A modern home, which uses presence sensors, which are an innovation in in-home sensors to create more micro zoning.
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The best in-home sensors

Innovation in Smart Home Tech: Adding Presence Sensors

Steve Hansen
November 15, 2023

Adding Presence Sensors to Your Smart Home

Smart home technology includes an array of devices that provide incredibly useful functionality. We’ve talked about smart thermostats and smart plugs a lot, and how they can save you some serious money. You can also get smart doorbells, smart locks, smart speakers, smart garage door openers, smart security systems, smart appliances, and more. These devices can upgrade your home security, convenience, and enjoyment.

Another useful smart home addition is presence sensors. This concept is a bit more obscure, but these devices use a variety of methods to detect the presence or absence of people or objects in a given area. Presence sensors can help to control your home’s HVAC and lighting systems, for example, by monitoring if any people are in certain areas and then by controlling those systems as you’ve directed. They can also be part of managing daily routine tasks for you, such as opening and closing curtains or blinds. They are a helpful part of making your smart home system work optimally.

How Presence Sensors Work

Manufacturers have come up with a few different methods for detecting the presence of people, and those different methods have varying levels of effectiveness, as well as some tradeoffs. Apparently, it’s challenging to detect the presence of people accurately without false negatives.

First off, camera-based systems can compromise people’s privacy, so those systems will sometimes be unwelcome inside the home, though they may be fine for outside use. Other methods include passive infrared (PIR) sensors, ultrasonic sensors, microwave sensors, and ultrasonic beam sensors. These types of sensors all have their place, depending on the situation. Some work better than others for security applications, some for commercial purposes, and some for residential purposes.

Another type of sensor uses radar waves to detect the presence of people. The Aquara Presence Sensor FP2 is this type of sensor, useful for monitoring smart home functionality, as well as for personal safety considerations such as falls. Radar technology offers several advantages over other options, the company says, including:

  • Ultra-High Precision: Radar beams provide extremely accurate detection of movement and human occupancy while avoiding false negatives. The unit is also tolerant of wet environments, so installation in bathrooms is acceptable. These qualities make it attractive for monitoring seniors, children, and people with disabilities while maintaining their privacy.
  • Larger Zone of Detection: Instead of requiring multiple motion sensors in an area, this unit can monitor up to 430 square feet. You can also set it up with up to 30 zones of detection in the space, which can result in different automations. For example, motion in a certain zone could trigger lighting to come on or turn off, depending on the time of day.
  • Multi-Person Detection: The FP2 sensor will track up to five people in a space, so it’s useful for households with multiple occupants. It can also trigger different automations depending on what you’ve programmed.
  • Fall Detection: Though it’s not designed as a medical device, the sensor can detect falls and notify you or someone else through the app that it has detected a fall. The company says this functionality requires the unit to be mounted on the ceiling.
  • Flexible Installation: The FP2 can be wall or ceiling-mounted. You can also install it in the corner of a room and then configure the unit for that location.
  • Built-In Light Sensor: Additionally, the FP2 has a built-in light sensor, which allows you to create lighting automations such as leaving bedroom lights off if the unit detects presence in the bed zone while turning on hall lights as it detects you moving to the kitchen.
  • Multi-Ecosystem Support: You can connect the Aqara Presence Sensor to various smart home ecosystems such as HomeKit, Alexa, Google Home, and Home Assistant.
  • Note: The FP2 is a hard-wired sensor that should be constantly powered via a USB-C cable.

Presence Sensors and Smart-Home Integration

This company makes quite a few smart home tech devices, including cameras, door locks, video doorbells, radiator thermostats, shade and blind controllers, curtain drivers, and lighting controllers, that are all part of an integrated home automation and security system. I’ve already mentioned how the FP2 presence sensor can work with lighting automations, so let's look at some others.

Another handy feature is the Aquara system’s ability to control roller shades and curtains. You simply install specialized controllers that connect to the cords for your shades or drapes and then create the automation for the device. This feature is uber convenient in the mornings and evenings as the devices can handle the task for you automatically, but they can also play a role in energy efficiency by automatically closing the shades or curtains to block the sun during the heat of the day. Of course, you can control the devices via the app; just let the automation run as normal and set a different schedule for weekends.

At the front and back doors, you can install their smart lock with fingerprint reader and video doorbell. I think a fingerprint reader is far and away the smartest way to secure your doors, especially for kids and seniors who might struggle with keys or with remembering codes. This unit remembers up to 50 fingerprints, so you can allow quite a few people access.

For your heating and cooling system, Aquara takes a different approach than I’ve seen before. They make a radiator thermostat that you can attach to each radiator for individual control. You connect a camera with face recognition to the system, and you can create an automation that adjusts any room’s temperature based on individual preferences.

Here’s how they state it with a bit of programming lingo:

“IF G3 recognizes a specific person’s face, THEN their room may start heating while other rooms remain unaffected OR the Radiator Thermostat will increase or decrease the room’s temperature according to the pre-set preference.”

Smart Home Tech Just Keeps Improving

I think nearly everyone should be taking advantage of a smart thermostat, but there’s a lot of value in smart home technology beyond that device. Other options provide enhanced convenience, as well as energy efficiency and security. I wonder what they’ll come up with next.

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