Smarthome cameras, such as the BT Smart Home Cam 100, are becoming increasingly popular. Not just because they allow you to see what your pets get up to when you walk out the door, but they also offer peace of mind for much less money than a 24-hour security guard.
Whether it's keeping an eye on your house or animals, checking to see whether the kids have come home from school or if you have a small business and want to make sure your employees aren't drinking too much tea, a smarthome camera could be the answer.
The BT Smart Home Cam 100 has been keeping watch on our house for the last couple of weeks. Is it something worth investing in given how many options are out there, or is it just another gadget with an accompanying app to add to the ever-growing list?
There are numerous smarthome cameras out there, all with different ideas when it comes to design. Some are small, some large, some stick to your walls and others are designed to become part of your home décor.
The BT Smart Home Cam 100 is a black portrait-orientated device that features a glossy finish, silver horizontal strip and the BT logo under the camera lens to give it a small splash of colour.
There's a 22mm (equivalent) wide-angle lens with an f/2.0 aperture for operating in low-light, which feeds the image to a 3-megapixel 1/3-inch CMOS sensor tucked away beneath the shell. Video is recorded at 720p maximum for those who are interested in the numbers.
A small stand attaches to the camera via an adjustable ball joint, which means you can move the camera to the position you want. All in, the product measures 150mm tall, 70mm wide and 90mm deep.
On the rear of the BT Smart Home Cam 100 there is a small slider that you'll need for setting it up, along with the network information and one mains power connection port. As it's mains-powered that means you'll end up with a black power lead on display, and will need a plug socket near by. We weren't hugely keen on the cord, but we'd rather that than for the camera run out of battery when away on holiday.
Overall, the Smart Home Cam 100 isn't the smallest smarthome camera we have seen, nor is it the largest, but it offers a design that ensures it doesn't stick out too much. We were happy to have it sit on our windowsill.
Setting up the BT Smart Home Cam 100 is a piece of cake, taking just a matter of minutes before everything is running smoothly. There are three main steps involved before you can start spying on all your family members.
The first is download the BT Smart Home Cam app from either the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store, so no Windows Phone compatibility at the moment. With the Smart Home Cam 100's rear slider set to "Setup" your the app will be able to talk to the device.
You'll have to connect the camera to your home Wi-Fi network, create a new BT Smart Home Cam account if you don't already have one, and then give your camera a name and description (such as which room the camera is monitoring).
Once you have entered all the information the app asks you for, it will tell you to flick the switch on the rear back to "Camera" and as soon as the network light is green, it's ready to go. Now you'll be able to control it through the app, or the web portal myhomecam.bt.com.
The BT Smart Home Cam 100 is a pretty simple bit of kit. It isn't packed full of features such as doubling as a night light, or offering the means to speak through it to those in your house, but it gives you what you need for basic monitoring, including notifications.
There are motion sensors on board and you can choose from five motion trigger sizes ranging from extra small to extra large through the app. The size you select determines the size of the object detected by the motion sensors and how often you receive a notification to let you know there is something happening.
BT associates extra small with the size of a mouse, small with a dog, medium with a child, large with an adult and extra large with a car - so it will depend on what kind of movement you want to be notified about as to what you choose. We had our camera set to large for the majority of the time as we found the smaller sizes pushed too many notifications through and affected the battery life on our smartphone.
If you want to know every time your dog moves when you are at work, for example, then the small setting works a treat. But if you are only interested in whether someone has broken into your house, then large should be more than adequate. You still may get a notification even when there is no burglar to be seen, but it is nowhere near as sensitive as the small option and you'll spend less time panicking.
Push notifications can be turned off within the app, which we did when we were at home as otherwise you end up with your phone flashing an alert at you every time you go to the kitchen to make a coffee.
It would have been nice to have deeper control of notifications, such as when motion was detected in a particular area of the room. Notifications are either on or off with no in-between bar the motion trigger sizes. Even something simple like the option to switch them off automatically when your smart device was connected to your home network would be good, as that would imply you were at home with every chance of you already knowing what is happening.
