‘Scout Alarm’ Gets Everything Wrong

Trying to build a modern version of the home security system, Scout Alarm just comes off as overpriced and lacking in any actual modern technology....

Home automation is the next frontier we’ve been waiting for. Everything in our home is becoming slowly connected, putting us on track to have milk at our doorstep before we know the bottle in the fridge was empty.

Entertainment was the first connected service in our home that made us suddenly look like the future we’d been promised. On demand, DVR and web services created a shift that has made entertainment easier to consume and content creators scrambling to keep up. What took so long for so many of us to make this move was simple — nothing met our needs. The secret to success in “futurizing” the day-to-day lives of everyday people is integrating with what they already do, not forcing them to bend to a new technology.

HD Video Camera Photo Credit: Scout Alarm

HD Video Camera
Photo Credit: Scout Alarm

This is the problem home automation faces now — it’s trying to force changes in our habits to meet the technology and not the other way around. Various companies, including Google, are trying to automate everything in our home from the light switch to the refrigerator. We’re just now seeing the technology bend to humans which is allowing it to become accepted. For example, when you get home and walk to your front door, your phone senses and connects to your home network which triggers your lights to turn on. It’s true “automation” and isn’t just putting a light switch into an app on your phone (there’s nothing really automated about that).

Now meet Scout Alarm, a (promised) modernization of home security. The promise is exciting — the closest home automation has come to security is services like DropCam (that just lets you see what’s happening at home) and variations on how to automatically unlock your door (again, usually just an app). What Scout promises is a fully connected alarm system for people that carry smartphones. Instead, it looks like an overly-complicated, expensive system that requires you to bend to it.

Door Panel Photo Credit: Scout Alarm

Door Panel
Photo Credit: Scout Alarm

Scout Alarm requires you to purchase each little connected gizmo to build your home system. My home, for example, is a two-bedroom, one story home. Counting the windows, doors and adding one floor sensor and one camera yielded an over $650 investment to start. That’s steep for an alarm system compared to existing (old school) services available today that can connect your entire home for under $200. But ignoring the nearly three times higher priced cost, Scout Alarm doesn’t really offer anything more beyond some shiny apps that try to justify the investment.

Access sensor Photo Credit: Scout Alarm

Access sensor
Photo Credit: Scout Alarm

Then there’s the service and costs (yes, there’s more money to spend). To get your door and window sensors working you require a minimum $9.99 per month service plan (cheaper if you buy annually) to just get your app to work. The service, dubbed “Always On” alerts you if someone opens a door or window, among other things. The slight justification of that fee is a backup of 3G cellular service in case your internet service (or power) goes out.

If you’d prefer a person sitting in a call center to do the dirty work of monitoring unauthorized access to your home, “Always On+” gives you that, the plus sign adding a human being for $20 a month.

A reader brought it to our attention the Monitoring Plans are optional and the system can be used without a monthly service fee. While it doesn’t change the review of the service, for clarity it is worth noting.
Push notifications. Photo Credit: Scout Alarm

Push notifications. Photo Credit: Scout Alarm

At this point it’s worth noting competitor (old) security companies charge about $30 per month for their services and typically require service contracts, something Scout Alarm doesn’t. But why is there even a service at all? It seems crazy that buying all the equipment, including a hub to bring the whole system together, still requires some sort of “service plan” from Scout Alarm.

Comparing what Scout offers against the old way of protecting your home, you’ll also have to be worried about batteries (each device is battery powered). The door sensors (which act as keyless-key pads) are also a bit bulky and may or may not work in your home setup. Rather than enter a PIN, Scout suggests tapping a keyfob or attaching an RFID tag to the back of something near the door to tap. Their website uses a picture frame as an example (…ooookay?).

Expensive equipment, batteries to worry about changing, self-monitoring (if you’d rather pay for the cheapest service plan) and keypads without keys sounds a lot like technology that isn’t ready for a prime time audience. Home security with a tech/home automation twist is a great idea that we’re really looking forward to, but it has to meet us in the middle, how we currently live our lives.

