Home automation is no longer just a concept from old sci-fi movies – it is a reality. From smart phone controlled lighting to automatic washing machines – the 21st century seems to have it all. The term "smart home" was introduced back in the mid-1980's however for the most part, only those who were well off were afforded such luxuries. Today, the average-Joe consumer is capable of not only equipping his or her home with the latest in smart gadgets, but is also able to protect it. Piper, a small device that on the outside appears to be a simple camera, combines both home automation and security and steps it up a level. While the device has its quirks, its capabilities have allowed me to look past them.
What is Piper?
Piper is a customizable home security system that works with Z-Wave accessories to monitor your home as well as control it via your smartphone or tablet. As a stand-alone device, Piper can be used to alert you to temperature changes and motion and sound detection. When paired with the Z-Wave Door/Window Sensor, the Piper app can also be customized to alert you to open doors and windows. Alerts include automatic video and voice recording; four different types of notifications; and if you have the Z-Wave Smart Switch paired with the device you can even set it to turn on lights or other plugged in electronics. Imagine being a ten year-old boy stuck at home while two ugly mo-fo's are trying to break into your house. You can jerry-rig the device to automatically turn on "The Godfather" just as MaCAulay Culkin did in the 1990's movie, "Home Alone."
- ARM Processor
- Battery backup
- Internal memory for video storage
- 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi
- High Definition, 1080p Panoramic Video Camera
Piper's built in Wi-Fi makes connecting the security system hassle-free. Unlike similar security systems on the market today, there is no need to ever connect an Ethernet cable between the device and your router.
Piper Mobile is available on both Android and iOS. It allows you to customize what Piper does while you are at home, away or on vacation. Depending on where you are, you can set up rules for Piper to adhere to. Rules can be customized to record video; inform you and your trusted circle of potential issues through push notification, text message, phone call or email; sound a peircing alarm; or/and turn on the Smart Switch. Each rule can be individually set depending on what type of unusual activity Piper detects.
Piper's built in environmental sensors allow you to monitor changes in temperature in and outside your home. You can program the application to alert you to any changes in temperature beyond a pre-designated range. This is a great feature for monitoring fire hazards and luckily for me, I did not have a chance to test is out.
The app Dashboard tells you if the Z-Wave Sensor is open or closed, which is not only useful in the event of an intruder but is also useful if you can't remember if you shut the door or window before you left. One of my favorite features of the app is the ability to turn lights on and off without leaving my bed. This however is also possible by purchasing the Z-Wave Smart Switch as a standalone device.
The Piper app tracks the vitals of your home for 48 hours at a time. Using colors and graphs, the vitals show fluctuations in temperature, moisture, light, sound and motion. Considering I have not been home for the last 24 hours, the application is accurately reporting no motion or sound within my home.
Piper's HD video camera is equipped with a fish eye lens that can pan, tilt and zoom. Its wide field of view allows you to see a 180-degree view of whatever room it is placed in. Double tapping on the app screen from live view allows you to adjust the brightness of the camera, turn Smart Switch on and off and change monitoring to include four separate viewing screens that can each be manually adjusted to point in a different direction.
Problems with Piper
When I first hooked up the Piper and the two Z-Wave products mentioned above it worked perfectly. However as time progressed I ran into a couple snags:
- Piper has a tendency to turn off randomly. Since I am not away from home often this did not prove to be an issue. However, if you are relying on Piper to monitor your home while you are away, you may want to invest in a different monitoring device. According to the activity monitor, Piper disconnected and reconnected at least once a day from March 1-7.
- Aside from the occasional alert, the sensor does not work properly with Piper. While the app shows when my connecting door is open, I usually am not alerted to it.
- I have the Smart Switch set to turn my bedroom light on when it gets dark. If I do not want the light on I have to manually turn it off three different times before it will stop processing the automatic programing.
- Although Piper uses AA batteries as a backup only, once the batteries died during my testing, so did Piper.
- Piper broadcasts off 2.4 GHz. Currently the 5 GHz band is not supported.
As a single mother, protecting my home and my son is very important. Living off a single-persons income however, traditional home security systems are pretty much out of the question. While companies such as ADT offer setups as low as $49, the basic package is not always enough to feel secure. In addition, they charge monthly fees just for monitoring the device. Piper however starts at $239 with no monthly fees. Z-Wave accessories that pair with your device start at $49.95 each. The full kit, which includes three Pipers and your choice of five Z-Wave accessories, cost $849. Piper is currently available in the US and Canada. It will be available in April within the European Union.