As our lives become more and more interconnected with the various devices we own, there’s a lot to be recommended in smart security devices. Of course, you’ll also end up having to work with the inherent limitations of the current security systems on the market, but making the most of things isn’t as hard as you might think.
We’ll be focusing on security in this article, as opposed to general convenience, which means that some of the applications of tech may be a little bit more advanced. If you’re planning on securing your home through a central automation network, however, then you’re in the right place and we’d like to guide you along the way in order to make sure that you don’t let marketing fool you.
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Types of Smart Security
Security is a multi-faceted subject. There’s definitely a reason that some experts make their entire career out of advising people how to handle things.
We’re going to do our best to break things down for you. Before we even begin talking about planning your home’s smart security out, we’ll have to talk about the different types of security.
Surveillance is one of the most widely used parts of a security system.
For good reason as well: being able to see what a potential intruder is up to is half the battle. Indeed, with modern cameras you can get an alert to your phone and even be able to identify the person who’s attempting entry.
Surveillance is also much harder to bypass than conventional denial-of-entry methods like locks.
As far as we’re concerned, surveillance is the most important of the three keys of your security system.
Surveillance doesn’t just include cameras either, things like motion-detector activated lights can allow you to see when they’re activated and remote microphones can allow you to hear what’s going on in the area they’re placed in.
Basically, think of surveillance as anything which gives you more information on a potential security risk.
Deterrents are fairly limited when it comes to households. Most of them are pretty simple and you’ll find them combined with other parts of your system.
While technically a trap could be considered a deterrent, landing yourself in hot water with the law is pretty much the opposite of what most of us are trying to accomplish.
Dummy cameras, for instance, would count as a pure deterrence device. We don’t recommend utilizing dummy products, however, as if the deterrence doesn’t work then they’ve basically done nothing.
In order to keep potential intruders away, it’s a good idea to make sure that cameras and other surveillance devices are “displayed” openly rather than hiding them. You’ll also want to use any security stickers you receive with your systems.
Deterrence actually works remarkably well, there are tons of stories of thieves fleeing after noticing a camera.
Alarms could also be considered a crucial part of your deterrence, most burglars will flee once an alarm has been set off rather than risk capture.
While we don’t recommend it as a sole method of security, it’s definitely a part of any complete security system.
Deterrence is best thought of as something visible which will make a potential threat think twice.
Denial of Entry
This is what most people think of when security comes to mind. It includes locks, bars, and other things which will physically keep a thief out.
In the context of smart systems very few smart security devices will actually enhance denial of entry.
Indeed, while some things like smart locks are great for convenience, they can even weaken this crucial factor since many of the models on the market have been cracked.
In this instance, you should focus on “old school” methods instead of trying to use technology.
As a general rule, when you’re setting up a security system of any sort you’re going to want to make sure you actually understand security from the ground up.
While a lot of people just kind of throw cameras at their doors and hope for the best, you can actually make a much better system by understanding a couple of core concepts.
The first thing we’ll talk about is security zoning and the devices associated with them.
Entryways should be under the surveillance of a camera at the very least. Motion detection is a big plus here.
We’re talking about doorways primarily, alternate methods of entrance will have to be covered differently.
You’re going to want to ensure you have the following on each entryway in order to make sure you have the best security
As a general rule, you should probably have the following for each entryway:
- A smart lock, if desired.
- A camera aimed at the doorway.
- An alarm which will sound in the event of the door being forcefully breached.
You may also want to have a smart doorbell with an intercom on the front door. Most of these are equipped with cameras, adding an extra level of security on top of the convenience that you’ll be able to get out of the two-way audio.
You may also want to protect open spaces a little bit.
There’s not too much you can do here except for train a high-resolution camera on the area and hope the thief hits without a mask.
There have actually been a lot of thieves caught that way.
Other areas like your yard may bear some special guarding as well depending on what you have around. You first line denial-of-entry is undoubtedly going to be fences, but many of the smart camera systems on the market allow for quite a few cameras and training some on your yard isn’t a bad idea.
This is where things get a little bit more personalized for most people. You’ll want to take a look around your home in order to see where entry can be made.
