So you’re on the beach, or even by the pool. The sun is out and peace reigns. Except for that nagging feeling that things might be going horribly wrong back home. Chris Partridge plays it safe.
What you need is a web camera to feed live images of your property straight to your smartphone so you can be reassured all is well. Some cameras even double as video entryphones, allowing you to open the door to family and friends who need access to feed the cat, clear the post off the mat and all those other things that neighbours help each other out with.
The good news is that the latest webcams provide crystal clear images, have microphones to pick up sound and motion sensors to alert you to intruders. They are now clever enough to distinguish between a burglar and a pet.
Most webcams offer cloud storage to hold recorded footage securely, which can be vital evidence if burglars strike. The amount is quite limited, however, to encourage users to buy extra space.
Webcams are available either as stand-alone units or as part of a comprehensive home automation system allowing you to turn lights on and off, adjust the central heating or boil the kettle, all by smartphone from the beach. Why you should want to boil the kettle at home, from the beach, is another matter. It’s a guy thing, probably.
Exterior webcams are handy for monitoring what is going on in the garden, especially round the doors. They are weatherproof and usually battery-powered to make installation easier, so although a battery charge can give several months use, it is a faff to replace or recharge them.
Exterior webcams have to be positioned carefully so to avoid filming passers-by in the street, which is both intrusive and illegal. They should also be mounted high up to avoid being stolen or covered by would-be intruders.
A popular system is Hive, from British Gas, which is based on a wifi home hub connecting the app to items such as a smart thermostat, dimmable lightbulbs, smart plugs, door and window sensors and, of course, webcams.
The Hive webcam is an attractively styled unit that can be placed on a shelf or mounted on a wall. It is held in place by magnets so it can be easily pointed in the right direction. It includes a motion sensor to detect people in the room but which can be adjusted to ignore pets. A microphone and speaker means you can communicate, mainly for telling dogs and cats not to scratch the sofa, like that ever works.
The Hive webcam costs around €190, but you will need a Hive Hub so it is really only for people who have bought into the Hive system for other benefits such as the smart heating controls. There will be added costs if you want to buy cloud storage for video recordings. Check out Amazon or hivehome.com.
Google’s Nest Cam, on the other hand, works with any home wifi system, though it works particularly well with Google’s other smart home products. Just plug it in, connect and go. It has a variety of attachment options in addition to the plain support plate, such as a removable wall plate and a bendy tripod so you can attach it to baby’s cot, for example.
The camera captures video in high definition and has a microphone and speaker. The system is so smart it can listen out for, and identify, suspicious sounds such as breaking glass or a bang that might indicate a forced
entry. It automatically records such events, as well as recording when people are detected moving in the room.
The Nest system automatically sends alerts to your phone when it is triggered, with an image of the key event so you don’t need to spend more time finding out what is going on if it is just the dog or something.
The Nest Cam costs around ¤180. Check out store.google.com
Among the best exterior webcams is the Arlo system from Netgear, the home networking company. They are weatherproof, certified to IP65 levels, and wireless (though this means the batteries must be replaced every two to three months.)
The latest Arlo camera, the Ultra, features 4K ultra-high definition video and will even zoom in on people in the room and follow them around. Plus, it can be set to panoramic mode to record a 180-degree view of your property.
Night vision is highly effective and the audio has noise cancellation for clarity. It even has a suitably low siren that can be triggered automatically or from your phone.
The Arlo Ultra costs £330 but you will also need an Ultra Smart Hub if you do not already have one. arlo.com/eu/
An interesting specialist form of webcam that is becoming more popular with the rise of home delivery is the video doorbell. The Door View Cam from Ring mounts in a standard spy hole and connects to home wifi, making installation a doddle. It includes two-way audio communication and motion detection, and will even respond to a knock on the door if visitors seem to be unable to work out how to press the bell push. It is powered by a rechargeable battery pack (another gizmo to charge!)
The app displays video images of anyone at the door on your phone, so you can communicate with them directly – handy for telling the delivery man to put the package in the shed round the back. You could even let them in if you install a smart lock.
The Door View Cam costs €199. eu.ring.com/products/door-view-cam