Notion tries to squeeze all the smarts you need to watch over your home into a small white puck. For $220, you get three of those pucks and a bridge that plugs into your wall and connects those sensors to the cloud. You can ask a puck to tell you if your front door is open or closed. You can stick one in the laundry room to watch for leaks or on the ceiling where it will listen for your smoke detector.
Instead of buying a bunch of different specialized sensors to do these same tasks, the Notion sensors adapt to your needs by multitasking. I love the idea of decluttering the smart home, but in practice, Notion doesn’t offer any practical advantage over more specialized sensors like the $40 SmartThings Multipurpose Sensor or the $50 . The app limits what senses you can turn on together, and some of the combinations you can enable don’t make sense.
At the moment, Notion doesn’t work with any other smart home systems either, so if it does detect something wrong, Notion can’t do anything other than send you a push notification. Because of that, Notion isn’t as good at any individual task as the best specialized devices out there. I’d wait for future updates before investing in Notion, or if you know what you want to monitor, you can take your pick from a crowded field of specialized sensors.
Getting the Notion
I tested the $220 three pack of Notion sensors with a bridge. The $300 package might be the best deal — you get five sensors with a bridge. Individually, you can buy an additional bridge for $80 and an additional sensor for $50. Head to the company’s site to make a purchase. Notion’s only available in the US and Canada.
The site also talks about the eight senses of Notion — temperature, acceleration, natural frequency, light, motion, sound, angular rate and water. In the future, Notion could use all of these senses to their full potential and sense the light levels in your home. It could tell you when your propane tank is almost empty. It could even listen for the doorbell.
Right now, those eight senses boil down to four basic options. You can use Notion to monitor when a door opens and closes (including a garage door), Notion will sense temperature, it’ll watch for leaks, and it’ll listen for smoke or CO alarms.
Setup’s pleasingly simple. You need at least one sensor and the bridge to get started. Plug the bridge into any outlet, and you’ll see the light at the top start flashing. Create an account via the app, then you’ll scan the QR code on the back of each sensor to add them to your account. Each bridge can accommodate up to 15 sensors.
If you have a big house, you might need more than one bridge so all of your sensors are in range — the bridge had trouble picking up a sensor when I moved it down one floor and over a couple of rooms. Thankfully, you can position the bridge so it doesn’t block the adjacent outlet. Get the bridge and the sensors synced, and you can start placing the latter where you need monitoring via the sticky adhesive on the back.
The limits of multitasking
I used my first sensor to monitor the door of the CNET Smart Home. The app asks you to place the sensor above the knob at the top of the door. I wanted this first sensor to multitask as much as it could, so I used the app to try to enable Notion’s other senses.
The app stopped me from using it to listen to smoke alarms — you can’t enable that feature on a sensor monitoring a door. You can turn on temperature readings, as well as leak detection. Given the placement of the sensor at the top of the door, that first sensor would have issues detecting leaks. By the time the water level got that high, I’d hope I’d already have noticed a problem.
Both the $100and the $100 listen for smoke and CO Alarms, and both can listen for alarms anywhere on the floor of a home. A door sensor that also provided this functionality would have been unique and useful. That combination would have made a lot more sense to me than combining leak detection with a door monitor.
I setup my second sensor as a listener, and the app asked me to place the sensor on the ceiling near my detector. Again, I could enable leak detection for some reason, as well as temperature readings.
I suppose the leak detection could catch a drip in your ceiling when it rains, but you’d have to place it in the exact right spot, so you’d already know there was a problem. I used my third sensor as an actual leak detector, and set it up in the laundry room of the smart home, with temperature readings turned on for that sensor as well.