Startup Review: Sentri

By Brian Rhodes, Published Aug 26, 2014, 12:00am EDT

This security startup smashed through their goal in 48 hours and have raised nearly $400,000 total. 

Inside, we analyze their competitive positioning and potential.

Product Details

Unlike typical security systems comprised of many pieces (ie: door contacts, cameras, motion detectors) Sentri is a single 9"x9"x2" unit that includes multiple sensors. 

While a single Sentri includes a WiFi connected camera, mic, speaker, temperature sensor, and motion detector in a keypad-like control box, the main way a user controls the unit is via a smartphone app. 

  • Z-Wave Hub: Sentri will serve as the main access point for devices sharing the same ~900 MHz wireless frequency used for home automation. Potential devices able to connect to Sentri include lights, power outlets, and door locks. The same concept is used by mainstream 'smart' alarm systems like Tuxedo Touch.
  • Algorithm Based: The unit claims it "is designed to learn your personal habits and preferences to alert you of the events that matter most to you, and minimize the challenges of false alarms that exist in traditional security systems."  Essentially the unit logs [link no longer available] when certain devices are typically on, when movement is present, and when the system is normally armed and then generates an exception alert when events occur outside 'normal' condition. 
  • Wall Powered Only: Unlike most mainstream offerings, Sentri entirely depends on mains power and has no battery backup. The company plans to address the issue if a stretch fundraising goal of 
  • Price: The company has priced Sentri at $250 each, with a modest discount of $10 off each panel when purchased in multiples. This places it moderately more expensive than other crowd funded systems like Canary (at $200 each) or Scout (at ~$170 - $200 [link no longer available] each). 

Multiples Needed

The biggest weakness of Sentri is the sheer number of units needed to cover several rooms. The only users adequately monitored by a single unit are urban smart apartment dwellers or those worried about monitoring a single door.

For many, one Sentri will be needed to cover each door and large room in the house, meaning than the typical house will need at least two or three units to monitor important areas. This will drive total cost to $750 or more for many systems, and occupy wall outlets in each room. 

All-in-One Drawback

While many DIY-ers are attracted to the simple installation of a single wall mounted unit, it sacrifices the granularity of monitoring a broad number of points like traditional contacts, glass breaks, and motion sensor based systems offer. While a Sentri unit may monitor the area immediately within sight of the unit, even a small apartment could have blind spots or leave entry points like windows uncovered.

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Self-Monitoring Weakness or Strength?

Another point of debate with Sentri is that because it cannot connect with a central monitoring station, it relies on self-monitoring by users to respond to alarms. Instead of automatically calling Police when alarming, the Sentry notifies users through pushed notifications via the main app.

Several old-guard types in the alarm industry have claimed that self-monitoring is risky and potentially ineffective if users do not respond to alerts or inadvertently ignore alarm conditions, resulting in losses, damage, or even violent crime.

However, the dissatisfaction with lengthy, costly alarm monitoring is high and a motivation to find solutions that avoid the cost altogether. Whatever the risk of 'self-monitoring', users may find the zero-dollar monthly self-monitoring cost of Sentri appealing compared to traditional alternative that may cost ~$30 or more.

Strong Management & Microsoft Backing

One intangible advantage Sentri may have other similar options is an experienced management team [link no longer available] with a track record of bringing electronic devices to market. With projects ranging from laptop, tablet, and smartphone hardware design, to software project management experience on a large scale, Sentri may avoid the design flaw, pitfalls, and missed shipping deadlines common to other startups.

It is also clear that deep-pocketed investors think Sentri has a winning idea, with at least $120,000 coming from backers pledging $10,000 or more.

Big name support includes Microsoft's start-up incubator Microsoft Ventures [link no longer available], who announced Sentri as one of ten developments it is accelerating in Redmond in Fall 2014.

Vote - Are You Interested?

1 report cite this report:

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