Tommy West
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Scout Alarm
Author Rating
Scout Alarm
Scout Alarm
The Good
  • Connect from anywhere
The Bad
  • Lackluster features
  • Subscription still required for true "security system" features
  • Batteries mean maintenance is required
  • Bulky units mean they're obvious
  • Overall

Pop culture geek, tech enthusiast, co-host of the Pop Center Podcast and on-air personality on SiriusXM.
47 Comments on this post.
  • robert shep
    23 November 2014 at 5:08 pm
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    great review. i was looking at this or simplesafe and i think this helped make up my mind.

    • Tommy West
      25 November 2014 at 5:15 pm
      Leave a Reply

      When you pick one, let me know what you think. Good luck!

  • Anonymous
    24 November 2014 at 11:15 am
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    I’m guessing this is written by an ADT owner looking for justification of their (outdated) purchase. I bought a Scout system, and it has been everything it promised and more. Great choice on my part, sorry about yours.

    • Eli
      6 March 2016 at 4:44 pm
      Leave a Reply

      Same. Scout is awesome!

  • Anonymous
    24 November 2014 at 1:12 pm
    Leave a Reply

    How much were you paid to write this drivel?

  • Anonymous
    24 November 2014 at 1:22 pm
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    I was looking to get this but I thought it was still only preorder. Maybe I’ll save my money after all

  • Anonymous
    24 November 2014 at 1:26 pm
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    Tommy, it’s unclear whether you had a chance to use the system. How does it function on a day-to-day basis?

  • Alex
    24 November 2014 at 2:10 pm
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    Wow Tommy you always rave about gadgets this is the first I saw you not like something

  • Anonymous
    25 November 2014 at 12:13 pm
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    As far as I understood, you could use it for free and get emails and app notifications and the additional monitoring was optional. You don’t have to pay to get the sensor to work.

    $650? You’re including an optional camera which is like $200 which other system don’t include.

    • Anonymous
      25 November 2014 at 3:51 pm
      Leave a Reply

      I saw an article on engadget about this and thought about it but this guy is right. I had Lifeshield a few years ago and paid 300 for installation and 35 month for service. this thing does the same thing as that right?

    • Tommy West
      25 November 2014 at 5:14 pm
      Leave a Reply

      You’re right. I updated the article to reflect protection plans are optional.

  • Anonymous
    25 November 2014 at 1:28 pm
    Leave a Reply

    “it looks like an overly-complicated, expensive system…” So you wrote a hit piece on something that you haven’t tested. Superb journalism here.

    Also, your story ignores the 3 year contracts of ADT and the like. It’s not $200 to get into those systems – that’s the installation fee alone. All-in, it’s more like $2000 over 3 years, when you account for monthly service fees.

    • Tommy West
      25 November 2014 at 5:13 pm
      Leave a Reply

      “Hit piece” implies this review was skewed to intentionally hurt the image of Scout Alarm. That’s not the case (and what would be my motive?). I have nothing against the team there, I’ve even reached out to them (I’m sure you know that).

      Reviews are subjective and as someone who reviews gadgets and technology, Scout Alarm has some benefits but overall it fails to live up to the expectation of being a home security system that is better than what you can get from “traditional” companies.

      • Rob
        26 November 2014 at 7:58 am
        Leave a Reply

        Your reply falls flat, Tommy. There have been a number of new, similar security systems released lately, yet you pick the best of them for a hatchet job and don’t mention any others. Smells fishy to me.

        • Tommy West
          26 November 2014 at 11:49 am
          Leave a Reply

          You haven’t actually pointed out anything I said that was inaccurate.

  • Anonymous
    26 November 2014 at 2:26 pm
    Leave a Reply

    Tommy, you are obviously entitled to your opinion. It’s the framing. Scout did incredibly well with crowdfunding, yet the title is that Scout “…gets everything wrong.” That seems unlikely and mostly a headline to generate clicks for you. I don’t think you have a motivation to hurt Scout, I think you have a motivation to get clicks, so you use hyperbolic headlines (like every other news outlet).

