Only a few years ago, the mention of surveillance cameras conjured up the idea of clunky metal cameras hanging from the sides of industrial buildings, feeding footage to a bank of CCTVs manned by guards. In the same token, home security meant paying one of the big companies excessive amounts of money each year to install an alarm system with door and window sensors, simply to trigger an alarm (along with a phone call to check if you were home) and dial 911. That was great for security systems of the past, but things are much different now.
Today, with advancements in technology and the Smart Home industry gaining massive adoption in homes around the world, sleek and subtle are more commonly associated terms when it comes to smart security equipment. Not only is the hardware far more advanced than ever before, but connected devices utilize an interface that gives users immediate control of their security from anywhere via app. Essentially what this does is crack the market wide open for consumers; relying on a third-party and police follow-up for home security is no longer the only option for security-conscious individuals, and in that spirit of DIY smart security the Maximus Smart Security Light was born.
With the boom in companies popping up there is no shortage of intuitive connected devices, however not many offer a single product that delivers a multi-point solution to smart home security like the Maximus can. The lineup from Maximus delivers a unique take on the smart security light, jumping far beyond the traditional motion sensor light we are all used to and offering actionable control when you need it most.
Is Smart Security Safe?
Nobody questions the need for home security, as I’m willing to bet everyone in America has a lock on their front door, and many have alarms to scare off burglars (or at least use the sign in the lawn to pretend they do). In fact, it’s easy to see that most people actually want to take steps to make their homes more secure as the global security solutions market is trending to reach $372.90 billion by 2022, and the global home security market is projected to reach $47.5 billion by 2022 as well, with American homes making up the bulk of the consumers. There is some debate within the greater tech community about the potential weaknesses when it comes to smart security devices, though.
While smart security is a pretty broad topic of discussion, and a lot of people have some trepidation when it comes to using connected devices with access to the internet to secure their homes. With the prevalence of hacking in our modern world (look up some stats on hacking), skeptics say that having a device which can be hacked to secure your home is counter-intuitive, while I reject that notion with the fact that the lockpick kit and crowbar are virtually the equivalents for non-connected security devices.
At the end of the day, most reputable smart security devices like Maximus offer bank-level encryption, and the ability to know in real-time what is happening at your home while you are anywhere in the world— greater control delivers greater security, and peace of mind.
The Subtle Smart Security Light
I had seen the Maximus Smart Security Light($179.99) from Kuna a few years back, when I landed one of their more basic Toucan Surveillance Kits for a hands-on review. At the time, the Maximus was pretty advanced; since they had something unique in the Smart Home market, I figured it was only a matter of time before someone knocked them off.
Fast forward to CES 2018, when Kuna was showing off their gadgets a booth with a replica garage and front door. To be honest, seeing their smart security lights in person was not initially all that earth-shattering (having just come from a booth with the Leaf LED panels that clipped together to form RGB psychedelic wall art, looking at fairly standard front porch lights didn’t blow me away).
Having experienced the Kuna app first hand though, I knew that there was definitely some concerted thought that went into their R&D, and they still were the only smart security light fixture on the market, so my curiosity got the better of me. Once I got the demo and saw how they worked up close, the sensible design that blended into any normal home facade became a draw for me.
The Maximus smart security lights come in three variations, the Craftsman, Contemporary and Coach. All light fixtures are constructed of cast aluminum and glass and while the contemporary and Craftsman use a frosted glass-style, the Coach uses clear glass with little air bubbles scattered throughout. Maximus constructed the security lights with a weatherproof design that can hold up against snow, rain, humidity within reason with an IP43 rating (spraying water up to 60° from vertical at 0.7 liters per minute) with a functioning temperature range -40°-131° F. At a quick glance, the lighting fixture just looks like any other, stylish but nothing out of the ordinary.
