Like a lot of things in life, home security is something I’m concerned about but haven’t yet found the time or inclination to do anything about. We bought an alarm system when we moved into our house five years ago, but I never really got round to fitting it, so instead I decided to just eBay it a few years later instead.
Although everything can be replaced through insurance, I wouldn’t really like the idea of some intruder being in my house searching through my unmentionables. We live in a pretty safe place and are overlooked by neighbours, but that doesn’t mean that we’re impervious to a break-in. I’m sure that we can all agree that it’d be a pretty crappy experience to come home and find that someone has invaded your personal space and taken your things without your knowledge.
This is where I reckon technology can play a big part. I’m not talking about traditional alarms or new types of locks on doors, but smart tech which allows you to control your home in a Minority Report or Black Mirror: White Christmas kind of way – well, without the associated bad stuff.
As such, I’m always open to seeing how new concepts such as this work to improve our lives and change how we live, so I was really interested when contacted about reviewing the Panasonic Smart Home range. I was provided with a Smart Home Monitoring and Control Starter Kit (KX-HN6012EW), which included a number of different devices – the Smart Hub, Smart Plug, Window / Door Sensors and Indoor Camera – to allow you to wirelessly monitor your home wherever you are via the Panasonic Smart Phone app. Below, you’ll find my review of the kit:
The product is described as:
Enjoy peace of mind and home security with the Panasonic Smart Home Monitoring & Control Kit. Forming part of Panasonic’s Smart Home range, the Monitoring & Control Kit offers wireless monitoring of your home, so you can be reassured that your home is secure wherever you are.
The Smart Hub forms the heart of your Panasonic Smart Home system by wirelessly connecting to all your Smart Home devices. In addition to communicating with other devices, it can record footage from the Smart Home Camera onto a microSD card.
The Smart Plug works as an adapter between your appliance and plug socket, giving you complete control via your smartphone wherever you are – ideal for triggering lights when it gets dark or ensuring your iron is switched off.
The Window/Door Sensor is easy to install and is triggered when the window or door is opened – instantly alerting you by sending a notification to your smartphone.
Compact and discreet, the Indoor Camera keeps an eye on your home by streaming live footage directly to your smartphone or tablet wherever you are. Thanks to night vision and a built-in microphone, the Indoor Camera also makes an ideal baby monitor.
The Monitoring & Control Kit uses standard DECT wireless for a safer alternative to WiFi. DECT offers a stable, interference free range that’s invisible to regular consumer products. Easy to setup with a long 300 metre range and no monthly fees, the Panasonic Smart Home Monitoring & Control Kit works in harmony to keep your home safe and secure.
On opening the box, I was met with an array of devices and gadgets which made up the Monitoring and Control kit. I had a quick flick through the instructions and was pleased to see that there was a Quick Setup Guide to help get you up and running.
I followed the guide, which included things like plugging in the Smart Hub, downloading the Panasonic Home Network System app on your smartphone / tablet and connecting the Hub to your Wi-Fi network. I expected to hit numerous problems during this process, however, within five minutes, everything was set-up and finalised. I was then asked to upgrade the software which took an additional twenty minutes or so.
The Hub is described as the heart of the Smart Home as it connects wirelessly to all of the other devices up to a range of 300m away. It also hold an SD card which allows you to store recorded footage from the Indoor Camera which comes with the kit (or Outdoor Camera which doesn’t). As the Hub is so central to the system, I decided to put it in a hidden place somewhere out of the way. The reason being that it can simply be unplugged from the wall which basically renders the system useless – personally, this feels like a bit of a flaw with the system.
Once the software had updated, I was able to start connecting the various other devices to the Smart Hub. This is achieved by one-push pairing which recognises and syncs the different devices together using the Hub and app over a DECT Ultra Low Energy (ULE) wireless network which is invisible to smartphones, tablet and PCs. This allows you to tailor the system to your specific requirements and add multiple devices to monitor and control your home, e.g. up to 50 Door / Window Sensors, up to 50 Smart Plugs, up to four cameras etc.
I connected three different devices to my Smart Home network which came with the kit. This was the Indoor Camera, Window / Door Sensor and Smart Plug. Below you’ll find more details about the installation and my experience of these devices:
Panasonic Smart Home Indoor Camera – KX-HNC200EW
The Indoor Camera allows you to keep an eye on everything that goes on in your home via the app on your smartphone / tablet. This means that you can view live footage from the camera, or do even cleverer things such as receive alerts and start recording when motion, sound or temperature changes are detected. It also has two-way communication, which makes it useful as a baby monitor, and night vision so you can keep an eye on things in the dark.
