Home Security in 2020: What’s Changed?

person points mobile at his home security alarm

By 12 min read


Domestic burglaries fell by 72% after COVID-19 restrictions came in

Cloud storage is affordable and widely available

Facial recognition technology is no longer science fiction


You want to buy the best, most cutting-edge, cost-effective home security system around, to keep you and your loved ones safe.

Thankfully, we’ve got everything you need to know about the latest developments in the field, from the best new smart technology to COVID-19’s effect on crime.

Considering someone is home during 58% of burglaries, there’s never been a more important time to make sure you’re up to date on home security.

If you’re ready to buy a new security system, fill in this form to see what deals you can get.

person points mobile at his home security alarm

Coronavirus and home security

There has been a massive decrease in home burglaries since the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a national lockdown in March.

In April and May, domestic burglaries fell by 72%, according to the Office for National Statistics’ Telephone-operated Crime Survey for England and Wales (TCSEW).

This means burglars targeted people’s homes more than 84,000 fewer times than they did in the pre-lockdown times.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) senior researcher Billy Gazard drew a straight line between these numbers and the COVID-19 lockdown.

He said the “significant fall in crime” across the board was driven by “reductions in theft offences, particularly domestic burglary and theft of personal property. 

“As this period coincided with the majority of people spending long periods at home during lockdown, it is not unexpected”, he added.

The crime rate in the UK

As mentioned above, the UK’s crime rate fell sharply in the first two months after the national lockdown.

There was a 32% fall in total crime (excluding fraud and computer misuse) during April and May.

And even compared to the same time period in 2019, there were large drops, with 25% less crime in April and 20% less crime in May this year.

Though there were declines in other areas of crime, including criminal damage and arson, the downturn in robbery and theft offences was the main reason for this overall decline.

However, as the charts above show, crime increased by 12% from April to May, as the government eased lockdown restrictions.

This was reflected by upticks in both robbery and theft offences – showing that while a lockdown will temporarily reduce the number of domestic burglaries, there’s no reason to expect any long-term decrease.

When it’s easier for you to visit other people’s homes again, it’s also easier for burglars.

Smart home technology and home security

Smart technology has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, and you can take full advantage.

For instance, and do not adjust your set, but we have facial recognition technology now – and it’s available to you.

You can tell top-tier cameras like the Google Nest Cam IQ and Netatmo Smart Indoor Camera whose faces are friendly, so that after a couple of weeks, it knows who you know – and who you don’t.

The cameras don’t have access to a name database, so they won’t be able to identify people they see – which, in terms of privacy laws, is for the best.

Importantly, cameras including Netatmo’s and the Nest Outdoor Cam can also tell the difference between your pet and an intruder, so Buddy or Whiskers won’t trip your sensors every few minutes.

New cameras generally come with 1080p resolution, at least five metres of night vision, and two-way speakers, so you can hear what’s happening and tell any potential intruders to buzz off from wherever you are in the world.

Top brands like Ring, Arlo, Swann have also paired their smart cameras with floodlights, so they can illuminate any would-be intruder in a spotlight that’ll allow the camera to capture their image and – usually – terrify the person into fleeing.

It differs from company to company, but most smart cameras now connect to at least Amazon and Google’s smart speakers, meaning you can fit them into pre-existing smart systems, and control them with just an “Alexa” or “Hey Google”.

And security systems have developed massively in other areas, too. You can now easily slot a video doorbell into your set-up, allowing you to answer the door and keep an eye on your front porch from anywhere on Earth.

The advent of smart locks means you can also make sure your home is locked to intruders from wherever you are, and enables you to unlock your door with just your phone.

Many new security systems also now have smart zones, which means you can choose and change which parts of your home to monitor.

So as you move from the kitchen to the garden, you can tell your system to monitor the kitchen, but not the garden. Simple.

And when you want to review your recordings, it’s much easier now. Cloud technology has become mainstream recently, meaning footage doesn’t have to be stored in a clunky unit on your premises.

Instead, it can be instantly uploaded to your private online account, allowing you to watch it whenever, wherever.

What’s more, this service is increasingly being offered for free with the best smart home cameras around.

All of these developments have allowed monitoring services to become more effective at acting like guardian angels who watch over your home.

And generally, this is all excellent news for you. In a 2017 Co-op survey, 89% of burglars said if they saw a smart home, it would immediately put them off targeting that property.

The future of smart home security

Smart home security will undoubtedly keep growing and creating better ways to protect your home. It was a £20.5 billion global industry in 2019 – and that figure is only going up.

We’ve got many innovations to look forward to, like polymer-coated fences that can detect when someone tries to scale them, and tell you when it happens.

Would-be burglars will also be met with an arsenal of low-flying drones in future. These drones will be able to film them, alert you, and mark the intruder and their getaway car with a near-indelible chemical spray.

Security systems will also be able to use facial recognition to identify intruders by name, scanning databases to find a match, so you and the police will know who tried to enter your home.

This will also allow you or your security system to address any prospective burglar by name, which would provide a strong deterrent to any criminal.

It also raises a myriad of data privacy issues, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

A less legally dubious way in which this software will be used is to allow your loved ones to enter and exit your home without having to worry about locking up. If your kid wants to take the rubbish out, they won’t need a key – and it’ll still lock behind them.

