How to Secure Your Home with Automation & Smart Technology Guide

Scott Repasky
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Introduction

What the Experts Say

Getting your home ready for the future is probably the smartest thing you can do. With whirlpools of smart technology, smart home systems, and other automation tech flooding the market, it can be easy to get caught up in the hype.

But, before you jump in and begin buying bright, flashy features, you should know the essentials. In the same way you would prepare for a hurricane, you need to be able to know what to be ready for. Here are some things to consider as you prepare for the smart home.

Wired Home Security Systems vs. Wireless Home Security Systems

As the technologies progress and evolve, so do home security systems. As a result, there are different ways to get the same job done. If you are looking to buy a new home security system, you will soon find that there are three types: wired, wireless, and combination. Each option offers a different experience and can be greatly beneficial for different reasons.

Wired Home Security Systems

As the most common type of system, wired home security systems are what you might imagine when you think of a home security system. It is a system with wires throughout your house. It is relatively inexpensive to install and is an easy install that can be done by most anyone.

Hardware for Securing Your Home with Technology

Insecurity is one of the obvious things that people think about when talking about home automation. In reality, smart home technology makes it easier for you to defend your home.

There are certain types of hardware for securing your home you can wean your home with smart technology.

Temperature Sensors

A temperature sensor sounds like an unnecessary device but it can allow you to know when an object was undergone extreme changes in temperature.

This means if three separate sensors say there is an object that has suddenly heated up, you know it must be a fire.

This can allow you to quickly take action to prevent it from spreading, escaping your alarm system, or even becoming a police matter.

Sound Sensors

It may be less apparent to those who aren't really paying attention, but sound sensors can do a lot for home security. This is especially true when it comes to a well-crafted system.

Sound sensors can detect any unexpected sound in your home. This can give you a heads up that something is wrong, especially if an object is being tampered with.

It could even be a thief trying to break-in while they think you are away.

Safety Sensors

A safety sensor is an object that will signal any release of smoke, or chemicals into your home. Most commonly, they are used in case of a fire.

Bluetooth Door Locks

A popular Bluetooth door lock that you should consider is the Schlage Connect Touchscreen Deadbolt. This is a standard deadbolt that comes with Bluetooth lock technology, so you'll need to have a Bluetooth enabled system with a wireless connection to be able to use it.

You'll also need to make sure your setup supports Z-Wave. The touchscreen deadbolt is easier to use, looks cleaner and offers more features than other Bluetooth locks of its kind. This is especially true if you're going to bundle the Schlage with another smart device, as its touchscreen is compatible with most smart devices on the market, like Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Wink, and Samsung SmartThings.

The touchscreen deadbolt allows you to lock and unlock your door directly from the touchscreen. You can also choose from a variety of presets, depending on the occasion. If you want to let someone in while you're away, you can program the lock to automatically open for up to 30 minutes. This lets a neighbor come in, or a dog walker check on your furry friend while you're away.

If you're worried about security, you might be interested to know that the lock has MyTouch Verified, so it will be able to recognize your fingerprint on the touchscreen in order to let you into your home.

Smartphone Controlled Sensors

These are very rudimentary but they can provide great security for very little money. If you have a smart phone, you can just get yourself a smart switch. Smart switches allow you to turn the lights on and off, for example, via the internet. So if you wanted to, you could turn lights, appliances, and even a cool mist system on an off remotely. You can also use them to detect when a room is occupied or to see if a door is open or not. The best part is that there are no monthly fees or contracts. Once you buy the switch you're done.

If you have a web-cam you can also do some sneaky things. You can use a Linux compatible web cam and run Pi-hole. Pi-hole is basically like a black hole that eats up Internet advertising junk and web pages. The idea is turned on and it will replace your usual home web page with an error page. The error page directs the host to your Pi-hole installation where at the top you have a real-time graph showing views, domain resolution, and number of domains.

This is a really nice part in terms of security because you can see how many ad views you are getting from different locations. This can be a good way to identify if you are getting attacked by a hacker or if someone has attached a key-logger on your computer.

