AUGUST is a good month for break-ins, because many of us leave our homes unoccupied while we hightail it to Tuscany or Torremolinos. But a remotely controlled security camera back home can be as good as - or better than - a house sitter.
The current fad for home automation products has spawned a raft of cameras that record what is going on and allow you to access the footage from wherever you are. They don’t actively deter intruders but they do arm you with the evidence if you need it. More importantly, perhaps, they provide some peace of mind when home is far away.
All of them work in more or less the same way, connecting to the internet and uploading footage to a cloud, from where it can be accessed by PC or phone. Most have sensors that can start recording when movement is detected, and some can be panned and swivelled remotely.
But while the technology is similar, the business models of the manufacturers vary greatly. In particular, some require you to pay a monthly fee to record and play video; others include everything in the purchase price.
Recording and playing back your footage is a must for practical use. Any camera will let you watch live, and many will alert you when they detect something, but unless you can search and see events retrospectively, your evidence will vanish into the breeze.
Less essential but still useful features on some models include the ability to store footage on an SD card in the camera itself, and two-way audio to communicate with someone back home.
All security cameras have companion apps that let you watch footage on your phone, but the design and functionality of these varies enormously. The market has matured greatly in recent years, and the interface of my BT Smart HomeCam from 2014 seems rudimentary now.
The Evo range from Y-Cam is among the newer entrants to the market, offering seven days’ rolling cloud storage of video clips for the first three years, as part of the upfront £129. The range includes indoor and outdoor models, and can he had as bundles at a slight cost saving.
It is by selling you more than one camera that manufacturers try to lock you into whatever subscription model they are offering. The outlay is too great for you to replace them all and go elsewhere, they figure. But there are also advantages to you, since you can view and control all your cameras from a single app, like a security officer in a shopping mall.
Security cameras typically record video in high definition, though not necessarily the highest available, and “HD recording” tends to be used as a sales incentive. In fact, for security use the definition hardly matters - the ability to compensate for bright sunlight and to shoot clearly at night is far more useful. A lens with a wide field of vision is also worth having, so you can position it without blind spots.
Where to place these cameras is an art in itself. Nearly all need mains power, and it’s a challenge to run cables discreetly along walls without compromising the view. It’s also worth bearing in mind that if the power to your home is cut, so is the video feed.
Your intended use for a security camera - child minder, pet monitor, web cam - will dictate the functions you need, but even from those few examples, it’s plain to see how easily they could become part of your life.