I was really looking forward to trying out the camera, mainly because we’d always wondered what our sausage dog did when we weren’t home! I decided to start with the camera in the living room from a security perspective -and snooping on our dog perspective – but have also tested it in Toddler L’s bedroom as a baby monitor. Setting up the device was particularly easy – you just need to plug the Indoor Camera into a plug socket, then use the one-touch pairing method with the wireless Hub, i.e. pressing a button on both devices to pair them.
I struggled a bit with placement of the Indoor Camera though. Obviously it needs to be near a plug socket as this is how it’s powered, which limits where you can place it. I also found that the power cable wasn’t particularly long, meaning that it was impossible to place it high in the corner of a room, which was my preference to get the best coverage (well, without drilling through floors / ceilings etc). This meant that I had to settle for balancing it on the side of a table, which isn’t really great when you have a toddler running around, plus makes it easy to spot for any potential intruders.
Once set up though, I was pretty impressed with the Indoor Camera. Using the app on my smartphone, I was able to quickly and easily watch live footage and instantly take photos (you can also record directly to the Hub using an SD card). The quality of the live stream was good, as shown by the photos taken via the app on my smartphone below.
The camera also has night-vision capability which means that you can see an image when light conditions are low. Obviously you aren’t going to see things as well as when the room is bright, but I still found the camera did a decent job, particularly if using it as a baby monitor, as shown below.
The clever thing about the kit is that the Indoor Camera can alert you to directly on your smartphone and start recording should something happen. So, for instance, you could set up Scenarios based around temperature, sound and movement so that you receive a notification if, for example, the Camera detects movement. Similarly, you can use other devices connected to the Hub as the trigger, such as alerting you should one of the door sensors be activated. Pretty clever stuff!
In addition to the video functionality, the Camera has an in-built microphone and speakers, which allows you to use the app on your tablet to hear what is happening near the Camera as well as speak via the Camera. This, in addition to a number of pre-recorded lullabies which can be played through the Camera via the app, turn it into a decent baby monitor as you can see, hear and talk to your little one when they’re not in the same room as you.
I’ve used the camera quite a bit since getting it and really like the added reassurance and security it provides. I think I’ve become slightly obsessed in a voyeuristic way though at checking the live stream to make sure everything is OK in the house. As a plus, I’ve learnt what the dog does in the house when alone too – absolutely bugger all, he just sleeps!
Panasonic Smart Home Window / Door Sensor – KX-HNS101EW
I probably shouldn’t admit this, but prior to using the Smart Home system, we didn’t have any kind of security system on our house. I was therefore really interested to see how these window / door Sensors would work in order to better protect our home from potential intruders.
The idea of the Sensors is simple – they can attach to either your doors or windows and will provide a notification if either is opened. After a bit of deliberation about where made most sense to place the Sensors, I decided on the front door and our garage door. This way, I would be alerted if someone entered our house or if our garage door was opened – the latter being really useful as we can’t see the garage door from the house.
Fitting the Sensors was relatively straightforward. The first thing to do is put the included battery into the larger Sensor unit by taking off the front panel. You then press the small button inside which turns on the device and allows you to experiment with where to place both it and the smaller Sensor. What you’re looking for is the LED turning green, which indicates that both Sensor units are within the correct range of each other. I had no issue with this, apart from finding a suitable place on the garage door – however, this isn’t the fault of the sensor.
It’s slightly difficult to see because of the lighting, but the photos below show the Sensor in action (without the front casing on the unit). When the door is closed, a green light is present because the main unit and smaller unit are within range of each other. Once the door is open, the two units are no longer within range of each other, therefore the light turns red.
Once you’re happy with the placement, you can affix both parts of the Sensor into place using either double-sided tape or screws, both of which come with the kit. The next step is to pair the Sensor with the Hub, which is done through the one-touch pairing technique, i.e. pressing a button on both the Sensor and the Hub.
You can then use the app to name the Sensors (e.g. their location), check on their status, see a log of activity and set up Scenarios. These Scenarios allow you to interact with other devices attached to the hub, so for example, you could turn on a light (using the Smart Plug) or start the Indoor Camera recording, when the garage door is opened. You are also notified via the app if the system is armed and a door is opened.
I’ve tested the system quite a bit and have been really impressed. Whenever I’ve expected the system to go off – for example, I’ve armed the system then opened the garage door – the Hub has sounded an audible alarm and my phone has notified me that the door is no longer closed. It has definitely provided us with increased reassurance – particularly for the garage – and I’d have no qualms in installing more of the sensors in other areas, e.g. the shed, back door etc.
