This is how you can protect your house smartly


home automation

A horror: you come home and the house turns out to be a mess. Burglars have turned things upside down … Various “smart” alarm systems promise to secure the house. What are the possibilities?

By tying devices together – referred to as Internet of Things (IoT) in professional terms – our houses are becoming increasingly “smarter”. IoT technology is used to make the household more pleasant, for example by automatically turning on the lights and turning on the heating when you get home. IoT also proves its usefulness in securing the house. There are all kinds of devices that warn against disaster. By connecting doorbells, motion detectors, locks, cameras and smoke detectors, you can monitor the house remotely and you are automatically informed if something is not right.

Tips from the police

Every year tens of thousands of Dutch people are confronted with uninvited guests. Previously, the number of burglaries was 42,789. That is a lot, but the number has fallen in recent years. Seven years earlier it was 91,930. Nevertheless, the police emphasize the importance of protecting the home. “With the right prevention measures, the risk of burglary is reduced by up to 90 percent”, is the message.

To inform citizens, the police give tips via the “Don’t make it too easy” campaign for them. There are radio and television commercials and there is one special website. These tips are mainly about the use of good locks and anti-burglary strips. That forms a good first line of defense. If you are looking for more security, you will soon end up with ‘smart’ alarm systems from companies such as Somfy, Gigaset and WoonVeilig. These systems not only protect against burglary, but are also useful in warning against other calamities. Think of fire or leaks. In addition, there are systems that help the elderly raise the alarm in the event of home accidents.

Don't make it too easy for them
On the website www.maakhetzeniettem Easy.nl, the police, in collaboration with the government and the business community, provide information about preventing burglary.

Fire hazard

The importance of a good fire alarm cannot be underestimated. According to the latest figures from Statistics Netherlands, there are 13 domestic fires every day and on average 30 people die every year. The risk of fire has increased in recent years. This has to do with the use of unsafe chargers for mobile phones, for example. Problems with solar panels also increase the risk of fire.

Protect against what?

An alarm system can be useful in a large number of situations. The first thing you think about is of course protection against burglary. Smart alarm systems can alert the homeowner to intruders through sensors and security cameras. The old-fashioned roaring alarm still exists, but thanks to modern technology you can also receive an alarm message on your mobile phone. Even watching from a distance with the security cameras is an option, so that you can immediately see whether there is a false alarm or whether action really needs to be taken.

The technology protects against more dangers than just theft. By connecting a smart smoke detector, you immediately receive a message if a fire is detected. By the way, the smart smoke detector just starts (as always) to howl at smoke, so even when you sleep, you can’t miss that. A smoke detector sometimes also contains a carbon monoxide detector. An example of this is the Nest Protect. The device sounds the alarm via app messages, light and audio signals. A voice tells whether there is smoke or carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is also called a silent killer, since it is an invisible and odorless danger. Every year between ten and fifteen people die from carbon monoxide poisoning. A carbon monoxide detector is therefore of vital importance (whether or not combined with a smoke detector).

Elite 5
Modern security systems use an app for notifications and settings. Here the app from Ring in combination with a smart doorbell.

Even more possible

When securing, a smart lock is also interesting. This allows you to check remotely whether a room has been closed properly. It also offers useful options: you can give someone you trust remotely to your home. This works in combination with a smart doorbell that contains a camera and microphone. After a conversation with the person who rings the bell, you can decide whether you want to open the door. If you see that there is trouble through the camera, you naturally call the police immediately.

A sensor that reports leaks is also handy. For example, if the washing machine is defective and overflowing, you can take action quickly thanks to a water sensor. Water damage also occurs regularly during heavy rain showers. According to research by engineering and consultancy firm Arcadis, 140,000 houses in our country are not resistant to excessive rain. Who is afraid of damage has been informed on time thanks to sensors.

Finally, some smart security systems are suitable as a replacement for the baby monitor. You can monitor whether the baby is sleeping well via a camera with a microphone. Moreover, such cameras often include sensors that determine whether the air quality is correct.

Alarm systems for the elderly

There are special alarm systems for the elderly. For example, there is an SOS button (also known as a “panic button”) with which an older alarm can sound if something is wrong, for example in the event of a fall. Furthermore, alarm systems often consist of motion detectors, magnetic contacts and cameras. You are connected through an app and you receive messages if there is a reason for an alarm.

