There are many iOS-connected security cameras on the market, but not a lot that will set off a loud siren when they detect loud noises or unexpected movement. The US$199 Piper HD security camera from iControl Networks brought this capability and a unique 180° view camera to the market a while back, and now the company is shipping the $269 Piper nv, an upgraded model with night vision and other improvements.
The new Piper nv looks identical to the older model. It’s almost 6.5 inches (16.51 cm) tall, 3.5 inches (8.9 cm) wide and about 2.5 inches (6.4 cm) thick on its aluminum base. The Piper nv comes in black or white, with a gray speaker grill on top. That speaker can be used for two things — two-way communications with visitors (known or uninvited) at your home or business and for blasting out an almost excruciating 105 dB siren.
On the front of the device is a microphone to detect noises, a motion sensor, a light sensor and an LED. Dominating the upper middle section of the Piper nv is the “eye” — a 180° fisheye lens with 3.4 megapixels of resolution surrounded by infrared night vision lights.
The Piper nv also detects temperature and humidity in your home, making it an all-purpose monitor that can tell you when your furnace or air conditioning aren’t working. The entire setup has three AA batteries inside it to continue working through a power outage, although the Piper nv wouldn’t be able to communicate unless your Internet service was also on battery backup.
In terms of wireless networking, Piper nv is compatible with 802.11 b/g/n, and also contains a Series 500 Z-Wave home automation controller. For an additional $130 on top of the base price, you can mix and match up to three Z-Wave accessories — a door/window sensor, a controllable smart switch, a smart dimmer, a micro smart switch, and a Z-Wave range extender.
Piper nv comes with a wall adapter with a 6 foot cable, perfect for mounting the device almost anywhere. It’s actually a nice looking piece of hardware, so placing it on a counter, tabletop, or shelf will keep your home safe while not detracting from the decor.
Setup of the Piper nv is incredibly simple. You’ll need to download the free Piper Mobile app first. The app works on both iPhone and iPad, with setup and monitoring screens working in portrait orientation and the camera video appearing in landscape mode.
To set the device up, you install the three AA backup batteries, tighten a screw to keep the battery door closed, and then plug the Piper in. As soon as the LED turns blue, you connect your iPhone to a Wi-Fi network named “Piper”, then launch the app. The setup automatically moves the iOS device Wi-Fi settings to the Piper, after which it connects to your home Wi-Fi network, announces itself to the Piper cloud service, and then runs any necessary firmware updates.
Seriously, this is one of the easiest setup routines I’ve seen for a security camera, and that includes the Nest Dropcam. One of the nice features is that you could set up multiple cameras in one location, then unplug them and move them to their new locations without losing the settings.
Once the Piper nv is in place, you use the app to look at or set up any of the factors that you wish to monitor. The app’s dashboard view shows a circle divided into four parts, indicating that the system is “off”, that you’re at home but have armed the system, that you’ve gone to work, or that you’re on vacation. Each situation can have its own group of settings.
The outside and indoor temperatures are both shown on the dashboard, and there are buttons for settings, events, and recordings. The settings let you set up your details (name and phone number), a number of options ranging from whether or not you have pets wandering around the house while you’re gone to turning off the siren so it never goes off.
If you’re using Piper nv as your sole security system, you can set up a trusted circle of friends and relatives who gain notification when Piper’s security rules are triggered.
The video quality when you’re on a Wi-Fi network or using mobile data can be adjusted. For use at home or on a work Wi-Fi network you may want to set the bandwidth usage to “high”, while you can dial that down if you’re on a limited bandwidth (airplane or ship) network.
Homes with more than one Piper can add more easily through the app, giving each device a name. Through the settings, there’s also access to a port number and IP address in case you need to set up port forwarding for the Pipers.
The next tab on the app is Vitals. This is where you can look at a 48-hour overview of temperatures, humidity, whether or not it’s bright or dark, how loud the house is, and just how much activity there is in the home. Once again, if you have multiple Piper devices on your network, you can switch between them for monitoring purposes.
Most people buy a security webcam like the Piper for one purpose — keeping an eye on their property while they’re away. The Piper and Piper nv are unique in that they use a fisheye lens to provide a full 180° field of view. This has both advantages and disadvantages — while it means that you can easily cover a full room with one Piper, the images are somewhat distored until you zoom in on a particular location.
Zooming is done with the standard iOS zoom gesture, and you can “tilt and pan” the camera view by dragging a finger up and down or from side to side on the screen. When tapped, there are controls for brightness, turning on the infrared night vision if it’s not currently on, turning on any acceesories attached via Z-Wave to the device, and for setting up a 4-in-one view of different parts of a room.
Should you decide to talk to that burglar who’s ransacking your home or just tell the dog to stop tearing at your leather couch, there’s a microphone button that creates a two-way intercom when you hold it down. The sound quality is actually quite good; I tried it both Wi-Fi and cellular networks, and was able to converse with another person in the house easily.
There’s another app tab for “controls”, which are any of the switches you happen to have added to the Z-Wave network. I added a lamp to the network using a Aeotec Smart Switch. That was also quite easy — just tapping an Add button on the Controls tab, then pressing the button on the bottom of the Smart Switch added it to the Z-Wave network.
The switches can be set to a schedule, to turn on a heater or air conditioner based on temperature, or to turn a light when a room senses that the ambient light is dim.
The app allows rules to be set up based on detection of motion or sound or when the temperature changes. For example, if motion is detected when the system is in “Away” mode, it can record video, notify me, notify my trusted circle, soudn the siren, or even turn a wall switch on. This is much more useful than just a regular motion detector! The same type of things can occur when a loud sound is detected, or I can set a switch to turn a device on or off when the temperature is outside of a preset range.
One final feature of the app is something that can be extremely useful when one person is alone in a house — a "bedside" mode with a night-friendly dark screen and a big red panic button. Slide that panic button, and that loud siren is going to blast, sure to scare any burglars who happen to enter your abode.
I found the night vision capability of the Piper nv to be quite useful. Testing the Piper nv in a darkened room, it was as if a bright light had been turned on. Details were sharp and obvious, even though the image (as usual with infrared) had turned to grayscale. This is a huge improvement over the original Piper, and well worth the extra cost of the new device. Being able to identify someone in complete darkness and record them on video? Priceless.
A final comment on Piper nv -- rather than charging to store video in the cloud, iControl does this for free. If you do have a break-in, you'll want to be sure to grab the video for viewing by law enforcement officials as soon as you can. Recordings are available from the main app dashboard, although they cannot be transferred to your iOS device.
The Piper nv is a nice upgrade to the original Piper, and updates to the device and app since I first reviewed it for another site in April, 2014 have turned this from a very good home security product to an excellent one. There’s no word on whether or not iControl will support Apple’s HomeKit home automation framework in the future, but the product is solid enough on its own.