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Smart lighting for safety and security

Security is a basic need for a home, and maintaining well-lit points of entry is a big piece of that pie. Lighting can act as a major deterrent for any would-be intruders, and combined with motion-sensing cameras and alarms, it can help you rest easy. On the more benign side, strong outdoor lighting is just plain helpful for getting around your property at night. Let’s dig into how smart lights can be a vital building block for a safe and secure home.

Are smart lights a security risk?

Like anything connected to your home network, smart lights introduce a new potential point of entry for bad actors. If your smart lights are compromised, then the rest of your home network may be as well. Researchers have found a few holes in smart lighting and the wider connected home. In order to exploit these weaknesses before they’re discovered and patched requires concerted effort and technical know-how, so the security risks entailed by smart lighting are minimal (but not non-existent).

Do security lights deter burglars?

There is a whole sphere of research on crime prevention through environmental design, which also includes window placement, fencing, and managing sightlines in urban environments. One of the central tenets of this thinking is that the main deterrent to potential criminals is the threat of getting caught. That means having good lighting and a monitoring solution for the area are vital.

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The deterrence capability of outdoor smart lights depends a lot on circumstances. In the best-case scenario, your neighbors know what you look like and can recognize a well-lit intruder snooping around your home. In a worst-case scenario, your neighbors can’t tell the difference between an owner and an intruder, and your lights actually make it easier for a burglar to work. It’s important to remember that most residential robbery happens during the daytime.

At the end of the day, the biggest deterrent to thieves is being identified, and though you can’t do that without adequate lighting, you also need witnesses. If it’s not a neighbor, then a security camera is a great addition to offer complete deterrence.

How can home security be enhanced using light sensors?

Sensors can activate your smart lights as soon as it gets dark enough that you can’t see well. This feature provides continual lighting all around your home’s perimeter. Alternatively, you can use motion detectors to trigger lights as well, which can more effectively spook thieves by giving the impression that someone’s home.

If you want to take things one step further, you can get entry sensors that can trigger lights, start an alarm, and send you a mobile alert when someone opens the side gate, basement window, or manages to jimmy a door open while you’re not home, for example. Security systems like these work well in concert with smart lights.

What smart lights work with ADT?

ADT security system.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Many home security monitoring companies like ADT use smart lights and other connected devices to keep tabs on clients’ homes.  Unfortunately, even though smart lights in these instances are likely to offer all the usual conveniences like smartphone apps, Alexa, and Google Assistant support, they use their own brands of accessories, so you can’t often use pre-existing ones you may own. To make it doubly inconvenient, whenever your service is done with ADT or another security company, there’s no guarantee that those devices are still fully functional once your contracts end, particularly when it comes to cloud-based features like storing camera footage. If you feel confident about your self-monitoring skills, you’re likely better off getting outdoor smart lights, security cameras, and sensors separate from a service contract.

Tips for setting up outdoor smart lights for security

  • Be sure to check the wireless signal where you want to install a smart light. If it’s outside of your hub’s range, you’ll have trouble  issuing controls or activating motion alerts.
  • If possible, position your lights to cover your home’s most common approaches.
  • Being able to position your lights higher will produce a wider area of coverage, provided they are powerful enough to emit at a longer range.
  • If you’re using motion detectors, try positioning them to catch movement before someone reaches the area to be lit. This way, the lighting pre-empts their path.
  • Avoid lights that are too bright, as they can cast hard shadows and actually make burglars harder to make out.
  • When using lighting in conjunction with a security camera, try to stick with LEDs. Other types of bulbs can produce flickering in video footage due to the frequency at which the bulbs emit light.

Hopefully, with all of that information, you’re able to assemble a robust home security perimeter, complete with smart lights, streaming cameras, and motion sensors.

Simon Sage
Simon has been publishing in tech since before the first iPhone was released. When he's not busy lighting a candle for the…
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