Netatmo Welcome review: the security camera you didn’t know you needed

Netatmo Welcome

The Netatmo Welcome is a slick and functional connected security camera. Courtesy Netatmo.

I have a love-hate relationship with indoor connected security cameras. On one hand, I like feeling safe and knowing my house is being monitored when I’m not there. On the other hand, I don’t like the idea of a camera recording me while I’m walking around in my briefs, or worse, a hacker hijacking the camera and watching me walk around in my briefs!

My feelings for connected cameras changed after testing the Netatmo Welcome for a few weeks. Unlike the Netatmo Weather Station (which I found to be a cool, but unnecessary device) the Netatmo Welcome is slick and functional.

First thoughts

After unboxing the Netatmo Welcome (I was too excited to shoot a video of it), the cylinder shape and goldish colour instantly made it stand out from other security cameras I’ve tested (it comes across much more like a Bluetooth speaker than a camera). Along with a USB port to power the device, there’s an Ethernet port and a  MicroSD card slot located on the back.

RELATED: Netatmo Weather Station review: Cool device; far from perfect

Getting it connected

Because it requires a power source and I only wanted it to point at my front door to see when people come and go, it took some maneuvering and extension cords before I got it up and running. Once it was hooked up, getting it onto my home WiFi network and setting it up via the iOS app was a very simple process (there’s also an Android app available).

Features

The big feature of the Netatmo Welcome is its facial recognition capabilities. For the most part this worked well with my kids (both boys) and I. For some reason it seemed to recognize my wife or mother even after flagging multiple images of them during its training (the only explanation I have for this is their longer hair got in the way of a full face view).

Via the app you can set up and be alerted to any motion detected by the camera. It can also listen for alarms, such a smoke or security alarm, going off inside your home and notify you of them as well. Like the facial recognition it takes some tweaking in order to get this working smoothly.

Netatmo Welcome face recognition

Example of face recognition with the Netatmo Welcome. Courtesy Netatmo.

Other features of the Netatmo Welcome include the ability to get a live view in 1080p HD from within the app and have recorded clips uploaded directly to Dropbox or an FTP server.

Hands on

As I mentioned above, it took a few days to get the camera working to my liking. Faces from reflections of my TV in a window were picked up and kept alerting me of “unknown faces”. I re-positioned it and then trees moving outside kept alerting me of “motion detected”. When I finally found the “sweet spot” for it, it worked like a charm.

RELATED: 5 reasons to add Philips Hue bulbs to your smart home

Being able to get a clear live view when no one was home (even at night when all the lights were off inside) and being able to confirm that all my timers and smart bulbs were working as they were supposed to was a big selling point for me. I was also impressed with the integration of Netatmo Tags, which are additional sensors available to purchase that can be attached to windows and doors. These talk to the Welcome to alert you if a window or door is opened.

Cons

The only real con to the Netatmo Welcome I found was lack of compatibility with other “smart” devices. It would be nice to be able to use it with the Wink Relay or via the Apple Home app. This is the same issue I had with the Netatmo Weather Station and it’s a real problem if Netatmo wants to compete in the the “Internet of Things” market (you even need separate apps for the Weather Station and Welcome).

Final thoughts

Overall, I was impressed enough with the Netatmo Welcome to seriously consider adding one to my home. For $219 it’s cheaper than the similar Nest Cam ($249) and with no monthly fee for services or cloud storage it’s a solid contender.

The Netatmo Welcome is available in Canada at Home Depot, Best Buy and Amazon.ca. For more information, visit netatmo.com.

Do you use a Netatmo Welcome or similar connected security camera? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at facebook.com/bamcatBuzz.

New Walmart Canada app aims to help customers shop better

Walmart Canada app

Walmart Canada wants you to “save time, live better” with its new app. Photo credit: CNW Group/Walmart Canada.

Walmart Canada released a new app for Android and iOS devices this week that aims to help customers shop more efficiently.

The app gives customers the ability to browse flyers, scan barcodes, create a list of favourite items and get “Rollback” alerts. In Toronto and Ottawa customers can also use the app to book a time to pick-up online grocery orders.

RELATED: Walmart Canada focusing on quality and colour for 2016 spring collection

“We’re always looking for ways to enhance our customers’ shopping experience,” Rick Neuman, executive vice president of technology and e-commerce at Walmart Canada, said in a statement. “The Walmart app saves customers time and money and provides better access to products while at home or on the go.”

The app can be downloaded for iOS devices via the iTunes Store and for Android devices via the Google Play Store.

Have you used the new Walmart Canada app? Share your thoughts on it in the comments below or at facebook.com/bamcatBuzz.

