Smart home technology connects us with our home, even when we are away. With the addition of smart home cameras and surveillance systems, home owners are able to monitor their dwelling at the office or on vacation. If you’re looking to keep an eye on your children or other valuables in your home, a new smart camera will help.
Capabilities will vary amongst different devices. Some surveillance cameras allow you to monitor your home through live or recorded video. Some have alarms and can send notifications when activity is detected. There are even smart surveillance cameras that offer two way audio and messaging. However, not all cameras are created equally.
What to Consider Before Purchasing a Smart Home Camera
One of the first things to consider before making a home surveillance purchase is the room or areas you’d like to monitor. Placement of smart home security cameras is vital to ensure you get the most of your new camera. You want to make sure you are getting the best view for your money.
Are you looking to place cameras inside or outside? Not all smart home cameras are built the same. If you wish to monitor the areas outside your home and around your property, you’re going to need a camera built for the outdoors. Outdoor cameras are more rugged and can stand up to the elements over time.
You’ll want to choose an area that gives your camera optimal lighting and a good view. You won’t want to place your surveillance device in a shaded area or one that may be obstructed by a tree or the building itself. If the you have a good position for your camera, but the lighting is low, you’ll want to look at placing a camera with night vision. Night vision cameras are designed to provide high quality images in low light situations.
Here are some of the best areas to place a surveillance camera:
- Near the front door
- Near the back door
- Near the garage door(s)
- Near the windows
While placing your camera at the highest point possible may give you a larger viewing area, it’s not particularly the best point of view. If a break-in or burglary did happen on your property, you’ll want to be able to identify the suspect easily. A camera that is mounted high may only provide you with the figure of the suspect and not a clear view of their face.
Most smart home surveillance cameras offer up to 1080p video recording. Having a high quality video resolution has its perks. Since most home security cameras do not offer lenses with optical zoom, you’re going to need to rely on a digital zoom. The higher quality the image, the less grainy and distorted it will be if you need to zoom in. So if you’re planning on covering a large distance to monitor, you may be better off with a higher resolution camera.
The smart home surveillance cameras that we’ve featured, offer no less than a 720p video resolution.
As of now, the best image resolution available for smart home cameras is 1080p. Only the future will tell if 4K resolution will make its way to home surveillance. Of course, larger image quality will require more network bandwidth.
Camera lenses offer various field of view. Your average smart home camera will offer about a 130 degree viewing angle. Few will offer up to a 180 degree view and even less a 360 degree view. The wider the lens’ view, the greater the area it may cover. If you’re wanting full surveillance coverage, you may need to overlap several cameras around a room or area.
All of the video cameras we’ve reviewed connect via Wi-Fi. However, there are a few that offer other connectivity protocols such as Bluetooth and Z-Wave.
The video that is recored by your surveillance camera will need to be stored somewhere to be viewed later. There are two video storage methods: cloud storage and local storage. Neither is right or wrong and it all comes down to preference.
Cloud storage simply means that the video is being stored remotely. This method is great for those who do not want to invest in additional hardware or software to archive surveillance footage. Be aware though, if you’re using cloud storage, there may be an additional subscription fee.
In contrast, local storage means you’re storing your video data on the device itself or a connected harddrive. While you may save some money in the long term by doing this, there are a few headaches. If the device or harddrive is stolen, you will loose your video archives. Additionally, you will need to spend more time to setup local storage.
Most cameras on the market will be in the $150-$300 range. As mentioned previously, additional subscription fees may apply for cloud storage. You may want to take a moment looking at each of our top smart camera reviews where we break down the additional cost.
Best Outdoor Smart Home Surveillance Cameras
Nest Cam Outdoor
The Nest Cam Outdoor is a rugged yet stylish weatherproof camera. It gives you a 1080p quality video and on-demand video as it records 24/7. You can view your video from both a mobile and web-based app remotely.
Netgear Arlo Security System
Netgear Arlo Security System is a wireless, waterproof camera that can be placed anywhere around your home. However, because it is wireless, it is not always recording in order to conserve battery life. For the money, it does not offer as many features as other camera devices.
Kuna is an undercover smart home security light that houses a camera inside. Its great for the front door, back door, or even around the garage. The Kuna device is equipped with two-way audio that can be used to greet visitors and a 720p camera with night vision.
Best Indoor Smart Home Surveillance Cameras
Icontrol Networks Piper NV
Piper NV is more than just a smart home camera. Icontrol Networks positions Piper NV as a go-go smart home security solution. The Piper NV camera is full featured with 1080p video resolution, night vision, two-way audio, and alarm. Our favorite feature is Piper’s 180 degree field of view – the widest angle of all we’ve reviewed.
Canary All-In-One Home Security Device
The Canary All-In-One Home Security Device is just that. It monitors and records your home’s activities with 1080p video. The Canary also features sensors for temperature, humidity, and air quality. It is an all-in-one security system that can send you notifications/alerts to your phone and sound a 90 dB siren.
The Zmodo Pivot gives you a 360 degree view around your room with a 1080p video resolution. It’s captured video is stored locally so you won’t need to worry about a cloud subscription and there is even a mobile app to view remotely. Zmodo also comes with a handful of security and environmental sensors.
Nest Cam Indoor
The Nest Cam Indoor gives you a crisp 1080p video of your indoor environment. It features motion and sound detection and can be integrated nicely with other Nest devices. This surveillance camera is one of the easiest to install.
Netgear Arlo Q
The Netgear Arlo Q uses a mobile app to show you 130 degrees of surveillance in 1080p video. It gives you a clear view in both the day or night with it’s night vision capability.
The Logi Circle is very easy to use, but lacks a lot of features compared to it’s competition. It is a 720p camera with a 135 degree field of view. On a positive note, it does offer night vision and two-way audio.
Blink Home Security Camera System
The Blink Home Security Camera System is a wireless, modular system. There is an app that lets you view your home remotely from your smart phone, but it’s features are quite limited. If you need to go completely wireless and don’t want to spend an exorbitant amount of money, this is one of the better options.