Last month, I wrote a post about protecting the home with smart technology. This shared my security concerns about our house and my initial thoughts about the O2 Home View package we’re currently testing out. Well, I’m back again with a full – and pretty detailed – review of the entire smart home solution. From installation, to devices, to Programs to the app / dashboard, the below review covers everything you’d want to know about the new O2 Home service…I hope.
The product is described as:
The O2 Home View pack gives peace of mind, day and night. Keep an eye on the kids, and check that the dog’s OK. See what’s going on at home, even when you’re away. You’ll also have our support whenever you need it. We’ll even come and visit to check everything’s OK.
You’ll get a wide view camera and a panoramic camera, so you can check that everything’s OK at home. A presence sensor that knows when people are around, and can trigger other devices. An open and close sensor, which can text you as the kids come and go. Plus the O2 Home hub, to control all of your devices wirelessly.
Use your phone to check your cameras and see what’s happening, so you never miss a moment. Your cameras can work with your sensors to take photos of comings and goings too. If you haven’t seen the cat for a couple of days, you could check your phone to see if it’s been making secret trips home. And all the photos and videos you take are encrypted, so you know it’s secure.
Get everything working the way you want it to by creating programs. Set up your open and close sensor to text you when the kids are home. Keep an eye on things using the camera and get an alert if there’s any movement at home when you’re away.
We’ll install O2 Home for you, at a time that suits. We’ll also give you extra support including:
- Advice over the phone or in our stores
- Free call out visits for anything we can’t help with over the phone
- A visit once a year to check how it’s going
- 24 month warranty on all devices
- 10 account profiles so all the family can have access
Installation of the smart home tech was very simple. By this, I mean that I didn’t have to do anything apart from open the door to let an O2 Home Installer into my house. If only all product set-ups could be like that, eh?! One by one, he connected the different bits of tech to the O2 Home Hub and suggested the best places for them to go.
As such, we ended up with a camera downstairs in the living room, one upstairs in the spare room looking out onto the hallway, a presence sensor in the corner of the living room and the open / close sensor on the back door. It’s worth mentioning that this didn’t require any drilling – both sensors were just stuck to their appropriate places using double sided foam tape. This not only made the installation quicker and easier, but meant that there wouldn’t be any damage if / when the kit was removed in the future.
He then walked me through the O2 Home dashboard (laptop), the O2 Home app (smartphone) and gave me a few demonstrations on how to set up Programs – these are the things that allow you to tailor the system. We’ll come onto these later. Pretty much anyone can get the O2 Home View package. All you need is to be within the installation area (it’s new, so is being rolled out across the country), have broadband, a spare Ethernet cable in your router, an internet browser and smartphone / tablet for the app.
After the O2 Home Installer was happy that I knew what I was doing, he headed off to leave me to play with my new toy. Before I tell you how I got on, let me explain the different bits of kit which come with the O2 Home View pack. First up, there’s the O2 Home Hub – this is the thing that plugs into your router and controls all of your devices wirelessly. It has some static green lights that flash every now and then, but I’ve not had to worry myself with this – it literally just sits there doing what it does.
Next up, we have the Samsung SmartCam Wide-View Camera, which has a has a 128° field of view and costs £130. This is the camera we’ve put up upstairs to keep an eye through our spare room into the hallway / stairs. I’ve been really impressed with the quality of this camera – see how clear everything is in the screenshot from the app on my phone below?
The other camera is the Panoramic View Camera which costs £160. This has a 180° field of view meaning that it’s ideal for open-plan spaces, plus it can record at night and in low light. As such, we’ve put this in our living room to give a complete view of everything that happens – oh, and to keep an eye on the dog. The picture quality isn’t as good as the Samsung, but the fact that it covers the entire of the bottom of our house is awesome.
Finally we have the two sensors. The Presence Sensor costs £30 and detects movement around the house. We have ours in the corner of the living room to cover any comings and goings through both the front and back door. We then have the Open and Close Sensor attached to the back door which alerts me when the door is opened. This costs £30 too.
Each of the above things come with the O2 Home View system, but you could purchase additional devices to extend your system. For instance, you could add more of the same devices, e.g. Open and Close Sensors to other doors and windows, or add other bits of kit such as Smart Plugs or Outside Cameras to make your home even smarter.
I’ve explained the kit, so how does it all work together to create a home security system? Well, that’s the pretty cool bit! Utilising the app / internet dashboard, you can set up Programs which connect the devices. In simple terms, you’re saying ‘if this happens, then do this and this’. There’s a number of already built in Programs, but the real (geeky) fun starts when you design your own.
I’d love to say that creating Programs is simple, but the truth is that it’s not the easiest thing in the world. I’m a pretty tech savvy bloke and they’ve left me scratching my head once or twice. You need to almost think backwards – so, what do you want the outcome to be, then how do you get to that outcome. Here’s a couple of the more simpler examples:
- I want to receive a text message when the Open and Close Sensor on the back door is opened
- I want the downstairs Camera to take a photo when the Presence Sensor detects movement
- I want the system to turn to ‘Night’ at 11.30pm every weekday
You can then start combining certain things. So, I want to receive a text message alert, want the downstairs camera to take a photo and record a 10 second video, when the back door is opened. This gives you an idea of how powerful it can be. You create these either on the app or on the dashboard by following a set process. This allows you to set the ‘Device Action’, e.g. a camera taking a snapshot or being sent an email, as well as a ‘Trigger’, e.g. a Presence Sensor detects movement. Below is an example of how a Program I’ve created looks in the dashboard.