Aside from the notifications, the features of the BT Smart Home Cam 100 are somewhat limited. The app is where all the magic happens and, along with checking what is happening after you receive the alert of detected motion, there are a couple of other things you can do, such as view a friend's camera.
The bottom of the app features four tabs comprising My Camera, Events, Friend's Camera and App Settings. My Camera is (unsurprisingly) where you will find a list of all the cameras in your house and is the first section you will land in after launching the app and entering account details. Next to each camera you will have the option to change the settings, which include a number of features such as changing the name, allowing your friends access to view, and turning audio on or off.
Within the settings you can also adjust the streaming quality from SD to HD resolutions and vice versa, as well as set it to auto where the camera and app will decide the quality based on your bandwidth. It's worth remembering the BT Smart Home Cam 100 can only manage 10fps in HD so if you want 30fps, you'll need to change it to standard-definition.
Night Vision is featured on the BT Smart Home Cam 100 too. It can be controlled through the app, where you'll also find the option to rotate the video right side up or upside down, should the device be mounted in such a position.
When you are viewing the live video, you can snapshot something that is happening using the small camera icon in the bottom left hand corner, or you can press record to document it, both of which are free services - but they will save to your smart device's memory rather than a cloud-based storage facility like some smarthome cameras offer. This means that if you continuously record your dog sleeping, you'll find the storage on your phone dwindling quickly.
If you do want cloud storage, plus motion-triggered videos and images, then you will need to sign-up to the premium service which costs £6.99 for 30 days. Consequently that makes the BT Smart Home Cam 100 a lot more expensive - adding £85 for each subsequent year of use. Which is like almost buying the raw product all over again. A device such as the Philips In Sight HD, which costs £130, offers auto-recording and cloud storage as standard.
The BT Smart Home Cam 100 comes with a free 14 day trial of this service so you can test whether you think it is worth the extra monthly cost. We found quickly opening the app as soon as we received the notification and hitting record was adequate for us. However, if your primary reason for having a smarthome camera is security then without the Premium service, the BT Smart Home Cam 100 is of little use unless you are next to your phone 24/7.
The BT Smart Home Cam 100 delivers a full colour image at 1280 x 720 resolution and the clarity of the video is brilliant. You can see everything clearly and although you can't zoom in closer, the wide angle of view delivers 79-degrees horizontal, 45-degrees vertical and 90-degrees diagonal coverage.
The colour balance was a little on the purple side at times, but other than that we were really impressed. It could take a little time for the video to initialise depending on the network connection, but once watching the live feed, there was no lag at all between us waving at it and it showing on our smartphone screen.
When it came to the night vision, the picture wasn't as clear. Despite the four infrared LEDs on board, the detail was far less than during the day, making it very difficult to distinguish between objects as easily, especially those further away.
The microphone didn't do a bad job and we could hear the TV and any noises clearly through the app.
We didn't face many problems with the BT Smart Home Cam 100 during our time with it, but there were a couple of little niggles we found.
We were using the iOS app during testing and found that if we rotated our phone in preparation for watching the live video before the app had fully loaded, we would be greeted with half a black screen. The app would then freeze.
It happened every time we were impatient and it was irritating as it meant closing the app completely and starting again to put it right, which wouldn't have been helpful if we were trying to record a burglar in action.
The BT Smart Home Cam 100 is a brilliant little camera that provides excellent image quality and is a good solution for remotely checking in on your home.
However, its £100 price doesn't deliver the Premium service, so if you want automatic recording triggered by motion detection then a monthly £6.99 cost almost amounts to the product's initial cover price within one year. We also had some software stability issues.
If you want to know when your kids have got home from school, check they aren't having a party when you go away for the weekend, or just like to keep an eye on what the dog is doing when you're at work, then the BT Smart Cam 100 will happily do the job.
It's a cheap and cheerful solution that's easy to setup and tuck away out of sight. But with competition such as the Philips In Sight HD offering auto-recording as standard for £130, the BT device will fall at a crucial hurdle for many.