As you start your at-home security system search, there are quite a few key technical features to consider. First off, what sort of field of view are you looking for — something to cover just one small room, or is your space more expansive? Additionally, wireless security cameras all have different resolution qualities: Some work better in low-light settings, while others feature night-vision modes, are equipped with floodlights or are capable of detecting motion. As with any major purchase, knowing what you’re in the market for beforehand can do wonders in simplifying the selection process.
Now, the burning question on everyone’s mind: Are wireless security cameras actually safe? And, perhaps even more pressing, in this day and age of smart home setups, are wireless security cameras susceptible to hacking? The short answer is, it depends on how your Wi-Fi-enabled camera is configured. Is it a traditional IP camera that connects to your network via Wi-Fi or an ethernet cable, or is it a smart device?
If it’s the former, you may run some security risks. "In practice, many people don’t set up [IP] cameras securely," Chris Hoffman writes on How-To Geek. "They leave them configured with the default username and password, and then connect them to the internet. This means anyone can watch the feed just by visiting the camera’s IP address online." On the other hand, smart devices, like Google’s Nest, require two-factor authentication and can’t be hacked as easily.
In addition to double-checking how your camera’s security setup functions, here are a few other factors to consider:
Does your camera receive alerts? Some setups can send push notifications to your smartphone in relative real time so you aren’t stuck watching the feed all day. Some detect motion, sound or unfamiliar faces.
Buy a camera with a battery backup. If a burglar cuts your power, you’ll want a security system or camera that stays on after things go dark.
How does your camera store footage? Some cameras feature cloud storage plans, meaning your recordings are sent to a server and stored for a bit, before being deleted to make room for newer footage. Buyer beware: Some cloud storage plans are subscription-based. In lieu of cloud storage, your camera might have a good old-fashioned memory card for footage-storage purposes.
- Do you want to communicate through your security system? If so, finding one with two-way audio is desirable.
Other important factors: Some security systems monitor different environmental factors, including air quality, humidity and temperature spikes. We’ve all heard of motion detection, but if you’re setting up a camera at your door, you may want features like facial recognition or night vision. Additionally, make sure to purchase a camera with a high resolution — there’s nothing worse than grainy footage — and be sure to double-check the viewing angle, a.k.a. the amount of space your camera will be able to survey. Finally, in addition to the tech specs, research the logistics: Do you need a camera that integrates with a smart home system — do you want a camera that allows you to schedule the hours it’s "on duty?"
Needless to say, there’s a lot to consider. With all of this in mind, here are our top picks.