Smart security systems will also soon be able to communicate with each other. After all, neighbours should be there for one another. That’s when good neighbours become good friends.

All the systems in your local area will share information about anything suspicious, like certain non-residents hanging around for no apparent reason.

This will allow you to use your combined strength to guard against crime, turning your neighbourhood into a community that defends itself as one.

woman uses smart home security panel

The changing cost of home security systems

Prices have fallen, even as home security technology has improved beyond recognition.

It used to take thousands of pounds to protect yourself from the threat of domestic burglary – but homeowners signed on, understandably.

After all, being burgled can be incredibly traumatising, and damaging financially – and the average cost of a home burglary is £3,030, according to the Home Office.

Nowadays, for just £500, you can buy a SimpliSafe system with two key fobs, three window/door sensors, two motion sensors, a glassbreak sensor, a smart home camera, a 105dB siren, and a panic button – and you can control it all from your phone.

Installation of a home security system still typically costs around £200 now – but it also doesn’t have to cost anything.

If you choose a smart system from a company like SimpliSafe, you can set it up yourself in just a couple of hours, with some gentle guidance from an instruction booklet.

You can also install a smart security camera yourself – but make sure you select the right model.

A model like Google’s Nest Cam Outdoor – one of the best on the market – can be installed by you, for free, but getting Yale’s smart home camera installed will set you back £170.

Even monitoring – where a company watches over your home and contacts you and/or the police if a break-in happens – doesn’t cost as much as it used to.

While traditional companies like ADT and SECOM still charge as much as £30 per month while locking you into a long-term contract, other firms like SimpliSafe offer monitoring for as little as £12.99 per month – and you can cancel at any time.

Security systems are now cheaper than a guard dog – and much better at notifying the police.

Home security laws

It’s crucial to know where you stand with the law in regard to someone breaking into your home, and how to have a security camera without infringing on people’s right to privacy.

This way, you should be able to protect yourself from prosecution, even if the worst happens.

What can you do if a burglar breaks in?

The law states that you can use “reasonable force” to protect yourself or others if a crime is happening inside your property. Legally, you don’t have to be attacked before defending yourself.

According to government guidelines, this law allows you to use an object as a weapon, and to stop an intruder from escaping, for example by tackling and pinning them to the ground.

How much force is too much force? A joint public statement from the Crown Prosecution Service and the Association of Chief Police Officers gives homeowners leeway on this subject.

They said that if you’re in “extreme circumstances, in the heat of the moment” and use force that seems reasonable at the time, but is seen as disproportionate with the benefit of hindsight, “the law will give you the benefit of the doubt”.

The bodies added: “As a general rule, the more extreme the circumstances and the fear felt, the more force you can lawfully use in self-defence.”

But they emphasise that this only applies if you’re protecting yourself or others, and that “disproportionate force to protect property is still unlawful.”

You’re not allowed to continue attacking an intruder if no-one in your home is in danger, either.

And you can’t pre-plan a trap for someone instead of calling the police. We’re looking at you, Kevin McCallister from Home Alone.

Don’t be like Kevin. Where possible, always call the police if you suspect a break-in.

Data protection laws

If you get a security camera, be careful not to fall foul of the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA), which complements the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

If you make sure your CCTV system – which includes video doorbells – only captures images within the boundaries of your private domestic property, then you won’t break these laws, according to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

But if any of your cameras capture images of people outside those borders – for instance, in neighbours’ gardens or public areas like roads – then GDPR and DPA regulations kick in.

In this case, you’ll need to have clear and justifiable reasons for doing so, and an explanation for why these reasons are more important than other people’s right to privacy. 

Write these reasons down, so you can answer questions, whether they come from individuals or the ICO.

You must also:

  • Put up signs explaining you have a CCTV system recording outside, and why
  • Make sure your system only captures the footage you need
  • Keep your footage secure – don’t share it on social media, for instance
  • Only keep footage for as long as you need it – regularly delete recordings that aren’t related to security concerns
  • Ensure everyone in your property uses the CCTV system in ways which respect others’ privacy

If you do capture images of someone who’s not on your property, you must:

  • Respond to any subject access requests. People have a right to see any personal data you have about them, including images of them. If they request these from you, either verbally or in writing, you must respond with a copy of the data within a month
  • Delete all footage of individuals who ask you to do so, within a month. If you need the recordings for a legal dispute, you must tell them this, and inform them they can complain to the ICO or challenge your decision in court
  • Try to pre-empt any complaints from people about your CCTV system, and make sure your reasons for capturing images outside of your property are easily justifiable

If you don’t follow these rules, you may be fined by the ICO, and could even face legal action brought by affected individuals.

Summary

While COVID-19 restrictions have led to a drop in home burglaries, that downturn won’t last forever.

Fortunately, home security systems have exploded industry norms over the past few years, both in terms of lowering costs and all the new smart technology we can now enjoy.

This trend will only increase in the near future, meaning you’ll be able to pay less for incredible hardware that you can control from your phone, or by using your face.

74% of people who own a smart device are very satisfied with their experience, according to a 2017 PricewaterhouseCoopers study – and that number is set to rise.

If you want to see how much a cutting-edge security system would cost you, just fill in this form.

Josh Jackman Writer

Josh is The Eco Experts’ main man for home security, smart devices, and boilers. If it can make your life better and help the environment, he’s on it.