The Safest Smart Doorbells for Your Home
Whether it's opportunity knocking, an annoying salesperson, or suspicious stranger, now you can decide if you want to answer the door without getting anywhere near it.
Ding-dong the ditch is dead
You already have a smartphone, a smart TV, and a smart watch—it was only a matter of time before your doorbell became wiser, too. Much to the chagrin of mischievous kids everywhere, these gadgets have taken all the fun out of their neighborhood ding-dong-ditch pranks. Technology now gives you the superpower of X-ray vision by allowing you to see and interact via your phone or tablet with whoever’s at your front door from the comfort of your own couch or while thousands of miles away on a tropical vacation.
Aside from the convenience factor, it’s an added layer of security that can help keep your family safe. After all, almost every burglar knocks on the front door or rings the doorbell before breaking in—don’t miss these 13 sneaky signs your house is being watched.
“The average burglar has no skills and is not hard to defeat since they principally enter through unlocked doors and windows,” says Leonard A. Sipes, Jr., the former director of information services for the National Crime Prevention Council. “Department of Justice data from decades ago concludes that any indication that the property is protected will cause the burglar to desist or go somewhere else.” That means a smart doorbell is a worthy deterrent to would-be burglars.
But with dozens of products on the market, how do you know which to choose? And how can you feel confident that a system glitch or malicious hack won’t leave you and your loved ones vulnerable? Read on to discover the safest options.
One of the first smart doorbells to market was Ring, and now the company offers an entire suite of video doorbells and door view cams (the latter is a wire-free doorbell that transforms your peephole into a smart security device). Ring’s built-in motion sensors detect movement as someone approaches, triggering instant mobile alerts and initiating HD video recording. A two-way audio system allows homeowners to proactively protect their property—you can speak with postal workers to instruct them on where to leave a package if you aren’t home, for example, and even scare off anyone on your property who might be looking to steal said delivery. In order to maintain your device’s security, Ring recommends keeping your firmware up-to-date and using strong, unique passwords for both your Wi-Fi network and device account. The company uses encryption to secure video data when it is securely stored in your Ring account, and when it is being transferred between your device, the Ring app, and the cloud servers. “I prefer the Ring doorbell not for the quality of the product, but for the extensive ad campaign that backs it,” explains Sipes. “I also like Ring because law enforcement has access, with the owner’s permission, to the video footage.” Plus, all Ring devices integrate seamlessly with Amazon Alexa.
Google Nest Hello
“I recommend Nest Hello because it offers the best video quality and integrates with the Google and Alexa,” says Donna Childs, author of Prepare for the Worst, Plan for the Best: Disaster Preparedness and Recovery for Small Businesses. “You can also upgrade to a cloud subscription service, benefit from its facial recognition features, and save HD video recordings,” Childs says. “I feel this is the best protection and Google technology appears less vulnerable to being hacked—which is particularly important for the 10.4 million home-based businesses in the United States.” On that note, a Google spokesperson says that Nest offers a bug bounty program to search for and address vulnerabilities. The company also works with reputable security companies to conduct independent third-party security audits of its products and services. And while you’re in the market for burglar-deterrents, here are 22 inexpensive ways to theft-proof your home.
ADT Doorbell Camera
Big names in home security have added video doorbells to their offerings. “ADT is a proponent of security and privacy principles, and our systems limit ADT’s ability to access our residential customers’ video footage, such as when needed to service a system for a customer,” explains Tim Rader, director of product development at ADT. “By policy and through technical restrictions, this footage can only be accessed once specific protocols are followed and use of those protocols is logged. Customers are also notified whenever designated ADT personnel have been authorized to access their system.” Sipes names this as his second-favorite choice in video doorbell brands, noting that customers have to “pay a hefty monthly monitoring fee.” Looking for more options? Here’s our list of the best doorbell cameras to help you choose the right one.
While there’s something to be said for choosing a big-name brand, don’t discount the lesser-known competitors so quickly. In fact, some experts, including Gabe Turner, an attorney-turned-tech guru who now serves as the director of content at Security Baron, suggest choosing a video doorbell from a smaller company if you’re concerned about hackers since the major tech giants have had security breaches in the past. “The Skybell HD encrypts its account passwords using WPA2, the current industry standard,” he says. “Its latest HD doorbell also offers waterproof protection, hard-wired installation so you don’t have to worry about a battery, 1080p HD video for a clear picture, and free cloud and local storage.” On the downside, there’s no person detection, which means every wind-blown branch and passing squirrel will trigger an alert, or smart platform integrations.
Arlo Audio Doorbell Plus
For a simpler, but still smarter-than-a-traditional-doorbell option, choose the Arlo Audio Doorbell Plus. There’s no video included, but that also means less security risk—a hacker can’t gain access to your feed and flip the script by spying on you. “I like Arlo as a company because they used AES to protect your information, plus Transport Layer Security to make sure your camera is communicating securely with the Arlo hub,” says Turner. “Arlo requires that you make up a long and complicated password with account authentication over an HTTPS connection, and they limit your login attempts to five, preventing bots or hackers from entering.” If you like this option, but want to kick things up a notch, pair the doorbell with Arlo Pro 2 indoor/outdoor cameras to create a true video doorbell. If you live in a hot climate, like Phoenix or Las Vegas, it’s important to note that the product won’t work if temps exceed 113 degrees Fahrenheit.
Not willing to invest too much in a video doorbell? That’s OK—there are affordable options that don’t skimp on security. The easy-to-install Scout Video Doorbell provides HD video alerts, live streaming video with two-way audio, infrared night vision and more, all for around $100. “We use state-of-the-art wireless encryption protocols, so you and your data remain safe at all times,” says Dave Shapiro, founder and CTO of Scout. “Our People Detection technology lets you stay alert without having to worry about passing cars or animals. This way, you aren’t overwhelmed by irrelevant notifications, and you know that each alert is a true event that requires your attention.” And just to be on the safe side, check out these 21 things a burglar won’t tell you.
If you’re an Apple-only junkie, then the Netatmo smart video doorbell is a dream come true—it works with Apple HomeKit. “Netatmo uses state-of-the-art encryption methods, plus TLS, the most commonly used security protocol today,” says Turner. “This product has a huge advantage in terms of durability, as it’s completely resistant to all weather conditions. The camera itself has not only 1080p HD, but also HDR, which helps the camera detect natural light. Along with HDR, it features excellent infrared night vision, free cloud and local storage, and person detection.” Next, check out some of the best-reviewed home security cameras you can get your hands on.
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