iHome iS550 5:1 Sensor Review – I always feel like Somebodies watching me…

Product

Protocol

Ecosystems

Rating

 iHome  iSS50 5:1 Sensor  Wifi ( 2.4 Ghz )   NewImage

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 Two Stars

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Overview

From the product page 

5-in-1 SmartMonitor, 24/7 Home monitoring from anywhere

Your home is now the “home of the future”. Monitor crucial aspects of your home environment from anywhere in the world. The free iHome Control app allows users to further automate their home. Works with SmartPlugs (sold separately) connected to lights or appliances. Set rules with iHome Control app to control connected devices based on any of the 5 sensors.

The iS550 is supposed to be an all-in-one sensor. It covers

  • motion
  • temperature
  • sound
  • light
  • humidity
One of my goals with my SmartHome setup is to allow the house to dynamically act on the world around it. Not just automating time-of-day routines, but actually reacting to whatever is happening in the house at a specific point in time. At face value, the 5:1 is a potential gold-mine given all the different sensors embedded in this thing. Lots of potential scenes that can be triggered based on the various measurements that the iS550 can provide.
 
Off the top of my head, some of the triggers and scenes I would like to setup might be
  • Trigger Lights and Cameras on Large Sound – After all, a window sensor probably won’t notify you if the window is broken. 
  • Turn on Humidifier when the room becomes too dry
  • Turn on the lights based on the motion sensor, but only when the daylights below a certain level
  • Turn on the furnace when the temperature in the room drops below a certain temperature
  • Turn on the air conditioner when the temperature in the room raises above a certain threshold
  • Close the curtains when the light is brighter than a certain threshold

There are a ton of possibilities with this thing and they only increase as you add more devices to your SmartHome setup!

Setup

Setup was easy. That’s one of the big usability improvements that Apple HomeKit brings to the table. You simply scan in the HomeKit code and the device is added. The WSC (Wireless Simple Configuration ) protocol is used to automatically transfer over your current wi-fi settings to the device so there’s no requirement to manually type in long WPA2 or passphrase or deal with any of the wireless configuration details at all. I’m sure that some of my wireless engineer friends might not like the lack of configurability, but from as typical home-user I’m sure this simplicity is much appreciated. 

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Aesthetics

The iS550 is a bit chunky for my tastes. The fact that it’s also USB powered is also a drawback for me. I’m not a big fan of the dangling cords. A bit of cable management might spruce this up, but the cable and USB power supply are both pieces which I would rather not have to deal with. The fonts on the display screen are built to be able to see across the room, not for fashion. It’s definitely a utility piece, not a conversation piece. 

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Usability

 The iS550 was supposed to be a centre piece for me, but unfortunately, it really hasn’t worked out that way. Some of this is an issue with the iHome design. Some of this is an issue with the Apple Home application. The biggest problem I have with the 5:1 sensor is that fact that it REQUIRES me to plug it into a wall. This really limits my ability to place this where I want to. I’m limited by the distance between the device and the closet electrical socket, as well the requirement for an ugly USB cable dangling out the back (as mentioned above) ruins the appeal of this device, at least for me.  Yes, in theory I could hide it behind something, but then the sensors would lose their effectiveness. Light would be filtered out, sounds would be muffled, motion would be blocked. Definitely not something we’re looking for from a sensor with these capabilities. 

The other issue I has is the lack of automation triggers within the Apple Home app itself. I’ve got a 5:1 sensor here, but unfortunately, the Apple Home app only allows be to create triggers based on the motion sensor. 

Setting Triggers

Native Apple Home App

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Home App

Fortunately the Home app (not to be confused with the Apple’s native Home app) has the ability to create triggers based on Humidity, Light, Motion, and Temperature sensors. No sounds yet, but I did make the request to the developer so hopefully that’s coming soon. 

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And in some true silliness, the triggers created in the Home app DO in fact appear in the Apple native Home app, you just can’t create them there.

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iHome Native App

The iHome app, as can be expected, has the most capabilities. When setting up triggers in the iHome App,you can choose to either get a notification or control a plug (the Koogeek plugs do show up as an option here as well!), and the rule type can be

– time based ( schedule)

– sensor based ( the iS550)

– Nest Home/Away Based – Uses the Nest Home/Away 

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Random Loss of Network

The one other major drawback that I place at iHome alone is the random loss of connectivity from the wireless network. I’ve emailed iHome support on this particular case and there response was that I should move the unit blaming my wireless network. This would work except for two things…

  1. All my other devices work fine in this particular room
  2. I’ve got 3 access points covering my house, so the chances of poor signal are minimal to say the least
  3. The device needs to be plugged in!!!!! Where do they expect me to move it?
I’m hoping this may be fixed in a future firmware, but currently this severely lowers my trust in this device. 

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SDK

I was not able to find any SDK available and when I contacted support they were “not aware” of any such thing.   

Pros

 The iHome IS550 is the only HomeKit compatible sensor on the market that has this many sensors. The possibilities with this many inputs are truly staggering. Imagine

Security Application – If the host is set for AWAY and there’s a large sound ( like a broken window ) a notification could be sent to your phone. As well, you could potentially trigger a camera to turn on and send pictures to your phone. 

Don’t Turn on Lights when Sunny – Combine the motion sensor and the light sensor to only turn on the lights when the motion sensor is triggered AND the light sensor is beneath a specific value.

Turn on Humidifier when Air is too dry – If the humidity in the room drops below a certain threshold, turn on a smart plug that has a humidifier in it. Or alternately, if the humidity sensor raises above a certain threshold turn on the wall socket with a dehumidifier in it. 

Save $$$ –  If temperature raises above a threshold and the light sensor is above a certain threshold, automatically close the curtains.

There are a ton of different applications you could use with this thing!   

Cons

Limited Support in Apple Home App: The Apple Native Home app only supports the motion sensor to create triggers. The other sensors can only be accessed through the iHome or other application. The sound sensor isn’t available at all. (Note: There is currently no HomeKit support for Sound sensors, so this really isn’t a problem with the iHome iS550, but rather the HomeKit framework itself ).  

No SDK:  public facing SDK. Speaks for itself here.

Limited compatibility: This device does work with my Nest thermostat, which is nice, but no support for Amazon Alexa or Googlehome. (Note: iHome just announced Googlehome support for their line of smart plugs, so hoping this support may be added in future firmware. )

Unreliable Network Connection: The fact that this device looses network connectivity means that I can’t depend on it for any security applications based on the sound or motion sensor. 


Final Thoughts

The iHome iS550 is a device that has a lot of potential. It’s definitely the most capable device in the market as far as sensors. This was the major factor in deciding to add this to my SmartHome setup, but the reality leaves a lot to be desired. The loss of network connectivity and the requirement for USB power and the ugly cable it brings along means that it’s pretty limited in where I can place it and how much I can hide it. 

If what you’re looking for is a convenience device that can be used to trigger various SmartHome scenes while you’re home, this is probably not a bad buy. Especially as it’s the only product on the market that I’m aware of with the sensor capabilities that the iS550 brings to the table.  But if you were looking for a sensor to use as part of your home security strategy, I would keep looking. Too much of a chance that the device is going to loose network connectivity when you need it the most. 

Questions, Comments, Corrections?  Feel free to comment below!

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