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After having Piper up and running in the house for about a week, I’ve had a chance to dig into it a bit deeper to share how we’re using it for home automation and security.
We received the Piper Z-Wave Pack ($339) with a Piper unit, Z-wave Smart Switch outlet switch, and a Z-wave Door/Window Sensor. Z-wave is an industry standard for home security/home automation devices. Using the Z-wave standard lets Piper tap into a large marketplace of compatible devices that can interface with the main Piper unit. Adding Z-Wave devices is extremely easy. Unlike a more traditional home alarm system, you can do it yourself and it doesn’t require a paid service call from a technician or any increase in monthly alarm fees since there aren’t any monthly fees associated with Piper.
Smart Switch Remote Light Switch
The Z-Wave Smart Switch ($49.95) is a little brick that plugs into a wall outlet like a light timer. You can plug something into it and then control the device on a schedule or on-demand via the Piper App. The most common use for the SmartSwitch would be to hook up a lamp so that you can remotely control lights in your house but you could really plug in just about anything that you want to remotely turn on and off.
Connecting the Smart Switch to the Piper unit was extremely simple. I ran the Piper App, went to Settings, and selected Z-Wave accessories. I clicked “Add” and then also pushed the pairing button on the SmartSwitch. I named the device “Upstairs bedroom” so Piper could distinguish it from other light switches that I might add in the future.
Once the SmartSwitch is connected, I can use it as a light timer by specifying a schedule for example, one schedule for weekdays, another one for weekends. Light switches can also be flipped on directly when watching the live video feed from the Piper app. Let’s say you’re looking in on the house but it’s too dark to see much with the camera. Press the light bulb button on the live video feed and the lights can be turned on to illuminate your video session.
There is a lot more Piper could do with the SmartSwitch and the mobile app. You can currently set a schedule like “Turn the lights on at 5 PM, and off at 9 PM” but that schedule is set independently of whether you’re home or not. It would be better if the schedules were set specifically for the Piper mode… one schedule for when I’m home, another for when I’m away, etc.
The SmartSwitch documentation also says that it monitors energy usage and can feed that information back to the Z-Wave controller (Piper) so hopefully that’s a feature that comes along sometime soon. Piper could easily be turned into a pretty powerful home-automation platform if the developers decide to move in that direction.
The Door/Window Sensor ($49.95) contains a small unit about the size of a pack of gum, and a smaller magnetic sensor. When the two parts of the unit are separated, an alarm is sent to Piper. The unit screws to a door or window frame, or even a cabinet door (maybe to keep your kids out of the liquor cabinet?). Once you add a Door/Window Sensor to the Piper system, any state change becomes another event that you can trigger on. For example, if the door is opened, you can turn on a light, record video, send a text message, and sound the Piper’s built-in siren.
You could add many door and window sensors to Piper, as well as additional Z-wave motion sensors and build a system with a reach and capabilities that rival a top-tier home security system. The good thing about Piper is that you can add the accessories on your own as you go, and you’re not paying a monthly fee to someone.
Using the Camera as a Nanny Cam
One unanticipated aspect of Piper is that the live video feed and two-way video intercom makes it a pretty good Nanny Cam. You can monitor what’s going on in the room or talk to someone near Piper. We’ve used it to check in on the kids, using the camera to zoom in on the couch (Keep your hands to yourself), and even zoom in on the TV image (No, you can’t watch another Jessie).
The live video feed also records sound and you can use the mobile app to talk back to those in the living room to issue helpful reminders like “Please sit properly on the couch.”
Our Kids’ Reaction to Piper
At ages 8 and almost 11, our kids are getting to the age when we’re feeling more comfortable about leaving them home alone while we run an errand but Piper provides some extra confidence that we can look in on them to ensure that everything is truly ok at home in our absence but this doesn’t mean we’re spying on them. The light on the front of Piper changes colors when the live video feed function is activated through the smartphone app so anyone in the room can tell it’s on. When we’ve used Piper to peek in our kids, they’ve noticed the change in color that indicates that we can see and hear what is going on in the room.
Do they feel like we’re spying on them? Honestly, no. They understand that we use Piper more of a security tool than something that can catch them doing something bad when we’re out of the house. There have been many talks about how to be safe when home alone (locking doors, not answering doors, calling us as needed, etc.) and Piper makes them feel like they’re a bit more connected to us even when we’re out of the house. Earlier this week when my husband and I went to go vote, our almost 11 year old daughter asked if we’d check in on her with Piper.
To best use Piper as a way to check in with your kids through the video and audio feed while out of the home, is to have multiple Piper units set up around the house in places where your kids are most likely to be. Having one Piper in our living room lets us see our children if they’re sitting on the couch and watching television but not if they’re playing in another part of the house or doing homework in the kitchen.
Piper and the associated components like SmartSwitch Remote Light Switch and the Door/Window Sensor are helpful tools for home automation and security. They’re easy to set up and the lack of monthly fee is highly attractive especially after making an initial investment in the equipment. Piper bundles are a good starting point to test out the gear to figure out how your family might use it and what additional components you might want to add to your home in the future.
Visit Piper’s website and online store to learn more about it and the various components available for purchase or read my previous post: Why Piper is More Than a Home Security System: Exciting Platform, Different Functions, Attractive Package & Affordably Priced
I received compensation from Piper for my time testing out provided components and sharing my thoughts. All opinions are my own and based on personal experience.