What is a Smart Home Security System?
In short, a smart home security system is a set of internet-connected security components, which could include devices such as wireless security cameras, sirens, motion detectors, door locks and sensors. Each smart home security system is unique as it will depend on the type of system you wish to create and which degree of functionality and protection you require. Smart security systems that are professionally designed and installed provide bespoke operation tailored to the requirements of the house and the family.
A smart home security solution will typically involve a central smart home processor that will coordinate your various security systems and make them work together to be greater than the sum of their parts. This smart home processor acts as the central hub for the security devices within the home and this hub connects to the internet. Normally the central hub is connected to a smartphone app and or touch panels around the house that allows you to interact with the security system to monitor its status, view CCTV images and be alerted should an issue be detected. It is this inter-connectivity and control that makes a smart home security system so valuable and effective and truly greater than the sum or its component parts as the smart home processor at the heart of the system allows all the system to work together to provide a greater degree of protection and alerts to the homeowner.
For example, a CCTV system that records 24 hours a day can be viewed via your mobile phone anytime from anywhere in the world. This CCTV could be accompanied by an exterior detection system that accurately detects any intruders in your garden before they reach your home. This could work in conjunction with an internal burglar alarm linked to a monitoring station and includes a typical array of PIR sensors and rumble sensors on windows.
A home that is truly security-conscious will also integrate smart home lighting, audio and visual for a more comprehensive solution.
When integrated into the lighting, the home system will know if you are home or away and will adjust the lighting accordingly. Automatically turning the lights off during the day and on at night whilst on holiday can give the impression that you are home and deter any potential intruders.
You can also link an audiovisual system so that when the smart system detects an intrusion it will pause what you are watching on TV, muting any music playing, and display the CCTV feed from the camera nearest to the detected intrusion. This gives you time to move to a safe room in the house and alert the police.
Smart home security systems can also be linked to fire alarms that send alerts to your phone should a fire be detected whilst also turning on a pathway of lighting in the house to guide you to a safe exit.
What to Look for in a Smart Home Security System
Smart home security systems can be as small or large as you like, depending on your home, your budget and requirements. However, regardless of size, a smart home security system should be accounted for in the early stages of a new build or a renovation project in order to fully benefit from it. When considering a smart home security system, you should consider whether you need the following devices and features.
Many home security systems can provide glass-break detection to assist with home security. The sensors are able to detect glass breaking and shattering within a certain radius of the sensor. The sensors use a microphone to detect the unique sound of glass breaking and trigger an alarm.
A staple in any home security system, security cameras are a great deterrent to intruders and allow you to see what is going on around the home. The benefit of being connected to a smart home system is that you’ll be able to view your security camera feed from your smartphone. Some cameras will also come with built-in motion sensors, which mean you may not need to install as many independent sensors around your home. This feature can also help save energy by only recording when motion has been detected.
If you’re interested in using security cameras outdoors, make sure you select cameras that are suitable for all weather conditions and offer night vision. For security cameras indoors, you may want to choose cameras that include a remote-controlled privacy shutter for when you or the family are at home.
You may also want to invest in cameras that offer audio. This way, you’ll be able to hear what’s going on. Cameras with two-way audio will mean you can interact with people in front of the camera. This could be particularly useful when you have a visitor or delivery and you’re away from the home.
Much like two-way audio on a security camera, a video doorbell is directly intended to help you see and communicate with visitors. In most cases, this could involve letting guests know you’re on your way or even remotely letting them in.
In more serious cases, you can use the video doorbell to check for unwanted visitors. Burglars sometimes try the doorbell to check whether anyone is home before breaking into the home and strangers (potentially under the influence of drugs or alcohol) could approach your front door. Having a video doorbell with audio functionality means you don’t have to open the door and put yourself at risk.
Whilst security cameras can have motion detection capabilities, there may be areas within the home that a motion detector alone will suffice. For example, you may not want a security camera in the corner of your living room whilst you’re trying to relax or enjoy a good film.
