There are a number of ways you can provide security for your family, home and your possessions. The easiest, but most expensive, is to contract with a home security company. They will install and remotely monitor motion sensors and cameras inside and outside your home. If an intrusion occurs, they respond by issuing a voice or siren alarm and/or notifying the police. If you go this route, exercise due diligence in selecting your service provider – posted monthly fees may only include a single sensor or camera, multi-year contracts may be required, up-front deposits may be required, and installed equipment might only be leased to the homeowner.
A second option is to install security cameras and sensors inside your home. They’ll let you know when someone is in the process of breaking into, or have gained entry into, the home. Also worth considering is installing smart locks (see Related Articles below) that provide yet a further level of protection (and convenience).
A third option, which we look at here, is to install outdoor Wi-Fi security cameras that record events happening outside your home, and send you an alert, via your mobile device, when people are approaching your home, so you can determine whether they are ‘friend or foe’. Of course, you can also use these cameras to monitor your pets, children at play or what the teenagers are up to.
You’ll likely want to install cameras at the front and back of your home. Also consider installing cameras for any unattached structures, such as a garage or workshop. Some cameras are powered by AC (placement may be limited by the length of the power cord or the location of outdoor power receptacles), others by rechargeable or replaceable batteries (placement can be almost anywhere, and when the batteries need recharging or replacing, the camera sends a notice to your mobile device), and a few by solar energy (placement is constrained by orientation to the sun and weather conditions).
Since these are all Wi-Fi cameras, they need to be located within range of your wireless router. If the wireless signal from your router is weak, you can install a range extender or Wi-Fi repeater. All Wi-Fi cameras support the 2.4-GHz wireless frequency and some support 5 GHz, which provides faster data transfer. Make sure you chose a camera that is compatible with your router frequency.
We’ve listed below some of the key features that you need to consider, along with the basic features of five popular models, should you decide to invest in an outdoor Wi-Fi security camera.
Motion detection and night vision: All outdoor Wi-Fi cameras feature both motion detection and infrared LED night vision. These features can vary quite a bit on how quickly they trigger video recording, how effective they are in distinguishing between people and other objects (such as a swaying bush),video clarity (especially important at night when hooligans tend to emerge) and how far away they can detect motion. Not all cameras enable you to adjust sensor sensitivity or narrow the range of detection.
Facial recognition: A few cameras incorporate facial recognition software that notifies you when either a friendly face or unknown person approaches the home. The software checks the images of people who come in range of the camera against photos you upload to its database. If the person is in the database it sends you a check-in notice; otherwise it sends you an alert. Be aware that the technology is fairly new and not consistently accurate.
Image resolution: The higher the camera resolution, the clearer videos will be. While 720p is common, all the cameras listed here stream at the higher 1080p rate. Some also provide digital zoom that enables you to have a closer look at people or objects.
Viewing angle: Wider angles enable you to see more but can result in some distortion, particularly at the edges of the video. The most common angle is 130°.
Two-way communication: Almost all cameras have a built-in microphone and speaker, which enable you to talk to whomever is in the detection area of the camera.
Data storage: The majority of cameras store video on the manufacturer’s remote server (the cloud). Storage can range from a few hours to several days. Most companies offer extended storage subscription plans. Be aware that some companies require subscription plans for each camera you install. A few cameras enable you to record to a microSD card or a connected hard drive.
Geofencing: Geofencing uses the GPS feature on your mobile device to enable the camera to know when you leave your home, and activate or deactivate the camera recording.
Scheduling: Scheduling enables you to create an itinerary of times for the camera to power on and off or to send alerts to your mobile device.
Smart home integration: Some cameras provide support for various hubs such as Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and Samsung SmartThings, so you can interconnect the camera with other smart home devices you may own.
The Circle 2 can be hardwired (the cable must be purchased separately) or powered by rechargeable battery (up to three months per charge). Various accessories are available including a window mount, extension cord and backup battery. Key features: 5.0 GHz compatible, 180° viewing angle and digital zoom, infrared night vision up to 15′, one day of cloud storage (there is also a paid subscription service), geofencing, IP65 ingress rating, and compatibility with Apple’s HomeKit, Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa. There is no scheduling or siren alarm. Motion detection distance not specified.
Lynx Solar is solar powered – it consists of a camera and a small solar panel. One sunny day generates enough power to run the unit for up to seven days (based on up to one hour of recording/streaming video and audio per day.) If there is a power (or Internet) outage, the unit stores up to three days of recorded data internally. Once power is restored, the data is uploaded to the cloud. The Lynx is also one of the few cameras to use intelligent facial recognition technology. Key features: 2.4 GHz compatible, 100° viewing angle, infrared night vision up to 25′, seven days of cloud storage and IP65 ingress rating. There is no zoom feature, siren alarm, scheduling, geofencing or smart home integration. Motion detection distance not specified.
The Nest IQ is AC powered and comes with a 25’ power cable and indoor AC adapter. It has an 8 megapixel camera with a built-in 4K colour sensor. You get three hours of photo clip cloud storage. For video storage you need to purchase a subscription service. Nest IQ uses facial recognition (available with a paid subscription). Key features: 5.0 GHz compatible, motion detection up to 50’, 130° viewing angle with 12x zoom, geofencing, IP66 ingress rating, compatibility with other Nest products, Google Home and IFTTT. There is no siren alarm or scheduling.
$599.99 (Bridge plus two cameras)
The Arlo Pro 2 is sold in a kit that consists of an AC-powered bridge unit (the Base Station) and two or more cameras. The bridge connects to your router via an ethernet cable and supports up to 15 cameras (additional cameras cost $279.99). Cameras have to be placed within 300’ of the bridge unit, and they can be hard wired or battery powered (up to six months per charge). You get seven days of cloud storage, and you can also connect a USB drive (not included) to the base station for additional storage. There is an optional paid subscription service. Key features: 2.4 GHz compatible, motion detection up to 25′, 130° viewing angle with 8x zoom, infrared night vision up to 25′, a 100+ decibel alarm, scheduling, geofencing, IP65 ingress rating and compatibility with Amazon Alexa, Stringify, Wink, SmartThings and IFTTT.
The Argus 2 is powered by rechargeable batteries that give 4 to 6 months of service on a single charge. However, you can connect it to an optional Reolink Solar Panel ($29.99 US) via a micro USB cable. It has a 2-megapixel Sony CMOS sensor that provides high-quality video in both dim light conditions and at night. Video is saved on a micro SD card (not supplied). Key features: 2.4 GHz compatible, motion detection up to 33’, 130° viewing angle, infrared night vision up to 33′, siren alarm and IP65 ingress rating. There is no zoom feature, scheduling, geofencing, cloud storage or smart home integration.
Carl Duguay - [email protected]
Carl is a Victoria-based furniture maker and the web editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement.