It’s hard to put a price on securing your home but new smart security technology is offering a way to make your home safer and smarter without having to shell out big buck for pricey, inflexible alarm installations. Kieran Alger reveals all.
Does smart technology offer a cheaper and more viable way of protecting your valuables than older CCTV systems? Plug and play, smart security cameras and home monitoring devices are here to help.
Security cameras have been around for decades but more recent developments have made them more accessible, affordable and useful to everyone. While home security systems of the past were expensive to buy and often meant a hefty regular fee to maintain, smart security cameras are here to free people.
- Read how to get started with a smart home
- Read our guide to smart home security – locks, cameras, alarms and more
In many cases there’s also no need to reach for a drill for a tricky installation and, even better, you can take them with you wherever you go. For those renting, this means your security moves with you when you lease a new place.
Smart security cameras connect to your home Wi-Fi network and can be used with a smartphone app – that means you can tune into your cameras and see what’s going on in your home at any time. They can be controlled by multiple users remotely, there’s no monthly charges and it gives you total control, all the time.
But the smart security camera benefits don’t stop there. Many of the newest products can sense fire, floods and noxious odours. Still not sure if you a smart camera system is right for you? Here’s our complete guide to help you decide.
What are smart security cameras?
To refer to a camera as smart is odd. It watches and records mindlessly, right? Not anymore. These cameras are aware of their surroundings and able to take action to prevent home invasions.
The cameras go beyond simple home security though. They can also be used to monitor family members like babies and even pets. Crucially that monitoring can be done from anywhere in the world at any time. Some even allow for two-way communication.
Many companies are now producing smart cameras. These can usually record in Full HD 1080p quality and also capture sound. Many are also able to switch into night vision mode so, light or dark, you’re always able to see what’s going on in a room. Another nice touch is in-built speakers which allow the app user to communicate with whoever is in the room with the camera.
Since most cameras also have motion and sound sensing abilities, they are able to alert you to an entry, so you don’t have to constantly be checking when you’re out and about. You can rest secure in the knowledge that should something happen, you’ll be alerted.
More advanced cameras run on battery power and are weather resistant for outside use. Others are able to detect faces, or more crucially, to spot intruders. Some can even detect carbon content in the air in case of toxins.
Smart security camera pros and cons
The first, most obvious reason, is in the name – security. By monitoring your home it’s possible to spot a break-in and contact the proper authorities to make sure nothing is taken or damaged. Thanks to the motion and sound alerts you’ll know right away if someone is in your property, giving you time to take action.
Smart security cameras can also be used simply as a monitoring tool. So if you’ve got a little one that you’d like to keep an eye on, simply mount the camera in that bedroom and you’ll be alerted every time there’s major movement or sound that warrants your attention.
As a pet monitor these can also excel. If you’ve left the dog at home and spot it causing havoc you can activate the speaker, speak into the app, and the dog will hear your voice telling it to behave.
Some smart security cameras offer facial recognition so you can be alerted when certain people get home or head out. This should make monitoring everyone’s whereabouts far easier.
There are others that offer edited round-up videos of the day’s footage. So if you’re travelling a lot and want to see what’s been going on at home you can get the highlights in a short video.
All these features, surprisingly, do come at an affordable price. Rather than the thousands you’d pay for a traditional security system, which could even be more limited, most of these are only a few hundred pounds, if that.
How do I upgrade to smart security cameras?
If you’ve decided to go for a smart security camera, the next part is fairly simple. Pick which features you want then work out if pricing suits your needs – fewer features mean lower costs.
You’ll need to have a Wi-Fi enabled router to connect the camera to, and a smartphone or tablet to control it from using the app.
Bearing in mind which room or rooms you want to monitor, you’ll need to think about where the camera can sit. Some are battery powered while others are mains only, so depending on which you choose, be sure there’s a power supply if needed.
Lots of the smart cameras can be wall mounted so you won’t necessarily need to have a shelf to place the camera on, although it might be an easier solution. Also, in the case of a mains powered version, you won’t have to worry so much about hiding unsightly cabling.
