DIY security offers smarter peace of mind

From kits to cameras to all-in-one units, the new generation of do-it-yourself security is smarter, simpler, and more affordable than anything you've seen before.

Installing a home security system used to mean spending hundreds of dollars to have professionals come and hardwire your house, signing a long-term contract, then paying huge fees month after month in order to keep the thing running. Systems weren't flexible, false alarms were frequent, and if you were a lowly renter, you were out of luck -- despite the fact that rental units get burglarized more often than any other kind of property.

Times are changing, though, with a smart new wave of home security systems that's changing the way we think about protecting our homes. These new systems are built around plug-and-play, DIY-friendly devices and sensors that work with your smartphone, move when you need them to, and put you in control of how you protect your home, whether you own a five-bedroom townhouse or rent a studio apartment. Best of all, these systems come with no contracts, and in many cases, no monthly fees -- meaning that peace of mind is more affordable than ever.


Canary
Ry Crist/CNET

Canary

Perhaps the slickest-looking security device ever created, the $199 Canary is an all-in-one security system with an assortment of smart sensors built right into it. There's Wi-Fi, a night-vision-ready camera that you'll be able to access v ia a smartphone app, and motion, temperature, and humidity sensors all packed inside, along with learning technology that will adapt to your habits over time, leading to fewer false alarms. You won't be able to hook up any external sensors with the system, though, and in the event of an emergency, it'll call you, but not the police.

Still, Canary raised over $2 million during an immensely successful Indiegogo campaign, and big names like Khosla Ventures and Bobby Yazdani recently invested over $10 million in the device, so it's clearly something people are excited about. Could Canary break out big and do for home security what the Nest did for thermostats? We're not sure, but we're looking forward to getting our hands on one when it's finally released in the coming months. Just one question -- why isn't it yellow? (Availability and pricing outside the US are unknown at this time.)

Read our full preview of Canary.


Dropcam Pro
Sarah Tew/CNET

Dropcam Pro

There are plenty of IP cameras that allow you to view a location remotely, but few offer as simple a setup or as elegant an interface as Dropcam does. The original Dropcam HD left us impressed, and its follow-up, the Dropcam Pro, is even better. Just plug the camera into your computer via USB, introduce it to your wireless network, then download the free Dropcam app to your Android or iOS device. You'll be able to monitor your Dropcam feed in real-time for free, or pay $9.95 per month for a DVR-esque cloud recording service. It even has a built-in two-way talk feature.

At $199 per camera in the US or £179.90 in the UK (pricing in Australia is unavailable at this time), the Dropcam Pro isn't a cheap home monitoring option, but it features some of the best video quality of any consumer-grade camera available today.

Read our full review of the Dropcam Pro.


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Colin West McDonald/CNET

Iris Home Management System

As home security systems go, there are systems with a wide variety of sensors and peripheral devices to choose from, and deep systems that focus more on performance and user experience. Iris, a system that comes with the full backing of retail giant Lowe's, makes a valiant attempt at doing both -- and when it comes to flexibility, it's one of the best we've seen, with uses that surpass home security and extend into things like energy management, elder care, and basic convenience.

Still, we weren't totally sold on the system's depth. The app and website both felt a little bit clunky when we tested them out, and we had a hard time finding anything that the system did better than the competition. Plus, unlike many of those competitors, Iris requires a monthly fee in order to unlock full functionality. For these reasons and others, we came away unconvinced of Iris' value.

Read our full review of the Iris Home Management System.


iSmartAlarm
Colin West McDonald/CNET

iSmartAlarm

One of the first breakout smart security systems was iSmartAlarm, which we first saw at CES 2013 . iSmartAlarm is a budget-friendly security alternative for DIY-minded homeowners. Packages start at $199 and include motion sensors, panic sirens, keychain remotes, and contact sensors for doors and windows. There's also an optional camera that you can add to your system for $149 more. Once you do, you'll be able to view and control it from your smartphone, or program it to automatically snap pictures during a break-in.

The camera didn't operate as smoothly as I'd like, but aside from that, I was completely impressed with how well the iSmartAlarm system performed. Best of all, there are no contracts or subscription fees to deal with, making it one of the most affordable options in legitimate home security currently available. With intriguing new system components due out in the coming months, this kit continues to keep our attention.

Read our full review of iSmartAlarm.


Korner
Korner

Korner

For a system that's truly about as simple as it gets, you might want to take a look at Korner, a kit which consists solely of patent-pending, one-piece entry sensors. Just stick each one in the corner of the opening in question, then plug a flash drive-sized dongle into your router. If anyone tries to come in while the system is armed, the router dongle will emit a piercing screech and you'll get an alert on your phone asking if you want to contact the police.

True, that sort of one-note simplicity makes for less comprehensive coverage than systems which employ multiple types of sensors. Still, for consumers who just want a basic level of protection that's as affordable as possible, Korner, which costs $99 and comes without fees if you back their campaign on Indiegogo, might make a lot of sense.

