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Scout Home Security System review: Scout's security system keeps your safety in check

Scout combines DIY products with ADT-style live monitoring for a clever home-security hybrid.

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Megan Wollerton
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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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5 min read

Editors' note (April 13, 2016): While Scout's earliest customers still receive free access to many of this kit's security features, the team now requires monitoring subscriptions for most remote functionality, beginning at $10 per month.

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7.7

Scout Home Security System

The Good

Scout makes every accessory and service plan optional so you won't ever end up with superfluous security sensors or charges.

The Bad

Buying all of the available devices will cost $445 -- not exactly cheap. Scout doesn't currently support Android devices.

The Bottom Line

Scout gives you choices, but its four-product line-up is actually pretty limited in comparison to Samsung's security- and home-automation-minded SmartThings.

Scout took its inspiration from DIY and ADT-style home security. After you buy the $129 Wi-Fi and ZigBee hub, the specific devices you pick out are entirely up to you. The options include motion and movement sensors and a camera -- not a lot of choices, but enough for a solid starter kit. It also offers optional cellular backup and live monitoring at an additional cost.

Scout is very similar to other a la carte security systems, like iSmartAlarm , Oplink , Viper Home and SimpliSafe , but it gives you more freedom of choice and is available internationally. All of these competitors are missing at least one key feature, while Scout skillfully blends DIY customizability with options typically reserved for professional firms. On the other hand, Scout only sells four accessories; that's pretty limited when you consider protocol translators like Samsung's SmartThings . Still, it's a very good option if you're in the market for a stand-alone kit.

Scout is big on custom home security (pictures)

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An overview

The $129 Scout Hub (£82, AU$157) plugs directly into your Wi-Fi router for a steady stream of Internet connectivity. As far as accessories go, Scout sells an RFID-compatible Door Panel for $69 (£44, AU$84). It comes with two RFID key fobs and an additional RFID sticker for arming and disarming your door in person.

There's also a $29, £18, AU$35 Access Sensor. This device can go on another door, a window, a drawer, pretty much anywhere inside your house with an open and close mechanism. It's basically a smaller version of the Door Panel, without any of the RFID capabilities.

The Motion Sensor costs $49, £31 or AU$60. It can detect motion up to 20 feet away and works whether or not the room is well lit. The ethernet-tethered hub has a power cord, but all of Scout's sensor devices run on batteries. Scout also offers a $169, £108, AU$206 HD camera, but that wasn't included in my reviewer's kit.

If you buy one of everything (including the camera), it'll set you back $445, £283 or AU$542. If you want 3G cellular backup you'll have to pay $10, £6 or AU$12 a month. Live monitoring plus 3G cellular backup will set you back $20, £13 or AU$24 a month.

Check out Scout's features compared to other a la carte systems we've reviewed:

Scout AlarmiSmartAlarm PreferredOplink Security AlarmShieldViper HomeSimpliSafe
Upfront Cost Starts at $129, £82, AU$157$199.99$199.99$229.99, AU$245$229.96 to $539.85
Monthly Fees $0$0$9.99 ($19.99 with camera)$0 ($9.99 with camera)$14.99 to $24.99
Live Monitoring Yes ($19.99/month, includes cellular backup)NoNoNoYes (no extra charge)
Cellular Backup Yes ($9.99/month without live monitoring)NoYes (add $9.99/month)NoYes (no extra charge)
Power Outage Backup YesNoNoYesYes
Camera Yes (add $169)Yes (add $149.99)Yes (add $100)Yes (add $149.99)No
Zigbee/Z-Wave Compatibility Zigbee only NoNoYesNo

Of the Scout competitors listed above, only Oplink and SimpliSafe offer cellular backup and only SimpliSafe offers live monitoring. SimpliSafe's cellular backup and live-monitoring features are built in to its required monthly fees, whereas Scout gives you the option to opt in and out as you like.

Taking a closer look

Scout was very easy to set up. You can either follow the instructions directly from the Scout Alarm app or on the website. I used the iOS app and had no problems whatsoever (an Android app is in development).

The entire Scout system operates on a mesh network, so each device communicates with the others and back to the hub. That means that each product acts a "range extender" of sorts. For that reason, Scout suggests starting the installations close to the hub and then working out from there.

The hub has a 100 foot range. An ethernet cable and power cord are included with it as well. Once it's plugged into the router and displaying a solid green LED, the hub is connected. From there, I connected the Motion Sensor (closest to the hub, about 10 feet, 3 meters away), the Door Panel (about 30-40 feet, 9-12 meters away) and the Access Sensor (about 100 feet, 30 meters away).

Each device has a strong adhesive backing that makes sticking them to walls, doors and other surfaces very simple. While it took a little effort to remove them, they left no sticky residue behind.

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Screenshot by Megan Wollerton/CNET

Custom modes

Beyond buying whatever combination of accessories you like -- two Door Panels and a Motion Sensor, a Door Panel, three Access Sensors and an HD Camera and so on -- Scout also lets you set your own rules. It pre-populates Home, Sleep, Away and Vacation modes, but you can edit them and add more as needed.

You have a few options within the mode settings, but they all follow the same "If this, then that" template. This format has become fairly ubiquitous both within apps like Scout and as part of larger open-API services like IFTTT, which literally stands for "If this, then that."

For example, I set Scout's Vacation mode to send me push and email notifications and initiate the siren if something triggered either the Motion Sensor, the Door Panel or the Access Sensor. I set the other modes to respond if just one of the three sensors was triggered. I then rotated among the various modes, arming and disarming them and triggering the alarm by walking in front of the Motion Sensor, opening and closing the Door-Panel-connected office door and opening and closing a desk drawer with an attached Access Sensor.

Both the Door Panel and Hub itself are equipped with 106-decibel sirens. You can use either the app or the RFID fobs to disarm the Door Panel. Everything worked as expected. I received push and email alerts and the siren blared every time a device linked to an armed mode was triggered.

A bit limited in the end

Even though Scout worked very well and boasts a unique combination of features for a DIY system, I can't help but feel that the stand-alone DIY kit is losing the smart home race. The Scout Hub does work with the ZigBee protocol, but specific brands still need to partner with Scout to make that capability worthwhile. So far, it can't control Philips Hue LEDs or any other popular devices that speak ZigBee.

Without those specific partnerships or larger integrations with inclusive solutions like SmartThings, Wink , Homekit or the initiative, Scout becomes less and less appealing.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

A recap

Scout does a very good job of combining DIY ease-of-use with advanced features like cellular backup and professional monitoring. All of the products I tested worked well separately and as part of the larger system. The app is well designed and I consistently received alerts based on the rules I set.

However, at this point in the game, kits that don't offer IFTTT or integrate with specific third-party companies feel like they're missing out on a lot of potential within the smart home. We want our devices to speak to one another so we don't have to stick to one specific brand (unless we want to). That will be a big challenge for Scout as these sorts of partnerships become increasingly commonplace.

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7.7

Scout Home Security System

Score Breakdown

Features 7Usability 8Design 8Performance 8