Despite all the talk about the home automation revolution, the regular consumer still doesn’t appear to have embraced the benefits of being able to turn his or her lights on using an app instead of a light switch.
However, the ability to secure a home through automation—keeping an eye on it from afar and knowing immediately when something is wrong—is a development consumers are rapidly wrapping their collective minds around.
Much of what smart home security promises has actually been achievable for years—if you employed a 24/7 monitoring service from a home security company. But this option came with a high price tag, with statistics showing that just 16% of homeowners (as of 2010) have a home security system installed.
The development and integration of home automation and home security is a perfect match. A smart home knows when you’ve arrived (thanks to the phone in your pocket) and can de-activate the alarm, unlock the front door and turn on the lights as you enter. That removes a homeowner’s concern of inadvertently sending the police to their home because they were fumbling around in the dark trying to remember the passcode to disarm the alarm.
Even the most advanced home security system is no good if you forget to turn it on. Because we already carry the integral device in our pocket, home automation brings convenience to home security, cutting out the fallible middleman—the homeowner.
This, in turn, has drastically reduced the price point for home security that has so long been a barrier to entry. Plus, with mass adoption of the smartphone by consumers (64% of Americans own a smartphone), the necessity for products to be compatible with phones has become almost a prerequisite. It’s not just young Silicon Valley companies getting into the smart home security business—legacy security companies including Schlage (the lock makers), Kidde (the fire safety company) and Chamberlain (the garage door manufacturers) are adapting and developing products to be compatible with smartphones.
Consumers now have a wide array of options for securing their homes from the palms of their hands. Here are a few examples of home security products that have taken the leap into smart home territory through integration with smartphones:
Multi-camera security systems have long been considered the most effective form of home security. Systems from companies like Defender USA and Q-See are capable of monitoring every inch of a home and recording all the footage to a DVR for playback. Wireless technology has made these traditionally intimidating devices much more approachable for DIY consumers, as they no longer require an electrician to install. And while Wi-Fi enabled cameras like Dropcam get all the press, due to their cloud storage and instant playback via web and smartphones, today, even “traditional” surveillance systems come equipped with remote viewing software. This allows the homeowner to network the DVR with the Internet and view live video feeds, receive instant email alerts and watch recorded footage from anywhere in the world, via a smartphone app.
Defender’s ClearVu app allows homeowners to monitor their multi-channel surveillance system from their smartphone.
Security Systems and Sensors
Smart home security can integrate surveillance with knowledge and control, via sensors. Sensors are an integral part of any home automation system, and security is no exception. Smart sensors such as Quirky’s Wink Spotter Sensor ($40) will send alerts to a smartphone when they have been activated by motion, sound, light, temperature and humidity, allowing homeowners to cut out the expensive middleman and monitor from their smartphone.
Wi-Fi enabled cameras such as Canary also incorporate motion sensors, humidity and air quality sensors, along with a 90-decibel siren. Billed as an all-in-one security device, Canary’s smartphone app allows a homeowner to view a live feed, see a timeline of past recordings triggered by events such as motion, and view the homes’ “health”—readings of temperature, humidity and air quality. The alarm component is particularly interesting, as it relies on the homeowner to trigger it, eliminating the risk of false alarms. However, the homeowner needs to be available 24/7 to receive those alerts.
For the more traditional-minded (or less available, world-traveling) security seeker, companies such as Tattletale are producing wireless portable alarm security systems that can be self-installed and include monitoring. Combined with Tattletale’s door and window sensors, integrated smoke detectors, glass break alarms and motion sensors, homeowners can essentially replicate an expensive monitored home security system for a starting price of $499 and a monthly fee lower than most traditional security firms ($29.99), with no long-term contract. These systems can also be armed, disarmed and monitored from a smartphone.
Tattletale’s smartphone app allows homeowners to arm and disarm their system remotely.
Convenience is the biggest strength of the security/automation marriage. Devices like smart door locks and garage door openers automatically secure the home, removing human memory as a variable. Pre-programmed automation can ensure that doors are locked and garages shut automatically when the homeowner leaves.
Products like Schlage’s Connect Touchscreen Deadbolt lock give a homeowner remote access, so they can lock and unlock their door from anywhere. Similarly, Chamberlain’s MYQ Garage is a smartphone compatible garage door opener that connects a homeowner to his or her garage door remotely, allowing them to know if the door is open or closed, receive alerts about its status and close or open it from anywhere.
Schlage’s Connect lock integrates with HA apps such as Wink and Nexia to allow control via a smartphone.
Lighting & Power
The most basic tenet of home automation is remote light control and device management, both of which have integral roles in home security. Smart lights can be programmed to turn on and off at specified or random times to give the illusion that a home is occupied, and by plugging potentially dangerous devices such as a stove, curling iron or space heater into a smart plug like the Belkin WeMo, a homeowner gains the ability to monitor and control the device remotely, avoiding potentially catastrophic consequences. Similarly, being able to monitor smart smoke alarms and to control temperatures via smart thermostats helps a homeowner adjust their home’s environment to ensure all is safe and secure, wherever they are.
A Smart Future
Combined with smart home security and automation products, smartphones provide a portable window into the home. This makes them the perfect home security accessory—one that's a lot less expensive than a traditional monitored security system yet is always accessible. And as homeowners become more comfortable with smart home security, automating other elements of their home will be a very natural progression.
About Jennifer Tuohy
The tech-savvy Jennifer Tuohy shares her knowledge about the latest technologies for the home. She give advice on subjects that range from "House sitting from anywhere in the world" to "How to turn an old phone into a security system." To view some of the home security and alarm systems that Jennifer talks about in this article, visit homedepot.com