Vivint Part 2: My smart home unveiled.
How many of you know what happens around your house when you are not there? Do you know when FedEx or UPS or the United States Postal Service bring their packages? How many of you come home to the little yellow sticky note on your door, stating you have a package at a center? Do you know how many times your doorbell rings during the day, or if somebody comes onto your porch? I’ll be honest, I have no idea about what happens at my house while I am away at work. At least, I was unaware until Vivint upgraded from Alarm company to Vivint SmartHome. Now, my Vivint smart home keeps me updated on the area around my home, while also controlling access to my home.
At CES 2016, in Las Vegas Nevada I was able to talk with the team from Vivint. I was able to tell them about the amazing benefit of their system, and my experiences with them over the past five years. I have seen the progress of their gear with time, and I appreciate the direction the company is going. They started out as a home security company, a good one at that, and now they have blossomed into a full-fledged Vivint Smart Home company. I was incredibly excited to be at CES, but I was even more excited to see my home alarm company there. It was through this venue, that I was able to experience the new gear that was coming in 2016.
Post CES, I contacted Vivint and I scheduled an install. I was contacted by Keith, who may be one of the nicest people I have ever met. He discussed options/available dates and he arrived at my home, within a few weeks of my request. He was very knowledgeable, very professional and personified everything I enjoy about Vivint. If you have not read Part 1 of my review, I highly encourage you to read it. This review details the past 5 years of my experience with Vivint and the previously installed components. To summarize, I had an outdated GoControl Panel, multiple window/door alarms, fire alarms, key fob and the previous generation Vivint application to control the alarm. I was happy with the alarm, it served me amazingly well. Needless to say, I was really excited about the new updates from Vivint.
The install took about half of a day, and had only a few installation hiccups with one of the cameras. However, anything worth doing will take time. The initial step was to remove the old GoControl unit, to make room for the much new and improved SkyControl Panel. The unit is a beautiful, 7 inch Z wave integrated touchscreen panel. The panel easily installed in the same place as the old panel and provided newer and better functionality. The old codes for my window and door sensors, door locks, fire, key fob pieces were transferred over to the new panel. This took some time, but Keith expertly completed the task. I downloaded the new and improved Vivint Sky app from the iOS store (this just received a new update and has even better support). My system was back up and running quickly.
Once the new SkyControl panel was up and running, Keith and I moved to the Doorbell Camera. He pulled out a small box measuring about 2 inches wide by 6 inches tall and began to remove the components. I was immediately in awe about the appearance and size of the device that was soon to become my doorbell. Interestingly, it is nearly the same size as the old doorbell that was removed. One of the things that I initially queried of Keith was, how is this thing powered? He noted that it used the existing power supply of the wired doorbell system. This is important! If you do not already have a powered doorbell system, the installer will need to run a wire into the wall and will need to install one of the white power bricks to power the system. Keith noted that the Doorbell Camera no longer used my home doorbell chime system. The system now used the chime built into the SkyControl panel and will chime on your smart device as well, if you have the Vivint Sky app downloaded. I was really impressed with both the device, and the ease of the install. I really liked that this used the existing wiring and did not require any type of outlet usage.
Plugging directly into your already wired doorbell, this system provides you with much more than just a button to alert you to the presence of someone at the door. A signal is sent to your panel and to your phone(if the app is downloaded). Opening the app on your phone, you are provided with an amazing view of the front of your home. This gives a panoramic 180 degree view through its built in 180 degree lens. I can see my entire porch and down towards the front of my driveway with this single device. The device is motion activated, it will alert you to the presence of somebody before they even press the doorbell button. Again, you will receive an alert through your smart device. Go into the app and touch the camera icon on the bottom of the screen and you can touch the camera image you wish to view. Tap on the doorbell camera and now you can see who is there. The camera has built in night vision, which allows you to see visitors in both daytime and nighttime/low light conditions. This system also allows you to have two-way communication between the doorbell and your smart device. Simply hold your finger over the microphone icon on your device and you can talk to the person at the door. Hold to talk, then release to listen. This system incorporates echo cancellation and noise isolation, and with its omnidirectional microphone conversation is very well heard.
Here is a story to illustrate your need for the device and Vivint service. Sometime back in October 2015, I had asked a contractor to install new gutters onto my home. Fall came, Winter came and this was put on the back burner. Sometime in the beginning of February, I called the contractor back and said I was ready to install. I was informed that they were a little behind, but I would get notified roughly 2 to 5 days before the install. I received no phone call. However, while at work (2/25/16) my Vivint Sky app push notified me that there was motion on my porch. I was working, unable to get to answer my alert. About 20 minutes later, I received a doorbell notification and saw the gentleman from the company. Did I mention that this doorbell microphone has two way communication? Through the Vivint Doorbell Camera system, and the app, I was able to make sure that these were the appropriate people, by contacting the company. Interestingly, they had started work before the gentleman came onto the porch, and before I was able to talk to him through my phone. Imagine coming home to a bill and having no idea that any this had happened.
