Canary’s clever home-security camera

This webcam can distinguish an intruder from the cat

Image: Hugh Threlfall

This may just be the year the much-heralded “connected home” becomes less of a buzz phrase trotted out by technology geeks like me and more of a concept the general public understands – and wants. The exact same thing happened around 1998 with that most arcane of ideas, the internet.

So while Ambi Climate, the air-conditioning control system I featured last month, exploits the power of remote computing to give the gadget extraordinary analytical capability (yet with a user-friendly portable app as the interface), this latest webcam, the Canary, does the same job with home security. We’ve already seen some interesting webcams on this page – such as the French-made Netatmo Welcome I introduced in October, with its headline-grabbing face-recognition feature – but the New York-developed Canary is probably the most advanced one I’ve come across.

Canary does all the usual webcam stuff well, but its latest chirrup is that it can distinguish between meaningful motion events, like an intruder, and background activity such as shadows, trees rustling or the cat. This is a huge advantage over competitors – and it works. So while the Canary is simple to use (although physically a little chunky), the complex, remote grunt work of analysing the video it captures makes it remarkable.

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As with other Cloud gadgets, the more people use Canary the more data there is to crunch and the better the functionality of its ecosystem becomes. By feeding the back-end brain with oodles of (suitably anonymous) data, it continues to evolve and develop long after you’ve bought into it, using its growing data pile to train its vision algorithms. And like smartphones and computers, it is largely upgradable without requiring you to buy a new model.

The Canary app has also been adapted to include a sensitivity slider. This lets you filter the notifications you receive while still capturing all activity in its view so no events are missed – they are simply triaged to assess what’s worthy of your attention. And when a notification truly causes alarm, there is a 90-decibel siren you can activate from afar.



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