We are big fans of home alone over here at Keytek and have decided to look at the traps that Kevin Macalister sets up for the ‘Wet Bandits’ and whether they would be useful in actually securing your home.
Now in doing some research into the traps Kevin sets up and the real life consequences of using them on real burglars, we definitely would not advise that you employ any of these tactics. However, there is a ton of home security inspiration to be taken from the Home Alone movies. We will go through some of Kevin’s most ingenuous booby traps and advise you on how to secure your home.
The Spider Surprise
Kevin employs the use of his brothers’ pet tarantula to give one of the intruders a fright. Now, spiders are not the most common of pets in the average UK household. But other pets such as dogs can be a good deterrent to a potential burglar. The noise of them barking or moving around the house is an asset, and the use of a ‘beware of the dog’ sign is an extra precaution.
The Slimy Ladder
Kevin has the ingenious ideas of smearing the rungs of a ladder with goo, making it impossible for one of the ‘Wet Bandits’ to climb up. We can take two things from this, one; do not leave ladders in a place that they can be used to gain entry. Also you can invest in ‘anti-climb’ paint; this has a thick oily coating that looks glossy when applied. However, it remains slippery and makes it almost impossible for a burglar to climb your wall.
Let the TV do the Talking
‘Merry Christmas ya filthy animal!’ may the most iconic line from a fake movie within a movie. Kevin tricks the ‘Wet Bandits’ by playing a film loud on the television. While this is amusing in the film, the principle is solid. Sounds and lights will deter burglars from breaking in. You can set timers on lamps to come on and off periodically, to give the allusion of a presence in the house. You can even buy a T.V Simulator that flashes different coloured lights, so to someone looking through a window, the television seems to be on.
Secure the Perimeter
Kevin uses a couple of techniques to secure the perimeter of his home. He ices the stairs, the ‘Wet Bandits’ slip and fall, so are unable to reach the front door. He also heats up the front door knob to such a temperature that it burns the pattern into one burglars hand; he also throws bricks at them from the roof of the house. We do not suggest ANY of these however; securing your perimeter is a good idea. Your fencing, hedging or walls can attract or deter burglars. Check for weak spots, a rusty lock or unstable fence for example. A thorny hedge around your home can put thieves off, but you will need to make sure that passers by can still see the front of your home, so a burglar won’t go unnoticed. A gravel drive way is a great deterrent, as an intruder will be put off by the noise it makes when walking on it.
Get to know your Neighbours!
Kevin spends the entire movie scared of his ‘creepy’ neighbour Marley and does not go to him for help. But it is he that saves Kevin from the ‘Wet Bandits’ at the end of the film. If Kevin had got to know his neighbour; he could have gone to him for help straight away. It is important to get to know your neighbours as they are the people most likely to notice if something unusual has happened in your house. You can also ask then to keep an eye on your home if you go on holiday, move any post that may be hanging out of your door.
Kevin’s antics are extreme, and of course are done for comic effect, so we definitely don’t recommend you copy him. However a lot of inspiration can be taken from the Home Alone Movies; taking steps to protect your home and belongings is the most effective action you can take against burglaries. So make sure you don’t leave yourself venerable. Visit https://www.keytek.co.uk/security-tips/ to get more advice on how to secure your home.
In this age of smart phones, home hubs and app controlled heating; it’s not surprising to see the emergence of Wi-Fi doorbell cameras. We will do just about anything to keep our home and family secure, so are smart doorbells a worthy investment? We are going to look at the five most popular doorbell cameras in the UK and see what they offer.
The Ring doorbell camera offers you 1080HD video, which is a pretty high resolution for a doorbell camera. It allows you to see, hear and speak to anyone that comes to your door from wherever you are. Ring provides instant mobile alerts and two way talk that you can answer from your mobile, tablet or PC. The Ring doorbell can be adapted to meet your needs; you can adjust the motion sensors. So if you own a cat that will be around your property, you won’t get an alert every time they move.
The Ring Video Doorbell 2 includes a quick release rechargeable battery, so you are able to charge it without having to take the whole thing off your front door. If you are worried about it being switched off for any period of time then we recommend you buy 2 batteries, so you always have power for your Wi-Fi doorbell camera.
The camera has a viewing range of 160 degrees and has adjustable motion zones. Don’t worry about having it outside in bad weather, as it can cope with temperatures as low as -5c and as high as 48.5c. it’s is also weather resistant meaning its fine getting rained on, snowed on or even hailed on. Ring will also connect to the Amazon Alexa, so you can see who’s at the door with an Echo Show or a Fire TV.
Ring is the most dominant presence in the Wi-Fi doorbell camera game, so you can be sure it’s the most advanced smart doorbell out there. However it does come with a rather large price tag. So it’s worth looking around to see what other doorbells are out there.
The SkyBell offers almost exactly the same features as the Ring Wi-Fi doorbell. The small difference being that with Skybell you get a notification when someone rings the doorbell, as well as motion notifications.
The set up seems relatively simple, as you only use 4 screws to mount the Wi-Fi door bell and can use any existing doorbells power wires.