Cameras with Wi-Fi

When shopping for a Wi-Fi security camera, you will want to look for one with clear video, sound, and resolution. Also, look for a security camera that is easy to set up, install, and use.

The Nest Cam Indoor Security Camera is everything a homeowner could want in a Wi-Fi camera. It has automatic settings, a microphone and a speaker for voice communication, a camera that rotates and zooms, and it detects when there are people, animals, or objects in view. If someone or something is detected, the camera will automatically snap pictures or record video. In the event that it is triggered by an object, the person’s face will not be recorded. The camera will continue to take photos or capture video until the person has left the scene.

Along with having the option of live streaming your home through your phone while you are away from home, the Nest Cam also has options for sound activation in still or video mode to capture images or video discreetly, and it can even record based on if sound is detected.

Another great feature of the Nest Cam is its timestamps, which automatically match every picture and then are uploaded to a computer online with evidence tags. This way, you know exactly when each event is captured and where it took place.

Security Cameras & Remote Monitoring

Security cameras can help you feel safe in your own home. The average burglary usually lasts only five minutes and most break-ins occur while people are away at work or school. The main issue is that these stolen moments mean you will have to deal with insurance companies, loss, cleanup and repairing your property. Why wait for this to happen?! Why not choose something that can give you piece of mind.

However, you don’t need to break your budget to make your home safer and property more secure. You can get simple, yet affordable, security cameras and set them up in minutes with a home automation system. You can protect your home and shop, keep an eye on your elderly parents, or even watch your pet while you are away at work. The peace of mind that comes from having a big brother look after you, inside your very own home, almost for free, is hard to beat.

”You will also have the ability to record and have live video from most any device. This is a great tool when you do find some sort of problem. You can go back and view the situation to identify potential issues and pose as a home security system, recording the culprit in the act. Since you may not always be home an automated video surveillance system can work for you, while you are away at work or other places, you can check in and see what is happening at home.

Outdoor Cameras

When selecting a camera for an outdoor installation, you’ll want to make sure the camera is weatherproof. Some cameras are not meant for outdoor use and will be damaged by UV rays and moisture.

Also, you’ll need to make sure the camera is the proper size for the location and that the camera is able to mount in a way that will be effective and sturdy.

If the camera will be outside and fully exposed, you’ll need to decide if the camera should be Ethernet or WiFi capable. If the camera will be connecting inside the house, then it doesn’t have to be WiFi or Ethernet capable. If it is Ethernet, then you’ll need to run the cable outdoors to connect and power it. If it is WiFi, then you’ll need to mount the device in such a way that it can receive a strong signal.

Security cameras make it possible to keep an eye on a home while you're away, even when you're halfway around the world. They also let you see the activities of your pets when you're heading to work or school in the morning, which can help calm your nerves about leaving them alone.

Fingerprint Scanners

Fingerprint scanners are considered the safest and most reliable way to control access and grant entry to a building. The fingerprint system is easy to install and very accurate. They can also store up to a thousand fingerprints. This is far more than the average keycards, which usually store less than 20 entries. It’s no wonder that more and more landlords and property owners are turning to biometric locks for their rental security system. If you’re a landlord, it’s the best way to allows tenants and house sitters to access your property with their fingerprints and for you to have peace of mind.

The main advantage of using fingerprint scanners over card readers is that they are resistive to burglary. If you’ve seen fingerprint scanners used in the movies, you may also think that burglars can break them by using a fake finger or a glove. However, fingerprint scanners are very accurate and not easily fooled. Fingerprints contain not only minute details but raise ridge characteristics and dust particles that are difficult to replicate. All of the factors together make fingerprints hard to fake.

Intelligent Garage Systems

Most garages are just cluttered and unorganized. All you can see are different stuff you have stored in the garage. Apart from the danger of fire and dust, finding the right item in a cluttered garage is another problem.

Today, automated garage systems have demonstrated that they can easily minimize all the problems that you have with your garage. These systems can be real time savers in your garage. They can help you keep the area free of clutter and dangerous from sparks. They can help you save time in locating tools and keeping everything organized.