Once it’s set up, you don’t need to do anything else apart from let it sit in the background. Should the ‘When’ happen, then this triggers the “What”. In this case, when the door is opened and the system is set to away, I’m sent a text message and the camera records. In the photo below, you’ll see that the door is open, which has alerted the app and sent a text message (notification at the top of the screen). You can also see the sequence of actions in the Device Log – pretty cool, eh?!
Although the Programs are great and really make the system come together, I have two suggestions. Firstly, I think that more standardised Programs need to be added to the list so that you can just select them and they’re set up. Secondly, I think the process is a bit convoluted and needs simplifying – would someone who isn’t tech savvy really be able to get their head around the whole setup process with numerous devices and triggers? With a bit of tinkering, I think it can be simplified and improved.
O2 Home Support
The service comes with support from O2 Home, meaning you can ring them up no matter what the issue – well, as long as it’s to do with the system and not toddler-related. I’ve spoken to them a number of times to ‘test’ them and have found the person on the other end to be knowledgeable, friendly and always follow through on what they’ve promised to do. This has included queries about Programs and reporting any issues I experienced.
Not only this, but if they can’t solve the issue on the phone, they’ll send someone to your house to sort it. As an example, the Program above actually took a long time for me to create as I couldn’t figure out how to add in two triggers. I previously got a text every time the back door was opened, but I only wanted this to be when the system was ‘away’.
I rang the support desk and they attempted to solve the issue, but were unable to. This was then escalated to a house visit. So, I had a bloke pop over, talk me through what I needed to do and make sure I was OK with everything else. That’s a pretty impressive service! FYI, for anyone losing sleep about my Program, you need to set it up, then go back in and edit where you have the option of adding other triggers.
App / Dashboard
We’ve already touched upon using the app and dashboard for setting up Programs, however it’s also used for the majority of other things too. I’m not going to cover everything, but they are your one-stop-shop for managing your account (e.g. user profiles, security questions, preferences etc), setting the status of the system (Home, Away, Night and Instant) and tinkering with your devices (e.g. viewing the device log, renaming devices and setting the motion areas of the camera).
One of my favourite – and most used – features is the live video feed from the cameras. No matter where I am, I can simply log in to the app and see what’s happening at home. The Programs are great because I’m alerted if something happens, but being able to watch a live stream means I can physically see everything is OK. Whether that’s checking on the dog if we’ve left him at home or making sure no-one’s broken in if we’re away for the weekend. Or, just taking stupid photos of myself in a weird Inception-esque way.
As the service is still pretty new, I’ve had one or two teething problems with the video. For instance, my live feeds weren’t working for a few days, which meant that I couldn’t see what was happening in the house. This obviously wasn’t great, but I contacted O2 Home support and they were able to sort things out at their end. Apart from those few days of it not working properly, I’ve not had any other issues with the video streams.
The awesome thing about this is that it provides so much reassurance when you’re not at home. Not only can you view a live feed, but you can also take a snapshot or record a video from the app. These are then saved remotely in 250MB of storage space that comes with the account, alongside any photos / videos taken as a result of Programs you have set up. You can use the app / dashboard to view and delete this. I think this is great – if someone did break in, they’d have no way of getting rid of images of themselves. For instance, other systems make use of an internal memory card in the hub, which could easily be taken or damaged.
The O2 Home View packages costs £30 a month. For this, you get £350+ tech on loan, installation, advice over the phone, call outs and all the features I’ve talked about above (and more).
As you’d expect, the price of this sits somewhere between a conventional alarm system and a fully automated response system. Having done a quick Google, I’ve found a competitor system which is around the same price but doesn’t look like it has as many features. This means the £30 per month fee is competitive.
Would I pay £30 a month for O2 Home View? Yeah, I think I would. Being a tight Northerner, I’d like to see a few quid shaved off the monhtly fee, but I think what you get and what you can do with the smart tech is worth the fee.
I really like the O2 Home View smart home technology service. For me, the whole point of something like this is to give you peace of mind when it comes to home security. This system does exactly that. Not only have I been able to set up Programs to alert me if something happens, e.g. a door is opened or movement detected, but I can also check in whenever I like to see a live video feed of my home.
On top of this, the quality of the video / photos and the fact it stores images remotely means that you have evidence – whether that’s a burglar or the missus stealing the last chocolate bar. I’ve found the app and the dashboard to be pretty intuitive to use, but my one area of improvement would be the Programs – add more standard ones to choose from and make the setup process simpler.
I think what also helps to make the O2 Home View package stand apart is the customer service. If I ever have an issue or worry, I can ring them up and they’ll help me solve it. If they don’t, then they’ll send someone around. That’s a pretty awesome helpdesk in this day and age.
All in all, I’ve really enjoyed trying out the system and using it on a daily basis. Whereas some smart tech doesn’t actually improve your life, I feel that this really does. I’d therefore have no qualms in recommending to others.
The DADventurer Star Rating
4.5 Out Of 5 Stars