Smanos W100 Wi-Fi PSTN Security System Review
If you’re in the market for a security system, you’ve probably been put off by the thought of recurring monthly fees. The alternative is a DIY option that works over Wi-Fi, but these can usually be thwarted by cutting power or breaking the network connection. Not the Smanos W100: it includes both a backup battery, and an analog phone connection (remember those?), that will call you in an emergency.
What’s in the Box?
As a basic starter kit, it includes a base station with built-in 100dB siren, 1 motion sensor, 1 window sensor, and 2 remote controls. In addition, the set we tested comes with a surveillance camera. The starter kit costs around $320 with the camera, or $200 without. Additional door and window sensors cost $30 each (or $110 for a 4 pack), with motion sensors at $50. For a large house, the costs add up – but still far cheaper than a monthly contract. The Smanos W100 is a one-off purchase with no recurring monthly fees, but still offers remote monitoring and alerts.
The base station itself connects to your Wi-Fi, and to your analog phone line, with a pass-through for your existing phone. The sensors then connect to the base station using a proprietary protocol, on what appears to be the same frequency as Z-Wave (though these are not compatible with Z-Wave hubs or other sensors).
Initial setup of the system involves a fairly standard routine of placing the hub into AP mode (where it broadcasts its own Wi-Fi network), connecting to that, then entering your actual home Wi-Fi details, and restarting.
Sensors come with double-sided sticky tape for attaching to doors and windows, though the motion sensor can also be screwed it. So far the tape has held up to the relatively warm weather (I say relatively because in the UK our temperature is best described on a scale from “probably need a wooly jumper” to “don’t necessarily need a wooly jumper, but take one just in case”. It doesn’t ever really get that hot).
One thing to note: The system doesn’t like dual band Wi-Fi connections, so if your Wi-Fi operates simultaneous dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks, make sure they operate under different network names. Connect the Smanos system to the 2.4GHz network only.
Situated in my kitchen, where no other devices have issues connecting to Wi-Fi, the Smanos base station continues to flash it’s Wi-Fi signal problem indicator. Since I can still access it as normal over Wi-Fi, I’ve ignored it, but the flashing is annoying and there’s no reason for it to have a weak signal, other than a weak Wi-Fi chip internally, or something else attenuating the signal. Smanos advises placing the base station in a central location away from load bearing walls, but this isn’t going to be appropriate for every situation, especially when telephone sockets aren’t typically installed in every room.
Backup Power and PSTN
Most Wi-Fi alarm systems suffer from one rather critical flaw: if the power goes off, either from a accidental power cut or a determined intruder, they’re absolutely useless. The Smanos W100 system includes an internal backup battery, and more importantly, connects to the regular telephone network to alert you during an emergency. Analog telephone networks remain functional during a power outage, so while other Wi-Fi only security systems would simply fail, Smanos is still able to alert you by calling your desired emergency contacts. Up to 5 emergency contacts can be added, and these will be dialled in turn.
At that point, you’re able to listen in on the device, or control the alarm using the keypad dial tones.
While we can of course only test this feature under controlled conditions, it’s the kind of feature that you’ll hope you never need. They claim the standby power of the backup battery is around 8 hours, which should be more than enough to protect during short outages.
Controlling the Smanos W100 via the standard keypad on the base station itself is anything but intuitive. There are complex sequences of codes that you’ll need to familiarise yourself with, something you’ve probably already had some experience of if you’ve owned a traditional alarm system. Of course, where the W100 differs is that is also offers a Wi-Fi app – and even an Apple Watch app, if that’s your thing.
Thankfully then, you don’t need to use the keypad. The 2 included remote controls work great, as does the app. It’s still worth remembering a few key sequences however, which will enable you to remotely silence the alarm from your mobile device when the Wi-Fi is down.
Duress Mode and Zones
One further peace of mind is the duress mode, which can be activated via a series of keypad presses, and will silently phone and alert your programmed emergency contacts.
