abode rolled out during a period where self-monitored home security systems were a dime a dozen. They just barely made their Kickstarter goal1, but as promised, they’ve delivered a product to backers. A few years later, abode is one of the few self-monitored startups that appears to be going strong. So what is it about abode that makes it both unique and successful?
What is abode?
abode is a home security system that can either be self-monitored for free or professionally monitored 24/7 for a price. Unlike other monitoring companies, abode does not require a contract. In fact, you can choose to have your system monitored for a few days or a week versus the typical month-to-month option. In addition to home security, abode provides smart home integration through relationships with other connected devices and services. What you can do with the product will depend on what package you choose. Currently, they offer three packages: Basic, Connect, and Connect + Secure.
|Price||$0||$8/month or $80/year||$20/month or $200/year|
|iOS, Android, and Web App Control|
|3G Cellular Backup|
|24/7 Professional Monitoring||Optional On-Demand Professional Monitoring (3 Days: $8 / 7 Days: $15)|
|Timeline and Media Storage||3 Days||14 Days||90 Days|
|Unlimited User Accounts|
|IFTTT, Amazon Echo, Works with Nest, Google Assistant|
|HomeKit||Coming Soon||Coming Soon||Coming Soon|
|Customer Support||Email and Support Site||Phone, Email, and Support Site||Premium Phone, Email, and Support Site|
While abode can connect to other smart home and home security devices, it can also protect your home on its own using abode-branded devices. All of abode’s devices are wireless and can be self-installed in minutes. To start, you’ll need either a Gateway or abode iota.
The Gateway is a Z-Wave and Zigbee-enabled hub/controller. It communicates with your connected sensors using a proprietary protocol called abodeRF. The protocol encrypts communication between the Gateway and your devices as well as communication between the Gateway and the cloud. When your Gateway receives information from your connected devices, it then sends the information to the cloud, your app, or the central monitoring center depending on what event has occurred and how you’ve previously asked it to respond. In addition to handling communication, the Gateway will keep you up and running thanks to battery backup (10 hours) and a cellular chip. It even has an integrated 95db siren.
The abode Gateway can support up to 150 connected devices and up to six IP Streaming Cameras. After using the Gateway (thanks to abode who generously allowed us to test their system for free), we found that there are both pros and cons.
- Works as Intended
- Battery Backup Worked and Notification Received When System Lost Power
- Requires Ethernet
- Small LED Light Indicates System Status
If you want to set up an abode system, but don’t want another Ethernet hogging device, you should consider iota. iota is an alternative to the abode Gateway that shares many of its features. Fortunately, there are differences between the two that might help you choose one over the other.
First of all, iota can protect your home on its own. It acts as a gateway hub, but it’s also a camera with a motion sensor. The abode Gateway, on the other hand, requires that you connect other devices for whole home protection.
Second, iota does not require Ethernet. There is an Ethernet port on the back of the device that you can choose to use or it can connect using WiFi.
iota’s camera specs mimic those offered by the Streaming Camera, which we’ll get to in a minute. In short, iota records in FHD 1080p, has a 152° field of view, night vision, two-way audio, and a built-in motion detector. It also shares a lot of the same features offered by the abode Gateway including 10-hour battery backup, 3G (soon to be 4G) cellular connectivity, and smart hub capabilities. iota can connect with Z-Wave, Zigbee, and abode RF devices. It also shares the same integrations (Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Nest, IFTTT, Philips Hue, ecobee, HomeKit, and LIFX). Finally, it has access to the same paid plans as the abode gateway. You can self-monitor the camera or add a paid monitoring plan, which will also activate the camera’s cellular chip.
iota is now shipping. You can order it here.
- Free Cloud Storage
- Acts as a Smart Home Hub
- Rough Edges Needs To Be Ironed Out
abode Sensors and Keypad
Once you choose between iota and Gateway, the next step is to purchase sensors.
The Gateway is sold in kits which include sensors. The Starter Kit is $279.00 and includes a Gateway, 1 Mini Door/Window Sensor, 1 Motion Sensor, and a Key Fob. No matter which kit you choose, you can add other devices as needed. If you purchase iota, it ships as a standalone device, but again, you can add other sensors.
Let’s start with Door/Window Contacts. The contact sensors will monitor doors, cabinets, windows, or anything that opens and closes. abode even promises that the sensors will run on battery for 10+ years. The door/window sensor comes in multiple flavors including mini (really small), recessed (invisible installation), and slim (invisible installation without drilling).