When choosing a motion detector, make sure you choose a device with an appropriate detection range. A device that can detect at 50 metres is likely wasted on your kitchen or living room and is better suited for an outdoor space, such as the garden or front gate. Some motion detectors are designed to ignore smaller movements such as those from a pet or wild animal in the garden. This will result in fewer false alarms and is recommended if you do have pets such as cats or live in the countryside.
When installing a motion detector you’ll need to ensure you place it in a location that will detect movement from anywhere within the room or vicinity of your home. The motion detectors should link up to a central hub that alerts you (normally via smartphone notifications) when a sensor has been triggered.
Smart Door Locks
A bit like modern-day car locks, smart door locks allow you to remotely lock and unlock the doors of your home with the push of a button. With this remote control, you can provide people with access to your home remotely, such as a delivery driver or a cleaner. Of course, with a full set up, you’ll be able to monitor their activity.
Whilst you can control the locks with the touch of a button on your smartphone, some manufacturers also provide a smartphone proximity feature that will unlock the doors automatically when you are within range.
An Intuitive App
There’s no point in having state of the art security systems if you find it difficult to operate them and interact. Whilst it’s always best to have them installed by an expert, you’ll be the one using the security system on a regular basis. You need to make sure that the smart home system you choose as the central controller for your security and other smart systems is user friendly and sufficiently responsive.
A user-friendly system will be easy to control and you’ll be alerted if an intruder enters your home. Apps with a poor user experience may be difficult to navigate and could possibly show unhelpful notifications, which is the last thing you need in a moment of crisis. A badly designed app could also crash or freeze, rendering the system useless, so be sure to check any reviews.
A Suitable Design
Remember, these security gadgets are going to be placed around your home. It’s worth checking whether these devices can effectively blend into your home. If you suspect some device designs will disrupt the interior styling, it might be worth looking for devices that can more seamlessly integrate into the home.
Finally, all of your smart home security devices should link together in one central hub. For the best experience, the smart home security system should be able to link with other systems in your smart home, such as lighting and entertainment. Having separate controls and apps for each element of your home can really spoil the user experience and make simple controls a more complex and frustrating task. Systems such as Crestron and Control4 are the leading brands for overriding smart home control and make complex solution quick and easy to operate for the homeowner.
How much does a Smart Home Security System Cost?
The cost of a smart home security system can vary greatly and it can be difficult to give a simple answer. The cost will depend on a number of factors. You can purchase a set of security cameras that link to a mobile app for £40 online but you can also have a fully bespoke smart home system that includes comprehensive security for £10,000 – £100,000+ depending on the size of your home and your requirements. The price all comes down to what you’re looking for.
The DIY Approach
If you’re looking to self-install your security system, it is often a matter of which devices you decide to buy and their quality. As we mentioned, you can buy cheap security hardware for a relatively small cost but these may not integrate into a wider smart home system. A security camera might come with its own app that doesn’t work in unison with other devices like motion detectors.
You can buy DIY friendly home security kits that include a small number of cameras and motion sensors that link together for a couple of hundred pounds, but they won’t be able to connect with a wider smart home system such as Control 4 or Crestron which manages multiple aspects of a smart home. And don’t forget, you’ll be responsible for installation and maintenance.
For a fully functional state-of-the-art security system that will integrate with your lighting, audiovisual and other elements of the home system, you will be looking to pay quite a bit more. But, you get what you pay for: a seamless experience that encompasses all the features of modern, state-of-the-art smart home. With home automation, you have the ability to control your home in the palm of your hand and revolutionise the way you live with a more enjoyable and convenient lifestyle.
Plus, if it’s a wired system, it will likely be more robust and less prone to connection issues.
Smart Home Security vs Standard Burglar Alarm
Given the cost of installing a smart home security system, whether that’s through professional installation or by doing it yourself, you might be wondering why a standard burglar alarm just doesn’t cut it? After all, burglar alarms are typically much cheaper to purchase and install, are they not?
A smart home security system and a burglar alarm are both intended to do the same basic thing – to alert you to any security threats they detect. However, their capabilities and the way in which they do this is slightly different, with smart home security systems providing a number of extra benefits, that could make them worth the extra investment.
When active, a standard burglar alarm system will sound the alarm when a sensor detects movement in or around the home. The alarm will trigger pretty much instantly when the sensors are tripped and if you pay for it, contact a private security company or the police in the event of an intrusion.
