Question: I’m considering a DIY home-security system. Any suggestions?
Answer: There’s never been a better time to consider adding devices to your home that allow you to monitor what’s going on from anywhere in the world.
The sheer number of options can be overwhelming, so breaking down your needs is the best way of narrowing down your options.
Depending upon what you’re interested in monitoring, your needs could be as simple as a single camera pointing out of a window to an entire family of sensors throughout your house.
A couple critical elements for success is a solid Internet connection and good Wi-Fi coverage over the areas where you want to install your devices.
Completely wireless and weatherproof options such as Arlo cameras allow you to extend your coverage to locations outside of your home, as long as you can get a Wi-Fi signal. Upgrading to a "mesh network" can dramatically improve your Wi-Fi coverage area if needed.
Virtually all DIY options on the market come with some form of app-and-alert system that use your smartphone as the monitoring device. This means that you will be the one to decide to call the police when something happens.
Most monitoring systems offer basic storage of video or image files for free, with a monthly charge for higher levels of storage. Some offer cellular connections as a backup, should your Internet connection go down.
If you want an outside service that offers 24/7 monitoring on your behalf, make sure you calculate the ongoing cost of this service, which can range from $10 to $30 per month.
Options from companies such as SimpliSafe and Scout allow you to choose either monitoring method, while Abode adds the ability to use short-term, on-demand professional monitoring times when you’ll be off-line (like on vacation).
Most of these companies extend support of devices from other platforms, such as Alexa, Nest and Zigbee as well.
If you’re looking for basic front and backdoor monitoring, Kuna’s approach is to integrate a camera, motion sensors and a two-way intercom into the light fixtures on your porch. You can either replace your current fixture with one of theirs or add their Toucan kit on an existing light fixture.
The Rex Plus Electronic Watchdog uses radar to detect intruders and simulate a barking dog. The closer they get, the more frequent the barking becomes — one review claims that it keeps the bears away from the house.
If you’re a renter and don’t want to physically install anything, an option called Piper incorporates a 180-degree camera, motion/sound detection, two-way audio and a siren into a single device that just needs to plug into a power outlet to work.
One of the more mature home-automation platforms is SmartThings, which not only has a large number of devices it can work with, it has over 40 recipes on If This Then That, or you can create your own automation triggers.
Ken Colburn is founder and CEO of Data Doctors Computer Services. Ask any tech question at: facebook.com/DataDoctors or on Twitter @TheDataDoc.
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