In­truder alert! The best smart home se­cu­rity cam­eras

The Guardian Australia - - Science / Technology - Sa­muel Gibbs

The days of alarms and flood­lights be­ing the only choice for home se­cu­rity are be­hind us with the grow­ing avail­abil­ity of more in­tel­li­gent and flex­i­ble op­tions, such as smart cam­eras.

Placed out­side or within the home, these in­ter­net-con­nected cam­eras of­fer a live view of what’s hap­pen­ing from prac­ti­cally any­where, send alerts when they de­tect mo­tion – and some can even recog­nise friend from foe. They prom­ise full con­trol and piece of mind through your smart­phone, tablet or smart dis­play.

If some­thing sus­pi­cious is hap­pen­ing, you can fire off an alarm, alert the po­lice or even shout at the in­truder straight through the cam­era, all while record­ing their ev­ery move.

Ring Flood­light Cam

£249

The Ring Flood­light Cam com­bines, as the name might sug­gest, two ar­tic­u­lated LED flood­lights and a cam­era in one de­vice, which make it per­fect for re­place­ment of tra­di­tional se­cu­rity lights in the back gar­den.

Larger and more ca­pa­ble than its bat­tery-driven si­b­lings, the Flood­light Cam comes in black or white but re­quires wiring into the mains, most prob­a­bly by an elec­tri­cian. Once that hur­dle is over­come, setup is straight­for­ward us­ing the Ring app on a smart­phone or tablet.

You can ac­ti­vate a live stream at any time through the app, but it’s the mo­tion-ac­ti­vated smart alerts that are the main draw. You can set mo­tion zones, fil­ter alerts by size of ob­ject or just peo­ple, the time of day or day of the week.

You can also con­fig­ure whether to trig­ger the flood­lights, and there’s a loud siren built into it for good mea­sure. Not that the foxes in­vad­ing my back gar­den paid any at­ten­tion to ei­ther. The cam­era is weath­er­proof and comes with two-year theft pro­tec­tion, in case some­one is brazen enough to un­screw it from your wall. The lights can be turned on man­u­ally too.

The cam­era records up to 1080p video and has a wide 270-de­gree field of view, dig­i­tal zoom and night vi­sion, and you can talk through the cam­era via the app. You get live view and alerts for free, but cloud record­ing costs £2.50 a month for 60 days of event record­ing.

Ver­dict: The Ring Flood­light Cam has bright lights, a good su­per­wide-an­gle cam­era and a siren mak­ing for a good de­ter­rent, but wiring it in re­quires a bit more than DIY.

Nest Cam IQ

In­door: £299; out­door: £329

The smartest cam­era here is also one of the most ex­pen­sive. Google’s Nest Cam IQ is a wired cam­era avail­able in both in­door and out­door vari­ants. Both ver­sions need plug­ging into the mains, which lim­its where you can put them com­pared to bat­tery-pow­ered prod­ucts. But it also means you get the best-in-class cam­era, which cap­tures up to 1080p video in HDR, a good 130de­gree field-of-view and night vi­sion.

The in­door Nest Cam IQ is a rel­a­tively at­trac­tive lol­lipop-style cam­era with wifi built in, which can be wall or ceil­ing mounted, but most will prob­a­bly just put it on a book­shelf or some­thing sim­i­lar. The out­door ver­sion is shaped like a large spot­light and is screwed into the wall on a ro­tat­ing, an­gled bracket. An in­door plug comes with it, meant to be threaded through the wall into the back of the cam­era, but a weath­er­proof al­ter­na­tive is avail­able to buy for £49 if needed.

With­out a Nest Aware sub­scrip­tion you get live video feeds, mo­tion alerts and three hours of im­age snap­shots of events in the Nest app on your smart­phone or tablet.

Things get a lot smarter with a £4 per month 5-day Nest Aware sub­scrip­tion, adding con­tin­u­ous cloud record­ing, not just mo­tion events, which makes it the best here for cap­tur­ing ev­ery­thing that hap­pens in­doors or out­side.

You also get smarter de­tec­tion of events, ac­tiv­ity zones, clips and time lapses in the app, bril­liant mo­tion gif alerts, and face recog­ni­tion.

