You don’t need to spend a fortune on making your home office secure, and thanks to mobile technology, our options are now far beyond a locked door and window fastenings.
Smart video doorbells that record both video and audio feeds in real-time when you have a visitor; motion and sound sensors that can be used in and outside, digital door locks, cameras with excellent night vision — the range of products that leverage mobile connectivity, apps, and Internet of Things (IoT) sensors are endless.
That is not to say that all smart home security products are created equal, and not every home needs to have bells and whistles on when it comes to security — sometimes, a few select pieces can create a home ecosystem that is enough to protect your home (and office) against intruders, as well as alert you when suspicious activity is detected.
It is also worth noting that any device with connectivity may contain vulnerabilities themselves that could be exploited — and may endanger their users’ privacy as a result — and so when you pick an IoT device vendor, it should be one that maintains a frequent security program and patch cycle.
ZDNet has created a list of recommendations suiting a variety of budgets and setups to help homeowners and remote workers decide how best to protect their properties, ranging from full kits to useful window sensors and cameras suitable for use both in and outdoors.
A smart video doorbell is one of those products that you didn’t realize could be a great addition to daily life until you invest in one. It may seem like overkill to go for a doorbell with Internet connectivity, video and audio feeds, and the ability to check-in remotely, but once you get used to the convenience of being able to chat to visitors and delivery staff no matter where you are, you can see their value.
Convenience, however, is just one benefit, as these types of products can be a useful security addition, too, as you can clearly see visitors before opening the door, as well as deter potentially unwanted ‘visitors’ checking out your home.
Currently on sale at $169.99, the Ring Video Doorbell Pro is one product for consideration. The hardwired doorbell is able to record 1080p HD footage with two-way talk, and also comes with infrared night vision, sensors, and customizable ‘zones’ for motion detection alerts.
Compatible With iOS, Android, Mac, and Windows 10, users can check in on their doorbell at any time. Live view is free but continual recording requires a subscription.
- Useful for security and convenience when it comes to visitors, deliveries
- Reliable and a modern design
- You need to buy a separate, traditional ‘Chime’ accessory for a traditional sound alert
- Needs either frequent battery charging or a hardwired power source
If the Ring ecosystem appeals to you, Ring also offers a full smart home security system that can be customized depending on the property and the user’s wishes when it comes to security.
You can create your own security system by combining elements including home alarms, motion sensors, window and door contact sensors, keypads, a smart doorbell, panic buttons, and both indoor and outdoor cameras.
Ranging in price from single $19.99 window sensors to a robust security package costing hundreds of dollars, the Ring range considers every point of entry into a home, whether you live in a small condo or a large house with extensive grounds.
- You can tailor your home security and tackle any areas of real concern by choosing each product separately and bringing them into one network
- Easy installation
- You can hand over monitoring to a professional as an optional add-on
- A full package can prove to be expensive
- Some users do not find the siren to be as loud as they would like
For do-it-yourself types who want a few security gadgets but not an entire setup, Google’s Nest Cams are worth considering.
Nest Cam Indoor products are standalone security cameras that plug into an outlet. Once connected to the Nest mobile app, users are sent alerts when motion is detected and it is also possible to tap into the camera at any time to see what is going on at home. Built-in speakers and a microphone are included.
Event-based or continual recording is on offer, and for free, snapshots taken over a three-hour time period are saved and viewable. A subscription option for 24/7 recording and storage is also available.
Outdoor alternatives are on sale for $199.
- Stylish and discreet
- Night vision is a useful addition if you are away from home
- Pets may trigger the camera by accident in the home
- A subscription is required for premium features
If your smart home is making use of the Nest ecosystem and already includes products such as Google Home or Nest fire or C02 alarms, the Secure package could be of interest to bolster home security.
The $399 Nest Secure (currently on sale at Lowes) includes Nest Guard, an alarm, keypad, and motion sensor; two Nest Detect sensors suitable for use in monitoring doors, windows, or entire rooms, two open/close magnets for doors or windows, two Nest tags that are used to enable or disable alarms quickly, and mounting brackets.
The Nest Detect sensors are able to detect motion and sound, and can also be set to chime when a door or window is opened — a useful feature if you have young children at home.
A limited free option is available, alongside a feed monitoring and storage subscription. As Secure products are compatible with Google’s overall IoT ecosystem, users can ask their assistant to arm or disarm the Nest alarm remotely, and if the system thinks you have left home without arming, a reminder can be sent to your smartphone.
- Versatile accessories in one kit that are enough to guard your average home’s entry points
- Only compatible with Google Home and not Amazon Alexa or Apple’s HomeKit
For hunters of a full security system without a long-term subscription, SimpliSafe’s home security system should be considered.