Here are some notable features of progressive garage storage systems.

Window Sensors

Though there are many different brands and kinds of sensors available, some of the most common ones are:

Window/door sensors: These work by being attached to a window or door. When the door or window opens, the magnetic field changes and this trips the sensor. These can be used for many purposes. Some use them to trigger a light inside the house. This way, they come home to a dark house, or one turns on when the sun goes down.

Motion sensors: These work by being placed in a location with a wide field of vision. This may be the top of the stairs so that it can be triggered by motion before even approaching. Motion sensors can be used to trigger lights turning on/off or to trigger a camera so you can see who triggered the motion sensor. These don’t do anything directly but can be used to trigger other equipment.

Smoke detectors/Cameras/Door contact: These can be used by themselves or connected together. They can be placed in so many locations that they are almost unlimited.

Motion detectors combined with a camera can give you access to your home at all times. You can even use the same camera for local storage and live viewing.

Glass Break Sensors

If a burglar smashes a window, your glass break sensor can immediately alert you, so that you can call the police while you and your family are getting out of the house.

Glass break sensors are wired with a speaker, which can play a pre-recorded alarm. This is often enough to startle an intruder, causing them to run away without stealing anything. However, you might want to have a peephole installed or have a surveillance camera trained on shattered windows to catch thieves.

Once a glass break sensor has been activated, it’s very difficult to reset. Don’t be alarmed, if you call in the police and can’t set it off once they arrive so that they can file up an incident report.

Light Automation

Light automation is one of the most popular smart home automation products available today. There are a couple of ways to automate your lights, including using your smartphone or using smart light bulbs.

There are smart light bulbs and switches from a number of manufacturers. Using a smart bulb allows you to control each individual bulb and not just a group of lights, but also allows for more customization such as colors on the different bulbs.

Smart light switches can be used in a traditional wall light switch, a ceiling fan, or even garage door opening. For smart door locks, you can incorporate smart switches into your normal door locks, to give you home automation control over the locks. You can also find smart switches that are integrated into your garage door opener. Smart wall switches can be substituted for the regular switches throughout your house.

Smart wall switches can recognize when a user has their unique smartphone or smartphone trigger connected to the switch, and can activate the bulbs and do other commands immediately.

One key difference between smart bulbs and smart switches is that smart bulbs require a connected hub or router to connect with your smartphone or tablet. This enables the system to be connected to your smartphone or tablet, and allows you to control your lights from anywhere, even from outside your home. A smart light switch, however, usually connects to your light circuit.

Smart Doorbell

In today’s world, it’s common to have our cell phone on us at all times. We use it for everything from online banking to ordering food. Many people store multiple credit cards on their smartphone as well. If you’re not careful, having a smartphone can leave you vulnerable to identity theft.

Smart doorbells and spy video doorbells give you a way to see who is at your front door. The best ones allow you to communicate with the person at your door, no matter where you are. Especially if you’re using your smartphone to control your smart home, a video doorbell is a great way to keep your entire home as safe as possible.

And don’t worry – you have to give your cell phone number if you sign up to view a live stream, the video doorbells don’t actually give viewers your cell number. In fact, many of these video doorbells are “ring to doorbell” so you don’t need to give your cell phone number.

Digital Door Viewer

A great way to keep your doors safer is by using a digital door viewer or a peephole camera. A digital door viewer gives you the ability to see who is outside your door without actually having to open it. This allows you to see if the person at your door is someone you wish to let in before you open the door at all. Like most automated devices, a digital door viewer can be controlled from your smartphone, which can be extremely convenient. Of course, you do not have to use a peephole camera, but they are a good safety feature to have.

Using a Tablet or Smartphone

  • For people who have teenagers at home, it can be a good idea to put an iron gate at the entrance of your house. When teenagers arrive back home, they can use their tablet or their cell phone to open the gate. This will allow them to get in and out of the house without having to rely on someone else.
  • Using your tablet or your smartphone to control your automated devices can be extremely convenient. This way, you can keep them all on one device.
  • Many of these devices will have an app available for them. You can download the app to your smartphone and whenever you want to use it, all you need to do is open the app and you will be able to control that device.

