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Setup

Setting up the Canary system was relatively easy. Like other smart home products, Canary uses Android and iOS apps only. I chose to set up via my Samsung S4, which entailed first getting the Canary app from the Google Play Store. The app started by setting up a Canary account, then asked for my specific location. This is needed for Canary's geofencing feature.

Geofencing works by disarming Canary when you are at the specified "home" location. Canary still records events when disarmed, it just doesn't notify you. I found that geofencing worked only intermittently. I opened a ticket with support and got a prompt response, but we never came to a solution. The other mode is Privacy mode where Canary doesn't record at all. Privacy mode doesn't activate automatically, only manually.

Once your location is set, the Canary app asks if you want to connect by Wi-Fi or Ethernet. I chose to go with Wi-Fi and here's where it gets weird. Once you set the configuration, you are prompted to plug a yellow audio setup cable into the headphone jack of your phone and into Canary. Canary says this is to "securely communicate with your Android (or iOS) device to authenticate your Canary with our servers".

But other smart home devices manage to get set up securely via more common methods (sending a text, entering a code on the device). So this seems an unnecessary complication that's compounded by needing the cable for any subsequent changes to the Wi-Fi network, even if Canary is already connected. So, don't lose that cable! The image below shows the audio activation step.

Canary audio setup screen

Canary audio setup screen

Once set up, live and recorded video, as well as home air quality and temperature, can be accessed via the Canary apps. On the cloud side, all communication happens over an HTTPS connection and video and audio are AES-256 encrypted. (Read the Security FAQ for the full poop.) At the moment, you are not able to access Canary via web browser, but the company said they're workin' on it.

Features

Canary's cloud-based recording presently has 4 different plans: Basic; Never Miss A Moment; Advanced Security; and Deluxe. The Basic (free) plan includes 12 hours of recordings and 5 saved clips. The next level includes 7 days of recording and 50 saved clips for $9.99/month.

The Advanced Security plan holds 30 days of recordings and 100 saved clips for $19.99/month. The Deluxe plan includes 90 days of recordings and 250 saved clips for $39.99/month. All plans are good for up to four devices in a single location. The graphic of the different plans is shown below.

Canary pricing plans

Canary pricing plans

Canary primarily uses event/motion detection to trigger video capture. You can't adjust detection sensitivity and you can't block out image areas that you don't want to trigger recording. Over time, Canary is supposed to be able to figure out what is and isn't a false alarm. But I didn't see any obvious signs of learning in the week or so I spent with the product.

As an example, the image below shows where I had the Canary set up at home. Notice my dog in the bottom left corner; every time my dog moved his head I got a notification. It would have been really nice to adjust the sensitivity of motion detection, or even not include that area, as you can do with many IP cameras.

The other problem with Canary's motion detection is the same thing I pointed out with NETGEAR's Arlo. You can't see anything that happens before the trigger event. Canary also doesn't let you set the length of video clip.

Canary motion detection

An example of the Canary motion detection

The problems (except for length of captured clip) are due to the nature of this type of IP camera. Since the camera is sleeping, it can't do any image processing, which is required to set motion detection zones. And since the camera doesn't record until it is awakened, there is no buffer to pull pre-trigger video from. Until someone integrates a time machine into these beasties, these are limitations that can't be fixed. All Arlo, Canary et. al. can do is make the wake-up-and-record time as short as possible.

To give it credit, Canary's motion detection is rather sensitive and recording started very quickly. But you could still miss crucial footage if the camera thought motion was complete, but there was still something going on.

The timeline view in Canary is very simple and streamlined, with snapshots of recording video and information about when someone arrived home or left. From each recording video you can sound the very loud siren, make emergency calls to police, fire or ambulance, watch Live Video or just tell Canary everything is fine and hope Canary uses the information to start phasing out false alarms.

Canary timeline

Canary timeline

HomeHealth graphs show time graphs of temperature, humidity and "air quality" of your home. A Canary moderator's coment response on this page says Canary monitors "iso-butane, carbon monoxide, hydrogen, ethanol, cigarette smoke and cooking odors". But Canary doesn't break out graphs of each of these. The Canary rep also said: "Canary is not a dedicated carbon monoxide detector because it gives a holistic view of air quality in your home, and won't alert you if carbon monoxide levels rise too high, for example."

So while it's potentially a cool feature, HomeHealth doesn't do anything useful for now. Canary also has no announced plans or timetable for features that use the sensors. The image below shows the HomeHealth graph.

Canary HomeHealth

Canary HomeHealth
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