Gadgets and apps to help you secure your home

8 minute read

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​Want to gain more confidence in living independently? Check out our guide to gadgets and apps designed to keep you and your home safe and secure

​Below, we share tips and a list of apps and devices to help you feel safer and more in control.


Personal alarms

A personal alarm could provide the added security and protection you need to boost your confidence when living independently. These devices can connect you to 24-hour emergency support at the touch of a button. In the event of an accident, being taken ill suddenly or having a fall, you can press the alarm and get the help you need. A 24-hour Emergency Resolution Team will be ready to answer alarm calls and speak directly with you through the alarm equipment. There are no phone numbers to remember, and the specially trained team will call nominated contacts or the emergency services, even if you are unable to speak or respond.

If you feel self-conscious about wearing one, you’ll be happy to know personal alarms are now stylish and discreet. For example, some can be worn as a pendant, wrist strap, belt clip or keyring. There are even smartwatches with a built-in alarm and speaker.

What are your options?

There are personal alarms for home and garden use, while others provide coverage across the UK.

Some personal alarms have fall detection. These have a built-in sensor that automatically calls for help if it detects the wearer has had a hard fall.

With personal alarm services, there is usually an initial set-up fee and then a subscription that varies depending on the type of alarm and level of service.

People who only keep a mobile phone for use in emergencies may want to opt for a personal alarm since it is always with them, works at the touch of a single button and often has a longer battery life.

Age Co offers a range of personal alarms with 24-hour emergency response service through Taking Care, a Which? Trusted Trader-approved service provider in the UK. By answering our four quick questions, we at Age Co can help you determine which alarm might be best for you.


Four ways to use your smartphone to keep your home more secure

If you’re comfortable using a smartphone, there are a number of ways it can help you feel safe, independent and more in control.


1. Video doorbells

Doorbells with live video recording are a type of security device that allows you to see who is at your door without having to open it. These gadgets can make you feel safer and add a greater sense of security when you’re not there or if you're in but not expecting a visitor.

For example, you can get an alert on your smartphone when someone is ringing your doorbell or making a delivery. The app enables you to speak through the doorbell’s Wi-Fi-enabled speaker and video-monitoring system. You can activate this option through the doorbell’s smartphone/tablet app. You could ask the delivery person to place the package in a safe place or deliver to a neighbour, rather than it being left on your doorstep.

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Some video doorbells enable you to set an alert for when the camera senses nearby movement, so you can log into the app and see what might have triggered the alert. Movement or doorbell alert video recordings are usually saved, so you can go into the app and watch them after the event, too. On some models, you can even be sent a photo preview in real time if you want to know what triggered a notification.

Ring is one brand of doorbell camera. Other brands to consider include Blink, which is reasonably priced and considered good value for money, Google Nest, which has high-quality video and offers wired and battery-powered options, and also no-wires-required Arlo, a wireless doorbell camera that has a smart siren to scare off intruders. This device can also be activated by the app or set to go off when motion is detected. It should be noted that some video doorbells require an ongoing monthly subscription to access their app. Whereas with other models, you only need to make a one-off payment for the product itself.

What to consider when purchasing, installing and using a video doorbell

  • You will need Wi-Fi
  • Some of these devices are battery-powered whereas others can be hardwired so they never run out of charge
  • You may need someone to install the device and help you set up the app on your smartphone and tablet. Some video doorbell providers can arrange installation with their network of electricians
  • Some video doorbells can work with Amazon Alexa/Echo speaker devices, but you don’t need Alexa to use video doorbells. You’ll just need Wi-Fi access and a smart device to download and manage the app
  • Consider any subscription costs that might be tied to the product or access to associated smartphone apps


2. Home security systems

A smart home security system can be controlled remotely using an app. Like a smart door, you’ll need to download the security system’s app and pair it to your mobile phone or tablet so they can be paired. This allows you to arm and disarm your security system via your mobile phone, which is convenient for those times you have gone to bed and can’t recall if you set the alarm, or you want to be notified if there has been a disturbance at your home when on holiday. Having a smart alarm system could also help reduce your insurance premiums.

Here are a few examples:

  • Yale IA-320 Sync (5-piece): this option was voted the best smart security option all around by Good Housekeeping. All the alarm’s components are pre-paired to the alarm’s smart hub, which saves time. It has a loud siren that is activated inside and outside of the home covering a 200-metre range including paired sensors placed in garages and sheds. There’s no monitoring fee either. It’s available through Amazon, B&Q and Argos.
  • ERA Protect Deter: this device was voted as the simplest to install. It is ideal for smaller properties and for those who want to have the option to expand their security system later on. The basic "Deter" package includes a hub that connects to your router. The features include a pet-friendly motion sensor, window sensors, and two remotes. While there is no camera, keypad, or fob included in this package, it has everything you need to start deterring burglars and protecting your home. You can always upgrade to their other packages in future. A £8 monthly subscription includes a variety of features, which you can learn more about here.
  • Ring Alarm 5 Piece Kit: if you already have a Ring brand doorbell camera then this choice may make your decision-making easier since the systems can be connected. This alarm has a backup feature that will connect to a mobile data connection should your Wi-Fi go down. You can add up to three emergency contacts just in case you do not respond to the alarm, which is handy if you are away on holiday. This service costs £8 per month or £80 for the year. For more information go to the Ring site directly here.


