Smart video doorbells - what to know
Smart doorbells are becoming increasingly popular. They’re marketed as a device that can remotely connect you to anyone visiting the front door of your property. But, with automatic video recording capability, they are also sold as something that monitors and protects your home from criminals.
In this article we take a look at the points to consider if you’re looking at buying a smart doorbell. From data protection and security, to the choice of device and setup.
So what is a video doorbell?
It’s an internet-enabled (usually) smart device that incorporates a camera, microphone and doorbell function in one unit. It therefore allows you to hear, see and video record who is at the door. Typically they’re connected to WiFi and a smartphone app, to allow live viewing if you’re at home – or not.
Can they replace the need for other security cameras?
Dedicated security cameras can be placed anywhere, within your garage watching over your prized collection of bikes, or covering the vulnerable back window of your house. A doorbell camera, by its nature, is located to the side of your front door. So this might limit what is captured and what movement around your property triggers the video recording. Therefore it’s important to research aspects such as the motion sensitivity, video quality and field of vision to work out if it’s appropriate for your needs instead of normal security cameras.
Some smart doorbell companies also offer dedicated security cameras and allow you to connect all the devices under a monthly subscription fee.
Key points to consider when selecting a brand and model:
With the cloud storage, check what level of encryption and mechanisms the company uses to keep your footage safe. Also what security credentials do they hold to back up the claims on their marketing material. Is it a well-known and respected company/brand?
Which? recently conducted research into less well known brands and 11 of their tested doorbells had high security flaws.
Data security is one of the most important points when researching. After all, you don’t want criminals spying on your home, watching you and your family and knowing when you’re away from home.
Research the company. Have they had any past data leaks? How old is the company? Is there any research online or bad customer reviews that are warning signs.
Wired and wireless
One of the key points to consider with wired is that you might need to pay someone to help you install it. Also consider the source of the power. With wireless it’s typically easier to install with simple DIY experience.
Your DIY skill level
Cloud or local storage
Sound and video quality
Try to find real footage online to see how wide the field of view is and the quality of the recording.
Costs and hidden costs
It’s worth noting that some home alarm security providers offer video doorbells as an add-on to an overall package. This might end up to be a more cost effective option, or allow for better integration with your overall home security setup.
Police and smart doorbells
Nowadays it seems commonplace when there is a criminal incident for the police to put out a request on social media for doorbell camera footage. Police resources are stretched and formal criminal prosecution can sometimes be easier with the criminal being caught on camera.
A freedom of information request showed that the Met police had a sponsorship agreement with Ring, that included the supply of 64 Ring Video Doorbells to help fight crime.
If you have CCTV installed you might need to comply with data protection laws, as explained by the ICO.
“Data protection laws don’t apply if the cameras cover only the user’s own private property, including their garden. Therefore, visitors caught on these cameras don’t have specific data protection rights in relation to the images captured on those cameras.”
As mentioned by the ICO, you do need to be careful. If you’re capturing footage outside your boundary, then anyone on camera will have rights under data protection laws.