What Are the Smart Home or Home Automation Features of Security Systems?
The smart home promises a futuristic home experience where everything you need is just a simple voice command away, even when you’re far from home. There are some very cool gadgets that let you do a lot with home automation, many of which are incorporated into home security systems. These include smart doorbells, smart locks, smart cameras, smart thermostats, smart lights, and smart smoke alarms.
Here’s how each of these home automation devices can work with your home security system.
One of the most common and security-focused components of a smart security system are smart doorbell cameras. These incorporate a small camera in the doorbell button. When someone rings the bell—or approaches the door, depending on the system—the doorbell sends an alert to your phone and activates the camera, letting you see a clear picture of who’s there, no matter where you happen to be.
Smart locks are great not only for security but also for convenience, often allowing you to forego keys entirely. What makes them smart is their ability to communicate with your smartphone via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, allowing you to lock and unlock your door from anywhere. Many also automatically lock and unlock when they detect your phone approaching so that you can come and go without ever having to worry about whether the door is locked.
The second type forgoes the keypad and screen entirely, and it instead relies on an app on your smartphone to handle the locking and unlocking duties. Examples of these include the August Smart Lock and the Lockitron Bolt.
One last thing to be aware of when choosing a smart lock is whether or not it can also accept keys. Some people feel better knowing they have this option, but not all smart locks provide a traditional key slot.
Smart cameras take the traditional security camera concept and turn the dial up to eleven. These cameras incorporate Wi-Fi connections that allow them to be viewed and controlled remotely using a smartphone app. Many can also upload the footage to the Cloud for storage, eliminating the need for a potentially complicated on-site storage setup.
There are a lot of options in this space. Choosing one starts with knowing whether you want indoor or outdoor cameras. The main difference is construction: Outdoor cameras need to survive the elements, which usually means they are bulkier and made from tougher materials like metal. Indoor cameras can be smaller and more discreet, because they aren’t as likely to get beaten up or tampered with.
In either case, features you’ll want to look for include high resolution, a wide field of view, motion detection, and audio recording. Normally we would include Wi-Fi connectivity as an essential feature, but because we’re talking about smart cameras, Wi-Fi is a given.
Many smart home security systems include smart thermostats. These handy devices can help you save energy—which is good for both the environment and your wallet. Like other smart home features, they connect to your home Wi-Fi network and are controlled by an associated app on your smartphone.
The neat thing about many of these thermostats is that they learn your climate preferences—such as if you like it warmer in the morning—and even what times of day you’re home and away. The result is that they can work proactively to keep your home at the most comfortable temperature for you without you having to lift a finger. And they do it all with a high degree of efficiency, reducing energy consumption by 30% or more in some cases. As a final benefit, smart thermostats can send you an alert if the temperature in your home becomes excessively high or low, which could indicate a fire or a pipe freezing risk.
Smart lighting combines convenience and enhanced security. These are Wi-Fi enabled LED lightbulbs that can be controlled from a smartphone app. You can turn the bulbs on or off—either manually or on a schedule—dim the bulbs, and choose their color from a seemingly endless array of hues. And all this can be done from anywhere. You don’t need to worry about whether you remembered to leave a light on before heading out on vacation.
There are a lot of solid choices for smart lighting, but two of the most popular are Philips Hue and Belkin’s WeMo. You can purchase bulbs individually or in starter kits, making for convenient setup. They can seem a little pricey for lightbulbs, but keep in mind that they’re LED bulbs—so they last much longer than conventional incandescent bulbs. Philips rates its Hue bulbs at an average of 15,000 hours.
Smart Smoke Alarms
The last common home automation feature of a security system is the humble smoke alarm. This device takes the traditional smoke alarm and brings it into the digital age, with Wi-Fi connectivity and the ability to communicate and pinpoint exactly where a fire is located. The really nice thing about these alarms is that they can send the alerts to your phone so you can be aware of any issues even when you’re away from home. You can also easily silence them in the event of a false alarm—who hasn’t set off their smoke alarms at least once while cooking?
Top picks in this category include the Nest Protect and the First Alert Onelink. Both detect carbon monoxide in addition to smoke and alert you in a human voice rather than a screeching alarm tone.
The SafeWise team has researched and reviewed security companies from around the nation. Each year we release our annual rankings. Check out our picks below! To read more, including reviews and packages, you can visit our Top Home Security Systems of 2018.