Did you remember to close the garage door? If you're like me, you're already second-guessing yourself as you read this. Here's the good news: garage door openers are getting smarter. You've got options when it comes to smart control of your garage. The Garager from startup Alcidae is one of the newest devices to provide those smarts, which encompass remote door control, as a well as live two-way audio and video streaming. While the Garager packs a punch in some areas, including its very reasonable $129 price (or even $99 on sale), it's still not the best option out there for smart garage management.
Alcidae is a startup based in San Francisco that's focused on smart home devices. The company currently sells two products: the Homester, an Outdoor HD camera, and the Garager. You can check out its website here. There are a lot of things that make this product feel not quite ready for prime-time: a slightly buggy and poorly formatted app, outdated information on Alcidae's website about which app to use, and a handful of highlighted features that are currently just promises. However, there are some bright spots. I'll start with design.
The Garager looks more like a smart security camera than a garage door hub or controller. A white plastic housing holds a round camera eye on a thin stem. It's a good-looking camera, and if it were a bit smaller, I'd be happy to place this somewhere inside my home. Unlike other cameras, the Garager mounts upside down, hanging from your existing garage opener. You have several mounting options here, but the easiest is to simply stick the Garager to the bottom of your current garage door opener via the magnet on the camera's base. That's the way I chose to test it out at the CNET Smart Home, and it held on tight without shaking the camera too much when the garage door raised and lowered.
Installing the Garager successfully does require a 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi connection that reaches your garage. The Alcidae app guides you through connecting the Garager to your network. The Garager connects to the standard power outlet most garages have on the ceiling just above the garage door opener.
You'll also need to be comfortable attaching the Garger's two electrical wires to nodes on the back of your current opener to control open and close commands. To determine which wires go where, you'll need to take a look at your existing garage door opener's manual and define which wires are responsible for the open and close commands. There may be wires for sensors in addition to open and close wires. The Garager's instructions are concerningly vague on this front, likely because not all openers are wired the same. Once you've attached the two wires correctly and connected the Garager to Wi-Fi, you can finish setting up your device in the app.
The Alcidae app controls the Garager for both iOS and Android devices. From the app, you can view a live, color video feed with 960p HD resolution. That's slightly lower than the 1080p HD we're used to seeing now in security and smart cameras, but still enough to see most action clearly. The camera does include two-way audio, so you can talk to someone inside your garage from the Alcidae app by pressing the microphone button beneath the live feed. In addition to communicating, you can record videos or snap photos of what's going on in your garage. And, of course, you can raise and lower your garage door remotely with a Wi-Fi or cellular data connection.
Viewing, saving and sharing recorded clips of any alert does require a $5 per month subscription. That's not uncommon across the DIY security cameras we've seen this year, and while it wasn't a surprise, I wish there were at least a free 7-day or even 24-hour option for recorded clips. Notifications of sound, motion and door activity in the Alcidae app were prompt and accurate in my testing. The app displayed a time-stamped activity log of detected sound and motion. Both sound and motion detections are optional, and you can set individual sensitivity settings for each. If you did subscribe to the clip service, you'd also see the accompanying video clip for the sound or motion event in question.
The Garager doesn't check every box for me as a fully smart garage system. Things like scheduling, geofencing and smart assistant compatibility are all missing right now. Without Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa (or even IFTTT) compatibility, the Garager doesn't feel as smart as it could be. Without any scheduling capabilities, you won't be able to set the door to open or close at a specific time each day. Geofencing would add hands-free convenience. These things are supposedly coming to the Garager soon, but they aren't here yet.
Until these key features make their way to the Garager, I can't recommend it over something like Chamberlain's $99 MyQ Smart Garage Hub which works with a variety of smart assistants and platforms including Google Assistant, Homekit, Nest, Wink and IFTTT. It is worth noting the Garager isn't compatible with any MyQ garage door openers. You do get some features MyQ can't give you, like a live color and night vision video feed and two-way audio, but MyQ has more smart features overall. If geofencing, scheduling or asking a virtual assistant to close the garage door top your list, you'll be disappointed with the Garager's capabilities, at least for now.
If being able to see, hear and speak to your garage space remotely is a priority, give the Garager a try. If not, I'd recommend going with Garageio or Chamberlain's MyQ line or products for complete garage smarts that work with the rest of your smart home.