When he was robbing houses, former burglar Luke Harris would stop in his tracks at the sight of a security camera. He knew not only that the property was well protected, but also that the video could be turned over to the police as evidence against him if he were caught.
“In a burglar’s mind, when they are scoping out a property, they want to be in and out as quickly as they can, with as little chance of getting caught as possible,” Harris told TechRadar. “This means that any visual or physical deterrent — whether it be outdoor lighting, a security camera or a visible alarm — can put them off.”
Demand for home security systems is skyrocketing and is expected to grow by $21.53 billion from 2021 to 2026, according to market research firm Technavio.
“The significant increase in adoption of smart homes owing to rapid urbanization and the advent of IoT,” is driving demand, stated Technavio. It sees the smart home security market growing by over $14 billion from 2021 to 2026.
Demand for home security also is evident at the ballot box, as crime was a major issue in the United States’ recent midterm elections, according to the Pew Research Center, which said 61% of registered voters cited violent crime as being “very important” when deciding for whom to vote.
As more consumers incorporate home security systems into their smart-home ecosystems, the question begs: Are smart homes safe, really? Or is smart home safety an illusion?
The answer is complicated. On the one hand, the majority of U.S. households (68%) say smart home products make them feel more secure in their home, according to Deloitte. On the other hand, experts caution that those same smart home products can create new risks in the realm of cybersecurity.
By combining the latest cloud-based technologies with proactive and preventive security measures, consumers can mitigate physical and digital security threats against their home.
Next-Gen Home Security
Smart home safety products are becoming easier and more convenient to use because of rapid innovation. Artificial intelligence, for example, makes it easier for homeowners to stay on top of happenings at their home without being bombarded with notifications, according to Marlon Buchanan, founder of the Home Tech Hacker.
With the help of machine learning and facial recognition, Buchanan said, AI-powered security cameras can identify people, places and things, and can automatically recognize familiar faces and suspicious behaviors. For instance, they can distinguish between the neighbor who’s retrieving your mail while you’re on vacation from the stranger who’s casing your house. Newer models can even recognize cars and detect if they are coming to your home or leaving it. All of this makes it easier to avoid false alarms by ensuring that homeowners receive alerts only when there is real danger.
“In the past, we got notification overload,” Buchanan said. “But now you can set alerts to send if a package is delivered or a stranger comes to the door, but not a family member. Many people also change their notifications when on vacation for closer monitoring.”
Many new products also use biometrics, such as a doorbell that reads your fingerprint. Because biometrics cannot be lost or stolen like keys or passcodes, these digital readings make it harder for intruders to gain entry.
Some smart home devices even use geofencing to give notifications when someone enters or leaves a section of one’s home or property. Using GPS or RFID technology to create geofencing boundaries is especially helpful for knowing whether kids or elderly family members wander, and for monitoring people coming and going at your home, said Kyle MacDonald, director of operations at Force by Mojio.
Confidence in the Cloud
The best part about many next-gen home security products is the fact that they’re cloud-based.
No one wants to install a new video doorbell or exterior camera every time new technology advances become available. With cloud-based services allow homeowners to update devices with new software that often brings new features and better user experiences. Monthly or annual subscriptions give consumers the latest security updates, customizations, and the ability store and watch hours of recordings.
The cloud also enhances home security products by way of data science, according to MacDonald, who said cloud-based systems can access powerful analytics tools and machine learning algorithms that process large amounts of data in real time, thereby providing security services that are more accurate and more effective.
“The cloud also enables remote access and control of smart home security systems, allowing users to monitor and manage their home security from anywhere, as long as they have access to an internet connection,” MacDonald said.
The cloud is cost-effective, too: U.S. households have an average of 22 connected devices, according to Deloitte. However, new cloud-based technologies make it possible to replace multiple devices with a single camera. For example, instead of having a separate motion or door sensor, smart cameras that are properly positioned can detect if a window or door is opened.
“When you use a camera for multiple purposes, you have a much more accurate picture or video of what’s happening than with multiple devices,” Buchanan said.
“It’s also a lot easier to set up and more affordable. You don’t have to understand how to position door sensors, where to put a glass detector or where to put motion detectors. You can just have them all in one device.”
What About Cyber Risks?
Although smart home safety products have a lot of benefits when it comes to physically securing one’s home, they could leave homeowners more vulnerable to digital threats.
Indeed, each device added to one’s smart home is a potential point of entry for cybercriminals who wish to access personal data or plant malware on devices.
By taking proactive steps, however, homeowners can significantly reduce their risk of data breaches and cyberattacks, according to Buchanan. He advises homeowners to:
- Keep smart home devices updated with the latest software releases
- Change passwords on smart home devices from factory settings
- Use network segmentation to separate smart home from personal and work devices
- Purchase devices that support two-factor authentication
Buchanan believes as long as homeowners practice good cybersecurity hygiene, smart home safety products bring low risk and high reward.
“Smart home security systems definitely make our homes safe,” he said.
“We can detect events we couldn’t previously detect. The system also allows us to tune our notifications so that we are more likely to monitor events at our home instead of ignore them. With smart home devices, good home security is now accessible to people who aren’t as technologically savvy. Because the processing and analytics now take place in the cloud, homeowners have less to actually set up, but see many more benefits.”
Jennifer Goforth Gregory is a contributing writer. Find her on Twitter @byJenGregory.
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