HAS there ever been a worse invention than the burglar alarm? What looked like a good idea on paper - burglar enters house, alarm goes off, neighbours call police, burglar scarpers - has been completely undermined by the ratio of false alarms to actual incidents - with the result that no-one takes a blind bit of notice any more.
And alarms offer no peace of mind while you’re away that your home isn’t being wrecked by your kids, flooded or worse. That’s because they date from an era of bell wire and terminal blocks; they’re about as relevant to today’s world as a post office telegram.
Wi-fi cameras reinvent the concept of what home security should do. With one or more of these strategically positioned around your home you can see and hear what’s going on, whether you’re in another room, at work or on a sunbed in Tenerife. Like traditional alarms, they can be triggered by movement within their field of vision - and they can automatically record the goings-on for use as evidence later.
What’s more, they cost less than most professional installations and you can set them up yourself in a few minutes flat.
I’ve been experimenting with BT’s £99 Smart Home Cam 100, one of the new breed of security devices, which works on the assumption that you will also have a Wi-fi network in your home and a smartphone in your pocket. The camera transmits sound and pictures to an app on your phone, which you can see and hear anywhere there’s a mobile signal.
This makes the Smart Cam a more compelling proposition than any of the wired CCTV cameras out there, whose output you can typically see only when you get back home.
Setting it up takes just a few minutes and involves downloading a free app, then pairing the camera with your wi-fi router and creating an account with BT. You can put apps on as many phones and tablets as you like and log into each with the same credentials. You can also have multiple cameras in different rooms, and you can monitor their output on a computer, via a BT portal.
The Smart Cam can be set to record manually to your phone, or automatically to BT’s “cloud”, for an extra subscription. You can also take snapshots of what it sees and, at your discretion, allow other people to watch, too. It works day or night and can send you text or email notifications when its sensor detects movement. The sensitivity of this can be adjusted so your pets don’t set it off.
It’s sold as a security camera but it’s also versatile enough to be a baby monitor, and because it uses Wi-fi it’s completely portable; all you have to do is plug it into the mains. If you’re installing it somewhere permanently, though, you may want to tidy away the black power cord.
The smartest thing about a Smart Cam is that if the worst does happen and you’re a victim of crime, the only people who need know are you and the police - not all your neighbours.