August Smart Lock

My overall rating: 4.5 stars out of 5 stars

August smart lock on door
August smart lock on deadbolt door.

Basic info

The August Smart Lock is a battery powered lock for a deadbolt door that provides virtual keys for guests, automatically locks and unlocks your door and integrates with other August products:

  1. August Connect – Remotely control your August Smart Lock
  2. August Doorbell Camera – Video and Voice doorbell
  3. August Smart Keypad – Keycode entry for the August Smart Lock

August integrates with Apple’s HomeKit, has IFTTT support, has an iOS and Android App, has an Alexa Skill.

What does the product promise?

This product promises to provide controlled access to your doors, very simple!

How well does the product deliver?

Sharing access to my house has been easy with August! We regularly have family and friends that stay with us, and using Digital Keys is super easy.

Is it a good value? For whom?

I believe that this is a good value for the ease of controlling access to your home. The lock has saved me from having to coordinate with contractors to be home with a key when they need access. The lock had saved me time from having to call my dog walker (who had a physical key) to let us in when we lost our key. It is easy to match door hardware colors with the lock color, so the aesthetics are quite nice. Using the Alexa Skill to lock the door on my way out is the standard way for me to lock my door now!

After having this in our house for over six months, it is hard to think about having to lock my doors with a key! Initially, there was a lot of skepticism that a smart lock would be secure, but after reading online about an August hack and chatting directly with August support, I didn’t have much concern.

How long have I used it?

I’ve used the August smart lock now for over six months, and not having to fish keys out of a pocket to unlock or lock the door is useful.

How much did I pay?

I purchased four August devices, three of the devices were HomeKit enabled, one was an older model that I have on a door to my utility room. The prices ranged from ($150-$225)

What was the setup time?

Installing the lock the first time took me around 25 minutes, however, that was because I couldn’t figure out how to take off the back of my deadbolt! Once I had the door hardware disassembled putting to lock on was only 5 minutes of time.

Getting the app setup with an account took another few minutes, but I was up and running in under 35 minutes total time. Each additional installation was much quicker.

How is their customer support?

August is very responsive (dare I say they are amazing!) to any customer support questions I have emailed in. I saw responses usually the same day, and the company seems genuinely interested in making sure customers trust the product.

What problems have I had?

  1. Added incorrect user – Initially when adding a new user there was no way to revoke the invitation if you made a mistake. After contacting support, they released an app update that allowed me to remove the incorrect user
  2. Low Battery Warning – I changed the batteries the first time I received this warning from the app but thought this might not be the problem, I was right as brand new batteries still had a warning.
  3. Recalibrate the locks – I am not sure why, but a couple of times the locks wouldn’t lock all the way, and I had to re-run the calibration

What do I like about the product?

  1. Digital Keys! – Not having to make copies of keys for the family is priceless
  2. Control access times – Being able to provide windows of access is very useful
  3. Log of who’s unlocked and locked doors – A little piece of mind that there is a record of who is coming and going.
  4. The fact that the outside of the door looks the same! – Keeping the aesthetics of the original door was important to me

 

Zmodo Pivot Camera

Originally posted: Saturday, August 27, 2016

 My overall rating: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars
Product Review: Zmodo Pivot Camera

Welcome to my first product review post, I am attempting to develop a template that will be helpful for products I’ve used in my home. I don’t intend to copy and paste marketing information from websites, instead, these reviews are focused more on my actual usage of the device. Keep in mind that this means I may not have used all the features of the device, but I will update this post as I explore more of the Smart Hub capabilities of the Pivot.

Basic info

Zmodo has a great website, and a simple product page highlighting the features of the Zmodo Pivot camera, the youtube.com video in this blog is a good overview/ad for the product. Zmodo began as a company in 2009, and more recently has started focusing on the smart home market.

What does the product promise?

This is from their youtube video description:

Pivot is a connected, robotic camera and security hub. With a 1080p camera, two-way audio, and 360 degrees of rotation and motion detection, Pivot ensures you always know what’s going on. It also acts as a hub, connecting its two included wireless window or door sensors, so that you can get notifications right on your smartphone when they open and close. 16GB of local storage allows you to save up to 2 days of recorded video for free, and built-in temperature and humidity sensors give you even more information about your home.