This is especially important for houses with more than one story, you need to determine where someone would be most likely to gain access to.
This means windows, lattices, and rooftops near fences should be given special attention.
It’s fairly unfeasible to actually be able to one hundred percent cover all of the entryways into a home with cameras, but you can make the best of it by making sure that you know where people entered the home even if you can’t make out a face from that distance.
Ideally, you’ll also have alarms placed on any windows that can be entered through in order to work as a deterrent once they’ve been compromised as well.
Windows are a common entry point for intruders. Unfortunately it’s usually not completely practical to have a camera on each window, so most people have a tendency to rely on alarms for protection here.
If you’re in a high risk area you may want to make sure that at least your first floor windows are monitored with cameras facing down the edge of your home.
The interior of your home is likely to be the easiest place to protect. Interior cameras are readily available and placement is simple enough for most people.
We recommend focusing them on areas near where valuables are kept just in case, but many interior cameras will have the ability to pan remotely and as long as you get the alert you’ll be good to go.
Parts of a Security System
The different parts of your security system are a pretty big deal, and you need to make sure that they all remain integrated through the whole system in order to ensure that you can keep tabs on things.
Cameras make up the basics of your system, providing both deterrence and surveillance. Make sure they’re displayed prominently in order to make sure that those who might intrude know they’re there in order to get them to back off.
The resolution of your camera is a big concern. HD cameras have led to more and more thieves being caught as time goes on and the bigger the resolution the better off you’ll be.
Most people will find that interior and exterior cameras are quite different.
Exterior cameras are going to need to be weatherproof at the very least.
We recommend making sure that all of your cameras can be aligned with the same app to make keeping track of things easier. Nest, for instance, has an entire line of smart security products which are easy to control through their built-in application.
Placing your cameras is crucial to making sure that you get the best coverage and protection.
- As a general rule, cameras should be placed above head height. Somewhere around nine feet is optimal. Smart cameras are expensive and a thief might try to snag your camera if they’re really dedicated.
- Placement over doorways should be focused at around head height in order to get a clear picture of any intruder.
- Wide angle cameras are nice, but they’re much harder to focus in tighter areas and are best used for things like looking down the side of a building or placed to look over vulnerable areas of a yard.
- Make sure you focus any camera you’ve placed in the right spot. Figuring out where the clearest picture should be can be tricky but if you need the footage for evidence it’s pretty much invaluable.
Smart cameras are one of the integral parts of a modern security system. The vast majority of them can be viewed in real time from your phone at any point during the day, and most also have a subscription service available which will upload your footage to a cloud-based service in real time.
Invest heavily in your cameras, they’re probably the most essential part of your system barring alarms and they’ll be one of the only ways you can get your stuff back in the event of a break-in.
You’ll also want to look into some of the specialized technology which is used with security cameras, including night vision. Night vision can be a bit problematic, however, we still think that for most low-to-mid end cameras the way to go is a motion activated light.
There are also a few cameras out there which can be panned from their app, but these tend to be either prohibitively expensive or cut short in other areas. Approach them carefully, but there are definitely a few nice ones out there at a decent cost.
Most alarms have been “smart” in that they inform someone remotely since the inception of the technology.
Your alarms are going to be fairly simple when it comes down to it, basically there are window sensors which detect a breach in windows and door alarms which… basically do the same thing for doors.
You can also get more advanced motion detector alarms but in some cases these are prone to false positives so be careful when you’re considering them.
We feel that each entry into the home should be equipped with an alarm in order to have a “complete” setup.
You also want an audible alarm in order to both wake you and any other inhabitants up and hopefully deter your intruder from coming any further once it’s been activated.
Smart locks aren’t really security devices. Since they’re used in entryways, however, they bear some discussion here.
For the most part, smart locks are a matter of convenience. When it comes to security concerns, you’ll want to make sure that you have the latest model possible and that the digital protections on your system are done well.
There are a lot of them on the market, but for security reasons Samsung and August seem to have produced those which are the hardest to crack electronically and both have offerings which are on par with a standard reinforced deadbolt.