VIZIO’s SmartCast home theatre displays now available in Canada

Vizio SmartCast P-Series

VIZIO’s P-Series SmartCast home theatre display with Android tablet remote.

California-based TV manufacturer VIZIO announced Monday that its line of SmartCast home theatre displays is now available in Canada, exclusively online at Costco.

VIZIO’s SmartCast line incorporates Google Cast technology, which gives users the ability to stream content from thousands of Android and iOS mobile apps to the VIZIO display. The displays can also be controlled via a SmartCast app on smartphones and tablets, and users can multi-task on their device while streaming content to the display.

“The new VIZIO SmartCast ecosystem finally brings home entertainment into the mobile era, providing consumers with advanced navigation, search and control of their display from any mobile device,” Matt McRae, VIZIO’s Chief Technology Officer said in a press release.

RELATED: 4 things Vizio got right with its M-Series 4K TV line

Available in three collections, the higher end P-Series and M-Series models both ship with a 6″ Android tablet remote. These come with docking stations and are also fully functional standalone tablet devices (the P-Series comes with a 1080p/16GB tablet while the M-Series comes with an 720p/8GB one). All models, including the lower end E-Series, also come with a regular IR remote as well.

While 4K Ultra HD and WiFi are now standard on every VIZIO display, one thing missing from VIZIO’s SmartCast line is a built-in tuner. This means that users will require a digital converter box if they want to watch over-the-air broadcasts via an antenna (VIZIO does include an HDMI cable with every model).

Pricing for VIZIO’s SmartCast line starts at a MSRP of $1,299 for the 60” E-Series model and goes up to $5,999 for the 80” M-Series model. A full list of models with pricing is below (all prices in Canadian dollars).

VIZIO SmartCast P-Series Ultra HD HDR Home Theatre Display Collection

-VIZIO SmartCast 50” P-Series Ultra HD HDR Home Theatre Display (P50-C1) – $1,499
-VIZIO SmartCast 55” P-Series Ultra HD HDR Home Theatre Display (P55-C1) – $1,799
-VIZIO SmartCast 65” P-Series Ultra HD HDR Home Theatre Display (P65-C1) – $2,999
-VIZIO SmartCast 75” P-Series Ultra HD HDR Home Theatre Display (P75-C1) – $5,499

VIZIO SmartCast M-Series Ultra HD HDR Home Theatre Display Collection

-VIZIO SmartCast 70” M-Series Ultra HD HDR Home Theatre Display (M70-D3) – $3,199
-VIZIO SmartCast 80” M-Series Ultra HD HDR Home Theatre Display (M80-D3) – $5,999

VIZIO SmartCast E-Series Ultra HD Home Theatre Display Collection

-VIZIO SmartCast 60” E-Series Ultra HD Home Theatre Display (E60u-D3) – $1,299
-VIZIO SmartCast 70” E-Series Ultra HD Home Theater Display (E70u-D3) – $2,199

VIZIO’s line of SmartCast displays is currently only available in Canada online at Costco.

Share your thoughts on the new VIZIO SmartCast line in the comments below or at facebook.com/bamcatBuzz.

5 apps to help you get organized in 2016

Apps

Get organized in 2016 with the help of these 5 apps.

The start of a new year is a great time to declutter and organize your life. This also means your digital life, which includes everything from notes and bills to passwords and photos. Here are 5 apps I use to help keep track of it all and highly recommend checking out.

Wunderlist

Wunderlist is a great “to do” list app I use to organize bills I need to pay, projects I’m working on around the house, movies I want to watch on Netflix, grocery deals I find and a slew of other things. Along with the free Wunderlist apps available for iOS and Android devices, there’s a desktop app available for Mac and Windows and it’s accessible online at wunderlist.com. This means I’m never far away from checking on items I need to do or adding items to my ever-growing list of things to do. I’ve been using it for a couple of years now and I honestly don’t know how I would survive without it in my life.

1Password

With so many online services and accounts requiring long, complicated passwords these days, remembering them all can be a nightmare. 1Password eliminates the need to remember them all (besides the one needed to get into 1Password itself, of course). The service and available apps are all very safe and secure, and allow me to organize and sync passwords across all my devices so I’ll never be locked out of Facebook or Twitter again. The basic version of the app is free for iOS users with a $9.99 in-app purchase to unlock pro features. Android users can test the app for 30 days before having to fork over $6.49 for the full version. 1Password is also available for Mac and Windows with a $49.99 price tag per operating system.

