Man vs Tech: Intruder Alerts - T3 goes hands on with some of the best home-security tech on the market

Smart security tech is making it easier than ever to monitor your home - but can it really deter the bad guys? T3 finds out...

TODO alt text

I’ve never been one for masses of home-security gear. In fact, my idea of home security is making sure I close the front door after a night out. but in a world where everyone is becoming more security-conscious – and with a raft of new hightech options available – it’s time I got my house kitted out. And let’s see if the latest in kit can deter even the smartest of burglars…

Installation pain

Installing a bunch of super-high-tech smart security gear takes time. It also needs, for some products at least, some DIY nous – which I don’t have. I start by tackling the Netatmo Presence, which installs in place of an outdoor light. Luckily, I have an old rusty light on my outside wall, so, after flicking the electrics off, I rip the old light off the wall and assess the options. My house was built in 1900, so I’m greeted with old wiring. Still, it’s a pretty simple affair to connect the Presence, screw it on and fire it up. If you don’t have an outside wire, you’ll need to get an electrician in.

Next on my home-security list is the Yale Smart Home Alarm and View Kit. After looking at the box and instructions (yes, really), I’m terrifi ed that I’ll activate this thing (it emits 104dB outside and 94dB inside) and not be able to turn it off. So I cheat; I get Yale to install it for me – which, luckily since the kit costs £599, is included in the price. This involves screwing the alarm unit onto the outside wall and then setting up the door sensor and PIR image cameras around the house (enabling you to get still images beamed to your phone).

Once all the battery tabs are pulled, the system is available to be armed. This can be done using the Yale Home app or, if you want to do it in a more traditional way, via a keypad. Disarming is done in the same way, and you can also just arm certain parts of the house (say, just the downstairs if you’re asleep upstairs). 

No key to success

One piece of tech I’m really excited about is the Yale Conexis L1. This is a keyless lock for an external door that enables you to open it via low-energy Bluetooth using your phone, a fob or a keycard. Again, I’m no locksmith, so I opt for Yale to install this – and it takes a couple of hours (I imagine if I’d done it, it would’ve taken a good couple of days). Once up and running, it works brilliantly, enabling me to open my door with a twist of my iPhone – and even send digital keys to friends and family (and revoke them as necessary!). With the wireless module plugged in, it’ll also talk to the Yale Home app, meaning I can unlock my door from wherever I am in the world.

Ring, Ring

The next thing to install is the Ring Video Doorbell – a winner at last year’s T3 Awards. This is a cinch, and it’s all set up in ten minutes – including screwing it onto the wall and adding a ‘Chime’ accessory.

Installing Hive’s Window/Door and Motion sensors is as simple as hooking up the Hive Hub, then pairing the sensors and choosing notification preferences.

Finally, I add a couple of Yale Home View PTZ Cameras. These are set up in the Yale View app – it takes five minutes. So now I’m all set. My house is like Alcatraz (in The Rock movie) – and not even a moody Connery or a camp Cage could get in. Or could they?

So enter the robber. We can’t give his identity away, but let’s just say he once did a stretch at Her Majesty’s pleasure (he was her personal trainer).

We set him the task of trying to sneak into my house unnoticed. Arriving at my front door, his first stumbling block is the Ring Video Doorbell – I can see he’s there. This is a neat device to have if someone rings at your door in the early hours – you can simply fire up the app on your phone and tell them to f**k off.

The next obstacle is the Yale Conexis L1. Our burglar thinks he’s clever by poking his hand through the letterbox to open the latch, but he’s thwarted by the fact that you have to push in and turn the dial to unlock the door. The lock also sounds an audible beep as he fiddles with it, which alerts me to his presence. What’s more, via the app, you can set the Conexis L1 to auto-lock, which means you’ll never accidentally leave it open.

As an experiment, we now arm the Yale alarm and leave the door undone for our burglar to come in. What comes next is a noise that makes my ears bleed – any tea leaf would be hot-footing it in no time.

Ordering him back outside, we now leave the front window unlocked for him to climb through. The Hive Window Sensor immediately throws me a notification, giving me a chance to get out. And when I’m out of the house, I can zoom and pan using a Yale Home View PTZ Camera to see what’s going on before calling the rozzers.

And so to the back garden. The Netatmo Presence is always on guard here – and will recognise the difference between people, animals and cars. It’ll throw a spotlight out as well. As our bandit approaches, I’m notified that a person has been detected and get the video clip straightaway.

So, do I feel safer with all of this tech in and around my house? Yes, a lot. It’s not that I didn’t feel safe before, but connected kit ramps up the security and gives me the ability to check on my home from wherever I happen to be. Right, I’m off to the pub.