Abode Security System Review
Value for Money9.5/10
Smart Home Features10.0/10
What we like (Pros)
- Stable. I can certainly say that after 3 years. It just works and works.
- Looks good in the house, most anywhere you put it
- DIY - Easy to install
- Battery backup and cellular back up are smart options
- ZWave Plus / Zigbee / abodeRF / WiFI / Cellular - connectivity and then some more!
What we like less (Cons)
- None at all, especially at this price.
This abode security system review has been a long time in the making. I’ve owned the first generation abode security and smart home automation system for over 3 years, this means everything I write comes from extensive experience with the system.
Short introduction, and summary
The shortest summary I can give without you having to read all of this is this.
I would buy this gateway again if I had to buy another security gateway.
All the details I go in to here will certainly help you decide if it’s right for you. If I don’t cover something then comment at the bottom and I’ll be happy to help with any questions you have.
- Short introduction, and summary
- Current available abode security system models
- Major milestones for abode security system
- A short history of abode security 1st generation (with a happy ending)
- Promises were delivered on – mostly.
- Improvements were made
- The GOOD news is it all came with Gen 2 and iota!
- abode security system review – differences in Gen 1 vs Gen 2 vs iota
- abode Hardware – Hubs
- Monitoring and Self-monitoring (No Contract)
- abode Battery Backup
- abodeRF / Zigbee / Z-Wave (Z-Wave Plus) / WiFi
- abode Security encryption
- abode Mobile app and Web app
- abode security Starter Kit
- Cue Automation engine
- abode connected hardware device options
- Installation of abode
- Flat batteries?
- abode’s integration with Smart Assistants – Google Assistant / Alexa / HomeKit
- Conclusion – abode security system review wrap up
If you’re looking at buying the abode security system Gen 2 or abode iota, this review is still highly relevant as the core integrations, cue automation system and operating methods are identical.
I’ll go into detail on that too.
Current available abode security system models
It seems a good place to start to outline the current starter kits and units available from abode. For a long time, there was only the Generation 1 system. This came in a starter kit and the hardware included hasn’t really changed in Generation 2, except it’s had some updates like Z-Wave Plus.
abode Security System – iota
- Built-in camera
- Z-Wave Plus
abode Security System – Gen 2
- Z-Wave Plus
- 4g/LTE Cellular
abode Security System – Gen 1
- 3g Cellular
I’ll go into more detail about the differences between the abode systems in a table next in the review, but now you at least understand the different model’s abode offer.
The Gen 1 gateway is no longer for sale as it has been replaced by the Gen 2 gateway.
The iota is an all in one system that was released at the same time as the Gen 2 gateway.
Major milestones for abode security system
abode Gen 1 Launched on Kickstarter
470 backers pledged $152,604 to help bring this smart home security device to life.
abode launches CUE
abode always had automation but CUE was very advanced automation. Like IFTTT, but on steroids.
iota all-in-one System Launches
abode launches it’s all-in-one security system with built in HD camera.
abode launches Gen 2 Gateway Hub
Second gateway launches with updates all round.
A short history of abode security 1st generation (with a happy ending)
To do an abode security system review and not cover off some of my history with the unit seems shortsighted. The generation 1 abode hub had a good long run.
It’s fair to say the bulk of the current abode community bought in early after abode launched the 1st gen on Kickstarter. When we did we all expected (were told there would be) a long list of features and hardware integrations to follow it’s release in 2015/16
Promises were delivered on – mostly.
I believe most of those promises did eventually come through, despite being a little late, and a small handful didn’t make it at all. It’s what to expect from a start-up and to be honest, some start ups would not have delivered at all so I’m grateful to the abode team for putting in so much effort. I’m sure there were a lot of late nights.
Small confession of my own, I didn’t realise for the first 2 years that it didn’t even have Z-Wave Plus which was disappointing but only due to my lack of knowledge, not their lack of information.
Z-Wave and Z-Wave Plus are not the easiest to understand and that’s a Z-Wave complaint.
Improvements were made
Things like the advanced automation engine (called CUE) was added – a big improvement. Apple HomeKit integration didn’t arrive, but it didn’t arrive for most other hardware developers who were saying the same thing (like garage door companies, smart locks, smart home devices, thermostats and more).
So again, we (the abode community) were all hoping for more hardware integrations but some of those didn’t arrive for the Gen 1 hub.
The GOOD news is it all came with Gen 2 and iota!
Generation 2 and iota delivered all the things people were asking for. Z-Wave Plus and a huge increase in the number of integrated devices.
