​Five ways to set up your smart home to scare off burglars

This is your house, you have to defend it

Five ways to scare off burglars

Keeping your property and your family safe is one of life's main priorities, and when it comes to minimising the chances of your home getting burgled, there are various bits of smart home kit that can help – probably more devices than you think.

Here are some of the easiest and most effective way of keeping unwelcome visitors out of your home, using smart security tech and other connected home gear that you might already have installed. Get one or more of these precautions in place and you can sleep a little easier at night.

Read this: The best smart security cameras you can buy

We're not going to mention fully fledged smart home alarm systems in this particular article as we've tested and compared those in our buying guides. In this case we're going to look at smaller scale, more straightforward approaches you can take.

Five ways to set up your smart home to scare off burglars

1. Use your Amazon Echo to pretend someone's at home

Got an Amazon Echo installed at home? Then you can use it to play recordings of conversations, to give potential burglars the impression that someone is in – even if you and the whole family are actually out of town.

There are various Alexa Skills that will do this for you. One of the most recent to launch is called Away Mode, which can be launched with the command "Alexa, run Away Mode". It'll pipe through conversations written by professional writers, including a couple arguing and an emergency parent-teacher association meeting.

Another similar Skill is Burglar Deterrent – in this case just say "Alexa, open Burglar Deterrent", and you get audio clips covering conversations, the sounds of cleaning up, laughter and more. You can set the sounds to play indefinitely or for a set time, and choose a particular environment as a theme (like "kitchen" or "party").

A slightly different approach is to use the Alexa Skill Guard Dog, launched with an "Alexa, open Guard Dog" command. As the name suggests, it spits out barks and growls and snarls from an invisible dog. Of course, you could just record some sounds from your own dog (or family arguments) and use those instead, but this is far more convenient.

Five ways to set up your smart home to scare off burglars

2. Install a security camera with light

One of the more obvious solutions to deter burglars is to install one of the many security cameras on the market – we refer you to our comprehensive round-ups of both indoor and outdoor cameras, where you should find something to meet your needs and budget.

All the security cameras we've listed in those guides can record footage to the cloud and alert you to motion and sounds, enabling you to tune into the live feed from your phone, wherever you happen to be. Only one, though, includes a built-in flashlight that can light up your garden and yard and scare off would-be intruders: the Netatmo Presence.

Yours for $299.99 (or less if you buy several at once), the Netatmo Presence can do the basics of alerting you if something moves in front of the camera, but it will also flood the nearby area with light. It's smart enough to distinguish between people, cars and animals, which should cut down on the number of false alarms you get.

As an added bonus, there are no subscription fees attached – you can set this up to record to a memory card, a Dropbox account or an FTP server. It works with both Apple HomeKit and Google Assistant too, so whether you're an Apple or Google loyalist, getting it up and running should be easy.

Five ways to set up your smart home to scare off burglars

3. Set up smart lights on a schedule

Another way to put across the illusion that someone is at home when they're not is to set up your smart lights to work on a schedule: you could have them turn on at 7pm and off at 11pm one night, then move them forward an hour the next night.

Pretty much any smart light system out there should be able to take care of this for you, including Philips Hue and Lifx devices.

Inside the official Philips Hue app, for example, tap Routines, then Other routines, then Create custom routine, then At a specific time. You can set the lights to use, the times to turn them on and off, and even adjust the times randomly by a certain amount each day.

If you don't have any smart lights to hand, you can use smart plugs instead, to turn regular lamps on and off on a timer. To take one example: in the Eve app you can set a timer on an Elgato Eve Energy switch by tapping Scenes, then Timers, then Add Timer. The same accessory can be controlled through Apple HomeKit, and put on a timer through the Automation tab of the Home app for iOS or macOS.

Whichever smart lights or smart power switches you've got installed, you should find the option to put them on a timer somewhere inside the accompanying app, or you might be able to use a third-party option like Apple HomeKit or IFTTT.

Five ways to set up your smart home to scare off burglars

4. Install a smart doorbell

A smart doorbell isn't just about being able to see who's at the door while you're away from home, it's about being able to ward off suspicious-looking characters too. Devices like the Ring Video Doorbell and the Nest Hello can send a live video feed from your front door to your phone as well as detect motion in front of the camera – even if no one actually presses the doorbell.

Thanks to the two-way audio built into these devices, you can shout a few warnings over the intercom or politely enquire why someone is snooping around your property – the tone of voice you use is entirely up to you. You might want to remind whoever it is that their movements are all being recorded on video, too.

In the case of the Ring app, for instance, you need to press My Devices, and then choose the video doorbell you've got connected. Tap on Live View to look at what's happening right now, then tap Talk to start speaking. When you've said your piece, tap End.

For the Nest app, just tap the camera you want to look at from the opening screen, then tap Talk and start speaking. Tap Talk again to hang up. Saying a few stern words through your doorbell might not be quite as effective as a wailing siren, but it's another useful option to consider when you're setting up your home security.

Five ways to set up your smart home to scare off burglars

5. Install automated blinds

If you want to add the finishing touch to the pretence that someone's at home when in fact your home is completely empty, automated smart blinds or curtains might be the answer. They aren't the most well-known of smart home devices, but kits from the likes of Somfy are simple to set up and configure and don't have to cost too much.

Once you've got the hardware in place, it can typically be controlled manually from a smartphone app, or set to work on a schedule, which is what we're particularly interested here. Rather than getting a neighbour round to open and close your curtains or blinds for you, you can get your smart home to do the job instead.

We can't speak for every solution out there, but make sure timed automation is included before you make a purchase — and compatibility with your existing smart home kit would help too. The Somfy Tahoma line works with Amazon Alexa, for example, so you can have your blinds opening and closing with a voice command.

For the best results, you really need to get a professional installation sorted, but if you're looking for the ultimate in burglar deterrents, we'd say it's well worth considering. Just make sure the opening and closing is timed for a reasonable hour.


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