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Abode iota review: HomeKit compatibility makes Abode even better

In early 2017, review Abode, a smart home security system that you create and configure as you wish. I found it very simple and surprisingly versatile, with a touch of that "just works" magic. Now, more than two years later, Abode has evolved.

There are two important things that have changed in the years since I first reviewed the Abode system. The first is a new central unit called iota, and the second is full compatibility with HomeKit. Abode is particularly proud of that last point, and should probably consider it the first DIY smart home security system approved for HomeKit.

The iota of Abode is an update on the central "Gateway" unit that controls all the various Abode hardware. The new hardware acts as a center but also includes a 1080p transmission camera and two-way audio. Like the other Abode camera units, it can be set to record when you see movement, when a door is opened or closed, or when an alarm is triggered for any reason.

Where I previously had the center of the gateway in an upstairs room, out of the way, I pasted the iota directly into my living room. It has built-in Wi-Fi and does not need an ethernet connection, so you can connect it to any place that has an electrical outlet nearby, which is a big step forward from the gateway you had been using.

It is relatively quick to access a live stream of the iota camera through the Abode mobile or web application. At 1080p, it is nice and sharp and automatically switches to an infrared mode at night, which is nice. You can also reduce the resolution if you wish, which could be a good idea if you are going to register a lot through a cellular connection. When the camera is activated by an alarm or other action, the camera captures clips of up to 30 seconds. The quality of the video will not win any awards, but it is more than adequate for this kind of thing.

The best thing about the Abode system is the freedom to customize it as you want. The CUE Automation feature (an in beta) is impressive in its flexibility. Think of it as IFTTT, but for security.

For example, I have it set up so that every time the back door is opened, an automatic notification is sent to my iPhone (and look). However, if the back or front door opens after a certain time at night, I receive an automatic notification, the alarm sounds silently once and a photo is captured. If the glass break sensor is activated, all cameras start recording, the alarm sounds and my phone lights up like a Christmas tree. That last automation was tested when my cat hit a glass of my coffee table at 2 a.m. One night and my house became Fort Knox for five minutes.

Abode offers personalized monitoring plans and subscriptions if you need them. You can opt for professional monitoring when you need it, contribute a few dollars and have the company monitor your system while on vacation. None of this is required, which is excellent if you prefer the approach to supervise yourself, like me, but it is available when you need it.

HomeKit functionality has just been added to Abode in the last week. All that was needed was a quick update on the Abode application and the iota appeared only in the Home application and all the window and door sensors appeared along with it. The whole process took about a minute.

Setting up automation within Apple's Home application is not so different from using Abode's own automation system, but it allows you to use Abode sensors as triggers for other HomeKit-compatible hardware such as lights and smart plugs. Being approved by HomeKit also means that you can use Siri to control various routines and arm or disarm the system.

Having HomeKit directly in the system is a great advantage if you are in the iOS ecosystem, and right now Abode (with the iota as the kernel) is the only construction security system on the fly that has the approval of HomeKit. Abode says he is still working to get HomeKit approval for the original Gateway hub, but since the iota starter kit costs only $ 29 more than the kit that includes the older Gateway hub ($ 329 vs. $ 299) it is difficult to imagine no going for the iota at this point.

At the end of the day, there is a ton of modular security systems for the smart home. You can get door sensors, alarms and cameras with a dozen different brands. The additional features are really what differentiates one system from another. Abode has been constantly improving its offer for years, updating the hardware and now gaining recognition from Apple and a welcome to the HomeKit family. That is a big problem and seems to indicate that Abode will be present for a while.