A year ago, I introduced you to the Netatmo Welcome security camera. It was a different sort of camera that promised you the ability to recognize faces so that you could tell who was at home, and who wasn’t. Not to mention who shouldn’t be there. I found that the camera worked well enough. Though I did have some issues setting it up that required me to tweak the settings of my router after doing some detective work. Netatmo is back this year with a “new” version of their Welcome camera. I will explain why the word “new” is in quotes later:
It doesn’t look any different than the one that I reviewed last year. It still doesn’t look like a camera. It’s still made of aluminum which dissipates the heat that the camera generates (which is normal according to Netatmo). And before anyone asks, gold is still the only color available. It still comes with 8GB of storage that you can upgrade via a MicroSD card. And it still can be operated via Ethernet and WiFi. The real changes are under the hood:
- This version promises faster and better facial recognition.
- You can now store your videos on DropBox or an FTP site. Which means that you don’t nave to pay Netatmo to store your videos unlike many other security camera manufacturers.
The big news however is that it also supports an add on device called Tags. They look like this:
These are waterproof motion sensors that are powered by AAA batteries that work with the Netatmo Welcome to detect when doors and windows are opened. You get three in a box and they throw in the batteries which is cool.
Setup of the Welcome camera was very easy and one thing that I should highlight is that if you need to open ports on your router, the Welcome app (available in iOS and Android versions) tells you what ports you need to open (as I had to). That means that you won’t get the cryptic error messages that I got when I tried this last year and may negate the need to send an e-mail or call to tech support. That is, unless you are not familiar with how to open ports on your router. Adding the tags is equally as simple and the instructions provided by the Welcome app guide you through the process. If you can pair your smartphone to your car, you should be able to add a Tag or two as it’s really not that difficult. At the end, the app will prompt you to calibrate the Tag so that it knows what direction it is oriented in.
Now the combo of facial recognition and the Tags should make the Netatmo Welcome with Tags a unbeatable combo as it should recognize people that it knows so that you know who is home and who isn’t. Also, it should alert you to anyone who shouldn’t be in your home as their face would be unknown to the camera. Thus it should reduce the amount of false positives. The Tags extend this by monitoring windows and doors that are within 80m of the camera. So if a ground floor window that should be closed suddenly opens and nobody is home, you know something is up. As a added bonus, once you tell the Tag that it is on a door or a window, you can check to see what state it is in. That way you will know if you left a window open for example.
To test if this was true or not, I tested the Welcome camera by placing it facing the main door of my condo, and I placed a Tag on the door in question. Once it was all set up, I was able to get notifications whenever that door was opened. In terms of the facial recognition, it recognized my face after seeing me three times. That’s way faster than my last experience with the Welcome camera. It also means that the camera was immediately useful as the last time around, it took some time to get to that state. One thing that I did note is that the better lit the area, the better the facial recognition tends to be. I say that because under the right conditions, the Welcome camera may only detect motion and not detect a face. The only thing that I got in the way of false positives is when vibrations on the door (because someone down the hall slammed a door or something) that generated alerts on my phone. But to be fair, it was easy to see that was the case as the Welcome app would tell me that vibrations were detected. Conversely, if the door was opened, it would clearly say that. Thus there was no guesswork as to what was going on at home.
I tested the ability to transfer recorded videos to Dropbox and I found the setup was not only easy, but that videos would appear relatively quickly after being recorded. The use case for this feature is the fact that the video is off-site. That way if the camera is trashed or stolen by a thief, you still have video of the scumbag in question.
One other cool thing that I should note is that the Netatmo Welcome can “hear” alarms and alert you if one goes off. That way it’s a further supplement to any security system that you might have. To test this, I purposely set off my smoke detector and I got an alarm alert within a couple of minutes on my phone. Now this isn’t just theory. As I was writing this review, Netatmo posted a press release on how the Welcome camera saved a home from a fire [Warning: PDF].
Now back to the fact that I wrote the word “new” in quotes. This functionality for improved facial recognition came out as part of an software upgrade earlier this year. The ability to store files on an FTP server or Dropbox account as well as support for Tags appeared in June. So if you already own the Netatmo Welcome, you can get this functionality by upgrading the software on the camera and on your smartphone.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the price. The Welcome camera is $219 CDN and the Tags are $99 CDN for a pack of three. Pricey? Yes. But given the improvements that Netatmo has made, it’s money well spent if you want to keep your home safe and secure.