All-in-one home security systems should be much more popular

Commentary: I'm shocked all-in-one home security systems haven't caught on more.

Megan Wollerton Former Senior Writer/Editor
4 min read
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The Abode Iota is one of the only remaining all-in-one security systems I like, but the category has so much potential.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The all-in-one security system is a self-contained home monitoring gadget. What does that mean, you ask? Fair question. It means you get all of the basics of a DIY security system in a single, compact device. 

From the now-defunct Piper Classic and Piper NV to the still-available Guardzilla 360 and Abode Iota, all-in-one security systems come complete with built-in cameras, sirens, motion sensors and other useful features. Arm and disarm yours in the accompanying app just like you would with any other security system and let it watch over your house for you.

Their main benefits, of course, are flexibility and portability. They're ideal for smaller homes with one main point of entry to keep an eye on. They're also fantastic for folks living in apartments or any rented spaces where you aren't supposed to install a bunch of stuff, lest you face the wrath of an irate landlord -- or lady. 

And if you decide to move, simply unplug your handy all-in-one device and pack it alongside your other small electronics for use at your next place.

But, surprisingly (to me, at least), this category of home security products hasn't caught on much. There are less than ten main options kicking around today from names like Canary, LG, Somfy and a handful of others. And, like I said, my original favorites in the category, the Piper Classic and NV devices, are discontinued. 

So, what's the deal with these all-in-one systems and why aren't more people making (and buying) them?

Smart security overviewThe best home security devices of 2019

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The Piper Classic is gone and I'm sad about it.

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A tale of two Pipers

The $199 Piper Classic was a security module with a camera, a siren and a whole bunch of sensors that detected everything from ambient light to motion. You could track what's going on via the HD live video stream and get alerts during a potential break-in. The Piper stored up to 1,000 video clips on its cloud server for free -- there was no local storage option, but there wasn't a monthly fee either. It had a built-in Z-Wave hub for connecting third-party devices and compatibility with IFTTT, the free "if this, then that" automation service. 

The $279 Piper NV ("NV" stands for "night vision" and "new version") distinguished itself from its similar-looking Piper predecessor in a couple of key ways. With night vision and a 3.4-megapixel camera sensor, the NV was a clear upgrade from the 2-megapixel sans-night-vision original. It retained a lot of the features that made the first iteration so great -- a 180-degree fish-eye lens, a 105-decibel siren, a microphone and a speaker, free cloud storage and multiple sensors -- but the new add-ons took the NV to a new level.

Then, Alarm.com bought Piper parent company Icontrol Networks in early 2017 and the Pipers basically disappeared. I continued to spot them, for a time, on third-party sites like Amazon , but the Alarm.com purchase was a death sentence for the two Piper all-in-one systems. Womp, womp.

Piper nv
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Piper nv

The next-gen Piper NV is also gone...and I'm also sad about it.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The rest

Here are the all-in-one systems that are still hanging on despite a lack of movement in the category over the past five or six years:

That's it, just seven products... including the UK-based Somfy One that isn't sold in the United States. Read more about each specific device in more detail here, but the overall gist is that they're largely disappointing with a couple of exceptions.

Canary's All-in-One had performance issues and the View was missing key features like a siren. Guardzilla's 360 and the LG Smart Security were too glitchy, and the Sens8 doesn't work with Alexa or Google Assistant (at least Alexa or Google Assistant compatibility is pretty much a minimum requirement at this point), although I haven't tested it fully yet, so it could be great otherwise.

The Abode Iota is the one that stands out slightly from the rest of the models I've tested. For $249, you get the device itself, one door/window sensor and a key fob. While you don't need those extra accessories, it makes the Iota's starter kit more scalable. The Iota performs well too and offers extras like two-hour battery backup in the event of a power outage and optional local storage via a built-in microSD card slot. It also works with both Alexa and Google Assistant.

All of the indoor home security cameras we've tested

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A too-small pool

So what's going on here? Are companies holding off on manufacturing more all-in-one systems because people aren't really buying the ones that are already out there? Or are people simply not buying the ones already out there because the available offerings largely underperform?

I think it's both. 

Forrester research firm VP and principal analyst, Frank Gillett, is also surprised they aren't more popular. "I hold them up as an example of something that I thought would take off more," he says.

He thinks it's because they're being sold as " security cameras " rather than "smart camera systems." 

"Selling fear doesn't take you very far," Gillett adds. 

Smart camera systems, or what I call all-in-one systems, have extra features customers, particularly renters and families, should want -- environmental sensors and other lifestyle features. But the companies making them haven't figured out the right "story or the right value proposition" to sell them effectively, Gillett explains.

But all this means there's an excellent opportunity for new companies to swoop in and save this waffling home security category. All-in-one home security devices have the potential to appeal broadly to renters, who often can't use professional firms like ADT, AT&T Digital Life or Comcast Xfinity Home with their install-intensive hardware that's much more difficult to move when your lease is up. And, as Gillett points out, there's also a great opening for these cameras to be more than home security monitoring devices, but family devices that can be used to see if the kids got home from school, to monitor the temperature in the baby's room and so much more.

Someone needs to pick up where Piper left off and give the Abode Iota some much-needed competition.