Smoke Alarms

All of your home security devices will be useless if your alarms systems fail.

Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are safety devices that are easy to automate with Smart home devices. Both of the devices can be placed near your Fire Controller, or other automation hub, so you can control them all from one interface.

It’s important to install smoke alarms in your home. But, many people do not install the proper type of smoke alarms, or have CO detectors installed.

In the event of a fire, you will have an early warning with a Smoke Alarm. Smoke Detectors use photoelectric devices to detect smoke, but there are also Ionization alarms which use a beam of ions produced by a radioactive gas source to trigger the alarm. The alarms are designed to detect visible smoke and are used in homes, automobiles, and industrial buildings.

There are two primary types of smoke detectors: battery-powered and hard-wired. Battery powered smoke detectors consist of a battery that can last for up to ten years, a detector head, and a plastic cover. The best smoke detectors have a 10-year warranty and a detector head that contains an LED that lights up when there is a problem.

Motorized Blinds

Picture this scenario: It's 2 a.m. and you're sleeping in your bedroom when all of a sudden you hear a smashing sound against the windowpane. It's the sound of someone's fist, trying to break through the window.

You immediately grab your phone, call 911, grab a bat, and run to the front door. You tell the 9-1-1 operator that a criminal is breaking in through the back door. However, you can't remember which button to hit to open your garage gate. The operator is screaming at you, as the criminal comes up the steps, "Hurry up and open the door! Hurry up and open the door!"

You couldn't tell by the tone in her voice that she understands you can't get into your house yet. She's calling for police to arrive. The criminal is ten seconds away from breaking into your house. But there is no way for you to open the door.

This scenario happens more often than you may think and that's if you have the ability to get into your house before the criminal gets into your house. What if you didn't have time to grab your phone? What if you didn't have a way to open the door? What if the criminal waits for you to grab your phone and call for help?

Automation Options For Home Security Devices

In this section we will list many of the options available for home automation systems, each of which offers a unique combination of sensors and smart technology, and each of which has its own advantages and disadvantages.

For those of you shopping around for your ideal home security system, a look at the pros and cons of the most popular options is an invaluable resource.

When it comes to home automation, you have a range of different ways to secure your home by connecting smart technology to a variety of devices.

Smart cameras, smart doorbells, smart locks, smart sensors, and smart thermostats are just a few of the options available for you to purchase.

The following sections will detail each of these devices, as well as their advantages and disadvantages, and hopefully by the end of this section you will be able to choose the device that is best for you.

IFTTT (If This Then That)

If This Then That (abbreviated IFTTT) is a service that lets you connect two apps, devices, actions, or workflows so that when "This" happens, "That" happens. For example, every time a new picture is uploaded on Twitter it is automatically saved to Dropbox. If a new picture is added to a google album that I have set up the picture automatically gets sent to Twitter.

Evernote is one of my favorites. If I'm ever browsing the web or reading an article in an online book and I come across something I'd like to keep for reference later, I just use the extension in the browser and when I hit the save button Evernote saves the webpage.

Note: this is not a tutorial on IFTTT and there are several alternatives that you can use. The point of this section is to show you how you can save your time and make manual processes automated.

What I've found is that the more automated my house is, the more focused I am able to be on what is most important. I will also say that automation does not necessarily mean repetition. What it does mean is designing your life to be as intentional as possible and applying your values in your life. Automation is not for everyone and it may not be right to automate a process for you. You need to feel comfortable with the amount of automation that you have in your life.

IoT (Internet of Things)

The IoT is changing the way we use technology at home. With an IoT-ready home, changes can be made or automated based on your proximity. No need to go to your computer – the computer will come to you!

