Low-cost security doesn’t work out as planned.
For many years now, I’ve attempted to make our home more secure. I’ve done everything from installing WiFi cameras to ensuring the locks on our windows latches properly. I like for my family to feel secure. The thing I recognize though is how cost-prohibitive some of the more premium systems can be. I’m always excited to find new ways to bring security to more people’s attention — especially when it’s affordable. Kangaroo — a new security startup — is doing just that. Today, they are launching its namesake app and motion sensors with a low-cost monitoring plan. Their mission is to “make home security options more transparent through affordable pricing and less intimidating setup.”
“We started from scratch and took the cost, complexity, and clunkiness out of smart home security,” shared Kangaroo co-founder and CEO, Maximus Yaney. “Our system is designed to provide the essential elements of effective home security without the things that drive up the price or scare users away. We founded Kangaroo because we want to make protection and peace of mind available to everyone.”
Kangaroo’s Motion Sensors can detect motion up to 15-feet away and feature peel-and-stick installation. There is no hub required as they connect directly to your WiFi network. The sensors are designed to only detect people and not pets (up to 2′ 4″ tall). The sensors have a 120º field of view and include tamper detection. In addition to a WiFi signal, the sensors need the mobile app to connect to. With the connected app, you can receive alerts (so can members of your household) and have emergency services alerted when necessary. The sensors are small — 3.55″ x 1.55″ x 0.7″ — and only weight 2.37 ounces. The sensors are just sensors — there is no attached camera, speaker, or microphone, but you will still receive alerts if there is anything unusual in your home. The sensors cost $30 per unit and the monitoring fees are as low as $1/month (self-monitoring). There are no contracts or cancellation fees with the monitoring set-up.
- Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, 2.4GHz (WEP, WPA, or WPA2 encryption) compatible router.
- Mobile device with iOS 10.0 and above or Android 5.0 and above.
- Active Internet and cellular connections are required on the mobile device.
- Alarm monitoring service requires subscription.
- Up to 20 Motion Sensors supported per home.
- For indoor use only.
The Motion Sensor comes in a bright yellow box labeled “Kangaroo” and contains one device. There are minimal details on the box about the product, but inside the box, you’ll find a user manual and a quick start sheet that gives you basic details on how to get started. The first step with set-up is to download the mobile app for your operating system of choice. For me, it’s iOS and if you search for “Kangaroo Home” it will be one of the top two apps that pop up (as of today). The next step is to follow the in-app set-up process. It tells you to remove the yellow tab that activates the unit’s battery and the app will automatically detect the sensor. You do have to set up and account, but it’s all done through your phone number and not a username, password, or email address. You enter your phone number and then an activation code is sent to you via text. You then enter your name and pull out the yellow tab so that the app can detect the sensor. You will see a diagram of the field of view of the sensor. According to the image, the sensor will look straight ahead and then left and right. With that in mind, I placed our sensor at the end of our hallway which is a bit longer than 15 feet. Even though the hallway is long, the sensor is in such a place that it should be able to also see into our living room should motion occur.
At this point, you will see your home screen in the app. This screen gives you the ability to arm or disarm the home. If you have more than one sensor, it will be armed, too. You will see from my screenshots that my account is on a free trial period. At this time, Kangaroo gives you a 100-day free trial period. You will see that my screenshot indicates that 92 days are left on the trial. This image was captured as I was setting up the device so I’m not sure why the figure is inaccurate.
The trial period does not require a credit card number, which is very nice. But, after that period, you will have to select one of the two monitoring programs that Kangaroo offers. The self-monitored option means that you will get a notification when motion is detected and you can choose to call 911 or dismiss/disarm the sensor. The pro-monitored option is $9/month and includes all the same benefits as the self-monitored option, but it means that your notifications are monitored 24/7 by an agent who will handle the situation, call 911, and direct authorities to your house. The other perk of the Pro-Monitoring plan is that Kangaroo will submit paperwork to your homeowner’s insurance agent so that you receive a 20% discount for having security on your home.
Most of the functionality of the sensors is unlocked when you select one of these plans. According to the Kangaroo website, the main features of these plans are:
- App push notification
- SMS and voice notification
- Connect unlimited users
- Connect unlimited sensors
The sensor should work without one of those plans in play, but I’m not sure what kind of functionality you can expect. The app does not provide a history of events like many other security systems do. It’s just an immediate notification system for events taking place in the present. There is no way to go back and look at the past.
As I mentioned, the sensor is installed in a hallway. It has a clear line of sight to any movement in that area. Shortly after I installed it, my fiance and my grandmother were lingering in the hallway. They were sitting right at 15-feet away from the sensor, which is within the range of the sensor according to its specs. They were in the hallway for about 10 minutes moving back and forth and the sensor did not detect anything. A bit later, I walked down the hallway and it caught me going into one of the bedrooms, which was closer to the sensor — about 5 feet away. It did not capture my movement when I came out of that room and reentered the hallway, but it did notice my daughter who was only a few steps behind me. The sensor was armed but was not getting tripped. I thought that maybe it had to do with the available light in the hallway so I turned on the light in the hallway and walked towards the sensor. It did not notice me. I walked back down the hallway away from the sensor and waved my arms when I was about 14 feet away from it. It did not detect anything.
The times that the sensor was tripped, I received a push notification from the app within 30 seconds of the actual movement. The text message came about 30 seconds after that. With the push notification, you are given the option to dismiss/disarm the sensor. Until you select this option, the app won’t let you do anything else. The text message that arrives gives you the same option — to disarm — and if you send back a message saying, “disarm,” you will receive a reply saying that your Kangaroo sensor has been disarmed. But, if you go back to the app, it will show that you still need to disarm it.
According to Kangaroo, only 16% of households in the United States have home security. It’s estimated that the main reason for this is cost. “No matter how much your home or personal items cost, they should be able to be protected. Most importantly, everyone should be able to protect what’s truly irreplaceable – your life and your loved ones.” While I do agree with this concept, I have some doubts about the Kangaroo system based on my testing. I wish my experience had been more positive because I love how small the devices are and the incredibly easy set-up is hard to beat.