As is standard with many security systems, the Smanos W100 includes two zones. Only items in the home zone are disarmed when using the home state; all items are disarmed when using the global disarm feature. This is useful if you want to keep for example, a garage alarmed, while in home mode.
The 720p, 110° wide-angle camera is available separately, but you save a little when purchasing in the starter kit bundle. There is a separate camera application should you not want the alarm system functionality; but it’s also built-in the alarm app.
A couple of features make the camera unique. Firstly, there’s space for a microSD card on the side, where it’ll automatically record in 20 minute intervals in a round-robin fashion, deleting old recordings as needed. This is done without the need for any cloud services – which is good, because there are no cloud services on offer. While some devices offer local recording with the option of cloud backup, Smanos offers only the local recording option, and the ability to manually record from your mobile device.
Another unique feature is the inclusion of a microphone and speaker; you can listen in on the action, and talk back. The audio delay is a little longer than video, which can be a little awkward for talking to someone while watching their lips move, but generally the feature worked well and allowed me to hold short conversations. On the downside, since it’s designed to be used in conjunction with the alarm system, the camera itself doesn’t have some basics like motion detection. The alarm system detects motion, you open the app, and you can check out what’s going on. It’s a supplementary product, not a security system in and of itself.
Picture quality is surprisingly good, though a little dark. However, one glaringly large limitation with the iOS app is that saved recordings can’t actually be exported. Photos can, but videos can’t. The Android app does allow export.
Unfortunately – like the rest of the system – the cameras are closed to third party access. Despite essentially being an IP camera, the feed is not available to be embedded elsewhere. As far as cameras go, it’s one of the best picture quality ones I’ve seen, which makes it even more of a shame that I can’t add the feed to my central Synology Surveillance Station, which records to a NAS with terabytes of free space, and is compatible with pretty much any IP camera out there (except this one).
Should You Buy the Smanos W100?
As a DIY security ecosystem which requires no monthly features and works wirelessly, it’s been rock solid for me. The sensors are reliable, with tamper detection, and the alarm is absolutely deafening. Phone alerts and an internal battery mean you’ll be aware even if your home is under threat from sneaky intruders that know how to kill the power. As a DIY security system, these aspects are about as good as it gets.
The camera has some unique features for sure, but for most people, a security camera should either detect motion and warn you of an intruder (perhaps redundant on this given the system itself has dedicated motion detectors), or record motion to help catch the intruder at a later date (which it only does if you have a micro-SD card inserted, and manage to get home in time to stop the recording being overwritten). In this respect, the camera seems like an afterthought to what is otherwise great system. For that reason, I recommend buying the cheaper version of the kit, without a camera, and using the money saved to buy some additional sensors instead.
There is however one remaining concern I have with the Smanos W100 system as a whole, and that’s simply one of interoperability. Ultimately, it’s a closed ecosystem that doesn’t appear to interface with anything outside of Smanos. There’s no SmartThings plugin, no HomeSeer module, no OpenHAB binding , not even IFTTT support; nor are there any signs of one on the horizon. So while the Smanos system may be entirely capable of the purpose for which it is sold, I do think there’s a missed opportunity for something more integrated with the emerging smart home market. If you’re going to invest in a house full of Smanos motion sensors, it would be nice to have access to event API of their data feed, to use elsewhere in your smart home, such as turning on lights. Hopefully, they can add this sort of functionality at a later date; at the very least with IFTTT triggers. I understand not using a standardised wireless protocol for sensors – this is a security system after all, and nearly every wireless protocol has security vulnerabilities – but still, some form of data access could be offered through the central Wi-Fi hub.
The company is also planning to release an entirely new “K1” system later this year – one that is compatible with Nest, Thread and ZWave – appearing to take on much more of a smart home hub role. It’s difficult to fully recommend the W100 at this point without knowing if the current sensors will be compatible, so you can just upgrade the hub.
A solid, reliable, and deafening loud wireless DIY security system that does what it sets out to do – just don’t bother with the camera, and don’t expect any third party smart home integrations.