How to choose the best smart home security gadgets – BBC Science Focus Magazine

Protecting your home has never been easier. The smart home security market has exploded over recent years, offering a host of companies that can lock your house down with cameras, alarms, locks and everything you could possibly need to build your own fortress.

Head straight to our top picks of the best smart security systems.

Why would I want a ‘smart’ security system?

Home security no longer means slapping a big, ugly box to the side of your house, nor does it demand an expensive professional to hardwire your new system in place.

The smart home has ushered in a DIY security revolution: you can now build a decent security system in less than 30 minutes, with your smartphone acting as the controller.

Smart home security systems beat traditional ones not just by eliminating hefty installation fees and long-term contracts, but in sheer convenience too.

What do I need to get started?

Smart home security encompasses a wide range of gadgets, from cameras to doorbells, sensors to smoke alarms – but don’t let it overwhelm you. Sure, maybe you want the full Fort Knox, but for the humble homestead a couple of indoor cameras and sensors can do the trick.

Most smart home systems revolve around a hub, which connects to your Wi-Fi and talks to all the other ‘smart’ devices around the house. Cameras and motion sensors are the most common of these, but you can also add water leak sensors, smoke detectors and glass-breaking sensors.

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What’s so smart about them?

Smart systems give you more insight into what’s happening than traditional systems, including notifications on your phone when sensors are triggered, and video clips of any suspect activity taking place.

Using your phone, you can arm/disarm the system remotely, and, if you have any smart locks, lock your doors with the tap of an app. Some smart locks even let you create ‘virtual keys’ so friends and family can enter the home when you’re not there, while cameras and doorbells can be trained to recognise familiar faces and let you know who’s knocking.

Should I buy a package system?

It depends on your setup. Companies like SimpliSafe offer comprehensive systems made of a central hub and a few sensors, with the option to add cameras, key fobs and sirens as desired.

If you’re not sure how many devices you need, look out for ‘starter kits’. These serve as a great jumping-off point, and are often better value than buying individual devices.

And while most smart security systems are designed to keep drill usage and cable-running to a minimum, some do offer professional installation should you still want it.

What if I rent or live in a flat?

Smart home companies are gradually adapting to renters and flat-dwellers. Still, you’ll hit some limitations. For example, an outdoor camera might not be an option in a shared building, and you’ll want to check with your landlord before chopping off the deadbolt for something smarter.

Luckily, some security systems work great for flats too, as do many of the indoor cameras and sensors you can pick up individually. We’re even starting to see smart doorbells that are perfectly designed for apartment living.

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