When considering investing in a home security monitoring camera—either to be installed DIY or professionally as part of a larger home security system package—you’ll want to conduct some research to ensure it includes the hardware and features best suited for your needs.
Many modern 'smart' systems provide added functionality, such as If This Then That (IFTTT) integration, advanced recording sensors, or night vision. While these may seem complicated or unnecessary, they actually simplify the recording process, improve convenience, and can significantly enhance your surveillance capabilities.
The following is a rundown of some of the most popular home security monitoring features available. Be sure to bring up your favorites when talking to your installer.
Security cameras are traditionally scheduled for periods of continuous recording. Newer systems offer advanced functions that maximize storage space and cut down on hours of useless footage, by focusing recording only on the moments that matter most. Triggers—whether motion detectors activated by movements, or fire and Carbon Monoxide alarms sounding in the presence of smoke or toxic gas—will likewise actuate cameras to capture specific incidents.
Motion sensors are typically set to ignore small movements so small animals won’t trip alarms, but those more pronounced will start the camera. Users can also change sensitivity settings, which will increase or decrease the frequency of alerts.
Many cameras are programmed to record when carbon monoxide and fire alarms are set off, too. These utilize standardized alarm patterns a built-in microphone can detect. When the camera senses the right sound, it turns on to help the homeowner figure out what caused the incident, and record what’s happening in the house.
Facial Detection & Recognition
With no restraints, any activity within range will activate motion sensor cameras. A busy house can have a lot of movement, and the alerts can get annoying, so new security cameras often utilize facial detection and recognition to cut down on notifications.
Many security cameras advertise facial recognition, but require a monthly plan for the feature.
Facial detection can distinguish whether or not a face is present, and determine if any movements are made by a human. Recognition technology enables the camera to learn familiar occupants, and disable alerts whenever they're present. This typically involves a set-up process, wherein the camera records a facial image and stores it to compare to a live video feed later. These are paired with high-tech algorithms so the camera can identify faces even in less-than ideal circumstances.
Many security cameras advertise facial recognition, but require a monthly plan for the feature. The subscription is usually in an upgraded package, and costs an extra $3 to $10 per month, depending on the provider.
Most modern security cameras have low-light vision in black and white that enables HD recordings at night. Many also offer other nighttime options, such as motion-activated 'smart' lights.
Advanced functionalities, such as the aforementioned motion sensors, are powered by IFTTT (If This Then That) technology. This program interconnects hundreds of online services and devices to automate workflows. Using a simple interface, users can set up sequences of “if-then” statements.
For example, the user can connect a 'smart' outlet and security camera with an if-then statement to turn on lights. The sequence would say something like, “If the camera motion sensor is activated, and if the time is between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., then turn on the smart switch.” This would illuminate any connected lights when movement occurs.
Many cameras can also connect to Amazon's cloud-based voice service Alexa, via built-in “Alexa Skills.” These are essentially mini-applications that help the user update or check on the device’s status, or even view live streams from the camera. The live video only works for Alexa devices that include a screen, or on TVs with a Fire TV Stick attached. Other typical functionalities include checking the battery, a system’s monitoring status, or operating schedule.
Some cameras offer pre-buffered video when set to motion detection. This feature adds several seconds before a recorded incident, to provide more context.
This utilizes short-term memory, meaning that before heading to a hard drive, the video is saved to the device’s RAM (Random Access Memory). This is much faster than a hard drive, but only stores information temporarily, and can only hold a few seconds of recording at a time. If the information isn’t used right away, it’s discarded.
When a motion event is triggered, there are several seconds of recording already saved to the RAM that isn’t yet discarded. This data is then sent to the hard drive, providing a few extra moments of video.