What's in the system
As with many connected-home systems, Abode is built around a hub or gateway. "We want this to be do-it-yourself, which should mean you plug it in and it should work," says Carney. "You don't want to have a complicated installation process. So we built this gateway, essentially the brains of the system." The gateway supports a variety of wireless communications technologies for connecting to Abode's own devices, third-party hardware, and the Internet.
"We have a proprietary wireless protocol we use with our door and window sensors, and then for the other devices like cameras and motion sensors we use ZigBee, which is probably the most secure protocol you can use right now. [The gateway] also got some smarts in it, so it's able to run some automation rules directly...that you can load in from the cloud."
The gateway has both Wi-Fi and 3G radios for connecting to the Internet via your router. The cellular connection is a backup in case of power failure (there's battery backup, too) or if a burglar cuts the phone or cable line that provides your Internet connection. And it has a Z-Wave radio in addition to the aforementioned ZigBee module. Four gigabytes of onboard memory can store images from cameras connected to the system. Carney says, the gateway can support up to 150 connected devices.
The starter kit being sold on Kickstarter includes the gateway, two wireless door/window sensors, a key fob for arming/disarming the system, mobile and web apps, and a wireless night-vision "motion camera" that captures three to six images when motion is detected. The images are stored on the gateway as well as uploaded to the Abode servers in the cloud. "It can send images when something happens directly to your phone in under ten seconds," so that you can determine if there's an actual emergency--such as a break-in--or if it's a false alarm. Carney claims that the camera has what he calls "pet immunity," the ability to ignore objects weighing less than 60 pounds, so your dog won't set off the alarm.
The company also offers a streaming-video camera as an add-on (included in some packages). The $119 camera comes with a 4GB MicroSD card (upgradable to 32GB) for saving captured video, which can also be sent to the Abode cloud for archiving. According to the company, the 4GB card is enough to hold about a thousand video clips.
Services and support
Users monitor their sensors and manage the system through a mobile application or via the Web. "We're really focused on the user experience," says Brent Franks, "on coming up with a powerful software application that's really easy to use." The application provides a Dashboard showing what devices are operating and what their status is, as well as an overview of any recent activity. It also notifies you of any alerts and shows you the images captured by the cameras. If the alarm goes off, the notification screen gives you the option of designating it as a false alarm or verifying that it's a true emergency--that notification goes to other users and to anyone monitoring the system.
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