Second, abode sells a Wireless Keypad. The keypad supports 40 unique codes, includes a backlit interface, and has a battery life of 4-6 years. The keypad includes three LEDS that will indicate if the system is armed, disarmed, or armed home. To conserve battery life, the lights are not always on. Instead, you will need to press a button on the keypad to light up the display.
Third, abode sells a Key Fob. Using the Key Fob, you can arm and disarm your system with a click.
Fourth, they sell an Indoor Motion Sensor The battery-powered sensor monitors for movement and will send a notification to your phone if anything is detected. It can also be used as an automation trigger. For example, “If motion detector detects motion, turn on the lights.” As an alternative, you can use the Occupancy Sensor for the same purpose. The abode Occupancy Sensor detects motion, light, and temperature.
Fifth, they sell Glass Break Sensors including a Glass Break and Vibration Sensor that monitors for shock and vibration as well as an Acoustic Glass Break Sensor that listens for the sound made by breaking glass.
Finally, abode sells a Motion Camera and two Streaming Cameras to round out their list of devices.
- All Tested Devices Worked as Intended
- Easy Installation
- The Primary Sensors are Clunky, Cheap Feeling
abode’s Motion Camera is an image sensor. It’s a pet-immune (pets under 60lbs) motion sensor with a camera. If it senses movement, it will snap a photo and send it to you for visual verification. As motion detectors are a common cause of false alarms, being able to visually identify if an alert is real or not is essential, and abode is the only self-monitored home security system offering this technology.
Like most image sensors, the Motion Camera is low-definition (640x480p). However, at close range, the image quality is sufficient. When an event is detected, it takes three photographs and sends them to your timeline with a copy sent via email. The email includes the actual photograph so that you can quickly glance to determine if an event is real or not.
- Takes Three Consecutive Photographs
- Sends Snapshot to Email and Timeline
- Clunky, Cheap Feeling
- Low Resolution
The Streaming Camera is a traditional home security camera. The camera uses WiFi or an Ethernet connection and offers live streaming in 720p HD, IR LEDs for night vision, and a wide angle field of view. When an event is detected, the Streaming Camera records to the cloud or you can add a microSD card to store footage locally as well.
The Streaming Camera has several downsides. First of all, motion detection with this device is confusing. Without a MicroSD card, it relies on other sensors to trigger event recordings, or it will record when a rule is triggered. For example, you can set a rule that says, “record a video clip when the front door opens”. With a MicroSD card, the camera will record video when motion is detected; however, it cannot activate the alarm siren nor will you receive a notification when an event is detected, making the feature rather useless. Alternatively, you can request clips on-demand from the mobile app.
The second downside is that it doesn’t record sound. The abode team assures its customers that if you choose to add a microSD card to the camera, it will record sound with clips. Our camera, however, did not. Also, in order to view clips with sound, you will need to remove the microSD card from the camera and insert it into a computer.
The third downside is that you can’t download clips locally from the app. You can only save clips using the microSD card.
Fourth, the video quality is just okay. In the YouTube video below, you can compare footage from SimpliSafe’s camera to abode’s at minute 1:55. Both cameras record in 720p, but SimpliSafe’s picture is clearer. On that note, abode’s night vision quality appears to be superior.
Fifth, you can’t control any of the camera’s settings.
Finally, we're not a fan of the boxy design.
Fortunately, it’s not all doom and gloom with the Streaming Camera. For free, abode provides three days of cloud storage for video events. You can view these events with or without the added microSD card, and you can view them from the web portal or the mobile app. Also, the camera effectively captures pre-event footage. It records 2 seconds pre-alarm and 8 seconds post.
The Streaming Camera V2 improves on several of V1’s shortcomings. V2 can also use Ethernet or WiFi and offers many of the same features as V1 but it has an improved FHD 1080p resolution and two-way audio.
- Free Cloud Storage
- Option for Local Storage
- Pre-Event Recording
- Optional Wall Mount
- Motion Detection Confusing
- Clunky Design
Smart Home Devices and Rules
If you want to expand beyond abode-branded devices, you have several options including Nest, IFTTT, Zigbee, Z-Wave, Philips Hue, ecobee, LIFX, Google Assistant, HomeKit (coming soon), and Amazon Alexa. Through integration, you can control all of your devices with one app and create rules that are made even more intelligent via abode’s native geofencing feature and CUE, an enhanced automation engine. For example, when all of your family members are away from home, you can set a reminder to arm your abode system, set your Cree lights to turn off, and your Nest thermostat to adjust accordingly.
