Panasonic SmartHome is a wireless control system for your home managed on your mobile phone. The system is made up from a number of devices including window / door sensors, internal and external cameras and plug controllers. Earlier this year my husband and I’d discussed installing a security system so I felt more secure while he was working overseas for six months. In the end, his business trip didn’t happen so we didn’t get a system, therefore I was pleased to be asked to test a Panasonic SmartHome kit because I still want the extra feeling of security.
I remember a burglar alarm being fitted in my childhood home; the disruption! Everything was wired so we had holes cut in the floor so cables could be passed underneath and holes were drilled in the doors so the magnets could be fitted inside. However, it was also a lot of fun; in the lounge my sister and I would try and get around the edge of the room without breaking one of infra red beams and lighting up the sensor. Thankfully due to wireless technology things have improved and there are significantly fewer cables now.
Panasonic point out the SmartHome equipment is “an auxiliary system; it is not designed to provide complete protection from property loss”. This made me consider what do I want from a system to help me feel safe, and I decided on three features that can be included in the SmartHome system.
- deterrent – for example having an external camera so potential no gooders know they could be filmed
- alert to something not being right, such as a door being opened
- record details that can be shared with the police to help with any investigation
Fitting Panasonic SmartHome
The set we were sent to trial is the Home Monitoring & Control Kit (KX-HN6012) which retails at Currys PCWorld for £229.99. This set consists of a hub (the central point of the system), one internal camera, two window / door sensors and a smart plug.
In theory, the system is very easy to set up as you install the hub and then register each sensor by pressing a button on the hub and then one on the device, and then fit them in position. By downloading the app you can access all the settings.
However, in practice I didn’t find it that easy, partly due to the information provided. I’m new to this type of technology, as I suspect many people are, so I wanted some summary information about the technology and how you may want to set up the system, but this was not provided in the box. The Quick Setup Guide has instructions for downloading the app and setting up the hub, Basic Troubleshooting and a diagram under the title What is the Panasonic Home Network System but it has no explanation, for example why might you want a sensor in your child’s bedroom?
The other information provided are the Installation Guides for each device, and these are dull, with instructions on installing the device not starting until about page 7 but including useful information such as not using plug sockets in the ceiling; do these exist?
The Hub System Setup Guide is the most useful and includes information on where to locate the hub for best performance, but missed two important pieces of information for me: why does it need to be connected to the phone line and can it be installed anywhere in the house or does it need to be somewhere specific? So we ended up installing it in the wrong place, upstairs, meaning we can’t hear the one minute countdown to leave the house once the system is armed.
The Hub System Setup Guide also has an overview of the features of the available devices, but no guidance on how you may want to use them together. I eventually found some Usage Examples in the User Guide that I accessed from the app. Here is the link to read it online if you are looking for ideas on how you could use the kit. At the time of writing the examples are, I want:
- to know if someone enters my home while I’m out
- to view live camera images while I’m out
- to record video from a camera if motion is detected
- the lights to turn on automatically when I come home
- the lights to turn on automatically while I’m away on vacation
- to know when my baby wakes up
- the system to keep running if there is a power outage
- to use my mobile device to make and answer landline calls at home
Our experience using the Panasonic SmartHome kit
I found it very easy to connect the Smart Plug and Camera. The only problem we’ve found is limitations on where we can use the camera because it needs a power supply and the provided cable isn’t long enough for us to fit it on the wall close to ceiling height.
Window / door sensor
The window / door sensors were a different matter. We decided we wanted one on the front door and one on a back door as it is the darkest part of the garden so is the mostly likely entry point for someone trying to break in. Fitting the sensors on the front door was easy as the door is flush to the frame, however our back door (and windows) are not flush and the difference between the door and frame is only just in the range of the sensor, so it was a very precise job sticking them in position.
But then nothing happened, the app appeared to register them but said they were out of range so I thought the lift was disrupting the signal between the hub and the front door, and the back door was too far away from the hub. I used the Panasonic online chat and spent about two hours with George who discovered that the sensors did not register properly with the hub, even though, there was no message in the app or guidance in troubleshooting information that suggested I should try registering them again.
