There was actually a time not so long ago when home security companies were all the rage. News reports were full of break-ins, and these companies offered some measure of protection against criminals bent on thievery, vandalism, assault, or sometimes worse. These companies sometimes offered their services at an exorbitant rate and/or a long term contract. People still went ahead and used their services because they felt they had no other choice, but now they do—in the form of a smart home camera.

Uses of the Smart Home Camera

This type of smart camera for home security can be useful in a wide variety of ways. The most obvious is that it can deter would-be thieves and assailants from targeting your home.

And they’re not just for show. The right camera can detect anyone entering the vicinity of your home, and the camera and your security system can react in certain ways. Lights can activate and alarms can blare to startle the would-be intruder and alert the neighbors. Your security system can also send you a message along with images of the intruder, and then you can call your local police to respond. And if the criminal is caught, you have the video evidence to guarantee a conviction.

These cameras can also be useful if you have young children or confused seniors in your home. Your cameras can see if they leave the house and roam the neighborhood, so you can move to get them back to safety. And if you have neighbors you suspect of vandalizing your property or a dog that does its business on your lawn, then you can also use the evidence you gather to get the perpetrators to stop.

And that’s just for the outside of the home with outdoor IP cameras (Internet-protocol cameras). Inside, you can also use an indoor IP camera in several ways. Anxious parents use them as a baby monitor, so that they can make sure their infants are safe at home. These cameras can also make sure that the babysitter isn’t a secret sociopath as well.

Of course, it can protect your valuables inside as well. You can have cameras installed right near your vault, or in front of expensive appliances like your huge LED TV. You can also connect it to your smoke detector, so that you can confirm if there’s a fire going on in your house or if someone just stupidly lit a cigarette inside. Installing a home security camera may even reduce your insurance premiums.

Your cameras can be out in the open, so that criminal activities are discouraged. Some are camouflaged, so that the criminals can commit their dastardly acts and you can gather the evidence that can put them away.

But for all of these things, you need the right home automation camera.

Choosing the Right Security Cameras

Your security and all these other benefits hinges upon your choice of security camera. It’s the very foundation of your security system, as choosing a bad one is almost the same as having no camera at all. Here are the main features you need to look for:

1. Clear resolution. What you don’t want is a camera that offers images so grainy you’d need an expert at the NSA to make heads and tails out of it. The pictures and videos must offer clarity, so that you don’t just know that someone’s there. You can know that person’s identity without question. It should be good enough that when you pause the video the image isn’t blurred at all. After all, it’s more convenient for you to get an image file on your phone than to get a whole video file.

2. Night vision. Clarity shouldn’t be limited to just the daytime either. You also need night vision so that you can tell what’s going on in and outside of your home 24 hours a day. Many burglars and vandals come in under the cover of darkness, and your camera can make sure that the night doesn’t protect them from discovery.

3. Motion detection. The camera should be able to sense if there’s any movement outside (or inside) the house that can be cause for concern. The motion can then trigger video recording, as well as lights activation and alarms that can frighten would-be criminals. With a motion detector, at least your camera can record videos only if something’s happening, instead of having a large video file filled with hours of non-activity.

4. Wi-Fi. Your camera should be Wi-Fi-enabled, so that it makes it easier for you to use an app and your smartphone to access it. With an automatic wireless camera, there aren’t any wires for criminals to cut. However, you need to make certain that they’re not easily taken offline.

5. Notifications. If something goes wrong, then the camera should be able to send you information about the issue. For example, the camera should have push notifications sent to you when the camera goes online. An email isn’t enough, because you may not be checking your email when the camera sends you the message.

You also need to be notified if your camera starts recording. It can send you stills of someone at the door, so if you know that person you can also remotely buzz them in with your smart door lock app. Or if you’re sent a picture of a stranger skulking around the house or breaking in through your windows, you can immediately notify the police.

If possible, the camera should also be able to send videos to a cloud. Videos can eat up a lot of hard disk space so you can’t always get the videos on your smartphone.

6. Durability. This is a concern especially for outdoor cameras, which need to be able to withstand the elements. It has to be weatherproof at the very least. Some cameras may even have tough shells and glass that can withstand rocks thrown at it.

