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Review: Netatmo Presence an exceptionally smart security camera

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Ability to distinguish between cars, animals and people sets it apart from competitors.

netatmo presence

NETATMO PRESENCE
THE GOOD: Fast notifications, can tell people from animals.
THE BAD: Some hiccups with wi-fi set-up and installation.
RATING: A A A A

Okay, so round one of the Internet of Things: Home Edition turned out to be a bit underwhelming. The slew of connected gadgets that were supposed to make our homes more efficient, cost-effective and safer ended up having a bunch of problems.

They either had wonky connectivity, less-than-intuitive control apps or security holes, or all of the above. Arguably, this particular segment of the IoT – along with wearables – has been a bust so far.

But the idea of the connected home isn’t going away and neither are the manufacturers of these devices. The smart ones are applying the lessons learned from mistakes of the past into newer and hopefully better products. The next generation of IoT devices are therefore better positioned to deliver on some of those earlier promises.

The Netatmo Presence looks to be one of those products. An outdoor home security camera from France’s Netatmo, the Presence is a solid improvement on similar devices that came before it. I’ve been testing it for a week and I’m a fan so far, to the point where I’m considering buying a second one.

The Presence, available for $349 in Canada, has a number of cool features going for it. The headline function is its ability to distinguish between people, animals and cars, and send alerts accordingly.

It works surprisingly well – and fast. I set my camera to send notifications whenever it detects a person or animal and sure enough, my phone beeps just as soon as a squirrel enters its field of view. It does the same almost immediately after I pass in front of it.

This differs from other cameras I’ve tried, which often have a delay of seconds or even minutes.

netatmo

Part of the speed likely has to do with the Presence’s configuration, which relies on a combination of internal memory, wi-fi connectivity and cloud storage.

The camera doesn’t continually stream like some other products, but instead records incidents to an embedded microSD card. It then sends the notification to your phone or tablet, at which point you can fire up the app and effectively stream the incident from the SD card. You can also switch to live streaming at any point.

The upside of this system is that it doesn’t use much of your home internet bandwidth, an important consideration if you have a low monthly data cap. In my week-long test, the Presence has barely registered a blip on my usage meter. That said, recordings can be backed up to a personal Dropbox account or FTP server.

The potential downside of the system, according to security camera experts, is that SD cards can wear out relatively quickly when they’re constantly being written on and overwritten.

This is obviously not something I’ve been able to test yet. Netatmo representatives also weren’t able to comment on it when I met with them a few weeks ago. It’s definitely something to keep an eye on.

The Presence is also equipped with infrared vision for seeing in the dark and a motion-sensing floodlight, so it’s pretty much ready for anything. With its physical capabilities and intelligent identification features, it’s going to be tough to escape its watchful eye. Just ask this skunk that wandered through my driveway the other night:

netatmo

The associated app is also straightforward and easy to use, despite providing relatively fine-grained controls on what it detects and sends notifications for. The video quality also tops out at 1080p and is sharper than some other cameras. And, as with competing products, you can draw specific alert zones to further fine-tune alerts.

Netatmo says the Presence is easy to install, but I’m not completely sold on the claim.

As luck would have it, I had an electrician over fixing some unrelated wiring so I asked him to swap in the camera for an existing motion-sensing light fixture I had over my side door. He said the process was easy enough, but there was one wire that needed to be replaced because it was incorrectly sized.

It’s a good thing he happened to be over as I don’t think that’s something I could have managed myself.

Getting the Presence connected to my home wi-fi network also required a number of tries, which got me worried that it was just another wonky IoT device. It eventually connected and I haven’t had any problems since.

Still, that’s an issue I’ll be watching out for, along with any potential hiccups from the SD card. I’m also curious as to how the Presence will survive the winter, although Netatmo reps say it’s battle hardened for cold weather. It sure looks it is, with its sturdy aluminum shell, but we’ll see.

I’m cautiously optimistic about the Netatmo Presence so far. It’s sharp, fast, smart and, with no monthly subscription fee for online storage, potentially cheaper in the long-run than some other competing products.

If this is what the second wave of connected home products is going to look like, then that future of better homes we were promised may indeed be getting closer.

Netatmo supplied a trial unit for the purposes of this review.

UPDATE JUNE 26, 2017: As mentioned above in the initial review, my suspicions about the SD card have indeed come true. The card that shipped with the camera got about eight months of life before needing to replace. Fortunately, getting a new one in is relatively painless. Still – it’s something to be wary of with SD-card-based cameras.

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