I’m keen on the idea of keeping an eye on my home while I’m away (not that I’m ever really away these days). But I’m less keen on the idea of there being cameras in my home for that purpose, not just as a security concern but because I aspire to not live in a panopticon. That’s why the Minut security system caught my eye.
Kitted out with a fleet of sensors to monitor humidity, noise level, barometric pressure, mold risk, and motion, it physically lacks any way to capture imagery or intelligible sound recordings. How much can that fairly limited suite of information actually tell you? Way, way, way, WAY more than I expected, for better and for worse.
You get a bird’s eye view, not real-time info.
If part of the appeal of having security gadgetry in your home is being able to step in while you’re away and see what’s going on (or not going on) in real time, Minut is not going to fit the bill. Owning to its limited suite of sensors that track nothing more than a change in levels over time, the data it collects and serves up to the companion app on your phone in a series of line graphs doesn’t give you any indication of what is going on as it is happening. The readings come in periodically and at a delay.
The result is, unlike camera systems I’ve used before (Wyze, and Canary), Minut can’t give many any indication as to what the cat is up to at this very second, for instance. Instead, and arguably more valuable, it provides a 30,000-foot view of the last 24 hours or so, with telltale spikes if anything was abnormal. In rare cases, like if the Minut hears glass breaking or detects another alarm (as it once did after I burned some bacon), it will give you a push alert that something is amiss, but otherwise it is more of a logbook you check once in a while for aberrations than it is a window you can peer through.
But you can tell a lot from the data it does collect.
But what can you even tell from, say, humidity levels charted over the course of the day? Enough that it actually startled me at first. At first, the daily line with its twin peaks and smaller bumps perplexed me — until I realized the big upticks corresponded exactly with when I or my wife took a shower, with smaller ones corresponding with mealtimes, particularly if the cooking involved boiling any water.
On the hunt for more patterns, I found plenty. The noise and motion levels betrayed when I wake up, detecting my slump into the kitchen and to the couch, and again when a sudden noise dropoff signals my wife has gotten up and turned off our white noise machine. Similarly, it’s very easy to spot whenever anyone leaves and returns. The fluctuation of temperature over the days and nights has clued me into exactly how our landlord has set up the thermostat. I haven’t quite figured out what revealing information the barometric pressure ratings can reveal, but I’m sure there is something.
And it makes me wonder how much I need to know.
After I first installed my Minut, I checked its stats feverishly, in part to assuage my nagging fear that the apartment burst into flames the second I left it, and partly for the puzzle of figuring out what I could divine from its stats. All while feeling a little bit icky at how clear of a vision it was giving me into what my wife was up to when I was out of the house.
But after a few weeks (and long before social distancing trapped us both at home with it), it faded into the background for me, as well it should. I mostly think about it only when I have to take it down from the ceiling to charge once ever few months. (You can rig it up with a wire attached in order to avoid this).
At a $129 price point with no recurring costs, the Minut is a pretty good deal for a bit of peace of mind, especially if you have a specific use-case for monitoring someplace fairly out of the way that is at risk of some sort of slow, catastrophic damage you could nip in the bud. A summer cottage that could develop a mold problem, or a basement or garage at risk of flooding or with appliances that might noisily fail seem like they would make a good home for one of these.
As for placing it directly in a living space, the Minut is an illustration of just how revealing seemingly benign data can be when put into context. It should probably make us all uncomfortable, and it certainly weighs on me. Though not so much that I’ve taken mine down, yet.
Minut provided this alarm for review.