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Abode Review: Smartly integrated security and home automation

We look at the Abode Smart Security Kit. On the surface, it's another alarm system. But, under the hood (or inside the app), it's quite a bit more.


The Abode Smart Security Kit

Abode is a great name for a home security system. Unfortunately, for someone who has been working and writing about Adobe products for decades, it is also hard on muscle memory. So before we dig in, let's be clear:

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  • Abode: A place of residence. Also, the name of a new smart home security system.
  • Adobe: A building material and type of home built with that material. Also, the name of a maker of mission-critical creative applications like Photoshop.

It makes my brain hurt. And... it gets more confusing.

Abode makes two very similar products, the Iota Security Kit and the Smart Security Kit. Both kits are smart, in that they integrate with your smart home devices. The difference is the Smart Security Kit comes with a hub and connects to your router over Ethernet, while the Iota Security Kit connects over Wi-Fi and has a built-in camera.

Both connect to a wide variety of sensors and add-on devices and -- most interestingly -- both talk with all your other connected Google Home, Alexa, and HomeKit devices. Heck, these things even work by design with IFTTT.

The use case for the $229 all-in-one Iota seems best for a small apartment. You put one of these in your main room, set it, and forget it. The Smart Security Kit seems more appropriate for a larger installation, like a house. I'll be reviewing the $199 Smart Security Kit, which the folks at Abode were kind enough to supply to me for this review.

The Smart Security Kit

Don't expect to spend only $199 if you choose the Smart Security Kit. That's your table stakes. The kit comes with the Gateway device, a motion sensor, and exactly one window sensor. It comes with a key fob you can use for activation, although you can also use the Abode app or an add-on keypad.

The company offers a wide variety of add-on sensors, both in format and function. There are regular and wide-angle motion sensors, various form-factor door and window sensors, an external camera, and a multi-sensor that also tracks heat and humidity. Most of the basic sensors are in the 30 dollar range.

The average house has eight windows and two doors, so expect to add roughly another $210 to that $199 to fully protect your home.

One nice feature of the gateway is that it also includes a 93db siren, which can be triggered in the event of an emergency or break-in. Abode also offers add-on sirens. The indoor siren is $50 and the outdoor siren is $90.

What security systems used to be like

It used to be that, if you wanted a security system, you had turn to a service like ADT, or figure out how to configure your own setup -- which was a non-trivial effort. Most security systems were so complex that an entire industry of installers was needed to not only physically place the devices, but also to program them using keypad codes.

I programmed my last security system, which was one of these old-school devices, but it was far from straightforward. I spent quite a few hours on the phone with the alarm company configuring all the special codes and sequences that would get our alarm up and running.

By contrast, configuring the Abode gateway was a breeze. Once you install the Abode app, all you need to do is select the Gateway and run through some simple, very app-like configuration steps. It took just a few minutes and is one of the more compelling selling points of the Abode.

Abode automations

Abode's automation capabilities are the really big win with this product. Unfortunately, to use them to their fullest, you need to subscribe to the Abode monitoring service. At $6 per month, it's not a huge sacrifice -- and that gets you a lot of additional options, including notification of emergency services in case of emergency.

But let's talk about the automations. These work like email filters. When an event happens, they perform an action, but only if a given specified condition is true. This takes the Abode system well out of the realm of just an alarm system and turns it into a smart input device for your smart home.


Grow your own automations.

Let's say you want to air out your house because it's nice outside. You probably don't want your air conditioner blasting while you're doing so. You can set a condition that says if a window is open, but you're still at home, shut off the AC. You can use a motion sensor to turn a light on when you enter the kitchen at night. You can use a temperature sensor to trigger a thermostat if, say, the upstairs office gets too hot.

As I mentioned earlier, Abode works with IFTTT, Alexa, Google Home, and Apple's HomeKit, which makes it a very capable system.

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Final thoughts

As a home security system, Abode is not all that different from Nest or Simplisafe, or all of the other modern app-enabled security systems. It supports its own selection of sensors, reports back to its own monitoring service, and requires a fee for more advanced features.

But where Abode does stand out is its automation capability. While sensor input can work with other hubs (my Samsung Smarthings Hub, for example, takes in sensor input and triggers actions), the Abode links those actions with all the key smart home environments. If you don't have some other smart home hub, getting the Abode gets you one, along with that full alarm system.

But, and this is my warning for Abode, the primary advantage of this product is software-based -- a well-designed app. Well designed apps for IoT devices are being implemented everywhere. If Abode wants to continue with an advantage, I encourage them to continue to innovate and add features to their smart home app, focusing on ease of use and depth of capability.

Most smart home systems break down when it comes to factoring in multiple conditions. For example, no code-free smart home system can handle a condition like "these three sensors have triggered, these two have not, it's after 6pm but before midnight, and Dad isn't home." These are the kinds of automations that might give Abode a substantial advantage, and we hope to see them move in that direction.

Bottom line is, as an alarm system, the Abode is price and feature competitive. But as a smart home system with an alarm, the Abode system is stand-out - for now.

You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.