlimited video downloads, and 25 bookmarks it’s $4.99 per month, for seven days, it’s $9.99 per month, and there’s 30-days with unlimited downloads for $29.99.

Canary will send alerts to your phone, or Apple Watch if you have one

Canary will send alerts to your phone, or Apple Watch if you have one

Canary HomeHealth

As well as keeping the bad guys out, Canary comes loaded with HomeHealth sensors designed to help you monitor conditions inside your home. These include temperature, humidity and air quality with a percentage rating for each displayed on the app home screen.

We’re not completely sure what to do with the HomeHealth information – open or close a window, turn down the thermostat maybe? – but as the Canary doesn’t currently talk to any other connected home gadgets it feels like information overkill.

Canary HomeHealth in action

Graphs clearly plot temperature, humidity and air quality…if you enjoy that sort of thing.

That said, if Canary could be updated to work as a smart all-in-one smoke or carbon monoxide detector it would be unique to the smart home market, and given the low price point, extremely tempting, especially to those people thinking of investing in the Nest Cam and Nest Protect.

Canary security

With its built-in alarm and ability to call the emergency services, can the Canary really ward off intruders and offer heightened home security?

Canary calling the police

 

In our tests we didn’t need to raise the alarm – apart from to discover just how loud the siren is (VERY!), but we did find the following YouTube clip from America where a woman used her Canary’s video footage to help identify and arrest a burglar. Great publicity for Canary, but also reassuring to know that the camera and app did their job and the video was high enough quality to identify the thief.

Living with Canary – Is it any good?

Louise Mardle has been living with the Canary home security hub for six weeks, but has it brought her peace of mind or just taken hundreds of video clips of her dog? Live-Smart quizzed her to find out.

  • Name: Louise Mardle
  • Age: 38
  • Job: Tree surgeon
  • Lives: London with her husband, young daughter and dog
  • House: Three bed Victorian terrace

What made you buy the Canary?

“I’ve wanted a home security system for a while, but was always put off by how complicated they all seemed. Canary looked like a good compromise between a full alarm system and a smart webcam.”

How was installation?

“I hate setting up new gadgets and generally play dumb leaving them to my husband to sort out, but Canary was surprisingly easy to get to grips with. Finding a suitable location was tricky though as we have a narrow hallway and no available plugs. In the end I had to tuck it in the corner of the living room, but the wide angle camera covered the main entrances and most the room. The power cable is 2m long, but I could have done with an extra metre.”

What’s it like to use on a daily basis?

“I liked the idea of the Canary learning how we live in the house and adapting over time, and while it’s great at knowing whether my husband and I are at home or not, it did send a lot of alerts showing the dog walking past. It’s nice to know he’s OK while I’m at work, but I expected it to learn and stop sending false alerts after a while.”

How do you rate the mobile app?

“There’s not much depth to the app which I really like; just the essential information which is easily accessed. The quality of the video clips is superb and I do find myself checking in and watching ‘Live’ from time to time.”

Have you needed the alarm?

“Yes, but thankfully only to scare my husband!”

Any issues?

“I feel a bit pressured into taking a subscription out as I’d hate to be broken into and not be able to at least try and identify the burglar. They’ve got me over a barrel really.”

What impressed you most?

“Being able to sound an alarm or call the emergency services in the event of a break in or fire is surprisingly comforting. I hope I never have to use it, but having it there and trusting it to work is really important.”