Gone are the days where in-house CCTV will cost you thousands of dollars and leave you with wires spread all over your house.
With the emergence of smart home security cameras, you can be your home’s own watchdog ready to catch any action at the ding of a notification.
The affordability and mobility of these new security systems allows an average person to install and move cameras easily between rooms and homes.
Although subscription services to some cameras can be pricey, it is worth it for the peace of mind.
Here are some of the best things you can do with a smart home security camera.
1. Remote view
Traditional CCTV simply records to a device, and in fact since those ominous Orwellian devices started to appear in banks and convenience stores the recording device has changed more than the camera; from VHS through DVD to hard-disk based systems like TiVo.
In your home, recording isn’t always the first priority.
Instead it might be your wish to check in on a room and view the live video to reassure yourself while you relax on a beach during your holidays, or put your mind at rest that your holiday home remains untouched while you soak up the pressure of work.
Checking your kids have got home or looking in on a pet are also popular uses.
A smart camera is now able to spot when something is changing within its field of view, and (hopefully) distinguish the difference between the blowing leaves in the wind and something a little more significant.
These can then trigger your phone’s notification system, meaning that you don’t need to spend the whole time staring at the video feed.
3. Artificial intelligence
One step further, and many smart home cameras are able to recognize the difference between the shape of a person rather than generic movement, and distinguish between all three.
In other words, the leaves rustling or light moving during the day should elicit no warnings. The motion of a pet or a fast movement like a door opening would send an alert, and the detection of a human figure would trigger a notification telling you that the camera has seen a person.
The camera may also automatically zoom on a figure.
4. Talk back
If you’ve seen a person on your camera while remotely monitoring, you might well want to talk to them.
Depending where you’ve put a camera, that could be to ask them how their day at school was or to warn them you’ll call the police.
Hopefully not both.
Many smart cameras include both a microphone and a speaker to make this possible, and a ‘talk’ button in the app.
5. Remote recording
In a world of portable computers and devices, the idea of recording (and accessing) the video that is captured by your camera is far from ideal.
You don’t want a boxy hard drive, or to need to regularly fiddle with data cards.
That’s why most smart home cameras offer cloud storage subscription plans that will record 24/7 footage and store it for a minimum of five days to months.
Expect to pay a premium for storing your footage in the cloud, however, as the space isn’t cheap.
6. Facial recognition
With access to powerful remote computers, smart cameras can learn to recognize friends from foe, and then assign names to alerts, or not alert you at all if it recognizes the visitor.
Some cameras can even integrate with your digital assistants to announce when a particular person appears at your camera.
This can be quite handy if you want to know who could be at the door.
7. Combines sensors (Blink)
Since a smart camera isn’t just sending a video signal to a recording device or monitor, it can also be fitted with any other components capable of sending their data electronically, or even receiving them (like the Piper alarm).
Cameras don’t perform well in the dark, so many include ‘invisible’ lights that flood the area with infra-red light which the camera can then see.
This means that at night the video will be black and white (you need light to see colour), but not just black.
9. Baby monitor
With microphones, speakers and infra-red lights for night-vision in the camera, plus a phone to view things on, you’ve got all the technical features you need for a baby monitor.
All you require is for the software to know the subtleties of the job – some of the best baby monitors are also able to play lullabies remotely, for example.
Sadly, even some of the best smart cameras like the Nest, which could easily handle the duties, don’t have the support needed in the app.
Since Philips and Nanit have managed to write apps that can turn your phone into a working ‘parent unit’ (the other end of the baby monitor), there seems to be no reason why not.
That said, the Miku is worth investigating anyway for data obsessives – you can even track your offspring’s sleep efficiency percentage.
10. Alarm integration
If you already have a smart home alarm system, integrating cameras makes a great deal of sense.
Products like the Nest Secure can integrate motion and door sensors to give you a more detailed view around your smart home.
I’d warn that this is one for those with slightly deeper pockets, as most smart security alarms can be expensive and they work best when an outside monitoring company is providing back-up in case you can’t respond immediately to the notification.
Of course, those monitoring services come with a hefty price tag in addition to the usual camera subscription fees.
BLINK XT2 CAMERA SYSTEM
Blink, now an Amazon company, produces low-power cameras that can be put indoors or out and connect to a hub.
Two AA batteries will power them for a couple of years, and the video is stored on Blink’s servers and accessible to you without monthly subscription.
MIKU SMART BABY MONITOR
Miku cameras are specialist baby monitors which, when mounted centrally above the cot, can track and provide feedback on the quality of a baby’s sleep based on how much they move in the night.
NEST CAM IQ OUTDOOR
The Nest Cam IQ outdoor model is certainly smart, with facial recognition, a loud built-in speaker for two-way talk, lossless auto-zoom and more.
Subscriptions for the intelligent features start at $9 per month with 30 days video history, rising to $18 per month for 60 days video history plus 10 days 24/7 video history.
PIPER NV HD Z-WAVE HUB WITH NIGHTVISION
The Piper camera can see in both day and night, has two-way talk and a 105dB siren build-in, as well as humidity and temperature sensors.