    A few examples of things that are not inaccurate, but framed negatively:

    1) Expensive equipment: This is a choice. Do you want to pay up front for equipment that you can take with you? Or, do you want to subsidize it over 3 years (at 3x the cost) and leave it behind?

    2) Batteries: Yes, batteries are a pain. But, so is having a low-level electrician rip up your walls to install a hard-wired system.

    Bottom line, you should test a device and live with the system for a while before writing a piece like this. It’s disingenuous.

  • Anonymous
    27 November 2014 at 3:09 pm
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    i was one of the first to try and preorder scout alarm. customer service is awful and yeah its overpriced.

  • Anonymous
    27 November 2014 at 3:11 pm
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    Wow do all the haters work for Scout Alarm? Get over it guys, it’s one bad review.

    • John Zoidberg
      27 May 2015 at 4:58 am
      Leave a Reply

      People aren’t being haters. They’re calling out a review score that isn’t justified by the article. Tommy makes a claim that a door pad without buttons is a negative toward the system, that having to pay for home monitoring can’t be justified after the price of installation. He’s entitled to his opinion, but all of these value propositions sound like they’re coming from someone who doesn’t understand the tech and the service.

      A keyless door pad? Welcome to the present day of fewer moving parts. The RFID on the picture frame where you said “oooooookay?”? That’s a disarm feature that allows you to tell the house sitter “use the photo of me in the green sweater to tap into the system”.

      This is a fishy review because Tommy fails to properly calculate the price and value of what you’re getting. He slaps a quick assessment on the product based on a few numbers. You want free monitoring for life because you bought the hardware? That’s like saying, I bought the car, I should get oil changes for life. People need to get paid for monitoring, and cellular bills need to be paid. The fact that you have an option of what you want to pay for is nice. How did the actual system function? Oh wait, you didn’t cover that.

      Reviews are subjective, but you’re supposed to be an expert in the field, but clearly you’re stuck in the past, dude.

  • Anonymous
    29 November 2014 at 8:57 am
    Leave a Reply

    Expensive garbage. Glad there’s finally a review not kissing up to them

  • Anonymous
    1 December 2014 at 7:28 am
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  • Jeff Roberts
    1 December 2014 at 3:11 pm
    Leave a Reply

    Thanks for saving me $300

    • Anonymous
      16 December 2014 at 9:08 pm
      Leave a Reply

      The system is certainly not as bad as this article describes.

  • Anonymous
    13 December 2014 at 5:17 pm
    Leave a Reply

    ha scout alarm didn’t pay a reporter to write a review for once

  • Andy
    16 December 2014 at 9:05 pm
    Leave a Reply

    Quote “Counting the windows, doors and adding one floor sensor and one camera yielded an over $650 investment to start. That’s steep for an alarm system compared to existing (old school) services available today that can connect your entire home for under $200”

    The Scout Alarm starter kit sells for $269.99 at Amazon. If you want to attach sensors to every window and doors it adds up, but I don’t think it’s expensive. To which $200 system are you referring that offers sensors for the same amount of windows and doors?

    The setup is actually pretty easy and straightforward if you follow the manual or watch the videos on their website.

    I wonder why you are so negative about the Scout alarm system. I think it’s a smart system with a lot of potential.

  • Anonymous
    8 February 2015 at 12:03 am
    Leave a Reply

    for each bad review, you’ll find a matching good review, ultimately it’s up to the individual buyer and their specific security needs, overall, the flexibility of the Scout system is appealing for novice home/apartment dwellers like me

  • Matt
    16 March 2015 at 10:31 pm
    Leave a Reply

    I have Scout and love it. I used a few door and window sensors, along with a few motion sensors. It’s easily cheaper than the ADT I had in my last house. This article clearly gets it wrong – pricing comparison is off, and never mentions obvious advantages of a smartphone based system.

  • Anonymous
    18 March 2015 at 1:45 am
    Leave a Reply

    Why is this called a “review”? The author did not test the product and review it. This is not a helpful article.

