An outdoor camera strategically angled, a motion detector placed here and there - these are all great ways to secure the house. But, vacationers know surveillance is not the be-all and end-all of safeguarding their humble abode.
Is there a finicky leak in the bathroom that you must monitor? The situation becomes further complicated when you're leaving behind plants, so the home will need temperature regulation, too.
A handful of smart home gadgets can help you jet off worry-free, this summer. The beauty of these devices is that every time you feel uneasy, you can whip out your phone for a quick check-in.
In the UAE, tenants and homeowners usually opt for security systems, smart thermostats, water leak detectors and smart locks, before booking a vacation. Hisham El Zahhar, owner and managing director of Digital Homes in Dubai, says even a short staycation within the country warrants a few systems in place.
"We have a big clientele for this purpose - if you're leaving the house for an extended period of time, you need to make sure everything's fine when you come back," said El Zahhar, who has over 25 years of professional experience in smart homes, offices and cities.
Which smart gadgets should I install?
Home surveillance is, without a doubt, a starting point for many. Security cameras, smart doorbells and alarm systems are often best integrated using an all-in-one kit.
"Another important addition, especially if you have plants, is a smart thermostat to make sure your home isn't frying. It also takes the air conditioner two to three days to cool to its full capacity after being idle, given the hot temperatures outside. You can prevent this by controlling the temperature remotely on and off," said El Zahhar.
Unexpected water leaks can also rack up a hefty bill. El Zahhar once returned from an international trip to find a burst pipe in his garden that turned into an expensive accident. Ever since then, he has taken extra precautions with the help of Phyn, a smart AI-based (artificial intelligence) leak detection system. It's clever enough to switch off the main water supply on its own, but do note that other cost-effective systems will require a Wi-Fi auto shut-off valve to unlock this feature.
Our expert leaves us with more recommendations below, so go ahead and gift yourself that holiday peace of mind. Alongside clever tech, you could also manually shut off gas and water valves, and switch off power in rooms that don't need it, adds El Zahhar.
1. Best Outdoor Camera: eufyCam 3 (Two-Camera Kit)
- 4K HD footage
- Built-in 16GB local storage
- Solar-powered for forever battery
- AI learning detects strangers approaching home
- Incompatible with Apple HomeKit for now
If you don't live in an apartment, a smart doorbell is going to offer your villa limited coverage. The eufy security camera was our best pick for local use, per experts, and there's no hidden subscription fee, either. The upgraded eufyCam 3 has two-way audio, works with both Alexa and Google Assistant, and is fitted with solar panels for extra power backup. Get 135-degree footage of your property in crystal-clear 4K detail. Eufy's BionicMind uses AI to filter out family members walking up to the house from strangers. In case the gardener has to stop by for weekly upkeep, set up an activity zone to avoid false alarms. As for storage, all data is written onto the 16GB local storage inside the HomeBase 3 hub. It only records events as they happen, so you don't have to worry about running out of space. Just tap into the mobile app and go over real-time clips from anywhere. Reviewers say their battery is always at 100 per cent thanks to the solar panels, but this needs proper placement under direct sunlight.
Bonus: Buy with 0% instalments and pay Dh124.58 for 12 months with select banks. Add professional installation for Dh134.10.
Warranty: The manufacturer offers a one-year warranty. Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh86 and two years for Dh121.
2. Best Indoor Camera: TP-Link Tapo Pan/Tilt Smart Security Camera
- Pan and tilt the camera remotely to monitor all angles
- 1080p footage with night vision
- Watch live stream
- Compatible with Alexa
- Motion detection with notifications
- Needs a memory card to record videos
Indoors, concerned pet parents would want to monitor feeding times, while others can relay instructions to their house help. This TP-Link Tapo Pan security camera rotates all the way and tilts 114 degrees, to focus on detected motion and acitivity zones. A built-in mic and speaker let you communicate remotely at any time of the day. And, no worries, the 1080p resolution has night vision for up to 30 feet (9.1 metres). As long as you have a working Wi-Fi connection, the camera works perfectly. Add a micro SD card of up to 128GB to store footage locally onto the unit. Many fur owners in the reviews purchase the camera to watch over their cats for days. They love that any detected movement is instantly notified via a notification. Browse other indoor cameras.
Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh12 and two years for Dh17.
