Last February I reviewed a prototype Simtek Duo, and loved it. Well, production versions have been shipping for a couple months now and it seemed like a good idea to follow up and review one, since this is what customers are actually receiving. Plus there have been a handful of updates and refinements along the way.
Little has changed with the sensor itself. Each Simtek Duo has both a motion sensor and a light sensor. A trigger event for either one or both will send an alert out over the cell phone network to you and/or other people of your choosing.
That alert can be a text message.
Or a text message plus a push notification.
In the mobile app settings the owner can change their device’s name, the alert message that’s sent, who’s subscribed to the notifications (requires their approval), and whether or not to enable those push notifications.
Syncing a Duo to your phone is extremely easy. Simply open up the app, choose to add a new device (which is the first and only option if your app doesn’t already have any registered devices), and scan the QR code on the bottom of the device. The app automatically ingests the serial number and other information. Plug in your cell phone number, enter the PIN code that’s texted to you, and you’re done.
A SIM card is pre-installed in each Duo. It’ll connect to any GSM mobile network in 200+ countries, and the device automatically chooses the network with the strongest signal.
Yes, this means a cellular messaging plan is required. Thankfully, Simtek makes this easy. You pay them a monthly ($4) or annual ($43) fee, and they take care of the charges from the cellular providers. If you’re traveling around domestically or internationally, there’s no worry about changing plans or anything like that. It just works. Though, if you were so inclined, I do believe you could use your own SIM card.
While only the weakest of cell signals is necessary — the Duo just has to squeak out a simple SMS message — the included, extended antenna can help in circumstances where coverage is poor and/or the unit is buried inside something. You know, like a steel gun safe. The antenna has a magnetic base and the cord can be run through a hole in the safe with the Duo on the inside and the antenna stuck on the outside. Though in 98% of cases, there’s a sufficient signal even with everything inside of a safe that the Duo works perfectly.
On another of the Duo’s three sides, LEDs show when the device is detecting an infrared motion signature as well as when the device is triggered and an alert is successfully sent.
The unit’s third side contains a micro USB port for charging the internal CR123A battery (which is included). It’s expected to last about a year between charges with an average of 10 alerts per month.
Clicking on the app push notification takes you to the alert history page within the app. There you can see current stats of your Duo such as battery charge state and cell network signal strength. Below that will be a log of all your Duo’s trigger events.
If you then select one of the trigger events, a map opens up. It includes the cell phone triangulation-based location of your device at the time of the alert, shown both on a map and via longitude and latitude coordinates. Cell network-based location can vary in accuracy, but suffice it to say that I haven’t included a screen shot of this on my app because it dropped that map pin precisely where my house is on the displayed street map.
By using the cell network instead of WiFi, Simtek has created a device that works almost anywhere in the world and is far less susceptible to power outages (intentional or otherwise), internet outages, hacking, etc. It’s also more easily portable without the owner having to continuously, manually connect to new networks.
My Duo lives on the pile of crap on top of my safe. While one interesting hack of the unit is to turn it into a motion sensor-only affair by putting black electrical tape over the light sensor — this can be handy to monitor spaces like inside your sailboat, RV, car, or open-to-daylight shed or warehouse should someone break in while you’re away — I didn’t have to do this for my particular safe setup.
Because I built my SnapSafe Super Titan XL inside of my office closet (then buried it in crap). Close the door and the Simtek Duo arms itself within a couple of seconds. Open the door, and either the light sensor or motion sensor alerts first.
I figure why wait until the safe is opened to get an alert? With this setup, my phone is pinging away within 20 seconds of the Duo triggering, and whoever’s rifling through my stuff just ran out of time to work on the safe.
By employing either motion-only or motion and light warnings, a Simtek Duo owner can alarm a suitcase, hotel safe, vehicle trunk or glove box, cookie jar, nightstand drawer, coffin, storage unit / shed / warehouse, refrigerator, home or some flavor of mobile home, vehicle interior, dungeon, closet, room, bunker, humidor, wife’s wallet, alcohol cabinet or cellar, mailbox, biblical ark, garage, sweat lodge, or any other “off-limits” space.
The Simtek Duo is about as simple a security system as can be and as reliable as can be, and that’s a fantastic combination. It gives me additional peace of mind when I’m away from home.
Specifications: Simtek Duo Wireless Security Sensor
Dimensions: 1.48″ x 3.66″ x 3.26′
Weight: 4.3 oz
Material: ABS plastic
Colors: black, camouflage, or white
Battery Life: up to 1 year
Sensors: visible light and passive infrared motion sensor
Sensitivity: any visible light or 15′ by 15′ motion detection range
Connectivity: cellular (GSM)
Battery Type: rechargeable lithium ion CR123a
Warranty: 1 year limited with free tech support
MSRP: $200 (currently on sale for $150) plus either $4 per month or $43 per year for mobile data plan
Ratings (out of five stars):
Overall * * * * *
The Duo does exactly what it says it will and it’s simple and reliable as can be. Now that the MSRP is half of what it was during prototype phase and it looks like the going rate may be more like $150-ish, I’m happy to give the Duo a full five stars. It’s a great device with all sorts of potential and valuable uses.