Beneath every technological wonder promising to make you safer lies an unspoken caveat: When disaster really strikes, none of this stuff works. Wi-Fi goes out. Power goes out. Cell phone towers go down or get overloaded. Your “smart” devices can get pretty damn worthless in a hurry.
That’s why Halo, a smart smoke detector with the emergency chops to operate when the grid goes down, was one of the smarter smart-home devices to appear at the 2016 Kitchen and Bath Industry Show in Las Vegas. It includes redundant features that will let it keep ticking long after your smartphone and laptop will be dead.
Halo already had a successful Indiegogo run in 2015 and it appeared at CES 2016, but at KBIS 2016, we had a chance to take a closer look and discover a few new details.
Yes, fundamentally it’s just a smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector, but it takes a much more sophisticated approach to those functions than the squawking hellion you probably own now. Using both photo-electric and ionization smoke alarms, plus heat, humidity, and carbon monoxide detectors, the Halo can tell a life-threatening blaze from a botched bagel toasting job. Is the photo-electric sensor tripping, but there’s no carbon monoxide or heat? Somebody probably just wandered away from the toaster. It will send a smartphone alert so you can fish the charred remains out of the toaster with chopsticks or a fork, but not wake up your entire apartment complex.
For detecting smoke and carbon monoxide, the Halo has a 10-year battery. For its more advanced features, it must be wired into power, but a rechargeable battery kicks in when the grid goes down and offers a solid week of continued functionality.
If you happen to live in a tornado-prone area, the Halo+ has an even more unique feature: It forecasts local tornadoes, and does so on its own. The distinct, rapid pressure drop before a tornado lets the Halo know when a nearby twister is imminent, so you can get down to your shelter regardless of whether or not local forecasters have pinpointed it in your neighborhood.
For other severe weather events, the Halo+ is set up to receive alerts from the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, better known as NOAA. With more than 1,000 transmitters nationwide, these are the signals that still come through when landlines, cell phones and power are all knocked out.
Like the Nest Protect, the Halo also works as a smart-home hub, so it can send alerts to you when you’re not home. Right now, the Halo works with the ZigBee, Iris, and iControl protocols, and soon Apple HomeKit and Control4 as well. And yes, they want to support Nest, too.
Like the Nest Protect, the Halo also uses a built-in speaker to pronounce alarms, and has color-coded lights as well: pulsing blue means weather alert, pulsing red means smoke or carbon monoxide. You can even use the LEDs as a night light, if you want.
The Halo will go on sale April 1 at $99 for the ordinary model, or $129 for the Halo+, which includes the NOAA radio — a must-have feature that really sets the Halo apart from competitors like the Nest Protect, if you ask us.