Many are part of the trend towards “smart homes” with internet-connected doorbells, lighting, voice assistants and so on. Most of these technologies are classed as internet of things (IoT) devices.
Technology has moved quickly. Today, you can stick small, battery-powered digital cameras almost anywhere, and access them via a smartphone app. They can turn themselves on when they detect motion, and automatically upload clips to the cloud. Amazon’s Blink at £149.99 (Check current price) is a prime example of this sort of system.
But remember, real home security still has more physical components than electronic ones. When I’m away from home, it is reassuring to access camera images remotely and see that everything is OK. However, if there’s a burglar in your living room, the system has already failed. It might have been better to spend the money on, say, window locks than on security cameras.
The good news is that the number of domestic burglaries in England and Wales has declined from its peak of 2,445,000 in 1993 to 411,536 in the year ending March 2017, according to the Office for National Statistics. Since thefts are often opportunistic, even small increases in security can discourage burglars, and smart devices have undoubtedly contributed positively to this trend.
Also see: How to Secure Your Home Wi-Fi in the UK
There is also a legal aspect these days. If you install CCTV, it should only capture images within your own property: your home and your garden. If it captures images from private properties or the public street for example, then the UK’s data protection laws – the Data Protection Act 2018 and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – apply. As the ICO explains, this requires you to put up signs saying that CCTV is in operation and handle data securely. If you’ve captured images of your neighbours, for example, they can ask to see them, and ask you to delete them.
When it comes to home security, it varies greatly depending on where you live and how secure you feel that your home needs to be.
One way to find out about the threat level in your areas is by typing your postcode into the Burglary Hotspots page at Moneysupermarket.com. This is based on the number of insurance claims per postcode, rather than the number of burglaries. However, I’d assume that most burglaries are reported because people may need a crime reference number to make an insurance claim.
If you are looking to move, you can review your security. In some areas, you can get a crime prevention officer to visit your home and provide advice. You may also want to join a Neighbourhood Watch scheme. Either way, it’s a good idea to introduce yourself to your new neighbours and ask them to keep an eye out for intruders. You will, of course, do likewise.
Most police forces offer security advice online, and there are some good general resources. Examples include Which?, the Consumers’ Association, Age UK and Moneysupermarket.com. Preventive measures range from putting lights on timers to planting protective hedges.
Tech security options
Neos are a home insurance company that sell the Neos SmartCam, they say it will get fewer claims if its customers use monitoring devices. Its neat feature is “auto-arming”, where it will turn itself on if other devices suggest no one is at home. That should apply if you leave home with your smartphone, taking it out of range of your wifi.
There are plenty of options to choose from, dozens of smartcams with sophisticated features such as lens rotation and zooming. Tip: Some cameras may use default passwords – which you should always change – or run the much higher risk of being hacked.
Alternatively, instead of shopping around for separate devices, you could buy an integrated, expandable kit. You could either install this yourself or hire a professional. One major advantage is that everything can be controlled from the same smartphone app.
An example is the Yale IA-320, which works with Yale smart locks and separate Amazon Alexa devices. The six-piece Family Kit (£235.68) includes an internal alarm, two motion detectors, a keypad and an external bell box with 104db siren – see the installation video.
Also there is the Honeywell’s RCHS5230WF starter kit (£248.32). Unlike Yale’s system, this is built around a base station that has an HD camera, motion detection, a siren and a built-in Alexa smart speaker – see video. The kit includes two wireless door/window sensors, and a small controller. As usual, there’s a companion smartphone app and a limited amount of cloud storage. You will need to pay if you want more storage.
Users who don’t have usable or reliable broadband could consider a JC Wireless kit (£83.99) that can be used with a 3G or 4G network, though it works over wi-fi as well.
Finally, it would be a good idea to talk to your local crime prevention officer, and to your home insurance provider, which may offer discounts if you install certain products. Ultimately, it is up to you how much you are willing to invest on securing your home. We hope this article has been of benefit to you and if you have any other recommendations please let us know.
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