First Look: Cocoon HD indoor home security camera

The Cocoon ($400) uses "Subsound" technology to "learn" the patterns of movement in your home. Is it the future of home security?

Cocoon HD indoor home security camera

Using “Subsound” technology, the Cocoon camera promises to “protect more of your home, covering multiple rooms from one device”. Is it the future of home security?

Home security is changing: internet-connected security cameras, from companies such as Nest and Netgear, can sense motion, record to the cloud and send intruder alerts to your phone. Now we have the Cocoon camera, which measures low-frequency sound and uses artificial intelligence to “learn” the normal sounds of your home, triggering video recording when it thinks it sounds like there’s an intruder. I set one up in my home.

Cocoon says it takes about six days, on average, to learn the sounds of your home. After that, it can decide if what it hears is out of the ordinary.

Installation was simple. The camera, about the size of a tennis ball, plugs into a power socket using a 3m-long cord and sits on its base on a shelf – it can’t be wall-mounted. It connects through an app to an Apple or Android phone and your WiFi network. To get the best from Cocoon, you connect it to the phones of everyone in your household. This allows Cocoon to learn the behaviour of your household, which isn’t as spooky as it sounds.

Machine learning

Cocoon listens for low-frequency sound, which is inaudible to humans, caused by air movement. While it’s learning, it measures background sound when your home is empty. It also measures the sound caused by one of the household arriving home. Cocoon says it takes about six days, on average, to learn the sounds of your home. After that, it can decide if what it hears is out of the ordinary.

The idea behind Cocoon learning the normal low-frequency sounds of your home is that it can prevent false alarms from pets, for example. After its learning period, it should only trigger alarms when it notices the sound of someone in your home when there shouldn’t be anyone in your home. In practice, Cocoon never stops learning and should get better and better over time.

The device arms itself when all connected phones leave home and disarms when any one arrives back again. You can also arm it manually when you’re home – useful if you’re out in the garden or asleep at night. Once armed, anything Cocoon deems suspicious triggers sound and video recording and sends notifications to phones.

False alarms in my home would be caused by my in-laws, who live downstairs, opening their connecting door or venturing into our space upstairs. Over Cocoon’s learning period, we moved from about a dozen annoying false notifications every day to hardly any. After a couple of weeks, the activity of my in-laws went by unnoticed. Only when they ventured upstairs to use the shared laundry or answer the front door did we hear from our “intruders”.

Human learning

Cocoon doesn’t have motion detection to “watch” for movement. That reduced the sense of intrusion my family felt from putting a camera in our home, and it meant I didn’t get false alarms from trees blowing in the wind outside a window, or moths flying in front of the lens (which I have experienced from other motion-detecting security cameras).

The recorded HD (720p) wide-angle (120°) video is good quality, with a clear automatic night-vision mode. The sensitive sound recording picks up recognisable audio from outside the camera-monitored space. Seven days’ of recordings are saved to the cloud, with no ongoing subscription fees. You can download three video events each month to your phone.

After a month in my home, Cocoon quietly sits on the shelf, unnoticed by all. It hasn’t dropped off our WiFi once, it arms and disarms itself automatically, and I get very few false alarms. At $400, it’s not cheap. However, one or two linked Cocoon cameras could cover my entire six-occupant, twin-level home, whereas it would need at least three or four motion-detecting cameras. Plus, there are no ongoing subscription costs.

The last month has been a learning period for all of us – machine and human. I stumbled into this trial, not knowing much about how Cocoon works. So far, opinion of it in my family has shifted from “mostly useless” to “potentially useful”.

First Looks are trials of new and interesting products from the perspective of our product experts. Our lab-based tests offer truly objective product comparisons.

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