Canary is a home security startup that builds products to keep families safe and connected. Our first product was an all-in-one security product called Canary. Our goal is to make the world a safer place by giving people the information they need to make smart decisions when something is wrong, and help them feel connected when everything is right. I lead the product and design teams who developed, designed, and built Canary All-In-One and the supporting apps.
I joined Canary during the fall of 2013 soon after their record-breaking IndieGoGo campaign raised nearly 2M dollars and beat their goal by 1962%. At the time it was the highest grossing campaign ever on IGG and people in 78 countries placed pre-orders for the product. We clearly had a hungry market and a story that resonated but we didn’t yet have a functioning product. The hardware proof-of-concept worked most days but the software didn’t exist. And so, as a team of six—myself, two developers, and three founders—we got to work.
We started by understanding and then conquering the biggest pain points in traditional security: the panel on the wall that no one turns on, the 99.5% false alarm rate, and the binary alerts that provide little actionable info. I focused on the experience end-to-end—the unboxing, a seamless setup, and notification logic that worked in parallel with our users’ lifestyles. At the time, we were a small group and moved collectively from post-its to whiteboards to prototypes and back again.
Today, I am the VP of Product and Design. I oversee the product management, industrial design, and product design organizations. We are company that puts the people that use our products at the center of product development and design. We have designers on the executive team and owe much of our success to human-centered practices. My definition of design continues to expand as I’ve been able to help design hardware, software, services, the organizational structure, and in many ways, the company.
As for Canary All-In-One, we expanded product distribution to 15 countries within our first 15 months on the shelf. Growing internationally introduced many scaling challenges and quickly taught me a lot about localization. We’ve helped thousands of burglary victims and hundreds-of-thousands of families connect with each other. Canary is hands down the highlight of my career and I’m incredibly proud of our team.
Whether Canary is on the shelf at Best Buy or in a friend’s home, our hardware is someone’s first introduction to our brand and experience. The simplicity, beauty, and quality of our hardware is one of our top priorities. We’ve owned the industrial design and hardware development in-house from day one and we’ve even gone as far as to rewrite many of the off-the-shelf components at the lowest level possible. It’s our hardware that sets the stage for our app experience and, as the name suggests, Canary All-In-One is packed full of incredible hardware capabilities.
Canary has a motion-activated 1080p HD camera with a 147° wide-angle lens that provides crystal clear video. The automatic night vision is triggered by the ambient light sensor. A high-quality microphone and well-hidden 90+ decibel siren add audio capabilities. In addition to the video technology, the device monitors the health of your environment by tracking and alerting you about anomalies in your home’s temperature, air quality, and humidity. Making sense of all of the inputs was a challenge for the design team. We landed on a mental model that separated real-time information from historic data. This allowed users to get a holistic real-time glimpse of their home from the app immediately and also dive deeper into their history.
We originally designed Canary for renters and people living in smaller apartments, where one or two devices can effectively cover your home. It is an indoor device designed to fit into your environment and be placed on a table or shelf. After launch we quickly observed customers using Canary in more imaginative ways. They hacked stands, rigged it from the ceiling to get overhead views, and even wrapped it in plastic to put it outside. We nailed the simplicity, but our users craved more flexibility in our system. We answered their call by developing Canary Flex—the first and only indoor and outdoor, weatherproof, HD security camera that can be used wire-free or plugged in. Learn more about our Canary Flex.
We spent a lot of time constructing the right framework for our users, one that is grounded in the real world. While the rest of the industry was hyped on the smart home, automation, and the technology that powers it, we focused on the people and the unique environments they live in. Instead of asking our users to set a bunch of rules for the product to work, we focused on intelligent defaults that would provide security within a few minutes of unboxing.
When you open the Canary app you’re effectively given a window into your home. In an instant, you can see who is home or away, if the system is up and running, the latest environmental sensor readings, and a view of the latest activity. In addition, a large call-to-action encourages you to “Watch Live” and see what’s happening for yourself. See more of the Canary app here.
Canary has an optional monthly subscription fee. Although we’re committed to delivering a basic home security solution for free, we need to balance that with business models that drive monthly subscriptions and recurring revenue. We recently transitioned from a freemium model where paid users received additional video storage to a Membership model similar to Amazon Prime. Our membership plan still includes additional storage but we built a more desirable experience for our users when we added real-world benefits that took our value proposition offline.
We talked to our customers in some of their most vulnerable moments and learned that we should build processes on our end to help them through these moments—even when those processes are difficult to scale. Members can now call us directly if they need help after an incident. People often don’t know exactly what to do so we are there to walk them through the process of downloading their video, talking to their insurance company, and filling out a police report. They may have a specific request or just need someone to talk to, and we’re happy to help with both. We also reimburse insurance deductibles for qualifying events and extend the device warranty. These services are just the beginning.
Canary All-In-One won both a RedDot and an iF design award but my favorite press moments happened during unexpected appearances on TV. I loved seeing our products appear on Ellen and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
All work on the Canary All-In-One project done in collaboration with the full team at Canary.
VP of Product and Design
VP of Product and Design
VP of Product and Design
Crowd-funder. Writer. Self-Publisher.
Designer. Researcher. Learner.