Hands-on: Archos Smart Home review

Archos is moving into remote home monitoring, offering a new range of products called Smart Home. Perhaps confusingly, Archos is referring to a range of devices as "Connected Objects", a category which Smart Home falls into, alongside wearables and standalone connected products.

Smart Home includes things like motion sensors, mini cameras, alarms and smart plugs, all connected via Bluetooth LE through a central hub, which is an Android tablet.

The idea is to give you a wireless system that's scaleable, meaning you can add elements as you change the set-up in your home. Archos detailed to us that this wasn't about home automation, but instead is designed to be flexible and fun.

The hub that controls everything is a conventional Google-certified Android tablet with a 7-inch display, but has a clip-on back so it stands up nicely. It can be wireless, or you can leave it connected to the mains if permanantly located in one place. As the tablet hub is a fully-fledged Android device, it will run all your regular apps, can play media, everything else you would expect. The important thing, however, is that it runs the software that controls the Smart Home products.

All the different elements of Smart Home connect to the tablet via Bluetooth LE, rather than to a bridge or hub connected to your router, which is commonplace in other systems. That might limit the range slightly, as each individual piece needs to connect to the hub, rather than to a MESH network as some others offer. However, it is simple and each device then appears in the control app.

The app will let you monitor each of the connected devices, check the status of them, as well as set up a range of actions. Working in a "if this then that" sort of way, you can alerts triggered when particular conditions are met. For example, you could have a reminder to defrost your car if the weather sensor reports that the temperature is below 0 degrees and the humidity is above 50 per cent; you could have a camera take a picture every time the front door it opened, and so on.

There are a range of devices that can connect into the system including motion detectors, mini cameras, movement tags for doors or windows, weather sensors and smart plugs. Archos says that there will be more devices coming in the future, with a plan for around 20 different elements.

The smart plugs are interesting as they then make it possible to control other regular mains devices, like lamps or your coffee machine. As well as offering remote on/off functions, the smart plug also tracks energy usage and you have an idea of power consumption through them too.

There will be a starter pack, costing £149.99, that includes the tablet, a motion detector and a mini camera and you can expect to pay between £20 and £30 for the individual elements. Archos isn't launching everything in one go, it's testing the waters slightly with a few core products before making further announcements.

The result is a system that's pretty affordable and easy to expand. It also doesn't need you to wire anything in, as everything is battery powered. That means you can have a sensor for your front door that could send you an alert when someone approaches.

Those alerts aren't just limited to the tablet either. With apps planned for Android and iOS, you'll be able to access your Smart Home devices wherever you are from your smartphone. That makes alerts easy to manage, as they can come straight through to your device via the app.

It's a clever system and Archos is keen to emphasise that the idea is to offer something simple that won't be overly confusing. It's designed to be modular and easily expandable as your wants and needs change and might just hit the pricing at right level.



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