By John R. Quain
Advantages: Accurate recognition of objects, on-board storage, no monthly subscription fees, bright spotlight
Cons: Awkward installation, more expensive than the competition, doesn’t work well with other systems (yet)
Security cameras were one of the first internet connected products for the home, and today there are dozens of different models all offering roughly the same functionality. Netatmo presence is an exception, combining an outdoor projector with a camera with automatic object recognition.
The $ 300 oblong presence houses a set of LED lights with a camera perched below. The spotlight is powerful enough to illuminate a porch and an area up to approximately 60 feet beyond your front door. The 1080p video camera can detect cars, people and animals, allowing owners to configure it to alert them only when, for example, people are spotted.
While Netatmo Presence is priced higher than competing models, such as the $ 179 Kuna Craftsman Outdoor Security Camera and Light, Netatmo does not require additional subscription fees to receive live alerts. (A Nest Cam subscription, for example, costs $ 100 for just 10 days of recordings.) With Presence, you can receive notifications and play videos on your smartphone, store clips on the camera, or send recordings to a Dropbox or FTP account. server.
Netatmo’s clean Bauhaus-style design also makes it an attractive accessory for any modern or contemporary home. On the other hand, if you have a Victorian Gothic carpenter style, it can look a bit gaudy.
Netatmo’s clear and concise timeline makes it easy to read and break down animal, people and vehicle records.
The weatherproof Netatmo Presence comes with a mounting kit and wiring that will fit any existing outdoor light fixture. The company also includes an 8GB microSD card, but you can swap it out for a larger one up to 32GB.
The camera has a 100-degree field of view, which is narrower than some surveillance cameras like Piper, but that means there’s less fish-eye distortion. The camera has Full HD 1080p resolution with a 4 megapixel sensor, clear enough in my tests to tell who was at the back door. It also has infrared night vision which can see up to 50 feet without the projector. And there is a built-in microphone for recordings or for listening live.
To use Presence, you must establish a Wi-Fi connection to your home network (configuration is done through a free app). The camera supports 802.11 b / g / n Wi-Fi, and although some devices I have tested in the basement of my house have frequently dropped the connection due to a weak signal, the presence of Netatmo maintained its link with the network for several months of testing.
Unlike some webcams, you can use a browser on your laptop or computer to access the Netatmo camera. However, the free Android and iOS apps for smartphones are simpler. The camera is not Apple docking kit compatible or designed to work with systems like Samsung SmartThings; it will however work with IFTTT.
The camera was able to see people and vehicles and correctly identify them.
Anyone who has already changed a luminaire can install the Presence. It is designed to replace a front or back door light, although it can also be placed anywhere there is a hardwired fixture, such as a light outside of a garage door.
I used the Netatmo to replace an aging, weather-worn projector with a motion sensor next to a back door. The old lights seemed to be continuously triggered by falling leaves, wind and rain, causing what would amount to false alarms. To improve my peace of mind, I wanted to see what, if anything, was really lurking in the back. With its object detection software, Netatmo Presence has promised to do just that.
Turning off the original light fixture and loosening a few screws released the old exterior light. Quite simple. And there was nothing complicated in the electrical wiring, so the connection was also simple.
However, unlike a standard fixture, the Netatmo model has three components, which means you need a level of coordination usually reserved for tasks like juggling grapefruit. There is the back plate and wiring, a positioning plate and the rectangular LED light and camera component which uses an adjustable U-shaped bracket to rotate the light and find the best position for the camera. The included instructions show how you can hook the LED part, carefully, to the initial placement screw, but I found it too easy to turn off the light from this hanging perch. I managed to set up the light on my own in under 30 minutes, but if you want to avoid swearing and cursing, I suggest you find another pair of hands to help you out.
There were two other complaints about the installation. Placing the presence over an existing round or hexagonal outlet can leave large open spaces around the edges where dirt and bugs can enter. Netamo should include some insulating gaskets with the camera to cover such eventualities.
The second complaint had to do with the overall design. Although elegantly modern, the main positioning screw is not as secure as it could be. A few weeks after the initial installation, the constant blows of wind and rain managed to loosen the mount so that the camera ended up pointing towards the ground. I just repositioned it and tightened it up, but it could be a problem if it’s installed on a second home hundreds of miles away.
Netatmo’s options, including setting alert zones, selecting which light to automatically turn on or off, and sending recordings to a Dropbox account.
The Netatmo camera immediately proved its worth. The detection software, which can be configured to search for cars, people, or animals – or all three – has proven to be precise and illuminating. The camera revealed a family of deer that I already knew living nearby, but it also illuminated a nocturnal newcomer, a rather round raccoon.
The camera also correctly spotted people, such as my neighbor stopping, and cars parked in the driveway. It performed equally well during daytime and nighttime hours, categorizing each alert correctly. And while the company only rates its detection range at around 65 feet, I’ve found it to operate at distances greater than that, depending on the camera position.
To recognize people, cars and animals, Netatmo offers you the option to ignore the object, record the event or record and notify you.
Alerts appeared quickly on my smartphone. The clips played clearly and I was able to switch to a live view if needed. Zooming in resulted in an expected loss of detail (recordings were often at 720p or lower resolution), but I could still identify people and animals. However, how these features work will depend on the speed of your home network, its connection to the Internet, and the reliability of your phone’s data connection.
Most importantly, you can tailor the camera and lights to meet your specific needs. For example, the software can be configured to minimize alerts by notifying you only when people are detected. You can also set the spotlight to turn on when something is detected, such as a standard motion sensor, dim the light, or turn it off for subtle surveillance. To further reduce unnecessary warnings, you can select a specific alert area to eliminate, for example, a tree swaying in the breeze.
Overall, I found the Netatmo Presence app easy to use, with a clear timeline that accurately identifies video clips. So if you want to watch Rocky the Raccoon you can replay it over and over again, or just skip over to this recording of a stranger’s car entering your driveway.
Thanks to infrared, the Presence camera can detect objects and make recordings without triggering its built-in projector.
A fair amount of thought has clearly gone into Netatmo’s presence, from its fashionable design and object detection to its email alerts if an unknown device attempts to tap into your video stream. At $ 300, it’s one of the more expensive outdoor security cameras on the market, but the fact that it can reduce false alarms and doesn’t require a monthly or annual subscription to send alerts and record recordings. video means that over time you save money.
-John R. Quain has written for The New York Times, Men’s Journal, Digital Trends and other publications. His last story for GearBrain was “Your next television? Wafer thin and talk more.“