The Skybell also features 2 way audio, meaning you can have a conversation with whoever is at the door. The app allows multiple people to have accounts, so everyone that lives in your house can have view who has been to the front door. Even at night you will be able to see clearly who is at your front door in full colour night vision. Also, if you’ve not had chance to look at who’s been around your property all day, then there is an ‘Active History’ function that means you can review any missed visitors, any answered video calls and motion alerts.
One of the biggest differences between the Skybell and Ring is battery vs hard wired, with the Sky bell being wired in. Depending on the doorbell you currently have, you may find the battery controlled Wi-Fi doorbell a little easier to set up. However if leaving something that controls your home security on a battery worries you, then having it wired in is a selling point.
The Vivint Doorbell Camera is probably the most elegant looking Wi-Fi doorbell on the list; it has a thin, understated design meaning that it is considerably more subtle than a security camera and some of the other Wi-Fi doorbells. It’s also comes with the standard features of a Wi-Fi doorbell camera, notifications and video footage etc. The video quality is slightly lower than some other smart doorbells at 720p HD and has a night vision feature.
Vivint promotes a discreet way to secure your home and boasts that it will warn you before a person even rings on your doorbell. On their website its says;
“The minimalist design of Vivint Doorbell Camera mimics a regular doorbell to blend seamlessly with your home exterior and keep your entryway feeling like a meeting place, not a TSA checkpoint.”
So if you’re conscious of advertising that you have an expensive smart doorbell attached to your door, the Vivint might be for you. To be able to use a Vivint Doorbell camera you will need to invest in a Vivint smart home monitoring package and this will cost you extra in equipment and monthly fees. Installation is a bit more involved and requires a specially trained engineer to come to your house and set it up for you. They do not specifically state the price of the camera on their website, but if subtly is your thing then Vivint is definitely worth looking in to.
August is a big player in the smart home security game. They are best known for their smart locks that allow you to open the front door with your phone. However they also have a Wi-Fi doorbell on the market, the August Doorbell Cam. The August can be wired in using the same connection of your current standard doorbell, so there is no need to rely on batteries. You can then set it up inside by using the USB dock provided.
August differs from other Wi-Fi doorbell cameras by not having a night vision feature, but instead including a full colour light that will illuminate anyone standing at the door. However like the others it allows you not only to live stream footage from your front door, but going back and review anything you missed. The camera will start recording when it senses movement, so you shouldn’t miss anything important.
The instillation of the August is a bit more involved than some of the other options, as you are required to mount brackets and use a drill, which if you are not DIY minded, could be a struggle for you.
Like all the other doorbell cameras the Vuebell doorbell comes with its own app, meaning you can check the video feed from anywhere. The doorbell itself includes HD cameras, 2-way audio and Night Vision. The Vuebell automatically detects unusual motions and alerts you by sending a notification to your phone. Or if you are out and someone rings the doorbell you can have a real-time two-way conversation with them.
The camera is pretty good, with a wide viewing angle of 185 degrees and a vertical viewing angle of 118 degrees, meaning that the entire area around your front door will be covered. Like most of the camera doorbells, it runs on Wi-Fi, with Vuebell you can have it up to 100 metres away from your wireless router. That means it doesn’t matter where it is in your home, the connection will not suffer from inference. The doorbell also has eight infrared LEDs that can help you see things even at night. You can capture a clear photo at night within five meters.
The Netvue is a good piece of kit if you’re looking to keep the cost down. However you won’t be able to connect the Netvue with any other smart devices, such as a smart lock or another smart camera. The Netvue does also have a slightly budget look about it.
Video Storage Fees
What most of the makers of these Wi-Fi camera doorbells fail to mention is that if you want to keep the footage of your home then you will need to subscribe to a monthly storage plan. As hours and hours of video footage takes up a lot of storage space, it’s not possible to store it all on the doorbell itself. Most companies will store your footage on a cloud based server, some may offer you some sort of free cloud storage, while others offer you none at all.
The Ring Video Doorbell may be one of the most advanced cameras out there, but they offer no free storage. This means unless you open a live stream immediately after receiving a notification, you might miss what going on. For the motion based video to be stored you have to subscribe to a ‘Ring Protect Plan’. You can either pay £2.50 per month (£25 annually) for their Protect Basic Plan, which will store all live videos for up to 30 days. Or you can pay £8 per month (£80 annually) for the Protect Plus Program. This is useful if you have more than one Wi-Fi camera doorbell, as the plan covers unlimited Ring devices. You still only have 30 days’ worth of storage with this plan, but you do get an extended warranty and discounts in the Ring store.
Skybell does not offer a storage plan of any sort. But it does offer free 7 day storage, so if you are looking for a WI-FI doorbell camera that can store footage for a long time, the Skybell is not for you.
As with the price of the actual doorbell, Vivint are not advertising the price of their video storage plan. However on their website it says you get 30 days’ worth of video (which seems to be the standard) for a ‘fraction of the cost of most video storage solutions’.
August does offer various plans, the Free Basic Plan offer 24 hours of saved video history; this comes automatically with the doorbell so there is no need to sign up. They do offer a ‘Premium’ storage plan, which is around £4 a month or around £50 annually. This offers 30 days of saved video history and saved video clips of all activity captured. On both plans you can download and share saved videos and everyone that has the August app can use it.