7. Aesthetics. While this is also a factor for outdoor cameras, it’s a rather crucial issue for indoor cameras. Do you want to camouflage it so that you can watch over your home discreetly? A camera hidden inside a stuffed toy can catch whoever it is who’s taking or breaking some of your possessions. And you can find out if a babysitter is truly trustworthy when they don’t know you have cameras distributed around the house.

But if the camera is out in the open, you also need to think about interior design. It has to have an appealing look that fits your décor, instead of having an obvious shape that makes you feel that your privacy is being invaded.

These are just the basic necessities. Others may have built-in alarms. Some outdoor cameras can differentiate between people and pets so that you’re not unnecessarily disturbed when your dog runs around the house or your neighbor’s cat is walking around in your property. There are even some cameras with 2-way audio, so that you can talk to that person directly when they’re at a far-off gate at the edge of your property and you’re at home.

Home Camera Brands

Now that you know what factors to consider when you’re getting home security cameras for your home, you should be able to narrow down your list of options. But here are some well-regarded cameras you should also look at as well:

1. Nest Cam. Nest is a famous name in the industry ever since it was acquired by Google, and you can bet that it works reliably. It comes with advanced features, including highly detailed 1080 video (at 30 fps) which it can actually send to your phone or browser live. Its zoom capabilities are superb as well.

It offers a mobile app for iOS and Android devices, and you also get a web-based console for your PC. The app shows you a page on which ever Nest camera in your home is displayed. Click on one gets you a live feed, and the two-way audio capability lets you talk to anyone within camera range.

However, its push notifications are limited to one every half-hour, and there’s no email notification. You’ll also need to spend extra money to download recorded video, and you have to pay for cloud storage.

On the other hand, it can act as a Z-wave home automation hub, and it can also monitor the temperature and humidity inside and outside your home. With its compatibility with other Nest devices, it’s a crucial part of any smart home setup especially if you want to stick to the Nest brand.

2. iControl Networks Piper nv. This is another formidable surveillance camera that’s easy to install and control through an app. It shows video in excellent HD detail, it comes with night vision, and the 180-degree fish-eye lens offer a very wide field of view. You also get zoom, tilt, and pan capabilities.

It can act as a hub for other Z-wave devices, too, and it also has sensors for temperature and humidity. Video is automatically recorded once the motion or sound detectors sense something amiss. And it can also blast a really deafening alarm that none of your neighbors can pretend to not hear. Your other options when the camera detects intruders are to send you an alert through text, email, a phone call, or push notification. It can also send a message to your “Trusted Circle”, when you’re not at home or out of town.

There are just two main problems. There’s no web app, so you really need an Android or iOS device to control and manage the cameras. There’s also no local storage. The videos are all in the Piper cloud and you can’t save them at all. You’re limited to a thousand 35-second video clips, and when that limit is reached the service begins to overwrite the first videos.

3. Remocam. This is also an outstanding choice, as its reliability can really assuage any security concerns. It offers outstanding daytime videos with its PTZ features. Every time its motion sensor detects anything, the camera sends you push notifications while it also automatically saves video to a cloud and to your microSD card. There’s also 2-way audio communication available.

The setup is very easy, and the app is also quite versatile. You can even use it to control your TV and your Blu-ray player. The app lets you view live feed as well as recorded videos. For live videos, you can also select to monitor one of several areas in the frame.

While it does offer cloud storage with video downloads, there are some drawbacks you have to know about. The videos are only in 720p, and the night vision can use some improvements. It doesn’t do email notifications, it doesn’t have sensors for temperature and humidity (which you may need indoors to check for fires and floods), and it won’t work with other Z-wave devices.

4. Withings. This is both a baby monitor and a webcam, so you can have a very close eye watching over your precious child even while you’re at work. The video images are quite sharp and clear, and it can also give you an HD live feed to your mobile device. The app gives you the alerts and push notifications if something’s happening, and it also lets you to communicate with Baby through the camera.

With the app, you can also activate the lullaby sound programs embedded in the baby monitor if your baby is feeling fussy. These were organized and developed by infant specialists, and the lullabies are all effective in getting the baby to snooze. There’s also a nightlight built in which you can control.

So if you need outdoor and indoor surveillance cameras, the Nest, Piper, and Remocam all have several features that can fit your needs. And now with the Withings Baby Monitor, you can watch over your baby remotely as well. That’s what these cameras are for—to give you the ability to watch over your home and your loved ones even when you’re far away from home.