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Smart Home

Kuna's porch-light cam helps you get proactive with safety

Kuna's inconspicuous cam boasts some advanced features to help you deter crimes of opportunity.


Editors' Note, October 5th, 2015: Kuna lowered the retail price and began shipping products to backers. The piece has been updated accordingly.

Home security -- from DIY smart home cameras and sensors to professionally installed systems -- can do a lot to keep you informed when something goes wrong. The Kuna Light Fixture wants to go one step further and help you prevent a security breach in the first place. By combining a weatherproof Wi-Fi camera, an intercom and advanced recognition technology into an innocuous-looking porch light, Kuna's system hopes to stop criminals before they get started.

Plenty of ways to respond with the app. Kuna

According to data collected by Kuna, 72 percent of residential burglaries occur when no one's home. With this light fixture, when someone is standing on your porch, potentially scoping out the place, you'll receive a push notification and have the chance to see them, talk to them, and even sound an alarm via Kuna's iOS or Android app. If it's a criminal looking for a crime of opportunity, talking to them, playing a prerecorded message, or setting off a loud siren should be enough to scare them away.

On more ordinary occasions, you can check to see who's at the door from a comfy chair, and use those prerecorded messages to automatically tell a delivery person to leave a package.

After a successful Indiegogo campaign, Kuna light fixtures will begin shipping to backers tomorrow. At retail they'll cost $199; you can order them from the company website now.

Though they plan to release international models at some point, at launch the Kuna Light Fixture will be available only in the US and Canada.

Sizing up the competition

Kuna's retail price puts it in a precarious value position: it costs as much as the best smart-home cameras we've tested while offering less in terms of camera specs. Kuna's cam will broadcast in 720p, a notch below the 1080p offered by the $200 Dropcam Pro , the $190 Samsung SmartCam HD Pro and the $200 Piper . The viewing angle of 116 degrees also falls short of the 130-, 128- and 180-degree fields of view offered, respectively, by the models above, though Kuna gives you 40 degrees of wiggle room with remote pan control.

Comparing Kuna to a camera with similar specs, the Belkin NetCam HD+ , the $200 price seems a bit more extreme, as you can purchase Belkin's model for only $130 and get the same 720p resolution with only a slightly narrower 95-degree field of view. Belkin also offers compatibility with the rest of its WeMo products, and the other smart cams we've looked at have various ways of communicating with a larger smart-home setup as well. Kuna hopes to offer this sort of open compatibility eventually, but it won't be available when it's first released.

Justifying the premium

The Kuna Light Fixture does offer a number of features to help justify the cost. If all of them work as promised, it might indeed be worth the premium. First, the porch light itself looks well designed and comes in three styles to fit the decor of your home's exterior. The whole structure looks classy, and the camera sits inconspicuously below the light.

The contemporary style. Kuna

The style and porch light alone might be enough to justify the increase for some, but Kuna goes further by offering advanced recognition technology that's a step above simple motion detection. Supposedly, Kuna can tell the difference between the motion patterns of someone coming and going, someone stopping by just to drop off a package, and someone waiting at the door. It also filters out movement noise such as small animals and blowing leaves via infrared computer vision.

What this means is that you can expect it to minimize false alarms and customize alerts to a precise level. If you want to know every time someone approaches your door for any reason, you can train the system to tell you everything. However, if you only want to know about suspicious behavior, you can minimize notifications to that specific movement pattern. Kuna's system should learn to distinguish these differences in even greater detail over time.

To top it off, the camera comes fully weatherproofed, unlike the competitors I mentioned above. Two-way audio, live viewing and push notifications are all included without a monthly service charge, and you can customize when the porch light turns on as well, so it responds to motion, has a set schedule, or cycles on from dusk to dawn. For a contract-free, $5 monthly charge, you can use the cloud to view recordings as well.

Setup wrinkles

Hopefully, the installation goes smoothly. Kuna

Kuna also claims an advantage in installation time over that of the competition. In their video, they show a frustrated individual trying to set up a DIY camera, getting confused by all of the cords, and throwing their fists to the sky in exasperation, infomercial style. I've yet to experience anything like that when setting up a connected camera, despite my penchant for dramatic skyward gestures. Most of the time, we've finished getting these cameras in place and connected within a few minutes, so the estimate of 15 and dealing with wires for porch lighting seems more complex.

Kuna claims you'll be able to use your existing wiring and wall-mounting for added simplicity. Kuna's appeal will be limited to homeowners who are free to add exterior fixtures. And the installation itself might go beyond DIY simplicity if you don't have a similar porch light already wired that you can replace with Kuna.

The proactive smart home

The advanced motion detection offered by Kuna could potentially be extremely useful. It'll need to be to justify Kuna's retail price. The BOT Home Automation Ring provides an apt cautionary tale about the potential problems of outdoor cameras. Unpredictable lighting and shadow could wreak havoc on picture clarity. Having an attached lamp might help, but since Kuna's lens sits under it, I'm concerned about the image picking up the fixture's own shadow.

Will the camera be able to see? Kuna

Functional smart home security that works to prevent break ins could be a big step forward in a field mostly designed to be reactive. We've experienced plenty of issues with connected cams that looked promising, so Kuna has a lot to prove. The pedigree of the team, led by Sai-Wai Fu, an Emmy-winning digital programmer, speaks well of its chance to be successful. If the Kuna Light Fixture can deliver, it stands to be an extremely useful part of your smart home.

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