I'd been looking for a home automation solution for quite a while. However, I wanted something that I didn't have to get installed and that doesn't cost too much. A couple of weeks ago, Swisscom entered the market with their own solution called "Quing". After some consideration, I decided that this might be it and ordered the starter package + some additional power socket adapters. Costs:
The starter package costs 689 Fr. plus 19 Fr. per month for the included phone service (I'll talk more about that below). Additional components run from 44 Fr. for additional window sensors to 169 Fr. for additional cameras. What's in the package:
The starter kit comes with one window / door sensor, a motion detector, a wireless camera, a remote control, two socket adapters, a WiFi router (can only be used with the Quing system - more on that below) and the Quing Home Panel (the heart of the setup). How it works and the benefits:
The included WiFi Router is hooked up to your ADSL or cable modem. It sets up a secure, additional WiFi network (additional if you already have WLAN at home) that can't directly be accessed by the customer. It only communicates with the Quing Home Panel and the security cameras. The Home Panel and the camera(s) are the only components that communicate via WiFi. The rest of the sensors and actors use the low-power Zigbee standard that uses 10mW (max. - the window sensors only use 1mW, as far as I can tell) output with the radio only working when the sensor receives a command from the Panel.
The Home Panel is the nerve center of the system. It serves both as a traditional alarm center and the home automation hub. If you've never had an alarm system at home: they work like the ones you see in the movies. You define security zones that are assigned to sensors - for example a sensor that detects when someone opens the front door, or when someone moves in the hallway - when the system is armed and one of the sensors is triggered, a predefined alarm is set off. At the moment, Swisscom isn't offering any managed / monitored alarm services. They will introduce these at 49 Fr. per month starting next year. For now, if an alarm is triggered, you can define what happens: the system can call you on a pre-defined number, send you an SMS etc.
In terms of automation, Swisscom offers power socket adapters. These go in your power socket and the device you'd like to remote control is plugged in the adapter on the other side. All devices plugged in to one of the sockets can be turned off and on remotely. Either through the Panel, the web interface or the smartphone apps Swisscom is offering (for Android and iOS, I'm hoping they'll soon come out with a WP8 app as well). Of course, the apps and the web interface can be used to arm and disarm the alarm system as well. In addition to simply being able to enable and disable devices, lamps, appliances etc., the socket adapters also measure the energy consumption of the devices that are attached to them. Apparently, they're also able to automatically detect when a device goes into standby mode and disable the device when that happens - I haven't figured out how to set that up yet.
The adapters also work as relays for the Zigbee signal and ensure that the whole house / apartment is covered.
Of course, manually turning things on and off isn't the only thing you can do with the adapters - you can also use the web interface to set up automation rules. For example, I set a rule that automatically disables WiFi in our home between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. and that turns off the media center at night to conserve energy. The rules system is quite elaborate - you can set intervals, disable and enable lights at dawn or dusk etc., which can be useful for when you're on vacation to simulate that someone's home.
The simplicity of the whole thing is quite striking - the rules are really easy to set up and work perfectly. Of course, you could also achieve some of that functionality by purchasing socket timers etc, but then you don't get the remote management part.
In order to ensure that the system always works, even in case power is lost or cut, the Home Panel also includes a GSM component with a pre-installed SIM-card. That's where your 19 Fr. per month go - the Panel has a backup battery that will keep it and the GSM modem running for several hours. If you have a monitored alarm system, you'll realize that this is quite cheap, actually. We now pay 25 Fr. per month for an additional phone line, 20 Fr. for the backup GSM modem that's included in our system as well, plus 50 Fr. a month for the monitoring service. Once Swisscom is offering the monitored surveillance option, I'll probably ditch my existing system and use Quing as my security system as well. In short:
- very easy to set up home automation and security system.
- the sensors can either be attached using screws or via double-sided tape
- the Home Panel is very easy to use and so are the web interface and the mobile apps
- the rules system is excellent.
- you can have a basic alarm system up and running in less than an hour without requiring an electrician who'll charge you an arm and a leg to install the components
- as the sensors can be installed without drilling holes in the wall, the system's also suitable for rented apartments.
- the camera can be coupled with other sensors, so, for example, it can be instructed to take a picture whenever the motion detector is triggered.
- the motion detector ignores pets (we have three cats…)
- Swisscom will be adding more optional components in early 2013: power adapters with an included dimmer, smoke detectors, water detectors etc. have all been announced. Drawbacks / issues:
The biggest issue for me is that I don't really want an additional WiFi network running in my home, as we have a baby at home and we'd like to keep the radiation to a minimum. I'm afraid, Swisscom didn't really think very far in this respect: the supplied router has 4 ethernet ports and a button to disable WiFi - and the Home Panel can also be used over ethernet. However, Swisscom has chosen to disable the panel's port (it does have power, so it's not a hardware issue) so hooking it up to the router with a TP cable won't do you any good. This was almost a deal breaker for me, but in the end I decided to place the router in the basement to minimise exposure. We have reenforced concrete floors, so the signal is just strong enough to keep the panel running but is undetectable on the 1st floor where we sleep. The camera also communicates with the router - the signal's too weak for the camera in my setup, so I'm not using it. I'm not feeling comfortable with having surveillance cameras in my house anyways. I was looking for a home automation solution and not for a security system (we already have a monitored alarm system installed).
Apart form that, there are some minor quirks with the web interface. For example, every time I log in, I'm taken to the shop instead of the control panel and I have to click several times to get to the panel. Plus Swisscom is obviously still working on the system and it's now happened twice that the web center was offline (both cases were at night / very early in the morning, though). In short:
- additional WiFi signal for your house / apartment. Would be completely avoidable if Swisscom chose to enable the ethernet port on the Home Panel.
- no WP8 app (only iOS and Android)
- The system's new and Swisscom's still working on it
- costs 19 Fr. per month (which, however, is nothing compared to a traditional alarm system).
- the components are quite expensive (44 Fr. for a window sensor is a bit steep - but it's in the same price-range as other wireless systems). Would I recommend it:
Definitely yes. It's a great way to easily add an alarm system to your house / apartment. For those who already have one, the automation part offers enough benefits to justify the costs of the system. Further info: https://sso.quing.com/quing/ Disclaimer:
I'm in no way affiliated with Swisscom.