Netvue does not offer any free video storage; instead they offer three paid plans. The first is Ring Video Storage which is around £2 a month (or around £20 a year); this plan will record and save any doorbell rings and conversations on the cloud for future viewing for 30 days.
The second plan is around £6 a month (or £69.99 per year) and offers 14 days of 24/7 recording. This means your doorbell will be recording continuously and you can access and review the footage for up to 14 days.
The third is around £1 per month (or £19 per year) and you are able view 10 second of any event, this is available to watch for 30 days.
So, Should you buy one?
Buying a WI-FI doorbell is a good investment in the security of your home, especially if you want to be able to connect with people at your front door while you are away. However, you do need to consider how much you want to spend and how much you are willing to pay for the video storage. We hope this guide has been useful and make sure you check out our other blogs on home security.
If you’ve done any research into smart locks or smart doorbells then it’s more than likely you’ve come across August. They are giants in this field of technology, matched only by the likes of Nest and Amazon. The company August Home is based in California and released its first smart lock the ‘August Smart Lock’ in 2013. Two years later they released a new wave of products, including the ‘August Smart Lock Pro + Connect’ their second generation of smart lock. They also started selling video door bells, and as of July 2018 August Home has sold over one million smart locks and cameras.
We are going to take a look at the products August Home have to offer and help you decide which product is right for you.
The Original- August Smart Lock
The original (and cheaper) version of the August smart lock, allows you to lock and unlock your door with your phone, while also giving keyless entry to family and guests. One major selling point of the August smart lock is that you don’t have to change your existing lock, it just attaches to the inside of your door, which also means you can use regular keys if needed. As with most smart locks these days, August had its own handy app, which allows you to see if your door is locked or unlocked and even alerts you if your door is ajar. The August Smart Lock works with accessories that August Home offer, such as the Smart Keypad and August Connect.
The Next Generation- August Smart Lock Pro + Connect
This newer (and more expensive) smart lock offers everything the original does, but also offers users connection to Siri, Alexa, and Google Home Assistant. Meaning if you have a larger smart home security system, the August Smart Lock Pro can integrate easily. You can also remotely control your lock from anywhere meaning you can lock and unlock the door wherever you are. Like with the original smart lock, your door will automatically unlock when it senses your phone in range, but with the Pro, you can also use your voice to unlock it via Siri and Alexa.
The Doorbell- August Doorbell Cam Pro
This does what is says on the tin (plus a little bit more). Essentially it’s a doorbell with a camera in it, so you can see who’s at the door before you answer it. But of course this being 2018, it comes with a lot more features than that! Via the app you can receive notifications when someone approaches your front door, no matter where you are. With the free Basic Video Recording subscription you can replay any video from the last 24 hours. It even offers full-colour HD at night, by using the built-in floodlight. So you don’t have to waste your time with grainy infrared night-time video. As with Augusts other products, they pride themselves on ease of installation. So the Doorbell Cam Pro uses the existing wiring that connects your standard doorbell and the included USB dock allows complete setup inside your home prior to installation.
Never miss a moment- Hindsight
As mentioned previously with the August Doorbell Cam Pro you get the basic recording subscription that allows you to view the past 24 hours of footage. If you would like to view footage from the last month then you can upgrade to the Premium for around £5 a month. Hindsight constantly monitors your doorway and captures the few seconds leading up to someone arriving on your doorstep. You then get an alert, letting you know that there has been some activity at your door.
Never hide a key again- August Smart Keypad
You never have to leave a key under the mat or under a plant pot again. With the August Smart Keypad you can unlock your door with secure codes. You can create unique entry codes to unlock your door without having to use a traditional key or smart phone. Meaning the August Smart Keypad is a better option for those with children, or older relatives that would struggle to use a key or smart phone. You can either have temporary codes that allow people access for a certain number of days or you can even set ‘recurring’ codes that only allow access for a specific time each week. Continuing the August tradition of products being easy to install, the Keypad is battery powered, so no need to wire anything. You just put in you 2 AAA batteries and stick it to the wall. Obviously the August Smart Keypad is compatible with all other August Home products, but works well as a standalone security measure.
Upgrading your home security to include external cameras is a practical and effective way to protect your home. However to make the most of your surveillance requirements, you need to assess the needs of you and your family, as not everyone will need the same level of security.
So, we’ve put together a guide to help you look at which outdoor security camera is best for you, your family and your home.
What you need to consider
Weatherproof or Waterproof?
Weatherproof means that your camera will be able to withstand exposure to weather without deterioration, so your camera could handle wind, rain and snow without being damaged. Whereas waterproof would mean that your camera isn’t going to break if submerged in water; no water will get in to the components to destroy them. A consideration will therefore need to be the weather conditions where you live when selecting the best security camera for you. If you live in Scotland for example, which gets a lot of snow; it would probably be worth getting a weatherproof camera. But if you live on the South Coast of England where snow is a remote possibility, you could probably manage with a waterproof camera.
How much of your property do you need on camera?
A camera’s viewing angle will determine how much space the camera will cover. A camera with a wider angle will mean you need fewer cameras. You also need to think about the size of your property and how much you want in view, this will determine how many cameras you will need to buy or how wide the camera angle will need to be
How clear do you want the picture to be?
