In the history of home automation, owning an intercom meant you had a lot of money. This wasof course way back in the Jurassic era when computers and mobile phones were considered exotic devices instead of the everyday functional gadgets in our modern world. Rich folks used intercoms because their houses were so big that they needed such devices to communicate with their kids or parents. Today, the Nucleus Smart Home Intercom is the latest incarnation of that ancient device.

What Is It?

After the Nucleus startup company received its funding, it began designing this intercom and it’s the result of several years of study and effort.

At a glance, the Nucleus is a device that looks very much like a tablet. It measures 9 by 7 inches and it is 0.9 inches thick. It weighs about 2.1 pounds. But beneath that simple exterior it is actually a system designed for instant family communication. Its design is based on the hallowed home intercom system, except that now it comes with modern wireless features.

It works as a control panel as well as a display. That’s why it’s designed to be displayed out in the open. You can mount it on your wall or you can have placed on a desktop stand. Both the mount and the stand are part of the purchase. It’s not a mobile device however, despite its compact size. So at the very least, you can’t misplace it. You won’t have to wonder just where it is, because it’s meant to stay in one place.

It has now arrived in time for the summer of 2016, just as the Nucleus folks promised they would.

Features

In some ways it’s similar to a walkie-talkie – the Nucleus talks to another Nucleus device. But it not’s really that simple.

  • It uses the Internet to communicate, and for that you need a broadband Internet connection with a Wi-Fi router. The Nucleus has built-in Wi-Fi so it can connect to your Internet network. Connecting to the Wi-Fi is just as easy as connecting your smartphone.
  • With at least 2 devices in your home, you can initiate a call between the Nucleus units virtually instantaneously. And you can start a call automatically in just 0.2 seconds. That’s a delay comparable to the time it takes for you to blink.
  • These aren’t just audio calls, but video calls too. It has microphones with noise cancellation and speakers. You also get a built-in 5MP camera. The device uses a wide-angle lens that offers a 120-degree horizontal field of view and an 84-degree field of view for the vertical. Plus, you have night vision.
  • The maximum number of Nucleus devices you can use in a home is 100. They don’t all have to be near the Wi-Fi to function well. The Nucleus network operates on a “mesh” configuration, so each device extends the range of the entire network.
  • You also get privacy features, since obviously not all of us will be thrilled with having a camera in the bedroom. The camera can be disabled with a physical shutter, so no one can hack into your unit and see things they shouldn’t see by activating your camera secretly. You also have options on how you can answer a call in the intercom. Each unit can be program to answer a call automatically, to answer only when you touch the touchscreen, or even not to answer at all.
  • Like other smart devices, you can also download an app for the Nucleus into your smartphone. The app is available for both Android and iOS devices, and this app turns your smartphone into another Nucleus unit. So if your smartphone is connected to an Internet network, then you can use your smartphone to make your video call to the Nucleus at your home. So when you call it to see if your children are home, they have to be home to answer your call. It’s better than calling their smartphones, which they can use anywhere. Also, this is a cheaper call.
  • Speaking of cheap, it’s anything but. Or at least it’s not at first because it costs over a couple hundreds. But the more units you buy, the more discounts you get. Getting one for every room in the house can really reduce the price even more. But what’s cheap is that it won’t cost you anything to make your video calls at all. Nucleus doesn’t charge any monthly fee for you to use your modern intercom as often as you like.
  • It comes with voice activation as well, although of course no one’s stopping you from tapping the screen to initiate a call.
  • It has a built-in podcast player, so you can stream music from your libraries in sites like 8tracks. And of course, it has built-in speakers, or how else will you make your calls in the first place?
  • It also has motion detection to go with the camera and the night vision.

If it’s not yet obvious to you, the Nucleus is far beyond a mere intercom unit. It’s obviously a lot more.

Setting It Up

Now that you’ve mounted your Nucleus intercom to the wall or on your desk, let’s begin the software setup. Activate the device, and then press “start” in the welcome screen. You’ll be presented with a series of available Wi-Fi networks in its range, and you select the one you want to use. You’ll then be connected to your local Wi-Fi network.

Next, you’re asked to “create a new family”, and you’ll also need to first create a unique family admin password for security. You’re required to at least use 7 characters, which must include a number, a special character, and one upper case.

