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Sensors

I'll now briefly discuss each of the installed sensors. The gallery below the descriptions shows an expanded view of the options available for each of the sensors.

Peanut Plug - This smart switch is included with the purchase of the Almond+. It's a ZigBee controlled on/off switch, ideal for learning about the home automation system. Since it is plugged in, it doesn't need a battery. The link button as well as a manual On/Off button are on the side of the unit. The Peanut Plug is supposed to show Power, Voltage and Current, but I never saw those numbers budge off of zero - even with a load applied. Perhaps that's a future feature for the plug.

Securifi Peanut Plug

Securifi Peanut Plug

GE Link Bulb - The GE Link bulb is a ZigBee compliant bulb. I reviewed this bulb in our Smart LED Light Bulb Kit review where it was linked to the GE Link hub. Since it was connected to another ZigBee device, I had to reset it to factory defaults. You do that by turning it off for 3 seconds, then on for three seconds. Repeat this on and off sequence three or four times until the light dims automatically and then comes on to full brightness. The light is now ready to pair with the Almond+.

GE Link LED bulb

GE Link LED bulb

Though I learned this when I was working with the GE Link bulbs for the previous review, Securifi has a Wiki entry that also covers resetting the GE-Link bulb. To add the GE Link bulb, just go to the Add Sensor button on the Almond+'s touch screen, tap add, and if the bulb is close enough to the Almond+, it will be discovered. After pairing, I had no issues controlling the bulb using either the Web UI or the Android app.

Motion Sensor (SZ-PIR02) - The Motion Sensor is PIR (Passive Infrared) and comes with a wall mounting bracket that tilts the sensor forward to look down on the area being covered. It ships with a CR123A 3VDC 1400 mAh battery that has an expected life of two years. The link button is located inside the device. There is also a spring-loaded tamper switch that will trip when the case is opened and send a notification.

Securifi Motion Sensor

Securifi Motion Sensor

On to , there are two small recessed screws. One adjusts the sensitivity of the unit; the other sets the delay time. The delay time ranges from 5 seconds to 3 minutes. If you set the delay time too short, you will be getting constant notifications of what is probably the same motion event.

Window/Door Sensor (SZ-DWS02) - This is a simple, two part magnetic switch. The sensor attaches to the door near the opening edge using either a supplied mounting bracket or double-sided adhesive tape. The magnet portion mounts to the door jam, also with a bracket or double-sided tape. There are lines molded into the sensor and the magnet to help align them.

Securifi Window/Door Sensor

Securifi Window/Door Sensor

The sensor also uses a CR123A battery and has an expected life of 3-4 years. Like the motion sensor, there is a spring-loaded tamper switch that sends a notification when tripped.

Key Fob (SZ-KFB01) - The key fob has four buttons: Arm All; Disarm All, Arm Perimeter; and Reserved. It uses a single CR2032 button battery with an expected battery life of 2 years. I wasn't sure how to use the fob with any of the installed devices I had. Its Wiki entry has instructions on pairing and resetting the fob and also says: "Currently the key fob works with the rules as a remote, not a key fob, but we're working on adding support to control the home/away modes with the key fob.". The instruction sheet included with the fob also contains instructions on pairing nad resetting it.

Securifi Key Fob

Securifi Key Fob

Flood Sensor (SZ-WTD01)- I can really see the value of this sensor. I've had a blocked air conditioner condensation line back up and flood my downstairs neighbor. The flood detector is designed for instances like that, or for burst hot water heaters. Like the Motion and Door/Window sensors, the Flood sensor has a spring-loaded tamper switch that is tripped when the case is opened. It uses a pair of CR2032 batteries and has an average battery life of 2 years. You can mount the sensor with screws and bracket.

Securifi Flood sensor

Securifi Flood sensor

The probe is held in place with a bracket you screw to the wall. The prongs of the sensor are pointed down towards the floor (or catch basin) so that they can detect water. To test the flood sensor, I used a glass of water. I dipped the tips of the probe into the water ~ 1/4", and the sensor immediately switched to flood mode. When I removed the probes from the glass, the sensor status went back to OK.

Each of the sensors in the gallery above has a "Notify me" option revealed when you click on the wrench icon located to the right of the sensor image. You choices are Off, Away and Always. If you configure Notify me for "Away", you only receive in-app notifications when your status is set to "Away". The "Always" option will create an in-app notification every time the sensor changes status.

You can only configure the "Notify me" options in the Android app. The "Notify me" configuration options don't appear in the iOS app, nor do in-app notifications work on iOS devices. You can, however control the sensors and rename them and change their location tags from within the iOS app.

Closing Thoughts

Installing and configuring the six ZigBee devices was really quite easy. But I was disappointed there wasn't a consistent user interface among the web browser interface and Android and iOS apps. You can only create rules using the web browser, and then only with a local connection. You can only change notification options using the Android app.

In my tests, I found the Android app, both on my Samsung S5 and Nexus 7, appeared to be stable. Response time, as reported by the Web UI, was very quick. However the iOS app was a disappointment. Without notifications in the iOS app, a significant number of potential customers are being left behind. I also found that that iPad app seemed unstable. I had the app hang multiple times and ended up re-installing it three times.

For home automation systems, control is only half the formula. Without adequate notifications, you're missing a key component of home automation. While the in-app notifications for the Android platform seemed to work well enough, there aren't any options for email or text messaging. On the Android platform, you can only scroll the notification log. There's no provision to export the log, filter the log based on sensor, date, etc., or to even clear the log.

Some manufacturers like Belkin have passed off some of the "heavy lifting" of notification to third parties such as If This Then That. For example, every time a WeMo motion sensor trips, an entry can be made in a Google Spreadsheet - all via a script donated by an IFTTT user. But when I tried this, I was receiving text messages whenever the WeMo motion sensor tripped during normal working hours and ended up disabling the feature.

In my discussions with Securifi, they said there aren't current plans for text messaging, email or integration with IFTTT. However, they allowed if there were enough customer demand for particular features, they would consider adding them.

As of today, I'd say the Almond+ home automation features have "good bones". The basic infrastructure seems to be in place and the ZigBee sensors were easy to set up and were reliable in my testing. (Note, I did not test Z-Wave support in the product.) But the applications, especially on the iOS side, need work and possibly some more enhanced notification features.

Bottom line is the Almond+ and its ZigBee sensors are easy to set up and use. But features, including notifications, are basic and are stronger on Android than iOS. It's questionable whether Securifi has the resources or desire to become a major player in the Smart Home / Home Automation market. The company's main focus is easy-to-use touchscreen-based routers. The Almond+' HA features seem more like a way to differentiate the router and sell more of them, not a way to extend Securifi's product lines.

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