It is estimated that by 2020, there will be about 85 million smart security cameras in the world.
And so, why shouldn’t you have one?!
You have promised yourself a new security camera but before you commit to buying one, you just want to go over all of the pros and cons of owning a security camera.
Advantages of Smart Security Cameras
Reduce Crime/ Acts as a Deterrent
Home security should be taken very seriously because for many of us it is about the safety of our two most valuable possessions- our families and our home.
In this 2013 study, it was found that 40% of burglars select an alternative target if they spot an outdoor security target.
And what about this for a shocking statistic? Homes with no security systems in place are up to 300% more likely to be broken into.
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You can use your cameras to make sure that your children are safe. For instance, you can use the camera to check that they arrived home from school.
You can use your camera to find out more about the secret life of your cat or dog. Just what do they do when you are not at home?
Any footage of a crime that a camera has recorded can be passed on to either the local police or to your insurance company.
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Peace of Mind
Having security cameras in place helps your peace of mind.
They add another layer of protection which helps you to think positively that everything will be “OK”.
Reduce Insurance Costs
Many companies that provide home insurance will offer you discounts if you have security cameras in place.
You can monitor what is happening at home even when you are not there.
Disadvantages of Using Security Cameras
Just like anything else in life, installing security cameras also has its disadvantages.
If you have a smart security camera or two installed in your home, then peoples’ privacy will be invaded because the chances are that they will be caught on camera.
This can be a difficult but necessary conversation to have with your family- particularly teenage children who can be very defensive of their privacy!
As Benjamin Franklin once said “Those who give up liberty for safety deserve neither!”
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Smart security cameras connect to the Internet.
Just like any other Internet device, they need to be set up and used securely, otherwise they can be hacked- meaning that a stranger can view your camera footage.
This is very worrying particularly for cameras that are inside our homes.
Read this for excellent guidance on protection against hackers.
Regardless of how many cameras that you install, they cannot possibly “see” everything.
And so your footage might have captured an important event but only part of it.
Smart Security Cameras- A Short History
Home security has come a long way in recent years.
Whereas once ownership of a CCTV or security camera or system was just for businesses or wealthy individuals, now because the cameras are cheaper and simpler to use many more people can own a smart security camera.
The difficulties involved in owning security cameras have changed.
Whereas once the challenge of owning a CCTV camera used to lie in the setting up and the costs in maintaining it, that is not so now.
The challenge, instead, of the latest generation of smart security cameras is in finding the perfect camera because the choice of makes and models is so enormous and bewildering.
To help you, I have listed 13 features that you should be looking for in your next smart camera.
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Smart Security Cameras- The Future
The smart security camera market is a rapidly evolving one.
New features are being developed all of the time so that companies can keep one step ahead of their rivals and owners can keep one step ahead of burglars.
Apart from stating the obvious- that prices will continue to fall and devices will continue to get smaller, what is the next big step in security cameras?
Although, I think that in the coming year more cameras will offer 4K definition recording and that cloud storage plans will become cheaper (as competition hots up) the biggest next step will be in the power of the software.
All security cameras have motion detection, but they do not identify the object that is moving. You have to do that manually by watching the motion clip.
And speaking from experience, you can waste a lot of time looking at motion clips that are not real security alerts!
Software needs to accurately tell the difference between people, animals and objects.
Most of us are only interested in motion alerts that are people- because people, in the form of strangers, are the real threat.
The Nest IQ is one of the few cameras that uses facial recognition software.
And it is the development of this software that will have a huge impact on the way that we use our cameras because they will be much better at detecting real threats.
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13 Features of the Perfect Smart Security Camera
If you prefer to watch a video of an explanation of these features, then find one below.
1. Launched Date
The smart home market is a fast moving one and new security cameras are being launched on most months.
You want to choose a camera that is less than two years old but that has been available to buy for about 6 months.
This is so that the camera is not old enough to be out of date but that any problems that it might have had when it was very new have been fixed.
One of the best selling and most respected security cameras (Nest Outdoor Cam) was released in June 2016-16 months ago.
There are of course exceptions to this guide.
For instance, if you are an “early adopter” a person who likes to buy a new piece of kit then you obviously will be looking to buy products that have just been launched.
Another exception is the person who knowingly buys an older smart device because they do not necessarily need all of the latest features or because they want to buy a camera that is slightly cheaper.
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2. Night Vision
You need a camera that has night vision otherwise your camera will not work when it is dark!
But how does night vision work?
All smart security cameras use infrared LEDs to provide night vision.
The original Blink security camera used a LED illuminator (a built in motion activated torch) instead of infrared, but the Blink XT does use infrared LEDs.
These LEDs detect heat from moving objects (humans or animals) and with a bit of technical wizardry convert this heat map into a black and white image.
Infrared is measured using different wavelengths that are measured nanometers (nm).
Most smart cameras use an LED that is 850 nanometers because in darkness they can produce clear images.
850 nm LEDs produce a familiar “red glow” when they are on.
Is this red glow a deterrent or a give away?