Mint

Intuit’s Mint app has taken the burden and stress out of budgeting and tracking my spending. It not only helps keep my budget in check, but also alerts me when something is wrong (such as a large purchase I didn’t make at a 7-Eleven in Orlando that turned out to be credit card fraud). It also gives me advice on my spending habits, notifies me when a bill is due or when I’m over budget and delivers a weekly summary of where my money is going. The Mint app and service is free for iOS and Android devices and is accessible online at mint.com.

Dropbox

I originally signed up for Dropbox to get all my digital photos and home videos organized in one place. When I filled up the free space they offer, I immediately signed up for a pro account. For $11.99 a month, I get access to 1TB of space and can safely store not only all my videos and photos, but my other important files and documents. I even back my phone up to it automatically and never have to worry about losing memories if my phone breaks or goes missing. Being able to access all my files in the “cloud” from wherever I am also makes life much easier. Along with the iOS and Android apps there are desktop apps available for Mac and Windows and the ability to access your files online at dropbox.com.

Google Keep

Google Keep has become my go-to app when I need to quickly take a note or set a reminder. It’s very simple to use and allows me to share and collaborate with others (remotely adding items to a shopping list with my wife actually makes that task manageable). I can also add photos and drawings to notes, which is a huge bonus when being sent out to buy weird items at the grocery store. What really sets it apart though is the ability to search through notes to find specific things I’ve jotted down (much better than the pile of sticky notes I used to have all over the house). Google Keep is available for Android and iOS devices and is available online at google.com/keep.

What apps do you use to stay organized? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

It’s time to stop throwing away our phones!

Phonebloks

Dave Hakkens is a genius. If the world is looking to find the next Steve Jobs, he’s our man. Dave sees that most people throw their smartphones away usually because of one thing. Not enough storage. Camera is outdated. Not the latest this and that. The problem of course is that with billions of smartphones in the world, the e-waste is starting to pile up. And it’s only going to get worse as new devices are released every other month it seems. So Dave has envisioned Phonebloks; a revolutionary idea for a smartphone that wouldn’t need to be thrown away. A smartphone made out of interchangeable blocks that you could modify to fit your needs. It’s brilliant and could just be the next big thing.

Say you prefer to use your DSLR for photos. Then you could downgrade or remove the camera block on the phone and add a bigger storage block. Store everything in the cloud? Shrink the storage block and add a bigger battery block. The idea is that if something breaks or becomes outdated, you could just swap that part out and minimize the amount of junk you contribute to the world. And in the process it would give us all what we truly want — a fully customizable device. If companies don’t get behind this they’re just throwing money away (I see “bloks” becoming as popular as “apps” in a few years).

This is all just a dream for Dave so far and nothing has been built or funded. But he’s trying to get people to support it. Not by asking for money, but by creating a Thunderclap of supporters that will be unleashed on the world on October 29. He’s hoping to have 750,00 people signed up by then (he’s 98% there now) so that the world will take notice that we need “a phone worth keeping”.

Check out the video about Phonebloks below and let me know what you think. Is this something you’d get behind? Think it’s a good idea? Share your thoughts in the comments, drop me an email at brian@bamcat.com or Tweet me @bamcat.

A look at Belkin’s WeMo Switch (and who should be using it)

Belkin's WeMo Switch

Belkin’s WeMo line offers some amazing, easy-to-use home automation products that can be controlled via apps for both Android and iOS devices. I was sent a plug-in style WeMo Switch to test a few months ago and was so impressed with its capabilities that I immediately purchased a second one for another room in the house.

Setting up the WeMo Switch is as easy as plugging it into the wall, connecting it to your Wi-Fi via the free app and then deciding what you want to control with it. I went with a lamp in my living room with the thought that if I’m out at night I can turn it on and not come home to a dark house (and also make it look someone is home). This led me to think about all the other great scenarios the WeMo Switch could be used for and the types of people it would benefit most.

Parents

If your kids are anything like mine, they want to fall asleep with a light on. That’s fine, except that they don’t get a proper sleep if there’s too much light in the room for the entire night. This means I usually end up going into their room to turn the light off after they’ve fallen asleep. Try that with a baby and see how long it takes before they’re wailing from the littlest noise you make. With the WeMo Switch a parent can turn on/off a lamp without ever having to go near the bedroom. It should be on the top of every new parents gift registry in my opinion. Belkin also sells an HD Wi-Fi Camera (with Night Vision) that can be used to see (via an app) if your little one might still need the light on before you turn it off (the camera also acts as a great baby monitor as you can listen to the room via the app as well).

