Want to check and see how your dog is doing while you’re at work? Why not see exactly when your housekeeper arrives, or make sure there’s nobody in your house that shouldn’t be? It’s all possible with a WiFi-enabled security camera. Now, you may not be super familiar with security cameras in general, but I am an expert and can lend some knowledge.
These days, most security cameras are connected to the Internet so you can view your camera’s footage live from your phone, anywhere where you have web access. Each camera comes with a corresponding mobile application that will alert you if any movement is detected when the camera is armed. Some cameras can even tell the difference between various moving objects, only telling you when a person is detected as opposed to your cat. There are cameras for indoor use as well as cameras with weather-resistance intended for outdoor use. But what exactly do you look for when shopping for a home security camera? Let’s break it down together.
Cameras can either be battery-operated or may plug into an outlet. Make sure you decide where you want to place your camera before buying it, considering the power as a major factor. If the camera is battery-operated, make sure you find out the battery life, and if the battery is rechargeable or non-replaceable. If the camera plugs into power, make sure you have some form of backup in case of an outage. That could be in the form of cellular, landline, or sometimes even battery backup.
If you’re planning on using your camera outside, make sure that it fits into the temperature range of your climate. Also make sure that it can withstand liquids and solids by checking out its IP rating. Your camera should have an IP rating of at least 65, meaning it’s dust-tight and can handle low-pressure water jets.
When it comes to video quality, 1080p HD is the industry standard, producing a clear and beautiful picture, while 2K, 4K, and 2560p HD go above and beyond. I wouldn’t buy a camera with 720p HD at this point. Look for a camera with a field of view of at least 120 degrees horizontally. I also prefer cameras that allow you to zoom in optically, if not digitally.
Your camera should have a speaker and a microphone enabling two-way audio. Not only does this mean that you’ll be able to hear whoever your camera’s pointing at, but it also means that you can talk back to them through the mobile app. This comes in handy particularly if you do have an intrusion, as you can actually tell the burglars to leave in real time!
I prefer cameras with infrared night vision as opposed to color night vision from a bright white light. While infrared produces black and white footage, it is much less conspicuous than a spotlight, and I believe that security cameras should have a degree of stealth.
You’ll want cloud and local storage for your camera’s footage. Some cameras offer both for free, some cameras offer one or the other, and some cameras offer only paid cloud subscription options. I’m happy as long as cloud and local storage are available. Local storage may be in the form of a micro-SD card or hard drive, while cloud storage takes place on a remote server such as Dropbox. You’ll want two forms of storage in case one fails. Obviously, it’s important to store your security camera’s footage in case you do have an intrusion and need video evidence.
Smart Platform Integrations
Most security cameras work with either Alexa or Google Assistant, the voice assistants of Amazon and Google, respectively. This means that you’ll be able to control your security camera using your voice alone, which is super convenient if you have your hands full. Some cameras let you tell Alexa to livestream footage on your Echo Show! If you’re already part of a smart home ecosystem, you’ll want to buy a camera that works with your chosen voice assistant.
Artificial intelligence isn’t just the stuff of science fiction. Many security cameras have AI capabilities, like person detection and facial recognition. Person detection means that your camera can differentiate between people and other moving objects, be it pets, packages, or cars. Your app will only alert you if the camera detects a person, which makes for notifications that are more necessary than just from motion alone. Building off of that, facial recognition means that your camera, over time, can learn the faces of the friends and family who visit your home. Once they’ve become familiar with specific people, you can name them in the mobile app and get alerted when your camera detects a particular loved one! On the flip side, your camera will also know if there are any unfamiliar faces, equally useful information. While not many cameras have facial recognition at this point, I really prefer cameras with person detection.
The majority of the cameras that I review have DIY installation, and it’s usually pretty simple and quick. Of course, battery-operated cameras are going to be easier to install than wired options, although the maintenance of the battery might be more burdensome over time. Read reviews from Amazon and Google, or your favorite home security expert, to see what the installation process is like.
When it comes to the pricing of home security cameras, unfortunately, there’s a very big range. I’ve seen cameras as cheap as $20 and as expensive as $400, with the majority falling in between $100 and $200. Outdoor cameras tend to be more expensive than indoor cameras, as well, so that’s something to consider. If you’re going to buy multiple cameras, there are often discounts if you buy them all at once. Be sure to take advantage of sales for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the like.
A WiFi-enabled security camera is nothing without a user-friendly app. Make sure your app has good ratings on either the Apple or Google Play store, depending on the make of your mobile device.
To see some great options, here’s my list of the best home security cameras of the year. Remember- be secure!
By Gabe Turner, Director of Content at Security Baron