Securing the places we live has been important since humans teamed up with dogs tens of thousands of years ago. One of the vital roles that our four-legged friends played was to alert us of intruders, and they still play that role today. However, in 1969 Marie van Brittan Brown and her husband filed a patent for the first the home security system, making use of television surveillance and remote control technology to address this age-old problem. This system was revolutionary, and we still use the same techniques today, even if our video and remote control technologies have advanced.
Home security systems use three basic strategies to deter or apprehend potential burglars and home invaders.
- In the best-case-scenario, a home security system acts as a deterrent. Like the “Beware of Dog” sign, the idea is that if you increase the risk associated with breaking it to this particular house, the would-be burglar is more likely to move along to the next one that’s less risky. Most security companies install stickers on the door or windows and signs in the yard informing passerby’s that this house might not be the best target. This is the best case. No broken windows or locks to deal with, no police reports to file, and no need to deal with the bureaucracy of insurance claims or recovering your stolen possessions.
- Of course, sometimes deterrence doesn’t work. The next strategy is surveillance. While we’ve written some about the strengths and limitations of surveillance systems before, they’re an important part of a comprehensive home security system. This can range from complex networks of cameras around your property managed by a private security company, to an inexpensive video doorbell, to the DIY kits that might be appealing to the tinkerer types. Surveillance cameras provide some deterrence on their own, but beyond this, they can provide valuable evidence for an investigation after a burglary. It is, after all, easier to catch a crook if you know what they look like (and with a security camera, especially newer HD models, you’ll know what they look like…unless they wear a hood, or a hat, or a ski-mask…). Surveillance cameras also allow us to check on things when we’re not home. Just access the cameras through your smart-phone and bam, you can watch over your domain wherever you have phone or wifi signal. Surveillance cameras are often combined with motion sensors and other sensors. A real concern, however, is that all this digital technology is potentially vulnerable to hacks.
- Finally, home security systems provide remote access to your home. Brown’s security system provided remote control of door locks letting the user unlock the door. New security systems do this and more. For example, video doorbells often include an intercom system that lets you talk to (“Hey! Get away from there!”) people who approach your front door. Also, security systems can trigger an alarm that alerts you to an intruder and hopefully frightens them away. In the past, the remote control was in the hands of the security companies who installed the system. You pay them a fee and they monitor the system. This works well because they have dedicated staff to do this. However, as technology is allowing us to manage more things on our own, we’ve been seeing a major growth in kits that bypass the security company. New systems can be installed either by a professional or by the homeowner. You then monitor the system through an app on your smartphone.
With a little luck, one of these layers of security will stop a thief in their tracks and keep you and your home safe. You don’t even have to be loaded to have a security system. You can get full kits for a few hundred dollars, and individual devices like a video doorbell or the Package Guard for much less. With as inexpensive as they’re getting, it’s a no-brainer to invest in this sort of technology.