A Closer Look at Archos Smart Home SystemBy - 02/17/2015
Looking for a way to simplify things around the home this year? Yes? Well, you might want to start with home automation. We all want to live in a home that’s functional, comfortable, and most importantly secure – without spending all your life savings that is. Archos Smart Home CEO, Loic Poirier agrees. According to Mr Poirier:
We are in an era where we want to control everything, and the home is central in this trend: no matter if we’re at work or anywhere else, we like knowing what’s happening at home and we want to be able to manage it, even when we’re not there. With the open Smart Home system, Archos is aiming to be a leading player in the home of the future.”
– a bold statement, let’s find out if it’s true…
Archos Smart Home was first introduced at the annual Customer Electronic Show (CES), held in Vegas just a few weeks ago, so they’re still fairly new. However, this hasn’t stopped them from making their mark. Archos is essentially a French company but the system is available in many other European countries, the US and Asia. The system consists of motion sensors, alarms, cameras, and even weather monitors – all connected by a seven-inch tablet, the central hub (more on this later).
You can also link the system to your smartphone and monitor your home in real time while on the go. To do so you will need to download the app from the Google Play Store for Android devices or from iTunes for iOS systems. The app carries a 3.9 star rating on Google Play Store but is still yet to be rated on iTunes.
The starter pack seems to cater more to weather monitoring and home security than home automation, but as you will learn later, it does have some automation features. It comes with the Smart Home Tablet, two minicams, two weather tags and two movement tags for a price of $200. The sensors and cameras are wireless and connect to the tablet via Bluetooth. Thankfully, users can add other accessories for $14 -$50 (for example, the weather tag is available for $30). The big question here is: “Is it worth it?” We have the verdict!
The cherry on top is that the Smart Home System is compatible with several major brands such as Otio, Somfy, DI.O, Bliss, Chacon and Conrad. You can connect and control all your accessories from your smart phone or tablet using the “Learn & Control” feature. Imagine how great it would be if you could control the garage door, lamps, door, plugs, shutter etc. all from a single device. The best part about this is that you’ll be able to control them from any location.
And that’s not all – Archos Smart Home is also compatible with FOSCAM cameras. FOSCAM is major IP camera player. They allow you to stream videos directly from your tablet or smartphone, plus you can always add your IP camera features to the smart home programs. For über-tech geeks like me, this is heaven on earth; you can add infrared night vision, HD video, movement detection, 360 degree movement, etc.
Let’s start from the beginning and work our way down. If you decide to purchase the starter pack, as you open the box, you’ll be greeted with by an Android tablet that comes with a built in desk stand. In fact, before Archos jumped into the smart home market they simply made tablets and smartphones. This made many home automation experts ask, “Are they just jumping into automation to sell more tablets?” After all, the tablet is required and many have questioned why. In my opinion having a tablet is just like having a keypad. Sure you can’t use the tablet like a real tablet but you can use it like a real touchscreen keypad and for those that don’t want to whip out a cell phone every time they want to make an in-home command…a tablet is pretty handy. The tablet controls everything; in the words of Archos, it is a “gateway that joins your objects.”
The tablet stand allows you to place the tablet anywhere in your home, from the coffee table to a bookshelf. All the other elements in your system connect to the Android tablet via bluetooth, instead of a hub linked to a router, which is common among most systems today. Since the objects aren’t connected over a mesh network like most other systems, the range is somewhat limited. This means that you can only place the devices so far away from the tablet before they go out of range, restricting the system’s capabilities, especially in larger building with thick walls.
One of the most impressive security features in the Archos ecosystem is the front-facing camera. The camera design allows for flexible placement. Additional features include a light sensor, a microphone, a temperature sensor, a headphone jack, a USB port and a reset button.
Like with most systems the app enables you to monitor all objects connected to the system, review their status, and set up a range of commands. Working in a “if this then that”(IFTTT) way, you can set up different recipes for different in-home situations. For instance, you could have the camera take a photo every time the door is opened or you can set of an alert to defrost your vehicle when the weather sensor detects a temperature below zero. You’ll receive a color coded push notification directly on the app with a timestamp whenever an event is triggered.
The big news? I can do more than work in a “if this then that”(IFTTT) way…it can actually work with IFTTT. This was one of the announcements made by Archos at CES this year. Through the power of IFTTT you can connect the system to other IFTTT channels and big names in iOT like Phillips Hue, SmartThings or even non-smart things. In fact, you could connect your Archos video system to your Google Drive through IFTTT or send commands through Twitter.
As mentioned before, a few other objects besides the Android tablet will be included in the box: two movement tags, two minicams and two weather tags. Each of these has a different function, so let’s start with the most basic – the weather tag. The name tells it all; the weather tag measures the temperature and the humidity of your surroundings. It’s your very own weather station to let you know if it worth making a trip to the beach. Open the application on your phone or on the tablet and it will let you know how warm/cool it is in any given room in the house or outside.
The movement tags are also wireless and connect to the tablet via Bluetooth. Your front or back door is the ideal location in your home for you to place the movement tags so you’ll be notified if there is an intrusion. The base has an accelerometer that detects movement and the magnet lets the tag know if the door is open. You can set up different alerts not only to be notified when the door is open but also to be notified if there is any movement of the tag itself. The tags come with a sticky adhesive back that allows you to place them in any convenient location.
Last but certainly not least – the minicams. These are usually off but will still record videos and take photos whenever you like. The cameras come in the shape of a ball fixed to a magnetic base, which allows the camera to swivel to different angles without falling out of place. Like the movement tags, they have a sticky adhesive back so you can place them on any surface. Two things I love about the minicams is that they are waterproof and pretty much the size of a pin pong ball; this means intruders do not easily identify them. They are not high-end cameras. There is no night vision so they are best suitable for a lit environment. During the day, they function as security cameras but as it gets dark, your eyes become your only defense.
More for Your Money
Other accessories that you can purchase for an additional cost include a motion ball and a Smart Plug. The motion ball is truly an impeccable motion detector. You can place it in any corner near a doorway so that the lights will turn on automatically when someone enters the area. The Smart Plug gives you the ability to turn the power on or off from any location. For instance, if you leave a lamp plugged in to it while on vacation you will be able to turn the lamp on at nights and turn it off during days from your hotel room. The Smart Plug can be paired with the motion ball so that the light turns on or off when you enter or exit a room in your home.
So Is it Worth It?
There are pros and cons to Archos. The biggest con being the use of Bluetooth and the limitations with range. The biggest pro is by far the integration with IFTTT and the pricing. Archos is a decent system, not the best but not the worst. We recommend spending a little more money to get a proven system or even a system that provides 24/7 monitoring like Frontpoint.