With an effortless installation via your existing home wireless network and a ton of internal environmental sensors, Piper is an endlessly customizable home monitoring system like no other. In fact, my Piper has me thinking less of simple home security, and more about home automation. Whereas the Samsung SmartCam I reviewed last month made it easy for me to receive alerts about motion or sound events that may indicate treachery is afoot in my humble abode, Piper instead offers all this with an unprecedented level of added granularity.
Boasting a field of vision so wide it can be divided into four distinct zones (via the “quad view” feature in its intuitive smartphone app), Piper first easily succeeds as a security camera. Admittedly, I miss the crystal-clear night vision of my previous monitoring solution, but Piper’s additional functionality more than makes up for it. Alongside the aforementioned Live Video feed tab, the Piper app offers an overall look at your house’s past and current conditions – your Home Vitals. These include temperature – both room and external – humidity, brightness and, of course, sound and movement levels. It’s great to have these stats at a glance, but they also play into the system’s robust smart functionality.
The main Piper Dashboard includes a wheel featuring four icons that correspond to the device’s four modes: Stay mode, Away mode, Vacation mode and Off. These modes can adhere to prescribed behaviors as outlined on the Rules tab. Rules for how the device reacts to changes in its motion detection field, the sound level and even ambient air temperature can be as simple or as complex as you like, including initiating video capture, notifying you or other trusted users (via email, text, phone call or push message) or sounding the Piper’s impressively loud siren. You can also create very specific behaviors by syncing Z-wave devices to your Piper using the Controls tab. (This very week I was able to add both a smart switch and a door sensor literally in a matter of minutes.)
Allow me to elaborate further by sharing a handful of scenarios directly from my own user configuration. When I’m at home – meaning in my house, working in the yard or goofing off around the immediate neighborhood – I keep my Piper in Stay mode. In this mode the device ignores motion and loud noises, but it knows to alert me if the temperature inside my house goes above or below certain thresholds via push message. Before leaving for work, I’ll set it to Away mode, wherein my Piper alerts me to the same temperature changes, as well as movement or unexpected noise, additionally sounding an alarm for the former and initiating a video capture (which is then stored in Piper’s secured cloud) for the latter. If I instead shift it to Vacation mode, Piper understands that it should record if any of those event prompts are triggered, and that I should to be alerted by text message.
The addition of my new Z-wave devices has also allowed me to create some even more specific automated behaviors. Not only can I have the sensor alert me when the back door is opened in any mode – I have two kids, and summer means they’re constantly running into and out of the house – I can have the smart switch automatically power on the hall lamp between dusk and bedtime, or even connect the two actions to have the light turn on when someone opens the door. (I can also use the same smart switch in the kitchen to turn on the blender anytime someone opens said door, a trick that delighted my children and terrified my housecat.)
With all these features, Piper seemed to have a lot going for it right out of the gate, but recent developments – like the acquisition of creator Blacksumac by Icontrol Networks, not to mention the increased demand resulting from the implementation of multi-Piper support and the rollout of two-way audio – have opened the door for even more good news. Starting this week the purchase price of the Piper base unit has been reduced from $239 to $199, just as this noble little box’s feature set has been further supplemented. A new Bedside mode, complete with siren-initializing panic button, adds yet another dimension to Piper’s core security offerings, and its Z-wave support has even been expanded to include light dimmers.
Over the past few weeks I’ve really become quite taken with my Piper. It’s changed not only the way I view home security, offering me a phenomenal self-monitored solution, it’s also got me seriously thinking about expanding further into smart devices and home automation. After all, additional door and window sensors, integrated thermostats and even smart smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are all readily available in the burgeoning connected home marketplace. But more importantly, Piper has enabled me, a veritable novice, to easily take control of my home in ways that even months ago I could scarcely understand.
I’ve always felt that the true test of any technology is how well it both integrates into our daily lives and empowers us as users. In my case, at least, Piper has been a rousing success on both fronts.
Review materials provided by: Icontrol Networks