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.
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.
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.
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.UPDATE
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.
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.
- Connect from anywhere
- Lackluster features
- Subscription still required for true "security system" features
- Batteries mean maintenance is required
- Bulky units mean they're obvious