CUE: Native Rule-Based Automation
CUE is a feature built into the abode app. Think of it as IFTTT for abode. From the app, you will create triggers and actions in a format such as, “When this trigger happens, then do this action.” To take this a step further, you can add an optional condition. For example, “If my front door is opened, turn on the front door light, but only if it’s dark outside.
Currently, you can select from the following triggers:
- Status Triggers: Changing Mode (Standby, Home, Away)
- Device Status Triggers: (Door Open, Door Closed, Etc.)
- Location Triggers: Enter or Leave Geofence
- Schedule Triggers: Based on a Schedule Set By You (Time, Day)
- Environment Triggers: (Sunrise, Sunset, Dark Outside, Light Outside)
IFTTT: Third-Party Rule-Based Automation
abode also has its own IFTTT channel. IFTTT connects internet connected services and devices using applets in an “if this then that” format. Yes, it’s similar to CUE. The difference is that IFTTT can connect abode to devices that wouldn’t otherwise work with abode.
abode’s channel provides both Triggers (the if) and Actions (the then). As a Trigger, abode can request another device to take action if an alarm is activated, if you change the mode, if a door is opened/closed, if a door is locked/unlocked, if a garage door is opened/closed, or if a switch is on/off. If you prefer another device to be the trigger, abode can take the following actions: change mode, turn a switch on/off, toggle switch, change dimmer level, lock/unlock, close/open garage door, or quick action. For example, IFTTT can call your phone if abode’s alarm is triggered or flash your Hue bulbs if your front door is opened.
Z-Wave and Zigbee
Of course, rule-based automation becomes even more interesting when you connect devices to abode. And while abode works with its own devices, it also works with third-party devices.
abode maintains a list of devices 2 that are compatible with their system thanks to Z-Wave & Zigbee, both protocols supported by the abode Gateway (or iota). The list includes devices made by Aeon, Cree, Danalock (V3 Z-Wave + Bluetooth version) Enerwave, GE, Kiwkset, Linear, Philips Hue, Schlagle, and Netvox.
Works with Nest
Through Works with Nest, abode integrates with the Nest Protect, Nest Thermostat, and Nest Cam. You can choose to integrate with all of your Nest devices or limit abode to specific Nest devices. You also have the option to allow abode to sync with your Nest modes or keep them separate. If you decide to sync modes, abode will trigger Nest to Away Mode when abode is in Away Mode or tell Nest to change to Home Mode when abode is in Home or Standby Mode.
Nest Cam and Cloud Storage
If you choose to integrate abode with Nest Cam, it will not replace Nest Aware, Nest’s cloud recording service. What it can do will depend on your Nest Aware subscription as well as your abode subscription. As it appears that abode actually expands upon Nest’s included storage, we wanted to be very clear about the offer. After several emails and a phone call with the abode team, this is what we learned
|No Nest Plan||Nest Aware 5 Day||Nest Aware 10 Day||Nest Aware 30 Day|
|Without Abode||$0 / 3 Hours Snapshots via Nest||$5 / 5 Days via Nest||$10 / 10 Days via Nest||$30 / 30 Days via Nest|
|Abode Basic||$0 / 3 Days of Snapshots via Abode||$5 / 5 Days via Nest and Abode||$10 / 10 Days via Nest and Abode||$30 / 10 Days via Abode or 30 via Nest|
|Abode CONNECT||$8 / 10 Days of Snapshots via Abode||$13 / 5 Days via Nest and 10 Days via Abode||$18 / 10 Days via Nest and Abode||$38 / 10 Days via Abode or 30 via Nest|
|Abode CONNECT + SECURE||$20 / 10 Days of Snapshots via Abode||$25 / 5 Days via Nest and 10 Days via Abode||$30 / 10 Days via Nest and Abode||$50 / 10 Days via Abode or 30 via Nest|
|Prices are per month, Nest provides a discount for additional cameras.|
According to abode,
For all abode/Nest integrations, regardless of whether or not the customer has a Nest Aware plan, abode stores Nest Cam Snapshots in the timeline for a maximum of 10 days. If the user is on the abode Basic plan, those snapshots are deleted after 3 days. If the user is on the Connect or Connect + Secure plan, the snapshots are deleted after 10 days per Nest TOS. Customers without a Nest Aware plan can only capture 2 snapshots per minute whereas customers with a Nest Aware plan can have 10 snapshots per minute.
