Netatmo ‘Welcome’ Review – Facial Recognition DIY Smart Camera May Be The Best In Market

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Netatmo have thrown their hat into the DIY smart security market, with the launch of their ‘Welcome’ camera. The device joins devices like the LG Smart Security Hub and the ISmartAlarm in the smart home security market, which itself is fast becoming a major player in the smart home technology niche itself. In this Netatmo Welcome review, we find that this camera has one true Unique Selling Point (USP) – a facial recognition system which is not a gimmick, or a nice to have, but a benefit which transforms the device into arguably the first home security system which warrants having ‘smart’ put in front of it.

What is DIY smart home security?

Home security systems have for many years relied on the installation of expensive professional systems, including home alarms and Closed Circuit Television systems (CCTV). These have worked well for owners of large and expensive homes, with the capital to invest in building such awesome home security, but for the more ‘everyday man [and woman]’ they are a little over the top.

The DIY smart security space has grown up around the advancement of the whole concept of the smart home. We covered this here in our opinion piece on what is a smart home, but the premise is connecting your devices up through the Internet of Things (IoT) in order to enable them to ‘talk’ to one another and to be controllable through a (or multiple) smartphone applications. In other words, controlling core home systems through apps on your phone.

The concept really bubbled into life around the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this January, and is a heavy topic of focus at the Mobile World Congress show, being held this week in Barcelona. Two areas have really emerged in this space, forming their own sub-categories within the smart home concept. The first is smart home thermostats and the latter is smart home security. Today we’re covering the security piece.

Smart home security covers vast ranges of tools, from the Hive window and door sensors right the way through to full security cameras like the LG Smart Security Hub.

It is the latter market that we welcome, pun intended, the new Netatmo Welcome camera system.

Pictured at CES 2016, The Welcome is smaller than it may first seem.
Pictured at CES 2016, The Welcome is smaller than it may first seem.

Netatmo Welcome review – What is it?

The Netatmo Welcome is a smart security system, which consists of a security camera with a 130 degree field of vision, an app and online storage, where the filming is captured. The data is free, which offers upside on other products in this space whose manufacturers attempt to charge you for storing your filming, and the camera records in high definition (HD), meaning that what it does capture is much more likely to be useful information. So far so good.

There are a number of things that really stand out as being great about this product;

This Netatmo home gadget doesn’t actually look much like a camera at all

The Welcome doesn’t really look much like a camera at all, and this is clearly useful as it gives the product the degree of anonymity and ‘hidden in plane sight’ benefit which many of its rivals lack.

Somewhat curiously, it is hard to say exactly what it does look like. Its cylindrical design borrows styling form devices like the Amazon Echo or other smart home central hubs, much more so at least than other cameras.

Another upside to it not looking much like a camera, is that any folks that come round to your house for dinner are much less likely to be slightly freaked out by the prospect of your home camera system recording their every movement. There really would be no denying that it was you who spilt the ed wine over the carpet in that instance.

Pictured being held aloft, this device has little in common with what you would expect a smart camera to look like
Pictured being held aloft, this device has little in common with what you would expect a smart camera to look like

The Welcome has amazing face recognition technology – meaning it actually is smart security

This is actually by far and away the devices unique selling point.

Whilst a smart camera clearly is intended to help identify burglars or other such bad behaviour, the real purpose of this device is given away by its name.

When building this, Netatmo were really attempting to build a device which could point at the front door, recognise who walks through it and then to personalise the whole ‘getting home’ experience for that person.

It also has the security upside which comes from such recognition. Consider a lot of smart home security systems, many of which are only really capable of telling you whether somebody has come in, or whether the door has moved, but not who has actually entered.

This leads to a host of problems. Mum is sat at work and her home security app pings, causing a mild panic. Its midday and nobody is meant to be at home. So she either sits in the office worrying all afternoon, or if feasible, she dashes home to check. Only to find that her husband had popped home because he forgot his packed lunch. There are so many such cases where a slightly smart but not smart enough device can let you down, detracting value rather than adding it [to your life]. Here, Netatmo have stepped up the game and by adding such bullet-proof facial recognition tech, they are actually making this smart security system deserve to have ‘smart’ put in front of it.

The facial recognition is this devices USP, and transforms it from any old so called smart system into a genuinely smart solution
The facial recognition is this devices USP, and transforms it from any old so called smart system into a genuinely smart solution

The Welcome is easy to install and quick to get up and running

This is another aspect that has put people that we have surveyed off of the whole concept of the smart home – it can be painful to get these IoT devices up and running.

Not so with the Welcome. Both the app and the actual camera are a doodle to install and get up and running. It actually is a five minute job, which we really impressed us.

Netatmo Welcome advanced hacks

We have spoken before about how we love the idea of the whole smart home space, but we have not always been convinced by the devices. To make matters worse, they often feel like they are a little disparate and not actually all that connected at all – not at least to each other.

As Wired Magazine pointed out though, this is not the case with this device. They have come up with some interesting hacks and general use cases, from connecting the Welcome up with your Phillips Hue Smart lights (to turn your lights red if a stranger enters the house), to doing your own WWE style entrance to really cause a stir (trigger your own theme tune when you enter the house), to using a Belkin smart switch to disable devices like the TV until the homework is done. Its an amusing insight into where tis technology could go and you can read more here.

Is this the ‘most advanced smart security system on the market’?

That was the somewhat bold claim made by the Netatmo CEO, and it was investigated here. It may not be that crazy though.

In conclusion, we think it just may be. At £199 – click to see their store, it is both expensive enough to offer quality features (plus both hardware and software) yet not too scary. As pointed out by CNET, it quite possibly is the first example of a consumer technology that has successfully incorporated facial recognition into their product – not in a ridiculous or useless way, but in a practical way. We’re sold.