Leeo SmartAlert: A $100 night light that listens

April 20, 2015

The SmartAlert Night Light from Leeo is a new class of connected products that includes the Nest thermostat and Dropcam camera. These are devices located in your home that communicate to the cloud and to your phone through its app.

In its present incarnation, Leeo is designed to monitor your home for alarms that might sound while you are away and unaware that they’ve gone off. When that occurs, Leeo detects it through its frequency-sensitive built-in microphone and sends an alert to your phone using the Leeo app (iOS only).

It’s designed particularly for identifying smoke, fire and carbon monoxide detectors, and burglar alarms. Leeo is able, according to the company, to hear alarms up to 75 feet away. You are also able to check your home’s temperature and humidity with the app while you’re away.

The SmartAlert is disguised as a night light that plugs into a North American two-prong wall plug. Light from special LEDs radiates from its conically-shaped rear surface with a soft, diffuse ring of most any color you chose. The microphone is on the front surface to monitor for sound.

Setup is simple: Plug it in and pair it to your phone using Bluetooth the first time used. This allows you to connect it to your Wi-Fi home network, after which Bluetooth is no longer used.

Leeo, as well as the Nest and Dropcam, fall into the category dubbed by the consumer electronics industry as the Internet of Things, or IoT, a catchall for products that connect to the cloud, usually with Wi-Fi.

With the ease today of building products with sensors of all kind, wireless modules, and so much more, we can expect to see a plethora of products with different combinations of functions, some that even seem to be incongruent.

That was how I first viewed Leeo: An expensive nightlight with some features that had questionable value. Sure, I’d like to know when a fire alarm goes off in my home when I am far away, but what if it’s a false alarm? I guess I could keep checking the temperature!

But in conversation with its co-founder and CEO, Adam Gettings, my opinion changed. He explained Leeo is actually part of a well-thought-through strategic vision of home automation and home management. When thinking in that context, the idea could be brilliant.

Gettings — who was previously co-founder and chief robot designer of RoboteX, a provider of tactical robots for first responder teams — thinks of Leeo as an entry point into our homes. We all can use night lights; they are simple to install and rarely removed. It was the perfect paradigm for the beginning of a home-monitoring system that could be customized from the cloud.

New capabilities would be enabled through downloads into Leeo, such as being able to use Leeo to accept commands from around the home, to monitor for intruders, doorbells and more advanced intrusion alarm systems. It could even receive Siri-like spoken commands from us or turn on lights when we enter a room.

Part of what makes this possible is that Leeo is designed with a robust microprocessor that’s capable of handling a lot of capabilities inside that innocuous nightlight.

For now, you’ll need to value it as one of the most advanced (and expensive) nightlights with the ability to detect alarms.

Leeo requires a Wi-Fi connection, iPhone 4S or later and its free app.

Cloud-connected audio devices may just be the next big thing. Amazon is previewing a cylindrical device with a microphone and speaker called the Echo that sits on the counter or next to your bed that responds to your voice. You can ask it for information such as news, music or weather, set an alarm for 8 a.m., or ask any question, much like Siri.

My guess is it can used simply to request a purchase from Amazon. $199/$149 for Prime members. By invitation only. Sign up at www.amazon.com/oc/echo/.


Baker is the author of "From Concept to Consumer," published by Financial Times Press. Send comments to phil.baker@sddt.com. Comments may be published online or as Letters to the Editor.

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