So you’ve probably seen smart home thermostats, locks, plugs and lights. But have you checked out smart home sensors?
From our perspective, manufacturers haven’t tapped the full potential of smart home sensors. It will be interesting to see what they come up with in the next couple of years. We say this because our experience with the current crop of sensors and the Apple Home app haven’t been great.
What is a smart home sensor?
A smart home sensor is basically a normal sensor that can be accessed remotely. Most manufacturers have taken a normal environmental sensor (like temperature) and integrated it with a transmitter that connects with either Google Home, Amazon Alexa or Apple Home.
Some manufacturers like Eve have a variety of sensors that can measure air quality, outside temperature and the state of a door (open or close).
When compared to the regular sensors, the only unique sensor that takes advantage of the remote monitoring offered by smart home platforms is the open/close sensor. However, we’re still not sold on how useful the sensor is in a real home situation.
For the remainder of this article, we’ll talk about the pros/cons of smart home sensors and elaborate more on the different types of smart home sensors which include:
- motion sensors
- open/close sensors
- environmental sensors
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Pros and cons of smart home sensors
We’ll be honest with you, we expect more in this category of smart home gadgets. Our experiences with products such as the D-Link Omna, Eve Room/Motion/Outdoor and iHome Home sensors have been sub-par.
The biggest pro of smart home sensors is the ability to monitor the sensor remotely (if you get the right product/have the right home setup).
But what can you do with that information? The inability to really act on the sensor data is the biggest con for smart home sensors. For example, in it’s current iteration, the Apple Home app doesn’t allow you to trigger automations on environment data. So what’s the point of monitoring the humidity in a room remotely?
Another question you have to ask is “how useful is the sensor”? For example, what is the point of getting a $60 dollar outdoor sensor when it’s quicker to look at your $7 thermometer outside your window when you’re trying to figure out what jacket to wear?
Smart Home Motion Sensors
Motion based sensors include products like the D-Link Omna, iHome Home Sensor and Eve motion. These sensors have varying cones of sensitivity so you’ll have to think about where to set the sensors up. Especially if you’re getting a product like the Eve Motion which is just a motion sensor.
Certain products like the D-Link Omna include motion-tracking as a secondary feature. In the D-Link Omna app, you can select which quadrants in the video camera’s field of view for motion tracking. This a neat concept but we’re not entirely sure how well it works with products like the D-Link Omna. Or we haven’t figured out how to use it well.
The upside of these motion sensors is the fact that you can trigger Apple Home automations off them.
Smart Home Open/Close Sensors
Open and close sensors are very binary. These sensors will tell you if the sensors is open or closed. At the time of this article, we’ve been putting the Eve Door sensor through it’s paces and we’re not sure how to use it effectively.
The most obvious use for these sensors would be with doors to see which ones are open and closed but how useful is that information when accessed remotely? Why do we need to know how many times a cupboard/door has been opened or closed? And is it worth $40?
Now there might be an application for parents of young children. We’re working on that so check back later to see what we’ve discovered.
Like the motion sensors, these open/close sensors can be use in Apple Home automations.
Smart Home Environmental Sensors
Environmental sensors have the biggest potential when it comes to smart home sensors. As we said earlier, Apple and 3rd party manufacturers need to improve their offerings before we can get the most of these gadgets. We would love to see the ability to trigger an automation based on environmental data. We’ll elaborate below.
Smart home environmental sensors provide you with data on air quality, humidity, air pressure and temperature. The standout sensor for us was the Eve Room sensor which measures air quality. We set it up in our office area and the sensor reported that the air quality was extremely poor which was surprising to us.
We tried to improve the air quality by opening a window in the office which improved the air quality slightly. The biggest culprit in our poor air quality was the laser printer. Turning the printer off changed our air quality from poor to excellent. This was an eye-opener for us! Check out how we used smart plugs to minimize this printer problem.
Now did we notice a change in our physical well-being? Not really.
Which sensors were the least useful? Outdoor air pressure and humidity sensors where the least useful. Why? Mostly because we have no reason to be concerned about the outdoor air pressure and humidity. We really had to question how useful a product like the Eve Outdoor was.
In our daily routines, the only time we look for outdoor environmental data is when we’re about to go outside. It was much easier to glance at the thermometer outside than pulling out our smartphones. Now you can access the data remotely but how useful is that feature? For most people, you’re going to care about the temperature in your current location so what’s the point of checking the air pressure at home when you’re at work?
These are some of the questions we’re asking ourselves to figure out how useful these sensors are.
But at the end of the day, we would love to see Apple Home automations based on these types of smart home sensors. That’s the first step to make these smart home sensors useful.
That’s our introduction to smart home sensors. If this article was helpful, consider getting your products through our links to help with future videos. Every little bit helps as we’re not sponsored by any of the companies that we review products for.
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