Putting the “Smart” in Smart Security
Upon closer inspection of the unit base, just peeking out below the bottom of the light covering is a little camera lens, mounted on a rotating dome which can record in 720p with a 116° diagonal FOV. The rotating dome has a locking plate, that can be loosened to manually adjust the camera angle up to 40° to get just the right positioning.
The camera pairs with the previously mentioned Kuna app, over a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi connection using 128-bit AES encryption and bank-level SSL encryption to securely transmit live-view video from the camera to any user who has the app login (so multiple family members can all have access to the functionality).
Beyond just streaming live coverage from what happens on the front porch as it happens, the Maximus can do so much more to actually provide proactive protection. The smart security light can be set to trigger when motion is detected, scheduled to go on and off at certain times, or even set to the rising and setting of the sun based on its location. One nifty part of the light scheduling is the true control you can have over it: motion timeouts, dawn or dusk offsets, light intensity or separate schedules for weekdays and weekends.
Personally, I have the light set to go on at dusk and off at dawn, which is exactly what I want. In fact, that was one of the key reasons why I decided to buy one of the Maximus smart security lights for my own home over a smart doorbell. I like the idea of the all-in-one security of video and lighting in one app, keeping things streamlined.
Another element to the Maximus smart porch light is the built-in two-way communications system, which allows for live conversations with anyone at the doorstep. Users can opt to go on mute and simply listen in on what is happening without alerting visitors to their presence, either with live video or in recordings that are captured when motion is detected.
Alternatively, users can opt to have an automated message play when motion is detected, to give visitors the heads-up that they are being watched and enforcing the more overt security functionality of the unit. I chose to have this setting turned off, but options are a simple chime, dogs barking, “Sorry, not interested”, “Can I help you?” or “I’m busy right now”.
Once the unit’s passive IR sensor detects a visitor, an alert is sent to the app, where users can jump into the app to view the live stream and use the two-way voice communication to speak with visitors.
That leads us to the Maximus’ greatest asset; motion-triggered video capture. Chances are, users (like myself) won’t necessarily be able to grab the phone quick enough to catch every alert when it happens, so the Kuna app stores video recordings of all the motion it detects. These are arranged in a nice little feed, which can be accessed from the push notification when users do get to their phones.
Recordings have ten seconds of pre-activity recording, so if there are other sights or sounds going on in the background the device can register those as well, and the thumbnail previews in the alerts feed show a quick glimpse of what triggered the motion. This feature is extremely useful, and when I get several alerts throughout the morning I can quickly check them all for normality and feel confident that nothing suspicious is going on.
Since the app receives alerts at every motion that is detected within the adjustable range, I find it very useful for keeping tabs on deliveries. I just recently had a rather expensive item delivered, and was happy to get an alert when the courier dropped it off. Subsequent alerts allowed me to check if someone had come to snatch my package off the front porch or it was just the typical foot traffic.
Smart Surveillance in Action
Installation of the Maximus was extremely simple from the previous decrepit porch light I had, with a simple flip of the circuit breaker, removal of the old unit, slapping a wire nut on three wires and two screws to hold the fixture in place.
The Kuna app setup was extremely simple as well, and pairing took only a few minutes to get everything ready to rock. To get the optimal balance of coverage without triggering too many false positive alerts, users will likely have to play with the sensitivity setting of the sensors and camera angle to ensure the best coverage.
Once I had everything set up, the light worked just as expected, following the dawn and dusk schedule that I assigned it. Since I have been using the Maximus over the last couple months, I am happy to see that the timing of the light does indeed shift with the changing sunrise and sunset times, which is nice.
While 1080p is the best resolution for most Smart Home security devices (aside from full-blown surveillance setups), I have found on numerous devices that 720p does just fine for recognizing faces, license plates, and any other activity that goes on you would want to capture. The night vision capability of the Maximus is quite substantial as well, and while the overall range is roughly ten feet the detail in the dark is still quite easy to see.
