/ Home & Energy, Technology

Would you trust a smart home security system to protect your home?

smart home

A recent Which? Trusted Traders survey found that 70% of us worry about home security in the darker days of winter.

Traditional burglar alarms are one way of protecting your property, but they’ve got a contemporary competitor – smart home security systems.

These claim to provide many of the features of traditional systems, but enable you to control, monitor and interact with your home from an app on your smartphone or tablet.

As long as your phone or tablet has an internet connection, you should be able to use a smart home security system to check in on what’s happening at home.

Smart home tech

And smart home systems don’t have to be all about security either – a wireless camera at home could also be a way to keep an eye on children in another room.

Depending on which brand you buy, you can also add in other smart tech, such as smart light bulbs, heating controls and smoke detectors, or voice controls via a device such as the Amazon Echo.

What’s more, you don’t even have to go through the hassle of searching for a tradesman to fit one, as you can usually set them up yourself.

Would you install a smart home security system in your home?

No (44%, 344 Votes)

Not sure (36%, 280 Votes)

Yes, I'm planning on getting one (13%, 101 Votes)

Yes, I already use one (6%, 49 Votes)

Total Voters: 774

Loading ... Loading ...

Self set-up

But while self-installation sounds great in theory, in practice it isn’t quite that simple – as our team of researchers discovered when they tried to set up the systems at home.

One of our researchers was left scratching their head about why they couldn’t log on to the smart hub’s website, only to discover that you can’t be logged in on both your phone and computer at the same time.

Another couldn’t understand why footage from their security camera wouldn’t stream to her phone, only to discover a screed of negative reviews in the App store suggesting that the problem wasn’t unique to her.

Installing a system yourself also leaves a bit of room for error – perhaps the best example of this was a motion sensor in one of our researcher’s homes that could easily have been evaded by intruders by accident, simply because it was placed too low.

Our verdict

You can find out more about the individual smart home security systems we tested in our First Look reviews, but our overall impression was that smart systems can help play a part in improved home security.

However, our expert felt that the basic packages offered by most brands are too simple to provide decent security on their own.

What do you think about smart home security systems? Would you feel happier knowing you can check on your property when you’re away from it using your phone or tablet?

Comments
Member

Its amazing the power of advertising . I installed a WIRED alarm system myself when it wasnt the fashion to do so . No problems with it , door sensors/window sensors /movement sensors but what you are getting now is Internet connected control -IE- IoT,s ushering in the era of the VERY “Happy Hacker ” rubbing their hands with glee , easy to hack ,easy to overcome, control , all those devices should come with a warning – this item is sold to you without any guarantee of its ability to stop Hackers . What you are doing is making your life LESS safe by the advertised -control it from your office , shout out to those burglars remotely , watch your house-yes but so are the Hackers AND they can block you , how much of your life do you want as an open book to the world ? just get more IoT,s into your home, they wont fail (the hackers wont ) but Hey-ho ! ,millions will ignore every warning and go out and buy the latest gadget because the TV advert told them to , and look their neighbours on the advert are getting one and we dont want to be left out, called an “old fuddy duddy ” do we ? of coarse not so buy-buy-buy you only live once etc etc .

Member

Surely, if one’s home network is secure enough for home banking, it’s secure enough for home security. If it’s not secure enough one shouldn’t be using it at all.

Member

You would think that Rob but the “authorities” dont want the public believing it isnt safe as that would affect business , show me the authority that will state in open print that wi-fi/ the Internet / cell-net /is safe ? why do you think the CIA etc use satellite phones connected in highly scrambled data transmissions , as a matter of fact the Chinese are working on a new system that is nearly impossible to snoop on and the West is not happy. Public confidence Rob thats what it is down to. HMG are looking to employ hackers , they have even advertised it , so has the FBI , why ? because the hackers are only minutes behind each new security measure . There were 17 more vulnerabilities in the Windows system that had to be patched as well as a large number in Flash Player, nobody should now be using it ,it is so vulnerable to hacking.

Member
Hightownlady says:
16 December 2016

BT home security cameras are useful inside the house in as much as you can have recorded images of any intruders in your home, if you site the cameras in positions where they will have recorded to the cloud before intruders can get to them to unplug them, and providing you are happy to pay the monthly fees to allow recordings to be on the cloud for 30 days. Otherwise all you get is a live view on the occasions you look on your phone and this is expensive to live stream from another country. I think the home hub is secure and protected against hackers. Hopefully it’s early days and the systems will be improved and be able to be more linked in to the house alarm system and external cameras in future.

