Keep safe and secure with connected tech
Protect your home the clever way – and use security functions for convenience too
Your home is a sanctuary. it’s where everything important happens. Valuable equipment is smaller, lighter and easier to dispose of than it ever was. Cars, now secured by advanced immobilisation, aren’t hotwired away any more – thieves would sooner dart into your house, take the keys and be gone with your vehicle in seconds. If you happen to be targeted you’ll want to know about it fast, employ the most secure methods you can to fortify your home, and – if worst comes to worst – have the evidence you need to catch the culprit.
Investing in home security kit is about far more than security in the long run. There’s a big layer of convenience to it, a large dash of self-assurance and, mixed with the rest of your smart kit, a vast extension of the bounds of your smart home. So let’s start with the more frivolous side of security. We’re fond of the idea of Bluetooth- or even Wi-Fi-enabled locks, which you can release or secure based on proximity or the touch of a smartphone button. They’re just reaching maturity now. Some look at these devices as insecure because, well, they must be, right? But that’s not necessarily the case – a smart lock is potentially more difficult to crack than the pickable manual variety.
Yale’s Nest × Yale lock, to give one example, is a quick replacement for an existing deadlock, and offers up a keypad into which you can program (and quickly revoke) up to 20 access codes. You can open it by tapping a smart key if your hands are full, or lock it (with an option to do so automatically, should you forget) via the Nest app. There are many more electronic locks with smart functions included, but, as ever, we’d recommend avoiding the cheaper end of the market, as we can’t vouch for the security (or potential bypass methods) of the wave of cheap clones flooding in from the East.
Sound the alarm
Of course, what is security without an alarm? It’s very easy to see why the new crop of smart alarm systems is leagues ahead of the classic sensor-and-siren combination. The old way has plenty of merits, but it’s awkward to install – generally not a DIY job – and once it’s in, you’re pretty much stuck to the network of sensors you’ve installed. A smart alarm can be built upon from the ground up; you can add sensors later, you can (if you pick the right options) tweak the sensors to ignore pets or indeed raise their sensitivity, and in most cases you’ll be able to arm or disarm your security system, or specific zones of it, from an app or web-based interface.
It’s also worth noting that sirens have become so ubiquitous as to be easily ignored. When was the last time you actually investigated an alarm, rather than just being annoyed by it? With a smart alarm, or even something as straightforward as a cheap door or window sensor (see MacFormat #330), you can be alerted to unexpected incursions
straight away – and silently, if you choose. That notification can come directly to your phone or to your email in an instant. Really, anything can be used as an alarm. The outdoor cameras opposite all feature motion sensing, often within a selected region of the picture, so you won’t be alerted to every car driving past. You may end up with a few more false positives, but better to be safe than sorry, right?
Smart systems are advancing the convenience of security, and they’re also advancing its connectivity. You don’t have to be the only one alerted if you collaborate cleverly with your neighbours or friends. Security devices can be repurposed easily for other things while still doing their intended job – triggering lights with the same motion sensors you’re using to monitor your front door, for example, or switching off your heating when a sensor shows a window has been opened. A smart lock doesn’t just secure your front door – it can tell you who’s opened it and when. Perfect if teenagers are slipping in and out at all hours of the night.
Smart tech also gives us access to more sensitive and proactive devices beyond the standard sensors. Samsung’s SmartThings Multipurpose Sensor, for instance, can look out for specific patterns of vibration, meaning it can sound the alarm before anyone can make it through your door. Philips’ Hue Motion sensor could be put to work to flash the lights in your bedroom if it detects any funny business at night, silently rousing you. As ever with smart home tech, it’s the way you put those devices to work that makes the real difference, and that’s a limit that’s only bound by your ingenuity.
More traditional alarms are still viable: Nest Secure ties into an existing Nest setup, for example.
Door and window sensors like Samsung’s can also protect your valuables – or, er, cleaning products – in your home.