A smart home security system is much like a burglar alarm but with security cameras, extra sensors and internet connectivity built-in. This internet connection is what allows the smart home system to link with smartphones or tablets and provide extra features.
Smartphone and tablet connectivity means you can receive notifications when a sensor is triggered or a camera captures something worth looking into. It will immediately alert you via the notification but won’t necessarily wake up the entire neighbourhood if you choose. With instant access over the internet, you can check the CCTV feed in the area where the intrusion was detected and deal with the matter how you wish.
You may want to activate the alarm after seeing people ready to break into your home. You may decide to deter them simply by communicating with them via the camera. Or, you might discover it was just a wild animal that triggered a false alarm. With a standard alarm system, you won’t know where the intrusion is happening or how serious it is.
Away from Home
Another added benefit to the smart home security system is that you can be alerted to an intrusion whilst you’re away from the home – anywhere in the world in fact. You’ll also be able to check in on the home whenever you like, for peace of mind.
You can’t hear a siren if you’re away from home, so with a burglar alarm system, you’ll likely have to rely on the goodness of your neighbours to investigate or call the police. If it’s a false alarm, this could result in an embarrassing conversation when you return.
Range of Sensors
Smart home security systems don’t just rely on cameras and sensors to trigger alarms. With window and door sensors that can connect to the central smart home hub, you’ll receive an alert whenever these sensors are triggered. A standard burglar alarm can’t normally detect the sound of smashed glass or when a door/window is opened unless the motion detectors in the home pick up this activity. If this was a DIY installation, the sensor might not be appropriately positioned to detect everything within the room.
In addition to protecting your home from burglars and intrusion threats, a smart home security system can include heat and smoke detectors to alert you when there is a fire in the home. It can be programmed to work in coordination with other elements of the smart home, for example, to immediately unlock all doors and windows as well as light the way to the exit.
Why a Professionally Installed Security System is Better than DIY
One of the things some people consider when it comes to smart home security is whether they should do it themselves, or whether they should have a professional installation. In the end, it comes down to how much you want to invest and the level of quality and sophistication you want in your smart home system. However, we believe that a professionally installed smart home comes with many more benefits.
The most important reason a professional installation is best comes down to the installation. Smart home installers are professionals at what they do and have even taken a wide range of exams to be able to install a wide range of different systems. Professionally, they live and breathe smart home tech and have certification to prove it. This means that not only will you be able to rest assured that it’s installed correctly, but you’ll also have someone to call in the unlikely event of any complications.
A smart home installer will also have a much better idea of how to meet the security requirements of the home. If you have a large garden for example, the smart home installer may recommend a camera with an extended detection range and night vision. They’ll also be able to tailor the installation to the specifications of the property.
Convenient and Less Time-Consuming
With a professional installation, you don’t have to worry about your DIY skills and you certainly won’t have to dedicate hours and hours of your time to understand how each component of the system works. No one likes having to read instructions. Then there’s the time it will take for you to install everything. Even for professionals, smart home systems (including security) can take weeks or months to install. With a smart home installer, everything is done for you so that you can invest all those hours of yours into something more worthwhile.
A Truly Sophisticated System
As you may have gathered, a smart home security system is a lot more sophisticated than a standard alarm system. It’s also much more complex than some simpler smart home systems available to buy online.
If you’re looking for the cheapest deals out there for your DIY, it’s likely that you’ll end up with lots of small security devices from a range of manufacturers. With a DIY smart home hub, not all of the devices will be compatible. When you work with smart home installers such as Finite Solutions, you’ll be able to integrate your devices into a smart home control system such as Control4 or Crestron which offer compatibility with thousands of different devices.
Built to Last
The best professional smart home installations are done when a home is being built or renovated. By installing at this stage, it allows for the best smart home experience, security included. However, renovation is not something you do very often to the home. This is why smart home installers recognise the need to build and install their systems to last.
On the other hand, the DIY smart home technology you can buy so cheaply online is also cheaply produced. This means that their business model is likely based on a fast replacement cycle, relying on you to re-purchase or upgrade parts of the smart home security system every couple of years.
