Bluestream, a $50 Bluetooth sensor tracks the temperature, humidity and motion inside an RV and monitors conditions via a mobile app
Do you take your pets along when you go RVing? Do you travel in climates that can be hazardous to your equipment? Would you like to check on the temperature inside your RV when you’re away or keep tabs on the humidity level to avoid mildew damage? How about monitoring the RV in storage to know whether it has been hit, moved or broken into?
If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, you’re not alone. Having been a full-time RVer for 10 years, and living much of that time in the chilly Northeast, I was often concerned about freezing pipes. And for those whose pets are sometimes alone in the RV, knowing that the air-conditioning system is keeping the heat at bay is essential.
While it’s important to have backups to keep property and pets safe, knowing when the environment inside your RV deviates from normal levels allows you to take action to remedy the situation. In the past, this kind of technology was relegated to home automation systems installed in only the highest-end motorhomes and conversion coaches. But now, thanks to constantly evolving mobile technology, a $50 device, called Blustream, and an internet connection allow RVers to have temperature, humidity and motion
information at their fingertips with data streamed to a smart device around the clock.
The Blustream is a small battery-powered temperature, humidity and impact sensor that can be placed anywhere in an RV and wirelessly connected to a smart device via Bluetooth.
According to Robert Bean, chairman and founder of Worcester, Massachusetts-based Blustream Corporation, the original purpose of the sensor was to safeguard valuables. Bean saw a need to protect musical instruments and fine cigars from the effects of temperature extremes, dryness and moisture, and soon saw a plethora of other applications for the sensor, including RVs.
The Blustream sensor requires a dedicated smartphone or tablet connected to the internet to stream data and send alerts. While you’re in your RV, your primary cell phone will work with the unit, so if the furnace fails on a freezing night when you’re asleep, you’ll get an alert. However, if you’re looking for continuous real-time data and notifications when you and your cell phone are away from the RV, you’ll need a dedicated Bluetooth device that can be hooked up to the internet and left in the RV.
The sensor and the associated mobile app monitor ambient temperature and humidity levels, and, if activated, can detect motion in the RV, although the impact sensor tends to discharge the sensor’s lithium battery more quickly, according to the company. These values are continuously reported to the connected smart device, and the app records and charts the data, and sends alerts when the values fall outside a predetermined range set by the user.
Installation of the system is almost foolproof. The dedicated smart device must be connected to the internet, and for that, you can add an older smartphone (iOS10/Android 5 or above) to your existing plan (Verizon, for example, can add a device for internet-only use to share the data on an existing plan at a cost of $20 per month) or sign up for a separate internet-only plan. Then connect the old phone or data device to a 12-volt DC power source, download and install the app, and pair the phone with the Blustream sensor. The sensor comes with hook-and-loop tape to mount it to just about any surface, and multiple sensors can be used to monitor various zones in the RV.
To test the system, we loaded the app on an old iPhone 5. We tested the unit in November in Massachusetts, first inside the office and then inside an RV that had been winterized and stored for the season. The iPhone was connected to Wi-Fi, and since the RV wasn’t moving, we didn’t have to add the phone to our mobile plan. Full-time RVers would have the option of pairing the sensor with an iPad or Android tablet, or a similar device, provided it had cellular capability. Blustream also recommends a cellular-connection device called Smart Bridge ($75 MSRP) that can take the place of a smart device.
Alternately, one of the new cellular Wi-Fi hotspots or repeaters could be used, such as the ConnecT from Winegard or the PDQ Connect OneSource, which would provide internet connectivity in the RV to any device. The battery discharge on the RV’s 12-volt DC system would be greater, though, because you’d have to keep the dedicated smart device plugged in and the Wi-Fi unit powered up. The benefit is that you’d pay for the plan for that device but could use the Wi-Fi connection on multiple devices.
Testing the Blustream in the office and the RV next to an old-school analog temperature-and-humidity gauge proved that the sensor works as described. The temperatures matched, and the humidity was close, although we give more credence to the Blustream than our old gauge.
After installing the app and adjusting the parameters, the alerts were received on our primary iPhone 6. The adjustable impact sensor also worked well.
The Blustream’s Bluetooth signal can reach 100 feet, so anywhere in any RV is fair game for the smart device. If you have multiple sensors, they show up in a customizable list, and the user can program in the name of the location where the device is mounted. The sensor uses a CR2032 lithium coin battery that lasts for up to two years, according to Bean.
The Blustream’s impact sensor not only shows if the RV is hit or moves, but because of its sensitivity settings, it can be used as an intrusion alarm, according to Bean. Attach a sensor to the RV’s entry door, and if someone tries to force it open, an alert will be sent. A firmware update provided earlier this year allows the same sensor to act as a motion alarm, Bean said, adding that updates occur automatically through the mobile app.
The Blustream is a good device for monitoring your RV while you’re away for the day or keeping tabs on it while it’s in storage, provided you have a long-term supply of 12-volt DC power. The Blustream sensor has an MSRP of $49.99 per device and can be purchased on Amazon through a link on the company’s website. The app is free.
Blustream Corporation | 888-997-2707 | www.blustreamcorp.com/rvs
Chris Dougherty is technical editor of Trailer Life and MotorHome. Chris is an RVDA/RVIA certified technician and lifelong RVer, including 10 years as a full-timer. He and his wife make their home in Massachusetts and hit the road with their travel trailer every chance they get.