Ever wondered what your dog gets up to when you’re at work? Or perhaps you’re curious as to how often your cat wanders into the back garden. Or you want to check what’s going on at home to make sure there are no burglars about. (And even set a siren going if you see them, but I’ll come to that later.)
All these are reasons why the home security camera market is booming. There are products from Google, Logitech, D-Link, Netatmo and more, but here we concentrate on the popular Netgear Arlo Pro Smart Security System.
You can buy the system with a single camera or up to six, but the three-pack will make sense for most houses – that way you can watch the front door, an inside room and the garden. Note the Arlo and Arlo Pro are both weatherproof, but many home security cameras are designed for indoor use alone.
The way the Pro works is simple. There’s a base station in the box, which you need to connect to your broadband router: Netgear supplies the Ethernet cable, so this is easy enough. Plug it in, power it on.
Note that the rechargeable batteries in the Arlo Pro cameras come charged, lasting for several days before you’ll need to charge them using the supplied charger and microUSB cable. (Lifting up a tiny rubber flap at the rear of the cameras reveals the port.)
So everything’s switched on, ready. Time to connect.
Connecting the Arlo Pro
Rather than communicate via your wireless network, the cameras instead connect wirelessly to the base station. They don’t come ready-paired, so you’ll need to this yourself. It’s easiest to do so via the Android or iOS app, but there is a web-based system if you prefer.
It only takes a minute for each camera to be paired, but note you’ll need to be within reach of the base station so you can press a button on it.
And now you come to the enjoyable bit: setting up your cameras.
If we concentrate on the dog scenario, then you probably want to do three things: hear it; talk to it; make sure it doesn’t jump on the sofa.
If you have a handy flat surface such as a bookcase opposite the sofa then this is probably your best location choice. That way you’ll be close enough to hear the dog easily, but not so easy to reach that it’s tempted to grab the camera in its jaws.
Your next-best option is to wall-mount the Arlo Pro. Now this isn’t something I’ve yet done myself, but all you need – aside from the drill to make the requisite hole in the wall – is in the box.
The Pro has a magnetic, concave hole at its rear, and once you fix the wall mount (and its clever circular nodule, which plugs into the concave hole) you can swivel the camera into position.
Using the Arlo app
From this point on, the app is your friend. It allows you to set up different modes to control whether motion detection is switched on – for example, “Disarmed” means motion detection is off, or you can geofence it based on your location.
You can also set it to zoom. Let’s say you only want to capture the sofa: there’s a setting where you can “pinch and zoom” on the image to make that the active area of the image.
You can always view the footage live, but you may prefer to select motion detection. This will capture ten seconds of video each time something appears, and you choose to get an alert each time if you so wish.
What about when you want to talk to the dog? Press the Devices tab, select the camera you’re interested in and hit the mic icon. A green button will appear, which you hold down to speak – exactly like a walkie-talkie. And, just like a walkie-talkie, you won’t be able to hear your dog barking while you talk to it.
Should burglars appear and your dog’s bark isn’t proving enough of a deterrent, there’s always the last resort: click Turn Siren On and watch them run. And trust me, run they will: that siren makes one heck of a noise.