Does The World Need More Sensor-Based Self-Monitored Security Systems?By - 07/17/2018
We talk an awful lot about sensors, and that’s because all of the security systems we’ve reviewed are sensor-based. Sensors provide security systems the necessary insight to protect your home from burglaries and other unfortunate circumstances. However, as the security market piles up with sensor-based, self-monitored security systems, we have to wonder if the world needs yet another option.
To answer that, we decided to take a look at two security systems featured at CES 2018: Tabs and Kopi. Both are self-monitored security systems, and both offer a full suite of sensors. Do they solve any problems not yet tackled by other companies? Let’s review.
Tabs & Kopi: The Basics
At first glance, Tabs is just like any other security system. It has a hub that connects to Wi-Fi, and it comes with sensors for home security and monitoring. However, what makes Tabs unique is the addition of location sensors. Unlike most security systems that only serve a purpose within your home, Tabs can help you monitor the location of your family members and valuable belongings while they’re outside your home. In fact, the Tabs hub can connect to sensors from up to a mile away.
On the other hand, Kopi is much more focused on monitoring your home. What makes it stand out is the fact that it works with three of the largest smart home platforms: Alexa, Google Assistant, and HomeKit. With Alexa and Google Assistant support, you’ll be able to control Kopi using your voice if you have an Echo or Google Home device. The HomeKit integration is much more complex. You can integrate Kopi into your HomeKit scenes or even set Kopi as a trigger. For example, you can set up your other HomeKit devices to activate Away mode when you arm Kopi and to activate Home mode when you disarm it.
Both security systems consist of three major components: the hub, the sensors, and the app. Let’s take a closer look at each of them.
The Tabs Hub ($99.99) is a Wi-Fi router integrated with hub features. As a router, it uses a dual-band network (2.4GHz & 5GHz), has two LAN ports, and offers simple parental controls. But don’t worry; if you don’t want to, you’re not required to use the Hub as a router. You can still use your existing router, with Tabs functioning as a secondary router. Just make sure to connect Tabs to the internet via Wi-Fi or LAN cable.
As a hub, Tabs uses LoRaWAN, which is a low-power yet long-range signal that allows the Hub to connect with sensors from up to a mile away. Here’s where it gets interesting; Given its long range, a single Hub can monitor multiple homes. For example, if your aging parents live within a mile from you, you can install sensors and monitor their home for them. In our search for monitoring systems for seniors, we found out that most solutions require an internet connection in the senior’s home. But with Tabs, assuming you live close to your aging loved ones, you can add security sensors to their home without internet.
Interestingly, you can further expand your Hub’s range by adding more Hubs. For example, if there’s a third house you want to monitor that is too far from your residence, but close to your parent’s house, you can place a secondary Hub in your parent’s house. The secondary Hub will act as a signal extender. Any sensor you connect to it will also connect to your main Hub. Better still, you won’t need an internet connection for your secondary Hub.
Currently, the Tabs Hub is the only hub sold by Tabs. But pretty soon, they’ll add the Tabs Mini Hub ($49.99) to their product line. The Mini Hub plugs directly into any power outlet and has all of the features of the main Hub minus the LAN ports and 5GHz Wi-Fi band.
Kopi’s hub, the Security Hub, kind of looks like a wall-mounted version of Nest Secure’s hub. It’s a puck-shaped device with a keypad and can be armed or disarmed using NFC tags.
Unlike with Tabs, Kopi’s hub is a dedicated device. It connects to the internet via Wi-Fi, has a high-pitched speaker that acts as a siren, and directly integrates with Alexa and Google Assistant.
Tabs offers a total of five sensors, each falling into the security, monitoring, and location category.
For security, Tabs offers a door/window sensor and a motion sensor both with a modern-look and sleek design. However, the two security sensors don’t offer any special features. The door/window sensor detects if the door or window it’s attached to has been opened and the motion sensor detects motion.
For environmental monitoring, Tabs offers the multi-purpose Healthy Home Sensor. First, it measures the surrounding temperature and humidity and alerts you to drastic changes. Second, it measures air quality. And third, it warns you if it detects high levels of harmful air contaminants such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or equivalent Carbon Dioxide (eCO2).
For location monitoring, Tabs offers the Wristband Locator and the Object Locator. The Wristband Locator is a wristwatch-like device designed to be worn by kids or aging seniors. The Object Locator, on the other hand, is a fob you can attach to objects like your wallet or suitcase.
The two devices serve the same purpose. They both report their location back to the Tabs Hub so you can track them within a one-mile radius. If you happen to have a secondary Hub installed at another location, the range will be even greater than a mile. In fact, they can track a user’s location even when the wearer travels outside your Hub’s range. When this happens, the locators save location information to an onboard storage device. When they reconnect to your Hub, the information is uploaded and viewable from the companion app.
