Startup security company Cherry Labs wants its system of cameras with built-in sensors to be the eyes and ears of your smart home. The system, called Cherry Home, uses a separate processor and advanced AI to not only see what's going on, but map the room it's in, recognize the people in the room, tell you what they're doing, and notify you if something goes wrong.
Cherry Labs and Cherry Home officially launch today. The company will ship out its first 100 Cherry Home units in February. Those customers will still technically be beta-testing the product. The next 1,000 units will roll out in May.
The ambitious Cherry Home smart home system promises capabilities well beyond what any of its competitors can do. That's because Cherry Home won't just use facial recognition to tell who's who. The cam also learns the length of your arms and legs, the clothes you wear, the sound of your voice, the color of your skin and hair, and even the way you walk.
Cherry Home triangulates its position in the room through a variety of sensors and creates a diagram of the space you can see on the app. Thanks to all of the info it tracks, the Cherry Home knows who's in the room, where that person is within the room, and what they're doing.
At launch, Cherry Labs promises that its system will send an alert when a person falls down. The system will also know if someone is screaming, crying or just laughing. Cherry Labs service will include professional monitoring, so if the system senses something wrong, it can call emergency services.
In the future, Cherry Labs wants to offer even more advanced smarts. For example, you could tie it into your smart home so it could automatically turn on your reading light when you open a book. And the coolest innovation is still a work in progress for the team but could be a significant step forward for the actual smarts of the smart home -- Cherry Labs is working with pharmaceutical companies to understand the body language of a person when they're about to have a stroke. The company isn't promising this feature any time soon, but at some point, this smart home cam could recognize when you're in the early stages of a stroke and call 911.
How is all of this possible?
To make all of this happen, Cherry Home's cams pack in a bunch of sensors: It has a binocular camera with a 165-degree field of view and an infrared sensor for night vision. Each cam also includes a motion sensor, an accelerometer, a compass and an altimeter so it knows how high it is off the ground and which way it's facing.
The cams send all of the data they collect to a central processor with the computing power of a high-end PC, according to Cherry Labs. That processor will save and analyze all data locally to increase turnaround time on its responsiveness and for added privacy. The cams and processor talk to each other using a mesh Wi-Fi network. The processor only talks to the cloud when it needs to send you an alert or if you're using an app to watch a live feed from a room.
You'll be able to customize alerts and when you want Cherry Labs to save clips. You'll get a daily summary of the activities it spotted and who it saw. And the processor has a backup battery should the power fail.
The cams are battery powered by coin batteries that last about three months. Fortunately, the processor can recharge those batteries, and houses two extra, so you can swap in those once a quarter.
Will this actually work?
Because Cherry Labs is promising smarts well beyond what's currently available, I'm skeptical that Cherry Home will ever be a reliable consumer product you can pick up at your local electronics store. Even the more limited facial recognition in cams like the Netatmo Welcome is hit-or-miss.
And as you might have expected, the Cherry Home's price will be prohibitive for curious smart-home shoppers. A starter pack of two sensors and a processor will be $900. A pack with four sensors will cost $1,200. An eight-pack kit is $1,400. (Cherry Home will ship overseas. The US prices convert to approximately £680/AU$1,150 for a two-pack, £900/AU$1,500 for four, and £1,000/AU$1,800 for eight.)
For comparison, a Nest Cam IQ can work on its own without a processor and costs $300. Cherry Labs will also charge $14 per month per sensor for its insights and monitoring (£10/AU$18), or $10 per month per sensor if you sign up for a full year (£8/AU$13). You can still use the cams as cams without this subscription, but you lose almost all of the AI advantages. Nest's AI service, called Nest Aware, starts at $10 per month, but doesn't include monitoring.
I also have privacy concerns about Cherry Home. The cams don't have a physical shutter, so you can't manually keep it from keeping an eye on you short of killing its power.
But Cherry Home's promised features sound possible given all of its sensors and the computing power of a high-end PC. It might also be more reliable than the facial recognition we've seen simply because it's not just relying solely on facial recognition.
Plus, the company is being upfront about what it'll be able to do from the start and what it's hoping for in the future.
Obviously, Cherry Home isn't for you if you're looking for an affordable and simple upgrade to your home's security. If you want to preorder Cherry Home, get ready to live on the cutting edge, for better and for worse. That said, I'm fascinated by Cherry Labs' ambitious goals. If the company can pull off all of its lofty promises, the AI of Cherry Home could act as the brain of a more proactive smart home.