Does Connected Home Security Actually Make Us Safer?

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Securing your home against intruders used to be as simple as barring your doors and locking your windows. But home automation services—offering everything from remote monitoring to keyless door locks—have revolutionized how we fortify our houses. Are these new systems any better at protecting us?

We saw several new services last week at CES 2013. Here are three we think a lot of homeowners will install in their homes—and on their tablets and phones—in the coming year:

ADT's Safewatch package

Starting at $300, plus $43 for the company's Pulse remote monitoring service, ADT's Safewatch includes window and door sensors, an interior alarm, and motion detector though you can purchase light timers, glass break detectors, and multitude of other sensors separately. These devices communicate using Z-wave and can be controlled by Android, iOS, and Blackberry devices as well as through the ADT Pulse web portal.


The Iris Safe and Secure kit from Lowes

For $179, you get two door/window sensors, a motion detector, and keypad. It's less expensive than ADT, and basic monitoring is free. But the system notifies only you—not law enforcement—when break-ins or other emergencies occur. However, the Iris system can integrate with any device that uses either Zigbee or Z-wave connectivity, which makes it more versatile and easier to integrate with existing home automation systems. Users can remotely activate and control the system through Iris' web portal or on any iOS device. We reviewed a similar kit by the same manufacturer back in November.


Schlage Nexia Home Intelligence

Mixing old-school hardware and the connectivity of a modern smartphone, the Schlage Nexia Home Intelligence kit features a six cylinder deadbolt and light timer. This kit retails for $300, but additional devices, from thermostats to motion sensors, are available separately. The Nexia home intelligence system uses Z-wave to communicate. Remote monitoring is available for $9 a month, and it works on iPhones, Android, Windows Phone, and Blackberry devices. There's also a basic web portal.


Do you need one?

These are just a few of the multitude of competing services and products on the market today. Each claims to make your life easier, your family safer, and your possessions more secure. But do they really outperform conventional measures? Is a deadbolt really better if you can butt-dial it? Is it more vulnerable?


With home security, it's tempting to want to rely on technology for this kind of peace of mind. Our take—and we invite experts in home security to weigh in—is that these feature-filled gadgets probably won't hurt, and they can even help. But they're only useful as a way to enhance (and not replace) traditional home security practices.

If you've got a smart home (or just a really intelligent front door), let us know how it's working out for you!


Image: Lisa S. / Shutterstock