Panic button
With the panic button, such as the Home8 brand here, an elderly person can raise an alarm in an emergency.

Types of alarm systems

An alarm system is described as “smart” if it is connected to the internet. There are several technologies for that. It is possible that every connected device (camera, motion sensor, etc.) has access to WiFi, but sometimes the devices use a different wireless technology. Examples are Zigbee and Z-Wave, both secured with strong encryption (AES 128). These protocols require little energy so that they can continue to work on batteries for a long time. The devices connect to a central hub that controls all connected devices.

Trust supplies security systems that work with Zigbee. The advantage is that such a system creates a separate network that exists in addition to the Wi-Fi network. If a hacker invades the Wi-Fi network, he does not yet have access to the alarm system. For some things, Zigbee and Z-Wave are too slow. That’s why IP security cameras don’t have it. They work with the much faster WiFi to be able to send good quality images.

Wireless Motion Sensor
This motion sensor from Trust transmits via Zigbee signals about movements in a room.

Rules

You can make smart alarm systems even smarter by programming rules. For example, a rule may be that when everyone leaves the house, the alarm is automatically activated. Another example: the doors must open automatically when the smoke alarm goes off. If security systems detect unusual activities, they send notifications, for example if the door is broken or if smoke is detected in the house. The old-fashioned deafening alarm has not yet been written off (luckily but in the event of a fire), but there are more ways to receive warnings. Think of notifications via an app and text or email messages. There are also systems that, in addition to an audible alarm, also have a light alarm. This works with strobe light effects that hopefully disrupt the burglar. If you want to tackle it completely sound, you can opt for a fog alarm. Such a system ensures that a space is filled within a few seconds with a blinding layer of fog so that a burglar has no chance.

Mobile connection as a backup

There are alarm systems that use a SIM card as a backup for the regular connection via WiFi or wired Internet. An example of this is the Somfy system, which includes security cameras, motion detectors and magnetic contacts. Normally, communication is via WiFi, but if that is not available, it automatically switches to the mobile network so that the alarm always works.

Types of monitoring

Security officers make a distinction between three forms of surveillance. First of all there is area monitoring whereby the environment of the house is monitored, for example with an outdoor camera. Even before a burglar penetrates the house, you will already receive a warning. Fall protection is intended if someone has actually crept into the house. This can be signaled with an indoor camera, but also with motion detectors. Finally there is targeted surveillance. This is referred to as monitoring at specific places, such as windows or doors.

Alarm systems use sensors and cameras to raise the alarm. Well-known examples are IP cameras, magnetic contacts, glass break sensors and motion detectors. To prevent burglary, a system often combines several of these devices. When purchasing, it is important to pay attention to which standards they support. Buy devices that can “talk” to each other. For example, it is possible to operate them via a central point, usually an app or a central control panel in the house.

Nest App
The Google Nest app gives access to the images of all connected security cameras.

Cameras

IP cameras are available for both indoor and outdoor use. The cameras can store their images on an SD card or in the cloud. Saving on a memory card is cheaper and therefore suitable if you do not want to spend too much money. Please note that images are overwritten over time, unless you back them up in time. Storage in the cloud is more expensive. You usually pay a monthly amount for it. The amount depends on how long you want to be able to watch images. To give an impression: with a Google Nest camera you can take out a subscription for 5 euros per month with which you can watch the video recordings of the past five days. For 10 and 30 euros a month you get a video archive of 10 and 30 days respectively.

Choosing a security camera depends on the location that needs to be protected. Cameras have different viewing angles. This determines the size of the area that is being mapped. Some cameras have a fixed lens so that you cannot change the viewing angle. A 90-degree viewing angle is common, but there are also cameras with a wider 140-degree viewing angle (for example, the Pro Wire-Free Camera from D-Link). Other cameras have a variable lens. It is therefore possible to zoom in.

The resolution of the camera is also important. A resolution of 720p is of course less sharp than 1080p. There are now also security cameras that film in 4K, including the Nest Cam IQ Indoor. That camera even uses infrared technology, which makes it possible to take images at night. Important, because the thieves’ guild can strike in the dark and you want recognizable images.

Cameras
With the Nest Cam IQ you can shoot images in 4K. The device also shoots good pictures at night.

