Securing your home even better than Kevin
As we approach the end of the year it’s natural that we take stock and think about the changes 2017 has brought into our lives. One prominent theme over the past year has been the increased rhetoric around threats to our safety and way of life. It’s no surprise – there have been terrorist attacks, mass shootings, breakdowns in international relations, a continuing refugee crisis and numerous natural disasters. So, what can we do? Like many things, we can start at home. Home security is not a new concept but it is becoming more important, especially now that home security technology is becoming both more advanced and more accessible. In the well-loved 90s Christmas classic, Home Alone, the young Kevin McCallister had to come up with some pretty creative booby traps to protect himself and his home from burglars. In the movie, Kevin uses all kinds of home-made traps as either alerts or deterrents, including ice on the stairs, a scalding hot doorknob, a blowtorch, paint tins, glue and feathers. The film demonstrates exactly why CCTV and other home security technologies are useful (although CCTV would have made the film a little dull…)
So, what does home security look like as we head into 2018? What are the emerging trends on the home security market and how will they help keep our homes safe?
Connectedness & Control
Most smart home security solutions on the market offer integration of their products and the ability to manage everything in one place, creating a hub you can control, usually with a smartphone app. There’s a lot of flexibility too, the ability to easily create rules for how the system will be triggered and how and when you will be notified. You can create a rule so that a camera begins to record only when motion is detected so you save the energy of your devices and your time looking through empty CCTV footage. Or you could set up a push notification on your smartphone to let you know when someone rings your doorbell, perhaps even interact with the person over the intercom, from work or while stuck in traffic on your way home. Many of these apps allow the user to do everything they need to do remotely, such as view video streaming from cameras, lock and unlock doors and turn alarms off. Just think of how useful that could be if you have a teenage son or daughter!
The security devices that make up the home security suite (cameras, locking systems, movement detectors, sensors and alarms etc.) need to link together and communicate wirelessly. Typically these devices have be connected using RF and Wi-Fi but recently more and more service providers are using Z-Wave, ZeeBee or similar, as the wireless communications protocol of choice for home automation. Z-Wave is a mesh network which uses low-energy radio waves to link and allow communication between devices in the home and, like other protocols, can be controlled via the internet using smartphones, desktop computers and tablets. The advantage of using Z-Wave over other products lies in its ability to operate as both hub controller and external gateway, providing interoperability between the control systems of different manufacturers. This interoperability layer enables information exchange between devices, allowing all Z-wave hard and software to work together.
Location, Location, Location
Geolocation information is becoming more valuable for many standard apps we use today, enhancing the value of service to us while providing location data to the service provider for app improvements. The real-time locational accuracy a smartphone can currently provide is around 3-5 meters, although there are companies working to improve this accuracy to around 30cm or just less than one foot. This means that location data can be used as part of the home security solution by allowing the user to automatically set or unlock a system based on physical location.
Smart locks are becoming more popular, are often included in home security solutions and they can be added to a home hub using Z-Wave without much fuss. They can be used on their own too, with a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth enabled app, for those who don’t want the whole home security solution but are looking to install a more secure locking system. These smart locks can be activated and deactivated using an app, which gives the user much more flexibility over access, for example to family and friends, than having to arrange for the person to pick up a physical key. The app can also be set up to send a push notification to show when someone locks or unlocks the door which could be coupled with a camera so you can see who it is. Geofencing and digital signature verification will likely become more utilised in this area of home smart locks, as in the car industry, including keyless no-touch locks and remote access control. This technology is not just limited to external access either, the use of proximity apps could enable smart interior door handle locking and unlocking for securing individual rooms or even cabinets. One product, the Smart Cube, allows the user to utilise a portable gadget that uses Bluetooth technology to turn any cabinet into a mini-safe and access controlled by the user’s smartphone.
DIY Home Security
There are good arguments for both professionally installed and self-installed smart home security systems but users also have the option to go hybrid for the best of both worlds. Many smart home security systems are available as DIY kits, such as the Abode Home Security Starter Kit and the GetSafe Home Security Starter Kit, offering easy to install solutions which you can configure to your own specific requirements. There are a range of DIY kits on offer and these kits are often modulated, giving you the option to install add-ons at a later date, such as more sensors and cameras, that way you can tweak the system over time. It is worth remembering that these stand-alone systems rely on the user to monitor activities and to report any security incidents to the police themselves.
You can, with some more high-end DIY solutions, also connect your home security into the rest of your connected smart house technology using assistants like Google Assistant, Apple Siri and Amazon Alexa. This means that your security is just another part of the whole home hub and you can use your spoken command to a home hub control device like Amazon Echo, Google Home or Wink. Using these hubs gives you the ability to move seamlessly from changing the settings on your thermostat to turning on the garage alarm to playing music, all while cooking your evening meal in the kitchen.
New Wave Security
There’s no doubt that smart home security solutions are growing and becoming more sophisticated, they enable more control and can make our home environments feel safer. But connectedness brings vulnerabilities too, if all our security devices can be accessed using one central point we need to make sure we’re protecting it. A camera in every room could give you peace of mind if you are the only one who can see the images real-time, remotely, from your desk at work, but how would it feel if someone else were watching? If personal banking details and your medical details are so valuable to protect how would it feel if you were targeted in your own personal space? Hacking is a real threat and can happen in minutes; it’s a big business and will continue to evolve as technology becomes more integrated in our daily lives. Z-Wave is considered to be the most secure home wireless protocol, enabling the connectedness of security devices that make up the smart home security solutions. Z-Wave has increased in popularity due to its security, stability, ease of installation and low power use. In addition, it is affordable for both manufacturers and customers, enabling cheaper options for interconnected devices in the home. The reason Z-Wave is considered to be the most secure type protocol for use in thousands of devices is, among other things, down to the encryption used. Z-Wave includes a security layer which encrypts data when it is transmitted and when pairing a device the protocol has a special syncing procedure using a network key.
Hackers will, no doubt, aim to target Z-Wave despite all its security because of the growing use of Z-Wave in devices and the Internet of Things (IoT). While Z-Wave continues to fight against this threat and to maintain customer trust, responsibility should also be on the user of the devices. Some protection we can take as individuals include – making sure to follow DIY installation procedures and usage accurately, not connecting unknown devices to your network and ensuring your devices are paired correctly. Then once you know you’ve done everything correctly to ensure the integrity of your home security, you can get back to shouting orders to it while you finish making the dinner.