Bold Advice

How “Smart” Is Your Home Security?

February 13, 2018

Smart security is quickly becoming not just an option but a given when prospects consider a new apartment or condo. Overall, smart devices for the home fall into five basic categories: climate control, consumer electronics, energy and water control, lighting controls, and — last but not least — safety and security. For homeowners, the growing desire is for devices in each category to interact and communicate with each other on a single platform, rather than to operate in isolation, on their own. That being said, security continuously tops the list of reasons driving consumer interest in building a smarter home.

Within the security category, here are some of the more requested devices, along with some tips on how to best shop for and use them:

Smart lighting. Lighting will not always guarantee protection against intruders and vandals, but — just like back in the day — whatever you can do to suggest live human activity can contribute as a deterrent. These days, you can rely on smart switches and personalized schedules (operated from your app on your smartphone). The way to play it: indoor lights should go off and on in different rooms as the day (or especially the night) progresses. Create a schedule that mimics your usual night activity while you are home. If you’re using outdoor lights, make sure they’re only on at night. Having them on during the day is an almost sure sign that nobody’s home.

Smart window shades. It’s great to be able to raise and lower window shades from your phone app, from anywhere. However, leaving your shades up during the day won’t necessarily fool a burglar into thinking that you’re home. Leave them lowered (or semi-lowered) while you’re away; otherwise, the burglar will be able to get a close-up view of what you have for them to steal.

Smart video monitoring. The market is becoming crowded with security cameras and intricate video security systems. That means they’re getting more  affordable and user friendly. However, you still want to shop carefully and make sure your choice is going to do the job. Here’s what you should keep in mind: make sure the camera offers high resolution (720p is standard these days, but higher is better); the field of view (left to right) should be as wide as possible, not narrow or minimized; make sure the system has night vision capabilities; read user reviews to be certain that the phone apps they connect to are reliable; find out how much cloud storage will be offered to you (of course, the more, the better); find out the security/privacy policy of the company — you don’t want your private life being exposed to hackers. A good rule of thumb: the bigger and more well known the company, the better.

Keyless locks. You just need to get used to the notion that a keyless lock can actually perform better than an old-fashioned deadbolt. How? Keyless locks can send you alerts and keep track of who is entering and leaving your property. They can also email “keys” to guests (per your permission), including children and service workers. Ultimately, they can take care of locking the door if you forgot, or if you are far away. Most of them run on batteries, so test and replace them often. Not all smart locks work the same way — some work with fingerprints or sensory motion; some obey spoken commands or only function with a phone app.

Smart doorbells. The very best include two-way audio/video functions, snapshot capability, motion sensing, cloud recording, night vision, and are able to work seamlessly with other smart devices.

Smart mailboxes. Package theft is on the increase; one solution is to consider lockboxes and secure parcel drops that can either replace your current mailbox or be activated specifically for deliveries. There are a number of options on the market, but if you receive packages from the United States Postal Service (USPS), be sure the drop box you install is USPS-approved. Smart options include considerations for package size and type of locks. Also consider weather resistant and corrosion-resistant boxes.

Keep this general checklist in mind before leaving home:

  • Check and test your batteries, especially for your smoke and fire alarms.
  • Make sure any apps or software are updated to the most current version.
  • Set your motion sensors to “maximum,” especially if you are accustomed to keeping the sensors low while you are at home.
  • Free your lenses of dust, cobwebs, or any other obstructions to a clear view.
  • Check that you have a good, solid, dependable WiFi connection, or that it can be monitored and checked while you’re away.
  • Don’t depend completely on smart technology. Ask a trusted friend or neighbor to check in on your home periodically.
  • If you use a live monitoring service, make sure that they are updated with your latest mobile device and phone number.

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