Smart Security Devices to Make Your Home Safer

By: , Contributor

Published on: Dec 20, 2019

With video feeds to smartphones, two-way communication, and sensor-triggered alarms, smart security devices offer a myriad of ways to monitor your home with minimal requirements, cost, or installation expertise.

Being a burglar has never been tougher, thanks to the new wave of inexpensive, easy-to-implement smart security and safety devices -- i.e. devices that are connected to the internet of things. Whether they hide in a fixture or sit proudly in plain sight, smart security devices are a serious deterrent to the criminal element. They communicate with mobile phones, put virtual eyes and ears on a property, and make detection/response times instantaneous.

Research firm Strategy Analytics reports that global spending on smart-home camera systems will hit close to $8 billion by the end of 2019. This counts video doorbells, but not other smart devices like locks and garage door openers.

While traditional security methods may all have drawbacks and not be right for everyone, smart security devices are small and visually unobtrusive enough for any setting. They also have functions beyond just scaring off bad guys. Here are some of the smart-home security devices that will make you feel safer.

Smart doorbells

In the last few years, smart doorbells have become extremely prevalent, providing a modern tech upgrade on old security concepts like intercom buzzers and peephole lenses. Smart doorbells have tiny internal cameras connected remotely. They also have other capabilities, ranging from live video streaming to the owner's phone, to two-way communication. Some are motion-sensor-activated, so you can be notified whenever there's potential activity at your front door, even when no one's rung the bell.

  • Amazon's (NASDAQ:AMZN) Ring, and Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Nest Hello used to basically own the video doorbell market, but other makers are getting their feet in the door, little by little.
  • Wisenet SmartCam D1 made PC Mag and Consumer Reports’ best-of lists due to its facial recognition capabilities and high-resolution video.
  • However, Eufy Video Doorbell has the highest photo and video resolution, plus the most internal memory of the widely-available video doorbell products.

Smart locks

A somewhat under-appreciated type of smart security, in my opinion, especially since more than just monitoring an area, smart locks provide a physical measure of security that has worked for hundreds of years. Basically, smart locks are the result of smart people creating tech solutions to all your traditional lockage pain points like, "Dang it, I don't have enough keys!" "What if I want to grant someone entry one time, but not let them have my combo all the time?" "What if I want to let someone past my gate, but I'm not there yet?"

Smart locks communicate with a phone or with another smart security system, allowing the lock's owner to operate it remotely, control the time it's open, and to get notifications when people have opened it. Some locks can be programmed to allow temporary access to some people and permanent to others. Additional features include geofencing, video recording, and programmable action sequences. Smart locks are a great security measure if you're short-term renting a property.

The smart lock manufacturers ranking on the best-of lists from CNET to Business Insider are a mix of old-school manufacturers that have gotten into the tech game, like:

  • Schlage, a subsidiary of Allegion (NYSE: ALLE)
  • Yale Locks & Hardware -- an Assa Abloy Company (OTC: ASAZF)
  • Master Lock from Fortune Brands Home & Security, Inc.(NYSE: FBHS)

and newcomers like:

  • Ultraloq
  • Sesame
  • August Home, acquired in 2017 by Assa Abloy

Smart garage door controllers

Here's another security measure that's great if you've got a short-term renter or house guests who you want to give access on a limited basis. It's also convenient if you want to allow delivery folks on the premises but not the main house… and you want to keep an eye on ins and outs. Some smart garage door controllers are compatible with existing garage door opener devices, while others are the latest tech upgrades on existing motorized garage door openers. The smart tech component integrates with smart-home systems or with a mobile app to open and close the garage door remotely, give others access, and monitor via video. A few options in the space include:

  • Garage door manufacturers Chamberlain and LiftMaster are two companies that have integrated smart tech into their latest garage door models.
  • Garadget is an inexpensive add-on that's easy to install and uses laser detection instead of a battery-powered motion sensor.
  • Nexx Garage is another well-regarded add-on controller that integrates with the top smart-home systems.

The two main challenges with a smart garage door controller are finding one that will work with the motorized garage door you have (or want to buy), and figuring out how to wire it so that it works with the door.

Smart security cameras

Security camera systems have been on the consumer market since the 1970s. Although complex systems can be expensive, they're a popular way to keep a proverbial eye on a property -- and to let people know that they're potentially under surveillance. Smart security cameras are the next evolution of wireless security cameras, and they include features like climate monitors and email notifications. They're also much less expensive than previous generations of security cameras have been, and much easier to install.

  • The Canary All-in-One Indoor Security Camera includes motion sensor push notifications and a built-in alarm, and offers one-touch emergency contact from the app if something's wrong at the house.
  • Wyze is a popular low-cost brand that offers a lot of features for the money -- for example, the Wyze Cam Pan 1080 comes with night vision and HD live stream video.
  • Ring cameras are ubiquitous since the company's acquisition by Amazon, but their dominance in the market also makes this brand a top target for hackers.

Motion sensors

Sensors are often part of a larger security system, but there are many that are created for specialized purposes. For example:

  • Window sensors are a type of proximity sensor that can detect when there's movement crossing a threshold, and can then trigger an alarm.
  • Proximity alarms are increasingly being used not just to send an alarm if there's an unfamiliar presence in the house, but to send a notification if a familiar presence -- i.e. a small child or an elder with dementia -- leaves a safe space, and heads out to wander.
  • On a related note, many pool owners are installing surface sensor alarms, i.e. sensors that are placed in a small buoy, that provide notification if someone gets in the pool or even in proximity of it.
  • Interestingly, glass break sensors, which provide a similar measure of security as a window sensor, are not motion-triggered, but sound-activated by means of a tiny microphone.
  • Environmental monitors cross over with the smart thermostat category, but have more security-specific uses, such as being able to detect smoke or water leaks.

Important warnings before you bring this tech home

One major thing we learned this year is that a "smart device," i.e. one that is connected to the internet of things, brings its own set of new security concerns, mainly to do with people of ill intentions exploiting vulnerabilities in their systems. The implications of this are only being discovered -- and addressed as rapidly as tech companies can act -- but this is definitely an unfolding story. There are situations when privacy is more important than "having an eye" on every nook and cranny of the home. Think twice about having cameras in yours and your children's bedrooms and nurseries, and also about whole-home integrated systems where access to one point gives an easy path to access everything.

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John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Lena Katz has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (C shares) and Amazon. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.