The smart home market is full of security cameras, nanny cams, pet cams and plenty of other models of recording device for the digital abode. Most of them use Wi-Fi only to connect and stream high levels of data around.
However, there are still a few Z-Wave models that will integrate with your other smart home devices. Others will integrate with your smart home technology via IFTTT, Wink or other control protocols.
With such a choice of cameras, it can be hard to pin down what you need. As usual, most models badge themselves as “market leaders” or “best quality”, but these terms are hugely subjective.
No one knows how many the other companies sell, and quality is a meaningless term when it comes to marketing.
The three main features any user needs to consider are:
- Resolution: How good a picture do they need?
- Security: Does it store images safely and they easy to access?
- Flexibility: Do they need to look around a large space?
Base your buying needs around those, and any particular secondary requirements, and you should be well on your way to picking the right smart home security camera for the job.
Naturally compatibility is always high on the feature list, but in the increasingly interconnected world, many devices will talk to multiple smart home protocols.
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Best for Resolution
Most cameras top out at 1080p, but even that can have differences due to the parts used, build quality and the transmission compression. While in a year or two, we can expect 2K cameras for ultra high definition, for now, regular HD is where we are at.
Google’s $180 (For the latest prices and discounts, check here) Nest Cam, formerly DropCam, comes out pretty well on the image front thanks to its high quality sensor and glass lens.
Nest Cam provides good detail in most lighting conditions and there’s little distortion in images. As an example of more isn’t always better, the Nest Cam’s eight IR LEDs provide a better image than many cameras that come with 12 LEDs.
While Nest Cam officially only works with the Nest thermostat as a trigger, there are many workarounds to get it playing with other smart home systems.
3 megapixel camera with 130 degree view and night vision
H.264 encoding at up to 30 frames/sec
Speaker and microphone
Best for Security
Piper NV Smart Home Night Vision Security Camera
The Piper HD Night Vision Security Camera is fully focused on user security with an alarm, two-way audio communication, tilting base and free cloud storage of events to record only what’s of interest.
As such it comes in at $279 (For the latest prices and discounts, check here), but the extra features help to protect the home, so can be considered a wise investment. The video side is handled over WiFi, but the extra benefits of its Z-Wave connection soon become apparent.
As a Z-Wave device, it can talk to other selected devices (check with Piper to ensure yours are on the list) such as lighting, alarms, locks, and trigger further actions.
Further security features include SSL encryption to protect your video transmissions. It also comes with battery backup so if the power goes out, it can still record, although you’ll need Internet somehow to access it. With its security focus, the Piper NV
3.4 megapixel camera with 180 degree view and night vision
Microphone, speaker and 105db alarm
Motion temperature, humidity and sound sensor
Best for Flexibility
micasaverde VistaCam PT Pan and Tilt IP Camera
The need to look around is key when it comes to security. Many cameras may offer a wider field of view, but if the action is going on outside that view, then they are totally useless.
If you like to have a peer around whatever’s going on outside your front window, or track up and down a long hallway, then a tilting camera is a better solution than even multiple wide field cameras.
The $99.99 micasaverde VistaCam is ideal in this respect, with 270 degree horizontal and 120 degree vertical movement from its base.
The unit requires power, so must be fairly close to a power outlet, which limits its position, but otherwise it addresses the many failings of fixed cameras with its swivel approach.
Yes it is fairly low resolution in comparison to most cameras, but for some use cases flexibility trumps and it can show video day or night.
480 SD Resolution (MJPEG 15fps)
640 x 480 Pixels (300k Pixels)
Lens provides 60° angle of view with 1/4″ Color CMOS Sensor
Pan/Tilt Angles: Horizontal: Up to 270° and Vertical: Up to 120°
IR Night Vision, up to 20 feet
Z-Wave and 802.11 B/G Wi-Fi
How to Cover All Angles Around Your Home
Whatever your home layout, smart cameras can help protect it, but you need to be flexible in your approach. Additional issues to consider when laying out a plan to protect a property include:
Power: Does the camera need to be mains powered, or are batteries a must?
Coverage: For when a home needs lots of cameras.
There are also a range of external weatherproof cameras that can be located outside the property.
Several models also feature battery power so they can run off the grid, while others have local storage, to record if the Internet is out, to provide some redundancy.
A mix of the above can help ensure your home remains protected and covered.
For full security, fixed camera on the main exit points are ideal along with additional cameras in the main rooms and tilting cameras to cover wide areas should cover the most likely scenarios.
At least one should have an alarm, or be connected to an alarm to provide a noisy deterrent.
That might sound like a lot, if you were reading this article looking for a simple one-room solution, but if you are going to secure your smart home, you may as well do it properly. To save money, a few ranges come with bundles of multiple cameras, look out for these on sale to get the best price.
Patrick Sinclair is a geek; make no mistake about that. He runs All Home Robotics in his spare time so he doesn’t have to think about his depressing cubicle and it gives him an excuse to buy expensive gadgets to review!