Monday, August 29, 2016

Finding the right security cameras for the CNET Smart Home

by Megan Wollerton

We’ve already outfitted the CNET Smart Home with an Amazon-Echo-friendly security system called Scout. This straightforward kit shines in its simplicity, offering an assortment of sensors that you can install around your house to track doors opening and closing, as well as motion (you do have to pay $10 per month for most of its features, though, unless you were grandfathered in as an early adopter). But Scout doesn’t currently come with security cameras — or even offer them as optional add-ons (disappointingly, Scout-brand cameras have been “in the works” for a while now without any discernible progress).

While Scout does offer a solid basic layer of protection, we also wanted to add some live streaming indoor security cameras to our setup. This 5,800-square-foot house/smart home test lab is a lot to keep an eye on, after all. So read on to find out what indoor security cameras we ended up selecting for the CNET Smart Home.

A bit more backgroundThis is actually our second go-round with the whole DIY security system thing. Back in November, we decided on Samsung’s SmartThings after testing it alongside SimpliSafe. SmartThings was already our hub of choice for combining multiple products from different manufacturers, but it also has its own suite of sensor-based products that can work as part of a relatively simple DIY security setup. And, since Samsung is SmartThings’ parent company, the system also integrates with Samsung SmartCam HD Pro cameras.

This worked fairly well, but some serious software clunkiness on SmartThings’ part made the whole system difficult to use. And, despite some updates from the SmartThings team, the app’s overall usability stagnated rather than improved, further increasing our frustrations.

Around the same time, the Amazon Echo and its Alexa voice control assistant were making some major strides in third-party partnerships. Soon, Alexa and the Echo became the new centerpiece for the CNET Smart Home. That’s where Scout came in — it’s one of the only Echo-friendly DIY security systems with a bunch of useful voice integrations via the Alexa Skills Kit. It made sense as a second stab at DIY security.

But what about security cameras? Well, we wanted those, too.

What cameras are available today?There are a ton of different security cameras on the market and that can make it tough to pick the right model.
  •  Some offer live streaming so you can pull up a video feed of whatever your camera can see 24–7, while others can only record when they detect motion, sound or some other sort of unexpected activity.
  •  Some have high-definition (HD) video quality for a clearer image (and potentially a longer lag time due to Bandwidth limitations), others are standard-definition (SD).
  •  Some have cloud storage and some rely on local storage via a microSD card slot.
  •  Some rely on a plug-in adapter to operate, while others are battery-powered.

You get the general idea. (Interested in more details? Check out my security camera buying guide.)

Read more: Finding the right security cameras for the CNET Smart Home

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