How to choose the best smart home security gadgets
If you’re going on holiday, or are just out at work all day, you might be tempted to buy some smart home security – here’s what you need to know.
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.
Read more about smart home security:
- How secure are your smart home devices?
- How to supercharge your smart home
- On the lookout: three top home security cameras tested
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.
More like this
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.
How important are HomeKit, Alexa and Google Assistant?
This matters more if you’re buying devices piece by piece, as you’ll want a certain amount of interoperability to keep things running and reduce the number of apps.
My advice is to choose the system that best works for your home, and worry about the rest later. Luckily, many major systems support both assistants anyway.
If you’re a die-hard Apple user, you can build a decent security system around its HomeKit platform, thanks to a growing number of individual devices that play nicely.
Are there a lot of ongoing fees?
There can be. Most systems offer a level of service for free, but some will require monthly payments to let you store video footage in the cloud or access special features like person detection.
You don’t need all the bells and whistles, but you should consider paying for professional monitoring if your system supports it, so you can dispatch the authorities if needed.
Paying for cellular backup is also worth it, in case your Wi-Fi goes down.
Our picks of smart home security gadgets should help keep your belongings safe
Ring Video Doorbell 4
Ring has one of the best video doorbells. The top feature is the rechargeable battery, so you don’t have to wire it into the wall (although you can if you’d prefer), along with the ability to see and talk to any visitors through the mobile app. There’s motion detection too and, handily, infrared night vision.
You can also add a 'Ring Protection Plan' adding a host of extra features like the ability to record, view and share the moments you weren't watching. When you buy the doorbell, you get a 30-day free trial for the service.
Google Nest Cam
The Google Nest Cam is another popular smart security gadget. It can be installed inside or out and offers a 24/7 video feed. This is in 1080p HD with an 130° view. Along with being weatherproof and having a two way mic system for conversations, it is also battery-powered and very easy to install.
Arlo Pro 4 wireless camera
As far as smart security cameras go, the Arlo Pro 4 is hard to beat for indoor and outdoor use. It is wireless and weatherproof, and offers crisp 2K HRD, a 12x zoom and an 160° field of view. It also has a built-in siren, spotlight and a two-way audio so you can yell at approaching intruders.
Eufy Security 5-piece Home Alarm Kit
For overall value-for-money, you'll find it tricky to find a better option that Eufy and its full smart home kit. It doesn't cost as much as its competitors but in this kit you'll get a keypad, motion sensor, 2 entry sensors, a home alarm system, and be able to control it all from Eufy's app. While this doesn't include any cameras, the 3 different sensors will allow you to cover the key entry points to your house easily.
If you find yourself wanting a camera down the line, you can easily purchase one from Eufy and add it into your kit without much work. In fact, like most other security systems, you can keep adding parts to your Eufy security plan.
The clue is in the name: SimpliSafe’s security system is a breeze to install and use. There’s a heap of different bundles to choose from, or you can build a custom package from scratch, starting with cameras and moving up to panic buttons and glass-break sensors. Professional monitoring costs a monthly fee, but SimpliSafe still works as a local alarm without it.
- Buy now from Simplisafe (£278.96)
Read more about gadgets:
- Kitchen tech: 15 of the best kitchen gadgets to express your inner culinary genius
- The best budget smart watches under £100