Member

The Metropolitan Police have stated they will NOT respond to normal house alarm systems (type B ) , only type A which requires a special standard and supplied with a code that the Police have accepted which BB normally have installed in business premises . To get the police to call to a premises /home under type B requires a witness who is at the house to phone the police to say that a bugler is in the premises.

Member

And you are having a laugh when saying that the BT home hub is secure. Either that or you don’t know a lot about internet security.
They are slightly more difficult to hack, but don’t take much longer than any other router.

Member
Paul Jarvis says:
16 December 2016

Not perhaps the right place to comment, but in the article “How to make your home more secure” there is a picture of a ‘shed door’ with a plate lock on it securely fastened with a padlock. Isn.t the use of ordinary phillips screws to attach it to the door just asking for the burglar to bring his philips screwdriver with him
to gain entry in two minutes by undoing the 4 screws?

Special screws can be used that once done up are difficult to unscrew!!!!!

Member

You know what Paul ,you are right , but forget the screws , as someone who grew up in a tough working class area and spent time working in very tough areas , screws are useless , even the police say so. The answer is dome headed BOLTS and inside the shed door the screwed section hammered over to stop any chance of slackening off.

Member

Or simply nuts?

Member

That depends on what you keep in the garden shed Ian , its “BB” for the crooks in my area as they bus themselves into the rural area I live in, from towns 20 miles away . Some were even caught waiting at the local bus stop with big bags of electrical tools and garden implements , Kent online-38 shed break-ins in a week-Herne Bay-Darlington+Stockton Times- 3 sheds on one night get crooks £2000 worth of goods. same all over the UK .

Member

I suspect that the average garden shed needs a lot more than a secure lock, as most can simply be either opened with a screwdriver through a panel or simply lifted onto a wagon, leaving the contents behind for perusal. here were cases of entire sheds being stolen some years ago in Liverpool.

Member
bishbut says:
17 December 2016

Any system that uses an IT based system will not be 100% secure as all computer systems still are not 100% secure Reports of something every day Every attempt to make them more secure is a challenge to someone to find a way to beat it it might take time but someone will

Member

And with the recent passing of the governments ‘universal surveylance laws’ which basically allows ‘Big Brother’ to monitor everything that you do on the internet, SMART home security must be a dream come true for the various (hundreds) of organisations that have access to this info.

Member

Couldn’t have put it better LTG , all part of Universal surveillance in cooperation with BB (Big business ) USA speeded up by “Globalisation “+ IoT,s .

Member

No, but I trust it to protect my mother!

Last year, I looked at the options and costs for telecare systems for my elderly mother, who still lives independently in her own home. I found the cost and practicality of even the simplest systems to be poor value for money; around £200 per year just for monitoring a pendant alarm. And what happens if you forget to have the alarm with you at all times or you are unconscious?

Instead, I spent around £300 on a Samsung SmartThings kit and a couple of extra sensors. As it needs an Internet connection to work, I upgraded my mother’s phone line to add broadband for an extra £5 per month to her existing contract.

This system has been operating for nearly a year now and is proving to be very successful. Apart from the router and hub, there is no wiring and the sensors are tiny and unobtrusive.

My sister and I receive instant alerts to our Android phones/tablets when the fridge is opened. So the first message of the day is a welcome reminder that she is up and about, and then eating normally throughout the day.

There is a small fob on her keys, so we know when she is out shopping; no point in ringing then and worrying that she is not answering the phone.

Most rooms have a motion sensor; when she is home, we can proactively check that she is moving about and not at the bottom of the stairs. They also monitor the temperature and would alert us if the house is too cold.

The patio door has an open/close sensor. If there is no movement, but the keys are at home, she is most likely in the garden. Again, not a good moment to call.

Finally, whilst Samsung don’t provide one, Aeotec make a neat Z-Wave panic button that works with the SmartThings hub, which my mother can wear around the house if she wants the reassurance of a panic alarm.

We are also considering adding Philips Hue lighting that can be automatically or remotely controlled, a Samsung video camera and Yale remote locking. If she was to trip and fall down the stairs, we could turn on the light, see and communicate with her over the camera’s audio system and unlock the front door for a nearby neighbour or the emergency services.