External cameras are more rare owing to the extra waterproofing they need. But they do still exist, just expect to pay a little more for the external monitoring privilege.
And finally, some insurance companies in the US are beginning to offer lower premiums to households with smart security technology installed, so there could be a cost saving benefit to come as take up improves in the UK.
Which is the best smart security camera
The Nest may have started out as a smart thermostat but it’s evolved into a system of gadgets that connect the home to a smartphone. The camera is an addition that not only allows for home monitoring but even uses its motion detection to assist in thermostat controls, saving on bills by shutting off the boiler when nobody is home.
Accessible via the app users can see a 1080p picture through the camera in the day and using night vision in the dark of night. It’ll even let you zoom and crop a certain section with the tap of an enhance button to make it clear. Alerts for motion or noise detection can be turned on and for a subscription fee you can store footage to check it later.
The design, as you’d expect from Nest, is minimal and attractive while installation is simple. Even the power cable is flat for ease of hiding when mounting the unit to its stand or a wall. Expect to pay £250 for one of these.
- Read what it’s like to live with Nest
- Nest Cam and Nest Aware: Everything you need to know
- Price and availability
Logi, moving away from its Logitech heritage, has come up with a very clever camera. This not only offers 1080p streamed video and sound to a smart app but it’ll edit it too.
Should you wish to check what’s been going on over the last day, the Circle will edit down a one-minute video of what it deems were pertinent events, based on sound and movement in the room. This really works and delivers an at-a-glance way to check the home. Of course you can be alerted to sound and motion as it happens too, but for those that don’t want to be pestered this is a nice option.
The battery-powered option is also a big plus for the Circle. It can last for a good eight hours on a charge. So if you do wish to move it, that’s easy and won’t require a whole new installation. This will set you back £120 if you shop around.
This Wi-Fi connected smart camera is a little different to the other offerings out there. It’ll still connect to an app, allowing for home monitoring from anywhere, albeit limited to 720p quality. But this also uses facial recognition.
The smart camera is actually able to recognise family members as they come home and, should you have alerts setup, it can let you know when that person gets in. This works for up to 10 different people. Ideal for parents, not so great for children sneaking home after a curfew. Even more crucially you can set the camera to alert you when unrecognised people are in your home.
Snap one up for $130 which also gets you a two-way audio connection thanks to both a speaker and microphone built-in.
The Canary is a simple and elegant solution to home monitoring. On the surface it offers a 1080p feed of the home straight to your phone, with alerts for movement. But on a deeper level it employs smart learning to recognise things like regular reflections in a TV, for example, to avoid false alerts. You can also mark false alerts to help it learn.
You can connect up to four Canary units for a more complete view of the home. Should an intruder be spotted you can call the police or set off the unit’s 90+ dB siren to scare off the criminal.
Canary also offers what it calls a HomeHealth readout which monitors the temperature and humidity of your home. Canary stores videos for 12-hours before restarting the recording, unless you pay a $5 per month fee for two day access, seven days for $10 per month or 30-days for $30 per month in the US at least. The Canary itself is £160 in the UK.
While this camera might not have a mounting option, it does sport facial recognition and is both Android and iOS friendly.
Storage of footage isn’t an issue either as it’s all free. This is also safe since everything is stored locally on the device thanks to a microSD card slot, meaning you could hang onto it in solid state form if you wanted to.
All that doesn’t come cheap though with a £199 price.
The great thing about Netgear’s Arlo is that it’s battery powered and works with many units feeding to the one app. But even better is the fact it’s good for both indoor and outdoor use.
Hook up a selection of Arlo units and have your home watched from every angle, inside and out. The Arlo Q’s camera is particularly good.
This is not only a cool looking home security camera but it’s also uniquely smart. The £170 camera can stream at up to 1080p and features a motion sensor but it also scans the air.
Yup, the Withings Home is capable of monitoring air quality so it can detect carbon based toxin readings in your home. It’ll also offer a nightlight complete with lullaby settings. It’ll also link up with your Apple TV to give you extra control.