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Netatmo brings a cam that gets familiar with the family to CES

The Netatmo Welcome can help you keep track of your family with face recognition.

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Andrew Gebhart
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Andrew Gebhart

Senior Producer

Andrew loves writing about cool, futuristic technology. He's reviewed everything from vacuum cleaners to beer brewing robots in pursuit of the perfect smart home. He wants the smart home to make him feel powerful, and it's getting there.

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LAS VEGAS -- Netatmo's new camera wants to help you track your family's whereabouts. Announced at CES tonight, the Netatmo Welcome bases its alerts and recordings on face recognition. A Wi-Fi-connected security camera, the Welcome starts by recognizing motion. Then, it can supposedly tell who or what triggered that motion, letting you customize notifications accordingly.

Who's there?

Netatmo entered the smart-home field with their Urban Weather Station, a simple but effective way to help you monitor the air quality indoors and out. Netatmo is biting off a much more complex task with the Welcome. Not only will the camera recognize faces, but the app will help you monitor who's home and who's away with a simple interface.

You can customize notifications for each individual. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The app will use geofencing, along with motion detection, to help it recognize comings and goings. The system should be able to tell when you come within a certain distance, and the amount of alerts you receive will automatically reduce when you're home and can keep an eye on things yourself.

A part of something bigger

All of these ideas sound great, and the fact that Netatmo has a channel on IFTTT means you can establish triggers for the online rule generator based on different family members. Use a smart device to keep your TV locked down until you get home, but make sure the lights are on once the kids get there after school.

Some Netatmo products will also be compatible with HomeKit once Apple's smart-home software hits the masses. Hopefully, this camera will be on the list, putting it in a good position as far as wide interoperability.

The specs

The specs of the camera itself stack up well against the best connected cams we've tested. The Netatmo Welcome broadcasts in full HD and offers night vision and a 130-degree field of view. It records to an SD Card, with a 4GB card included.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Via the Android and iOS app, you can stream a live view and watch recordings for free, with no monthly service charge. It keeps up with the 1080p, 130-degree DropCam Pro, and bests the 720p, 95-degree Belkin NetCam HD+ in terms of camera capability.

Becoming familiar

On the main page of the app, you'll see a screen with snapshots of everyone who's home. Those recognized by the system will have their name underneath, and you can customize alerts for each individual. You'll see a question mark above the snapshot of each unknown person. The system will always alert you with the movement of an unknown, but it should distinguish people vs. pets and objects to minimize your notifications somewhat.

The question mark indicates an unknown entity. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The Netatmo Welcome should get better over time as well. If it doesn't recognize someone it should, simply tell the system who it is in that flagged snapshot, and it'll continue to learn for next time.

Swipe over from the main page, and you'll see a list of everyone you've asked Netatmo to track who isn't home. Netatmo doesn't appear to have a clear system for determining when someone leaves. Your family member likely won't face the camera on the way out, and if the camera doesn't see him or her for a while, it'll assume they're gone even if they've just been in another room.

Take a closer look at Netatmo's welcoming security cam (pictures)

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Again, geofencing will help it keep track of you and maybe one or two others with the app. But if you're trying to monitor a large group, the otherwise attractive visual representation might prove frustratingly inaccurate if your family goes in and out frequently.

Potential limitations

Netatmo has made a few decisions to ensure the camera helps with privacy instead of hurting it. All snapshots, recordings, and recognition data will be kept in the SD card as opposed to the cloud. You can use the cloud to back up photos, but everything else is kept local. The dedication to keeping the info in your hands is admirable, but it also means that should you need to replace the card, you'll need to retrain the system.

If you replace the SD card, expect to retrain the system. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

If the face recognition technology works, the Netatmo Welcome will be worthy of consideration just to combine that extra trigger to your IFTTT- or HomeKit-compatible smart home. I'm simply expecting a bit of a learning curve when it comes to tracking who's home and who's not, and dealing with an extra dose of notification frustration as it struggles through who's who.

Outlook

Either way, it's a promising addition to Wi-Fi security cameras that could be an important step in refining the rules of an in-depth smart home. I look forward to getting my hands on it when the Netatmo Welcome hits the shelves in the second quarter of this year.

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