Travellers

Using a regular timer for your lights when you’re away on vacation is not the best option these days. People watch your house and can figure things out fairly quickly. And if the power goes out, well your timers usually fail. With devices connected to a WeMo Switch you can turn things on and off when you choose, making it look more natural that someone is home. I had my stereo on a WeMo while away this summer and every night I’d turn it on for a bit so there was sound in the house along with the lights. And if the power does go out, the WeMo will come back online when your router does. You can also set a rule for the WeMo so if you forget to turn it on or off it will act as a timer as well. Belkin also has a WeMo Wall Switch that takes it up a notch and allows you to control your exterior or ceiling lights.

Real Estate Professionals

When you’re selling a house you want it to look spectacular with each showing. This usually means leaving all the lights on in the house for an entire day. With hydro rates where they are this is not the best method (especially if your clients are energy-conscious). Wouldn’t it be great if you (or your assistant) could control the lights of your listings from your office/car/favourite coffee shop? For a small upfront investment this would definitely leave an impression with your clients and will most likely get them talking about it with their peers, in turn giving you a better endorsement than just “Yeah, they sold my house.” This is also good if you’re working with a vacant home. Even if the house has no Internet you could set the WeMo’s up with rules to manually turn on and off lights/devices at specific times. And don’t worry about getting confused what’s connected to what. The WeMo app allows you to name each adapter so you know that 123 Main St. Living Room will turn on the living room light at 123 Main St.

Scaredy Cats

My basement doesn’t have any lights you can turn on and off with a wall switch. This means that whenever someone ventures down into it they need to cross the room in the dark (usually tripping over toys, weights, and other random basement things) to turn a light on. With the WeMo Switch I can use my iPhone to turn the lights on and not have to worry about breaking my neck. And my kids can go down there without me having to do the danger dance for them first. As an added bonus, Belkin has a motion sensor you can add to the WeMo Switch so that if someone needs to run down quickly to get something the lights will automatically come on and go off when they get back upstairs.

Gadget Geeks

This is a no-brainer, but if you’re a gadget geek the entire WeMo line is for you. Do you know how cool it is to show your friends that you can turn on and off lights with your phone? As a self-proclaimed gadget geek I’ll tell you, it’s very cool! Even better than lights is controlling other devices. Putting your computer or TV on a WeMo so it powers down completely overnight to save some energy is a huge bonus.

No device is perfect of course, and since the WeMo relies heavily on Wi-Fi if something goes wrong with your Internet connection your WeMo won’t work the way it should. There’s also some debate over the amount of energy they use and whether they do help you conserve or not. Another thing to keep in mind is that with the plug-in style WeMo Switch if someone manually turns off a light or device attached to it the WeMo won’t be able to turn it back on (this happened with someone watching our house during vacation and when we got home our light was off even though the WeMo was on).

The Belkin WeMo Switch retails for around $49.99 CDN and is available at most major electronic stores. For more information on Belkin’s full WeMo line, visit belkin.com.

Do you have a WeMo or similar device? Let me know how you use it if so. Leave a comment below, drop me an email at brian@bamcat.com or Tweet me @bamcat.

Site of the week: WalkScore.com

Walk Score

Are you looking at a house or an apartment and want to know how walkable the area is? Or are you a real estate professional who wants to be able to give your clients extra incentive to move to a specific area? Then you need to bookmark WalkScore.com today.

Walk Score ranks the “walkability” of neighbourhoods with a number between 0 (meaning the area is very car-dependent) and 100 (a “walker’s paradise”). The site takes into account how close restaurants, grocery stores, schools, coffee shops, and other amenities are, and whether you can walk to get most of your daily needs or not. They also rate how transit and bike friendly the neighbourhood is. How it works in their own words:

For each address, Walk Score analyzes hundreds of walking routes to nearby amenities. Points are awarded based on the distance to the amenities in each category. Amenities within a 5 minute walk (.25 miles) are awarded maximum points. For larger areas such as cities or neighborhoods, we calculate a population-weighted score.

Renters can search for available apartments based on an address or neighbourhood or by how far you want to commute. Each listing shows all the amenities nearby and how far you can walk or bike in the area based on a specific time you set.

For real estate professionals, Walk Score offers free features like neighbourhood maps and badges you can use on your site or listings, and the ability to become a guide for a specific neighbourhood. All things that will only help give you an edge above the competition (especially if you primarily work with condos).

There’s a lot of other great features Walk Score offers once you explore it. As a bonus, there’s also an iPhone and Android app available.

Let me know your thoughts on Walk Score. Do you feel it’s something you would use or recommend? Leave a comment below, drop me an email at brian@bamcat.com or Tweet me @bamcat.