How Smart Home Security can help those with Disabilities
For many, smart home systems can be a big convenience. Being able to lock the doors through an app or speak to people via a video doorbell rather than answering the door are things that we might take for granted. For people with disabilities, these assistive technologies can be necessary to improve their quality of life and empower them, making them feel much more secure. Smart homes in general can offer disabled people more independence and dignity.
A person who might feel vulnerable as a result of their disability can rest assured knowing they’re armed with advanced technology to deter criminals and prevent people taking advantage. And this is why smart home security is so important for people with disabilities.
For disabled people, a smart home system can allow them to perform tasks such as locking and unlocking doors within the home with ease. For someone who is confined to their bed or is unable to see out of their windows, a smart doorbell will allow them to answer the door even if they’re unable to reach it. With the video capabilities of the doorbell, they can see who is at the door, decide whether or not to answer and comfortably initiate a conversation.
If a disabled person has someone who cares for them they can grant them temporary access by using the smart home security system and linking the carers smartphone. Family members who regularly visit can also be given keyless access.
However, not every disability it the same. Some people may be unable to use a smartphone or tablet to access their security system. Another key benefit for disabled people is the ability to integrate a security system with hands-free voice control. With a voice assistant always ready to listen, commands can be received from the homeowner and then executed by the smart home system.
How does Smart Home Security help the Elderly?
Approximately 3.8 millions individuals over the age of 65 lived alone in 2017 according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS). With an ageing population, that number is likely even higher today. Alongside this, it is reported that around 6 to 13% of people aged over 65 in the UK suffer from feelings of loneliness. These statistics suggest that elderly people could potentially be more vulnerable, especially if they do not have regular contact with other people. Alone or not, a smart home security system helps to keep the elderly feeling safe and secure in their own homes.
Empowerment and Reassurance
Smart home security can benefit the elderly in similar ways to disabled people. It helps them feel empowered against any threats to their safety including intruders, fires and even flooding. The added benefit for the elderly is that smart home security systems can be programmed to alert someone outside of the home, such as a carer, family member or even authorities such as the police or fire rescue. Even with just the knowledge that someone will step in to help if anything ever happened can help reassure a lonely, elderly person.
Families can also connect to the security system to check on their elderly relatives. By setting up a variety of sensors, for example, they can check whether their elderly relative has got out of bed or opened the cabinet to get their medication. This gives the family regular reassurance and lets them know to check in if anything is wrong.
For the elderly, falls are not always a case of just getting back up. People over the age of 65 have a higher risk of falling and according to the NHS, 1 in 3 who live at home will have at least one fall a year. Falls are often overlooked as a cause of injury but can lead to hospitalisation. They can also cause a person to lose confidence and feel less independent. A smart home system can help to prevent falls in the elderly.
By using smart home lighting, the home system can detect movement in any room of the home, removing the need to press out-of-reach switches. The lights can also be voice-activated if preferred. Whilst not explicitly a smart home security feature, this means the elderly person doesn’t have to fumble around trying to find switches in the dark and potentially injuring themselves. Security lights can also be programmed to activate at specified times during the evening without having to remember to turn them on.
Helping with Forgetfulness
A smart home system can also be programmed to switch off connected appliances when they are no longer needed or being used. For example, appliances such as a smart oven or hob can be programmed to turn off after a certain duration to reduce the chance of a fire. Whilst not explicitly a security feature, it does provide peace of mind.
A smart home security system with smart locks can also help prevent lost house keys. If you install a fingerprint system for example, an elderly person can lock and unlock doors without the need to even carry a key or smart device.
Answering the door with Confidence
As elderly people get older, their mobility can be reduced and it can take them much longer to move about the house. When someone knocks at the door or rings the doorbell, it can take some time for an elderly person to safely reach the door. With an advanced smart home security system, sensors will be able to alert the homeowner that someone is heading toward the house. This advanced notice gives them the extra time they need to answer the door and helps prevent them missing any of those regular, everyday interactions that everyone else enjoys, such as with a delivery person. These interactions can make a world of difference for lonely elderly people.