You need to think about what kind of video you want from your surveillance camera. The higher resolution the camera has, the better the picture quality will be. For a good quality image you need at least 1080p, or even higher if you want crystal clear images. It depends if you are going to be studying the footage every day, or only if there is an issue.
Do you need Night Vision?
The most likely answer to this question is…yes. What’s the point of having a security camera that can’t capture images at night? To get a high quality image you will need to buy a camera that has infrared technology. Most security cameras will have this, but if you want the highest possible quality image then you will need to buy one with a high number of infrared LEDs. The more infrared LEDs you have the more range you will have with the night vision.
Do you want to be able to access your camera on your mobile?
This is popular feature because it allows you to check in with your home wherever you are. You will need to make sure you choose a camera that is compatible with your phone and be prepared to pay a fee for your footage. Most cloud based features will require monthly or yearly fees payed to the company that makes the camera you choose.
How much do you want to spend?
You can get pretty cheap basic security cameras, but it is a case of ‘you get what you pay for’, one or two basic cameras will be around £150-£250 but if you want multi-camera, indoor and outdoor top of the range camera with all the fancy extras, then you could be looking at thousands of pounds.
24/7 live video. 130° Wide-angle view lets you look after your home in 1080p HD, day and night.
Receive a phone alert or email when nest cam detects activity.
Weatherproof, cable and adaptor, so you can leave it out in the rain.
Talk & listen feature. Meaning you can speak to get someone’s attention or tell the postman to leave the parcel by the door.
Night vision. With 8 infrared LED, night vision evenly illuminates the scene.
This nifty little camera alerts you via your mobile phone if something is happening around your house by detecting motions and sounds. It can even alert you with a photo from the ‘event’ whether that is the cat knocking a plant pot over or someone breaking a window. It’s also extremely clever, it knows when it’s recording a person, so it can alert you specifically when someone is walking up to your door. You can also ‘talk and listen’ with the Nests inbuilt speaker and microphone.
The Nest Cam Outdoor is weatherproof and extremely easy to install; you can either get a Nest Pro to install it for you, or you just plug in the cable and adaptor, mount the camera and you’re ready to go!
Sound and advanced motion detection-get instant notifications sent to your smartphone or email.
Weather resistant- IP65-certified to stand the rain, sun, heat or chill.
Arlo basic 7 day cloud recording
Night Vision-turns on automatically in low light so you can see clearly, even in the dark.
Activity zones- highlight areas in your camera’s view where you want to receive motion and sound alerts.
The Netgear Arlo is one of the more expensive cameras out there, but it comes with a shed load of features. Its night vision automatically turns on in low light, so you don’t have to worry about missing anything in the evenings. Like the Nest, the Arlo also has a microphone and speaker, so if you see a delivery man, you can ask him to put your package round the back (and probably scare him!). It is fully weather resistant to stand rain, sun, high or low temperatures, so you don’t have to worry about it breaking. With the Arlo you have a Smart Security Siren, meaning you can set off a 100+ decibel alarm from your phone, if you see something suspicious whilst watching the footage away from home. The Arlo works with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, IFITT and Stringify. Arlo will store all footage from the past 7 days, but this does come with a cost and is currently only available in the US.
The YI Outdoor camera comes with a reasonable price tag, and you still get some good quality features. It boasts a 110 degree wide angle lens with 3.9mm focal length, and along with flexible mounts which means you get a huge range of vision. It also has an inferred night time function and colour switch filter to give you the best quality images at night. It comes with its own app, this is great as you can live stream the footage anywhere; you can also share the footage with up to 5 different people. Meaning that if you are going on holiday you could ask friends and family to keep an eye on your house. The 3 meter cable is useful, as you won’t have to struggle to plug it in, or uses extension leads.
For the price it’s a great little camera, and has the useful features that you find in the more expensive outdoor security cameras.
With the Ring Spotlight Cam, you can protect every corner of your home, its wire free and boasts a HD camera that lets you hear and speak to anyone on your property, from your phone or PC. You can set instant motion activated alerts, that send a notification to your phone when ring senses someone is on your property. The built in spotlight is what makes the Ring stand out from the crowd, the light means you get sharp image quality through the night. It does also have night vision, if you don’t want the light to come on at night. If you do spot an intruder then you can remotely set off a 110 decibel alarm, to help scare them away. It’s also weather resistant and can survive in temperatures as low as -28 degrees and as high as 50 degrees, so you wont have to worry about it.
The device runs off a battery there are no wires, meaning you can pretty much install it anywhere. The battery is detachable so you don’t have to move the entire camera when it needs a charge. This might be a downside for anyone buying the Ring Spotlight Cam, the camera will be out of use when the battery is charging.
Ring has just been brought by Amazon, so it’s a huge company. Meaning if you have any problems with your camera, you’re more than likely going to be able to get it sorted.
The blink camera claims to be the ‘most affordable, battery powered outdoor’ security cameras available. It does pack a lot of punch, with its infrared night vision and live HD video. The blink is weather proof and includes temperature sensors to make sure you are always getting the clearest image. Like the others on this list, it has a motion detector that will send video with audio to your smartphone, when it senses movement.