It’s obvious from the release of Gen 2 and iota that abode was on the right path. Of course, Gen 1 owners felt like they had missed out a bit but hey, we had a good 3-year run before an upgrade came AND the software etc is the same. So it makes sense that hardware will update over time.
Sadly, Apple HomeKit is still not integrated despite being earmarked for a while. I understand from industry insiders that Apple is making changes to the HomeKit integration process which should see a lot more integrations going online for all companies over the next year.
It’s important to note the software on the web and mobile apps for the iota, Gen1 and Gen 2 are the same.Make Life Click
But I digress…back to the review!
abode security system review – differences in Gen 1 vs Gen 2 vs iota
Now that we’ve covered some of the history and what models are available it’s probably worth going through the difference between the iota, 1st generation and 2nd generation models.
I believe this will be easiest doing this as a table.
|Model||abode hub Gen 1||abode hub Gen 2||abode iota|
|Smart Home Automation Hub||✓||✓||✓|
|Zigbee||✓||✓ (Pro)||✓ (Pro)|
|Cellular Backup||3G||4G / LTE||4G / LTE|
|Built-in HD Camera||✓|
|Built-in Motion Sensor||✓|
|Built-in Battery Backup||~5 Hours||~5 Hours||~6 Hours|
|Built-in Temp/Light Sensor||✓|
|Built-in 2-way audio||✓|
|Built-in alarm siren||✓ (93db)||✓ (93db)||✓ (93db)|
|Maximum connected devices||160||160||160|
abode Hardware – Hubs
Now we’ve highlighted the differences with the abode gateway hubs you can see if you have a generation 1 hub the only reason you would really want to update to the Generation 2 hub is if Z-Wave Plus and 4G cellular are important to you. Personally I’m considering it for the added range of Z-Wave Plus.
Gen2 hub – Stand alone
The gen 1 and gen 2 hubs are stand-alone units. The alarm siren, sim card slot, battery back-up and ethernet are built-in but all other hardware is an add on.
iota – All-in-one
The iota is more of an all-in-one system with a built-in camera (HD 1080p), SD slot for offline camera footage storage, 2 way audio (so you can talk back and forth), temperature sensor, light (lux) sensor, motion sensor (the PIR sensor offers a 110-degree view) and a WiFi connection option are all built-in.
This makes the iota a perfect unit to put in your entranceway, kitchen etc. Anywhere it makes sense to have a camera pointing.
The Gen 2 unit (from here on I’ll stop referring to the Gen 1 unit because you can’t buy it anymore anyway) can do all the iota can but you need to buy the extra units to do so.
Monitoring and Self-monitoring (No Contract)
The reason I chose abode, and hence why I am doing an abode security system review, is because it could protect my home, be a smart home hub and not-require any wiring.
The thing that that also sold me on the system was that I didn’t need to pay for back-to-base monitoring unless I wanted too. And if I did want to, I could do it on an as-needed basis. If I was going on holiday I could get professional monitoring but that didn’t require a long term commitment.
Abode plans on offer
There are three options for plans: Free, Connect and Secure.
- Basic is, basic. Just self-monitoring. But you get notifications if your alarm goes off.
- Connect is self-monitoring but with cellular backups – if your internet goes down your cellular connection kicks in to ensure you can still connect to your hub and be notified of anything going off/wrong etc.
- Secure is professional monitoring. That means the dudes in fancy cars with lights flashing can come to your house. There is a full protocol set up for this – an order of emergency contacts, escalations etc.
I’ve only used Free. I live in a safe place so it’s nice to have the option for professional but I don’t feel I need it.
The starter kit already ships with a SIM card in it, ready to be enabled. If you select a Connect or Secure plan it will enable the SIM card and connect to the network automatically.
abode Battery Backup
Another one of the features that appealed to me, and impressed me, was the built-in battery. It charges up when you first plug in the unit and flick the switch on the back. That also means it recharges if it needs to kick in at any point. I’ve had to use this in power cuts from time to time and it’s nice to know it’s there.
Not a major deal but probably a core and important part of a smart home security system.
abodeRF / Zigbee / Z-Wave (Z-Wave Plus) / WiFi
I’m still going on the ‘why I chose this system list’, but there were so many reasons I chose it and connectivity was one of them.
abode has its own proprietary RF (radio frequency) (operates on 433mHz ). Called abodeRF it connects to most of the abode specific hardware you purchase. Door sensors, motion sensors etc.
You might think the option to have 160 devices is more than you will ever need but, when you start lining up all the opportunities you have to integrate Z-Wave Plus devices you might be surprised how fast you start using up the number. Locks, Cameras, Sensors, Fire & Smoke units etc.
