Security cameras are one of the easiest-to-justify devices when it comes to adding connected devices to the home. But simply shooting footage is not all that helpful. What you want is a camera that can alert you when there's unexpected activity, let you look at that activity in real-time and store the footage easily just in case you need to let the cops know there's been an intruder. The Netatmo Welcome ticks those boxes but needs just one more feature to bring it closer to perfection.
I've looked at another Netatmo device recently, their weather station and environmental sensor and thought it was a pretty good set up. So, I was curious as to whether the Welcome would match or exceed it.
The Welcome is a 15.5cm tall cylinder with a 45mm diameter. To set it up, it needs to be powered on and then flipped upsidedown. This puts it into set up mode. I was guided through the process with the Netatmo Security app - there are iOS and Android versions - which connects the camera to your WiFi network over 802.11 b/g/n 2.4Ghz.
I needed to create a Netatmo account in order to use the camera. This is important as, if the camera is stolen, any footage saved to the supplied 8GB microSD card can't be accessed by anyone else.
As well as the microSD card, which records footage whenever motion is detected, you can send footage to a Dropbox account. This is a great solution . Many of the cameras I've tried in the past support cloud storage of footage but the providers try to drive you paying for online service subscriptions.
Alternately, the app will FTP footage to a server. So, if you have a NAS or some other FTP service, you can store footage there.
Netatmo suggest that the welcome is placed near the front door so the facial recognition tech, that's integrated into the camera, can tell you who enters your home. However, that means you'll need two things - a power outlet and somewhere to put the camera.
Motion detection and facial recognition
Once the camera was in place - I ended up placing mine on a bench near the end of the entry hallway - the camera starts sending alerts when it detects motion within its 130 degree field of view.
We have two cats at home and getting an alert whenever a cat wandered past the camera was annoying. However, in the app's settings, I disabled alerts when pets were detected. So, at the very least, the device could tell the difference between a human and a cat. Then, as it detected faces, I added them to the app's database of faces.
This training took some time. As a face was detected, I was presented with a list in the app and needed to then identify each face. While the HD capable camera does a good job at focussing and capturing faces, there are times when it only sees a partial view. I looked at footage that was captured when the face was seen and either added a new profile so I don't get any more alerts about the person or identified the person so the app recognises them in future.
The camera can recognise up to 32 faces.
The Alert and Recording Settings can be set to tell you every time an unrecognised faces is seen or only when you're not home. You can set the camera to determine if you're not home if it doesn't see you for a time interval you can set or, if you enable Location Services, when you're more than 100m from home. Similarly, you can choose whether you get motion detection alerts when you're either absent, always or never.
One other nifty feature is that the camera's microphone can detect when an alarm sounds, like a smoke detector, and start shooting footage. So, if a fire starts, or if you have burglar alarm, the camera can collect some extra evidence to help with any subsequent investigations.
Integration for a smart home
Netatmo promises that the Welcome will receive an update that will give it Apple HomeKit integration, to complement the IFTTT and Facebook Messenger integration. So, you can go to Facebook Messenger and ask the camera to send you a picture of what it sees at that moment.
As well as the smartphone apps, you can access the camera via a web browser and on an Apple Watch.
What I didn't like
The biggest problem with the Netatmo Welcome is that it is completely dependent on mains power. If the camera had a battery backup, it would mean you have some protection if there's a power failure.
Also, unless you have a conveniently placed power outlet, it can be a pain to work out where to put it.
Finally, there's no way to easily wall or ceiling mount the Welcome.
Price and recommendations
As cameras go, the Netatmo Welcome is certainly one of the more expensive options on the market. With a recommended price of $349.99, I'd have expected battery backup and a wall mounting system.
But, it does boast easy set up, decent facial recognition and flexibility in setting how often you see alerts and what alerts you'll receive.