SimpliSafe offers a $160 entry-level kit containing a motion sensor, entry sensor, panic button, and a key fob, which can be customized to include additional products such as a siren, video doorbell, glass break sensor, or smoke, water, and CO2 sensors.
The Wi-Fi-connected system has a backup battery in case of a power outage, and the vendor maintains six monitoring centers to keep an eye on homes within the network — with operators alerting the police even if the devices are damaged by intruders.
SimpliSafe offers a variety of subscriptions and accounts for over three million users in the United States.
- No contract or long-term subscription required
- Can be extended with sirens, water damage sensors, fire alarms
- Expensive to set up beyond the entry kit
Another popular option on the market is Honeywell’s home security kit. The bundle contains a selection of motion sensors, key fobs, and a camera able to record visual and audio footage in 1080p HD video. Night vision is also included.
Honeywell’s security system can be set to automatically arm itself when you leave home, and if you forget to shut a window or door where a sensor is installed, for example, you can be sent alerts to this oversight.
A key selling point about this option is versatility, as the security system can be set up to operate in existing IoT setups offered by various vendors. Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant is inbuilt to accept commands.
- 1080p night vision camera
- Compatibility with Alexa assistant built-in
- Extendable with multiple sensors
- The design won’t appeal to everyone
Abode’s offering is a budget-friendly package that comes with an Abode hub, a motion sensor suitable for entryways or specific rooms, a small window or door sensor, and a keyfob for quickly arming or disarming the system.
Users can install the system themselves and connect the hub to their mobile device, as well as control their kit through Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or Apple HomeKit.
If you want to extend your security system further, additional Abode sensors and cameras can be added to the network.
A basic, free plan or more extensive subscription is available.
- Smart assistant support
- Cellular backup options available in the case of internet failure (subscription)
- Additional accessories, such as door and window sensors, are expensive
An additional component you might want to consider for your home security setup is a smart lock. An alternative to a traditional deadbolt, a lock such as the August Wi-Fi Smart lock, available in black and silver, connects to a user’s mobile device or Alexa assistant to monitor the lock status of a door.
You do not need to replace your existing lock-and-key setup; instead, you attach the smart lock to a deadbolt. It is possible to set up the product to automatically detect when you come home and unlock the door, and in the same way, auto lock when the door closes.
If you want to grant others access to your home, “secure keys” can be sent to their mobile devices via the August app.
However, it is worth noting this smart lock requires a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi network.
The August Wi-Fi Smart lock is currently on sale for $202.
- Useful for visitors that you want to grant access to remotely
- Heightened security for your door
- The setup process can be arduous
- Some users have reported issues with smart assistant integration
Why are sensors important in a home security product?
Sensors are the key ingredient in effective, discreet home security. There are many different kinds of sensors that are utilized in Internet of Things (IoT) products, including infrared, magnetic, audio, and motion, and each use depends on the type of security product involved.
For example, motion sensors are used for video doorbells and both indoor and outdoor cameras — and heat sensors may also be thrown into the mix — whereas door and window products may use a combination of motion and magnetic sensors to detect unauthorized entry.
Do you need an internet connection?
When it comes to today’s smart, connected, IoT home security systems, the answer is usually yes. In comparison to business security offerings that are often monitored remotely, the central focus of home systems is to give the user power and visibility — and this generally requires internet connectivity and a mobile device.
Do you need a subscription?
Subscriptions aren’t compulsory when you buy a home security solution. In many cases, ‘basic’ setups will ping alerts to your handset when a sensor detects activity, allowing you to check your home in real-time — but will not necessarily keep any feeds or recordings for a long duration.
It is worth signing up for a subscription if you want to make sure you have access to past event feeds. In addition, subscription services will usually sweeten the pot with additional layers of security such as automatic emergency calls and multiple device monitoring.
Which security system is right for you?
Unlike a business premise, homeowners do not need to spend a fortune in order to adequately protect their assets. Instead, a few products that have been carefully selected and placed in weak spots or entry points — including a front porch, garden, or close to ground floor windows — can be all that is needed.
A camera or two — preferably with night vision — sensors monitoring windows, and, perhaps, a video doorbell or smart lock to protect your front door. Larger properties can benefit from additional security components linked to the same network, but in either case, today’s smart home security products can give you peace of mind both in or outside of the house.
Many of us have been working from home during the pandemic, but as things begin to unlock and we do spend more time away from our residences, now may be the time to consider a security option that is right for you.
Our selection process
We wanted to consider as many security angles to protecting a home and home office as possible. Entry points including windows and doors can be protected through smart door locks, sensors, and cameras, and should an intruder manage to get into a property, monitoring systems that send alerts to homeowners can make all the difference between perpetrators being caught or getting away with their actions.