Late in 2016, Sen.se, the French tech company best known for its Mother monitoring system, announced a new endeavor of small, single focus devices known as Peanuts. The first was the ThermoPeanut, which tracks temperature and alerts you if it’s too cold or too hot.
I loved it, and the idea as a whole. In this era of gadgetry, we’re inundated by devices that try to do too much, leading to a slew of products that, instead of doing one thing really well, do a lot of things just good enough, or worse. ThermoPeanut had one focus and did its job supremely well. Naturally, I was excited about the prospect of new Peanuts coming to market, but understood they had to be the right products in order for the idea to succeed, meaning Sen.se had to choose the right problems to solve.
With its second effort, the company stumbles. The GuardPeanut fails to find the perfect blend of simplicity and utility that made its older brother an easy recommendation at $29.
Like Thermo before it, the new device explains itself right in the name. It’s meant to attach to a belonging or door and work as a simple security system. The issue is that it’s too simple. The device will alert you to movement, but that’s it. You can adjust the sensitivity of the movement detection to customize it for whatever you’re attaching it to and you can adjust the alerts in the accompanied app. There are several types and volumes of alarms which you can choose based on how ferocious or discrete you want them to be, and you can enable push notifications/alarms to sound on your phone for those time you’re not in earshot of the Peanut, but you do need to be within Bluetooth range for that to work.
The reliance on Bluetooth connection is the biggest obstacle in the way of the this being a compelling device. If you’re out of range, as I was when travelling for the holidays, you’re out of luck. Sen.se’s solution is for users to keep an extra phone or tablet nearby for the Peanut to constantly connect to, which is a clever idea but also a thin one. If you don’t have an extra device, you’re in the dark. If that device dies, you’re in the dark. If there’s a connection issue, and so on and so forth.
I had it attached to my front door so I could make sure no one was in my apartment while I was out of town who wasn’t supposed to be. In that instance, losing connection wasn’t great but I had friends to check in and make sure everything was okay. If you’re using the GuardPeanut as your primary security, something I would not suggest, you have to keep in mind the connection idiosyncrasies.
Most people, I imagine, would use it for a device or belonging they take with them and want to keep an eye on. Thus, it would hopefully be close enough to you that you wouldn’t lose the Bluetooth signal. Sen.se claims a range of up to 200 feet, but there are many factors to account for when it comes to a reliable Bluetooth connection. The idea of leaving your purse or laptop with a GuardPeanut attached on a table in a coffee shop while you run to the bathroom makes me uneasy. It would not surprise me at all if connection was lost and thus the only thing keeping your belonging safe is the gadget’s built-in speaker with an alarm ready to blare.
That built-in alarm is jarring and could stop a potential thief, but it could also do nothing. How well it works as a deterrent is predicated more on the gumption of the human than the device. It’s better than just leaving your stuff completely unprotected, but how much better is uncertain. You also have to consider the delay from the moment the device recognizes it has moved to the moment you get the notification on your phone.
So let’s say you did leave your bag on the table at the coffee shop when you ran to the bathroom and everything worked as it should and you didn’t lose Bluetooth connection. If someone sweeps up your bag, by the time the Peanut notifies you, even if it performs at its absolute fastest, there’s a high probability your bag is already a block, or several, down the street before you exit the restroom.
If you do happen to lose your belonging, or it’s stolen, the usefulness of GuardPeanut dwindles immediately. It has no way of knowing its location and thus no way of retrieving that location, or even the last known location of your belonging.
Like the ThermoPeanut before it, the hardware is excellent, the battery life is phenomenal and the battery itself is easily replaceable. It does have a bright green hue, which makes it easily noticeable, so you’d be smart to hide it best you can wherever you do stick it. Though it doesn’t offer the same great mix of simplicity and utility, the GuardPeanut is saved by its affordable price. At $29, it’s not a bad idea to have one thrown in your bag or purse, or attached to your laptop, even if its best use is as a last-ditch alarm to ward off potential thieves.
I still love the idea, but the fact remains that Sen.se needs to find the right functions for the form factor in order for Peanuts to succeed. The GuardPeanut isn’t it, but that doesn’t mean it’s useless or the gadgets as a whole are dead. If it were more expensive, it would be an easy pass. But, for only a few dollars more than a pair of movie tickets, if it saves your bag a single time, it’s worth it.