3. Best Alarm System: Ring Alarm 5-Piece Kit (2nd Generation)
- Wireless alarm kit with motion detector and contact sensor
- Compatible with Alexa-enabled devices
- Easy to use – activate Disarm, Away and Home modes with a button
- Includes a range extender
- Could benefit from additional detectors and sensors (sold separately)
El Zahhar vouches for the Ring surveillance systems, calling the brand one of the best market leaders in the UAE. Secure your indoors further with an alarm kit by Ring, suitable for both villas and flats. Every unit in this set works seamlessly with each other - there's a base station, keypad, contact sensor, motion detector and a range extender, too, for bigger homes. Every time the system is triggered, you'll receive a real-time notification. The setup is super simple - plug in the base station and connect it to your home Wi-Fi, then place the sensors where you need them the most. If family and friends are checking in on your plants and pets, disarm the system with your voice via Alexa-enabled devices. Reviewers happily report that the kit takes a mere 10 minutes to set up, and attest to the excellent customer support.
Bonus: Add professional intallation for Dh351.
4. Best Water Detector: YoLink Smart Home Starter Kit: Water Sensor (4-Pack) and Hub Kit
- Instant leak updates via the app
- Four sensitive water-detecting sensors that can go anywhere
- Up to five years of battery life
- Compatible with Alexa and IFTTT
- Auto shut-off valve needs to be purchased separately
YoLink's smart home water sensor comes with a hub kit, which sends real-time app notifications and emails once a leak is detected. Each of the four sensors is sealed and waterproof, with water-sensing electrodes on the top and bottom. Place them in problematic areas, such as the bathroom floor, kitchen drain and laundry room, and monitor the status remotely via the internet. Its low-power operation gives you a whopping five years of performance, before the batteries need replacement. The kit's sensors are compatible with Alexa and IFTTT (If This Then That) home automation. Reviewers are impressed by how well the kit works, saving them expensive basement and toilet repairs in several instances. Most bundle the purchase with YoLink's smart water valve controller to turn off the main water supply when away. They test it with wet rags and water droplets after installation, only to receive prompt notifications.
5. Best Smart Thermostat: Nest Google Learning Thermostat, 3rd Generation
- Learns your preferred temperature in a week and draws up a schedule
- Turns to eco mode when you leave home
- Guides you to the right energy-saving temperature
- Compatible with Alexa
- Cannot be installed without a pro
Turn your AC unit on and off whenever needed, with a smart thermostat. El Zahhar suggests Google's Nest as one of the more popular choices. This clever unit works like a breeze with your smartphone, allowing you to change the temperature with a few taps. Enter your preferred cooling numbers and watch the thermostat adjust itself to the weather outside. Reviewers mention getting multiple Nest thermostats for their house, and report energy savings. It also looks sleek to suit your interior.
Bonus: Buy with 0% instalments and pay Dh69.08 for 12 months with select banks. Add professional installation for Dh449.10. Get 10 per cent off with Citibank when you enter the code 'CB10JUL' at checkout.
6. Best Smart Smoke Alarm: Nest Protect
- Has a 10-year lifespan
- Sends smoke and CO alerts to the phone
- Alerts everyone in the family group
- Can be used a path light at night
- Expensive for a single detector
Need a smart smoke detector that sends alerts directly to your phone? You're in need of Nest Protect, a smoke alarm that sends your entire family an alert in the event you're not reachable. It uses two wavelengths of light to detect smoke from fast-burning and smoldering fires. There's also a carbon monoxide sensor that lasts up to 10 years and tells you whenever it catches the odourless, invisible gas. When you are home, it lights up at night as you walk past, like a bonus overhead light. Unlike other smoke detectors, the Nest Protect actually points out the problematic location, which reviewers highlight with five stars. They also love that their family gets notified in case of an emergency.
Bonus: Buy with 0% instalments and pay Dh54.23 for 12 months with select banks. Get 10 per cent off with Citibank when you enter the code 'CB10JUL' at checkout.
7. Best Doorbell and Lock: eufy Security S330 3-in-1 Smart Lock
- Three-in-one door security system
- Unlocks in five different ways, including via app
- Clear 2K video footage
- Easy to set up
- Rechargeable smart lock
- Field view is limited vertically
Split between getting a smart lock and a doorbell? Eufy's three-in-one door kit solves that problem for you. Its triple security system combines a 2K HD camera with doorbell and smart lock. Control the setup from anywhere - El Zahhar says it's perfect for when you're expecting an important shipment and want the package to be dropped inside the house. See who's at the door and decide whether you want to let them in or not with the eufy Security app. What's more, there are five ways to quickly unlock the door, from fingerprint to remote access. It also auto-locks the door, if you leave in a rush. According to reviewers, the interface is simple to navigate and the customer support is easy to get in touch with. Several comment on the high quality footage, too. Browse more individual smart locks.
Bonus: Buy with 0% instalments and pay Dh149.92 for 12 months with select banks. Add professional installation for Dh225. Get 10 per cent off with Citibank when you enter the code 'CB10JUL' at checkout.
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