By tag­ging faces with names as they’re de­tected you can get the cam­era to recog­nise whether a friend or fam­ily mem­ber has shown up rather than a stranger. It worked well af­ter un­der­go­ing a bit of train­ing to spot that me with glasses on, me with a hat and me buck­ling un­der the weight of Christ­mas shop­ping were all the same per­son.

You can talk through the cam­era via the app, or even ac­cess Google As­sis­tant by say­ing “Hey, Google” to the in­door ver­sion of the cam­era like one of Google’s smart speak­ers.

Ver­dict: It’s ex­pen­sive, but if you need high-qual­ity con­tin­u­ous mon­i­tor­ing, the Nest Cam IQ is the smartest of smart cam­eras.

Log­itech Cir­cle 2

£199

The Log­itech Cir­cle 2 series of cam­eras that start at £169 for wired, or £199 for bat­tery-pow­ered, prove that fea­ture packed flex­i­bil­ity needn’t be com­pli­cated.

The lit­tle globe-shaped cam­era is sim­ple to set up and use. Open the Log­itech Cir­cle app on your phone, con­nect the cam­era to wifi, place the cam­era some­where and you’re good to go – no need for an­other box or sub­scrip­tion.

You get 24 hours of cloud stor­age with video down­loads and smart alerts free, plus a good 30-sec­ond sum­mary of the day’s ac­tion in the app. If you want more it’s £2.99 a month for 14-day cloud stor­age.

The Cir­cle 2 is flex­i­ble too. Be­ing weath­er­proof, it can be used in­doors or out, has night vi­sion, a 180-de­gree field of view and streams up to 1080p video. The cam­era bit un­screws from the back mak­ing swap­ping be­tween mains and bat­tery easy, while a va­ri­ety of mounts mean you can stick it just about any­where, in­clud­ing on the in­side of a win­dow look­ing out. It even proved durable enough to sur­vive a cou­ple of falls from my ban­nis­ter, knocked off in the blus­ter of Christ­mas prepa­ra­tions.

The bat­tery lasts around a month when placed in a hall­way, or longer if there are fewer events to record, and you can talk through it to who­ever comes call­ing us­ing the app on your smart­phone.

Ver­dict: The Log­itech Cir­cle 2 is sim­ple, flex­i­ble and adapt­able, mak­ing it great for those who don’t want to mess around with more ad­vanced and costly sys­tems.

Arlo Pro 2

£347

The Arlo Pro 2 con­sists of a bat­tery-pow­ered cam­era, which can also be plugged in, and a base sta­tion with a siren and lo­cal record­ing ca­pa­bil­ity that con­nects to your router via eth­er­net.

At first the re­quire­ment for a base sta­tion was ir­ri­tat­ing, but I quickly found out that the ear-split­ting siren makes for a much bet­ter alarm sys­tem. The cam­eras are small and weath­er­proof and can be stuck just about any­where, with var­i­ous mounts avail­able.

What they can do de­pends if they’re

on bat­tery power or not. Plugged in, they of­fer up to three ac­tiv­ity zones cap­tur­ing a rolling three sec­onds be­fore any event, sound de­tec­tion and con­tin­u­ous record­ing. On bat­tery power you’re lim­ited to mo­tion-trig­gered record­ing and alerts, but the bat­tery lasts around two months in medium-ac­tiv­ity zones such as a hall­way or much longer in a back­yard al­ley.

The cam­eras cap­ture up to 1080p video with a 130-de­gree field of view and night vi­sion. You also get three seven-day cloud event record­ings for up to five cam­eras. Pay­ing £6.49 takes that up to 30 days and 10 cam­eras, while £6.99 a month per cam­era will record video 24/7 for 14 days.

The Arlo app is not quite as good as the Ring or Nest app, but still gets the ba­sics right, han­dling setup fairly eas­ily, alerts and live streams.

Ver­dict: They aren’t cheap, but if you need com­pact cam­eras all over your house and gar­den, even in awk­ward po­si­tions, then the Arlo Pro 2 is for you.

Pho­to­graph: Kather­ine Anne Rose for the Ob­server

Get smart (clock­wise from top left): the Log­itech Cir­cle 2; the Ring Flood­light Cam; the ArlaPro 2; and the Nest Cam IQ.

The Ring Flood­light Cam: lights, cam­era,siren…

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