Looking for the top dog among the do it yourself alarm systems? iSmartAlarm may be your pick.
Read on to get the details of our review and how to configure your system for max security.
The Bottom Line
Be sure to check out our other smart home reviews too:
- Wink smart hub
- Staples Connect home automation hub
- Aeotec Z-Wave Micro Smart Switch
- Belkin WeMo smart bulbs
After a few weeks of using the iSmartAlarm and iCamera Keep system, we can say that it has a lot of potential. All of the nice-to-haves are there with the integrated camera and presence detection to really make this an intelligent system. Unfortunately, the immaturity of the system was on display a few times during our testing with app registration errors and hangups during the setup process. And, the iSmartAlarm Keep camera never had very good WiFi range. Fortunately, aside from that, the system worked as advertised. This would easily be 4 stars if you just wanted the security system without the camera. Update (3/20/15): After the announcement of IFTTT support and testing the new channel, we've bumped the rating up to 4 stars. For iSmartAlarm, 2015 is already turning out to be a productive year. Update (6/18/15): iSmartAlarm recently pushed an app update (1.6.87) and new firmware to the iCamera Keep that has resolved the WiFi connectivity issues described below. The camera is now usable, and a good value for the features. In addition, the app login process is more reliable and slightly quicker as well.
What We’ll Cover
The iSmartAlarm Review from a BrowserOn paper, the iSmartAlarm home security system and the iCamera KEEP are an attractive system. Here are some key features:
- Completely DIY with no monthly fee
- Optional, integrated camera to verify a problem when an alert is sent
- All of the security sensors you need to get started monitoring your house (entry and motion)
- PLUS, some nice extras that not all of the competitors have like remotes/presence sensors to tell when family members are home
- An affordable entry point at $200 for 2 entry sensors, 1 motion sensor, 2 remote/presence indicators, and the hub.
- IFTTT integration
- External siren integration
- Video recording when the camera is triggered
- Z-wave compatibility
What does the iSmartAlarm system cost?The system we're reviewing currently retails for $390 and consists of:
- iSmartAlarm Preferred Package - 2 entry sensors, 1 motion sensor, 2 remotes and presence indicators, 2 window stickers, and the control unit ($200 from iSmartAlarm site or a bit less at Amazon)
- No monthly fees and no contract
- Multiple modes for armed, disarmed, home, and panic
- Customizable alarm and notification settings
- >100 dB alarm built into the hub
- iCamera Keep - a pan and tilt, HD, indoor camera with motion and audio sensors that works with the iSmartAlarm system or as a stand-alone WiFi camera ($150 from iSmartAlarm)
- 1280x720 resolution
- Pan and tilt
- Motion and sound detection
- Receive push notifications
- Store 10 second video clips for free (unreleased feature)
- iSmartAlarm Smart Switch - a connected outlet switch ($40 from iSmartAlarm)
- Control lamps or appliances remotely or via schedules
- Manual control for when your phone isn't nearby
First ImpressionsOut of the box, the iSmartAlarm is a nice looking system. The sensors are subtle yet pleasing to look at and certainly don't look like they're 30 years old like some systems out there. The first thing to do is to get the app installed and set up an account. Here's where we hit our first hiccup. We got the app installed on our Android phone and quickly ran into a mysterious error code when trying to register a new account. After browsing on the troubleshooting section and forum at their site with no luck, we proceeded to a workaround. We got a reply from tech support later and learned that they don't support Android tablets at this time. We got a quick acknowledgement (2 hours) that they were looking into the issue. Meanwhile the next day, we tried again and were able to register without any errors. Hmm, it seems there are a few kinks to work out! But, I don't mind an extended installation process (waiting on support) as long as the system works when it's set up.