The big selling point of the Blink is that you don’t have to pay a subscription to store your footage. You can also view live footage from anywhere on your smart device. The other selling point of the Blink is that the battery life is around 2 years, so you don’t have to worry about changing them regularly.
The Presence camera boasts some of the same features as the Blink, as it has no subscription fees for storing your video. That’s not the only good feature about the Presence; you can live stream and view your home in real time.
At night you can watch discreetly with Presence’s infrared night vision, or you can turn on the cameras floodlight. This can be done via the app or you can choose for the floodlight to react to movement by setting the sensors.
Presence is specifically designed for outdoor use so can withstand the elements; rain, snow, moisture as well as dust and dirt, by using a thin film coating solution (HZO technology). It’s also very simple to install and can just replace your existing security light. You can also be sure that no one else is looking at your video footage, as the Presence uses bank-level and end to end encryption to protect your privacy.
Having a secure door lock is one of the most effective ways to protect your home and ever since Smart Locks came on to the market, there has been an ongoing debate about whether they are A) safe, and B) more secure than Traditional Locks. We are going to look at some of the pros and cons of smart and Traditional Locks, and see which comes out on top as the most secure.
When we talk about ‘Traditional’ locks, we are referring to the typical locks you see on pretty much every door; a Euro Lock, Mortice, Yale type (Night Latch) etc. These are the locks that you know already, and will most likely have on your door. These locks need a physical key to open them.
When we talk about ‘Smart’ locks we are referring to a lock that is controlled by your phone, or another devise such as a fob. These locks use either Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and not a physical key to unlock your door.
Door Lock Security
This one is the biggy. Which lock is actually more secure? The one big issue facing Smart Locks is that anything that is connected to the internet can be vulnerable to hacking. So if you install a Smart Lock for your home, there is a chance someone could break in by hacking the lock. This is one fundamental flaw that affects all Smart Locks.
With Traditional Locks it’s hard to give an overview of safety because they are all different and many factors have to be taken into consideration. However, we will just look at common locks that you will find on your front door, like a Euro or a Mortice Lock, as there are vulnerable to picking.
Traditional front door locks are susceptible to breaks in; arguably just as much as or even more so than a Smart Lock. An experienced burglar can snap a Euro Lock and gain entry to your house in seconds (see more on our lock snapping page). You can invest in an anti-snapping lock, but this is still vulnerable to ‘picking’. This is also true of Mortice Locks. You can get high security locks that are anti-snap and anti-pick.
When deciding which the most secure lock is for you home, you need to think about whether it’s more likely an intruder will pick your lock, or hack it. Statistics show us that burglary is a crime of opportunity, so it’s not likely an intruder will have pre planned to hack into your smart door lock. As discussed, Smart Locks often run off Bluetooth or Wi-Fi so there is always a chance this will fail, potentially leaving your home vulnerable.
There is a lot of debate about which lock is the most secure lock for your home. Both have the strengths and weaknesses. So, comparing them on secureness might not make you decided one way or another. It’s the other factors that might make up your mind.
This is an area where Smart Locks definitely come out on top. The ability to let someone into your home from miles away is great. Especially if you have children that tend to misplace their keys during the school day. In this day and age, people are generally never without their phones, so it’s a good way to ensure you are never locked out.
With Traditional Locks, if you want to grant someone access to your home while you are not in, you would have to trust them with a key, or leave on under the mat (which we strongly advise against). These can both cause security issues, as it’s an open invitation to any burglar who finds it and you trust someone not to lose the key. Having a Traditional Lock also means that if you lose your key or lock yourself out, whomever else has a key would need to physically come to your location to let you in.
However, a phone running out of battery, having no internet access or something disrupting the Bluetooth means that you could be locked out of a Smart Lock. Most Smart Locks do have a key override for this reason, but you may feel this defeats the object of having a smart door lock, a physical key is never going to run out of battery or lose connection.
Smart lock vs traditional lock cost
Generally speaking, Smart Locks are more expensive than Traditional Locks and this could be a big factor in your decision. So we will run through some general prices and what you get for your money. (This is not taking in the account the cost of hiring a locksmith to fit/replace your locks)
Depending on what door you have the cost for a new lock will change. A replacement cylinder for a uPVC door starts at £25 for the most basic lock. This price will change if you have a wooden door, as you will probably need a Yale lock replacement or a Mortice Lock replacement. With a Yale Lock you can just replace the cylinder and that starts at £15 and upwards, but if you needed the whole lock and back set replaced, the price starts at £35. When changing a Mortice Lock you need to decide if you want a 3 Lever or 5 Lever, (5 Levers are generally used for external doors, and 3 Levers for internal). 5 Levers start at around £45 and 3 Levers at £25.
If you wanted high security locks then the price will jump up again. For the highest grade anti-snap or anti-bump lock, the price will start at £30. Higher security Mortice Locks start at around £40.
There is no denying that Smart Locks are more expensive than Traditional Locks. The cheapest Smart Lock out there is the Candy House Sesame Smart Lock and that’s around £100. The bigger names for Smart Locks out there are August and Yale and they will set you back around £250-£300 for the basic package. You have to think whether or not the extra cost is worth it, but you get all the benefits; lock and unlock your house from anywhere, send friends and family virtual keys and receive notifications about whose entering and leaving.
