We’re all obsessed with security now more than ever. Big Brother is continuously watching us and our privacy is often under threat. Smart devices the world over have encryption, passwords, and numerous other security measures to appease their consumers. However the other security angle is one that is well-known to us and age-old. Home security. Alarms and trips are conventional methods of ensuring security at home, and iSmartAlarm brings a package fit for the 21st century.
iSmartAlarm are a California-based company delivering Smart home security and automation operations. Their kit is currently for sale from their website only in the US and Canada, but can be purchased through select retail outlets and online at Amazon and the Apple Store.
Overview & Unboxing[pullquote align=”right” color=”#FF9900″]”The CubeOne is the “brain” of the system.”[/pullquote]
Calling all fans of Star Trek, calling all fans of Star Trek!! This unit comes in a Borg cube-esque design, and it’s really quite nifty. We’ll get to that in a minute, but firstly, what is the iSmartAlarm, and what is it capable of? The iSmartAlarm’s raison d’être is home security and automation, and has a variety of appliances that can be added to the setup to achieve this. Sensors are included to allow for door and window intrusion trips. Motion sensors do what they say on the tin, and additional iCamera and iCamera Keep help keep the room(s) surveiled in your absence. All of which can be monitored and viewed via the companion app.
In our box came:
- 1 x CubeOne base station
- 1 x Ethernet lead
- 1 x Power adapter and cable with clip on plug ends (EU and UK)
- 1 x Motion sensor
- 2 x Door/Window sensors
- 2 x Remote Tags
- 2 x Window stickers
- 1 x Multi-lingual guide
- A number of 3M double-sided sticking pads for application.
Starting with the biggest component of this system, the CubeOne is the “brain” of the system as called out in the literature available. This device manages the wireless connections to the additional appliances, as well as connecting to the local router via the bundled ethernet cable (a nice addition). The CubeOne is where everything happens and where all the software is delivered from. Furthermore this where the particularly loud 110 decibel siren emanates from when the connected sensors are tripped. The cube is, as the name describes, a cuboid shaped device and stands at 10cm x 10cm x 10.5cm and is very lightweight at just 370g. Along with the power and ethernet ports there is also a USB 2.0 port for expansion.
Moving on we get to the Motion Sensor. This device can be attached to a relevant flat surface via the bundled 3M pads or via the included screws to a wall, and functions the same as any PIR sensor connected a burglar alarm unit. It has a range of approximately 30 feet/10 metres when attached to a surface over 6.5 feet/2 metres from the floor and is battery-powered.
The two included Contact Sensors are to be used across windows or door seals, come in two sections, and use a magnetic field to ascertain their distance from each other. Like the Motion Sensor these devices can be attached to a flat surface using the 3M tape, and are battery-powered.
Finally, the included Remote Tags have four buttons mimicking the companion App (more on that later) and can be used to Arm/Disarm the system, set as Home (i.e. turn off the motion sensor, but leave intrusion detection on) and go into panic mode; you can guess what this does but we’ll spell it out shortly.
All of the above are all white, plastic and reasonable light. Build quality isn’t the best, but then again you’re not likely to be slugging these things around once placed in situ so that’s not really an issue. These use 2032 batteries and are quoted on the forums as lasting approximately 12 months. I can confirm that I haven’t seen any particular dramatic battery level decrease since usage so expect them to go for a good while.
So, the units are placed, and ready for use, and you just need to set them up? The companion app (available for both Android and iOS) does a decent job of making this a quick process.
The app itself’s major function is to act as a recipient for notifications of tripped sensors and to mimic the functionality found on the Remote Tags. Arming, Disarming, setting to Home and Panic tripping the iSmartAlarm system are all possible via the app when connected to the same network. The application itself is tabbed and has specific information on each. Control is as its logo suggests the ability to control the system mimicking the Remote Tag access. The Monitor tab allows users to see which devices are connected to the system, their state and the sensor logs. iCamera will enable remote viewing of a camera connected to the system (none are included in this review). Finally the More button opens up access to a number of setup screens. The Device Settings option allows additional sensors can be linked and battery levels checked. The Alarm Settings refines the time between sensor trip and alarm commencement, allowing users time to get out of the door etc. Notifications enables the configuration of the Safety Monitor which will push notifications to your given email when sensors are tripped and states change within the iSmartAlarm system.
Performance[pullquote align=”left” color=”#FF9900″]”The ease of setup is really the selling point of this unit.”[/pullquote]
The iSmartAlarm doesn’t really have many moving parts in terms of what could actually go wrong. Of course, appliances could not be detected, sensors could not fire when broken etc, however I’m happy to report that none of this was the case. As can be seen from the video below, it’s all relatively simplistic which is exactly how this sort of technology should be presented; something Apple has been doing for some time (love them or hate them).
The ease of setup is really the selling point of this unit. This unit is quite close to true plug and play. Setup the CubeOne, attach the motion sensor and door sensors, and then setup an account on the app and you’re pretty much done. Notifications are consistent and prompt. Changing moves on the remote happen aligned to the delay set in the settings menu, and finally the alarm sound, when triggered is crisp and piercing enough even through walls for it to be heard externally. For full affect we recommend place the CubeOne section of the iSmartAlarm system as close to an external wall as possible.
There are areas that could be improved however. Firstly, the iSmartAlarm requires connecting directly to the router via ethernet cable. Whilst that’s not a problem for some, location of the router then becomes a severe limiter in terms of CubeOne placement and as such can limit the length at which the alarm is heard when triggered. This can be gotten around by a set of Powerline adapters or a Wi-Fi adapter, but it might be better if the unit offered a configurable Wireless option on a different band to that on which the sensors operate.
The door and window sensors are also a little tricky in some situations. They come with pre-fitted 3M double-sided pads on the back, and should be placed no more than 2.5cm apart either side of the door opening. This is all fine, but some doors have chamfered edge to the frame and are at a different levels to the frame itself. The door sensors included with the iSmartAlarm don’t take this into consideration. Fitting them was still easy, but they were not perfectly aligned. The base sensor was on the frame, whilst the smaller break sensor was on the door, offset by around 1cm depth and around 2cm away from the base sensor. Luckily this still functioned perfectly, but it might be something to think of in the future.
Finally, there was a slight bit of confusion on the application which related directly to adding new sensors. I think the terminology used in the user guide and on the application could be standardised and clarified to avoid mishaps in the setup process.
As these are relatively easy to work around there isn’t much to complain about but perhaps a subtle change in their second generation sensors might be advantageous.
Conclusion[pullquote align=”right” color=”#FF9900″]”Don’t rely on it to protect your home on its own.”[/pullquote]
The iSmartAlarm is a brilliant set of devices geared towards home security and automation. Anyone looking at a safety system but baulking at the price could do worse than look at this sort of offering; especially if said individual wanted to explore their inner geek too. That’s what this comes down to. Is this the most secure device for home security in the world? No, there are better alternatives to act as burglary deterrents and alarms on the market. Where the iSmartAlarm offers value however is the automation piece and home monitoring. Adding a camera to the system or perhaps a door chime enables more versatility at a fraction of the cost of adding similar technology to existing security systems.
Add in the fact that this sends notifications, can be handled via remote tags, and indeed has a cross-platform app to manage the setup, and it’s a very nice system. Don’t rely on it to protect your home on its own, but it’s a nice security-automation hybrid.
The iSmartAlarm can be purchased from Amazon currently priced £169.99 with other setups and sensors available.