Securing your SmartHome: You can secure your smart home in various ways. This also applies to houses that do not yet fall under the heading of SmartHome, but they become so automatically when you take the security of your home seriously. For example, you can invest in different types of cameras. Cameras that are intended for indoor use and can simply be placed on a cupboard in the room or cameras that you hang on the outside of your home. And then of course you have smart doorbells, sensors and complete security systems.
In recent months we have published many articles about the different parts of a secure smart home and in this article we put all that info together so that you have a good starting point. After reading the article you will know where to start and if you want to know more about something, you can go to the extensive background articles and reviews that we have written. As always, we include a selection of our articles and tips. If you have an addition yourself, please feel free to leave a comment.
Security cameras for indoors and outdoors
Despite the fact that you use indoor and outdoor cameras in two completely different places, it is useful if they both meet certain, matching conditions. For example, a strong internet connection is important, since you want to avoid missing images or the camera being off for a while. So ensures good WiFi coverage, for example by investing in a WiFi repeater or a mesh network . In addition, it can sometimes be a solution to look for a camera with an ethernet port, for example.
Taking smart home platforms into account is not a luxury. This way you can check in advance whether there is support for things like Google Home or Apple HomeKit, for example. If those integrations are available, you can operate those cameras from one app (in addition to the app that simply belongs to the camera) and the images can, for example, be viewed via a television (via Android TV or Apple TV ) or a smart display (such as the Nest Hub ). Some cameras work fine with more extensive systems, such as Fibaro .
Such functions are of little value if the image quality is not your thing. That is why you have to pay close attention to whether there is a high resolution, for example. 720p is nice, full hd is better and 4k is often best – but those cameras are on average much more expensive. In addition, something like high dynamic range can be useful, giving the camera access to a wider color spectrum and better contrast. At times, for example when the sun sets or rises, the camera can then show much better what exactly is happening.
Many security cameras allow you to store images locally. For example on a kind of base with a built-in hard disk or a USB stick that you can put in that base. It also happens that you put a micro-SD card directly into the camera. Sometimes it is included, but often not. If those options are not available, you will usually have to deal with a subscription that offers access to cloud storage. The costs vary considerably, so you do well to visit the websites of the manufacturers and look up that information.
Products we recommend
We have tested a number of security cameras. We can recommend the models below for various reasons. If you click on the name of the camera, you will arrive at our review of that product.
- EZVIZ C3X Outdoor Smart Wi-Fi Camera
- Blink Mini
- Reolink Argus 2 (with solar panel)
- Arlo Pro 3
- Ring Indoor Cam
- Yale All-in-one outdoor camera
Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
From July 2022, it will be mandatory in the Netherlands and Belgium to have at least one smoke detector on every floor of the house. You can already get ahead of ourselves by investing in good detectors, so that you are well prepared by then. The obligation has been there for years for new-build homes, but now existing houses also have to believe. And rightly so, because you increase the safety at home with it. For the time being, it only concerns the smoke detector; carbon monoxide detectors are not yet mandatory, but we absolutely recommend hanging them up, especially if you are still working with ‘open’ combustion appliances.
You have different types of smoke, flame and carbon monoxide detectors for your home. Most variants are quite cheap, but can also cause false alarms. The more expensive variants often have extra conditions that they must meet before they raise the alarm. There is also the option for a combined smoke and carbon monoxide detector, but this is usually not recommended. Yes, one such device is cheaper than two sensors, but they also function just a bit less well.
Then of course we have the smart versions of those devices. These are smoke and carbon monoxide detectors that are equipped with wireless communication (WiFi for example), so that they can be operated remotely and you also receive a notification in the event of a fire. If you receive such a notification, you will immediately see why the reporter has gone off. If you have multiple detectors in different rooms, you can see in which room the alarm went off. However, should the connection fail, the smart smoke detector is just as smart as the average ‘dumb’ variant without wireless communication.
Products we recommend
Below we have collected our reviews of products that we recommend in the field of smart smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Clicking on the name will take you to the review.
If you want to learn more about smart smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, read this background story about the installation and the possibilities, among other things.
One alarm system is not the other, unfortunately. That is why it is sometimes quite difficult to determine which system suits you best. As with the previous products, it can be good to see what you already have at home. For example, if you have a Ring doorbell, you may be able to invest in the company’s complete security system. If there is already a camera from Netatmo at home, then the system of that brand might be something for you. Remember: no package is as complete as you would expect and other brands offer different things.
