The french company Sense is still pretty new in the IoT space. On IFA Berlin in september I had my first encounter with the sense peanuts, by then there was only one peanut available, the thermopeanut, and a lot of plans for more. I wasn't too excited about it at first, the thermopeanut on its own felt like a feature too small to write and tell about it.
Anyway, almost a year has past and Sense introduced two new peanuts; the sleeppeanut and the guardpeanut; both with its own specific task with the common goal to know more about your environment. With a form factor almost as small as a peanut, they can be easily carried around and require no base station to operate.
The company's key words are "simple, useful and affordable", while offering nothing earth-shattering they tend to bring something new, easily to handle and useful to the market. Smart sensors, meant to make our lives easier is the main goal and now that there're already three of them, we're going to take a look at what they can mean for the human being.
Packaging & Design
Ready to be sold in supermarkets or big consumer stores, their packaging is a pendant design which you could compare to packages of cables, batteries, small electronics which are sold by dozens in a row. On the back of the packaging they advertise the uses and specifcations of the product as well as the content of the box.
The general components that are given with all peanuts is the multipurpose clip, self-adhesive double sided tape, a battery that will last for 6 months which is replaceable and of course the peanut itself. Peanuts like the guardpeanut have their own extras like an attachment ring. A user guide with quick start guide is also included in the package.
The design of the peanuts is pretty straightforward, they're small and firm with only one button to interact, all the rest is programmed with the app on your phone.
Each sensor has its own color whereas the thermopeanut is red, the guardpeanut green and the sleeppeanut blue.
Due to the small and flat form factor, you can't even feel the peanut when you put the sleeppeanut under your bed sheets for example. With the self-adhesive tape you can literally place the peanuts everywhere you want to. For the guard peanut, you can slip it into a bag or sleeve where you store an expensive object.
Sen.se uses modern Bluetooth Low Energy, which is also known as Bluetooth LE, to connect the peanuts to your smartphone. Thanks to the low power input, it's the perfect technology to monitor security or home control from a power friendly point of view. Without the need of a central hub, you can connect to your device directly.
The undeniable disadvantage of the absence of the hub is the fact that you always have to be near your peanut to download its readings and control its settings. This makes the guard peanut for example a solution for short periods of time where you are preferably in bluetooth range of the sensor. For the sleeppeanut, this is rather not important and the bluetooth range of the sense peanut is more than perfect for the needs and uses of the sensor. When you're not in range of the peanut, the device will store its readings locally (can store results up to 1 month until it can upload its results to the cloud which you can access with multiple smart devices. The first smart device that connects to the peanut has control over the settings, this makes that all devices can access the cloud to read the results of the peanut, but only one can modify the peanut's settings.
Bluetooth LE delivers great connectivity for short distances, mostly used temporaly, but it has the limiting factor that you need to be close-by to interact with your peanuts and its features. This makes the guard peanut pretty much useless for long-range movement monitoring; that's why it's more used for important objects that you've close-by at all time.
Introduction to the application is quite easy. When you install the app on your smart device, it'll first give a dummy proof guide how to activate and connect your peanuts to the app through an online account. Before it activates the peanut on your account, it'll also update the peanut to the latest software. The account is used in a way that you've your own data storage in the cloud which you can access by multiple devices using the sensepeanut app.
The application itself is nifty and quite stylish. A good overview of all the peanuts is given in the main dashboard . All peanuts can be given their own name like: "headphone", "Fridge Temperature", "Bed@Girlfriend", etc.. . Also settings like when to start monitoring, give a warning, wake up, alarm and additional settings for the peanut itself and how much of it your perceive through your phone can be controlled using this app. All devices connected to the same peanut at the same time, will get their notifications simultaneously.
You can even use it in combination with IFTTT to get adjusted notifications.
Useful graphical statistics are displayed for each peanut, giving information about what happened during the day / during your sleep.
Another important aspect of wireless sensors is the battery life. While bluetooth LE uses far less battery than for example WiFi, it remains tricky to ensure a decent battery life for continuously active wireless devices. The peanuts work on a button-cell battery which can easily be replaced when needed by opening the front cap of the device. In ideal conditions the battery should last half a year. This however is not entirely true as our Thermo peanut lasted 4 months in decent temperature conditions. A battery like this can be found in local stores, but cost quite a bit if you have multiple sensors running over the year, that's why we recommend getting several at once online, which is alot cheaper.