There are many other types of sensor available that can be integrated into the system, depending on your relative’s needs and circumstances, including flood detectors, fire and CO alarms, etc. Even fitness monitors are compatible, although the battery life of these devices is not currently sufficient for someone who does not receive regular home care.

Basically, the benefits of these smart home systems are not limited to a burglar alarm, for which they are not particularly well suited, as others are pointing out. But neither should they be dismissed as a gimmick for specific applications, particularly as more and more devices become Internet enabled.

In my view, Which? should be including these systems on their Assistive Technologies pages for Elderly Care and provide a sample set up configuration. They are a cheaper and far more flexible alternative than the commercial systems available and have the advantage of active, as well as passive, monitoring.

Member

It is gratifying that you have much concern for your mothers welfare and safety Em2 but you mention a price of £200/annum for -“click to call ” alarm system (monitored ).Can I ask if that is a commercial company , as I have the same for my wife , but because it is Council run ( Regional Council ) it is only £104/annum . If for any reason I as a carer drop dead in the house then my wife presses the button and calls for assistance , social workers are sent out , if they cannot access the house due to my wife,s severe handicapped situation then the police are called and they break the door down . Many OAP,s live alone, isolated from relatives and friends so don’t have the advantage of their children living nearby, every month you must contact their base by pressing a button on the control unit to speak to a controller to make sure you are still alive , if no contact is made the social work get sent out.

Member

@Duncan lucas.

The cost is based on the Age UK personal alarm at £216 per year (inc. VAT) and ignores the £82.80 (inc. VAT) self setup fee. My mother is not disabled or chronically ill, so is not eligible for a VAT rebate.

I am certainly not advocating this as a better solution than those provided as part of a social care package, but as an elective “insurance policy” for my mother who does not yet qualify, I feel it is better value for money in the interim.

As I am sure you and everyone else involve in home care realises, there is no one size fits all in these sometimes changing, sometimes difficult situations. One additional benefit I didn’t highlight is that with the benefit of broadband installed at her house, I can now use my laptop if I need to sleep over to look after her, or help her to make decisions and shop over the Internet (mobile data is terrible there).

Member
laurie oliver says:
23 January 2017

Your article on home security page 34 of Jan which – shows a padlocked shed which is incorrectly fitted. The square holes MUST be fitted with smooth headed coach bolts, or a burglar could just unscrew either part and walk straight in.
From a retired policeman!
(Laurie Oliver ex Gwent Police)

Member

And the hinges likewise if they are Tee-hinges with outside fixings as most sheds have.

The best housebreaking tools [like spades] are usually kept in garden sheds. Burglary is bad enough without having your own tools used to break in with. They won’t wake you up – they’ll wait till you’ve gone away. A ladder is a powerful battering ram as well so should also be well-secured with brackets bolted to a wall, strong chains, and heavy duty padlocks.

Member

Hopefully John’s comments don’t result in a rash of burglaries. 🙂

I have replaced door bolts on a building and a shed owned by a charity and was able to see how how insecure they were. It was very useful to take advice from others and that helped me to improve the security of my home and garden.

Member

Every week in our local paper there are two or three reports of garden sheds being easily broken into and articles stolen. They usually seem to be quite high value items like racing bikes or toolsets. Makes you wonder . . .

Member

Hello Laurie, thanks for your comment and for the feedback. To clarify, the image used in the article was not intended to guide our advice to members on home security. We do try and make every effort to use images that reflect the content of our articles, but it’s not always possible. That said, your feedback has been shared with the relevant teams for future consideration when selecting imagery.

Member
Martin Wilkes says:
5 March 2017

The Which? article in the January 2017 magazine suggests that “a smart plug or timer switch could also provide the same effect (as a fake TV light) with a real TV”. But that’s not true with any modern television, whereby connecting it to the mains via a time switch alone will not switch it on, because it also requires to be either activated by a remote control or a button on the TV itself.
We have a fake TV Light (costing £10), facing the lounge window and this is connected to a timer which allows it to operate between 6pm and 11pm, but its own light sensor prevents it from coming on if it isn’t sufficiently dark and that occurs as a result of natural daylight or having the room lights on, when we are at home.

Member

Interestingly, despite all the home security systems available, a lot of people are still leaving their homes unsecured in order to save time: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2017/10/are-you-taking-risks-with-your-home-security-to-save-time/