Security, a key consideration in home ownership, has largely been catered for through conventional tools and methods.
The watchman, for instance, is a common fixture at many homes and properties around the country, serving as a trusted security companion. Of equal prominence are fences, gates, dogs, and door locks, among other options.
Now, with the shifting tides on technology and human ingenuity, which in turn present smarter thieves and fresh security challenges, the need arises for a more technology-driven approach to counter the sophisticated security threats of the day.
According to one security expert, the growing adoption of some lesser-known and creative security solutions in the market is gradually giving rise to the spread of “smart” homes.
“We are at the beginning of a huge change,” says Julius Delahaije, the CEO and chairman of SGA Security.
“Software and technology are helping us to be more alert. Most of the devices are user-friendly and accessible, and we are seeing a lot of interest and uptake in the market,” he told DN2.
The smart home is all about innovation, says Delahaije, noting that some of the new systems are capable of helping the owner to know what is happening in his home, even while on the go.
At the heart of the new systems are wireless and mobile phone technologies, which have placed control on the palm of the homeowner.
Delahaije says the market is warming up to sophisticated security cameras, motion sensors, access controls through remote-controlled gates, fingerprint sensors, face detectors, as well as geo-zoning and geofencing technologies.
Passionate about ICT-driven security solutions, Delahije, an expert in information technology, says security is moving from reaction to prevention, and software is the driver of most of the technologies for the modern smart home.
“With a digital camera, I cannot only record what’s happening, but can also use it proactively. For example, I can zone a room. Half of this room would be the meeting area, while my desk would be the other half. Based on the camera’s ability to recognise my face, it gives me authorisation to sit at my desk.”
A security camera can also be programmed to record only when there is movement in an area, says Delahaije.
If there is no movement, there is no recording. With additional programming, a camera can detect all movement or only certain movements.
He says that in addition to programming it to sense movement, a security camera can also be programmed to detect specific objects, and even colours! “I can program it such that everyone who is wearing a red shirt is not allowed in,” he adds.
Cameras would even recognise licence plates on cars, as well as the type of car, in addition to colour.
“I can put all my employees in a database, put all their licence plates in, and give access control to everybody who works for me based on the licence plate access. If you are not in my system, then you are not authorised to get in.”
Delahaije notes that in a typical home, whether a stand-alone or in a gated community, the first safety installations would lie in the perimeter.
These would include the walls, security lights and cameras. Motion sensors help trigger an alert or switch on the security lights in the event of movement about the premises.
Ideally, one creates several zones in the property to protect oneself, with the series of alarms getting triggered as the intrusion nears the homeowner right from the gate, into the compound, and eventually into the house.
An electric, remote-controlled gate is a preferable option over the manually operated gate, according to the security expert.
For the building itself, Delahaije says additional security would be provided by cameras and devices that register the closing and opening of doors, doors with different locks, trellis doors, safe rooms, smoke detectors, fire detectors and alarms, among others.
Electronic locks can be programmed to restrict access control using individual fingerprints, which can in some cases limit entry to only family members or staff members.
They can also be programmed such that each member gets a code, which they key in before accessing the premises.
The system is developed in such a way that the property owner can receive a log showing who came into the premises and at what time. The information is relayed to the owner’s smartphone.
“Basically, your smart phone acts as a remote control. You can look at the cameras in your house from wherever you are in the world. You can zoom in and out, and clearly see what is going on. Through the smartphone, the owner can change access codes remotely,” Delahaije told DN2 at his office on Mombasa Road.
Perceptions are an important consideration when prescribing security solutions to property owners, according to Ben Woodhams, the managing director of Knight Frank, a real estate company.
This is despite the proven effectiveness and, in some cases, superiority of technology over conventional security tools.
“On the other side of the coin, where we try and utilise very high-end technology to keep people safe, the same people may begin to feel unsafe because they can’t see the security operation in process,” Woodhams observes.
“They only feel safe if they can see the physical controls on the ground. So at Knight Frank, where we’ve taken these physical controls away and scaled up in technology, we have had to bring them back again to make people safe, even when we know that it’s not adding much value to the safety of the people in the area.
"It’s a balance between public perception and using technology in improving security,” he revealed.
Deploying additional guards may not necessarily boost an area’s security, Woodhams notes, but the presence of guards may boost some clients’ confidence more than some unseen software-controlled system.
For example, despite having the best intentions to execute its security role in your property, man’s best friend may not offer non-stop vigilance.
“Yes, you can use dogs, but it only works for 40 minutes and then it needs a rest,” says Woodhams. “Again, dogs are expensive to train, so we’re now using automated explosive sniffers as well.”
Both experts said that a property owner should consult the relevant security experts before deciding what security approach to take.
Despite the movie-like sophistication of the newer home security technologies and approaches, the costs may not be what the general public might expect.
An entry-level security package in today’s market, incorporating some of the higher-tech technologies, may range around Sh6,000 on a monthly subscription, says Delahaije.