Setting up the iSmartAlarm Security SystemOnce the registration was complete, the ismartalarm app looks for the hub and initiates a firmware update. We hung out waiting for the progress bar to do something for about 10 minutes before I decided to restart the app. Once I did, the ismartalarm app found the cube (now with the latest firmware) and let us proceed with adding the sensors. The app walks you through the process of adding devices by pulling tabs out of the battery compartment to activate all of the sensors. Once scanning was finished, the app found all of the devices. But, it promptly hung up when trying to go back one screen and had to be restarted to proceed. On the next try, all of the sensors were added with no issue, and it was just a matter of using the included double sided tape to attach the entry sensors to our doors and the motion sensor in a central location. All of that would have taken less than 30 minutes if everything had gone smoothly the first time.
Setting up the iCamera KEEPNow, on to the camera. Adding the iCamera KEEP was a breeze. Again, the app walks you through the process.user's manual, we found the culprit. The iCamera KEEP had not been automatically linked with the iSmartAlarm system when it was added in the app. Once we navigated to the right spot (More -> Link Devices), the iCamera was connected to the rest of the system so that it could trigger alerts with its motion and audio sensors. Unfortunately, it just didn't work. After unlinking and then relinking the iCamera KEEP AFTER enabling the audio and motion detection at the suggestion of tech support, we were finally able to get the camera to trigger the alarm. But, it promptly quit communicating with the system and flashed a red light which seemed a lot like a flag of surrender. Only, instead of laying down weapons, the iCamera KEEP made me want to resort to violence. UPDATE: According to tech support, the red light lets you know when the camera can't connect to the network. When the camera is within a couple of meters of the router, it works like a champ. But as soon as we move it into another room (that has acceptable WiFi coverage with other devices) the camera intermittently has connectivity problems. It's hard to say what the issue is, but hopefully, it's a firmware problem rather than a poorly performing WiFi radio in the camera itself. That way, the prospects for getting the range increased in a timely manner will be much better. We'll keep you updated if any new fixes come out. The picture quality on the camera is about what you would expect from an HD wireless camera. While the resolution is delivered as HD, sending video over the wireless network practically insures that you'll see artifacts that the image has been compressed and slightly pixelated. Those problems are exacerbated when there are quickly moving objects in the camera's view. It could have been related to the network connectivity problems that we were working through with tech support, but the images were sometime pixelated even when we were connected to the same WiFi network as the camera. That being said, the quality was certainly good enough to identify a problem (fire or burglary) and would likely be good enough to identify a person's face if the lighting and distance were favorable. The night vision was sufficient for the distances that we checked in our home (no more than 15' across the room), but I'm sure you could find situations where it wasn't bright enough off to the side and at a distance. And, be prepared for a saturated picture with a dark background if the subject is too close to the camera. For now, when an alarm is triggered from the camera, you won't get a video clip along with your notification. Instead, you'll have to manually pull up the camera to see what's going on. From there, you can take a snapshot just like you would on you phone's camera. We've been assured that feature is on the way, but it wasn't in place as the time of the review. Once that changes, we'll come back and add an update to this article. The pan and tilt features worked great, working with a simple swipe of the finger in any direction. With that ability , you can expect near 360 degree coverage around the camera from floor to ceiling. In the camera's settings page of the app, you can control the notifications you get as well as the sensitivity of the motion and audio sensors. That way, you can account for pets that may be home even when you're away from the house.
The AppThe default screen of the app gives you four large tiles for Armed, Disarmed, Home, and Panic modes. They're the same options that you get on your keychain fob. The modes are pretty typical of alarm systems, where the "Home" version activates the entry sensors but disables the motion detectors while you're inside the house. You can even customize the Panic mode tile for a custom mode, if you like. You can also navigate to the device settings and rename each sensor so that it's more intuitive for your setup, e.g. "Front door", "Garage", etc. Linking another phone to the master account was also easy, you just bring up a QR code on the master phone and then scan it with the phone that you want to add. After that's all set up, the secondary phone can change alarm modes and access the camera. But, there are some limitations in changing alarm (timers, volume, etc.) and device settings (names, pictures) for the second account. After you're all set up, any trigger of the system (or every event, if you choose) will get pushed as a notification on your phone with name of the sensor that's involved.
