Editors' note, August 25, 2014: Updated with Best Buy availability and additional information provided by SmartHome Ventures.
Make way for yet another entry into the burgeoning smart-home marketplace. Fledgling company SmartHome Ventures has just unveiled a new solution it calls Peq (pronounced "peek") that it says is able to tackle all your intelligent-household needs. These include automated lighting, video monitoring, heating, and motion sensing. Better yet, the people behind Peq say the smart-home platform is simple to install, operate, and access via iOS or Android mobile applications.
Don't get too excited just yet though. The company plans to charge a $10 monthly subscription fee to get on board the Peq bandwagon. And while Peq is technically compatible with the iControl OpenHome platform, it won't be able to talk to trendy gadgets made by Nest, Honeywell, Philips, and Dropcam. That means you might find Peq useful if you're interested in a total package solution, not the most advanced smart-home products available.
A peek at the Peq smart home
The Peq base kit, or Starter Kit, is pretty bare-bones as far as smart-home packs go. Sure, it costs only $120 but all you get are one hub networking device, the kind that plugs directly into your router, and one wireless "door & window sensor." Keep in mind that the latter is really just a single gizmo that detects when a specific door or window opens or closes.
By comparison, the Piper, one of many competing DIY smart-home products, costs more ($200) but packs a bevy of electronic sensors, including ones for motion, light (not to mention an HD camera), and sound. Additionally there's no monthly fee involved to use the Piper. To approach this level of capability with Peq, consumers would have to either purchase both the Starter Kit ($120) plus the Peq camera ($130) separately, which brings up the total to $250 or buy the "watchdog" combo which includes camera, sensor, and hub for $200. Worse, the Peq's camera's video quality maxes out at a fuzzy VGA resolution (640x480 pixels).
What else Peq can do
Home monitoring and security are just the beginning of Peq's touted smart-home skills. SmartHome Ventures also sells a lamp with a dimmer module ($60) designed to give you real-time command of household lighting via tablet or smartphone. The drawback here, though, is the module only works with freestanding, tabletop, or other lighting fixtures that plug directly into ordinary electrical outlets.
Acknowledging that a smart home wouldn't be truly complete without a fancy 21st century thermostat, Peq hawks its own smart thermostat ($130), which flaunts a futuristic metallic design and a large touchscreen; it also supports two-stage heating and cooling, plus electric and gas systems.
Other add-ons include a motion sensor module ($45) to detect unexpected activity within your abode, along with a water module that is meant to sniff out potential leaks and other plumbing problems as they happen. There's even a carbon monoxide sensor ($90) to warn against dangerous levels of CO gas.
Peq definitely has its work cut out for it. Not only does SmartHome Ventures need to convince customers to buy into a smart home solution which charges a $10 monthly fee. The company must also entice users to jump on board a closed system that's only compatible with a handful of Peq accessories.
Of course, SmartHome Ventures representatives took pains to point out that all Peq devices are OpenHome certified, a program created by security tech firm iControl. Even so, the SHV rep also stated that "not all OpenHome-certified devices will work on Peq." That sounds suspiciously like a walled-garden approach to me.
In my vision of the ideal 21st century smart home, I'll be able to buy any high-tech device I want, then have it play nice with my other existing hardware. I also won't be forced to pay an extra subscription on top of my cable or fiber optic broadband bill. Honestly, this futuristic dream isn't that far off. Products such as the Wink Hub ($80) already link to the Dropcam Pro, the Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat, and Philips Hue LED light bulbs.
Perhaps inspired by other smart home solutions such as the Staples Connect Hub and Iris Home Management System (backed by Lowe's), Peq will also enjoy a the endorsement of a US big box retailer. Retail chain Best Buy will sell Peq equipment starting in August of this year. SmartHome Ventures CEO Ted Schremp told me, however, that while this arrangement is certainly mutually beneficial, it's not an exclusive one.
Regardless, Mr. Schremp sees retail availability as a key step towards educating the consumer about the real benefits of the smart home. Schremp said, " Is your house going to fry an egg for you in the morning? The reality is a lot simpler than that, but the [smart home] does have real utility and real value. At retail, consumers will be able to see, touch it, feel it, and talk to a sales rep about it."