Scout Alarm Hands On Review

I first wrote about Scout over a year ago for inclusion in our self-monitored review list. I speculated what Scout might be like, I liked what I saw, and I placed my order. Then I waited and waited and waited and waited and 11 months later I finally have Scout in my arms.

Scout is the brainchild of a Chicago based team that launched their idea on Kickstarter in 2013. What really drew me into Scout was the inclusive of all the right home security components and also optional professional monitoring. It didn’t hurt that the wireless equipment had that cool and easy factor either so when Scout finally arrived in the mail I was beyond excited.

Scout Hardware

Scout Hub

I ordered Scout directly from Amazon. The Amazon package comes with the base station, a door panel, two door/window sensors, a motion sensor, a yard sign, window stickers, 2 RFID keychain fobs, and a RFID sticker. But you can also purchase Scout directly from their website. 

First Impressions Matter

Scout arrived beautifully packaged but however shiny and pretty the packaging it wasn’t enough to cover my disappoint in the equipment design. I think my disappointment is best shared visually. To put it into perspective I created a visual lineup. In the picture below you will see my old, trusty deck of cards, the Scout sensor, the same type of sensor by iSmartAlarm, and another by Frontpoint.

scout ismart frontpoint sensors side-by-side

As you can see, the Scout door/window sensor is double the size of the average sensor. It’s also rather thick. The door panel is huge measuring 4.5″ long, 3.5″ wide and 1″ deep placement is difficult on decorative doors. As much as I love home security, I prefer that it is discrete. However, first impressions are often superficial and what really matters is how it protects.

Installation

scout window sensorInstalling Scout was easy. Scout operates on a mesh network so they recommend that you install the hub first and then install the sensors. They recommend that you start with the sensor that you plan to place closest to the hub and work your way out. It’s very important that you only pull the tab to install a device when you are ready and that you do so one sensor at a time.

My first step in installing the Scout system was downloading the app. Once I personalized the app, I used the setup wizard which directed me to connect my hub. I plugged the hub directly into a Cat5 outlet. The hub has a handy light guide that flashes different colors throughout the process to help you troubleshoot any issues. For example, my hub flashed yellow which indicated a server connectivity issue. The issue was on my end so I fixed it and moved on.

Installation Scout

Though the hub needs to remain connected to power and to ethernet, it is equipped with battery backup with a 3G card. You can pay Scout a monthly fee to activate the 3G card for added protection in case the internet goes out. It would also help keep the connected sensors up and running. I pulled the power form the hub multiple times throughout the testing process and each time the hub remained connected and continued to monitor sensors even while running on battery.

The remaining Scout sensors are all wireless and attach to the wall using adhesive. I started with the wireless door panel which can be used to arm and disarm the system using the included key fobs or the “secret sticker”. I worked my way out from the door panel installing a window sensor, another door/window sensor, and finally the motion sensor. The final step for me was naming the key fobs and the secret sticker. I’m not really sure what to do with the secret sticker but it’s pretty cool. In theory you would put the sticker on anything to turn it into a device capable of arming and disarming your sensor at the door panel. I’m thinking backpacks, running gear, etc.

Once the devices were successfully installed I continued setting up the app. The app is surprisingly clean and simple for a new app. It comes with a default mode setup but you can customize several things including email, push, and text notifications. The level of customization within the app is an advantage over competitors and is another feature that sets Scout apart.

Finally, you can setup four basic modes. There is a home mode, sleep mode, away mode, and a vacation mode. You can customize each mode using a simple “if this then that” formula. For example, on vacation mode we created the following formula…”If the door sensor, motion sensor, entry sensor, or window sensor detect activity then sound the siren, send an email, a text, and a push notification”. Right now the process of swapping between modes is manual but Scout is working on IFTTT integration which would allow even greater automation. For example, you could have your system automatically turn to sleep mode every day at 11pm. When IFTTT integration is complete, the system will be even smarter and more secure.

Testing Scout

Scout Alarm AppAfter Scout was installed we put it through the ringer. As expected with a new product there were a few glitches but as we continued testing throughout the month we were impressed by the responsiveness of Scout. They personally contacted me a couple times and once a support rep emailed me to let me know my door panel was offline and that he was happy to help if needed. This type of proactive support was unexpected and appreciated. They also took user feedback and put action against the feedback with fixes and firmware updates.

One problem still not addressed is that there is a significant delay between breach and notification on both a smartphone and in-home. I could not find a way to override the delay but typically modes like “sleep” would notify you right away if the system is breached. This was not the case when we tested Scout in sleep mode. When we breached the system in sleep there was a soft beep. The system beeped 42 times before the siren turned on and before I was notified on my cell phone. Also, we had trouble keeping one of the door/window sensors connected.

During testing we found the the door panel frustrating due to the lack of a LCD screen so I was really delighted when Scout launched a firmware update a few days later to address this challenge. Post firmware upgrade, the door panel is much more useful. The door panel will blink purple when armed and blue when disarmed which takes the guesswork out of the process.

Beyond these minor issues we found that Scout is a solid system. I can only imagine what they will be able to achieve with just a little more time. Scout is simple and progressive home security. The option for professional monitoring, optional 3G backup, battery backup, potential IFTTT integration, and customizable app are big wins for Scout.

You can learn more about Scout on our original review or you can purchase a system here.