There’s no doubt, home security has become one of the most important parts of our everyday lives, from alarm systems to the locks on our doors. It’s hard not to think about all of the potential dangers in the world, especially when you turn on the TV, your laptop, or even just open a newspaper. It’s only natural to want your family to feel safe, and with each new generation of home security technology, it can be difficult to keep up with the latest and greatest. That’s why we’ve come up with this comprehensive breakdown of all the coolest gadgets to keep your home safe.
The first thing you have to know about modern home security technology is the word “smart.” We’re all aware of the increasing number of devices with wi-fi, bluetooth, and RFID, as well as a number of other capabilities, but now these terms are also commonly used in the home security world. Smart locks, remote surveillance, wi-fi thermostats, central alarm systems controlled from your phone, and wireless light switches, are just a few of the nifty devices that can make your life easier. Although there are many types of smart devices on the market, today I’ll just be talking about the products that focus on home security.
A smart lock, as the name suggests, is a mechanism on your door that can only be accessed from an authorized device. It uses wireless technology and cryptography to limit the number of people who can get into the system. It also allows you to monitor the activity on your locks, so you can know if someone’s trying to break into the house.
What makes these devices neat is that fact that it’s not something a burglar can pick. Essentially, there is a receiver inside of the lock which is triggered by your phone, or rather, a cryptographic key that’s specific to your phone.
If you’re wondering “What if my phone is dead?”, then the answer is a fob, which is more closely related to a traditional key. Fobs still operate electronically, much like the keys that come with newer cars, or more accurately, like those key cards you get when you check into a hotel, but they use challenge-response authentication to communicate to a reader pad.
RFID (radio frequency identification) sends a signal between the two charged objects and then the challenge-response authentication (essentially a question and answer) connects both points to unlock the door. The codes (or keys) are created using cryptographically secure pseudo-random number generators, which makes them virtually impossible to crack. It’s a bit difficult to provide a detailed explanation in a short amount of time, but you can get the general gist of it.
Smart locks usually cost between $150 and $350 (which includes models with keypads), with the most advanced locks being in the $230 to $350 range. You can find a variety of smart locks available at your local Home Depot, as well as through countless online vendors. Most models can be easily installed on your own, which means you don’t have to worry about hiring someone else to do the work (which also saves you on the cost of labor).
We’re all familiar with the standard security alarm system; a series of sensors are used to detect movement where there shouldn’t be any. These systems have become more and more advanced over the years, which has caused criminals to become more and more skilled. A lot of traditional systems could be bypassed by cutting the main line into the house, rendering the alarm useless.
Luckily, this problem was caught a very long time ago, and it brought about a number of safeguards to protect against criminals who could think outside of the box. Now, systems are unbelievably complex in their designs, yet friendly to the user, and the design possibilities are nearly endless.
Nowadays, these systems have features that allow you to monitor the property when you aren’t home, straight from your office computer, and again, even from your phone. Essentially, smart phones already come equipped with all of the same technology traditional security systems have; microphone, sensors, camera, and ability to contact law enforcement. So, it makes sense that this would be a natural evolution for the home security world.
As a matter of fact, there are some systems that don’t require any professional installation at all, you just have to set it up and connect it to your phone. These devices monitor any unusual movement in your home by using advanced algorithms to map your families day-to-day patterns. In some cases, you can actually check a surveillance camera in your home from your mobile device so you can determine on your own whether or not the pattern change is a security risk.
As far as the cost of these systems is concerned, it can vary by a large margin. Some of the do-it-yourself smart alarms are in the neighborhood of $200 to $450 range, with the average being about $270 to $330. More advanced systems can cost anywhere from $500 to $1,200 or more for the installation, and then anywhere between $12 and $50 per month for the contract. For the most advanced systems, you could pay upwards of $4,000 or $5,000 for the installation.
Home surveillance has become an increasingly popular topic in the past few years. Whether you use a do-it-yourself wireless setup you bought on the internet, or you have a professionally wired CCTV (closed circuit television) system installed, the objective is the same; to visually monitor your home for suspicious activity. We’ve all seen the commercials of people catching a thief trying to break in while they aren’t home, but how does it work?
For a wireless system, cameras set up around the home (like this unsuspecting owl camera pictured above) connect to your high-speed internet, and then through an app on your mobile device you can monitor the camera’s activity. Some of these cameras are motion activated, so you are alerted anytime there is new activity. For example, if a stranger shows up at your door when you aren’t home, you will be alerted.
For wired CCTV systems, the setup is a little bit different. The reason these systems work so well is because they are on a closed circuit (as the name suggests), which means they can’t be hacked or tampered with at all. These cameras (usually a series of them) connect to a central recorder where all of the information is stored. They are also usually on for 24 hours, rather than just whenever there is suspicious activity.
As far as the cost of a surveillance system is concerned, that can also vary. Do-it-yourself wireless systems can cost anywhere from $75 to $200 per camera, while more advanced CCTV systems are closer to the neighborhood of $200 to $500 for fairly simple systems, or $750 to $2,500 for more advanced systems.
No matter which methods you use to keep your home safe, it’s important that you do your research into the best modern products on the market before deciding on anything. This will provide you with some insight into the options available for your price range, as well as which system will be right for you. If you live in a pretty safe town or neighborhood, then you may only need a good lock, while others may need good locks, alarm systems, and surveillance. It all comes down to how safe you want to be.
Images courtesy of Brit + Co., CNET, and Brit + Co.