Could a tech upgrade better secure your home?
Many of us dismiss home security systems as unaffordable or simply ineffective, but tech advancements have made arming our homes against break-ins easier and more affordable than ever.
Where to start
Once you’ve covered the basics — making sure you lock up whenever you leave the house (yes, 70% of illegal entries are gained through unlocked doors and windows) and installed motion-activated outdoor lighting — it’s time to look at what else you could do to secure your home.
Making it look like someone’s home even when they’re not is a great first step. There are a range of devices and related apps that allow you to control your lights from anywhere. The Wemo Light Switch by Belkin, for example, connects to your home wi-fi and can be synchronised to a schedule (to turn on a light by the front door at dusk, for example). When you’re away on holidays, set it to ‘Away Mode’, and your lights will turn on and off randomly to simulate someone being at home.
Most break-ins happen during the day when thieves hope you’re out at work. The easiest way to check if someone’s home? Ringing the doorbell. A video doorbell is an inexpensive security upgrade that captures the few seconds before someone rings the doorbell, and triggers an alert to your phone when they do. It also enables you to see and hear who’s at the door, and speak to them, before you open it. And if you’re imagining grainy video footage, forget it. Easy-to-install doorbells such as SkyBell HD record 1080p video with colour night vision!
Up your protection game
The next step is to install a wi-fi enabled smart lock on your front door. Some smart locks automatically lock your door when you leave the perimeter you’ve preprogrammed around your house or after a predetermined time period elapses. Others allow you to open the door using just your voice (goodbye lost keys) and grant access to fellow family members or guests, while still others enable you to unlock/lock the door using the app on your phone. Better yet, you can be alerted via text if someone is attempting to tamper with the lock in an attempt to gain access.
There are a wide range of affordable security video cameras available that will send you an alert when they detect unusual activity, have alarms you can activate to scare off intruders, and allow you to see and hear what’s going on back home when you’re at work or even across the other side of the world on holidays.
Face-recognition technology in video cameras has come a long way, and systems such as The Nest Cam IQ automatically zoom in on faces and send you an alert when it recognises — or doesn’t recognise — someone you’ve preprogrammed into the camera. The Lighthouse camera can also tell the difference between adults and kids, humans and pets, and send you a special alert if your kids come home with a stranger. The waterproof Logitech Circle 2 can compile a timelapse video of the previous 24 hours at the tap of a button. It’s handy for that pair of shoes you ordered online, too. Its facial recognition capability means you’ll get an alert if someone you don’t know shows up at your front door — to swipe that parcel you just had delivered, for example.
Do keep in mind that storing footage for longer than a few days usually requires you to sign up for a cloud-based storage service.
Arm your house to the max
Less than a third of Australian homes have working security systems installed but a recent study of convicted burglars revealed that an activated alarm system is almost as good as a barking dog when it comes to preventing a break-in.
Smart security systems range from DIY to professionally installed multi-zone systems with cameras inside and out, door and window sensors and security monitoring. Most systems have an app that allows you to arm and disarm the system (no more remembering a keypad code!). The more advanced systems are equipped with temperature and humidity sensors and work in tandem with other things in your home so, as well as enabling you to record and view video footage in real time, and to lock and unlock doors and silence alarms, you can turn on/off lights, change the thermostat and put your robotic vacuum cleaner to work.
You can create rules around most of these things, programming the camera to turn the lights on if motion is detected in a room, for example. Video and audio is captured and used to detect intruders, and the sensitivity of a particular camera can be reduced to prevent needless alerts — if a camera is picking up and responded to traffic noise, for example.