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SwannOne home automation and security review

Posted on 6-Feb-2016 21:22 by M Freitas | Filed under: Reviews

It is a dream: you leave home and from a smartphone you can turn devices on and off, set alarms, view camera feeds, lock doors. But what I found is that while the platform is full of goodness, it doesn't work so well in real life.


The SwannOne Kit was delivered here on a sealed box inside a sealed box. Each of the components come in its own box. I opened those with excitment - I mean motion detection, door sensors, smart plug (to turn appliances on/off remotely and monitor usage), keyring fob with emergency alarm, camera... What no camera? Yep, the camera box had the power adapter, the wall mount but no camera. It was missing from the box.


In addition to the basic devices in the starter kit the SwannOne platform also supports smartlocks (Lockwood, Yale), smart lighting platforms (Philips Hue) and the Nest smart thermostat.




Eventually I got the camera, but in the meantime proceeded with setup of other devices. First there's a Hub, which concentrates all the communication between decices in the main platform, over the Internet. You can connect the Hub via ethernet or WiFi, then login into the SwannOne website and add to your property. This worked fine.


I then added the motion sensor and the door sensors. These are easy to pair with the Hub: simply pull the plastic tab to activate the battery and push a hidden button to start pairing. After a couple of seconds these appeared in my property list, showing its status including battery level and temperature. Very cool.


Here I found a small problem: if you try to change a setting for those devices, e.g. make the motion sensor "Active on Away Mode only", and click "Save" the page shows a "Device name already exists message". This means if I want to change a device's behaviour I have to change its name each time.


You can set the system status to At home, Away Mode and Night Mode via their website, mobile app or the keyring fob. Arming the system can be delayed to suit your preferences - from instant to a few minutes. The keyring fob is a good idea but the keys are too sensitive and just putting them in the pocket sometimes is enough to arm the system before you want.


Once the system is armed you will receive notifications and alerts from the components, based on the preference set when configuring each of them - for example you can have the motion detection set to active only in Away Mode and the door sensors active at both Away Mode and Night Mode.


You can also create rules, which can help automating a lot of things around the house. For example "IF ([device name]|[schedule]) ([triggered]|[times]) THEN [contact]|[device] ([email]|[ON|OFF])". For example you could have a rule to lock doors if a specific device is triggered (just in case you forgot to lock then). Or create a rule to turn on lights if motion is detected. These can be really powerful stuff so worth playing with them.



The camera in the starter kit is an indoor model. Very easy to setup, with LEDs for night recording as well. It's good looking and attached to the base with strong magnets allowing you to position it the way you like. Using the website you can set things such as sensitivity to moveement and see a live feed. Unfortunately the camera can be used to detect movements but nothing will be recorded unless you have the paid service. I would like to have at least a 10 seconds recording of the movement sent as an attachment via email on request. Despite the correct timezone and DST setting for the property the camera timestamp was always one hour behind actualy date/time.


Another problem with timezone was the smart power switch. You can turn the switch on and off from the mobile app or website, and even check power usage over time. You can also program the power switch using the rules platform so it will turn on and off at some times of the day - perfect for when you are away on travel and want to give that "lived on" impression. But as in the camera, the timezone for the smart power switch is not respecting the DST flag, so you have to set things for one hour before the actualy time you want it happening - that is, at least until our DST ends. Not very helpful or friendly.


The Hub has an internal battery so even if there's a power cut the system remains armed for some time. This is a greate feature. It also has two USB ports - no mention of those in the documentation and attaching storage devices doesn't seem to indicate it is currently used for anything at the moment.


The mobile app looks good and notifications show up any time between a few seconds to a couple of minutes after an event.



Events and notifications, both in the mobile app and the website are also affected by the timezone problem but even worse: regardless of how many times I changed the timezone in my address settings to Auckland/NZ notifications and alerts are timestamped as 13 hours behind the current time, as if alerts and notifications are shown using GMT instead of local time.


I sent an email to support address asking about these problems (slow notifications on mobile app, device name conflicts when changing settings and incorrect timezone). The email was sent 24 December and I wouldn't expect a reply next day (being Christmas eve and all) but it took them exactly 30 days to respond. Regarding the sometimes slow notifications the support tech asked me to check my Internet speed using a speedtest (I don't think this would be the problem, as I was using cable then and fibre now, so upload speeds aren't really a problem at home). 


Great idea but not so great implementation or after sales service.


UPDATE: To their credit a Swann technician contacted me to discuss the timezone problem, a day after an agreed date. He asked me to reset the Hub, which immediately started an update process. Unfortunately this didn't fix anything. Alerts are timestamped 13 hours behind and camera timestamp and smart switch on/off times are still one hour behind. To this his comment was "Ah, you are on fibre and this means your router gets a different time than our systems." Sorry but this is not the correct answer to the problem. It's a platform and software problem and my Internet connection has no bearing on this.


UPDATE: The timezone problem was corrected after a few months.


UPDATE: I still have the box here and tried connecting it to test integration with Philips Hue. It didn't work. The support person told me the box firmware needed upgraded but it had to be manual. So I left the box on and let them push the upgrade to it. It paired with the Philips Hue setup but never managed the lights. And a check for updates actually downloaded and installed the previous version so the pairing was lost. Since then, almost a year later I got the box out of storage and tried again - still no update available. A dead product by all means.