As you can see, there are pros and cons to using abode to monitor your Nest Cam. For free, Nest only offers 3 hours of snapshot storage, so adding an abode system provides more storage. Another pro to using abode with Nest is that you can use people as a trigger for events. When choosing your event type, you can opt to see motion, people, or sound events within your timeline. The integration also works with modes and zones. For example, you can set up a rule that only records people events that occur on your porch to your abode timeline.
The downside is that even if you are a Nest Aware subscriber, abode only stores snapshots (a.k.a. pictures). When an alarm event is detected, abode will automatically trigger your Nest Cam to record. A snapshot will be logged to your timeline, and you will receive a notice via email as well as a push notification. Unfortunately, the email does not include the snapshot. Rather, it lets you know that one is available and provides a link to your abode timeline.
Fortunately, you can always navigate over to Nest.com to view your full video history. And if you are subscribed to the Nest Aware 30 day plan, you will also need to navigate over to see anything recorded beyond the included 10-day history.
Next, you can integrate your ecobee thermostat. The integration works similarly to the integration with the Nest Thermostat. According to abode co-founder Christopher Carney,
The abode system already features deep integration with the Nest thermostat but with this release, abode customers can dive even deeper into access and control of the temperature of their home. Couple that with our newest ability to offer the same level of integration with ecobee and we’re opening up the abode system to an all-new group of customers.
RGB Bulb Support
You can also control your LIFX and Hue bulbs from the abode app. From the app, you can control brightness, hue, and saturation. You can also use the lights to notify you of events. For example, they can turn red if an alarm event occurs or blue if your flood sensor detects water.
Amazon Echo and Google Assistant
Though you can connect Amazon Echo and abode using IFTTT, you can also integrate the two directly using an Alexa skill. You can ask Alexa to retrieve abode’s system status, mode, to arm abode, disarm it, trigger panic mode, call the police (assuming you’re using CONNECT + SECURE), trigger a fire alarm, check the status of your doors, windows, lock your doors, unlock them, control your connected RGB light bulbs, etc. As an added security measure, you must provide a verbal PIN code to disarm your abode system or to unlock your doors using Amazon Alexa.
abode motion sensors and door/window sensors also integrate with Alexa Routines, a rule-based automation feature. After linking your abode account to Alexa, discover new devices via the Alexa app and add abode motion and door/window sensor. Once added, you can set them as triggers to Routines. For example, you can set Alexa to speak a certain phrase, like “who’s there?” when your door opens. Your sensors can also trigger other smart home products that are controllable via Alexa Routines, such as smart lights or outlets.
In addition to using your voice, you can also control and monitor your abode system using the Alexa App. From the app, you can monitor the status of your devices and see whether a door is open or closed, a light is turned on or off, etc. You can also directly control your devices using the app and even group them together based on their location within your home.
Regarding functionality, abode’s Alexa skill is vastly superior to most integrations between home security systems and Alexa. It also appears to be superior in regards to user feedback. The skill is currently rated 4 stars where similar skills are rated 2 stars. In testing, the skill worked flawlessly.
If you’re a Google Home user, you’ll be happy to hear that abode also works with Google Assistant. You can say things like, “Okay Google, turn on my kitchen lights,” or “Hey Google, turn off all lights.” For now, the integration is limited to control of abode-connected smart lights, dimmers, and switches. You can’t yet control your alarm system, but abode promises to upgrade the integration over the air in the near future.
Finally, HomeKit. At first, only iota was slated to gain HomeKit compatibility and it will be first, but the Gateway will join soon thereafter. Using the Apple Home App, you can add abode devices to your rooms and scenes. For example, you can create a “Good Morning” scene that turns on your lights, disarms your iota, adjusts your thermostat, and more.
abode vs. SimpliSafe vs. Scout
As a security system, abode is most comparable to Scout, though it’s often compared to SimpliSafe. Like Scout and SimpliSafe, abode is a self-monitored home security system with the option for professional monitoring. Ironically, they all three use COPS monitoring services, though abode also uses UCC. They all three use a cellular signal for monitoring though abode technically uses Ethernet with a cellular backup.
