DIY home security company SimpliSafe is beta testing a new service that lets its agents both see inside your home and talk with potential intruders during an alarm event. The “24/7 live guard” service relies on a new AI-powered security camera. If the camera detects human motion while the system is armed, it can trigger the alarm and open a live feed for a monitoring agent to see and speak with whoever set it off — and hopefully scare them off.
The program will only work with SimpliSafe’s new Smart Alarm Wireless Indoor Security Camera, paired with a SimpliSafe base station and Interactive Monitoring monthly plan. The Smart Alarm camera is an AI-enabled, battery-powered indoor security camera with a PIR motion sensor and a built-in siren.
The new camera can detect motion, and its onboard AI can distinguish between pets and people. While the system is armed and motion is detected, the camera will process the footage locally, determine if it is a pet or person, then sound the alarm if it sees a person, Hooman Shahidi, senior VP of product at SimpliSafe, explained to The Verge in an interview.
At that point (and not before), a SimpliSafe agent can view the live feed. This is something SimpliSafe already offers with its video verification option, which can help facilitate a faster response from emergency services. The difference with live guard is that the agent can also communicate with the person through the camera’s built-in microphone array and speakers. The idea is that they can potentially scare them away and / or more accurately verify what is happening to initiate the appropriate response from emergency services, if necessary.
The idea of having a live person look into your home obviously raises privacy concerns. Shahidi says the live guard beta testing is being run from SimpliSafe’s own monitoring center, not through a third-party service. He also says, “We have taken measures through a chain of custody to ensure the video that goes through our system is held in the strictest confidence. No one has access beyond the live event, the only time we see it is during the alarm.”
However, the user will have access to recordings of any interactions through the SimpliSafe app. Additionally, like SimpliSafe’s existing indoor camera, the Smart Alarm camera has a mechanical privacy shutter that audibly and visibly clicks open and closed. By default, the shutter is closed when the system is set to home mode or off.
This “proactive” approach to professional home security monitoring isn’t entirely new, Ring launched its Virtual Guard service for outdoor cameras last year, and there are other companies that offer the extra feature of having a real person check in on your security cameras to evaluate a disturbance so you don’t have to. But SimpliSafe is the first company to bring this inside your home.
The live guard feature is launching in beta on February 2nd and is scheduled for a full release later this year. SimpliSafe customers interested in applying for the beta can do so at SimpliSafe.com.
There’s no pricing yet for the camera or the live guard monitoring. Shahidi said SimpliSafe will confirm those details once the program moves out of beta. For now, participants in the beta will be offered the new camera for $49.99 (a discounted price). For comparison, Ring’s Virtual Guard costs $99 a month on top of a $20 monthly Ring Protect Plus subscription.
Indoor security cameras walk a delicate line. People are understandably cautious, especially given recent news around security camera companies such as Eufy not being transparent about their technology. However, SimpliSafe’s approach does offer a number of safeguards — such as the automatic privacy shutter and local processing. But that won’t assuage everyone’s concerns. Shahidi said the new camera is explicitly designed as a security device, not just for checking in on your pets (although you can do that!). The live guard feature is also opt-in, so if it’s something that will give you more peace of mind, that may be a risk you are willing to take.