Point Device Hands-on Review – Security For Your AirbnbBy - 02/08/2017
In December of 2014, I backed a device on Kickstarter that promised to protect my home without being overly intrusive. One year and six months later, I finally have Point, and it’s the first device I’ve ever tested that I instantly wanted to return.
What is Point?
Point is a simple home security device designed to work without interaction. Targeting vacation rentals (VRBOers and AirBNBers) and those who don’t want their every move recorded by a security camera, Point was sold as a device capable of listening to your home, sensing its environment, and analyzing the air.
Point arrived one week before I took a trip to Florida to help a friend secure her vacation rental. I knew it was risky to take the device and leave it in Florida without an able body available to troubleshoot any issues. And even riskier because connectivity issues notoriously plague new devices and have been a common complaint of Point’s European backers (who received their Points well before us ‘mericans), but I couldn’t pass up the chance to test the device in its intended environment. I set Point alongside SmartThings and ecobee to help create an ecosystem that would monitor her home without creeping out her guests. (You can read more about that here.)
Setting Up My Point Device
In the beginning, setup was awesome. It seemed straightforward and breezy. The app is polished, even easy to use. It looked like the hardest part would be finding the app on iTunes. (Search the app store for Point Minut to find it.) Unfortunately, things aren’t always as they seem.
Even though Minut took their sweet time shipping Point to backers, they shipped a device that wasn’t ready. Upon arrival, all backers were required to do a two-part firmware upgrade, which required physical device interaction, not something absentee homeowners want to or even can do.
After upgrading firmware, the next step is physically installing Point. Installation is easy enough as the device connects to the included base using a magnet and the base attaches to a wall using a strong adhesive. Though I’ve installed devices this way before, I did have trepidation as Point is heavy! I had serious concerns about the weight of the device and the adhesive’s ability to hold in place, especially in a humid Florida condo. However, it’s been in place for eight months, and it is still holding strong.
After physical installation, you are asked to wait for up to 24-hours for data to show. I did, no data. Unfortunately, I had run into another bug, no Wi-Fi connection, no data, and firmware zero.
I’m not the only Point user to run into this issue, so I relied heavily on the experience and advice of those before me. Unfortunately, resolving this issue (forcing the firmware upgrade) once again required physical device interaction. I went through several troubleshooting steps. Point’s suggested course of action is to adjust your router settings, but I didn’t feel comfortable messing with my friend’s router.
Make sure your phone is connected to a 2.4GHz network using a channel between 1 and 11. If your wifi network also supports 5GHz and shares the same name as your 2.4GHz network, it may be necessary to turn the 5GHz network off during the upgrade process.
In my effort to find a solution, I spent around two hours trying to get the device to connect to my personal hotspot – no luck. I tried emailing Point support; I didn’t hear from them until a week later and their response, log out and log back in, wouldn’t have helped. I tried taking advice from the Point forum,
The one returning no data didn’t work no matter how many times I attempted to redo the firmware (over multiple days). However, once I tried re-adding it as a new device under a different name, it’s as though it managed to associate with my account properly.
So I added Point under a different name, no luck. At this point, I decided to give it a rest to try again another day.
— Rose Thibodeaux (@Rose_Thibodeaux) June 5, 2016
The next day I decided to take the device and my laptop to the condo my dad was renting. (He was there to help with ecobee, long story.) His unit had an ARRIS SURFboard SBG6580 DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem. I opened the Point app, installed the two updates, and the device started recording data. Though the data didn’t look correct (Point was reading 76.5F, and the thermostat read 71F), it was better than nothing. Once the firmware was reading correctly, I took the device back to “my” condo and went through the initial setup process to reconnect to “my” Wi-Fi.
