Once upon a time having a security system or even just some video cameras meant that you either lived in a dodgy neighborhood or you had something really awesome to steal. Today, home security devices are common, inexpensive and can be used for all sorts of things, from watching your dog run around like a maniac while you’re at work to checking in to make sure the kids made it safely home from school.
Thanks to the magic of WiFi, you can even keep an eye on vacation homes or empty rentals if you’re willing to invest a little bit extra to keep the internet going or to upgrade to camera that can connect to your cellular account. Basically, if there’s something you want to see on the regular, a modern smart security camera can handle the job!
What Kind of Smart Cameras Are Available?
There are several major players in the smart security camera space, from easily recognized names like Nest and Ring to lesser known companies like Vimtag. The brands of the cameras don’t matter as much as you might think, but their features sure do. Let’s break it down.
Type of Security Camera
First and foremost, there are several types of cameras lumped in under the security camera header. Those are:
Webcams. These are cameras that you can check in with, but won’t necessarily alert you to movements or unusual sounds. They literally just give you a live feed of whatever you’re pointing them at.
Video Doorbells. Offering a decent view of the porch area, a video doorbell is a great solution if you receive a lot of packages or simply don’t want to get up to answer the door only to be surprised by solicitors. You can interact with people who ring the bell and when placed properly, the camera can alert and record quite a bit of activity within its field of vision.
Indoor Security. True security cameras have a great deal of customization so users can set them up to their exact needs. Some are able to be moved back and forth or up and down based on user input, even remotely. This can give you a better idea of what’s going on in the room.
Outdoor Security. Outdoor security cameras are much like the indoor ones, except that they have more durable housing and may be powered using things like solar panels to keep the maintenance to a minimum. Attach it, point it and forget it until it wakes you up at 2 am because someone is walking their dog down the street in front of your house.
Important Points to Ponder
Choosing a camera type is just the beginning. There are several features bundled with cameras that you may find incredibly valuable. Before you buy, check off these important points:
Power Source and Connectivity. Does your camera need a power plug? Can it draw power from existing wiring or will you need to upgrade to make it work? Furthermore, can it connect to the Internet using your WiFI or does it run on your cellular network?
What’s the App Like? Each camera company will have an app that’s slightly different. Check them out in your Android or Apple store before choosing a camera. It’s important that you can use the software without a lot of headaches.
Feed Type. There are generally two types of feeds that come with smart home security cameras: live or triggered. The live feeds are going to always show you what’s happening when you decide you want to take a peek. Triggered feeds record based on detected movement or sound, only giving you a picture of what was happening during that time. Many devices offer both, but if your eye is on a camera with a single option, choose the one you think you’ll use more.
Storage / Subscription Offerings. Your new camera probably comes with the option to use some amount of the company’s cloud storage for your video. Generally, packages are set up based on the length of time a video is saved, with options like 24 hours, a week, two weeks and a month being quite common. There’s no set price point between different companies, so be sure you’re comfortable with what they’re charging before buying the camera since you can’t use them on platforms other than the one owned by the parent company.
Smarter Features. Cameras like the Nest IQ series have advanced features that teach them the people who come and go from your home regularly. Instead of getting a generic alert that someone is on the property, you’ll be told that your friend Bob is there. Features like this save a lot of time spent guessing who might be lurking around your home.
Some of the smarter cameras are also Alexa, Google Home or Apple HomeKit enabled. If you’re already using smart home products, make sure the camera you choose matches the smart home devices you have in place.
Help! These Smart Cameras Have Outsmarted Me!
Having smart cameras around the house that you use regularly can be a whole different experience from installing them. In fact, often the install is the hardest part, though most are meant to be able to be integrated by the adventurous homeowner.