iSmartAlarm Review: Home Security From Your Phone

by Reads (11,008)
  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Design
      • 7
      • Features
      • 7
      • Performance
      • 6
      • Durability
      • 7
      • Utility
      • 7
      • Total Score:
      • 6.80
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

    • Affordable
    • Easy to use
    • Extremely loud
  • Cons

    • Easy to circument
    • Can only use one camera at a time
    • Can't currently buy new cameras

Quick Take

If you're looking for an easy home security solution for your small home or apartment, iSmartAlarm might be for you.

The iSmartAlarm lets users monitor their home without monthly contracts, fees, or the need for professionals to run wires and install any hardware. All it takes to set up the iSmartAlarm is a router, an iOS or Android device, and a screwdriver if you plan to mount anything.

Design

Brighthand tested the Premium Collection, which includes the iSmartAlarm CubeOne, one iCamera, two contact devices, one motion sensor, and two remotes. Each piece is made from white plastic, which draws attention to the equipment. However, this is a security system aimed at those looking to secure a low-threat area, so it isn’t a deal breaker.

iSmartAlarm

To start, the CubeOne base station is – as it’s named – a 4-inch cube. It features connective ports for an Ethernet cable and power supply. As iSmartAlarm states, the CubeOne is the ‘brain’ of the security system and each separate component speaks to the cube. The CubeOne also emits the ‘panic’ alarm, which sounds exactly like a 110 decibel car alarm going off inside your house (so, you know, no danger of sleeping through someone breaking in).

Next is the iCamera, which looks much like other consumer-oriented home security cameras (i.e., kind of 80s futuretastic). The lens is covered in a clear plastic shell that protects it from water, damage, dust, and lint. Criminals won’t be fooled by the iCamera since it’s difficult to disguise without obstructing the camera’s 350 degree viewing angle. It can be mounted, however, so that it hangs from the ceiling or a wall, but it has to be within 100 feet of the router (depending on signal strength) in order to work wirelessly.

The camera is currently only available as part of the Preferred Package, and cannot be purchased separately. iSmartAlarm states that it is working on offering cameras a-la-carte, so that users can stream more than one feed at a time, and replace any as needed. But the current lack of support for multiple cameras is a big negative, since users can’t even replace a camera easily if something happens to it.

iSmartAlarmiSmartAlarm

The motion sensor is white but it’s a little more discreet than the webcam and CubeOne, since it’s smaller and easier to tuck away. It measures roughly 4 x 2.7 x 2 inches and can be mounted on a wall or ceiling or left sitting upon a flat surface. Users with more than one entry will likely want to invest in more than one motion sensor, since these motion sensors are responsible for detecting motion in a room and triggering the alarm.

The contact sensors can be stuck onto a door, window, or cabinet to identify when it is open or shut. They’re also a good way to make sure the liquor cabinet stays shut when leaving teenagers at home (sorry, kids). The contact sensors cannot be placed outside, however, because they’re not weatherproof.

Finally, the system includes two remotes that feature four simple buttons to check in at home, arm the system, disarm the system, and sound the panic alarm. Chances are that most users will opt for the smartphone app instead, as the remotes are easy to lose unless attached to a keychain. Users probably won’t want to give the babysitter or dog walker smartphone access to their alarm system, so the remotes are a useful way to give others access to the house when armed (and then revoke it when it’s not). The remotes can also be assigned to individuals, such as pets or kids that are too young for a smartphone. They work like identification tags, so users can track kids and pets, sending alerts when the tags go in or out of range, pass a motion detector, and more. z

Setup and Installation

Setting up the iSmartAlarm is as plug and play as it promises, with easy to understand instructions. First, plug in the CubeOne device to an outlet and the router, and wait for the red light on top of the device to ‘breathe’ and turn white. In about two minutes, the device will start slowly flashing a white light; this means the CubeOne is ‘breathing.’

iSmartAlarmiSmartAlarm

Next, users download the iSmartAlarm app to their smartphone and create an account. The iOS or Android device must be connected to the same Wi-Fi network as the CubeOne during setup so that it can automatically locate each device. Accounts require both an email and a phone number, because when the alarm goes off, the system will send a robo-call to the phone number listed on the account. Users can list up to five numbers, like a phone tree, so if the first person doesn’t pick up, the system will automatically call the next number on the list.

The app will then guide the user step by step to remove the battery tags and active each peripheral device. Finally, plugging the camera into the wall outlet and an Ethernet port connects it to the CubeOne, after this step, the camera can be used wirelessly. Users can rename each component, since naming a contact sensor ‘Back Door’ will be easier to remember than its unique serial code number.

One downside to the set up and installation process is the fact that the CubeOne base station must be tethered to an Ethernet cable. This limits where the system can be set up, since users will either have to run a long cord, or configure the camera and CubeOne near the router. Users might find they have to reconfigure their entire router set up to be able to install the system and camera where they would like to. The contact sensors and motion detector use a different wireless standard, and will work throughout the house, but the camera must be within 100 feet of the router.

