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Can WiFi Home Security Cameras Compete With Professional Systems Yet?

Can a WiFi-connected video camera replace a professional security system? That’s a question many are asking based on the claims of these new devices. The home security business is full of solutions varying from motion-detecting cameras -- such as those from Nest, Netgear, and Canary -- to professionally installed systems with intrusion sensors on the windows and doors.

Professional systems, the type available from ADT, Honeywell, and local alarm companies, use a wall-mounted control panel to monitor the sensors. When such a system detects an intrusion, it calls a monitoring company, which notifies you or the police. They cost $1000 to $2000 for the hardware and installation, and about $40 per month for the monitoring. Of course, the cost depends on how elaborate a system you want and how large your home is. Some alarm companies require a yearly contract that can’t be cancelled, and use equipment that can’t be transferred to another alarm company.

I’ve been using such a system for a decade, but as my renewal came up, $480 for a year of monitoring, I wondered if one of the new video cameras might offer a lower-cost alternative with equivalent protection.

My system has worked well, but it requires maintenance, costing about $150/year to replace defective sensors and replace batteries. On occasion, my home was left unprotected for several days while waiting for the repair tech to show up.

Over the past year, I’ve been using a Canary video camera with motion detection that’s one of the more successful "Internet of Things" devices. It began as a crowdfunding project, raising $2 million on Indiegogo, and is now being sold in 140 countries.

I’ve used the Canary to occasionally check my home when traveling. The high-def 1080p video camera with a wide-angle lens continuously records video and audio and sends it to the cloud, keeping the most recent 24 hours’ worth. It’s about the size of a large water glass and has a well-designed phone app.

When it detects motion, it sends an alert to the phone. I can then open the app and see a video replay of what caused the alert, and see a live view and listen to audio. There are buttons on the app to call the police and set off a loud alarm.

It’s reliably alerted me when others have entered the room while I was away from home. Unlike other products I’ve tried, it’s never lost connection with my WiFi. It automatically detects my return and turns off notifications, and can optionally turn off the camera. Of course, that means your alarm is not protecting you when at home, such as throughout the night. The company claims your privacy is well-protected with its certified network encryption, and that no one will have access to your video.