How Notion’s Sensors Simplify Your Smart Home [Review]

November 7, 2017

9:20 am

Launching today, the second generation of the Notion sensor displays with a high degree of flexibility.

This flexibility should make it a competitive option when compared to more narrowly focused items, such as dedicated motion sensors or water sensors.

These small, round, puck-like sensors have a wide range of usefulness. The sensors collect data and feed a central wall-plug residing hub. Through Wi-Fi, the hub sends all the data to Notion’s servers then back to your app. According to the company Notion, the reason for this data flow is to add another layer of AES 256 encryption of your raw sensor data before it hits your phone.

Features

A quick overview of the sensor capability of the Notion:

  • Temperature
  • Acceleration
  • Natural Frequency
  • Light
  • Motion
  • Sound
  • Angular Rate
  • Water

Notion Bridge and Sensor

The Product

Opening the Notion was a satisfying experience. The packaging and units themselves are very aesthetically pleasing and it comes across as a high-end product.

Set Up

This was very possibly the easiest IoT/Smarthome item setup that I’ve experienced. I downloaded the app, plugged in the bridge, connected the bridge to Wi-Fi, pulled plastic tabs on the sensors, knocked on them to wake them up, stuck them where they were going to live, named them in the app and picked what I wanted them to do. That sounds like a lot, but it wasn’t. It was extremely fluid, intuitive, and took about 45 seconds per sensor.

When I first began pairing the Notion sensors to the bridge, one of the disposable plastic pull-tabs that keep the batteries disconnected broke off inside without dislodging fully. I gasped and was fairly upset, and then steeled myself to the task of opening the Notion.

I quickly realized, however, that the notion screws off of its base with a firm ‘click’, exposing the included lithium AAA batteries, a 2nd copy of the QR code used to pair the sensor (Hooray for thinking ahead on that one!), and a robust rubber seal to keep any moisture out. I was semi-flabbergasted that it opened that conveniently (no screws!), then quickly removed the remaining plastic, snapped the unit shut, and paired the sensor.

The ‘knock to wake the sensor up’ feature I previously mentioned is quite novel. To pair the Notion you must already have set up your bridge, but if the bridge is ready, you simply knock on the sensor twice, and when it blinks, zap the QR code on the back of it with your phone. Voila!

The App

Notion’s Android app is very slick. It’s responsive and simple, but still, has all of the expected features. So far, there is no iPad app, but iOS phone app was usable on my iPad in portrait mode.

I placed my three sensors on my front and back doors, and near my smoke alarm in the kitchen. I set all of them to monitor temperature, the kitchen unit to monitor for smoke alarm sounds, and the door units to monitor movement. They began working instantly. Since I didn’t want to receive all the notifications at home every time the door opened, the app offers that option to turn it off.

Integration

While I do not own a Nest thermostat, I researched how the Notion works with Nest. From the Nest website: Notion can now connect to your Nest Learning Thermostat to help you save energy if your doors or windows are open while the thermostat’s running, and give you a holistic view of your home’s climate.

Here’s a quick unboxing video:

Notion has made an outstanding start, offering a highly polished UX and an attractive unit, but feels vaguely unfinished without being able to tie into established ecosystems such as Alexa, Google assistant, SmartThings, or IFTTT.

The only service that the Notion integrates fully with at the moment is Nest. This may not be a barrier to entry for many users and is an intentional choice on their part to purify the experience.

When I asked the Notion folks about Google Assistant or IFTTT integration, I received this response:

At the moment, we’re more focused on creating the best Notion experience that we can. That’s why we’re being selective on the integrations we do introduce, to ensure they add more value to our users. We’re excited to unveil Notion’s integration with Nest, and know this is just the beginning for incorporating other products and services into the full Notion experience! While we don’t have a specific time frame for when additional integrations will be announced, we’re talking to our users to learn which integrations they are most eager to see in the future.

Unfortunately, this is a negative for me as I’d love to use the Notion in ways that compliment my existing system, such as having the Iris smart Wi-Fi plug that I use to control the oil radiator heater in my bathroom controlled by the temperature readout of the Notion sensor, or ask my Google Home what temperature it is inside.

Find more gear and gadgets for your smart home at TechCo

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Maker, Tinkerer, Writer, Reader, Tech aficionado. I live near DFW and enjoy the quirky side of life.

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