Canada's Condominium Magazine
Imagine being out for dinner with friends or family and suddenly realizing your home is being burgled. This is no wild hunch or premonition; it’s real. An app on your iPhone has just alerted you that there’s an intruder in your home. As you sit in the friendly, bustling atmosphere of the restaurant, blocks from home, you endure the somewhat surreal experience of watching a thief moving through your darkened home, stealing your stuff. Because your home surveillance cameras are equipped with speakers, you are able to activate them through the smartphone app and yell at the thief. “Get out of my house!” The burglar flees.
This real-life scenario played out in New Jersey the other day and was reported on ABC TV news. The man who watched the burglar violating his home was lucky: he successfully scared the guy off before he could take anything, and the “suspect” was caught shortly after. If the homeowner hadn’t had the video system in place, he would have been just another of the 1.5 million hapless victims of home break-ins in the US, most of whom come home to the devastating aftermath of the burglary and never recover the stolen things.
Google entry could mean wider acceptance
Of course, surveillance cameras are now everywhere in the public realm. Whenever you step outside of your home, you are being watched. So far, surveillance cameras in the home have been a smaller, but growing market.
That could be about to change. There are reports that Google, through its recently acquired Nest division (which makes smart thermostats and smoke detectors) might be getting into the home security market by acquiring Dropcam, one of the popular home surveillance cameras now available. It makes a camera that sells for about $150 and streams to smartphones and computers.
As the home surveillance market grows, so will the smart features offered. Motion sensors alone aren’t enough: they can activated by pets and fluttering curtains. Facial recognition and human recognition features are becoming standard. A Canadian company in the field, iWatchLife, uses activity recognition and custom-created surveillance zones to record only when significant movement occurs, rather than recording non-stop.
Is this necessary in a condo?
But do you need home security if you live in a condo? Isn’t the condo supposed to be secure already? It’s true that many condos today have all the security features you would reasonably expect, including the concierge-controlled entrance, controlled-access parking, on-site surveillance cameras and more. These features should keep burglars and other undesirable types out. But thieves can still manage to get in, mainly due to breakdowns in the system caused by people—owners or others who let their guard down, as when an unwelcome stranger waltzes into a building with a group of people who live there. Slipping in through the parking garage when the doors are open is another favourite trick.
Home security consultant and columnist Frank Fourchalk says that burglars are having a “field day” in condos because many owners aren’t security conscious. The best thing individuals can do to protect themselves is to invest in a home security system that includes both an intrusion alarm and surveillance camera, preferably one that talks to you through your smartphone.