If you find yourself facing signal strength issues, you might need to look into a third party wireless repeater to extend your router’s coverage.

Performance

After arming the house using the remote or app, users have a 90-second window to safely leave the house without setting off the alarm. iSmartAlarm is currently working on an update that will offer a setting to make the alarm sound immediately, since 90 seconds may be enough time for someone to break in and leave. Pushing the home button grants users another 90 second window before the system is armed, so don’t mistake this as disarming the system. The ‘home’ button is for those times users have to run back inside to grab something they forgot. Pushing ‘disarm’ on the remote deactivates the security system and double tapping the ‘panic’ button sounds the alarm, similar to a car alarm.

The iSmartAlarm camera can be controlled remotely from an iOS or Android device and users can pan, tilt, and rotate the lens to get a 350 degree view of the room. Users choose a default setting for the camera that it will automatically open to when the app is launched. Be sure to choose a position that offers a good view of the room, since during a break in, the camera will take a photo from its default setting. The camera is not discreet; this became clear during testing when a sleeping housecat woke up to the panning camera. He then spent some time checking it out, while also fogging up the plastic covering the lens with his nose, making it difficult to see through the plastic covering on the camera. It begs the question that if a sleeping cat wakes up and notices a camera panning around the room then wouldn’t a burglar notice it too? (Ed. note: I don’t think this is necessarily a problem for home users, as most burglars aren’t likely to expect a camera in a typical house or condo).

iSmartAlarmiSmartAlarm

Lighting dramatically impacts the image quality of the camera – as it does with any camera – but with the iCamera, it’s to the extent that on a brightly lit day the live stream appeared black and white. Also, it won’t pick up much at night either, so if it’s dark users will want to leave a lamp in the same room as the camera. We didn’t investigate the issue, but it’s possible an “invisible” IR light might help.

When the system is armed, if the motion detector is tripped, the camera will automatically take a picture of the scene. Then user will immediately receive a phone call to their smartphone, with an automated message. The app also alerts the user with a push notification and a snapshot of the scene along with options to ‘Ignore’ or ‘Call 911.’

The iSmartAlarm companion app makes checking in on the system easy, and it only took the camera a second or two to load remotely. Users can control the camera over 3G and 4G so finding Wi-Fi isn’t an issue while on the road.  The app will also send alerts anytime a user with a remote enters the home or leaves, depending on the settings. The identification tag feature on the remote can let users be sure that the pet sitter showed up when they said they would or that the neighbor is actually stopping by to water the fern.

The panic alarm is really loud. We mention this again because it is so loud, that testers at Brighthand ripped the plugs out of the wall before they could find the remote, just to stop the sound from alarming neighbors. This was quickly realized as a big caveat to the iSmartAlarm system, since chances are an intruder could just unplug the entire unit in order to go about their nefarious business. Of course, if everything is set up correctly, the user should still get an alert and a photo before that happens. And, once again, this system isn’t meant to protect high security areas, it is meant to be an inexpensive way for casual users to keep tabs on their home.

Insurance Premiums

Many insurance companies will cut down on monthly or yearly rates if a subscriber has an anti-theft system in place. Considering the iSmartAlarm costs $200 at the time of review, it seems like it would be a great fit to save money in the long run. However, it is important to check with your home insurance provider. Currently, the system does not provide a smoke or carbon monoxide alarm, which is a requirement with most insurance plans. Additionally, to get the discount, the system needs a function that will automatically call the police if the user is unavailable to make that call. Anyone looking to specifically cut down on insurance premiums might want to look at another device until the required features are added to the device.

Conclusion

The iSmartAlarm isn’t a bad set up for the casual user not interested in protecting high value items or breaking into walls to run wires. It offers a simple security solution for anyone that just wants to be able to check in on pets or to make sure the kids got home safe from school. Those not interested in messing with settings or who don’t know much about wireless IP cameras will appreciate the iSmartAlarm’s easy-to-use system. The iSmartAlarm is also a great option for anyone that doesn’t need more than one camera and is simply looking to secure a small home or apartment.

Anyone interested in arming a large home or monitoring multiple rooms with a feature-filled (or discreet) alarm system will want to look elsewhere. This is because currently, the system is limited, and it favors appearance over function. The white plastic components are obvious to anyone that sees them, and users can only use one streaming camera at a time. The company plans to remedy this in the future, and hopefully they will also add support for other brands of wireless IP cameras. Until then, this system is really only useful for anyone interested in a user-friendly surveillance system that they can set up and forget about, or for those that live in an apartment or small home.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Easy to use
  • Extremely loud

Cons:

  • Easy to circument
  • Can only use one camera at a time
  • Can’t currently buy new cameras


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