What sets abode apart from SimpliSafe is that it’s smart home ready as it’s equipped with Z-Wave, ZigBee, and other automation features. What sets it apart from Scout is that abode offers home automation features, including IFTTT, for free and they provide improved usability through devices like their keypad and image sensor. What sets abode apart from both SimpliSafe and Scout is that as a free, self-monitored system it provides actual security value.
Self-Monitored, No Fee Plans Compared
|Home Automation Features Included|
|Amazon Echo Integration|
|Google Home Integration|
|Works with Nest|
|Security Camera Integration||3 Days of Timeline and Media Access||Live Streaming Only|
|Where to Buy||Setup Service||Setup Service||Setup Service|
Paid Plans Compared
Another feature that sets abode apart is that you can add a no contract monthly plan for professional monitoring or you can add on-demand professional monitoring. For $8, you can pay for three days of monitoring, perfect for weekend trips. Or for $15 you can add seven days of professional monitoring. If you prefer to pay per month, they have two plans to cover you: Connect and Connect + Secure.
|Plans||CONNECT||CONNECT + SECURE||Always On||Always On +||Standard||Interactive|
|24/7 Alarm Monitoring|
|UL Certified monitoring|
|Plans||CONNECT||CONNECT + SECURE||Always On||Always On +||Standard||Interactive|
|Cellular Connection / 3G|
|Contract||Not Required||Not Required||Not Required|
|Android and iPhone App|
|Home Automation||Nest Thermostat and August Smart Lock|
|Amazon Echo, Google Assistant, & IFTTT Access||Alexa and Google Assistant (SimpliSafe 3 Only)|
|Indoor Security Camera||Abode Camera & Limited Integration With Nest Cam||Scout HD Indoor Camera & Limited Integration With Nest Cam|
|Outdoor Security Camera||Limited Integration With Nest Cam||Limited Integration With Nest Cam||Video Doorbell Pro|
|Recorded Video History||Included||$3.00/month/camera or $10.00/month/unlimited cameras||Included for 1 Camera||$4.99/month/camera or $9.99/month/unlimited cameras|
|Return Policy||14 Day Return Policy||60 Day||60 Day|
|Product Warranty||1 Year Limited||3 Year||3 Year|
|Where to Buy||Buy Here||Buy Here||Buy Here|
*Scout offers a 10% discount if you pay annually. abode offers an even greater discount. Connect is $80 per year, Connect + Secure is $200.
Equipment Costs Compared
All three systems start with a base station. SimpliSafe’s base station works hand-in-hand with a keypad where abode’s keypad is sold separately, and Scout doesn’t offer one at all. In some ways, this is an advantage for SimpliSafe. SimpliSafe 3 also has an additional advantage: The base station uses an LED light to indicate system status. With abode, the base station has one tiny light that swaps between red, flashing red, and off to indicate if the system is armed or disarmed. Scout uses an LED light which swaps between white, purple, and black. But to make things more confusing, Scout’s color system means one thing if seen on the base station and another if seen on the door panel.
With the base stations in place, you can build your security system by adding sensors. All three companies offer kits, packages which include the base station and multiple pre-selected sensors. However, you can add equipment a la carte until you have what you need to protect your home. The below chart outlines sensor cost if purchased outside of a kit.
|Glass Break Sensor||$49.00||$50.00||$34.99|
|System Status Indicator||$27.00|
|Temperature, Humidity, & Light Sensor||$39.00||$29.99|
|Extra Keychain Remote||$20.00||$4.99||$24.99|
|Extra Siren||$49.00||$59.99 (105dB)|
|CO Detector||Included in Smoke Detector||$49.99|
|Extra Entry Magnet||$4.99|
|Home Automation Power Outlet & ZigBee Extender||$40.00|
On paper, abode appeared to be superior to both SimpliSafe and Scout. After testing, we feel the same way. (In addition to testing abode, we have tested both SimpliSafe and Scout. You can read about our experience here.)
What's disappointing about abode was the feel of the hardware. Though abode looks cool on the web, it feels cheap and clunky in person, and the camera concept is a miss. However, they offer all of the free services they promise, their geofencing feature is the most accurate we’ve ever tested, their customer service/tech support is out of this world stellar, the integrations improve home security, and the system works. In our opinion, the pros outweigh the cons.
abode suggests you get started with a starter kit. The starter kit sells for $189.00 and includes the Gateway, one mini door/window sensor, a key fob, and a motion sensor. You can purchase the kit from Amazon. iota sells for $229.00.