In such a technological society, it makes sense to utilise whatever means available to protect our homes, our belongings and, most importantly, our loved ones. Whilst CCTV has been around for a while now, the ability to record footage and see it live on your smart phone is an incredible step forward.
For those of us without a German Shepherd to keep watch whilst we’re at work, the market is bustling with smart home security cameras where you can receive notifications directly to your smartphone if someone steps foot in your home or even simply check that a parcel has successfully been delivered. With plenty of options on the market, we’ve written up a handy buying guide to help you get familiar with the top brands on the market and what features you may want to look out for.
Shops With Security Camera Offers
Smart Home Security Cameras Buying Guide
It’s hard to describe the feeling that comes from knowing that an intruder has been in your home or property. It’s a stomach clenching dread that hundreds of people experience each year. Unfortunately, for most people, the realisation that they have been a victim of a crime comes far too late, with the perpetrator having made their escape hours or even days earlier.
Thankfully, developments in technology have meant that the average homeowner now has access to the same level of sophisticated CCTV monitoring systems that were previously limited to businesses or those with enormous budgets. Smart Home Security Cameras record footage both inside and outside your home and allow you to access this footage through the Internet. You can now have 24/7 access to your home, even when on the other side of the world, giving you great peace of mind.
What Is Smart Security?
Before the Internet, CCTV systems recorded footage onto VHS tapes or computer hard-drives. To access the footage you had to go its physical location (the tape or the hard-drive) before you could view it. With Smart Home Security Cameras, the footage is either uploaded to the cloud, or on the device itself.
It can then be accessed over the Internet, and often through your smart phone, so you can check it from wherever you are. Many systems also allow you to livestream the footage for real time images, and they often come with extra nifty features, such as motion tracking, facial recognition, and connectivity with other smart home devices.
Why You Might Want a Smart Home Security Camera
Security is probably the number one reason why people purchase these systems. You might live in a high crime rate area and want to install a system as a deterrent. You might be victim of repeat antisocial behaviour or vandalism against your property and want to get evidence against those behind it. Or, it might be that you have already been burgled and are looking to upgrade the security features of your home.
However, there are other reasons why you might want to consider getting a smart home security camera:
- You might have pets that you want to check on during the day. If you have a dog walker you might want to check that they are turning up to do the job when they say they are.
- You might have teenagers that you are planning on leaving at home whilst you are away and are concerned about possible house parties taking place without your permission.
- You might be a carer to an elderly relative and need to check up on them periodically during the day.
- Some home insurance companies will offer discounts for those with home security systems installed.
- Parents of newborn babies might prefer the additional features that smart home security cameras offer over traditional video monitors.
Types of Smart Security Systems
There is now a huge range of smart security systems on the market, from big name brands and innovative start-ups. Features vary from system to system, from tiny, battery powered indoor cameras that are incredibly discreet, to powerful outdoor cameras with floodlights and built in alarms, plus numerous options in between the two. Here we detail products from the techno giants, as well as from long standing trusted brands and exciting new ventures.
Ring are best known for their smart door bells that allow you to see who is at your door without having to get up and take a peek. However, this Amazon owned company have been offering outdoor security cameras for a while now, and is about to launch an indoor camera for a much lower price.
For those seeking an outdoor CCTV solution, Ring have a few options. Their Spotlight cameras provide outdoor lighting and are available as wired, solar powered, or battery powered. For those who want a little more illumination, Ring’s Floodlight camera has two ultra-bright LED floodlights. Both of these cameras include two way audio, so you can hear and speak to those outside, plus motion tracking and a loud siren to deter potential intruders.
The Stick Up Cam has been designed to be used outdoors and therefore can withstand the elements, but it’s also small enough to be used indoors, and it can either be wall-mounted or placed on a flat surface such as a shelf. It also has two way audio and motion detection, and you can choose from AC, battery, ethernet, or solar powered versions.
Ring’s new indoor camera is launching soon, with a lower price than the rest of Ring’s camera products, but of course, you won’t be able to use this one outside. Like the Stick Up Cam, this version will feature two way audio and motion detection. What’s more, both the indoor camera and the Stick Up Cam can connect with Alexa on other Amazon devices so you can communicate to people in the vicinity of the camera from your Amazon connected device.
As with other Ring products, if you want to record footage from your Ring cameras you need to subscribe to Ring Protect, a cloud storage system with a monthly payment plan.
