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An ADT exec went rogue and created Abode, a contract-free security system

Within the next five years, 60 percent of U.S. homes will have a smart security system, according to a recent survey. That’s second to only connected thermostats, which will be found in 70 percent of homes. Lots of companies want to carve themselves a slice of that smart-home pie, and surveillance seems like a safe bet.

Until the rise of the DIY home security kit, cameras and motion sensors were generally within the purview of large companies that wanted to sell you the components and then charge you a monthly fee to monitor your home — and they want to keep charging you. Companies such as ADT sign up users for a three-year contract, and this is a recipe for unhappy customers, Chris Carney tells Digital Trends. As a former director of finance at ADT, he grew frustrated during his 15 years there with the way the company addressed, or failed to address, customer needs. There would be talk but little action. “I realized toward the end of my career there the industry and the company as a whole really didn’t innovate off of what they were selling, both product and solution, to people,” he says.

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For the past 18 months, Carney has been working with a team to develop his own security system, Abode. “I basically started Abode to eliminate all those pain points for people and really give a customer control of their system and their solution and really make something simple and seamless,” he says.

The starter kit comes with the Gateway hub, two door or window contact sensors, a key fob, and a motion-sensing camera. There’s an optional streaming camera, as well. Built with infrared technology, the motion-detector camera is calibrated to ignore pets (and presumably children) under 60 pounds. Your cat won’t set it off, but neither will your Dennis-the-Menace-esque neighbor. The hub is equipped with a battery and 3G cellular backup, in case your power goes out or Internet fails. Much like similar DIY systems, users can monitor everything themselves with the included app (iOS, Android, Web). Should something activate the sensor or camera, you’ll receive an alert on your phone, and you can check whether it’s just your spouse getting home early or an actual emergency. But if something’s going down, you’ll have to be the one to alert the police.

Abode System

Abode System

For those who want someone to dial 911 for them, Abode will offer a $30-per-month professional monitoring option. A third-party company will keep an eye on things for you, but if you get an alert from the camera and notice the robot vacuum just knocked over a houseplant, you should be able to call in the false alarm. The monitors won’t have access to your streaming camera, unless you grant them permission while you’re on vacation, for example. “It’s truly kind of a an on-demand service,” says Brent Franks, Abode’s co-founder. If you want to pick up the professional monitoring for a month during your trip then let it drop again, you can do so.

In addition to that optional service, what separates Abode from similar systems is its security and its openness, claim its creators. “Every component of the system is fully encrypted,” says Carney. Yet the Gateway will still serve as a hub for your smart home, as it works with Zigbee and Z-Wave devices. While the Abode is already ready to integrate with your Nest, the team is still making sure everything else will play as nicely. “What we’re going to be very careful about is that it’s easy to add these things and integrate with some of these things,” says Carney, “but the key is to really get the control right on those devices. So it may act a certain way on its own, but we want to make sure to test and certify these things ourselves to make sure they work.”

Despite all the planned integration, don’t expect to see Abode locks or lights on the market soon. “For us, we want to be the first smart security platform,” Carney says.

In order to do that, Abode has turned to Kickstarter. The starter kit is going for $199. That’s $200 off its retail price, which the team thinks is more accessible than traditional systems, with the added benefit of automation.

“The things that we’re working on really allow the customer to not only experience real security out of the gate but define the things that make their life simpler,” says Franks.