Like Z-Wave Plus, Zigbee offers a large number of devices that can be integrated. I have a Zigbee Yale smart lock integrated.
abode does let you connect other devices via IFTTT. I tried using an aeotec Z-Wave garage door opener but the unit was faulty so I changed to the tailwind garage door opener (read my tailwind garage door review here). This unit works with smart devices like google and Alexa but doesn’t have Zigbee or Z-Wave Plus. It connects using IFTTT which is fine. I can still do things like:
- “When abode alarm is set to Away, Close garage door” or
- “When abode alarm is set to Home, close garage door” – in case I left it open at night
- or “When abode alarm is set to stand-by open garage door” – when I come home in the car
There are a lot of options for integration with IFTTT services.
abode Security encryption
So…here comes to another reason why I chose abode. Security. I bought it around the time there was a lot of bad press about WiFi-connected smart devices getting hacked. With abode I knew with abodeRF, Zigbee and Z-Wave I had a closed system between devices which gave me a lot more confidence.
Abode uses AES256 Bit Encryption – like banks and all those other secure things. When I thought to do an abode security system review it was important to highlight this as most other systems use Bluetooth or WiFi alone.
abode Mobile app and Web app
I have the android app installed on my Tablet, the iOS app installed on my iPhone and can also access what I need through the web app via a browser.
There was an update last year that also meant you can add new hardware devices to the system via the iOS app.
On the app you can:
- You can set up and manage CUE automations
- View streaming camera(s)
- Trigger camera recordings and still camera photos from motion camera
- View status of all devices – open/closed, on/off
- Turn switches and lights on and off
- Open and close connected garage doors
- Set alarm mode to away, home, standby
- Set up ‘quick actions’ (grouped actions) to quickly enable/disable
- Add and remove devices from the gateway
- Get notifications on events you want notifications on e.g. ‘Front Door was just unlocked’ or ‘Bedroom heater switch has been turned on’ or, heaven forbid, ‘Alarm has been triggered’
Screenshots for the mobile app
Here are a few screenshots of the abode iOS app
abode security Starter Kit
The abode starter kit is the perfect place to start regardless of whether you are getting iota or Gen 2. I started with the starter kit and added a few extras like the keypad, key fobs and some extra window/door sensors.
The abode start kit (Gen 2) includes:
- 1 x Abode Smart Home Security Hub
- 1 x key fob for enabling and disabling
- 1 x motion sensor
- 1 x door/window sensor.
Later on, I added a motion sensor and a temp/humidity/light sensor.
Cue Automation engine
abode Cue automations are really quite amazing. So much so that I’ll put them in a different post. But just you have an idea here is the short download. Essentially it’s an “IF THIS happens then DO THIS’ but it’s so much more because you can do ‘IF THIS happens then DO THIS BUT ONLY if this is also TRUE’.
CUE Automation examples
- ‘IF it’s sunset THEN turn on the Lounge Light but ONLY if alarm mode is set to Standby’ – this means only turn the light on at sunset if I am home.
- ‘IF it’s 6 am THEN change alarm mode to Standby but ONLY if alarm mode is set to home’ – I know I will probably forget to turn off the alarm in the morning so I have it disable automatically but only if I am home, and the alarm is set to home. If the alarm was in the AWAY mode it would mean I am probably on holiday or away for the night so it then it leaves the alarm on. Being able to clarify in CUE that only disables in the mornings if I am home is great.
- ‘IF it’s 10 pm THEN close the garage door but ONLY if the Garage door is open.’ – this one is obvious, I don’t use it but if you have an abode compatible garage door then it’s perfect.
- ‘IF the abode humidity sensor in the Piano room is above XX THEN turn on the dehumidifier switch but ONLY if it’s between 9am and 8pm’ – don’t want it on at night as it’s noisy
I think you get the picture.
You can also do IF this AND this THEN do this AND this AND this but ONLY if this is true. Essentially you can stack each step with additional triggers and actions.
We (the abode community, mostly on Reddit) waited for this forever but when it came it was worth the wait. I know Samsung SmartThings has a similar engine but it doesn’t have all the other bits abode offers.
The secret joy of using abode Motion Sensors
I wanted to pull motion sensors out into their own section for this abode security system review as they are probably the key element in a truly automated smart home. The ability to have actions happen based on movement & motion is IMO the most fun part. Here are some examples I am using with just one abode motion sensor (also doubles as a light sensor BTW)
- ‘IF motion is detected THEN turn on the lounge light AND set it to 40% AND set it to warm white (LIFX Bulb) but ONLY if it’s between 10 pm and 5 am at night.’ – this means if I get up in the night to get water, or Tylenol from the kitchen I don’t have to turn any lights on. I just walk into the kitchen and it turns on enough for me to see what I am going but without waking me up too much.