How well does it deliver?

I primarily used this for an indoor camera for my living room, here are the things I care about in general:

  1. Motion Alerts – Like to know if there is anything exciting to see
  2. Live Video with two-way audio – Need to be able to talk to folks that shouldn’t be in my living room
  3. Temperature monitoring – I have a dog who is sensitive to heat

For the things I cared about the product hit 2/3, I did find that having a built-in Bluetooth speaker was an added bonus. The built-in Bluetooth speaker was perfect for pairing my Echo Dot. Even when disconnected and reconnected from power both devices automatically reconnected overtime (over 4 times now). I really enjoyed finding the Bluetooth speaker, but the speaker quality is only a little better than the original Echo Dot speaker itself!

The only item that didn’t work well was the temperature monitoring, I did contact customer service and got a good response about this, but I’ve not yet followed through on seeing if they would replace the device due to the temperature sensor not working. My device only reports back one temperature, and it never changes. My chat session with customer support told me the device likely needed time to recalibrate the sensor, so they suggested that I unplug it for at least 3 hours then plug it back in. I did, and no change. Really this didn’t seem like something that should have even matter for a temperature sensor to work, but I followed those steps since that was the advice I was given.

Admittedly I’ve not really used the Window/Door sensors that came with the device. I did initially setup two of them to trigger the camera to move direction if their state changed. The sensors didn’t trigger the camera after one or two times, so I know of gave up on the sensors, but I will try them again in the future.

Is it a good value? And for whom?

I think this could be one of those devices that offers easier setup than SmartThings, but it seems to want to provide a great semi-closed ecosystem solution. The accessories for this camera/hub seem to be cheaper on average (e.g. Window Sensors) than other manufacturers. If you are looking to buy into a single solution, and not get complicated this could be that device. Since I didn’t use all the functions I cannot say it is there yet, but in the short time I’ve owned the device they have updated their iOS app, and are working on adding Cloud Storage as an option. It appears as if they are investing in their services.

If you are like me, you’ll never really us this as a hub, but you’ll just want to use it’s basic camera features. I think the device is trying to be too many things at the moment. But this is a device I would really like to see succeed!

How long have I used it?

I’ve been using this camera now for over 1 month.

What did I pay for it?

$163.70 (includes tax), it came with 2 window sensors.

What was the setup time and effort?

The setup time was only around 10 minutes, there was a funky step that wasn’t obvious to me during the app setup. Recently Zmodo did an extensive update on their iOS application. They may have improved the device setup flow, I’ve not gone back to try it again.

Do I feel it is worth the money?

The price of this device seems fair (I’m assuming my temperature problem was not common), and I still haven’t used it as a central hub for my smart home, as I like the functionality of the SmartThings hub to really switch to something new. I am torn on whether I’d buy another one or not. I think I need to try a few more features and see if I can get a new unit with a working temperature sensor.

Currently when I compare the price I paid for this, to the price I paid for a Canary camera, I feel better about the Canary camera.

How is the customer service for the device?

So far the interaction with Zmodo has been 50/50. I did send a detailed email to the support address on their website (support@zmodo.com). But I’ve still not received a response to this email:

I recently bought a Pivot camera and am using it in my house.

I noticed that the temperature measurements never change. It has only registered between 72 degrees and 73 degrees. I know this to be incorrect since I have many other devices in my house that measure the temperature, and these devices go up and down as I would expect throughout the day.

Since I bought this device to compare it against the main functionality of the Canary I was disappointed that it doesn’t have a good temperature measure. Since I have a dog that is sensitive to large temperature changes getting a good idea of what the temp is throughout the house is important to me.

Are there known issues around temperature measurements with this device? Could this be defective on my camera?

I did, however, go to their website and used the LiveChat functionality for their support site, and I received immediate attention. The person on the other end of the chat did say they’d replace the device if the temperature sensor was not working.