So, there’s a home surveillance camera that evokes lyrics from a certain song? Seriously? Yes. And with its multiple on-board and external sensors, it’s pretty smart, too. Say hello to the Pivot, from Zmodo.
While Zmodo has been in the security business for a while, they’ve made inroads into the home automation space over the past few years, and at CES 2017, they unveiled many new products to complete their vision of a “smart home”. Introduced in 2016, the Pivot is a product that goes beyond the basics of a traditional home security camera.
But first, let’s get the basics out of the way. The Zmodo Pivot has a 135-degree wide-angle camera with a full 1080p sensor, along with night vision and a built-in IR illuminator for up to 32 feet of sight in the dark. The Pivot's night vision is actually pretty good, and can be enhanced via LIFX+ smart bulbs with infrared LEDs (watch the video review above for a demo.) There’s 16GB of local storage, and cloud-based recording that’s due to launch soon. Two-way audio lets you both hear and talk to the occupants of the room which Pivot inhabits, and the Zmodo app (for Android and iOS) lets you digitally zoom-in up to 4x on live camera views. The 5 1/4” H x 3” D black cylindrical device is powered via a standard micro-USB cable, so you can use the one (with power adapter) provided, or connect it up to a USB outlet or hub if you like.
Now to get on with the Pivot’s unique features. It has a full 360 degrees of motion sensing, in addition to what its camera can see. If Pivot senses motion, the camera will do a full spin (but sadly it can’t buy a vowel) around to record the entire room and save a video clip of it. Motion detection triggers a push notification to your smartphone, which will let you jump right into the Zmodo app to see what just happened. To prevent false positive alerts, you can adjust the detection area of the camera's point of view, which is separate from the motion sensors surrounding the Pivot.
Of course, motion detection is a little bit of a balancing act to get right, and cameras from various companies all do things a bit differently. To combat false positives and such, Zmodo has added a sure-fire way for the camera to detect a problem, and let you know what happened. The Pivot comes with two sets of door and window sensors—yes, you can get more, and connect up to 32—which can be paired with the the camera for more precise alerts. When setup properly, a triggered door/window sensor will prompt Pivot to rotate to the position that you program for that particular sensor, send you a specific alert, and record a short video clip of what happened just as the sensor was opened or closed.
To round out the unique attributes of the Pivot, the same speaker that is used for two-way remote audio can also play just about anything a Bluetooth-compatible device. While the audio quality isn’t stellar (no low-end), it was relatively good for podcasts and vocals, and could surprisingly be turned up fairly loud without much distortion. The Pivot also has on-board temperature and humidity sensors, which you can view via the app in real-time or see day and month graphs of their history.
As with many products that are part of a line-up from a connected-home company, all of Zmodo’s current smart home products can be managed from their app. And, it’s a well-organized and responsive app that lets you jump right into various important areas with ease. It’s available for both Android and iOS. If you wish to simply manually check-in on what's going on at home, one tap of the "Live" button in the app will take you right to the live view of the camera, where you can manually rotate the camera, listen in via Pivot's microphone or speak through the Pivot's speaker. You can also take still images and record videos via the live camera view, which can later be saved to your mobile device.
The Good: Easy setup, simple-to-use app, very good quality video, surprisingly good night vision performance, timely delivery of push notification motion alerts, door and window sensors are a helpful, stand-out feature, automatic capture of entire room based on any motion is a bonus, and the two-way audio worked very well. Temperature and humidity sensors showed interesting information, along with history graphs.
The Not-So-Good: The “beta” Zmodo cloud-based video service was sometimes a bit sluggish and sometimes wouldn’t play a recording even though it showed in the list of alerts. (Zmodo says these issues will be fixed once the cloud service goes live, which should be early this summer.) When set to record locally, the videos were consistent, and quick to load and view. Camera rotation is a bit slow to be able to see exactly what might be going on at a moment’s notice. (Although faster rotation might result in distorted videos. Zmodo’s new Pivot (in white), launching soon, does seem to rotate a bit faster.) There are no options to adjust the sensitivity for motion alerts, and in weeks of testing, there were semi-regular false positives based on sunlight changes (clouds passing by) and night-time automatic lighting changes during “away mode” at the Smarter Home Life home studios. And, no integration with any other “smart home” platforms as yet. (Sources have told Smarter Home Life that Zmodo may be working on their first integration with a smart home platform. This review will be updated as additional information becomes available.)
Conclusion: If you’re looking for a good security camera with some unique features, this could be the one for you. It does a very good job of sensing motion, recording it and getting an alert to you quickly so that you can take any needed action. And that’s really the name of the game in the home security camera industry. It may not have some of the whiz-bang features of a Nest Cam, but it also doesn’t have the high price, either. This would definitely make a great starter camera for someone who is just getting started with home security.
As mentioned above, Zmodo is rapidly building-out their line of home automation products, and they’re currently focused on making them all work well with each other. And this means that Zmodo’s devices don’t yet work with any other connected platforms. But when that does change, and Zmodo rolls out a few additional products, they could have a pretty compelling smarter home line-up.
Disclosure: Zmodo provided the Pivot camera to Smarter Home Life for testing and review purposes.