How Do Self-Monitored Home Security Systems Work?
You’re out at dinner with friends and the phone vibrates. An email alert shows that a security camera has detected movement in your house—and the footage delivered to your phone shows a burglar rifling through your bedroom drawers. You immediately call the police, vastly upping the odds that the intruder will be caught. And a self-monitored security system has prevented you from walking in on a dangerous situation.
Unfortunately, break-ins are all too common. Recent statistics from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting database show that there were over 1.2 million burglaries across the United States, with more than two-thirds of them taking place at residential properties. The average value of property stolen was almost $2,400 per incident.
When it comes to preventing and recovering from these incidents, homeowners and renters have more options at their disposal than ever before—and research has shown that the presence of security cameras is an effective deterrent to break-ins. Today’s self-monitored home security systems can record, stream, and send notifications when cameras detect motion, giving users the power to keep an eye on what matters from anywhere.
This article looks at the benefits and features of these self-monitored systems, focusing largely on wireless security cameras for do-it-yourself installation. We examine the strategic placement, selection, and use of cameras, explaining how these factors deter burglars and protect property.
Home surveillance cameras can deter criminals, collect evidence, and improve day-to-day life for owners and renters
As of 2011, only 10% of reported burglaries in the United States resulted in an arrest, placing the recovery of stolen goods out of reach for most homeowners. Deterrence, then, is one of the most necessary features of any home security system.
Research suggests that security cameras send would-be burglars searching for an easier target. The University of North Carolina’s Department of Criminal Justice & Criminology asked convicted burglars to describe the decisions they made during a burglary. While many reported gathering information in advance, others simply act on impulse when they see a tempting target—one that seems particularly affluent. Nearly 60% of burglars in North Carolina, Ohio, and Kentucky considered the presence of a surveillance system a deterrent when choosing a target.
And camera-only security systems offer benefits even when deterrence fails. Motion-activated home security cameras can send mobile or email alerts when movement is detected, allowing users to view live footage and spot a crime in progress. In the worst case scenario, they provide evidence that may be used to identify perpetrators, take an inventory of what’s been stolen, and provide proof of loss to insurers.
Having a home surveillance system can also help if a break-in is never attempted. Many cameras allow users to view live footage from a computer or mobile device, making it easy to keep an eye on kids, pets, and family members with medical conditions. And insurers may reduce home insurance premiums when owners take extra steps to protect their homes, such as having security cameras present.
It’s worth noting that there are benefits that self-monitored home security systems can’t provide. Unlike a professionally monitored alarm system, self-monitored, camera-only setups don’t include a professional tasked with contacting police during a suspected break-in. Monitored, fully equipped security systems also offer a far wider range of options for detecting unauthorized entry including door and window sensors, motion detectors, and glass break sensors. Still, home surveillance systems alone have significant benefits and they are an excellent starting point for individuals taking their first steps toward securing their home.
Careful selection and placement during home security camera installation is essential
Deciding how many security cameras are needed—and the features those cameras should have—are the most important tasks facing do-it-yourself installers of home surveillance systems. Cameras should be placed at points of entry or concern, including:
- Front porch
- Behind the house
- Side gates
- Facing the street
Front porch cameras may be the single most important investment in home surveillance. Knocking on the front door before a break-in is unsettlingly common. For example, when Portland, Oregon’s KGW News surveyed more than 80 inmates serving time for burglary, every respondent said that they would knock on the front door before breaking in. Cameras positioned for a clear look at a suspect’s face (such as a doorbell camera) can provide evidence that police can actually use.
These and other outdoor cameras should be designed to endure dust, changes in temperature, and weather events. Two-digit IP ratings, sometimes called Ingress Protection Markings, measure how well cameras resist penetration from liquids and fine solids. One particularly popular outdoor camera, for example, has a rating of IP65; the “6” means that the enclosure is totally protected against dust whereas the “5” means that the enclosure can resist penetration from low-pressure water jets.
Any camera, indoor or out, is only as useful as the footage it provides. Certain models, like Frontpoint’s Premium Indoor Camera, feature a wide-angle lens with a 180-degree field of view. And cameras with high-definition video resolutions—particularly, 720p and 1080p—deliver highly detailed renderings to the end user, with 720p providing nearly a million pixels per image and 1080p providing significantly more detail at two million pixels.
Some cameras can even provide useful video in the absence of visible light. Infrared LEDs produce invisible light that lenses use to see in the dark. Devices like Frontpoint’s Indoor Camera use these LEDs to see even at zero lux—a level of light dimmer than a clouded night. However, infrared models require careful placement: objects within the camera’s field of view can reflect or block infrared rays, diminishing image quality.
What the camera ultimately does with these images can vary. Self-monitored security systems belong to one of two kinds: wired or wireless. Cameras in wired systems usually store recordings on a digital video recorder (DVR). Wireless cameras typically rely on WiFi, transmitting data through a router to an interactive service that records and streams video via a browser or mobile app.
Today’s WiFi cameras secure this footage against hacking with encryption, which scrambles the data the device transmits until the intended recipient—the company that streams and/or records the footage—decrypts it with a key.
These protocols can be extremely secure. 256-bit AES encryption, which is used by Frontpoint cameras, is one of the protocols used by United States banks for the protection of top-secret information.
Frontpoint’s self-monitored security system is an effective, DIY option
Frontpoint recently released a Camera Package designed for individuals who want to monitor their own systems. For a monthly fee of $14.99, users can record and store up to 1,000 clips from four cameras—and view live footage from any camera they’ve installed.
At the core of the Camera Package is four motion-activated WiFi cameras. Each one detects changes in the device’s image receptor that register as movement. The camera then records, encrypts, and transmits a 15-second clip to web-enabled devices or a mobile application. If motion is continuous, recording continues with no noticeable lag, producing a series of 15-second clips that can be reviewed at any time.
The Camera Package is compatible with all Frontpoint home security cameras, including:
- The Slimline Doorbell Camera, which replaces standard doorbells with a motion-sensing HD camera. It connects to existing doorbell wiring and comes in several finishes to match different entryways.
- The WiFi Outdoor Camera is designed to transmit clear 1080p video footage and provide motion detection up to 40 feet—even in night vision mode. It’s weatherproof and built to withstand temperatures from -4°F to 122°F, making it suitable for winter temperatures throughout much of North America.
- The Indoor Camera delivers a 113-degree field of view with adjustable settings—including brightness, contrast, saturation, sharpness, and exposure—to provide high-quality images of indoor spaces.
- The Premium Indoor Camera has a full 180-degree field of view and a cleaner, modern design. It has a maximum resolution of 1080p and night vision capability, and includes Bluetooth speakers, an echo-canceling microphone, and digital pan and tilt features. Users can tap the device to start a two-way audio call with other users on the account via the Frontpoint app.
Users can also receive email notifications on a custom schedule through Frontpoint video motion detection. With custom scheduling, motion sensitivity settings, and control over which parts of the camera’s field of vision spot movement, video motion detection can ensure that a ceiling fan won’t trigger an alert—but movement through the back windows will.
Cameras can go a long way toward preventing burglaries—and solving them when they happen. For consumers who are looking to enhance home security, monitor-it-yourself surveillance is a powerful option.