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Piper – the best little home security and automation device you’ll find at the price [Review]

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We’ve got a small confession to make, we don’t really like home security and automation devices. The ones we’ve looked at in the past have promised much, and in the end delivered more disappointment than anything else. The big problem with most of them is they’re just too darned hard to install, and when you do finally manage to get it all working, there’s typically something which doesn’t do what it’s supposed to, which is very annoying. But now there’s a new name in town, which has really turned things upside down.

Well we have to climb down off our horse now, because we’ve found the home security product for everyone, and we mean almost everyone (your grandmother may be excluded on the grounds of never having used a smartphone app). Piper is not only way out there in terms of the incredible ease of set up and use, but it offers such a wealth of features you have to wonder why other companies find it so hard.

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Sure it’s not going to protect you the way a multi-thousand dollar rig, which is plumbed into the furniture will, but then again most of us can’t really justify that kind of expense, and at the cheaper end, most of the products out there are pretty poor in many ways. Check out our video below for an idea of just how cool this thing is. Oh and if you want a good laugh, make sure you watch until the alarm goes off.

First impressions
Piper (or should it be The Piper, we’re not quite sure) comes in a solid looking cardboard box which contains the unit itself, a very simple Get Started guide, and a power cable. Oh and a little sticker you can use to warn the bad people you’re now protected.

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In use
To get started you simply pop in a couple of back up AA batteries, plug the unit into the wall power socket, and wait until the light goes a nice color. While you’re waiting download and install the free app on a device of your choice (Android and iPhone supported out of the box) and go through the account set up. At which point the app will start to lead you through the very short wireless connection set up. Which basically consists of you logging on to the Piper hotspot to set things up, then telling the app your home WiFi logon details, at which point the app does everything else, until you’re connected. It’s that simple.

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Oh man, that’s so nice. From then on, it’s just a matter of navigating around the gorgeous dashboard until you’re familiar with all the functions, and they’re pretty easy to understand. You have a basic set of sensors on the device, which monitor temperature (inside and out), sound levels, humidity, ambient light levels and local motion.These stats are displayed on a running 48 hour graph, which makes it a cinch to keep track of your home environment with a button press.

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As well as these ‘vitals’ as they’re known, the unit will also manage and control any Z-Wave home automation appliances you have in your place, such as light switches, power sockets, security sensors and the like. In fact the company sells a small range of Z-Wave accessories which go with the unit, to give you basic stuff like turning devices on and off, checking for opening windows and doors etc.

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But it’s how well the rest of the functions, particularly the camera and notification services that really makes Piper stand out. The 180 degree 1080p fisheye camera is excellent, with a huge field of view, but enough clarity to see everything in the room. There’s also a ‘quad’ mode which lets you split the image into four, and literally pan each window into a different part of the view/room. It’s like having four cameras in one. Audio in and out also works well, even out and about via 3G, which is great for chatting to a pet or the better half.

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The last part of the equation are the rules, which are customizable routines that you can set up to trigger actions if the camera or sensors detect anything in the area. So you can set up the unit to trigger an alarm, or email or SMS you or a trusted circle if it detects an increase in temperature, humidity, or motion in the home. Since you can chain up to five of these devices together on the same network, you can really have a complete monitoring system working 24/7 to look after your home, and warn against fire, theft, flooding and various rampaging 90 feet lizards.

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Conclusion
We’re actually blown away by how useful this little gadget is. The designers benefited from the crowdsourcing feedback from Kickstarter, no doubt, but they’ve done an absolutely top notch job of implementing all the functionality into this little device. And it’s also not that expensive either, when you consider the alternatives. If you’re in the market for a easy to use, full featured home security and automation system like this, then Piper should definitely be on the top of your list. Recommended.

Price: From $199 / €149

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Nigel is the managing editor of the Red Ferret, as well as a freelance columnist for the Sunday Times newspaper in London. Loves tech and fancies himself as a bit of a futurist, but then don’t we all?

Nigel – who has written posts on The Red Ferret Journal.


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