Smart Locks will use the same mechanisms as Traditional Locks, so really you are paying extra for convenience. If you wanted to pay extra for home security, you might be better off investing in an entire smart home system that includes cameras, motion detectors and an alarm system.
To find out more about the different Smart Locks out there visit our Smart Locks Blog
Inspired by Star Trek, the creators of Alexa wanted to be like the crew of the USS Enterprise, who would simply shout out ‘computer’ then give commands or ask questions to the all-knowing devise. The guys behind Alexa wanted to replicate this, but felt that ‘computer’ was a word used to commonly is everyday life. And thus Alexa was born, as having a word that has soft vowels and contains an X is unusual. Amazon Echo devises and Alexa have advanced leaps and bound since its original conception and the dream of having a voice controlled assistant is a reality, as now over 12,000 products have ‘Alexa Skills’.
Being able to switch lights on and off with your voice seems like the peak of technology and the Amazon echo devices have been incredibly popular. However, with smart homes and smart security becoming more and more common, we look at how you can use your Amazon Echo devise to secure and protect your home from burglars. Now the Amazon Echo can’t do this alone, so we have compiled a list of the best home security cameras, lights, doorbells and many more gadgets you can connect with Alexa.
Step one- Pick an Amazon Echo
There are a few different Echo’s you can choose from; the original Echo (2nd gen) to the newest Echo Show.
The Echo (gen 2) is smaller than its predecessor and has a microphone that is more sensitive and will reach further, it’s also cheaper. So if you’re looking for a good all-rounder to make your entire home smart then this could be the one for you.
The Echo Plus is what you would expect, the standard Echo with a few things added. The Plus has an inbuilt ‘Zigbee Hub’ which means it can directly connect to certain smart home devises, this means that instead of adding your devises one by one, the Plus will ‘discover’ them.
The Echo Dot is the smaller version of the Echo, it’s cheaper too, so if you’re looking to keep the cost down the Dot might be the one for you. It’s as smart as the original Echo, the difference is the sound quality; the speaker isn’t much better than the one on your phone. However if you are just buying an Echo for security, the Dot is a safe bet.
The Echo Show is one of the newer versions of the Amazon Echo. It boasts a 7 inch touch screen, which allows you to gain audio and visual feedback when you ask it things. In terms of home security, it allows you to access live footage from compatible security cameras. The Show can also be used for video calling and has an in built microphone for voice recognition.
Step two- Pick any extra gadgets
Nest Cam Indoor
The Nest Cam Indoor, is a smart security camera that sits in your home and allows you to view your home from anywhere, it also contains speakers that allow you to speak through it, from anywhere. With the Nest Indoor Cam you can ask Alexa to watch your live video feed on the Amazon Echo Show or Echo Spot display. Also if you have an Amazon fire TV devise you can even watch it on a TV. The Nest Cam Indoor provides 1080p video at 30fps, which for this kind of camera is the best picture quality you are going to get. The downside of the Nest Indoor Cam is that you have to subscribe to ‘Nest Aware’ and pay monthly to view your recorded footage; this starts at £5 per month for 24 hours of storage.
Nest is more geared up to work with Google Home; however you can us the Alexa app to connect with Alexa and your other Amazon products. You will just need to ‘enable’ Nest camera on the Alexa App.
You can buy the Nest Cam Indoor on Amazon for £139.00
Seeing as Amazon brought Ring for around for over $1 billion earlier this year, this is one of the most compatible gadgets you can get to go with your Amazon Echo. Ring is essentially a video doorbell that enables you to see, hear and speak to anyone at your door.
Once you have enabled Ring on your Alexa app you can simply ask… “Alexa, show my front door” and boom, you get the live feed from your front door. This is great if you are home alone and want to check out who is at the door before you answer it. If you choose to have the video doorbell then the hope is in the future Alexa can ‘learn’ about your families habits. For instance if a child is walking home from school while a parent is still at work, you will be able to ask “Alexa…is David home yet?” And be shown a video image of the child arriving home. This kind of facial recognition might be a couple of years off, but it’s the tip of the iceberg for what Amazon could do with the Ring video doorbell. The possibilities for home security are endless when it comes to Amazon and Ring.
Canary offers a range of some security products, including the Canary itself. The Canary is a all-in-one smart home security solution. It uses AI technology, HD camera and microphone plus a 90 decibel siren to protect your home. What’s good about the Canary is that all you need is Wi-Fi, you just place it somewhere in your home and you’re ready to go. You can download an app that allows you to view live footage of your home wherever you are and in an emergency you can ether sound the siren or make an emergency call. Another bonus of the Canary is that it will ‘auto-arm’ when you are not around, so you don’t have to remember to put it on. It will also ‘learn’ what normal activity is in your home and will detect if anything is ‘different’.
You can integrate Canary with your Amazon products and Alexa similar to the Nest Cam Indoor. You will be able to ask Alexa to stream live video from your Canary.
