It’s clear early on that YI Technology’s Kami Smart Security system isn’t trying to compete with more established DIY home security systems like SimpliSafe, Ring Alarm, and Google Nest Secure.† Instead, its main competitor is Wyze Sense, a set of sensors that you can use with Wyze security cameras.
Kami’s equipment is affordable and has a great selection of security cameras, but it lacks basic smart home support and doesn’t sell additional sensors outside its starter kit. It also doesn’t match the backup monitoring capabilities of the best DIY security systems.
Check out our in-depth review below to learn how affordability can both help and hurt a security system.
Easy to install
Ideal for small homes
Great selection of security cameras
No easy way to buy extra sensors
Limited sensor selection
No smart home compatibility
No battery or cellular backup
For this review, we searched through Kami’s tech specs, YI’s community support forum, customer reviews, and information about its emergency service partner: Noonlight.
Once we had enough information, we compared Kami with other DIY security systems we’ve used to see where it fits among the competition. We leveraged our home security expertise to give Kami a score reflecting its place in the industry. See our full methodology to learn more about our research, testing, and ranking practices.
The free plan forces a mandatory cooldown between mobile app alerts. This means you won't get a new notification for 3–8 minutes after an event depending on your settings. That's a long wait on a security system, but you can monitor for problems by viewing a live security cam feed after a notification.
Kami’s plans place a big emphasis on cloud video storage. This means the security system doesn’t benefit from a paid subscription unless you shell out for an additional Kami camera or pay the highest price to access its emergency service. The $19 monthly price is too high if you don’t have cameras, so you’re better off with a competitor like Ring Alarm or SimpliSafe.
But we had a hard time with the cloud video storage options in the app because the prices don’t match the ones on YI’s website. Whether this inconsistency is intentional, YI is charging more for mobile app users to sign up in the app than folks who visit the company’s online store.
There are also fewer plan options in the app. Some users might never know that there were $5 and $19 monthly plans if the app was their only interaction with this company.
24/7 Emergency Response: Available separate from plans
Only after we explored the Kami app did we discover that you can sign up for the company's 24/7 Emergency Response feature without a storage plan ($5.99 monthly or $39.99 annually), something that isn't clear on any of YI's websites. We appreciate that you can buy this service separately from YI's 30-day cloud storage to combine it with the 7- or 15-day plans, but it doesn't save you much.
24/7 Emergency Response
Kami uses E911 services from a company called Noonlight to help you contact the police when an alarm goes off. You can use Noonlight like a text messaging app to relay information without calling 911 directly. It also sends emergency responders details like location to speed up their arrival.
This is surprisingly similar to regular home security monitoring at first glance but lacks the cellular and battery backups that make traditional services worthwhile. This means you’re out of luck if your power or internet goes out.
Continuous video recording plans
While most Kami plans record short clips based on motion activation in a camera, the company also sells video storage that records 24/7. Continuous storage costs about $8 a month per camera, making it slightly more expensive than the Entry plan but cheaper than the Standard plan.
We don’t think continuous storage is a good value, but it’s a nice alternative that doesn’t leave you wondering what happened before and after a video clip.
Continuous recording on battery-powered cameras
Kami's outdoor battery-powered security cameras don't support continuous recording since it drains the battery very quickly. The indoor Kami Wire-Free Camera can connect to a power cable to remove the restriction.
What’s in the box
Kami Smart Security Base Station
Kami Motion Sensor
Kami Entry Sensor (3)
Aside from its low equipment starter kit cost, Kami isn’t heavy on features that distinguish it from other DIY security systems. Here are a few things (good and bad) we found during our research.
Security camera selection
The Kami Home mobile app is compatible with every home security camera that YI makes (all YI and Kami models). That’s 15 different cameras falling in these categories:
Fixed-view indoor security cameras
Pan-and-tilt indoor cameras
Outdoor security cameras
While not all of the cameras are available (some are older models while others aren’t for sale yet), we’re still impressed at the wide selection.
Even more impressive is that most YI cameras cost less than $100, but this does mean the cameras don’t quite match the quality of mainstream brands like Arlo, Google Nest, and Ring. YI lacks the advanced AI software that makes these brands so good.
In our YI Home Camera 3 review, we also discovered that the cameras sometimes have unstable Wi-Fi connections, leading to poor quality with streaming live video. But as budget security cameras go, YI is one of the better options alongside our favorite cheap camera brand: Wyze.
Smart home compatibility for cameras
YI and Kami security cameras work with two major smart home platforms: Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Unfortunately, this compatibility doesn't extend to the Kami security system.
Smartphone app and cloud services
At first glance, the Kami Home app isn’t too complicated for setting up and controlling cameras. You can customize alerts, review cloud footage, and arm your system without much trouble.
Kami’s equipment is its biggest weakness for two reasons: equipment selection and availability. The sensor selection is as basic as it gets in home security with a base station, a motion sensor, and an entry sensor that monitors doors and windows.
In contrast, most brands have plenty more sensors for detecting problems at home, like smoke detectors, flood sensors, and glass break sensors.
We like that the base station has a siren that triggers during an alarm event, which can help scare off uninvited guests during a break-in.
The other issue is availability. Aside from Kami’s cameras, which are easy to buy separately, the company doesn’t sell extra sensors outside its starter kit. So if you want more than the four sensors that come in the package, you’ll need to buy an additional kit with a base station you’ll never use.