Listening in

Security cameras sometimes have microphones on board. This way you can hear what the burglars say to each other and in which language. This may give the police clues. Some cameras have a speaker that allows you to talk to the intruders and hopefully scare them off. A special camera is the Floodlight Cam van Ring (also known from the smart doorbells, see box). In addition to a camera, this device has two particularly bright lights. If an unknown person is signaled, you will receive a message on the smartphone. You can watch live via the camera. If you decide that it is not right, you can trigger an alarm of 110 decibels! You can also activate the two lamps of no less than 3000 lumens.

Ring Floodlight Cam
An abundance of light and sound with the Ring Floodlight Cam.

Smart doorbells

In addition to security cameras, there are also door bells with a built-in camera. These are primarily intended to see remotely who is ringing the doorbell and possibly to open the door (in combination with a smart lock). They can also prove their value for security. For example, the Google Nest Hello features face recognition, so you can see who’s at the door. If an unknown person is standing in front of the door, but does not ring the bell, this will be reported – potentially interesting information. If someone does ring the bell, you can talk to this person remotely. For example, you can ask the delivery person if he can leave the package with the neighbors. Not all digital doorbells have face recognition.

Smart doorbell
With the smart doorbells from Ring you can talk remotely with someone standing at the door.

Sensors

There are magnetic contacts to monitor whether a burglar invades through a window or door. Contacts are made both on the door (or the window) and in the frame. If they are close together (closed state), nothing is wrong, but as soon as the distance between the two contacts becomes too large, a message is sent to the alarm system. Often there is also a tamper alarm: as soon as someone tries hard to remove the magnetic contacts, an alarm also sounds. There are also glass breakage sensors for windows. These are acoustic sensors that immediately signal the breaking of glass and transmit it to the alarm system.

Sensors
An example of a magnetic contact from KlikAanKlikUit. With this, the smart alarm system monitors whether no windows or doors are broken.

What does it cost?

The costs for a smart alarm system depend on a few specific choices. First, the equipment itself. Which cameras and sensors do you choose, and how many do you need? You can of course find a number of security devices together and thereby secure the house, but many web stores offer starter packages. They often consist of a number of motion detectors, magnetic contacts, cameras and, where necessary, a base station. Sometimes there is also a control panel in the package with which you can control the alarm centrally in the house. This is an alternative to operating with an app. The prices for this type of package start at around a hundred euros that you secure a small house with. An example of a supplier of such a package is Gigaset. The system can be operated via an app. It is of course possible to expand the system later by purchasing additional parts.

Who goes for a luxury package (suitable for a larger house) pays a lot more. Somfy, for example, supplies an extensive package for around 700 euros. It contains a control panel, a few magnetic contacts, motion detectors and a siren. There is also a remote control with which family members can easily switch the system on and off. Cameras are relatively expensive components within a security system. That is why especially the affordable packages are delivered without. You can purchase them separately. Note that the camera cooperates with previously purchased parts.

Gigaset starter package
The Gigaset starter kit, including the camera here, helps you quickly secure your home.

Subscription costs

A second cost item concerns possibly recurring subscription costs. Many smart systems work with cloud storage. You pay a monthly amount for that. The Google Nest subscription has already passed by: that starts with 5 euros per month for storage of five days of recordings. Ring, supplier of smart doorbells and cameras, has a subscription starting at 3 euros per month. You then get access to 30 days of video history for a camera. If you have multiple cameras from this brand, you will quickly arrive at the monthly subscription of 10 euros that supports an unlimited number of cameras.

Some (often more expensive) systems offer a link to a central control room. When the alarm goes off, the message is not only received by the resident, but also by an operator. He will also initially contact the residents of the house. The operator will not immediately call the police because of the many false reports of alarm systems. Only when it is confirmed that something is really going on will the police be called in. Of course, such a service is not free, but you pay for it.

Suppliers

If we look at suppliers of smart alarm systems, we come across well-known names such as Google Nest, Somfy and Gigaset. With these systems, storage in the cloud is often important. This is especially true if cameras are used. In that case, you are quickly tied to a subscription to be able to watch the images again. There are a few suppliers where you can (also) save images on an SD card. These are less well-known brands such as Eufy, Ezviz and Arlo. Would you like a connection with a central control room? Then look at suppliers such as WoonVeilig, Verisure and SmartAlarm. Count on extra monthly costs of at least 15 euros per month.

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