Abode Iota review: Abode streamlines its security hub by integrating a camera

A simple home security solution learns a few new tricks—and gets easier than ever to set up.

abode iota bookshelf
Abode
At a Glance

Abode has an all new version of its simple home security system called Abode Iota. Iota takes the Abode security hub and teaches it some new tricks, thanks to an integrated motion sensor and camera, in addition to a built-in siren.

I’ll give Abode some deserved credit here: It has been relentless in releasing new products and upgrades to existing products, and in general the company seems devoted to the principles of continuous improvement—that’s a rarity in the rapidly commoditizing smart home world.

All-in-one security hubs (loosely defined as an alarm system that has a camera built into it) aren’t a new thing, with offerings from Canary and Honeywell Home among the popular do-it-all options. But unlike most all-in-one security systems, Abode comes at the problem from the security side of things rather than the camera. Abode has built a robust infrastructure over the last few years, and users have plenty of alternatives when it comes to designing a security system for their home around Abode, including a wide range of sensors, the option (but not the requirement) to subscribe to professional monitoring, a cellular backup option, and even the ability to integrate other types of smart home devices with the system.

abode iota 1 Abode

A compact design makes it easy to find a home for the Abode Iota.

Don't need the integrated camera?

By adding a built-in camera to that mix, it expands the capabilities of the system even further. If you don’t need the camera, Abode continues to sell its original starter kit for $159.

The camera features aside, Iota has much of the same functionality and feature set as Abode’s standard offering. Setup involves creating an account with Abode (online or via its app) and using a code that’s included in the box to tie your Iota unit to your identity. The camera and motion sensor built into the Iota are automatically connected to your dashboard, and setting up the additional door/window sensor that comes in the kit takes only a few seconds. (The only other piece of hardware in the box, a remote control key fob, is also automatically configured to work with the system.)

Iota must be initially configured by connecting it to your router via an ethernet cable, but once the initial setup is done, it can be easily switched over to work via Wi-Fi, which is essential in giving you more flexibility in where you place the camera. Since it’s built into the Iota box directly, there are some limitations in how you can aim the camera, but thanks to its very wide-angle lens, it isn’t hard to capture a large chunk of whatever area you want to monitor.

The Abode app

The Abode app hasn’t changed significantly since our last review. The system offers three modes: home, away, and standby, which work fully as expected. In standby mode, all sensors are disabled except for door sensors, which chirp by default when a door is opened. Depending on the mode the system is in and your various settings, just about everything gets logged into the Abode app, including sensor trips and camera activity. It’s all conveniently catalogued in the app’s Timeline view, which is easy to scroll through in search of goings-on at the homestead.

2 Christopher Null / IDG

Abode’s timeline view is second to none in this market.

Iota’s alarm, as with the original Abode, isn’t the loudest, but it’s shrill enough to merit attention and can easily be heard throughout the home. A variety of notifications can be pushed to the user when an alarm is tripped, though you’ll need to check the app to view any video that’s captured. A built-in battery backup also ensures that an intruder can’t just pull the plug to disable the alarm.

Iota’s CUE Automations system remains in beta, but it’s an intuitive way to use an IFTTT-like system to tie various actions together. It takes just a minute or so to, say, tell the camera to start recording when the front door is opened, or to send you a notification if the door is left open for more than five minutes. Iota can connect to generic Z-Wave and Zigbee products, too, so you can fold in automations that flash the lights if an alarm is tripped, for example. Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant are also supported if you want to do any of this via voice control.

After using Iota for several days, I wasn’t overwhelmingly impressed by the camera’s video quality, which claims to be 1080p resolution, but which often came across as very dark and sometimes completely pixelated in my testing. A capable night vision mode, however, does kick in after hours.

img 4857 Christopher Null / IDG

You'll need access to access Abode's web portal to access some features, such as setting up notifications.

As well, Abode still requires you to use its web portal for various activities, which remains awkward, though in fairness Abode’s website is easier to use and offers more features than its relatively compact app. In fact, I encountered more than a few trouble spots when testing with the Abode app this time around. For example, the app would consistently fail to change the status icon from “Standby” to “Home” or “Away” when I set the alarm—which became quite confusing—and video often failed to load, leaving me with a black rectangle instead of a live image. Force quitting the app often solved many of these issues, though. Other than these hiccups, Abode worked quite well, from its sensor accuracy to the breadth of its notifications and their speed of delivery.

A good home security buy

Lastly, Abode continues to aggressively cut the price of its systems, making them more attractive than ever. You can get the Iota starter kit for $199 with no monitoring plan. You’ll pay $239 if you want one year of cellular backup (in case your broadband or Wi-Fi cuts out), or $299 for cell backup and professional monitoring for one year (you'll need to decide later if you want to renew those subscription plans). Those are pretty good deals, and while you’ll definitely need to add more a la carte sensors ($27 for a door/window sensor, $42 for a motion sensor, $49 for a water leak sensor, etc.) to equip even a smaller home, the overall quality and capability of Abode’s product line continues to merit our recommendation.

At a Glance
  • By integrating a video camera into its already capable hub, Abode’s Iota makes for a more compelling smart alarm system than ever.

    Pros

    • Setup is as streamlined as it gets, and its all-in-one design makes it even more foolproof
    • Pricing is solid, at least for a smaller home
    • Plenty of thoughtful extras, including wireless connectivity and battery backup

    Cons

    • Mobile app is moderately buggy
    • Camera quality could be a lot better
  
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