Recently, there was a new smart home device announced every 20 minutes. Within the next five years, the conservative estimation of IoT device adoption is 80 million home devices. That is going to be a lot of devices "talking" to each other. The best way to think about it is when describing a traffic jam – everyone is going to be asking other cars "what's up ahead?".

One of the main benefits of an IoT device is the ability to automate and control one or more devices from a single source. Imagine having your lights, temperature, and even your garage door open/close by simply using your smartphone or voice command. There are several different types of devices, devices that can handle different tasks, and another bonus of having multiple devices is receiving more information about your home and family.

Home Assistants

Before we get into the types of smart home systems, we’ll consider the significant role home assistants will play in your smart home.

These are the devices that help you control and manage all of your automated products and systems. They are the brains of your smart home and are similar to the way a mobile phone is for a smartphone. While your individual smart products are controlled individually, it’s your home assistant that will give you the ability to control all of them and automate your home.

It’s important to note that you don’t have to have the latest and greatest home assistant to use smart home automation. There are several options to choose from.

Safety Measures to Take to Ensure Your Devices are Safe

While effective and necessary, home automation and smart technology are not entirely safe. You must remain vigilant in protecting these devices from hackers to ensure maximum safety and protection.

The devices you use for smart home technology are interconnected, meaning they share data with each other. Unfortunately, your smart devices are also easier to hack because they do not require a password to access.

To help you combat this vulnerability, you should limit the information each device has access to and change the passwords often. You should also use security software like a VPN and a firewall.

Finally, make sure you back up your data, so that you can restore your home if something should go wrong with your network or internet.

Software for Securing Your Home’s Security Devices

You have all the hardware to secure your home, and the home network security tips to add layers of security against hackers. Now we’ll go over the top software programs to use to really seal any holes that hackers are known to use to gain access to your home security systems. Firewalls
A firewall basically allows for your home network to communicate with devices on the network and make outward connections to the internet, while blocking any unauthorized outside connections. A firewall should always be installed and turned on to protect your home and privacy. In the event a hacker finds a weakness in one of your security devices, the firewall will prevent the hacker from accessing your entire home network . Without a firewall installed and working on all your computers at home, then that hacker could potentially figure out personal passwords, credit card information, and deactivate security devices. VPN
Having a virtual private network installed onto your home router will create a nearly impenetrable tunnel for the activity going back and forth between your security devices to your phones and computers. Installing a VPN properly is a bit advanced, but putting in the time to install it right will add a very strong layer to your security devices and should not be overlooked. Firmware Updates
Lastly, you will want to stay on top of firmware and software updates to your security devices. Every manufacturer has employees or consultants checking on their devices for any security flaws. When they discover one, they will release an update, or often times called a patch, to fix the flaw so that hackers can not exploit it. Updates can be released on a very regular basis, or very infrequently. Following the social media accounts or ensuring you are signed up for the manufacturer’s newsletters is a good way to stay informed of any updates they may have released. Home Security Statistics & Facts to Ponder

This is a list of the latest home security statistics and facts. It covers the top security trends and stats to keep in mind during the modern day security conversation.

The Takeaway

There’s no need to panic if your home isn’t fully automated and equipped with smart technology, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Your home security plan should be focused on keeping everyone safe, including you, your family and your pets.

Your comfort isn’t always what’s most important. Sometimes it’s the security of your home that matters most. Regardless of if you’re a home owner or a renter, securing your home with smart technology is something that’s always a good idea.

Smart technology is a great investment, and the benefits to safety are just a small portion of the security that smart technology can bring to you and your home. There are other great benefits to smart technology as well. The main benefits include not having to worry about mechanical errors, automation of your home, having control over your thermostats, and security that is run by computers instead of by unreliable electronics.

Further Reading

The first thing that most of us do when we come home is to open the door. And we only want people we trust to have access to houses or apartments that we have built, maintained, and paid for. But we have the technology to block out unwanted intruders leaving your home insusceptible to intruders, vandals, and burglars.

By leveraging smart technology and utilizing security cameras, you can remotely keep the house under surveillance, and be notified in case someone is trying to gain access to your property in an unauthorized manner.