Since setting up our system, I’ve found this video by Panasonic which provides a good overview on how to set up the devices.
Our kids love the camera. They think it is brilliant being able to see what is going on in one part of the house on my phone, and being able to talk through the camera was just amazing. I could probably have left them playing with it for hours. On a more practical note, while I was away I was able to connect to the system and could tell that people were at home and not in bed yet as I could see some lights were on (the image below was taken with the hallway lights off at night, the lights you can see are from the lounge and outside).
I haven’t tested the recording facility yet as the set didn’t come with a microSD card. I know they don’t cost very much, but it is a hassle to get one. A big advantage of the kit using a microSD card is all the data is stored locally so there is no ongoing subscription for cloud storage, but this can also be a disadvantage as it means all someone needs to do is remove the microSD card from the hub and the data is gone.
As well as the countdown to leave the property, the hub has a siren that sounds if any of the sensors are triggered (when the system is armed). However, I’m not sure of the point of this as it is not very loud (particularly if you’ve got it hidden under some furniture to prevent the microSD card being removed) so if someone enters your house illegally all the siren appears to do is alert them to the fact that their presence has been detected and where the hub is located. I have turned the siren off when our system is set to Arm (away) although it still sounds if it is set to Arm (at home). This change is made in the app Setting > Arm settings.
As the hub is connected to the landline I can now receive calls to our house on my mobile phone, and can make calls from my mobile using the landline. This is an interesting feature but I’m not sure how useful it is as we don’t get that many calls. However, you can also set the system up to call a telephone number when a sensor is triggered which I can see could be useful if you want the call to go to a landline, or you want someone to be alerted who doesn’t have the app, for example if you are out of the country.
Home Network App
I have not found the Home Network app to be user friendly. This is partly because I’m not used to the terminology, but also because there are no instructions provided so I was not sure what I was meant to see. You can access a User Guide through the app, but I didn’t find this convenient as I was trying to switch between the internet and the Home Network app on my phone. However, I love the fact that you can control smart plugs by turning them on and off from the app or by setting them to work like a traditional timer under Smart Control. You can also set up scenarios under Smart Control, such as a smart plug turns on for a certain amount of time if a door sensor opens. I like the idea of using this with the external camera, you can buy separately, so a light turns on if there is movement outside. My concern is there maybe too few spaces for smart controls because you can have up to 50 sensors e.g. door/windows, cameras but only 50 smart control settings (I have set our smart plug up with a number of settings so it appears to turn on randomly because I always remember the scene in Home Alone* where the bad guys learn what time the lights will turn on in each house).
Although we’ve been testing the kit for a few weeks, we are not turning it on every time we go out or go to bed. This is partly because I often forget to arm it, but because it is controlled by my mobile phone I turn it on later once I remember. The main reason is I’m the only one who has downloaded app and therefore the only one who can arm and disarm the system. I suspect my husband will download it at some point, but not my mother in law who stays once a week and is in and out of the house with the children. This means we’ve only armed the system when the whole family has gone out together.
Should you buy Panasonic Smarthome kit
I really like the concept of Smarthome kit as it is modular, managed through your phone and you can set up smart controls to give the impression someone is in the house. I am interesed in extending our system to include more smart plugs, sensors and cameras (internal and external) so we can cover more of the house. I’m particularly interested in some of the devices that are coming soon; keychain remote and access keypad which could make the system easier for other people in our house who don’t use the app.
It hasn’t been as easy to set up as I would have liked, but I feel this is due to the shortage of information supplied rather than flaws with the devices. So if you are willing to spend time learning how to use the kit I would recommend the Panasonic Smarthome and would suggest you start with a small kit that you extend once you’ve got it working and have a good idea of how you want to use it.
*Disclosure: This is an affiliate link meaning if you buy something after following it I will earn a small percentage of the purchase price but it will not cost you any more. I was sent this kit for the purpose of this review but all words and thoughts are my own.