How home security got techy
Home is one of the most important parts of our lives, so why despite advances in security and safety technology, do only a fraction of people in the UK have an alarm or system in place to protect it?
According to financial services website Money Supermarket, only 32% of homes have a burglar alarm, and in recently released statistics from the Home Office, 10% of homes don’t have a working smoke alarm.
Cost can be a huge factor in acquiring tech enabled products as some can come with price tags that costs more than the mortgage, but can you really put a price on security and safety when burglaries and home accidents can cost even more in the long run to put right?
PlaceTech put together a handy list of products that could provide you with peace of mind.
Google Nest Protect
Cost: £109 for one, but Google recommends five around the home. Total: £545
Google’s smoke detector works like a traditional smoke alarm, except it alerts you via both the siren and a notification on the app which you have to install on your phone.
Part of Google Nest family of products, which also includes a thermostat and smart locks. All can be handled through the app or its online platform.
Nest collects the data and displays it to see when there was a trigger, so you have accurate record keeping of accidents.
The high-tech smoke alarm also tests for carbon monoxide, which makes the light system flash a different colour than for a fire. If you have the recommended five alarms, then you can check which room the problem is in.
The system also checks itself every evening to make sure it has battery and to monitor the home smoke and carbon monoxide levels. It prompts you to change the batteries when their life is getting low.
Google acquired Nest Labs in January 2014 for $3.2bn and has since grown its team from 280 to 1,100 and opened up an engineering centre in Seattle. Nest operated independently of Google until 2018 when it was merged into Google’s home-devices unit. In May this year, Google announced that all home electronic products are marketed under the brand ‘Google Nest’.
The Wi-Fi Leak & Freeze Detector (W1KS) monitors and detects not only leaks, but also extreme temperatures and humidity issues. This can help stop a leak before it turns into a flood, and alerts the user to conditions that can result in frozen pipes.
The IoT-enabled software will notify you when there is an issue via app. While the sensory cord is only 1.2m, you can purchase additional fully sensing cables up to 150m to cover other parts of the home.
It also has a 100db siren which will sound if a leak is detected. To preserve battery life, the Lyric stays on standby mode for the majority of the time, and sounds after a minute of exposure to water.
If the battery is running low, the Lyric will notify you at 10% and then again at 5%.
According to insurer Direct Line, one in five insurance claims made on buildings and contents is from damage caused by leaks. Insurers pay out £2.5m every day to customers who have made ‘escape of water’ damage claims.
Cost: Ranges from €299 to €375
Nuki’s smart locking retrofit system comes with a host of accessories to make your home safer, give you peace of mind, and still allow access for friends and family.
The base offer, the Nuki Combo, comes with a lock and a ‘bridge’ which acts like a router and allows you to unlock your door via Nuki’s app. It notifies you as soon as someone has entered or left your home, or attempted to, and keeps a log of all the information. Nuki also notifies you if the locks have low battery and if you leave without locking the door.
The lock also sends warnings if someone has put in the wrong code, and keeps a detailed report of each use on the app.
The Keypad Combo comes with the above but with an additional keypad to allow entry from trusted people with the code.
The Family Combo comes with a bridge, a lock, and three fobs, which allow access without using the app.
The Manchester-based company which aims to “give the home a brain” uses sensors, and Amazon’s Alexa technology, to learn the home-user’s behaviour which is then fed back to the cloud, learned, and acted upon.
The burglar system, as shown in the above video, works by “hearing” sounds like a window being smashed, and then triggering the alarm system which makes the siren go off and lights flash indoors and outdoors to raise attention and deter the potential burglar.
Wondrwall started deployment in November last year after four years of development. The company already had £11m of orders already secured by 2018, has delivered 300 units in 2019 with a further 700 in the pipeline, and has a total delivery between April 2018 and March 2019 set for 3,000 units.
Both London’s Metropolitan Police and a survey of ex-burglars performed by consumer association Which? said you’re less likely to be a victim of burglary if you have an alarm system.
When the Co-op performed an insurance survey, which included 12 burglars, 11 of them said that they would avoid a smart connected home. However, in the overall survey only 5% of homeowners had invested in the technology.
Cost: Ranges between £139 and £189 dependent on product.
The Ring Video Doorbell features a camera, a motion sensor, a microphone and a speaker. The bell works via the app which allows real-time communication and notifications.
You can purchase additional subscription to Ring Protect which allows you to activate the video recording ability on your device for £2.50 per month.
This means that recordings are automatically triggered when someone pushes the buzzer and when the motion sensors are activated.
It works with Amazon’s Alexa system so you can trigger recordings with your voice. The footage is recorded in 1080p HD video with infrared night vision.
Ring was established as Doorbot in 2013 by founder Jamie Siminoff, and was bought by Amazon in February last year for more than $1.2bn
If the worst comes to the worst and your safety measures fail, Avvir can help with rebuilding.
Avvir works by creating a ‘digital twin’ of your building, and then creating plans based on laser scans of the building. The scan also catches construction mistakes, monitors construction progress, and provides real-time updates to mitigate budget and schedule overrun.
According to Raffi Holzer, Avvir’s CEO, the future of home and building technology is in integration and simplification.
“As sensors and building automation systems proliferate within the built environment, it’s going to become increasingly important to have a single place to view all that information because at some point, it won’t matter how much data is being generated if the humans charged with acting on it never see it or don’t know what to make of it.
“Avvir’s plan is to make the building model that central data repository, both so that different systems can interact with one another in intelligent ways but also so that building managers can be provided the relevant information at the right time, in the proper context.”
As with most technology, there will be problems that need to be ironed out in time. There was a notable issue with Amazon Ring earlier in the year when hackers proved that the smart doorbell wasn’t infallible, and could make the jobs of burglars easier instead of harder by using the system to monitor you, but you’d still have to be a pretty tech-savvy thief to gain access.
Security concerns will remain as thieves get smarter to match the technology, but security measures and smarter systems are set to grow in tandem.
There are also still more tech advances yet to come that will further improve home security and safety products on offer as this is still a relatively new market with plenty of room for growth.
According to Mark Lufkin, chief commercial officer at Wondrwall, said that what his company does is “take the human error aspect out of the alarm systems and guarantee that it will sort the problem if you forget.
“If you aren’t at home, Wondrwall will turn the lights on and off automatically to give the illusion that someone is there. However, if we take this one step further, and someone tries to check if you are actually there by ringing the doorbell, Wondrwall could make it that the TV turns on or plays a dog barking in the background to make it sound like there’s a least a pet there. It’s just about making our systems more intelligent.”
Lufkin went on to say that the tech offering of the future will mean that homes can remove even more elements of human error and make the home smarter.
“We want to get the home to do things automatically. If there’s a fire, we want it to trigger Wondrwall to call the emergency services. If there’s a leak, then Wondrwall can call a plumber. All of this will be done before you even realise you have a problem so it gets the cogs turning.”
“We can take it one step further and do the same thing with insurance. If someone’s home has been burgled or had water damage, the information collected by the sensors and monitors in the house will be automatically sent to the insurer so that the process can get moving faster and make your life easier.
“For me, the next real step will be that every home comes with an integrated burglar alarm. If every single car has an alarm and an immobiliser lock as standard, why can’t it be the same in a house?”
Tech in the home has grown more common with contraptions like televisions leading the way back in the 1950s, but with thieves getting smarter, people remaining forgetful, and accidents still happening, we need smarter, safer, and more secure homes for our smarter, yet still accident prone, world.