Yale is another company that Amazon has partnered with for home security. By connecting a Yale smart door lock you can use Alexa to control your door. By saying specific phrases to Alexa, you will trigger responses, such as “Alexa…is the back door locked?” will trigger the devise to check the status of your lock. The feature which people find the coolest is the “Alexa…lock the front door” feature. This allows you to lock your door from anywhere in your house, giving you the peace of mind that you will not be getting unwanted visitors at night. For security reasons you will be able to unlock your door using voice commands. But Yale offers lots of other advanced way to unlock a door with its keyless entry locks; all you need is your phone to gain entry to the house.
You can read more about the Yale keyless entry system on our blog ‘best smart locks’
You can buy a Yale Smart Lock from Amazon for £199.00
August smart locks were the first smart locks to support Alexa. August enables you to ask Alexa to lock the front door and check if the door is locked from anywhere. By connecting your August devices to Alex you are able to view your front door camera by asking “Alexa…show me my front door camera” and once you are happy to let someone in you can ask Alexa to unlock the front door, to keep it secure you will be prompted to provide your secure PIN code to unlock the door. August and Amazon are promoting ease of use with their products, they want you to be able to let your friends in, even if you are busy cooking in the kitchen.
You can buy an August Smart Lock from the August website starting at $149
Step three- Decide if it’s worth it
Is Alexa Safe?
With all this advancement and new technology to help secure your home, people are questioning how secure Alexa is. One main thing that concerns people is that their smart home devise is always listening. Clearly they are listening for any commands you might throw at it, but how much can it hear? Well Alexa does record what you are saying and sends it to a server, but that only when it’s triggered by you saying ‘Alexa’. Alexa does have a habit of being triggered by things other than your voice television or radio for instance, so there is a chance snippets of your life will be sent to a server and stored. Amazon obviously have some of the best security in the world to keep this data safe, so it is unlikely that anyone could access this data and use it. However nothing is 100% secure, so there is always a small chance that something could happen.
If you choose to have an Amazon Echo product and Alexa in your home then you will never have 100% privacy. If you did have complete privacy Amazon Echo’s and all the other home assistance would be completely useless. You can however make your Amazon Echo more secure with a few simple steps. Mute it when it’s not in use, this will turn off the ‘always listening’ function until you unmute it again, this is easy on the Amazon Echo and there is a ‘mute’ button on the top which you simply press. There is also an option to erase your old recordings; go to your Amazon account and look under ‘manage my device’ and you can delete your entire history or individual queries for yourself. It’s also wise to disconnect the calendar feature from Alexa, as a hacker could gain access and know when you are planning to be away from home.
Anything that is connected to the internet is potentially hackable, so there could be a risk of hacking with an Amazon Echo product. It’s more likely that the hacker is your child who asks Alexa to send them toys, which if you have the shopping mode enabled, could happen. There is also a risk that someone with hacking skills could turn your Amazon Echo into a listening device. But you have to weigh up the risks. Why would someone want to listen in on the average person’s life? There are easier and more effective ways to get someone’s bank account details. We’ve mentioned that some of the security systems that work with Alexa let you control the door locks with your voice, you could be running the risk that anyone could shout ‘Alexa…open the door!’ a few do offer a pin number to keep it safe, which is something we suggest you have. It is also advisable to enable the mute function while you are out of the house to stop this from happening as well.
There has also been some talk about hackers being able to control Alexa by using ultrasonic frequencies. This has been named ‘Dolphin Attack’. It involves hackers broadcasting a frequency too high for the human ear to hear, but is audible for your microphone on your Amazon Echo product. In theory a person would be able to ‘whisper’ commands you cannot hear to your smart device, and if your smart lock is connected, potentially open your door. As advised before, turning off your microphone function when leaving the house is the best way to protect against this kind of attack.
If it’s the fear of a burglar hacking you smart door or alarm system and getting in to you home, that’s stopping you from getting an Amazon Echo and related products, then rest easy. Most burglars are opportunistic and are more likely to kick your door in, smash a window or pick a lock to gain entry to your home. The fact that you have a camera on your door bell or a smart security system may even put burglars off from breaking in, as they are more likely to be identified and caught. On the other hand, when you have a flashy or expensive security system, you run the risk of thieves thinking you have items worth stealing locked inside. But this can be the case with a smart lock, or non smart lock that is out of the ordinary.
So is it worth getting an Amazon Echo with Alexa and using it for home security? Well there are definite benefits to having a voice activated security system, as it makes it easier to secure your home. Being able to ask Alexa to arm your security system means you are more likely to remember to do it. Those with children could benefit by using the smart lock and doorbell camera to check on the safety of their children. However if you are not very technology minded or don’t have a smart phone, then you will struggle to make full use of the systems. It could ultimately make life more difficult for you and lead to unnecessary spending. However, it is looking more and more likely that smart home hubs, including smart security systems will be common place, with devices being voice controlled.
Everyone wants to make their home as secure as possible, and it’s easy to splash out on the best security for the front door, back door and security cameras etc. However you may be ignoring one main security breach….your windows. There are several things you can do to secure your windows, as well as measures you can take with your windows to keep your family safe.
Firstly we will go through what you can do to keep thieves from gaining access through your windows;
First things first, keep them locked!