  • Anonymous
    26 March 2015 at 2:11 pm
    Leave a Reply

    The name for this author’s column should be “Tommy West Gets Everything Wrong.” I’ve been searching for reviews of the various new entries into this space in order to make a decision on a system, and cannot believe that this is what passes for a review on this site. This is my first time at pop center, and I’ll never come back.

    His two major claims in how Scout “gets everything wrong” is that it’s too costly and that it requires a monitoring plan. The monitoring plan was refuted right away, yet he leaves those incorrect claims in his article and effecting his score. In regards to cost, he doesn’t make any direct comparisons. There is a $200 claim, but it’s not backed up in any way to a competing product. If he did, he would realize that he is incorrect.

    Tommy makes claims that it is “overly complicated” and “not ready for a primetime audience” but has not actually used the system. Nor does he even seem to have any basic knowledge of competing systems, like Canary, Piper, SmartThings, etc.

    Look at some of his complaints:
    Batteries – what wireless door/window sensor doesn’t run on batteries!
    Self-monitoring – some people prefer that option, and the benefit of Scout is you could do either with the same system
    No keypad – It’s on your smart phone, which you would normally always have with you

    How are his comments suppose to be helpful in the least. I’d be incredibly embarrassed to have my name associated with this post.

    • Anonymous
      26 March 2015 at 2:29 pm
      Leave a Reply

      Maybe Tommy’s more of a traditionalist and likes his old hardwired (no batteries Mom!) sensors and keypads.

      Maybe he doesn’t have a monitored security system either and doesn’t know about the frequent false alarms.

      Maybe he doesn’t understand that you don’t need a window sensor for every window if you can cover the area with a motion sensor, and that’s how he got to his ridiculous $650 assessment. Or that most monitored plans make you pay extra for video equipment and then additional service charges. Or how paying the equipment cost up front will make you come out ahead if you don’t want a monitored service with a monthly charge of $40-$50.

      But then I see how much he loves and highly recommends the new $700 roomba, mostly because he thinks it’s cool and loved the attention he got when he brought it into the office. So splurging $700 on a vacuum seems like a good investment to Tommy, but a security system that relies on a $130 hub, with $30 access sensors, $50 motion sensors, and a $170 camera option is too costly?

      I don’t think I’ll end up getting the Scout system, but for actually legitimate reasons, compared to features of its competitors, but it’s still seems to be a worthy addition to the home security space.

      The fact that someone is paying this hack to write this garbage just pisses me off. What a joke!

      • Tommy West (@GothamTommy)
        26 March 2015 at 2:49 pm
        Leave a Reply

        The point of comparing Scout Alarm to traditional security systems was important. If you’re an average consumer, looking at your options of home security, including Scout Alarm, you need to take everything into account. There are perks and disadvantages on both sides. The point was, if you’re an average consumer looking to protect your home, Scout Alarm isn’t (or wasn’t, seeing as this review is a few months old and it’s possible improvements or changes have been made) ready for that audience.

        On the price quote, I reached out to a few major security companies including ADT, and worked out a comprehensive quote. I didn’t include their name because, being this was a generally negative review, I didn’t want to point attention to their competitors.

        As for the Roomba, it does the job of a vacuum cleaner. The price difference adds the bonus of being automated, small and cleaning more often. Scout Alarm is more expensive but fails at some basics of their competitors so the issues outweigh the advantages.

        I had high hopes for Scout Alarm. Unfortunately it didn’t add up.

        Why did you decide against it?

        • Anonymous
          30 March 2015 at 12:17 pm
          Leave a Reply

          Yes, comparing Scout Alarm to traditional security systems is important, but you failed to do that in your review. You said it’s more expensive, but you never make an apples to apples comparison. In order to get to $650, you must have counted a sensor for every window and door. You must have not done the same with the monitored competitors like ADT, because first of all, they don’t recommend doing that. They recommend glass break sensors or motion detectors that monitor multiple windows. But if you did price adding those multiple sensors and cameras, the price would be similar, if not more expensive through ADT/FrontPoint/etc. How about doing a price comparison over a year or two adding in the cost of monitored service?

