April 25, 2024


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People Power Presence Security Pack review: Pricey accessories are a hard upsell for a free app

I found a lot to like about People Power’s free Presence app when I reviewed it back in November of 2014. Here’s how it works: Take a spare Android or iOS device — say, an old smartphone or an iPod Touch — and stick it anywhere in your home where you’d like to use it as a security camera. Then, use your current everyday Android or iOS device to remotely monitor that video stream. It can track motion-related events, offer live video footage, and even store saved clips in the app. That way, you can approximate a DIY security camera with a device that you probably already have at home. The Presence Security Pack is an optional add-on that offers a more complete security and automation system.

The app is roughly comparable to (although not quite as good as) fellow security camera apps, Manything and Salient Eye . One issue was that Presence had few third-party integrations, but nevertheless promoted the heck out of its limited-product online store, including the seriously overpriced Monster Central Power Control Kit .

Now, there’s an alternative add-on in the form of People Power’s own $299/£190/AU$405 Presence Security Pack. The bundle includes seven smart sensors and a wireless hub to tie them all together. (The sensors and hub use ZigBee wireless rather than Wi-Fi, so the hub needs to be wired into your home network.)

The hub and the sensors included all work very well, but — even at a better per-sensor price than the Monster — it’s still a comparatively steep investment on what’s essentially a free app that repurposes old smartphones, handhelds or tablets around your home. Yes, the sensors are good — recommendable even — but I’m not quite sure who will buy them, when a quick online search returns several results for less.

What’s in the box?

For your $299, you’ll get three door/window sensors, a motion sensor, a temperature sensor, a touch/tamper sensor, a water sensor and a wireless hub to tie them all together. (The sensors and the hub use the ZigBee wireless standard.) Since you’re dealing with seven different devices presumably to be planted all over your house, I actually like that these sensors are small and borderline utilitarian-looking with bland white finishes.

But, while they’ll blend in well with traditionally light-colored interior doors and door/window frames, the plastic feels cheap — as if it wouldn’t be sturdy enough to endure over time. I have similar complaints with many sensors of this sort, but it does make this kit’s particularly high price stand out even more.

The Presence app in action.
Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The hub comes with a power adapter and an Ethernet cable for quick access to your local network. Start out by connecting the hub to your router (which will bridge all of the ZigBee-enabled sensors to communicate with your Wi-Fi mobile devices) and then download the Presence app on your Android or iOS device of choice.

Beyond basics

The Presence app acts as your main point of interaction with the sensors included in People Power’s Security Pack. Fortunately, the set-up is very straightforward — simply follow the instructions in the app to pair each sensor with the hub. This consists of pulling the tab out of every sensor one at a time, then waiting a few seconds until the app automatically recognizes them. You’ll then have the opportunity to give each sensor a custom name and actually start using the app as your home-security and automation access point.

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