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The Ultimate Smart Home: Wireless Outdoor Security Cameras

Homeowners can easily set up their own home security systems. Real estate pro and smart-home expert Brandon Doyle gives an overview of three options you can share with your clients.

February 6, 2020

With the advances in cameras and in wireless and cloud-based technology, it’s now very affordable for homeowners to set up their own home security camera system and monitor them remotely.

Many manufacturers now offer affordable cloud hosting, often at a fraction of what it would have cost for a similar system in the past or even free. High-powered batteries and wireless communication allow owners to place cameras at entrances and corners of the home without the hassle of hiring an electrician to run wires. Battery life on these new cameras can range from six months to two years depending on the model, settings, and amount of activity in the area. However, I wouldn’t trust the life expectancy on the box. The Blink XT2 camera claims it’ll last two years using two AA lithium batteries, but I did not find that to be the case when I tried it out myself. After only two months the batteries were depleted to around 25%.

Arlo and Ring both offer solar panel add-ons for their cameras that help keep the batteries charged. However, the camera needs to be plugged in to allow continuous recording. Both cameras can detect motion and provide real-time notifications to your phone. Users can also view past footage. Some companies, such as Ring, require a subscription to review older footage, while Arlo provides 30 days of video playback with its Arlo Smart Plan. The Arlo Ultra camera comes with a one-year subscription, and Blink gives you seven days for free.

Each company has upgraded plans that are available month to month, but you’ll save money by paying for a year at a time. The Arlo Ultra can also record locally to a micro SD card in a smart-home hub, giving the homeowner a copy of the video even if the internet connection is down or if the camera is stolen. Arlo also offers a theft replacement program for cameras purchased within the last year.

The Arlo Ultra, Blink XT2, and Ring Spot Camera all have speakers and microphones allowing for two-way communication and start recording when they detect motion. Arlo can detect if it’s a person, package, animal, or vehicle by using artificial intelligence, which is included in select subscriptions, and the activity zone being monitored by the camera can be adjusted. Ring security cameras also allow adjustment of activity zones if they are hardwired or plugged in. With the battery-operated version, you’re only able to adjust sensitivity. During testing, I found that the Ring camera was often set off by passersby, insects, and even the reflection of headlights.

Overall, if you’re looking to setup a multicamera system with remote monitoring, Arlo’s Ultra is my top pick. The Ring Spotlight is a good alternative if you’re already paying the subscription for their video doorbell and want to add a couple more cameras. But the Ring Spotlight is best-suited for locations where power is available. While Blink XT2 is a cheaper alternative, the video quality is lower and it’s only able to record a maximum of 60-second clips.

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