Fairfax Tech Column

Fairfax Tech Column

05.1.2018 Fairfax Tech Column 76


When Australian Director, Peter Weir, released The Truman Show in 1998, I am not sure he would have thought how the world would look twenty years after the release of his movie. In the movie, Truman Burbank’s entire life is being broadcast to the world 24/7. That concept might have sounded like a fictional concept when it was released, but electronics monitoring has come a long way in those twenty years. Last year Australians spent just over $3 Billion on the purchase and installation of electronics hardware and equipment with the primary purpose of monitoring homes and businesses.

The hardware has progressed to the point now where users are plugging in cameras themselves and recording to local devices and/or to the cloud. Remote viewing from anywhere in the world is usually as simple as using your smartphone to scan a QR code. As a society, we have a fascination with watching real-world footage and a considerable amount of the five hours of video footage uploaded to YouTube every second is from footage recorded on real-world cameras. The Police are increasingly using private video footage to help them solve crimes – only a month ago the Police wanted proof of a suspect using a stolen credit card in a variety of businesses and my retail premises was able to provide thirteen different camera angles of the two minutes that the alleged offender was in our store. It is hard for an offender to deny the activities when it is presented in 4K full colour from a variety of angles.

While many people are setting themselves up to cover their homes and businesses to minimise the risk of any loss, a recent incident struck me as an area of potential growth. On a trip overseas, I struck up a conversation with a neighbour in an apartment who had just been broken into. Passports gone; cash gone; credit cards gone; electronics gone… They had gone downstairs for a quick morning coffee and came back to find their door swinging open and their temporary castle breached.

If it had happened at their home, they told me, they simply would have given a copy of the recorded footage to the authorities and justice would have quickly followed. They were on holidays though and it would be unrealistic to expect a holidaymaker to setup their temporary residence with the same coverage as their home. Quite probably the thieves were aware that these apartments were holiday apartments and relied on the lack of security footage.

It will come as no surprise to you that there are some technology solutions for just this situation. Now I am not suggesting that you move into an apartment and spend the first three days configuring an extensive camera network but there are some products that can help. Firstly, if you are travelling in Australia, there are standalone cameras slightly smaller than a paperback novel that have memory cards; rechargeable batteries and cellular connectivity. Set them up once and then when you arrive at your holiday location, put it inside in a central location and turn it on. When it detects your mobile is ‘away’ it will monitor activity in its field of view. If it detects any movement, it will instantly start recording to an onboard memory card and simultaneously to cloud storage and send you an alert. You can, of course, view the footage from your phone. If you receive an alert you can look at the footage and, if you do indeed see an intruder, you can actually talk to them through the camera. Maybe a Darth Vader voice will do the trick to scare them off – or just telling them that they have been recorded and they should now run away because the Police are on their way would do it. Even if they continue their heist and destroy the camera, you have the footage in the cloud.

When you travel overseas the solutions for data are a little trickier. It becomes a bit too expensive to have an international SIM card just for security but the same solution described above can be achieved with a connection to a Wi-Fi device – which is available at most locations you would stay at. It adds one extra step when you arrive but achieves the same results.

There are a myriad of variants on the solution described above – you can purchase a seemingly innocent digital bedside clock or wall clock that most thieves would ignore – yet they have built in cameras and storage capabilities. Other cameras connect to power and perform constant recording with alarm-triggering capabilities. These simply record footage in a loop or will provide online storage of the last hour or 24-hour time period. The quality of the footage ranges from Standard Definition through to High Definition or even 4K. There are a variety of brands to choose from – from big names that you would immediately recognise such as LG; Netgear; D-Link; Swann; Nest and Belkin through to relatively unknown brands that have found their niche in portable or flexible home security.

If you want that added feeling of security when you next venture forth from your home, consider the concept of a portable security camera, and try to ignore the idea that your life might be part of another Truman show concept!

Mathew Dickerson