ConnectSense offers Wi-Fi only sensors … for a pretty penny

As people strive to bring more intelligence into their home with sensors or connected gadgets, they are often also bringing in a hub that helps translate a variety of different protocols already used in home automation and control. But several vendors want to change all that with Wi-Fi-only devices and sensors.

ConnectSense is one, and last week it launched the ConnectSense brand (the company behind it is Grid Connect, a ten-year-old industrial sensor seller) and a series of sensors that include video, motion detection, humidity and more. There’s also a web-based interface and plans for an app. As usual, the company plans to integrate with other offerings and services so its sensors could tie into your web services or even help control other connected devices.

A sensor set up to tell you if someone is in the bathroom.
A sensor set up to tell you if someone is in the bathroom.

What’s significant about this product is the fact that it eschews other protocols and sticks solely to Wi-Fi. In that, ConnectSense joins the recent line of GE and Quirky products in embracing the in-home Wi-Fi network. The downside of using Wi-Fi over other protocols such as Z-wave or ZigBee is that it tends to suck a lot of power, which requires frequent battery changes. However, Adam Justice of ConnectSense, says his company’s sensors last for three years on four batteries.

He explained that the radio conserves power by waking up one a day to transmit and receive a signal indicating that it’s still alive. However, once an event occurs the radio wakes to send a message. So if your motion detector gets triggered 30 times a night it might be a bigger battery suck.

And the pros of Wi-Fi are many. For many consumers, connecting things to the Wi-Fi network has become so common as to be unremarkable. While the Wi-Fi sensors ConnectSense sells are relatively expensive — ranging from $149 to $179 compared to a similar Z-wave open/close sensor that goes for $54 –one doesn’t have to buy a hub that can run you $100 or more. And the cost of Wi-Fi connectivity should continue to drop over time.

And that ease of use, plus work on a lower power Wi-Fi standard, may mean that in three-to-five years Wi-Fi-only products will dominate the market, while those of us using hubs and mesh networks will be the relatively rare exceptions.