Nest was originally founded in 2010 as an independent company and launched its flagship product, the Nest Learning Thermostatin 2011. The company was purchased by Google in 2014, though it continued to be operated as an independent company until May 2019, when it was rebranded as Google Nest. Now the company offer a range of smart home devices that can all be connected via the Google Assistant on smartphones, tablets, and Google Home devices.
As you might expect from the Google brand, the Google Nest cameras are sleek in appearance and packed with hi-tech features. The company currently has four different cameras in its range. All of the cameras plug into mains electricity, have two way audio so you can talk and listen to people in range of the camera, and using artificial intelligence the cameras can tell the different between a person and an object, and then alert you to the person’s presence
Both the standard Nest Cam and the Nest Cam IQ are available as an indoor and an outdoor version. The Nest Cam IQ range comes with additional features including close up tracking, a 4K resolution camera for the highest quality images, and a big upgrade on processing power.
To get the full benefits of a Nest camera, you really need to sign up to Nest Aware, a monthly subscription service that allows you to automatically upload footage from your camera to Google’s servers, where intelligent algorithms will spot a person and send an alert to your phone. Using Nest Aware you can set up activity zones that will allow you to monitor one part of your camera’s field of view, but ignore others, such as what can be seen through a window. It can even tell the difference between a person talking and a dog barking, so if you want to make sure your dog isn’t barking during the day, you can set it to alert you when your dog makes a noise.
You probably associate Hive with heating systems, and that’s pretty understandable given that the company is owned by Centrica (who own British Gas) and has been a market leader in that area for a while now. However, the company has been gradually infiltrating other areas of smart home technology with the development of a range of products, including its collection of Hive cameras.
The basic Hive Camera is a reasonably priced way of getting a smart security camera into your home, though it can’t be used outdoors. It can be controlled by an app available on OS and Android devices, and it comes with a storage card slot that you can use to record footage on, meaning that no subscription service is necessary. It has motion and sound detection with the option to set up alerts on your phone app for when anything is picked up, and it has two way audio, so if you need to tell the teenagers to get off the games console and do their homework, you can do.
However, if you’re after something that is intelligent, powerful, and incredibly stylish, then check out Hive’s newest additions to its camera range. The Hive View Camera and the Hive View Outdoor Camera have both been designed by Yves Béhar, a multi-award winning designer who has worked with global brands and who has had objects featured in museums around the world.
The indoor View has a built-in rechargeable battery, making it incredibly portable, and it features two way audio, so you can talk to those inside your home. Both the indoor and outdoor Hive View cameras have HD video recording and automatic night vision, and both cameras detect motion and sound, with alerts sent to the Hive app. With the View range, Hive has jumped onto the subscription bandwagon so to record footage you need to sign up to a monthly payment plan that lets the user record up to 30 days playback.
Samsung have been at the forefront of smart technology for several years now with their extensive range of smart phones and tablets. However, when it comes to smart home technology, up until recently Samsung has mostly focused on software development, with the SmartThings app that allows you to link a plethora of smart devices from a wide choice of manufacturers for the ultimate smart home experience.
Now though, the company has started to branch out with its own smart devices and it offers two smart home security cameras. The SmartThings Cam is an indoor camera that is capable of capturing HD quality images. Like many of its competitors, the camera has two-way audio, night vision, and the ability to tell the difference between a person, a pet, and an object. Using the SmartThings app, you can set activity zones to monitor and receive alerts for any activity detected. Samsung have also designed a camera for outdoor use with an ultra-wide angle lens, night vision, and a memory slot that allows you to record directly onto the device.
Of course, thanks to the Internet, consumers have access to products created all over the world and when it comes to smart home security cameras there are hundreds to choose from. It can therefore be tricky to determine which systems are worth investing in.
The brands mentioned above are certainly the most popular and benefit from the peace of mind that comes with using a trusted brand. That being said, there are a number of lesser known brands that are certainly worth considering when choosing a camera for your home.
Netatmo are a French company who are best known for their smart home weather station that measures local weather data and has led to improvements in local weather forecasting. They have won several awards for their smart home devices and their range includes one indoor and one outdoor camera.
The cameras come with a number of sophisticated features and although they are pricier than other brands, there are no subscription fees required to access the full features.