          If you discount your comments about the monitored service, because it’s completely optional, you’re only other complaint was the batteries for the sensors. This is even more ridiculous, because EVERY OTHER competitor’s sensors are wireless and use batteries.

          On top of your complete lack of knowledge of security systems in general, your “review” is made even more ridiculous by the fact that you NEVER TRIED THE PRODUCT! How can you review a product by never even testing it? You just make claims like “it didn’t add up” or that it “isn’t ready for a prime time audience” with just a few minutes of research and no real complaints to speak of.

        • Notamoronliketommy
          30 October 2015 at 2:47 pm
          Leave a Reply

          You clearly are a idiot. This review is rubbish and you gave zero comparison to another product. Please GTFO of reviews and go back to paying way too much money for things. I bet you are confused by your smartphone based on how this “review” was written.

  • Chris Maler
    6 April 2015 at 8:10 am
    Leave a Reply

    I have been shopping for a new alarm system as my old wireless ADT system has died. The traditional alarm companies charge $250.00+ for installation and $40+ per month for monitoring in my area. I considered ADt, AT&T, and Broadview.
    All three will force you into a long term monitoring contract.
    I also compared vivint, simplisafe, and scout, as well as piper and some other new players. In the end I chose Scout for the low cost monitoring and home automation integration. The somewhat higher upfront costs are more than offset over a two year monitoring period.
    I like the fact that scout is a modern system that will not be outdated as soon as it is installed like my 12 year old ADT system was immediately after installation.
    I found Tommy’s review a bit unbalanced, especially the part about replacing batteries, as my 12 year old ADT system is wireless too, but the original batteries all lasted for more that 5 years. Nearly every new system is wireless and depends on batteries unless it is being installed in a newly built home.

    • Kevin D
      23 April 2015 at 11:02 am
      Leave a Reply

      Chris, I would hardly call this a “Review.” How can you write of a review of technology you’ve never tried? I just stumbled across this review looking for more info about a release date of the Scout HD camera.

      I have had Scout for 6 months and absolutely love it. For around 300 dollars my rowhome is covered with a motion sensor in the basement, two door panels, and 2 access sensors. I haven’t paid a penny more and I monitor it myself, as I am always with my phone. I arm it while at work and when I go to sleep and it brings me great piece of mind. I can open the app and see when doors were open, when motion was detected, and I haven’t had to change any batteries yet. The Scout support was great the one time I reached out with a question, they were almost immediate in response.

      As for reliability of scout, a story: this winter I had installed weather stripping on my back kitchen door. That snowy windy night I THOUGHT I closed and locked the door but it was not closed completely thanks to the new weather stripping! The wind blew it open at 330 in the morning while I was asleep, setting off the alarm and waking me. This saved me from waking up to a cold wet home in the morning. God forbid I ever have to deal with burglary, but I know that I can trust the system if I do.

      You can also set up automation with IFTTT now. I have it set so that when I (with my phone) arrive to within about 100 ft of my home, the system is automatically disarmed if it is armed. I am looking forward to adding the HD camera when it is officially released, and pairing it with a Nest thermostat (which is on my list to purchase one day).

      Also, I did get a quote from ADT prior to deciding on Scout. With the install fee and fewer sensors, I would ALREADY have paid over 300 dollars 6 months into having a system. Very happy I went with the more DIY route of Scout.

      This is my first time visiting this website, and I sure as hell won’t be trusting it for any “Reviews” they write in the future..

  • Anonymous
    23 April 2015 at 9:54 pm
    Leave a Reply

    Why is this still considered a review of a product? It should be redacted as the original points have been proven weak. I have been using scout for a few months and have had no problems, quite the opposite.

    We also CALLED security companies and got quotes like Tommy did. ADT and others we quoted us on the phone around $300 for install, but when they actually came out to give us a quote these numbers jumped aggressively. Turns out we didn’t have a phone line so it would be extra money, the equipment was not their top of the line, etc. After the list of extra charges, we looked into scout and gave it a try. No problems at all, and was only around 300$ for our fairly large home. Haven’t paid a cent since, and they PAY 50$ CASH for referrals.