Panasonic Smart Plug – KX-HNA101EW
I really liked the idea of the Panasonic Smart Plug. In the past, we’ve used a different type of smart plug which has allowed us to do things like turn lights or the TV on / off using the telly remote. The Panasonic Smart Plug is different though as it allows you to turn on and off electrical devices which are plugged into it no matter where you are using the app on your smartphone.
Setting up the Smart Plug was very simple. All I needed to do was plug it into the plug socket on the wall, then put the electrical appliance’s plug into the Smart Plug. I then connected the Smart Plug to the Smart Hub by pressing and holding the button on each device which paired the two together. That was it.
I was then able to check that it was set up correctly on the app. I did this by clicking on the Smart Plug option, which showed the connected device and allowed me to simply turn on and off the Smart Plug with one tap. There is no light on the Smart Plug when it is turned off, but once switched on, a yellow / green light is lit.
We’ve mainly used the Smart Plug on a lamp in our living room. This has allowed us to turn a light on remotely when we’ve been out, which has given the impression that we’re in the house. As everyone knows, robbers are allergic to light so this has worked well as a deterrent.
In addition to being able to turn the light on / off manually using the app, you can create Scenarios which allow the Smart Plug to turn on / off when something happens. For instance, you could set it up to turn on when another linked up device is triggered, e.g. the camera picks up movement, or even at a particular time of day. In fact, we have actually used the latter to automatically turn on the slow cooker at 6am when we couldn’t be arsed to get out of bed that morning!
Panasonic Home Network System App
As you’ve probably gathered from the above, the app is the thing that allows you to work your Smart Home. This means you can control and monitor the different aspects of the system directly from your smartphone or tablet (you can even have multiple smartphones / tablets connected). I’ve already shown above how the app can be used with the system, but as a recap, it can handle everything from live feeds from the Indoor Camera, switching lights on or off with the Smart Plug, alerting you if the Window / Door Sensors are triggered, setting the system to armed or disabled and even being able to make and receive landline calls on your smartphone.
As such, the app isn’t basic – it has plenty of different menus and parts to explore. However, I’ve found that it’s pretty user-friendly – most things can be accessed with a couple of taps – and I’ve only had one or two issues where it’s frozen. Performance of the app is better when connected to Wi-Fi rather than your smartphones 3G / 4G, but I’ve still found that I’ve been able to watch the live video stream or check the alerts log etc.
The Panasonic Home Monitoring and Control Kit can be bought from a number of retailers including Curry’s and Amazon and will set you back £229.99. Having looked around online, this seems to be in-line with other companies who are offering smart technology around the home.
You then also have the option of adding on an array of other devices such as Sirens, Motion Sensors and Phones, as well as all the other bits already talked about. I imagine this is where the system could become really expensive though. For instance, an Indoor Camera costs £79.99, a Window / Door Sensor is £24.99 and the Smart Plug costs £39.99, so you might not get much change out of £1,000 to cover the entire of your house in smart technology.
I’ve really enjoyed using the Panasonic Smart Home kit and will continue to do so as a way of monitoring and controlling the house. Knowing that you’ll receive an alert if a door is opened or a camera picks up movement provides a great deal of reassurance, particularly when you’re out of the house.
The setup of the kit was so much easier than I expected and I’ve found the app to be pretty user friendly and self-explanatory. It is also really versatile, such as moving the Smart Plug or putting the Indoor Camera in a different location. In terms of performance, everything has triggered when I’d expect it to, e.g. the system is armed and I open a door with a Sensor, which is really reassuring, however I have had one or two times when the app has frozen.
I do have a couple of other niggles too, although these are massively outweighed by the positives. For instance, it feels a bit of a flaw that the Hub can just be unplugged from the wall to shut the system down, meaning that you really need to hide the Hub. In addition, the Indoor Camera power cable isn’t that long which means you can’t mount the camera high up in the corner of the room and the system can only be controlled via the app which has created issues if my phone has died or when the missus needs to go to work in the morning and I’m not yet up (the app isn’t available on her Windows phone).
I love the idea of having my home fully kitted out with Smart tech and would love to have Smart Plugs on each wall, Sensors on each window, multiple Indoor Cameras and Outdoor Cameras etc, however adding to the system is quite a pricey task. I think that the Home Monitoring and Control Kit is a great little starter bundle and I think it will continue to do a great job for us – I may even invest in a couple of other devices in the near future!
The DADventurer Star Rating
4.5 out of 5 stars
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N.B. This review was written by me (Dave) and represents my honest opinion of the product. The Smart Home Kit was sent to me by Panasonic with the purpose of writing an honest product review in exchange for the product.