3. Smart lighting 

Smart lights, smart plugs, and smart bridges adapt your home lighting so that it can be controlled remotely using an app on your smartphone, tablet, or an AI speaker like Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant. You will be able to schedule when your lights come on and off and control them for added security and energy efficiency when you’re out.

What are your options?

Smart lights

These can fit into an existing light fixture and be automated through your router and controlled by an app. Some smart bulbs start as low as £7 but can jump in price to £18. Features can include artificial intelligence voice activation, timers, dimmers and ambience control offering a range of bulb colour effects.

Smart plugs

Smart plugs allow you to keep your existing lamps and bulbs. They can make anything that plugs into a socket controllable by an app. Lamps plugged into smart plugs can also be activated by voice commands through devices like Amazon’s Echo series and Google’s Assistant app. Features can include energy monitoring, scheduling and voice commands and on average will cost between £10 to £15 per smart plug, but can go up to £40 for premium brands.

Indoor motion sensor lights

There are battery-operated and easy-to-install, motion-detecting lights to consider. They can help prevent trips and falls in the home, especially at night. They automatically come on when they sense movement nearby, so they can create a lit pathway to help someone safely navigate their home in the dark, without needing to feel around for light switches.

Placing motion sensor lights next to the bed, along the hall, near stairwells and on top of the toilet cistern (the self-adhesive kind) can make night-time bathroom visits safer.


4. Open and lock smart locks 

Research shows that 67% of opportunist thieves enter homes through a door and are more likely to break in during the day when you’re out. If you forget to lock a back door, someone could quickly enter to steal car keys or a piece of jewellery – even when you’re at home. What’s more, if your doors have been left open, some insurers might have reason to decline a claim you make for a stolen item, if it was deemed preventable.   

To help secure your home, one option you might want to consider is electronic smart locks. These locks are controlled remotely using a corresponding smartphone app. They can replace an existing door-locking system. Wi-Fi is not required for all electronic smart locks to work, some use a Bluetooth connection (does not need WiFi). However, Wi-Fi-enabled smart locks tend to have more advantages, such as:

  • Locking and unlocking your door when you are out in the garden
  • Receiving notifications when someone enters or leaves your home
  • Managing access codes for carers and family members

The cost of smart locks varies depending on features and Wi-Fi connectivity. However, you can expect to pay between £89 and £209 for a basic smart lock, and up to £500 or more for a more sophisticated model with features such as biometric authentication and remote access. There are smart locks that come with keys, code pads and fobs. Most locks come with a backup battery in case of power cuts.

Here are some examples:

  • Yale SD-L1000-CH Conexis L1 Smart Keyless Door Handle: Yale has a handy option on its website called a door compatibility checker to make sure this lock will fit your door. Installation can cost £100 or more. The door uses Bluetooth (it can pair with nearby devices without WiFi) and also has a tamper alarm that can act as a deterrent. However, if you want to lock doors with voice assistants such as Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, a Yale Access Module and Connect Wi-Fi Bridge or Yale Sync Module will need to be purchased separately.
  • Simpled Weatherproof SlimSeries Smart Lock Touch: This product is based on Bluetooth and you can manage it by using your fingerprint, password, proxy fob/ sticker or an emergency key. If you want to access through Alexa or Google Home you’ll need WiFi bridges, which are an additional cost. This smart lock is not compatible with multipoint locks with offset spindles (when a door closes and locks from the outside). If in any doubt, you can take a video or photo of your door and send it to Simpled’s WhatsApp number or through their contacts page before you purchase. Reviews indicate that it is easy to pair with your smartphone and the handle is less likely to get jammed than other brands.
  • Nuki Smart Lock 3.0 Nuki offers an online checker to see if your door or existing smart lock can be retrofitted and access codes for guests and family. Its app-enabled auto-lock and unlock feature is handy when your hands are full. The lock will recognise your mobile even if it is in your handbag or pocket. It will also open with a swipe of your mobile or smartwatch. They offer Bluetooth and Wi-Fi versions, the latter costing more.


Home insurance

Another way to protect your home is to find the right home insurance policy. There are two types of insurance to consider:

  • Building insurance
  • Contents insurance

Building insurance will cover the structure of your home. This includes walls, permanent fixtures and fittings (such as your toilet), drives, and patios. Depending on the policy, it might also include protection for sheds and garages too.

Contents insurance is different in that it covers the cost of repairing or replacement items in your home – such as gadgets, TVs, jewellery - against flooding, fire, theft.

For maximum protection, it’s suggested that you make sure both types of home insurance are in place. If you live in a flat, you may find that building insurance is included as part of your service charge agreement. If not, many providers let you take both buildings and contents insurance out together.

By having the right home insurance in place, if the worst should happen, you know your provider will be there to help with repairs or associated costs, such as replacing a stolen item. If you do decide to invest in any of the gadgets covered here, make sure you get in touch with your insurance provider to make sure they’re covered.


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