Setting up Canary and Arlo involves syncing the devices to either a base unit or your wireless router and deciding where to place the cameras.
Each system records only when it detects motion and lets you adjust its motion sensitivity to minimize false alerts.
Being able to monitor 1 or more aspects of your home on your smartphone and even communicate with someone at your front door when you aren't home has many potential benefits.
- You could learn about mischief you weren't aware of and take additional steps to prevent a crime from happening, such as prompting a full-blown alarm system with remote monitoring and notification of the nearest police station.
- You could make a would-be burglar, who is ringing the doorbell to see if you're home, think you're there when you aren't. You can do this by talking over Ring or SkyBell's intercom through your phone.
- Simply seeing any of these systems could deter a burglar who realizes he or she has been captured on video.
- The ability to remotely activate a 90-decibel alarm through Canary's app could stop a crime in progress.
- In a worst-case scenario, your video footage could help the police nab the trespasser.
All of these systems have night vision, so you can see what's going on after dark.
Home-monitoring systems also can get you a discount of up to 10% on your homeowners insurance; ask your insurance company which systems it will give you a discount for.
These solutions aren't perfect.
Systems that are hardwired will fail if the power goes out; systems with batteries will fail if the battery dies, though you should get notification when battery power is low. The systems also won't work if your Wi-Fi goes down.
None of these systems does everything you'd need it to for comprehensive home security, and there's no connection between these systems and the local police department.
"An alarm panel will have home phone lines and a cell backup," says Samantha Boles, president and chief operating officer of Automated Security IS, a security company headquartered in Houston.
Boles is a fan of Canary, which she uses herself. She suggests using a DIY system to save money on cameras and smartphone monitoring in conjunction with a professional, remotely monitored alarm system in case of a life-threatening situation.
Some users of DIY systems, however, report poor video quality, lighting problems, and long lag times between motion detection and push notifications. And each is easy to steal or disable, though being recorded in the process may act as a deterrent.
Ring's camera is activated only when the doorbell is pushed or when motion is detected, so there is no permanent live video feed. Arlo has no microphone or speaker, so you can't communicate with anyone or record sound. Canary has a microphone to record sound, but no 2-way audio.
SkyBell can be placed in only 1 spot, where your existing doorbell is, which might not be the best place for a video camera despite the wide-angle lens.
Being relatively new also puts these systems at a disadvantage.
"Professionally installed alarm systems generally use products that are made by manufacturers with a long history in the security industry," says Neal Scott, a marketing consultant for Frackville, Pennsylvania-based DM2 Security. "Devices they offer have been thoroughly tested and used by tens or hundreds of thousands of applications over many, many years. When it comes to alarm reliability, experience is critical."