Judging by the popularity of our last home surveillance article, it seems quite a lot of you are increasingly worried about the security of your home. Whether that fear is justified or not, it’s always a good idea to take precautions and be ready.
Read on as we examine technological tools and tips that you can employ to both protect your home, and help deal with the fallout should the worst ever happen.
As ever, please don’t take this as legal advice. Check local laws first.
Home Surveillance & Offsite Backup
Let’s get this one out the way first as it remains a strong deterrent to any determined intruders. We did a group test of various computer based surveillance packages before (and an update here from 2 more surveillance solutions), so read that to find out the best packages.
Your main choice will be between spending on a “proper” outdoor network based camera, or DIYing a solution with an old webcam, as well as how many cameras to place. Whatever you choose, be sure to make outdoor cameras obvious so as to actually act as a deterrent – a flashing red LED, placing the camera in clear view from the front (the front of the house is best).
You might want to set up additional cameras inside your house in the home office or hallway, as most burglars won’t be expecting internal cameras in a residential zone. At least you might be able to catch them.
Obviously, if the criminals do get inside and take equipment, you’ll be glad if you used a cloud-based solution rather than saving to a local drive. At the very least, hide your surveillance data drive in the loft or somewhere otherwise inaccessible, with a long USB cable.
Track Your Devices
For Apple devices, go and check right now that each is linked to your iCloud account, and enable tracking via the Find My iPhone service. If your iPad or iPhone are then taken, you’ll be able to quickly locate the stolen goods assuming the thieves are stupid enough not to take out the SIM cards. I’m not just saying this based on theory – my wife’s iPhone was stolen, and we got it back.
For other devices including laptops, we suggest setting up Prey. Once triggered and assuming its connected to the Internet, the device will take periodic pictures and screenshots of the thief and post them back to you, as well as attempt to figure out the location from detected wifi networks.
Home Automation, Or Just Timer Switches
Criminals are cowards, so most will only attack homes that are obviously vulnerable or where they’re unlikely to meet the home owner. With that in mind, the easiest home defence is just to make it look like you’re at home. Mechanical or electronic timer switches are inexpensive and can be attached to radios, TV and floor lamps to give the impression of someone still being there.
Fake Defence Systems, With An Arduino
Arduinos are wonderful little devices, and when combined with a simple distance sensor hidden in a flower pot or a more elaborate motion sensor, you could rig them up to trigger the sound of a barking dog (make sure it’s a long recording with variety), turn lights on in the bedroom, or even the sound of a shotgun being cocked (OK, maybe not that one, but you get the point).
Wire up some servo motors and you could even go all Home Alone on their burgling a**.
OK – so if you were to get burgled, just imagine the stress of trying to figure out exactly what was taken and how much it was worth! That’s where a home inventory system comes in useful. Simply take pictures of your devices and scan the receipts for everything you own – many insurance companies refuse to cover losses that you can’t actually prove you owned in the first place. You don’t need to use a scanner for receipts – most camera phones offer sufficient quality nowadays.
Just get into the habit of keeping receipts and photograph them immediately. You probably already do this anyway if you’re self-employed. With any luck, you’ll never need your inventory at all. But, like your scouting guidebook said, be prepared!
There are specialized home inventory apps to do this which will let you print out customized lists according the insurer’s specifications, but honestly the free Evernote is more than up to the task. Create an Inventory notebook and add a new note for each item.
Do you have any more ideas on how technology can protect your home and help you deal when the worst happens? Share them in the comments and I’ll throw a few points your way!