Once connected, your app will receive temperature updates from the peanut's environment, which will be updated on the graph over time in bars. You can choose to display the last 24 hours, 30 days and 12 months. This particular peanut can be configured to alert your phone when the temperature goes outside the set range of temperature. Due to the support of IFTTT it can integrate with other products namely Philips Hue, Nest, WeMo, ... . The peanut can measure under circumstances of a temperature rate from -5° to +140° Fahrenheit which allows you to monitor refrigerator temperature or room temperatures by sticking it against the wall or however you like it to be. Some negative points we encountered was the drain of battery life in for example refrigerators; the lack of connectivity due to the bluetooth range; especially when put in isolated environments like the fridge. There's however the option to let the peanut itself take care of alarming people nearby which doesn't require your phone to be connected. The thermo peanut tends to be off a few degrees, but this can be regulated by an offset using the app.
This is the peanut that acts like a smart anti-theft alarm designed to prevent that someone walks away with your purse, backpack, laptop or any other valuable objects that you're carrying with you. The last aspect of this sentence is rather important as you're limited by the range of your bluetooth connection. While it can store measurements locally, it still has to be in range of your connected smart device to upload the data and warm you for unwanted or informative motion. Just like the thermo peanut, it also has a piezo-electric speaker inside which can be turned on when the peanut detects movement (optionally). Because of the limiting bluetooth factor, we think that the peanut will be best applied on valuable things you carry around which you want to monitor temporarily. The peanut can be turned off by pressing the top button; or done by the application through your smart device. Also this peanut has IFTTT integration to unleash your creativity upon.
Certainly the peanut we like the most, which is probably also best suited by the use of Bluetooth LE. All of its functions do not require the same important connectivity like the other two peanuts, which makes it the most reliable peanut of the three. We tested the sleep peanut for a few people with positive feedback on their sleeping habits; also the graph is quite interesting to inspect. All integrated functions like the soft waker through the peanut itself are working as they should. At first we had some malfunctions of the alarm not turning on because of connection loss with our smart device during the night, but this seemed to solve itself as it worked great once this problem was gone. Like said in the above, you can't even feel the sleep peanut under the sheets. Turn on/off, snooze and other familiar functions can easily be accessed using the front button. Also this peanut is compatible with IFTTT allowing it to work with any smart thermostats to seamlessly optimize heating over night. You can also set a waking up hour and the peanut will wake you at the right time, maximum 30 minutes before the set hour. While there're still quite a few bugs, this is the most interesting peanut we've tested so far.
IFTTT integration of the peanuts makes a lot of sense, using it as a trigger to start an action or close one; works pretty reliable in many cases. A few examples are: "Get an email if someone leaves the fridge open", "If temperature rises too high in the office, then turn on the fan", "When I wake up, turn on the coffee machine", "When I'm in bed, turn OFF the lights", "When I'm in bed, set my Nest thermostat to night temperature", "If my husband steals cookies at night, then turn the kitchen lights ON".
Sense Peanuts are an interesting and funny idea of acquiring data of your environment, but still encounter several bugs in the process. For the guard and thermo peanut, this is the lack of a hub to send notifications over a long range; which results in bluetooth range dependency. Definitely a plus for all peanuts is that all of the sensors are very easy to use with the sleek application and fancy graphs. Also IFTTT for all peanuts is a great addition to creative usability of the peanuts. While both the guard and thermo peanut have their limitations in connectivity, you'll find that the sleeppeanut does not suffer the same connectivity issues for its uses. For this peanut, the Bluetooth LE connection is the perfect way to interact with your smart device while you're sleeping. If you don't mind the delay on data or small range of the two other peanuts, you might find a cheap solution to monitor several environmental changes at the same time on multiple capable devices. The best option might be a central tablet which is always connected to all the peanuts in your home, this would give the thermo peanut for example much more options due to easy IFTTT integration with temperature related devices.
While the guard and thermo peanut are two funny, but smart little sensors with some limitations, you'll find a more useful sensor in the sleep peanut.
|GuardPeanut||ThermoPeanut & SleepPeanut|
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