Aura is a Security System for the Camera CautiousBy - 01/17/2017
The recent hike in the number of connected home security devices has spurred a debate: Have we sacrificed privacy for convenience? A lot of people are concerned about privacy, and rightly so. The very devices we use to protect our homes can be turned against us. A new security system aims to protect your home without being invasive and obtrusive by eliminating one typically crucial component–a security camera.
Cognitive Systems, a company consisting of experts in wireless signals and radio frequencies, has discovered a way to detect intrusion using only wireless signals. This isn’t a new concept. A company called Hi WiFi launched a similar idea at CES two years ago. But what’s different about this idea is that Cognitive Systems owns the IP for using wireless for motion detection, they have actual hardware that we saw at CES, the hardware includes their own silicon chip, and they will more than likely start shipping H2 of 2017. In short, the difference is that Aura is more than vaporware.
How Aura Works
Imagine that your floor is full of empty soda cans. If an intruder, not knowing about the cans, walks in, what would happen? Most likely, the cans will make a noise. It’s basic home security.
Aura works the same way, but instead of soda cans, it scatters invisible wireless signals around your home. The signals come from two devices, the Hub and the Sensor. When placed at two opposing ends of your home, these devices release wireless signals that cover a 2,500-foot area in the shape of a football field. Of course, a closed off floorplan will not receive the same coverage as a home with an open floor plan.
Any movement within Aura’s coverage can disrupt the signal, triggering an alarm. But what about movement that happens naturally when you aren’t home? Aura is tuned only to detect motion it understands. Using a patented technology, it can distinguish signal disruptions caused by humans and nonhumans by analyzing how the patterns of the wireless signal change allowing for more reliable motion alerts.
Aura has three advantages over traditional motion sensors. First, it has a greater “line of sight”. Using just two pieces of equipment, you can monitor an average-sized home. Second, it works reliably during the day and night because it doesn’t rely on light to detect motion. Finally, the Hub comes equipped with a siren, a feature not commonly found in motion sensors.
Hardware and Installation
To use Aura, you will place the Hub and the Sensor at two opposing ends of your home. Both devices require power. The Hub comes with a power cord and USB cord so you can plug into an outlet or your computer. It’s best placed where it can sit at table height or higher. On the other hand, the Sensor plugs directly into an outlet.
Next, connect the Hub to your Wi-Fi network. To do this, you’ll need the Aura smartphone app (iOS and Android) and an account. You can use multiple devices to access the system, and you can have multiple users with different levels of access. Owners can access all features. Admins can manage the settings, monitor the system, receive alerts, and give or take access away from other users. Members can arm/disarm and monitor the system, but they can’t make changes to settings. Finally, you can grant guest access. Guests can walk around your house without being detected, assuming they are carrying a smartphone, but they can’t arm or disarm your system.
After logging into your account, the app will guide you through the remaining steps of setup. The remaining steps include connecting the Hub to Wi-Fi, pairing the Sensor to the Hub, and customizing the settings.
The app plays a major role in functionality. At CES we received a demo of the app and its features. It delivers push notifications to your phone whenever and wherever you are. It also allows you to arm and disarm your system, change the settings, and access other monitoring features.
Just like security cameras, you can get a “live view” of your home using Aura, but without actual video. Aura uses geolocation to detect who’s home and where they are. For example, as your son walks in from school, Aura detects his presence, and a round icon will appear on your screen showing where he is currently located within your home. Also, through the help of geolocation, Aura can automate itself. When you get home, for example, it can automatically disarm. When the last person leaves, it arms itself again.
The app also records a history of detected movements and activities. The Weekly Motion History feature shows all unauthorized motion, or motion triggered by non-users. On the other hand, the Activity Timeline shows all activities, like who came home at what time and who was where and when.
Finally, you can use Aura’s motion detection and geolocation abilities to automate your home using third-party devices. It talks to hundreds of automation devices and services via IFTTT. When the channel launches, you will be able to create Applets that can trigger actions when Aura detects motion or when users arrive home. For example, you can create an Applet that turns on Philips Hue lights whenever you walk in the door. Ironically, IFTTT will allow you to connect a camera to this camera-less system. You could say, “trigger a camera recording if Aura detects movement”.
During our CES experience, it was also mentioned that the system might somehow join forces with Scout Alarm. However, the system will use different hardware and will be a Scout-branded solution. Though details are fuzzy, it sounds like the goal is to eventually integrate the Aura system with Scout’s backend, which includes integrations with Nest, Amazon Alexa, and even professional monitoring.
Aura uses existing technology in a new way. While it can’t provide you a visual of your home like security cameras do, it can show you if someone is in your home and where they are within your home, and can connect to third-party cameras using IFTTT. But will it perform to the level needed for home security? That’s to be determined.
Aura launched earlier this month and is now available for pre-order. The pre-order cost is $499 for 1 Hub, 1 Sensor, 1 Power Cable, and 1 USB Cable, which is expensive compared to systems like iSmartAlarm. However, it will be available at a special pre-order price of $399 for a limited time. The estimated shipping date is April 28, 2017.