Nanny Cam Review: Piper NV Smart Home Security System With Night Vision
Real Care.com employees test various home monitoring systems and give their honest feedback. Learn how one family -- and cat -- fared with the Piper NV.
I started using the Piper NV home monitoring system a few weeks ago. My wife and I were looking for a way to check on our home (and our cat, Beethoven) while we're away during the day, or when we go on vacation and leave Beethoven home alone or with a pet sitter.
Having just returned from our first short vacation after setting up the Piper NV, I can honestly say that this home monitoring solution fit our needs perfectly. Here's why.
About the Camera
Before getting into the features of the Piper NV, let's begin with a short overview. The Piper NV has a sleek and discrete appearance (in "polar" white or "raven" black), standing 5.5" tall and 3.5" wide. I tested the black model and placed it in my kitchen so that I could also see the side entrance door.
Ease of Install
It's straightforward to setup – even without reading the 3-step Quick Start Guide.
The first step is to remove the stand and install the included AA batteries. The Piper NV does have a power cable, but if the power in your home goes out, it will continue operating using battery power. The second step is to attach the power cable and plug the Piper NV into a standard wall outlet. The third step is to download the Piper mobile app (for iOS or Android) and create an account to start interacting with Piper NV. Overall, the entire process was quite painless and took about 15 minutes.
As there is no web-based support for the Piper NV, you'll need to download the mobile app to use Piper. Through the mobile app, you get access to all the features of Piper NV, including:
- Video Clarity and Live Viewing: By far the live stream of HD-quality video is the best feature of the Piper NV – and the reason we were interested in a home monitoring system in the first place. Although I have not tried many systems, the Piper NV sets a high bar to judge other systems against.
In addition to being able to watch real-time HD video of your home (with audio)right from your mobile phone, there are a number of additional features that make the Piper NV's video feature extra special. These features include:
o Night vision mode so that you can view the area you are monitoring even in total darkness
o Fish-eye lens that offers a full 180-degree view of your room
o The ability to zoom in, pan around the room, and even split the video monitoring screen into multiple, separately-controlled views (i.e. in one view you can zoom in to a particular area and in another view you can focus on a completely different area).
- Recording Options: The Piper NV does not record and store video on a continuous basis. However, when an alert is triggered, you can configure the Piper NV to record a short video of the event that triggered the alert. You can then download and view this video on your phone. One morning when we were away, Beethoven was up early roaming around the kitchen and meowing loudly – so loud that it triggered an alert. Later in the morning, I was able to download and watch the short video clip – and since it was still dark in the room, the Piper NV used night vision mode to record the video. Pretty slick!
- Alerts: You can receive alerts based on motion, loud sounds, or temperature changes. This is a feature that I found really handy when we were away on vacation. When the pet sitter arrived at our home each day and the Piper NV detected motion, I would receive an alert (which can be configured to be delivered by SMS, email or as a push notification). I could then open the video stream to check-in on Beethoven and the pet sitter.
Unfortunately, the motion detector was not sensitive enough to pick-up the motion of Beethoven when he was alone in the room, but the "loud sound" detection did detect his meows. (If you are thinking about monitoring a dog, I'm certain that the "loud sound" detection would also pick-up barking). You can configure the Piper NV's alerts for 3 different profiles: "stay mode," "away mode" or "vacation mode." By changing the active profile, you can easily let Piper NV know you're home so that you don't receive notifications whenever you walk into the room.
- Sound and Audio: The Piper NV also offers a 2-way audio feature so that you can speak with the people in the room that you are monitoring. Unfortunately, this feature was underwhelming. The amount of audio feedback and echo made this feature awkward at best and really only useful to exchange a few short words, not for a conversation.
- Track "Home Vitals": The Piper app includes a screen with a 48-hour timeline that tracks a variety of information about your home's status including indoor temperature, outdoor temperature, indoor humidity, sound, motion, and light. For me, this was useful to ensure that the temperature stayed at the right level while we were away.
- Other Helpful Features: The Piper NV offers a number of other features that you may find useful, but were not critical for us, including:
- Alarm. There's a built-in siren that can be triggered when motion, sound or temperature changes are detected. Tapping a panic button in the app can also trigger the alarm. I have not tried the alarm, but it is advertised at an ear-splitting 105 decibels.
- Home Automation. The Piper supports Z-wave based accessories that allow you to control lights, appliances, and detect the opening and closing of doors and windows – all from the mobile app.
- Trusted Circle. You can configure a "trusted circle" of users that get notified when an alert is triggered. However, only one user can be connected through the Piper app and have access to the live video stream.
- Support for Multiple Pipers. I only tested with a single Piper unit, but you can place multiple units throughout your house.
The Piper NV model that I tested has a retail price of about $265 on Amazon. However, unlike many other home monitoring systems, there is no monthly fee. This is due to the fact that the Piper does not store a continuous video stream, but only captures and stores short video clips when events are triggered. With Piper you can store up to 1000 of these short video clips for free.
For our purposes, the Piper NV was just what we were looking for. It provides a discrete way for us to check-in on our cat and pet sitter when we're away during the day or on vacation. I'm sure it would work equally well as a nanny cam or to check-in on an elderly parent living alone. If you are willing to shell out $265, you'll find a solid system that works as advertised.
*Care.com does not endorse or recommend any commercial products, processes, or services. The views and opinions of authors expressed on Care.com do not necessarily state or reflect those of Care.com, and they may not be used for advertising or product endorsement purposes.
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