It’s tempting to choose clever or high-performing equipment for smart home security, but trust and reliability are essential. When your home is unattended, and even more so when it’s occupied by people you care about, you want the features, networking and monitoring to be exactly what you expected. A quality home security system has also become a selling point for home purchasers.
A person’s opinion of a smart home security device usually comes from an existing customer (including online reviews), a review article or the text on the device’s box. The reason for relying on these is simply lack of other information.
Watching All the Doors and Windows
We know that if a basic security system has window sensors but no door sensors, there’s a gap in the defenses. It’s not so easy to determine if the home network is completely secure or if the infrared sensor is going to alert for the cat’s midnight ramble but miss a shadowy figure skirting the room’s edge.
Organizing the Defense
UL (formerly Underwriters Laboratories), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) are among organizations working worldwide to secure the “Internet of Things” (IoT), the common name for gadgets that connect to home networks and the internet. They’re actually playing “catch-up” to some degree — IoT devices are under attack and are being used to perform large-scale attacks.
Doubling the Security
From smart locks to security cameras, each device protects the home and potentially creates a vulnerability. Equipment you can trust needs to be proactive on both counts:
- Quality physical security
- Quality network security
The Consumer Technology Association offers a detailed, very technical checklist for electronic home security precautions.
Responding to Incidents
The security picture comes together with the response. Quality equipment is designed to balance between potential false alarms and missed events, passing along alerts that need human evaluation and decision-making. Do-it-yourself systems leave it up to the homeowner to make important choices, but they know more specifics about the location, pets and visitors. Monitoring centers such as those at ADT and Vivint follow a standard protocol, are generally more objective about deciding which events are critical and are experienced at working with resources such as police and emergency services.
As Consumer Reports noted, 2018 is a challenging year for choosing home security systems, which were edging up to a $1 billion market the previous year. Major players like ADT and Vivint are seeing companies like Simplisafe gaining enough experience to provide a high-quality system and services. Abode is offering connectivity with major voice assistant technology, and Ring announced its offerings at the Consumer Electronics Show. Two examples:
DIY: Simplisafe — a simple, effective package
Simplisafe provides basic wireless security throughout a small home. It is designed as a package with motion sensors, door and window sensors, and a loud alert siren. These sensors are monitored professionally, along with sensors for water and freeze conditions to let homeowners know if there are problems with the building that need attention. Video is an option. Users and reviewers are reporting satisfaction with the system.
Installed: ADT — complex integration, comprehensive
ADT with its Go option adds GPS tracking of family members via their smartphones and offers integration with smart home features. They offer extensive video and sensor coverage, wired or cellular monitoring connections, and systems professionally designed for larger homes.
At this point, both major brands and experienced newcomers providing integrated security systems offer not only experienced coverage but networks that have been designed for security. New smart home devices may be attractive for their features, but as part of a comprehensive security system upon which people and property rely, time-tested systems and devices are key. Companies such as those residential security providers mentioned here — as well as PointCentral, which provides monitoring and smart home control for large numbers of rental properties — are gaining experience with new technologies. Their testing, as part of integrated systems, can ensure that devices provide integrated property and network security.
Dave Maddox is a technical consultant and freelance writer with experience in control systems and information technology.