All-in-one home security devices that claim to be able to do everything are not new. The Canary, Piper, Netatmo and Cocoon are some of the devices that already exist in this space. Now a Berlin-based startup named BuddyGuard promises to shake things up by launching what it claims is the world’s first intelligent home security system, the Flare. And oh, it has a real eyelid-shaped lens cover that closes to protect your privacy when you are home.
The Flare started life as a Kickstarter campaign that reached twice its goal of 80,000 EUR. In 2014, founder and CEO Herbert Hellemann, who is trained in mechatronics, had a vision of creating a self-managing home security system. The Flare came out of that intention, as a device that simply goes about the job of protecting your home unobtrusively.
So what can the Flare do that makes it different from the Canary or the Piper? BuddyGuard says it’s Artificial Intelligence. Much like the self-learning Nest thermostat, the Flare constantly learns about the environment it is in (your home) and the patterns of its inhabitants (people and pets).
It uses face recognition, speech recognition, temperature sensors, geo-location and ambient sound analysis to figure out who is home, who is leaving, who is coming or whether someone is trying to pick your locks. BuddyGuard calls the last bit AudioIntel.
It is interesting to note that all the intelligent decisions such as intrusion detection, face, speech and pet recognition are made in the cloud and not the device itself. You get 10GB of cloud storage and a 90-day retention of videos. It is not clear yet how far the device would be crippled if this cloud connection is unavailable during a break-in.back to menu ↑
How does the Flare work?
When you or your family is at home, the Flare will covers its lens automatically to protect your privacy. When the last person leaves home in the morning, the Flare will arm itself, open the lens cover and start monitoring its sensors. You do not have to remember to arm it on the way out – that is pretty cool.
If it detects the tell-tale sounds of a break-in when it knows nobody is at home, the AI kicks in and before the intruder makes it into the house, the Flare will play domestic sounds to prevent the burglary in the first place. If this doesn’t work, it will request a police dispatch immediately, in addition to alerting designated users through push notifications. It will also record HD video and audio of the incident.
When you get back home in the evening, the Flare will recognise your face, disarm itself and cover the camera lens again. You can also use the geolocation feature by installing the Flare app on your Android device or iPhone. This will let Flare know when you are at home or away in addition to its other sensors. This would help increase its accuracy even further.
The designers of the system seem to have considered every eventuality – a feature I particularly like is the ‘secret word’ one. Imagine the intruder forces you to enter the home and holds you hostage. Just slip the secret word into whatever you say and the Flare will silently request a police dispatch.back to menu ↑
What’s the hardware like?
A 130 degree 1080p camera is at the heart of the system. It also sports infrared night vision and a real PIR motion sensor that should cut down false alerts significantly. It relies on 2.4GHz WiFi instead of the 5GHz band – this could be a conscious decision to sacrifice higher transfer speeds and lesser interference for increased wireless range. Audio capability is provided by a high sensitivity microphone and speaker. The Flare also has a built-in battery backup and 4G/LTE communications in case the utilities are cut by a would-be intruder. IFTTT integration allows the Flare to also turn on lights at night.
Of course when I hear about such all-in-one security solutions, I am a bit pessimistic about their ability to really keep my home safe. Can one device really replace my traditional yet comprehensive home alarm system comprising of multiple motion detectors, and magnetic contact sensors on every window and access point? No. BuddyGuard suggests one Flare unit per main area/access point, and 3-5 per detached home with multiple access points.back to menu ↑
Pricing and availability
Currently on pre-order at $385 at IndieGoGo, the Flare is not cheap, especially if you need 5 of them. However, the learning component of the system is ground breaking and can be a great addition to a conventional home alarm system. Modern features like the voice activation and the 4G/LTE backup especially can be very useful.