In the UK, one company is synonymous with home security, and that’s Yale. The traditional lock making company has moved into the 21st century, with a fantastic selection of smart home security devices, including indoor and outdoor cameras that are packed with clever features.
Honeywell is another big-name brand. This global company has provided innovations across industry with specialisms in corporate security. Its range of cameras can come as part of a home security kit that includes a base station that has Amazon Alexa for a truly connected home.
Other brands you might want to consider include Blink, an Amazon owned start up company that produces low cost smart security cameras with a claim that the batteries will last up to two years.
Canary is another start up company that has created an all in one security device that incorporates a camera with multiple sensors to provide full protection for your home.
Finally, Arlo is another trusted brand that originated from the Netgear brand, who are known for their reliable networking hardware. Arlo have a broad range of security cameras with indoor and outdoor options, including the Arlo Go, a fully wireless camera that can be used indoors or outdoors and is completely portable.
Features to Look Out For
When purchasing a smart home security camera there are several features that you should consider, especially when taking into account your own circumstances and house set up. For example, if you’re particularly concerned about monitoring something that happens at night, then you will certainly want to make sure that your camera has night vision capabilities. Other features to consider include:
Smart home security cameras come with a range of power supply options. Some are connected to mains electricity, others have rechargeable batteries, others are powered by ethernet ports, and some even come with solar panels. If you want continuous monitoring, then look for a camera that is mains powered but also has some sort of battery back up in case of power failures. On the other hand, a wireless camera gives you much greater flexibility when it comes to placing it within your home.
Most smart home security cameras use a Wi-Fi connection to send your phone alerts when something suspicious is detected. That means that they need to be in range of your Wi-Fi router. If you are planning to fit a camera in your garden for instance, it might be the case that the location is out of range from your home router, in which case you will need to also purchase a Wi-Fi extender.
Compatibility with Smart Phones
These security cameras generally work by sending data to your phone that can interpreted via an app. Most apps will let you choose what kind of alerts you would like to receive (for example, when movement or sound is detected during certain times of day or night) and you can change various settings on the cameras through the app. Therefore, when buying a camera, make sure you choose one that has an app that is compatible with your smartphone, as otherwise you may find your camera has limited functionality.
Resolution & Image Quality
If you’re hoping to catch images of a perpetrator in the act, then the image quality of your camera is key. A low resolution rating will result in grainy images that are hard to interpret. At minimum, you need to aim for a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels in order to get useable images, but for the best image quality, look for a HD resolution, or even one capable of 4K image recording for crystal clear pictures and videos.
As mentioned above, the ability to record in night vision is a must for anyone who wants to ensure their property remains safe at night time.
Cloud or Internal Storage
Picture the scene. You have come back from holiday to find your front door has been vandalised. You have a security camera, but unfortunately, you have run out of storage space and there are no recorded images of the crime. That is an incredibly frustrating situation, but there are solutions to this age-old problem of storage space.
Whilst many cameras have memory card slots for recording data, the bigger names are moving to a subscription based cloud storage service. Images are uploaded to the cloud and are accessible for a set period of time, with various packages available. Of course, this does mean that there is an added cost, which is certainly something you will need to consider when making your purchase.
If your budget isn’t limited, then you might want to consider looking for a camera that includes the latest technological advances and premium features, including:
- Two Way Audio Via Your Phone – This is essential if you want to talk to people within the area of your camera, or if you want to tell the dogs to get off the sofa.
- Facial Recognition – Some premium cameras don’t just detect movement, they can actually tell you when a person is present, rather than some branches swaying in the background.
- Built-In Alarm – Some cameras have a built in siren that can be triggered when they detect a person, so if you’re away your neighbours will hopefully be prompted to call the police.
Installing Home Security Systems
It used to be the case that installing a CCTV system was a lengthy and difficult process, but smart home security cameras have changed that. Thanks to the ability to control these cameras through an app, it’s relatively simple to install them and get them working, especially when it comes to indoor cameras.
Some cameras include mounting stands or brackets as standard. However, if you are planning on installing a camera outside, then you do need to consider your power supply options, and you may need to call upon the services of an electrician to run a wire out for you.
You also need to take into consideration your country’s privacy laws, as some countries, including the UK, have strict laws governing the capture of images outside the boundary of private domestic property. This generally means that you should install your camera in a way that means it is only capturing images within your property’s boundaries.