Imagine your home is protected by an invisible shield. This shield is a motion sensing device and it will alert you of any intruder. This is similar to home security sensors, but where sensors only monitor a specific door or window, this shield monitors entire areas of the home. The system is made to serve as an entire home security unit, because this system does not have cameras.
Meet the Aura by Cognitive Systems, a home security solution that has zero cameras. Instead, the Aura uses wireless signals to keep the criminals away. The system works by connecting users to WiFi, operating via a smart-home application, and sending push alert notifications when a burglar or unwanted guest is detected.
The Aura system is rather unique, and for customers who want to shy away from cameras for privacy concerns, it may seem like a reliable option. But in an overcrowded home security space, does the Aura stand out from the pack? How does the product actually perform?
Pricing and Process
The Aura system uses two primary pieces of hardware. The first is a hub that is close in size to a coffee mug, followed by a small plug-in sensor tool. The tools connect with each other using a 2.4GHx wireless signal, similar to WiFi. This combination sets up a motion bubble that will go off if anyone steps within the zone. The hub will then alert the home via an alarm and send push alert notifications to the users smartphone.
Users also have a log of detected events that includes graphs and resembles a quake detector. The Aura is priced at $500 and the products are two small pieces: the rectangular sensor, and a square shaped hub.
The appeal of the Aura is that with these two pieces of equipment, a user is said to be able to secure their entire home. This means users avoid difficult installations, multiple pieces of equipment, and users that have privacy concerns over cameras can avoid having to install any. It seems like a good situation, but for a $500 price-point, is the Aura worth it? And are privacy concerns actually eliminated simply by not having cameras with the system?
The Product Falls Short
The Aura device is simple, and many users who want a simple solution to home security may raise their eyebrows at the unit, but there are a number of problems with the device.
To begin, the system’s products only cover the areas in between them. This means if activity is occurring around or behind your Aura sensor and hub, no activity will be detected and you won’t receive an alert notification. This may sound like a simple fix for you, you can just purchase more Aura sensors right? Wrong. At this point in time, an Aura device does not support additional sensors. Unless you have a perfectly shaped home, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to cover your entire home using Aura.
At this point in time, Aura does not integrate with any home automation tools. The system does not integrate with Z-Wave, Zigbee, or other automation protocols, so users will not be able to connect locks, lights, or any other smart-home devices. Aura does say that home automation partnerships will happen in the future.
According to a product test by CNET, the protected area’s size depends on the distance between the hub and the sensor. The longer the distance, the larger the coverage area will be. But CNET found that up to 100 feet, the system may still work, but it isn’t nearly as reliable. Walls, large objects, and other obstacles will also affect the abilities for devices to reach each other. Aura suggests not placing more than three obstacles in the way of the devices.
CNET also reports that the Aura alarm is only 73db, which doesn’t create enough noise to alert anyone that’s outside of the home. The system also does not allow any customization for the size of movement within the range of the device. This means your small dog is just as likely to trigger an alert as your grandmother if she pops in for a surprise visit.
Privacy Issues Aren’t Avoided
While customers who want to avoid cameras due to privacy concerns may be intrigued by the Aura system, it doesn’t actually eliminate privacy concerns.
To use the geofencing features that Aura employs, the system sends your home address to the Cognitive Systems smartphone application, and your Aura system needs this application to connect to Cognitive systems at all times to protect your home. This means if there’s ever a compromise or internet breach, your systems are connected to each other. This is not encouraging.
The geofencing feature itself is not even based on the Aura’s real-time location, but where a phone is located at any given time. Thus, Cognitive Systems has track of your device at all times. Though they say this information is only used to keep their devices to protect the home and nothing more, this still raises privacy concerns.
It also is not out of the realm of possibility that the Aura device is victim of a jamming device, which does happen to wireless systems.
You Should Pass on Aura
Aura has created a unique system that uses solid technology, but at this point in time it doesn’t pass the test of protecting large homes and residences. If you have a small apartment, side property, or other area you want to monitor, a case could be made for Aura, but the $500 doesn’t justify the purpose. The price tag simply doesn’t match the scope of the device, especially considering that you can purchase all-encompassing home security for a fraction of the cost.
Aura also poses the same issues as many other home security providers. The system is not monitored, which means police, fire, or other emergency responders won’t come to your home in the case of an event, and if a burglary does occur, it’s up to you to react to push notifications to respond. What if your internet is down? What if you have bad connection? We don’t think anyone should place something as important as their personal safety, and the safety of their family, in the hands of push alert notifications.
When it comes to home security, we suggest sticking with the pros.