For the truly paranoid, smart locks can be given a skip. Most of them have been compromised at one point or another. The average consumer probably doesn’t need to be concerned with this, however, as the equipment and skills required are fairly specialized.
Smart doorbells work hand-in-hand with smart locks and your front entryways other security measures.
Most of them will have both a video camera and a two-way intercom. Both of these can be pretty valuable security measures, especially if they’re paired with a motion detector.
They’re not quite as important as having a camera focused on the front door, but as a backup these devices are pretty invaluable while providing little to no security risk.
There are a ton of little devices and things you can do to increase the security of your home. Both with smart tech and without.
Some of the best low-tech methods have been around for decades. We really like motion-activated lights. The sudden brilliance can be a bit disconcerting for someone breaking in, it allows you to see what’s going on immediately, and it can make up for bad night vision which tends to come with cheaper smart cameras.
Fences and other physical barriers are somewhat outside of the scope of this article, but a good thing to keep in mind for protecting your backyard.
Should I Build My Own System?
Previously, having a pre-built security system was the only real high-tech solution to your security needs. This meant that you had to pay for installation, maintenance, and a subscription on top of your equipment.
There are still plenty of great security services available, of course, that facet of home protection isn’t going to be fading out anytime soon.
On the other hand, if you’re the least bit tech-savvy you may want to see if you can either minimize costs or make sure that you have the best system available for your own home by designing your own setup.
The Biggest Difference
The biggest difference between a user-built system and a professional setup isn’t obvious at first glance.
It all boils down to the expertise of the installation.
We don’t claim to have any security consultants on staff here at Homethods, but we think the basics are easy enough to understand for most people.
We don’t think this should deter the average person from doing it, but you’ll need to spend some time reading up on security concepts and practical application to make the best of it.
It boils down to whether or not you’re willing to invest the time, but chances are an afternoon’s study will get you about on par with your average security technician although you may not turn into an international consultant overnight.
The customization available when you build your own system is pretty incredible. Plus you can avoid the mark-up on high-end equipment, especially if you snag your products online instead of from a local retailer.
The truth is, most security companies sell packages instead of actual solutions.
Of course, as we noted above it definitely takes some know-how in order to make sure that you get the most out of your devices including understanding the basics and knowing where to place your devices and how to hook them up in order to ensure that you get the most from them.
This is particularly important with surveillance devices of course, but just a bit of knowledge can help with pretty much anything.
We’re not going to lie: costs can be either higher or lower depending on what kind of equipment you decide to utilize and what subscription you end up using for recording.
Minimizing costs is a great idea, just invest in primarily budget products. On the other hand, you may want to get the absolute top-of-the-line setup with all of the whistles and bells currently on the market which can cost you a lot.
We think that customization, rather than cost, is the primary advantage of building your own system.
You’ll notice that whenever we talk about smart devices, we also talk about integration.
There’s one reason for that: integration is awesome.
Being able to integrate a wide variety of different devices into a single app makes smart devices even more useful than they would have been normally.
There’s a little bit more to it than buying a bunch of products of the same brand, of course, so let’s take a closer look at what can be done.
The brand of your devices is pretty important when it comes to integration, but things have gotten spread out quite a bit in all actuality.
For instance if you were planning on running your whole home security setup based on Nest’s app you’ll also end up with an August Smart Lock and you can control things with your voice and an Amazon Echo.
Samsung, on the other hand, has a handy listing of products which work with their SmartThings service.
We feel that tying your products together as much as possible is the best way to approach things, as long as you don’t have to wholly sacrifice quality in one area to make up for it.
There’s a lot of extra software out there which is handy for both smart home automation and security systems.
Some of our favorites are IFTT and Stringify which are a pair of services which let you customize the flow of your devices. Stringify in particular is an interesting service, since it works with IFTT to maximize the amount of utility you can get out of your smart appliances and systems.
Combining the old with the new, smart home security systems can be a complete game changer. Instead of trusting your home to blind chance, or the whims of a security company, you can take things into your own hands to make sure that you get the customized experience you want instead of a one-size fits all approach.
Give it a shot, even if you just put up a couple of cameras you’ll be surprised at just how much peace of mind it might afford you.