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Canary announces Flex, a smart security camera built to handle the outdoors

Canary announces Flex, a smart security camera built to handle the outdoors

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Canary Flex security camera

Canary is introducing its second product today: a smart security camera called the Flex.

The Flex basically takes the core of Canary’s existing product — a security camera that also includes air quality sensors — and strips it down to just the camera. Flex otherwise works the same: if it sees movement, it’ll start recording; if the camera thinks it’s seeing something unusual, it’ll send out a push alert so its owner can watch through a mobile app.

Like the original Canary, the Flex is supposed to learn over time what is and isn’t of interest. Canary says it has cut down on the number of push notifications it sends out by more than a quarter since launch. "One of our biggest goals is sending super meaningful information and letting people act on that," says John Carter, Canary’s communications head.

There are two advantages to the Flex over Canary’s existing product. The first is that it can run off of a built-in, rechargeable battery "for many months," according to the company. The second is that it’s weatherproof and portable, meant to be mounted anywhere — indoor or outdoor — and even occasionally moved around.

Adam Sager, Canary’s CEO, says he’s set up a Flex on his dog’s indoor fence so he can check in throughout the day.

Canary Flex security camera

There’s nothing particularly new about Flex’s features on their own; there are plenty of smart security cameras out there. But Sager says — and this is a mouthful of conditionals — that Flex is the "first-ever indoor/outdoor plug-in/battery on the market."

So the question is: why make this into one product, rather than making separate indoor and outdoor cameras or plug-in and battery cameras? Carter says the choice to put it all in one product "gives people the ultimate ability to do what they want with it." Canary imagines that people will often want to move the Flex around. "If your kids go outside," Carter says, "you can just go and bring it outside."

I’m not entirely convinced that’s a must-have feature, but I’m also not convinced that most people need a live security feed of their house, either. That said, once you’ve decided to get a camera, Flex does offer more flexibility than some other cameras at the same price. It’ll sell for $199, which is the same price as Canary’s existing product and as the Nest Cam, which comes in separate indoor and outdoor versions. (On the other hand, Netgear has a cheaper portable weatherproof camera, the Arlo, which is exclusively battery powered.)

How often do you need to move a security camera around?

To assist with moving the camera around, Canary will be selling three mounts for the Flex: a "stake mount" (meant to be stuck outside in the ground), a "secure mount" (read: wall mount), and a "twist mount," which is a weird bendy pole that’s meant to be stuck somewhere and shaped to your liking. It’s what Sager says he’s using for his dog setup.

For additional flexibility, Canary is also partnering with Verizon to offer a mount that builds in an LTE connection. While this can be used as a backup should Wi-Fi go down, it sounds like Canary expects more use from people trying to monitor property where Wi-Fi isn’t available at all.

In addition to launching Flex, Canary is also reworking its subscription plans today. They’re all being streamlined into a single plan that’ll cost $9.99 per month for a single device, with most additional cameras adding an additional $4.99 per month. Subscribers will get to keep their video history for 30 days — but that’s probably the least interesting benefit.

Canary Flex with Twist mount

The more unusual perks involve Canary’s assistance after a theft. For subscribers, it’ll provide them with a dedicated customer service agent to assist in retrieving video and figuring out what their next steps should be. Canary will also reimburse up to $1,000 of a subscriber’s insurance deductible if they’re the victim of a burglary.

(Non-subscribers will only receive "24 hours" of video storage, which, strangely, gets divided every time a new Canary product is added to an account; so if someone has two units, they’ll each store video for 12 hours.)

I got to see, but not try out, a preproduction Flex unit, and it looked nice — if you’re into the sort of eerie, dystopian, sci-fi vibe, Flex will fit right in. The unit is much smaller than the original Canary, which will help a lot with its portability. It is also a very hard object, so be careful if you’re mounting it above your head.

"We're gonna out-think you and out-deliver on experience."

Canary’s home monitoring system started as an Indiegogo project back in 2013 and, within a year, was seemingly everywhere; here in New York City, ads for it have plastered the subway for months. Carter declined to share Canary’s sales figures, instead pointing out that the company has expanded into 15 counties over the last 15 months.

Despite its early advertising, Carter says that’s not the company’s way forward. "We're going up against Netgear, and D-Link, and Google, so if we're gonna win it's gonna be on being a more human-centered company and having the biggest fanbase," he says. "We're not gonna outspend you on billboards. We're gonna out-think you and out-deliver on experience."

The Flex won’t be crowdfunded. It’s going straight to pre-orders, which launch today through Canary’s website. Units are supposed to begin shipping by the end of the year.