The above story truly illustrates what I really love about Vivint, they have great technology (and even better staff). This is the first system of its kind to integrate with a smart home system. It really does so in a seamless manner. The system connects directly to your Vivint Sky platform wirelessly. When motion is detected, your system will stream video to both the SkyControl Panel and your mobile device. You are able to store as many 30 second video clips as you like without additional charge. It is very compact, sleek black and silver rectangle, measuring at 4.45 in. X 1.5 in. X 1.18 in. It has a security screw to prevent theft and it can operate at temperatures of -10 to +120F. The Vivint Doorbell Camera is built to last and even includes waterproof speakers.
In addition to the Doorbell Camera that guards and protects my front door, I also have motion cameras on the other two entry points of my home. These two cameras are not movable, and are fixed points of view. When I say that they are not movable, I mean they are not app controllable or electronically movable. You do have the ability to manually position/angle the cameras. These cameras proved to be a little more difficult to install than the Doorbell Camera, having to run wires through the wall. I will say, any wired installation will likely run into some trouble at this step. Keith really did work hard to get the power cord through the wall without damaging my home. Despite the small challenge, Keith did a fantastic job on the installation. I really love being able to monitor the points of entry to my home from afar.
These cameras are attached to the house via a bracket and 2 small screws. The camera dimensions are 63mm x 111.5mm and weigh just under 200g (200 paperclips). These cameras have similar operating temperatures to the Doorbell Camera. They require a power adaptor supplying DC 12V 1 A power to the camera. It attaches to your system via Wi-Fi: 802.11 b/gn 2T2R antenna. The maximum resolution of this system is 1280×800 and they have a very reasonable night vision mode as well.
Adding to the above story, I used all of the strengths of my new and improved Vivint Smart Home system, to monitor the gutter installation. I was able to view my front porch and steps using the Doorbell Camera, I was able to view my driveway, my garage doors/entry door, and back door/porch through these three cameras. Since then, I have talked to neighbors, I have talked with deliverymen, I have seen deer, I have seen my dog wanting to come inside. The system sends me a push notification about movement and I can let my dog in before she wakes up the family or neighbors by barking. At this point, these are not solely cameras, but rather extensions of my home. Before the installation, I was skeptical about the quality of picture, and the need for devices like this. The Doorbell Camera has enough resolution, that I was able to read the phone number on the installers truck. This is how I made sure that this group of people were the correct installation crew. I was even able to read his name tag while standing at my front door. Vivint really saved me here, I am truly thankful that I chose to upgrade my system.
As stated in part one of this review, I have been a member of Vivint for the past five years. Up until now, my alarm system mostly protected inside of my home. Now with the help of Vivint Smart Home, I am able to see and protect outside of my home as well. The above was just one use of my new system. I have had people, friends, neighbors and salesman come to the door. These have been both at times I was home and at times I was away from home. I can now interact with them through the comfort of a locked door, I can unlock that door to allow entry or I can choose to leave it locked and ask the person to leave. This system really has made my wife feel a whole lot safer in her own home. This has paid for itself many times over. It is not uncommon for door-to-door salesman to come around the neighborhood, while I am at work. She can see them and hear them through the SkyControl unit or she can communicate to them through her cell phone Vivint Sky App. It is now my opinion that this should be a primary focus for any alarm system, and I am immensely impressed with the image quality and functionality that this adds to my alarm experience.
In 2016, Vivint has integrated the Amazon Echo into its Smart Home system, allowing Alexa to manually control your system. This is yet another way that Vivint is integrating technology into the home. The system already allows you to set up authorized users (family, friends, contractors), give them permanent or temporary access to the home. You can set preferences to auto lock your doors, to alert you if a door or window is open long enough, to record camera on motion or on push of doorbell. You can change the chimes, you can have an alert tell you which port of entry is open (chime, voice or both). The magic really starts to occur when you can do this wirelessly from your phone. At any time, bring up your cameras to see what is going on around the home. Change preferences, turn on or off lamp modules (these are really great features too), and set custom actions/notifications. The app has Apple Watch integration, for yet additional access.
Vivint really is on the leading edge of a smart home movement. I am looking forward to their newest gear the Vivint Ping camera, their new Vivint Element thermostat and for future advances. These will provide additional control elements to my home. With the help of Vivint, I look forward to the protection, to the control, to the cost savings. Save money on power through the smart Vivint Element thermostat, save money with your homeowners insurance by having the system in your home (check with your carrier), save piece of mind knowing that you have the best team on guard 24/7, 365 1/4 days per year, protecting your castle. Protect your home by controlling your outlets, fire and carbon monoxide monitoring. Vivint is amazing, you really should invite them into your home. Talk to the team about how they can protect you as well. Stay tuned for the next installment where I will discuss the Vivint Ping camera and the Vivint Element.