Today we embark on a new 12 part (monthly) series exploring a number of different steps you can take to create the smartest home on your block. Along the way, we’ll consider topics comprising the 3 pillars of a smart home: Safety and Security, Comfort and Convenience, and Energy and Efficiency. We’ll also explore a variety of great products from several top smart home vendors for you to consider, as well as offer sound and helpful advice for things like smart home integration and choosing the best products to meet your unique needs. Remember, creating the smartest home around isn’t about owning and installing the greatest number of individual smart home products, it’s about choosing the right mix of products to fully and most efficiently meet your own specific requirements. Read on for part one in our series, exploring front door security with the help of a smart video camera.
Step One: Basic Front Door Security
The first step we’ll take toward creating the smartest smart home on your block addresses the key smart home pillar of Safety and Security. Here we specifically want to explore front door security with the help of a single smart camera to keep track of who’s coming, who’s going, and who might just be snooping around. There are a number of useful options available to help keep your home safe and secure at it’s main entry point, from wired-in systems (complete with hard drives and monitors), to easier to install setups like the Ring Video Doorbell. What you must first ask yourself is this: What type of front door camera will best suit my needs?
Meeting Your Needs
Do you require features like two-way communication, cloud-based recording, and an HD video camera? If so, there are several great options for you to choose from. However, at this early stage, I would suggest that it’s best to keep things simple—at least from a hardware standpoint. Thankfully, many of today’s top smart home security cameras provide a wide variety of features without being overly complex or bogged down with additional components. Some of the best products today are from brands like Ring, August, D-Link, and Nest. These companies have a reputation for providing simple, straightforward devices that are packed to the brim with useful functionality. Others still, such as Arlo and Swann, offer a wide range of smart home security camera systems that in many cases can get much more complex (including some with as many as 8 individual cameras), but we’ll save those beefier security camera systems for a future installment in this series.
Key Features to Look For in a Front Line Security Camera
A few key features to look for when choosing a smart security camera for your front door area include the following:
- Full HD Video – For getting the cleanest and clearest possible view of whoever’s visiting your home (or trespassing on your property), full HD video is a must!
- Two-Way Audio Communication – Whether it’s merely the mailman dropping off a package, or an unknown prowler to be confronted, you’ll be glad to have two-way audio communication whether you’re at home or on the road. Better still, the individual you’re confronting will think you’re at home when they hear your voice addressing them, and if evil is their intention, they won’t stick around for long once they know they’re detected.
- Night Vision Sensors – It’s difficult to see in the dark, but not for cameras with infrared night vision built right in. If nighttime prowlers are a concern around your property, night vision capabilities are sure to come in handy.
- Motion Detection Sensors – Better than recording constantly, motion detection sensors allow your camera to record whenever movement is detected. In many cases, this also triggers a text based notification to be sent to your mobile device, thus alerting you to potential front yard prowlers.
- Instant Alerts – Great when you’re not at home, text or e-mail notifications let you know right away when someone is visiting or snooping. This gives you the opportunity to quickly assess the situation and react accordingly. When you know what’s happening early on, it’s easier to plan your next move.
- All-Weather Durability – This is Canada, after all, and it can get seriously cold at times. You don’t want to spend your hard earned money on a system that crashes in the cold or can’t stand up to a little bit of torrential rain.
- Easy Installation – No matter how good a security camera is, you may wish you hadn’t bothered at all if installation is a long series of headaches and misadventures. Look for a brand and model that’s known for having a simple and straightforward installation process and you’ll be very happy you did.
- Device Compatibility – Whether you’re an Android user, and iOS devotee, or you prefer a tablet running the Windows 10 operating system, you need your security system to work with you, not against you. Many systems are compatible with a variety of different devices, but always be sure to check for device compatibility before you go and buy one.
- Cloud Based Recording – Some systems have it; some don’t. Make sure you learn which type of video recording your preferred security camera has before finalizing your decision. Other possible options include external hard drive recording, a Micro SD card built right into the camera itself, or Wi-Fi recording to your smart device.
A Few Excellent Options
Most people just starting out in the pursuit of a super smart home will probably want to go with something basic and straightforward for their front door security. If this sounds like you, you really can’t go wrong with the Ring Wi-Fi Video Doorbell 2. Aside from great features like two-way communication and full HD video, this doorbell/camera combo also has motion detection (with instant mobile alerts), built-in infrared night vision (for around the clock visibility), and compatibility with a variety of different computers and devices (including, but not limited to, Android and iOS based devices, and tablets with the Windows 10 operating system). It’s also quick and easy to install and provides you with a Live View feature that allows you to see who’s ringing your bell no matter where (or when) you may be. Add to that a rechargeable battery that’s quick and easy to detach and recharge, as well as an all-weather design that can operate in temperatures ranging from -20C to +40C, and you’ve got all the front door security camera you’re ever going to need regardless of your individual circumstances.
If an overhead camera better suits your style, you could opt to go with the D-Link Vigilance Full HD Outdoor Vandal-Proof PoE Dome Security Camera. This camera offers a 96 degree viewing angle with 2 megapixels of full 1080p High Definition video (featuring vibrant colours in a variety of lighting conditions thanks to its highly sensitive CMOS sensor). Also included are motion detection, night vision, e-mail alerts of recorded activity, and a built-in 802.3af compliant Power over Ethernet module for single cable installation. This camera is also highly durable, featuring an IK10 vandal-proof housing and an IP66 weatherproof rating, making it an ideal option for your front door/porch security camera.
Another doorbell option is the August Wi-Fi Video Doorbell Cam Pro. This full-colour HD video camera is equipped with everything you need to keep the front of your home under surveillance. Among its key features are the ability to speak with whoever’s come-a-knocking; the ability to see who’s there whether you’re in the bathroom, across town, or half way around the world; and the ability to see visitors clearly after dark thanks to its handy built-in floodlight. What’s more, the August Video Doorbell can even be paired with an August Smart Lock to allow for remote operation. In other words, you can allow visitors to enter your home when you’re not there by unlocking the door remotely. Now that is a cool feature!
As I hope you can see from the above discussion, every journey begins with but a single step. Achieving the smartest home on your block doesn’t require running out and buying a multitude of complex products with which to confuse yourself on the very first day of the year. Start by setting a goal to improve your home’s security, and begin at the beginning of your house—that is, the front door. It’s a great way to kick things off. Once this particular area of vulnerability is shored up, you can then move on to other security concerns and consider related products such as Security Alarms & Sensors and Garage Door Openers, which we’ll explore in greater depth as this series progresses.
And with that in mind, be sure to check back each month as we suggest exciting and helpful ways for you to create the smartest home on your block. Our next instalment, for February 2018, will go live in late January. In the mean time, perhaps you might let us know what you think the most important smart home devices are? We’d love to hear what you think, so please share your thoughts, comments, queries, and/or suggestions in the discussion section below. Thanks for stopping by and we’ll see you in the next instalment!
Check out Best Buy’s other great articles in the 12 months of smart home improvement series.