Home security cameras used to be an expensive luxury, but a new range of app-powered cameras allow you a reassuring glance at your home instantly via your phone.
Many of the new systems allow users to “see” through cameras live, at any time, via smartphone apps - and offer alerts if movement is detected, recording video to catch wannabe thieves.
Electronics stores now offer cheap, reliable cameras for under £100 - and DIYers can also rig up their own systems, using electronics you might have lying around.
‘The ability to actually connect with your systems at home has been there for years - but it used to be a tricky process,” Jon Gill, Senior Product Manager of security at Maplin.
“It’s much more accessible now. On some, you just scan a code on the camera with a smartphone, and it links up.”
“People are more interested this year - the kit’s getting better, and with a lot of these systems, you can download an app and look into your home from anywhere in the world in a few seconds.”
Big security firms such as Swann and Yale remain best-sellers, Gill says, but DIY kits from those firms are proving big hits.
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Previous security systems required the home to be “wired” - whereas the new generation of cameras connect via Wi-Fi, and are far cheaper.
Other, cheaper cameras such as the Y Monitor are £69 - and can be viewed via any PC, or any Android or iOS device. They also offer seven days’ worth’ of recording, stored in cloud servers.
Y Monitor can also instantly send emails or messages warning if it has spotted movement. Users can then view through the camera, via the app.
Most security systems are more expensive - but DIYers can also use old webcams to rig up their own, using free software such as iSpy Connect (originally built to detect UFOs, but don’t let that put you off).
The PC software will work with ordinary webcams, wired or wireless, and can offer a streamed view of your home - with picture alerts sent direct to smartphones.
iSpy works with 1000 different makes and models of cameras - including systems such as Xbox’s Kinect, and offers free Android and iPhone apps. It can also be set up to auto-capture video and upload video to YouTube when it senses movement.
The basic software is free - SMS alerts require a subsciption (around £40 a year).
Smartphone owners looking for a bargain-basement solution can even turn old, unwanted phones into a basic security system, viewable via the web.
On iOS, Presence is a free app that turns any old iPhone into a security camera with remote-viewing - it just needs to be connected via Wi-Fi, and plugged in.
Android users can use similar apps such as IP Webcam.
"Traditionally unless a home had already been wired for security and automation, it was difficult and expensive for people to get the advantage of home security," said James Turner, vice president of product development at Viper, a Californian security firm, speaking to Reuters.
Viper offers app-controlled cameras, car alarms, motion sensors and remote door lockers.
"It's an emerging market and I think it will catch on rapidly in the next two to five years," Turner said about security apps.