You can spend a fortune or a pittance on a home security system. There are wired systems that contact the police or fire department for you, webcams with motion detection, systems with monthly fees, and systems that are DIY and cost you only for the hardware. Mostly, you get what you pay for, but the new iSmartAlarm system that has just launched is a reasonably priced security solution with wired and wireless components, and it can all be controlled with an iOS app. That makes it very competitive with other, more expensive solutions.
The system is attractive, and has a sort of retro Mac look. The central component is called the CubeOne, which looks a bit like the old Power Mac G4 Cube. There are 2 key ring controllers, a motion detector, and two contact sensors that can be connected to a door or window. An optional add-on is the iCamera -- more about that in a minute.
You can add more sensors individually if you want to expand the system. The components are all glossy white and very attractive and the CubeOne lets you know it is functioning with a very Mac-like white LED that 'breathes' on and off. Problems with the device show a red warning light.
I received an iSmartAlarm system for review, and I can happily report that setup is simple. You unbox the components, hook up the CubeOne to your router and AC power, and that's it. iSmartAlarm boots itself up, and in under a minute it is on your network. The wireless components already have batteries, so you pull a plastic strip out that protects the battery contacts, the device flashes red, and then use your iPhone you register each device. You can also name the location for the device, like 'kitchen' or 'garage' or 'great room window'. There are two key ring controllers, so you can arm and disarm the system, or activate a panic button when you are home. The panic button results in a loud siren that could frighten off an intruder. The system can keep track of when you leave your house, and when you are back home.
The optional iCamera was a breeze to set up. You plug it into AC power and your router, and then through the iOS app the camera asks for your WiFi network password. I've seen some reports that the process is not so easy on some routers, but it was a breeze on my ASUS. When the camera is registered, it can be unplugged and placed anywhere in the house. This is a big improvement over many of the WiFi cameras I have tried, many of which need PC-based software.
Using the system
Once things are set up, there's little effort required. When you leave your home, arm the system. You'll get a beep from the CubeOne, and you have 90 seconds before the system is 'hot'. When you get home, you press the 'home' button on the key ring or on the iOS app, and the sensors will still let you know if doors or windows are opened but the motion detector is disabled. If you are away, and a sensor is triggered, you'll get a text message and an automated phone call reporting what the problem is. If you have the optional camera, a snapshot will be taken and sent to you. You can have up to 3 people on the call list. If the first person does not answer, a voice mail will be left and the next person you designate will be called.
The iCamera is quite sophisticated. When you are away from home the live image comes up very quickly even on a 3G network. You can pan the camera up-down and left-right by dragging your finger across your iPhone screen. The camera can't to a full 360 degree rotation, but it looks like it covers about 300 degrees. The ICamera responds very quickly to my commands when I am away from the house. It provides a bright picture, even in darkness when it uses infrared lighting. I tried unplugging the camera a few times to see if it remembered its settings and my wireless password, and it always did.
The iSmartAlarm system comes in 2 packages. The Preferred Package (US$199) includes the CubeOne, 2 door/window sensors, 1 motion sensor, 2 remote key tags, and a sign for your window to warn would-be burglars away. The Premium Package ($349) adds the iCamera.
The iSmartAlarm system is well thought out and worked perfectly out of the box. A non-technical person will have no trouble setting it up. There are no monthly or subscription fees, so you get a sophisticated system at a reasonable price. The iSmartAlarm product will not call the police for you; it calls you or others you designate. If you need that feature, there are other options in the marketplace.
I have a few suggestions. I'd like the camera to allow for motion detection -- t's just a matter of software. There is no audio, which I think would be handy. The camera appears to have an audio input, but I don't see any option for a microphone on the company website.
Some buyers in the home security market will want a full-blown system with monitoring by a professional company, and there are plenty of solutions out there. But there are lots of people who are unprotected, and who want something that is relatively inexpensive and reliable. The iSmartAlarm system meets that need, and does it well. I want one.