A new smart home device, launched in the UK this month, brings the technology firmly into the consumer sector for a low, one-off cost.
Manufactured by Canadian company Icontrol Networks, Piper is a small device that can be used for home monitoring and home automation. It contains a camera, microphone and speaker, motion and environment sensors, and a 105dB siren. Cordless apart from a power cable, it communicates via WiFi to the house's router and then out to the user by means of an iOS or Android app. Through the app, the user can call up still images, audio or video, and Piper can also send SMS or email alerts. Users can configure how the device responds to any given event, for example recording a video clip if motion is detected at certain times of day, or sending an email if the temperature rises above a certain level.
The inbuilt camera has a fisheye lens, so the visual field is almost a complete hemisphere. The app de-warps the image and allows panning and zooming on the live video image (the camera does not move). Recorded video is stored on the device and on a complimentary Cloud storage platform.
Piper uses Z-Wave technology to communicate with its peripheral accessories. Available at launch will be door sensors and smart mains switches – so users can be informed when a door is open, and can switch household items on or off remotely. The peripherals can also communicate with each other in a mesh, so also work as extenders for a Piper system. Up to five Piper units can be combined into a single system.
Greg Roberts, VP of marketing at Icontrol told Installation that, while the device is primarily aimed at consumers, it is possible that telcos and other service providers might want to supply it as part of a managed service offering.
Piper units are protected with a password and username, and video feeds are encrypted and authenticated. Piper's inventor Russell Ure (pictured), executive VP and general manager of Icontrol, said that Z-Wave was chosen rather than Zigbee because it allows wider choice of component suppliers. Challenged that Zigbee is the more secure protocol, he said that the signal range of Piper is such that any hacker would need to be very close to, if not actually inside, the home to access the network.
Piper was launched in North America in January and is expected to launch in the UK around 15 July. It will initially be available online, and subsequently at retail. A single unit costs £119 (excluding automation accessories) and is available in white or black.