There’s a been a glut of smart home-security cameras enter the market of late, and the Netatmo Welcome is leading the charge. Like its rivals, the Netatmo monitors your home, and records and sends you alerts when something happens. But there are a few things that elevate this particular security cam above the competition.
For one, it doesn’t demand a subscription to enjoy its most useful features. You pay once: that's it. Even better, it uses clever facial-recognition technology that eliminates annoying false-positive notifications. These two things alone make it one of the best smart-home products I’ve seen all year.
Netatmo wins more points for creating a camera that doesn’t look like a camera. Inspect it for longer than a few seconds and of course the lens becomes obvious, but it doesn’t stick out. Its design is tall, slim and elegant.
It’s also simple to set up. Plug in it, install the app and follow the instructions. The one challenge you will face is over where you should place it. Netatmo states that you should avoid any strong sources of light, which I did, but I also made the mistake of putting it in the living room in view of the TV. Endless notifications followed as the Welcome recognised characters from Game of Thrones.
My mistake – although it only goes to highlight how clever Netatmo’s face-recognition technology is.
For the first week or two, it learns faces as people come and go. When it recognises a new face, you create a profile and tell the app which face belongs to whom. In my experience it takes the Welcome two weeks to develop a reliable profile – although, be warned: getting a haircut is likely to throw it off a little.
Once it learns, it will recognise people from even the most fleeting of glimpses. This results in providing great control. If you want to know when your daughter gets home from school, for example, the Welcome will send you a notification. However, if you simply want to be informed about unknown faces, then you'll only receive notifications on those.
And with this, the Netatmo Welcome deals with my biggest gripe with products such as the Nest Cam, which send out notifications for any movement, no matter how insignificant.
Other cameras are good at recording what’s going on, or monitoring low traffic areas, but they become irritating when used as a security measure in a busy home. When the Welcome sends me a notification, I know it will be pertinent. That’s vital.
Facial recognition solves a second problem – personal privacy. While it’s great to have a camera for security, not everyone will be comfortable with being recorded as they go about their everyday lives. Once the Welcome has determined who someone is, it's possible to control when it records them, whether that be all the time, not at all, or only on arrival into the home. You can even set it to send you notifications at certain times – after a curfew, for example.
All footage is recorded in 1080p onto a supplied 8GB microSD card, which brings me to the other great benefit of the Welcome – no extra fees. Most security cams charge for cloud storage. Often the tiers of features and recording times can be irritatingly confusing, so Netatmo’s one price for everything approach is refreshing.
How much you can record to your 8GB card will depend on the settings. Left to record everything, I’ve discovered that you can get 24 to 48 hours of history. If you’re more selective, however, it's possible to get several days of recording before the Welcome starts to overwrite old footage.
This is more than enough, especially since you can download clips to your phone or computer using the app or mobile console. The only weakness to this system – as you may have already figured out by now – is that you can’t access the recordings if a thief swipes your Welcome. There’s no alternative cloud option, and you can’t stream recordings to network storage either.
Netatmo has considered this, however. While it doesn’t save recordings to the cloud, the first frame of a clip is saved as a photo. This means you can still access them when the camera is offline, enabling you to get a sight of the culprit to give to the police.
For discretion, it would be handy to be able to turn off the Netatmo Welcome's glowing red status light. It comes on when it spots motion and begins to record – and it’s hard to miss; the Nest Cam offers this option in its app.
As for the recording quality, it’s about what you’d expect from a decent 1080p camera – it’s more than good enough to make out faces. Vitally, the Night Mode is effective, too. Provided you’ve identified people in the dark, the face recognition will still work most of the time too.
Aside from all the core features, the Welcome has a few more useful features worth your attention. First of these is an IFTTT (If This Then That) channel, so you can trigger other devices based on the Welcome’s alerts. It can play a specific song, for example, or help control a Nest thermostat.
You can control more than one Welcome camera from the app, and you can share access with other users in the your home – or even friends and family if you’re away.
Netatmo also sells a window and door sensor for additional security. These sensors will alert you to vibrations and other disturbances, giving you another layer of protection for areas not covered by the cameras.
The one remaining negative against the Welcome is that it supports none of the established smart-home systems, such as ZigBee or Apple’s HomeKit. This is disappointing and will rule it out for some, but the IFTTT channel does offer a workaround here.
Related: What is IFTTT?
The Welcome is the only security camera I’ve tested that I’m still using – which speaks volumes. While a Nest Cam would be ideal for those who have already bought into the Nest ecosystem, the Welcome is the better standalone product.
Not that it will be perfect for everyone – it’s for indoor use only, for example. But its combination of clever technology, thoughtful design and the "no strings attached" approach make it one of the best options out there.
Vitally, it provides extra security while maintaining people’s privacy, which is difficult to pull off.
Real smart features make the Netatmo Welcome a great entry into a competitive field.