When Nest launched its connected smoke detector back in 2013 with a fire truck and a $129 price tag I scoffed. Given that most homes now require half a dozen or more smoke detectors to comply with building codes, the price seemed too high for something that didn’t add a whole lot of value. Even after its coolest feature — the ability to silence the device with a hand wave — was disabled and the price dropped to $99 it seemed like too much.
Which is why when I saw First Alert’s Onelink Safe & Sound device for $200 to $250 depending on the retailer, I was not interested. The device is a connected smoke and carbon monoxide detector combined with a smart speaker that communicates with Amazon’s Alexa service. However, unlike many of the Amazon Alexa integrations into connected home products, the Safe &Sound gets what I like to call “the full Alexa.” That means it can play music and make phone calls. Basically, if Alexa can do it, Safe & Sound can too, or it will be able to eventually.
This makes the device a compelling way to add Alexa and all of its capabilities to a home without actually adding the Alexa form factor. You get a ceiling mounted speaker that actually sounds good, a nightlight in the form of an LED ring around the device, traditional smoke and CO detection, plus Alexa. Yes, it’s expensive, but I think you’d only need one of these per floor. And I think the use case is probably more like a fallback emergency alert than workhorse smart speaker.
Installing the OneLink is pretty easy, especially if you already have wired smoke alarms. I just popped this thing up in the ceiling, detached the wires on my old alarm, hooked in a connector to the Onelink and screwed the mounting plate in with a screwdriver. I was replacing a Kidde alarm, which is why I needed the connector. If you already have a First Alert Alarm, you may be able to plug it directly in.
I downloaded the app, which is available for iOS and Android, connected the device and was good to go. I did have to share permissions to let the Onelink access my Alexa, but it was a simple process that worked the first time. This does not always happen.
As a networked smoke alarm, the first thing to test is whether or not this thing detects smoke, sets off other smoke alarms and is loud enough to be heard. I’m no longer allowed to set fires in my sink to test smoke detection, so I could only use the test functions. But in that case, it worked exactly as planned, setting off my other smoke alarms throughout the house at a volume loud enough to traumatize both me and the dog. Additionally, when the alarm goes off the LED light will glow offering a useful light in the dark.
You also get an alert on your phone. I don’t know about y’all, but I would definitely pay a little bit extra if all of my future smoke alarms sent me a text when they went off. Because what if a fire happened while I was out. That’s information I’d pay extra to have. Not $200 extra, but maybe $50 extra. For those who are with me on this, there are actually several devices such as the Leeo smart light, the Canary and some other devices that can perform this function. They listen for an alarm and alert you when they hear it. There’s also a connected battery from a company called Roost that can perform a similar function on existing smoke alarms.
So the safety functions work. What about the extras? The speaker is 10-watt Balanced Mode Radiator speaker and it sounds excellent. I was surprised at the quality of the music coming from this thing actually. It was enough to fill a 12-foot by 14-foot room, although when it was on it was hard to tell it to turn off because Alexa couldn’t always hear you over the music. This is a problem with freestanding Echo devices as well. An audiophile wouldn’t rely on this for serious listening, but an audiophile wouldn’t be upset over this either. I’d say it would be good for a kitchen speaker, but in my neck of the woods, kitchens aren’t supposed to have smoke detectors.
And that gets to my challenge with this device. It’s incredibly expensive, especially when compared to just popping an Echo Dot ($50) or even a full-fledged Echo ($70) in the home. It’s also really bright so I’m not sure it would be ideal in a bedroom.
So why add the fancy smoke detector option? The only reason that I can see if that you could put this into a stairwell or hallway where there isn’t space for an Echo. Since you can use the speaker for Alexa calling, this turns the smoke detector into a nice backup emergency helpline in case of a fall or accident. Is that enough to get most people to buy this thing?
Maybe not, but if you are tempted, it’s a quality product that works well. It’s just not clear who exactly needs it at the current price.