Did Point Deliver as Promised?
|Promised Feature:||Promised Function:||Reality:||Point Response:||Update:|
|Maintenance Free:||Requires no interaction, less changing the batteries once per year.||Setup and troubleshooting required physical interaction.||Working through initial bugs.||First time, batteries died after 9 months, no notification. Second time (10/2017), batteries lasted 5 months, received email notification.|
|Sound Detection:||Monitors for glass break and alarms.||Sound Levels Only||Sound Levels Only, Recognition Features Coming Soon||1/2/2017 Point can now detect the sound of a smoke detector and glass, but using this feature will drastically reduce your battery life.|
|Local Notifications:||Point can glow different colors for different situations.||Not Working||Coming Soon||TBD|
|Remote Notifications:||Push alerts sent through free mobile app and email alerts for Android and iOS.||iOS Only||Android is Still in Beta||3/17/2017 Added Windows 10 Beta App|
|Other Access Options:||Web App for Blackberry and Windows Users.||No||Unknown||TBD|
|Air Quality:||Monitors for smoke, cigarette fumes and other home hazards (not carbon monoxide).||Not Working||Coming Soon||2/23/2017 May never come.|
|Temperature & Humidity Sensor:||Will keep Nest, or in this case Ecobee, honest.||Humidity Reading is 10%+ Off From Ecobee. Temperature Readings Seem Accurate.||Point sometimes reports unusually high humidity readings.||2/8/2017 Problem appears to be resolved.|
|Tampering:||Point will send an alert if removed.||Works||Works||NA|
|Installation:||Magnetic Base, Easy to Install||Physical Installation Easy, Overall Installation Challenging||While we have spent a lot of time getting the setup working smoothly, some Wifi networks will be easier to use than others.||TBD|
|Works with Others:||Via IFTTT, Lockitron||Nope||Coming Soon||7/5/2017 IFTTT|
|Delivery:||July 2015||May 2016||Thanks for being patient!||NA|
Testing promised features against reality proved that Point didn’t deliver everything they promised and they are owning the fact that many features are missing. The features I wanted didn’t ship with the device and what did ship didn’t impress.
While features like a humidity and temperature sensor might have been cool when I ordered this device a few years ago, they aren’t that impressive now. Technology moves so fast that the product in its shipped form is obsolete. I don’t need a device to tell me my home’s temperature and humidity or even sound levels, virtually all devices can do that including my Canary camera, my Frontpoint system, and even some of my SmartThings Sensors. However, with the promise of my desired features (noise and air quality recognition) coming soon, I’m hopeful this device will prove more useful soon.
The other problem is the frequency of notifications. I had one hell of a night on the 6/8/2016. As you can see from the screenshot, Point let me know it was concerned about humidity at 3:17 am, before 3:00 am, around 2:00 am (thrice), and a few times before that. Never mind the fact that the alert is wrong, but let’s ask the obvious question. What is an absentee homeowner going to do about high humidity levels at 3 am? Unless you have a smart thermostat, there is very little you can do besides turn your phone off so that you can get some sleep.
Reading the Data
The data the device receives is inputted into charts accessible within the free mobile app. The app is easy to navigate, but a web portal with a wider display might make the data easier to digest. As it stands, you can view data for the day, week, or month and it is displayed line graph style. To “hone” in on specifics, drag your finger across the line to view specific readings from specific times of the day. For example, in the second picture above, you can see that I’ve zoomed in to get information on the condo’s temperature from 11:30 in the morning.
What the setup lacks is a way to report trends or abnormalities beyond what you set as normal. While the app is nice, there is definitely room to expand upon the way information is shared.
The value to vacation homeowners should be clear. Assuming Minut can get the product to work as promised, it provides data without being intrusive. Point has the potential to be protective without compromising privacy. Not only does it lack a camera, but all analysis is done on the device. According to Minut,
“Only processed sound events and raw data of air quality, temperature and humidity are sent to our servers. No raw sound data leaves the device.”
However, after waiting a couple of years for the device and another year for Minut to deliver promised features, I’m feeling even less confident. In theory, Point should let you know if it hears a window break, “smells” cigarettes, hears your smoke alarm, and it should let your guests know by providing a gentle glow, which may be a reminder to stop smoking or to turn the music down. While Point finally has the ability to hear smoke alarms and glass breaking, that’s all it can do. The features Point delivered with this initial shipment do not impress.
I have plenty of grace to extend toward startups and new products, but Point underdelivered. Last year when I originally wrote this article I recommended that anyone considering a Point Device should wait until the advanced features are delivered as promised. I also warned that alerts are rather useless to absentee homeowners unless you have a way to rectify whatever situation is being reported. I still feel the same way.
You can currently purchase one Point for $99.