Once you’ve entered your admin password, you can then name your family of Nucleus units. You can name each device, such as “living room” or “Jane’s bedroom”. You can also set a picture of the room for easier ID. You can use one of the stock images found in the device, or you can use the unit’s camera to take a picture of the room.

That’s it for the unit. Then you can invite other family members to connect with your unit, or you can begin using it immediately.

So What Can It Do?

Defining the Nucleus Smart Home Intercom is much easier when you take a good long look at what it can really do. And here are some of the tasks you can do with it

  • Making calls. In some homes, people have begun using their smartphones to communicate with each other even though they’re both indoors. And that’s somewhat wasteful when you use texting, not to mention that it seems so impersonal. But room to room calls can be initiated more easily, and it enables video calls too. And you don’t even need pay monthly fees for the privilege.
  • Room to rooms calls. This makes it easy for you to make an announcement for certain people or for every room in the house. You can use this to tell everyone to wake up, to call everyone to dinner, or to warn everyone that an intruder is onside the house.
  • Home to home calls. Nucleus aims to replace traditional phones with this device, and you can start by having close families equipped with the smart intercom for easier and friendlier communication. It’s a great way to talk with family members in another part of town—or even in another part of the world.
    This device eliminates the complicated and clunky way of communicating through other methods like Skype or FaceTime. There’s no complex setup involved and very little chance of getting the call disconnected. All you need to do is to touch a family member’s icon and a video call is initiated to that person’s device. It’s much better than using your computer with its various accessories to make calls over the Internet.
  • Baby monitor. It can also act as an addition to your home security system. It works great as a baby monitor, so you can see for yourself that Baby’s doing fine. You can see for yourself that she’s doing okay.
  • Extra security. You can also use it to keep guard inside the house. With its motion detector, it can alert you when it senses someone moving when no one is supposed to be home. Put it right near the vault or your jewelry cabinet.
  • Keeping an eye out on the elderly. The Nucleus offers another option for elderly people who insist on staying in their homes. If they’re determined to stay, then at least you can call them regularly and you can see for yourself that they’re doing fine.
  • Integration. Here’s the kicker—it can also integrate smoothly with SmartThings, Nest, and Insteon Devices. And that means you can use the voice activation feature of the Nucleus to control all your other smart devices.

How’s It Different from Skype?

The thing with Nucleus is that it is expressly designed to work as a communications device. But it is just as good as for in-house communications and for calling across town. It can be very silly using Skype just to call someone to the dinner table. And Skype can be very complicated to use, especially when you’re calling to multiple people. With Nucleus, everything is kept simple so you can make your calls easily.

Pros and Cons

It’s not all that difficult to see that Nucleus excels in so many ways. It looks good, so you’re not hesitant about putting it up on a wall or by your bedside desk. Then it’s also simple to install. In fact, it will work straight out of the box. There’s nothing much to tweak. Even its lack of monthly fees is compelling.

And then there’s its vaunted versatility. Even on its own, it can do so many things. It’s not just a hyped up intercom device. The camera and the speakers can be used in other ways. The camera works as a baby monitor and as a security camera.

Finally, there’s the voice activation feature. It may not be all that sophisticated as it doesn’t have AI, but then again you just need this feature to activate the device without coming to the screen or fumbling with your smartphone.

There are some features that some may wish it had. It’s not designed for outdoor use, so you can’t use it as a doorbell. But Nucleus is now trying to find a way to integrate with wireless doorbell units.

And of course, you still have to consider the price tag. It’s probably the one factor that’s preventing the Nucleus from selling like hotcakes. Probably quite a few people are waiting for the price to go down, just like how many waited for LED TVs to become much more affordable than they were when they first came out.

Conclusion

It’s been a standard bit of advice that if you wish to start in home automation you should begin with something simple, like the smart light bulbs. But in most cases, people don’t actually think they need their lights to be all that smart. They don’t need their light bulbs to be programmable at all.

But the Nucleus is different. There’s a definite need for it if you have to text other family members who are just living in the same house. It helps as a baby or senior folk monitor. It offers the friendliest video call setup and its seamless integration with other smart device networks means that you can use it even as you go further into home automation.

So is it worth the high price? It’s not exactly cheap but given its music, security, and communication features, for some people, it may be worth the expense.