Do you rely on an ordinary deadbolt lock, squint through a front door peephole and struggle to remember a long passcode to unlock your phone? It may be time to explore new technologies that can make it a snap to secure your life and home.
Security technology has developed rapidly, merging with smart technology to give consumers on almost any budget the ability to safeguard their devices, homes and lives seamlessly.
Some technologies make it easier for you to access your property, while helping to keep others out. And many smart devices alert you immediately—no matter where you are—when there’s a problem at home.
The cost of adding sensing and communication technology to consumer devices is falling, making smart technology both more affordable and more available. In fact, the average home could have hundreds of smart devices by 2022.
Security is the leading reason consumers are embracing smart technology for their homes. “Security is top of people’s minds right now,” and that’s especially true for those in the 50+ age bracket, says Barry Daoust, a home technology expert and founder of Smarthomes.us, a company that installs smart home systems.
Fortunately, security savvy consumers have an array of options, from hiring a pro to install a comprehensive smart home system to buying individual high-tech products or simply using technology that comes built into most smartphones.
Here are six smart security technologies to help keep you secure.
1. Biometric tech lets you unlock your phone with your body.
It’s a passcode conundrum: make yours long and complicated (like experts suggest) and you may forget it and lock yourself out of your phone. Use your grandkid’s birthday to keep it simple, though, and that makes it easier for someone to guess the code and gain access to your emails, texts and other personal data.
Fortunately, many smartphones now boast technology that allows you to quickly unlock your phone with your eye, face or fingerprint.
Facial recognition technology involves mapping out the features of an individual’s face, like the distance between their eyebrows and the curves of their eyes, cheeks and chin.
Fingerprint recognition technology uses either optical or capacitance technology. Optical technology takes a digital picture of the fingerprint. Capacitance technology, used by the iPhone, detects differences in conductivity between the outer and inner layers of the skin to form an image of the fingerprint.
(Phones aren’t the only devices that feature this type of biometric technology. Some home safes and suitcases can be opened with a fingerprint.)
Iris recognition technology, now available on some phones, captures and analyzes an image of the unique patterns in the colored part of your eye that surrounds your pupil. Just as no two fingerprints are the same, no two irises are either. Every iris is “like a snowflake,” according to Iris ID, a biometric technology company.
2. Two-factor authentication that makes your accounts harder to crack.
Facial, fingerprint and iris recognition are often used on their own. This type of access is known as one-factor authentication because you need only one thing—a face, finger or eye—to get into an account or device. However, two-factor authentication adds an extra step, making it more difficult for anyone but you to gain access to your personal information.
Two-factor authentication typically requires a password or code as well as something only you would have on you (e.g., your phone of your fingerprint).
For example, say you’re trying to log in to your online credit card account from your new laptop, a computer the card issuer’s site doesn’t recognize. First, you enter your passcode. Then a box pops up on the screen asking you to enter a code that was just texted to your smartphone. When you enter the code, you’re logged in to the account.
Two-factor authentication helps make your accounts and devices doubly secure.
3. Security systems with connected cameras.
Now, you can keep an eye on your home while you’re running errands, at work or on vacation. Smart security cameras allow you to check areas like your living room or backyard—anywhere, anytime, Daoust says. “Wherever you are in the world, you can log in to check different views of your home,” he adds.
Some systems assign date and time stamps to images, so if you later learn that a camera sensed motion at 3 a.m. on your back porch, you can check the photo of that area from that time, Daoust explains. And most of the best connected home security cameras can be accessed through a mobile device, so you won’t even need to have a computer on hand.
Surveillance cameras also allow you to set virtual boundaries in order to receive alerts if they’re breached.
For example, you could set up a virtual perimeter around your swimming pool and get an email or text if someone or something moves across the tripwire, Daoust says. Because “pool hopping” has become popular with some teens, who trespass on private property to go swimming, it may be helpful to have a camera with this high-tech security feature.
4. Smoke alarms and other devices that message you.
A small flame can turn into a major fire in just 30 seconds. That’s one reason smoke alarms are a key safety component in any home.
The problem is, if you’re not home when an ordinary smoke alarm goes off, you may have no idea that there’s a problem, says Chris Carney, co-founder and CEO at Abode Systems Inc., a company that provides professional-grade security systems that integrate with a variety of components and devices from various manufacturers.
New smoke alarms, however, can talk to you in a human voice to let you know where there’s a problem—say, smoke in the kitchen—and will even text you, so that you know to call the proper authorities if you’re away.
Water leak sensors can also provide crucial protection for your home, alerting you to a water leak before it has a chance to cause costly damage, Carney says. Like smoke alarms, the old water leak sensors sounded an alarm that could be heard in the home, but modern ones will text you a warning, he explains.
If you’re far from home, you can ask a trusted neighbor or friend to check out the problem right away, Carney adds.
5. Smart locks for your exterior doors.
Putting a house key under a mat or rock, or even giving one out to a trusted neighbor, is risky, Daoust warns. “As soon as you let a key out of your possession, it can be copied,” he explains. Smart locks make it easier to let family and welcome guests in while keeping intruders out.
With a smart lock, you can give each person an individual code and even set your lock so that certain people can only get in at set times, Daoust says. For example, if the dog walker comes every day at lunchtime, you could set her code to work between noon and 2 p.m.
If your smart lock is connected as part of a smart home system, you have more options, like setting the lock to automatically arm your home alarm system when you leave, he points out.
And if you’re in bed at night and realize you forgot to lock the back door, you can just grab your smartphone to lock it without getting out of bed. “With a smart lock, you can lock it on the fly anytime,” Daoust says.
It is important to note that smart locks may be vulnerable to hackers, but good encryption and two-factor authentication make them tougher to crack.
6. Doorbells that show you who’s at the door.
Smart doorbells equipped with cameras allow you to see who’s at your door, even if you’re not home. If the doorbell has video intercom, you can see and talk to the person at your door or gate, Daoust says.
Instead of the old “ding-dong” sound you hear from an ordinary doorbell, a touch screen pops up on your smartphone or tablet and plays the sound of your choice.“You can start a conversation with the person at the door, and they can hear you, but not see you,” Daoust explains.
These doorbells help keep your home secure because burglars commonly ring the doorbell to see if anyone is home, he points out. If a suspicious person rings your bell while you’re away, as long as you have a good cell signal, you can remotely tell them you’re not interested. “For all they know, you’re inside the house and they may just walk away,” he suggests.
These new security technologies can make it easier to lock down your data and protect your home, giving you peace of mind even when you’re not there, Carney says. “All these connected devices help homeowners understand what’s happening at all times just like they’re at home.”
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