So many options with this one! You could put motion sensors all through the house to turn on lights, switches and more when it detects you’re there. Some people have used them outside under the eves of their houses but they are not really rated for such use.
abode connected hardware device options
With the abode and the abodeRF radio frequency, plus the benefit of having Zigbee and Z-Wave Plus built-in, it means you have a huge list of hardware devices to choose from that will work with abode. Some officially and some unofficially. I am not going to list them all here because it would be very long.
The official Gen 2 & iota abode device compatibility list is here PLUS you also have the option of using IFTTT, as I have with my tailwind garage door opener.
The unofficial abode devices list is sometimes more about trial and error. In theory, most Zigbee and Z-Wave Plus devices should work (don’t blame me if you buy something and it doesn’t though).
There is an unofficial abode Reddit channel that might help – in fact, the Reddit abode channel is a great community to join if you are on Reddit. https://www.reddit.com/r/Abode/
My abode hardware integrations
Here is my current hardware list for abode if you have specific questions, ask them in the comments section below.
- Abode Hub
- 7 x Door sensors
- 1 x Motion (Occupancy) / Light / Temperature Sensor
- 1 x Humidity / Light / Temperature Sensor
- 1 x Alarm Motion sensor with camera
- 1 x abode Streaming Camera
- 1 x abode Keypad
- 2 x abode Key Fobs
Additional hardware integrated with my abode includes:
- Yale smart lock
- Tailwind garage door opener (via IFTTT) (see my full of Tailwind Garage Door Review here)
- Google Home
- Amazon Alexa
- 2 x LIFX A19 Blubs (see my full of LIFX smart bulbs review here)
- 2 x Philips Hue Bulbs (no hub needed for abode)
- 3 x aeotec Z-Wave Plus smart switches (see my full review of aeotec Smart Switch 6 here)
- 1 x generic Z-Wave switch I managed to find online somewhere cheap
Installation of abode
The abode website will tell you most people have the system installed and running in about 30 minutes. I’d agree with that for the starter kit, especially if you have already decided what is going to go where.
I have installed all the devices around the house using the double-sided command strip stuff. This means I have not had to screw holes in anywhere on the house. Of course, that is an option with most of the kit but even as a house owner I hate making holes in things.
Once the heat and temperature of the house caused a door sensor to fall off (3m tape lost its stick) and it set the alarm off but no big deal, and clearly user error on my part.
You might be asking yourself, “Yes, I like the sound of abode but I don’t trust something with batteries”. I get it, me too. But here is the thing.
I have had the system set up for over 3 years and have only changed the batteries on the motion camera once (it uses a flash so it uses more batteries as I have set up to take a photo every time the alarm arms or disarms – so I could save batteries if I wanted too). The other devices are still going strong on their original batteries.
If a battery is running low the abode system will let you know with a message, email and the app will show it.
abode’s integration with Smart Assistants – Google Assistant / Alexa / HomeKit
As mentioned, the Apple HomeKit & abode integration is still coming, but I do believe it will be soon. I’ll update this post when it does.
For Google Assistant there was an update recently that gives full integration. It’s awesome because you can ask about alarm status, if the doors are open, if windows are ajar, to close the garage door, to lock another door, to turn a switch on and off.
The Google Assistant & abode integration just feels native. It’s the best integration of a third-party service with Google that I have experienced. So, that’s great.
The Amazon Alexa & abode integration is also good. Not as fluent as the Google Assistant integration but you can still arm the system, check if the garage door is open, unlock locks and turn on switches as you like.
It is the home automation skills of abode that shine with the integration of a smart assistant. It’s nice to not only set up CUE automations with abode but to also be able to trigger things with a voice assistant is great.
I have some other basic abode security FAQ in this post.
Conclusion – abode security system review wrap up
Hopefully, in this abode security system review, I’ve covered all the major parts of the abode security system and why I am still so happy with it over 3 years later. Security & Smart Home Automation in one easy to use and easy to install system.
If you wanted a TL;DR version it would be this:
I have owned abode for over 3 years and use it both as a smart home automation system and a home security system. It’s been a solid performer for this entire time. My smart home automation is controlled by it with great ease.
A great purchase decision.Mark – Make Life Click
The longer version would include a few more highlights like the fact that it’s secure, integrates with a huge range of devices, offers optional professional monitoring and just goes and goes and goes.
The extra investment in abode is starting to show with the recent releases so I look forward to what is coming next. I might even upgrade myself to the Gen 2 or iota.