One base station supports unlimited sensors and up to four Kami Wire-Free cameras.
Base station for cameras
One of Kami's cameras, the Kami Wire-Free Camera, requires the same base station as the sensors to work properly. Unfortunately, each Kami Wire-Free camera comes with a base station, which adds even more potential for unused equipment.
This brand is still quite new, so it’s possible that its equipment selection will improve over time. But it’s off to a rough start by not providing a way for folks to expand their systems easily.
The Kami app guides you through the installation process with some helpful video tutorials that show every step of the process. Each device comes with a QR code that makes it easy to add to your system using the Kami Home app. Thankfully, the process for installing is so simple that the videos are enough, because there isn’t much information beyond these videos.
It takes around 10–15 minutes to set up the base station, connect the sensors, and place equipment. Each Kami sensor comes with an adhesive backing that makes them easy to place on a wall, door frame, or window frame. You can also use screws to mount the sensors for easier removal (sensor adhesive can be hard to remove). According to YI, the batteries in the detectors will last up to a year.
Installing the base station
The base station doesn't have built-in Wi-Fi. You need to install it near your router so the required Ethernet cable can connect to a port on the back of the router. It's probably a good idea to make sure you have a spare Ethernet port on your router before buying a Kami Smart Security system.
YI’s customer service seems to be all over the place. When we looked at the company’s support website, we found some decent information about Kami Smart Security, though it was incomplete.
For example, we couldn’t find any information about smart home compatibility or the 24/7 Emergency Response service on the support website. After some digging, we found this information in the YI Community Hub, a forum for customers to ask questions.
The community forum is more helpful than the support page, but it’s also incomplete. This disorganization makes for frustrating troubleshooting unless you have a razor-sharp focus to know what you’re looking for. We can only imagine how that affects regular customers wanting help if seasoned security experts such as ourselves have trouble finding solutions.
YI’s equipment comes with a one-year warranty, which is pretty standard among technology companies. If you need help with your devices, we suggest posting in the community forum or sending an email to customer support. The company’s phone support is temporarily unavailable due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
SimpliSafe, Ring, and Nest all have battery and cellular backups that work when the power and internet go out, making them better systems for 24/7 monitoring. They also have more sophisticated monitoring than the Noonlight plan offered by Kami, especially for detecting environmental hazards like smoke and carbon monoxide.
While Kami has more affordable equipment than most other DIY security systems, Wyze Sense edges it out with a cheaper starter kit and the option to buy additional sensors on Wyze’s website for less than $10 per sensor.
The Wyze Sense starter kit also includes a security camera that doubles as the base station when connected to the Wyze Sensor Bridge. There’s no professional monitoring for Wyze Sense, but the company is testing a Noonlight panic button in its app for free (the same provider that Kami uses).
Wyze doesn’t require a subscription to store 12-second video clips (like Kami’s 6-second clips). But it offers a service similar to Kami’s cloud storage for $1.49 a month per camera to remove the time limit on motion recordings. Wyze keeps videos for up to 14 days—twice as long as Kami’s Free and Entry plans.
Wyze beats Kami on smart home selection
Wyze also sells a couple of smart home devices that can work as part of its security system: a smart plug and a smart bulb. You can buy these separately or as part of the Wyze Smart Home Starter Pack.
As for the quality of the monitoring, Ring Alarm has the edge at $10 a month. Ring’s monitoring service also includes hefty 60-day video storage for unlimited cameras and an extended warranty to help it outperform other DIY systems, making it the best deal overall.
Ring has excellent security cameras and its video doorbells are the best value around.
SimpliSafe has affordable monitoring that costs around $15 a month, but this basic monitoring doesn’t include mobile app controls like the other brands we list above. For SimpliSafe’s mobile app, you need to subscribe to the company’s $25 monthly plan, which is more expensive than we prefer.
Google Nest Secure
Google Nest Secure has the most expensive equipment but is also the only brand here with dual-purpose equipment. Its base station doubles as a keypad while its entry sensors double as motion sensors.
Nest’s professional monitoring from Brinks is close in price to Kami’s most expensive plan but doesn’t include video storage and requires a three-year contract for the $19 monthly plan. You can go contract free with Nest, but it costs $29 a month. Nest also has some of the best security cameras and smart home devices (like its legendary Nest Learning Thermostat).
Kami Smart Security is up against some fierce competition and manages to stand out with affordable equipment and a massive selection of security cameras. But it isn’t for folks that want an expandable security system without buying excess base stations to do it.
For this reason, we only recommend Kami Smart Security for small homes and apartments where the included sensors provide enough coverage. To learn more about taking the reins of your apartment’s security, check out our review of security systems for renters.
*Amazon.com list price as of 07/16/2020 at 11:39 a.m. (MT). Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. Safewise.com utilizes paid Amazon links.
Certain content that appears on this site comes from Amazon. This content is provided “as is” and is subject to change or removal at any time.
†Google, Google Nest Secure, Google Assistant, and other related marks are trademarks of Google LLC.
Written by John Carlsen
John is a technology journalist with over seven years of experience researching, testing, and reviewing the latest tech. Before joining SafeWise in 2020, John was an editor for Top Ten Reviews specializing in home security and the smart home. Learn more