I tested out the voice communication one day when I received a motion alert while watching TV. Upon checking the video feed, I saw that a couple solicitors were perched on my doorstep, so I politely let them know that I was not interested. The reaction was not the smile and walk away that I thought, as the two gentlemen nearly jumped out of their skin hearing my voice come through the speaker (which I had set to 70% volume).
Surprisingly enough, I have had several encounters where people completely blow past the camera without realizing it is present, which I find a testament to the design quality and layout of the unit. There is an option to have a status LED illuminated on the bottom of the unit which can draw more attention at night, however with this on during the day I still found most people did not take notice of the camera.
One feature of the app that is also nice (especially for my wife when I am away) is the in-app emergency function. Users can dial 911 or trigger a 100dB alarm right from the video feed, which is great because it not only gives a sense of security for retroactive threats but helps to ward off current ones.
Recordings are kept for two hours to look back on, with a $5/month subscription to gain access to 30-day footage storage. While this is inconvenient at times— especially if you don’t get to check the alert before the time runs out and it leads to an empty feed— I can understand how that extra footage bogs down the cloud storage.
Thinking about future connections I might make to pair the Maximus smart security light with other devices in my home, I am intrigued by the idea of using a separate RGB smart bulb inside the house, or on the back patio that would be able to change colors when motion is detected via pairing with IFTTT. This would be really great for when I’m out grilling in the back or mowing the lawn, away from my phone and the doorbell.
Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant Run the Smart Home
It wasn’t long ago that Amazon Echo and Google Home-integrated products were more of a novelty, but now almost every smart device on the market has compatibility with at least one of them. As of September 2018 Alexa pairs with 20,000 devices, and Google Assistant is somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000— clearly, they are here to stay. The Maximus smart security light isn’t left off this list, and currently pairs with Alexa for use (no word yet on Google Assistant in future updates, but I expect it would).
The Future of Smart Home with AI
The Maximus offers a paid upgrade to their service, which gives access to not only enhanced recording storage but also a pilot of their advanced interface with Kuna AI. This is designed to work beyond the normal detection of objects and uses what they call “smart detection” to tell if it is a person or car that is being seen and how many are present, based on a neural network that gets smarter over time and based off the human visual cortex.
While the specifics about how the neural network actually comes together, the idea is that the device will have the autonomy to learn what is important motion and what is not, making for a more precise surveillance solution.
Some of the areas where the Kuna AI is exploring are the ability to determine which areas of the overall video FOV need to be covered with motion detection, and which ones do not (ie. if a busy street has cars passing, you don’t want it to trip all the time, but on a walkway to the door you would). Users can also set different areas of interest for people and for cars within the same field of view— something with a front walkway that looks out onto the street might not need to trigger motion detection for cars, but for people walking up to the door it does.
While this is pretty impressive, the roadmap for the Kuna AI is even brighter, as they plan to roll out the ability for the camera to have facial recognition technology and recognize delivery people or potential burglars based off their actions, appearance, and behavior. This bleeding edge of AI smart surveillance is incredibly exciting, and while that all relies on a sound interface the stepping stones are in place to implement this level of control in average homes.
Personally, I’d love to see a future model come with a remotely-controllable camera, so the angle adjustment could be done via app. This would take the Maximus to the next generation of smart security, and really be useful for detecting potential threats from a wider range.
The Maximus Smart Security Light – A Useful Solution
Not only does this crafty device aesthetically blend into the normal home setting without drawing too much attention, it offers a unique smart lighting and surveillance combination for outdoor use. Smart outdoor lighting (and really smart outdoor tech in general) is rapidly emerging as the “next frontier of connected devices”, and what Maximus has done here really sets the stage for a new realm of Smart Home devices.
When it comes to targeting solutions for smart security, it isn’t about how many devices you have in the home that can do individual tasks that makes it smart, it is about selecting the right devices that can multitask and solve several problems. The Maximus Smart Security Light is one of the select that can do the later and offer a comprehensive solution.
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Note, all prices and products are accurate at the time of article publication, although some may have changed or are no longer available.