Read the full preview of Korner.


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Colin West McDonald/CNET

Oplink TripleShield Security

Oplink Security's TripleShield package offers similar functionality to what you'll get with iSmartAlarm, with open/closed contact sensors, a motion detector, and a nifty smartphone app. It also includes two wireless cameras with night-vision capability, and unlike the glitchy iCamera included in iSmartAlarm's equally priced "Premium Package," these cameras are a cinch to work with. Even better, each camera in your system will automatically record and save thirty seconds of video whenever the alarm is triggered, possibly allowing you to provide your insurance provider -- or the police -- with invaluable footage.

However, unlike iSmartAlarm, Oplink charges a monthly fee -- $19.99 for the TripleShield package. This will be a deal-breaker for some, but if you have a strong interest in a system with solid video surveillance, Oplink might be worth it.

Read the full review of Oplink TripleShield Security.


Piper
Colin West McDonald/CNET

Piper

The $239 Piper smart security device is another Indiegogo darling, having recently hit more than three times its initial funding goal before ultimately being acquired by iControl Networks. Like Canary, Piper is an attractive-looking all-in-one system with an integrated pan-and-tilt camera and built-in sensors capable of detecting motion, temperature changes, and the like. What sets Piper apart is the fact that it doubles as a Z-Wave hub, meaning you'll be able to use it as a home automation control center and control any number of connected devices. Hooking it up with a Z-Wave-ready lock like ones we've seen from Schlage and Kwikset would be a great start for the security-minded consumer, but you could also use it to automate lights or a smart thermostat.

Read our full review of Piper.


Samsung SmartCam HD Pro
Colin West McDonald/CNET

Samsung SmartCam HD Pro

Samsung's newest Dropcam competitor is the SmartCam HD Pro. At a price of $189, it's the slightly cheaper of the two IP cameras, and it comes with an app that's chock full of useful features. Though the SmartCam boasts 1080p resolution and a 128 degree field of view, we still give Dropcam an edge in terms of image quality. We also wish that the SmartCam integrated with other devices over Bluetooth, like Dropcam does. That said, the SmartCam does give you the option of storing footage locally on an SD card -- Dropcam doesn't.

Read our full review of the Samsung SmartCam HD Pro.


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Scout

Scout Home Security

With three stylish-looking finishes to choose from, the independently crowdfunded Scout gets my vote for the best-looking DIY security kit currently available, but it also stands out for its affordable a la carte approach to securing your home. You'll start with the $99 base station, then add whatever peripheral accessories you want. Live in a studio apartment? Tack on a single, simple entry sensor for $29, and you're looking at a $128 small-home security solution -- though I'd probably splurge on the larger, $69 entry sensor that doubles as an RFID panel and lets you arm and disarm the system using a keychain fob.

Scout connects with whatever sensors you choose using Wi-Fi, but it also features a built-in Zigbee module, so you'll be able to sync up with smart locks or popular smart home gadgets like Philips Hue LEDs, too. There aren't any monthly fees unless you decide to upgrade your system to include live monitoring or a cellular backup, which gives you a little bit of flexibility. Pre-orders are currently shipping out to early backers, with a wider release expected soon.

Read our full preview of the Scout Home Security System.


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Colin West McDonald/CNET

SimpliSafe

If you're looking for a DIY security option that didn't come from the world of crowdfunding, you'll definitely want to take a look at SimpliSafe, winner of our Editor's Choice. With a variety of customizable, multi-sensor packages to choose from that range in price from $229 to $519, SimpliSafe promises complete do-it-yourself coverage for any home. Their systems are totally wireless (they'll keep working without power for up to four days), they offer optional smoke, leak, and carbon monoxide detectors, and they feature 24-7 live monitoring and a cellular backup. You'll need to pay a $14.99 per month fee if you want the live monitoring and cellular connection, plus even more if you want SMS alerts or remote controls, but we say that SimpliSafe's reliable, comprehensive protection and incredible ease of use are both well worth it.

Read the full review of SimpliSafe.


Colin West McDonald/CNET

Viper Home

If you're looking for a home security system with a modern, sophisticated design, then you might want to consider Viper Home. Their DIY kit was a consistent performer in our tests, and it's the only option we've seen that integrates home security with automotive security. Their basic package is fee-free, though you'll need to pay $9.99 per month if you want to add a camera to your system. That's a better deal than most of the competition, but it can't quite beat the totally fee-free iSmartAlarm in terms of value, especially since iSmartAlarm costs $30 less up front. Still, we love that Viper Home will continue working in a power outage (iSmartAlarm won't), and we're excited to hear that the system will soon offer a Z-Wave control bridge as an optional accessory, meaning that you'll be able to add things like smart locks and smart lights into your system.

Read the full review of Viper Home.

 

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