Tweaking the SetupOut of the box, the iSmartAlarm offers the types of customizations that you would hope for in an alarm system:
- Enable or disable a countdown before the alarm changes between disarmed and armed states to give you time to leave
- Disable or adjust the delay before the system is armed from 30 seconds to 5 minutes
- Disable or adjust the delay between triggering an alarm and the system going off (10 seconds to 3 minutes)
- Adjust the alarm siren volume
- Turn a door chime (even when the system is disarmed) on or off
- Send push notifications for all events, regardless of alarm state
- Create custom names sensors and controls (front door, garage, mom's remote, etc.)
- Create custom modes and activate certain sensors
Vulnerability AssessmentsNow, on to the most critical question, "Will the system help you secure your home?". Here are a few thoughts you should consider.
Update: iSmartAlarm has now launched its IFTTT channel.
If a press release is a good as having a feature for you, then you have a lot to hope for from iSmartAlarm. In addition to automatic video clips, you can expect an IFTTT channel, better integration of the smart switches with the rest of the alarm system. They also have plans to release a Software Development Kit (SDK) to allow geeky types and other companies to interface with their system.
And, this is a huge one, they plan to add a USB Z-Wave stick that can be plugged into the back of the iCamera Keep in the future. That will allow you to integrate with planned water, multi-sensor, and a supplemental siren as well as a slew of 3rd party Z-wave products that are already on the market. Pair those with the planned smoke alarm, and you’ve got a really complete system.
The test will be how quickly iSmartAlarm can deliver on all of these promises, since their competitors are making many of the same moves as well. But, all in all, they seem to be a solid company. You can see how they compare to other security companies in case you still have any reservations.
The iSmartAlarm definitely adds situational awareness to your home at a great price. With the yard sign and window stickers, you can advertise your security system and deter burglars before they even think about targeting your home. And if they do, as long as you have the system configured correctly, you will get a quick notification on your phone, a phone call, and an e-mail message. Which, if you think about it, is not a lot different than ADT calling you to ask you if there is a problem because your alarm is going off.
With these types of DIY systems, we highly recommend a camera so that you can confirm that there is a crime in progress at your home. That will generate a much higher priority response when you call the cops and get them to your home more quickly. In that respect, the new pan and tilt iCamera KEEP is integrated with the iSmartAlarm system and does just that. Unfortunately, at this point in the development (still in the pre-order stage), development and integration of the camera and the apps isn’t far enough along to rely solely on it for security purposes. In our experience during testing, the limitations in distance from your WiFi router make placing the camera in an ideal spot impossible. It wouldn’t even work reliably in the next room.
The system cost for the camera and security system is currently priced at $350. Where the iSmartAlarm home security system really shines is the lack of a contract and no monthly fees. We also had a good experience with their customer support team and finding answers to questions on their support site.
It’s hard to determine pricing on the traditional security companies since they want you to have to call them so that they can pitch you on the phone. But, we can assume an upfront equipment cost of $200 for a similar security camera system from Frontpoint (the leading DIY installed/professionally monitored system), and a monthly cost of $35. Then, our security system cost calculator tells us the 3 year lifetime cost of the system would be $1,410. You just have to determine if the extra grand for professional monitoring is right for you.
Note: We initially completed the iSmartAlarm review on App version 1.6.6 (Android), 1.6.7 (iOS) and Firmware version 188.8.131.52
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Thinking about getting an iSmartAlarm home security system, smart switch, or iCamera KEEP? Let us know if we can answer any other questions you might have below.
Hi, I’m Jody. I graduated with honors with a Masters of Science in Computer Engineering and have over 15 years of experience working as an engineer with electronics products. I’m a lifelong learner and tinkerer and enjoy automating things around the house so I can solve bigger problems than getting out of bed to check if the garage door is closed . . . like too little sleep!