Smart home technology can do a lot more than just turning on the lights and unlocking the front door. With a smart home security system, your technology can protect your home, family, and belongings.
According to recent statistics from the FBI, there’s a home burglary every 18.2 seconds in the United States. That’s plain scary.
A home security system is something most homeowners want in their home. But the high costs, exorbitant monthly fees, and consumer-unfriendly tactics like three-year contracts could easily turn many away from the technology.
Along with the rise of smart home technology, security systems have taken a turn for the better, and there are a number of DIY options that almost anyone with a little technical knowledge can install.
Let’s take a look a closer look at the technology, including two popular modular options, and see if a smart security system is worth checking out.
What Is a Home Security System?
Even the most techno-phobic person out there is probably familiar with the run-of-the-mill home security system. There are a number of different devices that can be placed throughout a house, including motion sensors, door contact sensors, and others.
Many times, the sensors use wires for data and power, and an installer will need to spend a nice amount of time stringing wires through walls, attics, and elsewhere. And if you’re renting a home or apartment, that kind of installation could easily be off limits.
All sensors connect to the system’s control panel. When leaving your house, you arm the system. And when you return, disarming is done by entering a code or pressing a button. When active, if a break-in occurs, a signal is sent to a professional monitoring station. A trained monitor then calls the authorities with no user intervention needed.
But there are more than a few downsides to using the traditional route. There are often high upfront costs to pay for both the equipment and installation.
The fun doesn’t end there either. Alarm companies are known for a number of consumer-unfriendly tactics like a high monthly fee for the service, sometimes $40 or more. Subscribers sometimes must enter into a long contract term: 24 or 36 months. If you want to cancel the service during that period, you’ll usually need to pay a very high termination fee.
While many subscribers have no problem with those trade-offs, there are many potential customers who have decided that these issues are too much hassle, even though they want to be protected from burglaries.
Adding a Dose of Smarts
But smart home technology has made it much easier for anyone to secure their home without the disadvantages of a professionally monitored system.
Smart home popularity, in large part, has taken off thanks to wireless technology — both Wi-Fi to carry data and other wireless communications protocols for devices to communicate with each other and home hubs like Zigbee and Z-Wave.
That has also made smart home security much more practical.
Even though there are a number of options to select from, any smart home security system is more than likely completely wireless and is controllable from your smartphone. A phone acts as a modern-day take on the control panel, and it’s always with you. The wireless nature also opens up the playing field for renters.
Most systems are also modular, meaning you can purchase as many, or as few pieces as you want to install in your home. Let’s take a look at two popular options on the market (Scout and iSmartAlarm) and see if the technology is what you’ve been looking for.
A classic DIY smart home security option, the iSmartAlarm started out as a crowdfunded option and hit the market in late 2014. The ecosystem has grown considerably since then. You can jump in with a starter kit ($149/£127) designed for small homes and apartments. That package includes the hub, which acts as the “brains” of the system and also sports a built-in and ear-splitting 110db alarm to scare off any intruders. Also included is a motion sensor, contact sensor for a door or window, and a remote to automatically activate or deactivate the system.
After attaching the hub to your wireless router, anyone with basic home improvement knowledge can get all of the other parts installed quickly and easily. All of the sensors receive power from batteries and talk to the hub wirelessly.
Along with the remote, you can also arm and disarm the system using the companion app. During a break-in, you’ll receive a notification on your smartphone. For further peace of mind, the system can also send an automated SMS, phone call, or even an email notification. It will also notify you if the hub ever loses power or an internet connection.
If you’re looking to add on or spend a bit more, there are a number of other packages available or add-on devices including surveillance cameras, satellite sirens, and more. There are no monthly fees or contracts to sign to use the system.
Scout is an interesting combination of smart home security technology and some perks of a traditionally-monitored system. The minimal hardware to run the system costs $198 and includes a hub and a door panel, two key fobs, and a RFID sticker that can be used to arm or disarm the system. A starter pack that also includes a motion detector and two contact sensors is only a little more costly at $320.
All of the sensor hardware is easy to install and receives power from batteries. If you have an Amazon Echo at your home, control is also available through an Alexa voice command.
Additional components are also available to purchase separately. Adding a new sensor onto an existing system just takes a few minutes using the app.
While there are no contracts to sign, you’ll need to pay an additional monthly fee for the monitoring portion. Unlike the iSmartAlarm, Scout offers a backup battery during power outages and a 4G LTE backup to communicate if needed. That’s a big plus, but you’ll need to decide if it’s worth the extra cost.
There are two different plans to select from. The $9.99 per month option provides basic notification options to your phone and control through a companion app.
For $19.99 monthly, the Scout will also be monitored by a UL-certified monitoring station that can contact authorities if necessary with no input from the user.
Some Possible Risks
Even though smart home security has come a long way, there are definitely some risks to consider.
The first, and biggest, risk is the do-it-yourself nature of the technology itself. While options like the iSmartAlarm and Scout system offer complete installation instructions, there’s always a chance you could make some type of mistake and the systems won’t activate during an intrusion.
With professionally installed systems, you’re sure to know that everything is working as it should.
Another issue is that, in most instances, you’ll need to monitor the system yourself. If someone breaks in during the middle of the night — and you’re out of town on vacation — you’ll have to actually be awake, hear the notification, and then notify the authorities. The Scout Always On+ option offers professional monitoring but does cost $10 per month more than the basic plan. But for the extra piece of mind, paying the additional fee is probably worth it for most people.
Finally, there are also a number of other smaller, inexpensive gadgets on the market that can protect your home for much less. But those may not be as reliable.
While we focused on two popular smart home security systems, there are a number of other great choices on the market including SimpleSafe, Abode, and others.
Even though smart home security isn’t perfect, it offers a great option for anyone looking to protect their belongings, and more importantly their family, from break-ins.
Have you ever considered installing a smart home security system? Let us know in the comments.