    Classic mistake that any guy that knows how to work a rumba thinks he is a tech journalist that can do product reviews without using said product.

    • Anonymous
      23 April 2015 at 10:38 pm
      Leave a Reply

      I was excited to get Scout and returned it a week later

      Spent 400 on everything. My son forgot his key and got in through a window while i was at work. alarm went off any notified me, right? wrong!

      waste of money and i bet all these comments are from their employees

        19 December 2015 at 5:44 pm
        Leave a Reply

        Then you didn’t setup the sensors correctly. Look in the mirror.

  • Scott
    7 June 2015 at 3:33 pm
    Leave a Reply

    As someone looking to purchase a DIY alarm system, this “article” doesn’t help clarify anything besides the writers cynical slant on this company.

    While you were cynically criticizing Scout for calling their services plans “service plans”, you forgot to mention companies such as ADT require you to sign long term contracts. How is a company who allows you to pay and/or cancel monthly a negative?

    More specifically, the article does not actually quantify anything besides the initial purchase price. You cynically generalize battery life, what is the actual battery life? What are the quantifiable pro’s and con’s in relation to other products? When I read the Cnet article they clearly outline each benefit and cost for each company. This however is a blatant tear down without credibility.

  • Millie
    15 June 2015 at 8:56 pm
    Leave a Reply

    The batteries in my door unit died after about 4-5 months. Scout is sending replacements. We shall see how long those last with the firmware “update”.

  • James
    24 November 2015 at 9:54 pm
    Leave a Reply

    An obvious hatchet job, the sheer simplicity and flexibility of this system with optional monthly commitment would be a positive for small home owners on a budget

  • Alan
    24 November 2015 at 10:01 pm
    Leave a Reply

    You really think so, Dave?

    19 December 2015 at 5:42 pm
    Leave a Reply

    This “review” , is everything but. I’ve had Scout for almost a full year and it has been excellent. Yes, a little more upfront but I own everything. When I move, it’ll come with me. I opt for the monthly full service monitoring, but no contracts and only $20. All the others are considerably more than that and you have to sign a contract. That’s where the true cost comes in. This article is not comparing/disclosing the full cost. Batteries? Scout has that covered, I get a notification when the battery is low and it gives me a link to have Scout send me replacement batteries for FREE. You didn’t seem to cover that. It doesn’t have a keypad, but so what? You have Fobs, or RFID stickers, or your phone, or Smartthings integration through IFFFT. You don’t need a keypad, you can have it set automatically to different modes depending on your actions. Certainly much smarter than other alarms. This “article” is certainly not balanced or even well written. Pure click bait headline.

  • zuul
    18 January 2016 at 9:12 pm
    Leave a Reply

    Just wasted my time reading this garbage. Seems like a great alternative to ADT and the like.

  • Mike
    10 February 2016 at 2:32 pm
    Leave a Reply

    I have to say! Feel Sorry for Scout! the review is really not objective. review with bad intention. not a decent behavior

  • cctv camera suppliers
    23 March 2016 at 6:44 am
    Leave a Reply

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  • Chris
    23 March 2016 at 9:30 am
    Leave a Reply

    The thing about innovative technology like this is that we can open a discussion to change and improve things like this. I LOVE the idea of an automated, self-run alarm system that can backup on a cell phone 3G tower. However, the cost of the Scout is markedly higher than any other system I’ve seen. It is also disappointing to see they don’t have a camera option for the home. A camera could avoid false alarms.

    Aside from the price though, I do think this company has made steps towards improvement. It now connects to Amazon Echo to allow for voice commands such as “Alexa, contact the police” or “Alexa, active the alarm system in 10 minutes.” Scout promises 12 months of battery life, but users are reporting 6-10months worth. Some of the devices also use rechargeable lithium ion batteries.

    Overall, it is promising. But they need to lower their prices to compete on the market. Component price should be 20-30% lower, they need a camera option, and they need to lower their monthly fee for “human support” to compete with ADT and others who are the same price and offer more services!

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