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The holidays are a time when we want to escape from reality - but the truth is, we need to plan for them realistically. And unfortunately that often means planning to protect our home, our belongings, our loved ones and ourselves against criminals.
Here are three ways you can protect your home, your family and yourself using the easily available, mobile technology contained in your smartphone.
1. Turn an old device into a home security camera
Today's smartphones carry all the tech needed to perform the functions of a security camera: they can be both the sensor and the monitoring device. Here's how:
- You'll need an old device you're no longer using - a phone, a tablet, even some models of iPod - as the sensor or camera device; plus your current phone to use as the monitoring device.
- Download a security camera app onto your old phone. There are a variety of different apps that will work, including Manything for iOS and Presence for iOS and Android. What you want is an app that, like both of these, is downloaded onto the sensor (old) phone, and which will send alerts to your monitoring (current) phone when they detect movement.
- Sign into your Manything or Presence account from your current phone when you're away from home for a live video stream that comes directly from your old phone, which you're using as a sensor.
- Instruct the app to start recording video as soon as your sensor phone detects motion, so that you've got a record of anything dodgy going down. Manything stores the videos in the cloud, so storage of these is free.
- To mount your sensor phone - the one you'll use as a camera - you can use a small phone tripod or even a suction windscreen phone mount.
Benefits: It's basically free - what were you going to do with that old phone anyway? - and super-simple to set up. Plus, you always have access to your phone, so you'll always have access to your home security system, no matter where you are in the world.
Considerations: Remember that having your old phone constantly streaming video will use up two things - battery power; and data. To counteract this, make sure you've mounted it somewhere close to a power point so you can keep it plugged into the charger; and ensure you've got it connected to your home Wi-Fi, or download a data bundle before you go on holiday.
2. Repurpose your video baby monitor
If you were lucky enough to have a video baby monitor, or are planning to buy one soon, consider that they can double as a home security camera while you're away.
This will serve a similar purpose to the old device you'd use as a video camera, except it's got the apps and all the other tech already built in. Some, like the BabyWombWorld Nanny Camera, can record in a completely dark room, and will send an alarm to your phone if any movement is detected. An added bonus is that you can pan and tilt the camera to view an entire room.
Most video baby monitors work in a similar way: all you have to do is make sure the camera is connected to Wi-Fi, download the app onto your smartphone, pair the phone to the camera, and away you go.
Benefit: It can also be used (duh) as a baby monitor - plus its extra features, such as being able to record in the dark, set it above the most basic security cameras on the market.
Consideration: It is more costly than an audio-only baby monitor, and most home security cameras.
3. Download personal security apps
We all know we should carry pepper spray with us. But then we leave it at home. We have intentions of going for self-defence classes but never get around to it. As an interim measure for self-defence, there are a number of very handy apps that you can get to turn your smartphone into an alarm, a panic button and an emergency light, such as:
- Flashlight Ultra works not only as an LED flashlight (very useful in dark alleyways), but also as a personal alarm to signal to others when you're in an emergency situation with a very loud siren - and even strobe lights. Download it for iOS.
- Panic Button works as you'd imagine - you push the button when something goes wrong, and alerts will be sent to the contacts you've pre-selected (by SMS) to let them know you're in trouble, plus it sends them your location. It's great because the alarm is sent silently and all you have to do to activate it is push the phone's power button.
- EyeWatch works similarly to Panic Button, with the exception that it lets you select the kind of emergency you're in, and will call your 'Call Guardians' automatically one after the other on Speakerphone when activated, and it sends accurate GPS-based information of your location.
Benefit: You may leave your pepper spray at home, but you will always have access to your smartphone, which means you'll always have access to one of these apps when you're in danger.
Consideration: A self-defence course is never a bad idea.