The Nest Outdoor Cam is an example of an outdoor security camera that uses a different wavelength of infrared, that doesn’t give off the red glow. It uses 940 nm LEDs.
Nest have done this because they want their camera to remain as invisible as possible.
Infrared LEDs that are positioned in a circle around the outside of the lens (as close to the frame as possible) in order to provide the greatest “range” of vision.
Most of the top security cameras have night vision that has a clear range up to about 25 feet (7 metres.)
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3. Motion Detection
This is the ability of a camera to detect when something is moving in it’s view.
It is one of the essential features of any security camera.
It is vital that your camera has motion detection settings that can be adjusted.
The situation that every camera will be used in will be unique and some will be used in busier environments than others.
A general rule of thumb is that the busier an environment the more you want to adjust your motion detection settings lower so that it isn’t triggered after each movement.
If the camera is used in a calmer and quieter location, the detection settings should be at a much higher level so that it can detect every movement.
You want a camera that will send you notifications every time that motion is detected and ideally, a camera that will ideally send you an email when motion is detected.
Some cameras use sound detection as well. Sound detection increases the functionality of a smart camera because it can detect loud noises that the camera itself cannot see.
Which cameras use zones?
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4. Field of View
The field of vision is the area (measured from left to right, defined by degrees) in front of the camera that the lens can “see”.
The most that any traditional lens can see would be 180°.
Most of the leading cameras have a field of view of around 120°.
The Arlo Pro and the Nest Outdoor cam both have fields of view of 130°.
110 degrees is really all that is necessary.
I think that the field of view will become less important over time as more cameras develop their Pan, Tilt and Zoom (PTZ) capabilities
1080p or full HD is the gold standard at the moment, but many popular cameras only record footage in up to 720p.
To get technical, 1080p means that an image is produced that has 1080 horizontal lines 1920 vertical lines.
A 720p image contains 720 horizontal lines and 1280 vertical lines.
It is important to remember that even if a camera can record footage at 1080p it doesn’t mean that it will always record footage at that resolution.
The camera must have a strong and consistent connection to your wi-fi router (or its smart hub) and the hub or router must have a “good speed” of Internet.
6. Two Way Audio
A camera that has 2 way audio has a built in speaker and microphone and almost all of the top cameras have this feature.
This allows a conversation to take place between a person who is next to the camera and someone who is connected to the camera remotely via an app.
It will allow you to shout at or calmly warn an intruder or to simply goof around or chat with your family when you are not at home.
7. Live Stream
Live Stream is the ability to remotely connect to your security camera and watch and listen to what is happening now.
This is a very popular feature with buyers.
It is especially useful when you have just had notification of a motion detection event and you want to double check what is happening “now”.
Or perhaps, you have just been told that there is an on going incident in your neighbourhood and you want to keep an eye on it.
Connecting to your camera and “live streaming” does use a lot of power and so if your smart camera is battery powered, just bear that in mind.
Most outdoor cameras are powered by rechargeable batteries.
This is great because it allows you to be a bit more flexible with the placement of your cameras because they don’t need to be connected to a power lead- although your camera will still need to be in range of your Wi-Fi network.
The Arlo Pro can only be powered by batteries but the Nest Outdoor Cam needs a power cable.
9. Cloud Storage
All of the top cameras use cloud storage systems as the only means of storing footage.
The advantage of using cloud storage systems is that you will never lose your footage, even if your camera is stolen.
A disadvantage of using cloud storage systems is the ongoing costs of using the systems.
If you want to use cloud storage for your security camera, you can only use the plans provided by the manufacturer.
A limitation with the market at the moment is that you cannot use 3rd party cloud storage with your device.
Although all of these systems have limited but free cloud storage options, most of the cloud storage options cost a monthly or an annual fee.
You can find out lots more details here.
If your camera is outside, then it will need to be weatherproof.
Although all outside cameras are described as “weatherproof”, they can be described in one of two ways.
Firstly and most importantly is an IP rating. The best cameras have an IP rating.
IP stands for Ingress Protection and it is an industry rating that defines how weatherproof a device is.
An IP rating is a scale that contains two numbers..
The first number indicates how dustproof a device is and the second number indicates how waterproof a device is.
The scale is from 0 to 6.
A device that has an IP rating of 11 is not very weatherproof but a device with a rating of 66 is totally dust proof and waterproof.
Another and in my opinion weaker description of weatherproofing, is an “operating temperature” range.
These are minimum and maximum temperatures that the camera works within.
Get a camera that has a great warranty.
A standard warranty is a 1 year limited but there are some cameras that come with a 2 year warranty.
For a smart camera to really impress it needs to have a great app.
Apps enable devices to be controlled remotely, which is a fundamental feature that any smart device needs.
The device needs to have both an iOS app and an Android app and these apps need to be highly rated- which demonstrates to potential buyers that the app is good quality.
13. Home Automation
For a smart device to be truly great, it needs to work with other smart devices.
There are different systems that devices use to “talk” to one another.
Wink over the past few years has been one of the most popular systems for smart homes but I think that systems in the future will be dominated by voice commands.
And at the moment the systems that use voice are Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple’s Siri.