Finally, though not yet available, Tabs will soon offer a Push Button. The Push Button can act as a panic button to quickly send out alerts to your family members. You can also use it as a smart home button, like Flic, to trigger IFTTT Applets. More on that later.
On the other hand, Kopi only offers three sensors.
First up is the Smart Contact Sensor, which is a door/window sensor. It sends the obvious alerts (door opened, door closed) and it also keeps a history log of all status changes (i.e., when the door opened or closed).
The second sensor is the Motion Sensor. It’s a wall mounted motion sensor powered by three AAA batteries. Besides notifying you when it detects motion, the motion sensor also lights up to potentially ward off intruders.
Finally, they offer a battery and AC-powered Smoke+CO detector.
All three sensors connect to the Security Hub via Bluetooth 5.0, which is the newest version of Bluetooth connectivity. It is faster, has more range, and a better throughput than older Bluetooth versions while maintaining low power consumption.
Offering sensors is one thing, but making those sensors work as a single system is what adds value. For that, Tabs has a smartphone app.
First, the Tabs App gives you a quick rundown of important data gathered from your sensors. Is your front door open? Are your kids home? Is the air in your home clean? By launching the app, you’ll be able to keep tabs on things.
Second, the app lets you set up custom alerts for things that matter to you. You can start with the basics. You can set up the app to alert you if your door opens, if motion is detected, or if the temperature drops too low. Then you can start making more specific alerts. For example, if you want to know if your kid safely entered your home, Tabs can cross-reference data from your door/window sensor and Wristband Locator. You’ll get a custom notification if the door opens at the same time your kid enters your home’s premises.
Third, the app provides a way to communicate. Your kids can buzz your phone to tell you they got home safe, or you can send an alert to your spouse if something’s amiss.
Fourth, the app lets you connect your sensors to IFTTT, an internet service that integrates hundreds of smart home devices and services using rule-based automation. Tabs’ upcoming IFTTT channel will let you trigger automated responses based on data gathered by your Tabs sensors. For example, to help out aging loved ones, you can create an IFTTT applet to turn on their living room lights when they arrive home.
Finally, the app offers parental control over your household’s internet use. You can block websites, limit your kids’ Wi-Fi use, or turn off Wi-Fi altogether, but only if your devices are connected to Tabs’ Wi-Fi.
There are two options for controlling Kopi with your smartphone.
First, if you’re an iPhone user (iOS 10 or later), you can use the built-in Home app. Home is an app made by Apple, and because of that, it is fully integrated with iPhones, iPods, and iPads. Some of the app’s features include scenes (set a scene by controlling multiple devices at once), individual device control (turn devices on or off and adjust the temperature, lights, etc.), zone control (control all devices in a single zone at once), and automated scene/device activation (activate a device or scene at a certain time, when you get home or leave, or if a sensor is triggered). You can also use Siri to control HomeKit accessories with your voice.
Scenes and rules can also connect Kopi to other third-party HomeKit accessories. For example, you can create an automated scene that turns on all lights in the living room if the front door opens.
The catch with the Home app is that if you want to access all of its features, including remote smartphone control and automated scenes, you need an Apple TV (4th Gen), HomePod, or an iPad running as a hub. Without, the Home app is limited.
Your second option is to use the Kopi companion app. The app can control your Kopi system, but not HomeKit. With the Kopi app, you can control the system, arm and disarm your sensors, and monitor your home’s history log. The app also controls other Kopi devices, such as their smart outlet and smart switch. The Kopi app is compatible with both Android and iOS.
Do We Need More Sensors?
Back to the original question: Does the world need more sensor-based self-monitored security systems?
Yes and no. No, because we already have more than enough security companies manufacturing all kinds of sensors. Sensors that alert are a-dime-a-dozen. What we need right now are tech companies like Tabs and Kopi that use sensors to their full potential by integrating them with other smart home devices you might have at home. Tabs does that with their custom alerts and IFTTT integration, and Kopi with HomeKit compatibility.
The takeaway here is that when choosing a self-monitored security system, quality beats quantity when it comes to sensor use. Look for systems that take full advantage of sensors by creating meaningful and insightful integrations.
Tabs is now available for purchase for $99.99, but you can get a starter kit that includes the Hub, three door/window sensors, one motion sensor, and one air quality sensor for $229.99.
On the other hand, Kopi is not yet shipping. Pricing is TBD, but you can learn more about Kopi on their website.
Photo Credit: Tabs.io