The Somfy One is a surveillance camera and alarm solution packaged in a single unit, which makes it a user-friendly combination. Installation is easy and straightforward. Each unit is easy to understand and connect to your telephone. It takes about five minutes to set up the whole thing. The alarm installed on the windows is quite small and is attached with a sticker. It doesn't impinge much on the view and stays on well. The siren for the alarm is attached to the camera. The alarm noise is very loud and frightening. Of course, a thief only needs to pull the cable out of the camera for this to stop, but they will already have been captured in an image - providing that you have positioned the camera in such a way that they can't avoid this. If you reconnect the cable, the alarm will continue to sound. In other words, it has to be switched off properly. One advantage with the Somfy One is the physical lens protection. When you enter yourself as "home", only perimeter protection is activated. This means that the cameras aren't used, and only the window alarms etc. are activated. However, for the creative hacker a surveillance camera is a relatively easy target. But with physical protection for the lens, which slides across automatically when you only activate perimeter protection, you don't have to worry about unwelcome watchers. However, when the lens protection is open we would have liked to see facial recognition. The system records anyone moving in your home. Cloud storage is free for a short trial period, but after this you have to pay if you want to store the video content. This is quite expensive. £4 a month for one day's storage, £8 a month for seven days' storage. Nor is there a micro-SD slot, which means that you have to use the cloud solution, and this reduces our score.
Entering yourself as at home is easy with the Somfy One. Each family member has a remote control (key fob) that they press to tell the system that they are home. You can see on your phone when a particular family member gets home. The camera gives a good quality image, but unfortunately doesn't support 4K. But full HD and a wide viewing angle means that you still get a very good image of the room it's in. It also captures the sound in the room well, but also a hum from the camera unit itself. Sometimes it can also take a little while between starting the app and getting an image in the camera. However, the system gets a plus point for making it possible to talk to the intruder by holding in a button on the phone app. It can also detect the noise from your fire detector and notify you. One disadvantage is that the camera is quite bulky, is visible from a distance and can be difficult to position. But the app associated with the unit is straightforward to use and easy to navigate. Overall, this is a good value for money and well-designed product for anyone who wants to secure their home but who doesn't want to fiddle with a number of different products.
The Panasonic Smart Home Control Start Package is intended for those wanting a complete home alarm solution without subscription costs. You keep track of the alarm system yourself via your mobile phone. There's also a micro-SD card slot in the cameras so that they can record video. When the alarm is triggered, you receive a notification on your mobile phone and can check what is happening. You can also talk to the person in your home. The base unit will raise the alarm if an unauthorised person enters, but the siren it emits isn't particularly loud. However, it's certainly loud enough for the intruder to understand that they have been spotted. The base unit also emits a couple of short bursts before the real alarm goes off and the notification is sent to your mobile phone. This is useful as it's easy to forget to switch the alarm off when you come home. However, we tried pulling out the power cable to see if it sends a notification about this, but it doesn't. This means that any thief quick enough to do this won't be detected if they don't pass in front of a recording camera. Nor did the base unit notify us that the alarm had been triggered when we reconnected it. Another problem is that the camera included in the package has rather low image quality. We would have liked the images to be sharper, with better colours and a better refresh rate. However, the remote control switch is a good addition when you have created scenarios in the app.
The sensors in the Smart Home Control Start Package are rather large, although well designed. It's very easy to connect them and pair them with the base unit. The whole system feels well designed in terms of hardware when it's set up and configured. We had no problems with missed alarms or misbehaving cameras. The system is a model of user-friendliness. However, the app isn't anything like as good. The impression is that Panasonic have tried to squeeze in as many functions as possible into the home page, with a visually messy and text-dense interface as a result. It would have been more sensible to prioritise the functions customers use most and turn the rest into sub-menus. More graphics would also have been nice. When the alarm is triggered, the app sends a notification to your telephone, but if you aren't at home it takes time to link to the base unit and you also end up on the app's home page. It would have been more logical to display an alarm page with an overview over cameras and the active alarm sensors. If the app was restructured, this system would be a very good home alarm solution, particularly if you replace the camera with the manufacturer's KX-HNC800 HD camera, which has much better image quality but a rather stiff price tag for an indoor camera. Overall, the Panasonic Smart Home Control Start Package is still a relatively comprehensive package solution for a fairly reasonable price.
Choosing the right burglar alarm – check list
When you want to buy a burglar alarm, there's no one system that's right for everyone. Your needs and desires in terms of functions, your interest in technology, your budget and your family structure all affect the choice you should make. A few questions you can ask yourself are:
- Do you want to construct and maintain your system yourself, or use an alarm operator?
- Do you simply want perimeter protection (windows, doors etc. so that you can set the alarm when you're at home at night) or do you want more functions, such as a fire alarm, indoor movement sensors etc.?
- Do you want to both receive an alarm and see what is going on in your home, or is the alarm function alone sufficient?
- Do you have pets at home during the daytime, or other things that move and which can trigger any movement sensors?
- Do you want a system where an alarm operator can immediately investigate what is taking place in your home, or do you want to check first whether it's a false alarm?
- Do you want control of the system from your mobile phone?
- Do you have children who get home before you? Can they remember a secret code and enter it, or do you need a system with tags? Do you want to be notified when they get home?
- Do you want accessories such as sirens and floodlights in the system?
- Do you want to be able to expand the system with intelligent home functions, such as a connected fire detector, temperature sensors, moisture sensors etc.?
- Do you want the alarm operator to only check your perimeter protection, or do you want them to also be able to enter your home and check every room?
- Do you want battery backup so that the alarm isn't knocked out by a power failure?
- Do you want a system that you own, or one that you only own after a couple of years (check the purchase conditions with your alarm operator)?