Most burglars are opportunistic and an open window is an open invitation to anyone walking past. You can have all the fancy gadgets, the most expensive glass and the securest frames, but if the window is left open or unlocked….it’s all useless.
Sometimes the simple methods are the best, investing in a good window lock will help to protect your home. You can install deadbolts and sash jammers, but you best option is to go for a bulky lock that can be seen from the outside, as a burglar may see this and decide to move on. A popular choice for this is a window pin lock; it is relatively simple and not that expensive. If you have modern uPVC windows then it’s more than likely they came with a pretty good lock, plus the stronger and sturdier your window frames look, the less likely a burglar is going to attempt to gain entry through them.
There are a few ways to reinforce your windows using secure material. One option is tempered glass; this is more durable than traditional glass and more difficult to break. It’s also the most inexpensive options when it comes to reinforcing your windows. Another option is Laminated Glass; this is also called safety glass. Usually laminated glass has a layer of vinyl between the two panes of normal glass. For a burglar to break through this, they are going to have to strike it repeatedly in the same spot. This is not only hard work, but will cause a lot of noise, acting as a deterrent for a burglar. If your neighbour hears one loud noise they will stop what they are doing to see if they hear it again, once they hear it multiple times, they are more likely to act. If you really want to go to the extreme then you can look at getting bullet resistant glass or wire mesh glass, these are not the normal go to materials for a family home and although they may cost more, they may not have any more benefit to a family than the other options.
Bars on your windows may not be the most aesthetically pleasing, but they will provide a very effective security measure for your home. Firstly they will put a burglar off by just being there, and even if someone does want to smash your window, they won’t be able to squeeze through the bars. It’s not the most popular option, but there are companies that will specialise in making window bars that fit the look of your home and are not too intrusive. It also means you don’t have to remember to lock your windows every time you leave the house; the protection is always there. However some safety experts warn against putting these in, as it means the windows are not secondary exit point during an emergency such as a fire.
There are a few window alarms available including wired and wireless. Wireless are the most popular as not many people like the mess of wires and cords, however you have to keep your eye on the battery life. If the batteries run out of a wireless window alarm then it’s useless. On the other hand, the benefit of having a wireless system is that even if you have a power cut, then your windows are still alarmed. Most window alarms/sensors are made of magnets and reed switches and they can be surface mounted or recessed. It deters burglars by setting off a loud noise when the circuit is broken. A burglar will break the circuit when they push the window open, pulling the magnet away from the switch. The loud noise should scare any burglars away.
Plant something thorny
Yes that’s right, one more natural burglar deterrent is to plant some thorny bushes under your window (if you can). This can physically stop a burglar from reaching your windows and act as a deterrent, as it’s likely no one going to willingly drag themselves through painful thorns. You mustn’t plant anything with a strong trunk close to your windows as this provides an easy climbing frame to your upper windows.
Have some DIY security
As simple as it sounds placing something near your window that will fall over or make a noise when touched or pushed over, such as a lamp or vase can be a great, inexpensive method of additional security. This will not only alert you, but potentially scare away the burglar that is trying to gain access to your home through a window.
Usually, before attempting to break in to your home, a burglar wants to know that it’s worth the effort. What will they do? Look in the window. If you have tinted or reflective windows, it makes it harder for the burglar to canvass the inside of your house to see if there is anything worth stealing. He also would not be able to confirm for definite if your home or not. All this would hopefully deter them from breaking in. Of course a cheaper option is to keep your blinds or curtains closed while you are out. This will also stop burglars from being able to see any valuables you have inside.
Burglars love the dark, so installing bright flood lights that illuminate your windows is a great way to deter them. You can buy motion sensor floodlights that will flick on when anyone comes near you home. This is not only helpful to yourself if you are arriving at home after dark, but it’s will also alert you from the inside if someone is approaching.
Window Safety for your family and pets
As important as it is to secure your windows against burglars, it’s equally as important to make them safe for your family.
Windows are a secondary escape route in case of a fire. So you need to make sure they are easily openable from the inside, it would be good to practice opening them from the inside with your children, so they know how to get out.
In this vein it’s also worth checking no windows are nailed or painted shut, when you move into a new property as you need to be able to escape quickly in the event of a fire.
If you have young children then you know already that they enjoy climbing on everything; try to move any furniture or anything that can be climbed on away from windows as this will reduce the risk of the children reaching the windows and accidents occurring.
Keeping the windows locked is a very important part of window safety, keeping them locked not only keeps burglars out, but can stop your child falling out if they reach them.
If you own pets, especially indoor cats then it’s important to secure your windows, you can do this by keeping them locked and closed. However if you want to be able to open the window to keep cool then you can install a pet screen, which acts as a barrier between your pet and the outside world, while allowing you to enjoy the fresh air.
Window Locks and Security
We hope that by reading this guide, you now have some ideas on how to increase the security of your property via your windows, as we can almost guarantee there will be information included in this blog that you wouldn’t have even considered! Along with window security, there are many aspects of your home security that you should consider and monitor. For more tips on a range of security topics, visit https://www.keytek.co.uk/security-tips/.
If you need additional locks or security fitted to your windows and home, do not hesitate in calling an accredited, expert locksmith.