With a video doorbell, the elderly homeowner can also answer the door before they get there. They can decide whether they wish to interact with the visitor or stranger without opening the door. If they’re perhaps a little unconfident about opening the door, they can still have some human interaction by using the two-way audio feature on certain models of doorbell.
Smart home systems can be very powerful when set up and used correctly. However, they require a decent amount of knowledge and confidence with the technology involved. Some elderly people are very comfortable with smartphones and tablets where they can control the smart home system, but not everyone. There are some smart home systems out there that require minimal interaction with a device once set up, allowing the owner to still access the features of the smart home.
The Evolution of Smart Home Security
Today we can have a full 360-degree view of what’s going on around the home, whether we’re present or not. A smart home security system can work in unison with all other aspects of a smart home system to make the home feel alive. But it wasn’t always like this. So how have we arrived at where we are now?
Evolution of Home Security
Home security for many centuries has been based on the expert work of locksmiths. Deadbolts, locks and keys have been the main barrier to potential home intruders, even since ancient egyptian times when they were made from wood. Along with this, dogs have been domesticated since ancient times, with many used as guard dogs to deter criminals and unwanted guests. Whilst we might not all have fancy drawbridges and archers any more, locks and guard dogs have persisted through the centuries as popular forms of protection.
In the 20th century, as technology advanced and so did the crimes, electronic burglar alarms became more widespread. The oldest burglar alarm company in the UK is believed to be Thomas Gunn Ltd, founded in 1907. Their alarms used telegraph wire, copper strips, telegraph relays and solenoid bells. Over the years, alarms became more advanced as technology developed.
It wasn’t until the 1970s that CCTV technology was used for surveillance of businesses and some homes in conjunction with video cassette recorders (VCR). Previously it had to be monitored live, which wasn’t viable as a home solution.
At the turn of the millennium, technology was transitioning from analogue to digital, which eventually led to the advanced security technology we have today.
Evolution of Smart Homes
Smart technology on the other hand was not originally born out of a necessity for security. The first smart home systems were actually designed to assist around the home. The Echo IV developed in the 1960s allowed consumers to create computing shopping lists, control the temperature of the home and turn appliances on and off. In the 1990s, a smart home concept called “gerontechnology” was introduced with the idea of improving the lives of the elderly.
From the 2000s onward, the popularity of smart homes increased rapidly. With the growth of digital technology and the internet, it became much easier to connect devices into a single system. Technology that was previously inaccessible due to cost became more and more affordable as time passed.
With the ability to connect devices on a single network over the internet, security systems could finally be added to the list of smart home capabilities.
The Future of Smart Home Security
As we can see, home security has evolved into one of the many facets of a smart home. As we progress into the future, the capabilities of the existing smart home security devices will of course improve.
In the future, we can expect to see smartphone technology such as facial recognition make its way over to the home. This technology could automatically grant users access to a home without having to use a key or a smartphone.
Drones are becoming increasingly popular for security purposes too. Drones are easily equipped with a camera and have been used by the military for surveillance for some time already. With a few more years worth of research and development, drones could become the new security guards, using facial recognition technology to track and follow intruders outside the home. Currently, the battery capacity for drones allows for a limited amount of time in the air but as technology advances, so does battery capability.
Alongside these new technologies for physical security, we can expect that all existing technologies will also be greatly improved. For example, the detection technology used in sensors to distinguish an intruder from a wild animal will likely improve in its capabilities.
Beyond these physical security solutions, there is another home security threat that is emerging as more and more of our home devices become connected to the Internet of Things (IoT). A good example that we’ve already mentioned is smart ovens. However, as we connect more devices in the home, the risk from cyber attacks grows.
Cybersecurity is the next big problem that smart home security needs to solve. Connected to the Internet of Things, every device in your network (including your oven!) could potentially be targeted by hackers. Once connected to your home network, hackers could use the CCTV to spy on your activity, obtain information about you or even shut down the whole system. At the moment, cyber-attacks on smart home systems are rare but in the coming years, the demand for cybersecurity will grow and smart home systems will be. there to face the threat.
As technology develops so does the capabilities of smart home technology. In the years to come, we could even experience methods of security that were unthinkable before. If you’re interested in having a Smart Home Security installed find out more here.