Most packages often include a hub and both window and door sensors. In addition, a control panel is sometimes included, but this is not always mandatory for accessible use. The functions that you find on a control panel can also be found within the app that you can download for Android and iOS. In addition, you will often find motion sensors in the packages, which can help detect movements.
Some of those alarm systems are sometimes expanded with a special key ring with which you switch the alarm function on or off. So you don’t have to use an app or panel for the most basic function. Although it doesn’t always have something to do with security, manufacturers behind such systems are also expanding to other products, such as smart plugs. And otherwise we will come across smoke detectors, cameras and of course sirens. There is even a security camera that combines a camera with a siren and bright lamp.
Finally, it is important to pay attention to the security of the system. Do you really want to use it as an alarm system? Then a certified alarm is recommended. The Ajax alarm is an example of this. The alarm system is certified according to the Euro standard EN 50131-1 Grade 2 standard. This simply means that it is not easy to bypass or jam the system. If you choose a combined or all-in-one system without a certificate, pay close attention to how communication between all devices is shielded from the outside world and whether everything also works if the internet connection should fail.
Products we recommend
Below we list a few alarm systems that we liked in recent months. Be sure to read the reviews to check whether you need a subscription for all functions, for example. You do this by clicking on the name of the product.
Alarm systems for advanced users
If you have been working with a smart home for a while, you may have stepped away from ready-made systems. Then you have probably invested in a standard-alone smart home controller, such as Homey or Fibaro, which gives you much more freedom when it comes to products, setting options and automations. Such systems are basically separate hubs that you set up via your browser or an app and that you link to numerous products from different brands. These systems require a little extra effort and knowledge – but are worth it in the long run. Then think of:
Please note that in addition to the smart home controller (hub), you also have to purchase the separate products that you want to connect. For example, if you want to make an alarm system with Homey, buy a number of motion sensors, a few door and window sensors and a number of cameras. You then create your own scenarios that form the alarm and send you a notification or trigger a siren through your Sonos speakers.
Smart doorbells and locks
If you want to secure your smart home, you can also look at smart doorbells or a smart lock. Both can function well independently of each other, but you can also have them work together. With a smart doorbell you can check who is at the door and possibly come into contact with that person, simply from the app on your smartphone. If you have a smart lock, you can leave the house safely without a key. If you have a good model, you could also open it remotely if you want someone to be at the door.
Practically the same conditions apply to smart doorbells as to smart security cameras. For example, you have to make sure that the resolution is high enough, it is great if you can use high dynamic range and it is very nice if you have influence on the activity zone (that part of the street or driveway that you see). If you can also drop a part of the image outside that zone, then you limit the number of false and annoying messages, which are of no use to you anyway. In addition, it is important that the WiFi range is sufficient in front of the door (check this before purchase) and it is important to read up on how to connect the doorbell. Some doorbells come with their own battery, other doorbells need to be connected to your existing wires, possibly with a transformer.
Basically, a smart lock should offer the possibility to enter the house without a key. That can be done in different ways. Think of automatic unlocking when you arrive (your location is checked via GPS and Bluetooth) or unlocking based on a manual action within the app. Some variants also offer accessories, so that people without a key or app can still enter with, for example, a code on a keypad or a bluetooth key fob. For more information, please refer to the article below.
Products we recommend
There are quite a few smart doorbells available and the smart lock market is also starting to pick up well. That’s why we’ve gathered some product reviews below from devices we recommend. A click on the name will take you to the review.
Securing a smart home – short conclusion
An element that we have often encountered in this article is that you first have to check whether you already have a device from a specific brand or with support for a particular platform. This is usually a great starting point when it comes to cameras, doorbells or (an extension of) alarm systems. This has a number of advantages, but also disadvantages. The biggest downside is that you might get stuck in a system where you end up getting less than expected.
The advantage is that you need fewer apps and can often arrange things from one place. Especially when you use, for example, Google Home, Apple HomeKit, Samsung SmartThings or an advanced system such as Fibaro or Homey. It not only saves hassle, it also saves apps and you know for sure that you can make things work together. Individual products do not always work together just like that: there must always be a connecting factor. Good integration of smart home products is essential.