Piper home security system doubles as a Z-Wave hub

Piper is a sensor-packed smart home security system, but how does it measure up to the iSmartAlarm and the Canary Smart Home Automation Device?

Megan Wollerton

Megan Wollerton

Senior Writer/Editor

Megan Wollerton has covered technology for CNET since 2013. Before that, she wrote for NBC's Dvice.com (now SyFy). Megan has a master's degree from the University of Louisville and a bachelor's degree from Connecticut College, both in international relations. She is a board member of the Louisville chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. When Megan isn't writing, she's planning far-flung adventures.

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Piper is a home security system from Ottawa, Canada-based startup Blacksumac. Piper got its start on Indiegogo, and by the end of its month-long campaign, it had more than tripled its original $100,000 goal. So what is Blacksumac planning to do with its $309,119?

Why, make more Pipers, of course. Shipments to crowd-sourced supporters are expected to begin in November. And if you missed the funding period, that's OK. You will be able to preorder directly from Blacksumac soon for somewhere between $210 and $250.

It isn't the only interesting product on the DIY security market, though. It calls to mind other systems like the $199 iSmartAlarm and the $199 Canary Smart Home Security Device, but with a little something extra: Z-Wave integration. In fact, 232 separate Z-Wave products are compatible with Piper. That includes things like motion sensors to detect door and window activity and lighting products that allow you to set custom schedules.

Z-Wave integration really sets Piper apart from the competition. Since there are literally hundreds of Z-Wave add-ons that you can purchase a la carte, you can turn Piper into a home automator extraordinaire. With all of these available options, Piper might just appeal to a niche of the market that's not yet been snatched up by the iSmart or the Canary.

Piper DIY home security and automation hub (pictures)

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Piper is available in either a white or a black finish; the Canary comes in white, matte black, or silver, and the iSmart comes only in white. You can put Piper on any flat surface or mount it on a wall to match your aesthetic preferences and space-saving needs. Piper comes with backup batteries, but packaging also includes a 7.5W AC/DC wall adapter (the Canary comes with a plug only). The box itself is an embedded Linux system running on an ARM processor. Yes, it's entirely Wi-Fi-enabled, though the team is developing a Wi-Fi/cellular Piper that operates on LTE and 3G, too.


Piper installation appears to be incredibly straightforward: put it somewhere flat or mount it to a wall, get the Piper app, provide your home Wi-Fi details, and you're in business.


Each Piper comes with an HD camera complete with a 180-degree fish-eye lens. You can pan, tilt, and zoom from your Android or iOS device in real time (you can't do that with the Canary, and you don't get a camera at all in the iSmart's basic $199 package). And, you can monitor everything in various modes: pan-tilt-zoom, quad view, and panorama. It also claims to work very well in low light, but it doesn't come with night vision like the Canary. So for very dark situations, you're kind of out of luck (unless you want to get a Z-Wave accessory that will turn on your lights). If you lose power, the Piper will send you an alert, kick into battery mode, and save all video footage until the connection returns (the Canary won't continue to operate, since it doesn't have batteries).

The Piper app allows you to create custom rules and receive related alerts, such as, "If bedroom window opens, record video, sound siren, and call me." The built-in sensors can detect motion up to 20 feet away, and it also comes with environmental sensors that record temperature, humidity, ambient light, and ambient sound. That way, you can also create rules based on more than just motion. And, if you have a larger space to monitor, you will be able to control as many as five different Pipers on the app (the Canary only allows for four).


Blacksumac's creation seems to be a solid home security solution for people already considering a Wi-Fi-based system. Piper combines basic security functions like motion detection and video footage with a free app that sends alerts based on your preferences. And it's a Z-Wave hub. The Canary offers similar functionality, without a Z-Wave hub and a pan and tilt-enabled camera. It does have night vision, though, and each unit costs $199, compared with Piper's preorder price range of $210 to $250.


iSmartAlarm's standard package starts at $199, but you'd have to pay $150 more to get a camera at all. And, a recent CNET review did not give the iSmart camera a very favorable rating. So, if you're looking in this price range, but want a camera, consider the Piper or the Canary. If you want extra home automation capabilities, Blacksumac's Piper has it. And if you don't, each Canary costs slightly less. And if you have a larger space to monitor, want a la carte options, and don't need a camera, the iSmartAlarm is worth a look. Full reviews of the Piper and the Canary are forthcoming.

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