Security FAQs

How much can you trust your home automation to take care of these details for you, i.e. to lock your doors, turn off the lights, etc.? Are most pretty foolproof?

When you buy a single smart device like a smart light bulb, you generally get an app for your smartphone so you have a handy way of monitoring, controlling, and scheduling your light bulb. But you don’t really need to control each and every smart device one at a time, using the app it comes with. Instead, you can have your devices connected to a smart hub that works like your central command device. This thing usually has its own app, which you can then use to monitor and control every smart device in your home (or at least every smart device you’ve integrated with the hub).

With the hub, you now have a way of organizing all your smart devices so that you can control them more efficiently. You can also do it more easily and quickly.

  • You can start by organizing your devices into a single group and in several key groups. So you can have a group called “all the lights” as well as “outdoor lights”, “living room lights”, “upstairs lights”, and other similar groupings. If you want to turn off all the lights in your home when you turn in to sleep, then you can do so with just a single tap on a button on your smartphone touchscreen. You won’t have to use a different app for each particular light, and of course you don’t ever have to walk all over the house turning off lights manually.
  • You can also have different devices such as sensors and lights in the same group, depending on their location such as the bedroom. So you can then turn off all your appliances in the bedroom when you walk out the door.
  • Several types of devices can also work together for particular events (called “scenes”), which you can define and then set yourself. For example, you can have a “movie watching” scene for your home. Tap this button on your smartphone) or schedule it to activate at a particular time) and the lights can dim, drapes or window shades can close automatically, your phones don’t ring, and you get a comfy temperature courtesy of your thermostat.
  • Your motion detectors also trigger various smart devices to work in certain ways you want. For example, walking into a room can activate the speakers and the lights. When you leave your home to go to work, most of your appliances turn down, your security system arms itself, and your thermostat reduces the heating.

So are these functions reliable? For the most part you can really rely on your hub to do these things for you. But you need a really good hub from a reputable manufacturer and you must have some sort of guarantee that every device you connect to the hub will work properly.

In some cases, you may have problems. For example, when you have two devices like a motion sensor and an alarm working together and they’re made by different companies, they may not work reliably together. The motion sensor may detect something but the alarm may not ring out.

Another problem is that when you use the hub’s app to control a smart device, the full range of features may not be available on the hub app. So with its native app a smart light bulb can offer a dimmer option, but through the hub app this benefit may not be available.

So what’s the solution? Simple: you need a smart automation system with an effective certification program. These programs, such as the Apple HomeKit, can guarantee that that your home automation program can be relied upon to work properly with every single smart device in the network.

Can I store video from my smart home cameras?

When you have smart home cameras installed in and around your home, you may have the ability to see what’s happening through a live stream. It’s like a webcam that way.

But you can also store videos recorded by your cameras. These videos can help you take a closer look later on after the event, so that you can identify the intruder. This can help the police apprehend the intruder, and the videos may also be presented as evidence.

You have several ways of storing video depending on the manufacturer of the camera, and not all of them are free.

1. Local storage. This can be a very handy feature, and most of the time it’s in the form of memory card slots. Just pop in a memory card so you can record continuously throughout the day, and then copy the video on your PC so you can check what happened without missing anything.

With this option, you don’t have to pay that onerous monthly subscription (although to be fair some of the payment options are actually quite affordable). On the other hand, if you only have local storage then you don’t get to see the video when some burglar steals the camera (along with the memory card).

2. Cloud storage. Different companies have different policies regarding cloud storage for security camera videos. Many offer some sort of free cloud storage, although they differ in how long they store your videos in the cloud. Some companies keep the videos available for only 12 hours before they delete them from their servers. Others keep the videos (as well as the alert history) for a few days or perhaps even for two weeks.

To extend this period, you will then need to be a subscriber. You may have to pay maybe $20 (companies charge their own rates) for two weeks to a month, and for a year’s time in the cloud you may have to pay much more. There are even companies that promise to keep your videos forever online—as long as you pay a monthly fee.

3. Recordings. Some video cameras may offer continuous recordings. But others may not record unless its motion detectors sense something amiss, and this isn’t always reliable. There are even cases in which the camera doesn’t record any video at all unless you’re a monthly subscriber—in which case you actually have just a webcam.

4. Downloads. The free storage may be a good option for you if the period is long enough for you to view the videos, and you can download the videos you want. That way, you have cloud storage so you can discover who the culprit is when your camera is stolen. Then if you want a particular video, you can just download it and save it to your computer (or your own more affordable cloud service).