Smart-Home Security at a Financially Savvy Price

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piper screenshot
Icontrol NetworksA Piper screenshot: Home or away, you're two clicks and a Wi-Fi connection from seeing if all is in order.
As a high-tech fetishist of the first order, I am, often as not, an early adopter and early reject-er both. I was online before web browsers (do I sound like Al Gore?), joined and quit Facebook within weeks of its debut and have a large closet full of once-gleaming, now obsolete gizmos and gadgets worth a dime or two on the dollar. Clutter? That's my middle name!

piper camera
Icontrol Networks The Piper comes in white or black.
So when a tiny cardboard box arrived on the porch last week, I was prepared to be instantly bored and disillusioned. Lo and behold, I found a five-inch tall plastic rectangle inside with a gaping, 180-degree fish-eye lens called a Piper -- a combo-platter security and smart-home product that you control from your handy-dandy tablet or smartphone. Aren't we just getting way too smart for our own good?

That may be so, yet I must admit that a sleek, inexpensive ($199 for basic setup) little dynamo like Piper offers useful, real-time control of one's most valuable asset (house, condo, apartment) whether you're in a hotel room in Helsinki or a yurt in Big Sur. Home or away, you're two clicks and a Wi-Fi connection from seeing if all is in order at chez vous -- from lights to humidity to security breaches on the perimeter. And yes, it does have a piercingly loud 105-decibel siren too, the better to scare bad guys off if they do try to break in while you're away.

To get just a little technical on you for a moment, Piper can also be integrated with any Z-Wave devices (wall switches, door-window sensors, etc.) to offer you control over other smart home gear using the same low-power bandwidth. Thus you can turn lights and appliances on and off based on environmental cues like ambient light or sound, as well as temperature, humidity and, of course, motion.
Icontrol NetworksThe Piper app works on iOS or Android devices.


Example: Program your Piper to turn on all of the lights if somebody opens a door or window -- and to sound that intimidating siren at the same time! If you think that the wannabe burglar might be uncomfortable while foraging for diamonds and stock certificates, you can also switch on the air conditioner and keep him cool and collected while waiting for the local constabulary to arrive. Make him a cup of coffee if it gets too cold!

Piper will call, text, or push-notify you if anything's even slightly awry, and will shoot lovely 1080-pixel video of, say, your neighbor's son going through the booze cabinet that you can post on YouTube in lieu of sending him to jail. On second thought, don't! He might get rich off of it. P.S., Piper does not do infra-red night vision like Dropcam or D-Link's Cloud Camera 1150, so be aware of the ambient lighting when strategically placing the unit. You're directing the movie, after all!

Two-hundred bucks is a small price to pay for peace of mind, and there are no monthly monitoring fees. The Piper app works on iOS or Android devices and is a snap to set up and customize. If you have a larger home, just keep adding additional units, or for $50 apiece buy a few of Piper's Z-Wave door/window sensors. Piper does everything but cook a pot of gumbo and call the police if necessary -- that's up to you once the unit sends out an SOS.
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