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The Basics of Wireless Home Security Systems

written by: M.S. Smith•edited by: Tricia Goss•updated: 3/28/2010

What is a wireless home security system? What does it do, and how does it function? If you are considering a home security system you should learn about PC based wireless home security systems first. They are easier to maintain, easier to set up, and can be controlled from a PC.

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    Your PC - a Home Security Command Center

    When thinking of security systems, many assume that they need to be powered by dedicated security hardware that writes the video to banks of hard drives or even external media like video tapes and DVDs. Many also assume that setting up such a security system would beyond their ability.

    Ten years ago that may have been true, but today it is easy for you to set up a home security system. The key to this is your PC. Many companies now make home security cameras that operate in conjunction with your PC to provide 24-hour security. This guide will help you understand how PC based wireless home security systems work and where you can purchase them.

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    Home Security Cameras - Smaller, Better, Stronger

    Wireless Home Security Camera 

    One key piece of technology that has made it easier to use PC based wireless home security systems are the cameras. Good cameras capable of capturing usable video used to be expensive and enormous. They required large, obvious housing that usually had to be mounted onto your home by several bolts. Worse, these cameras were usually built to speak to a network of televisions and recorders rather than a computer.

    The widespread use of cameras in cell phones, laptops and webcams has resulted in a revolution in camera technology. A camera capable of capturing usable video is now no larger than a baseball and often lighter. These cameras can be mounted easily and discretely. Better yet, many of these cameras are designed specifically to use wireless networking as a means of communicating either with a small home base that processes the video and sends it to your PC or to your PC directly.

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    Anatomy of a PC Home Security System

    Wireless Home Security 

    There are two different methods used by most PC based wireless home security systems to network with your computer.

    The first method used is the direct interface. Home network security systems set up with a PC in this way allow each individual device to communicate with the PC directly. The cameras usually come with software that allows video to be recorded and monitored. In some instances, the software will allow multiple independent devices to be monitored at once in a split-screen mode. It is possible for these types of systems to use multiple cameras from multiple companies, although each brand of camera may only be able to be used with its accompanying software.

    The second method used is the hub interface. These security systems connect to your PC through a central hub that communicates with all of the cameras in the system. They are often sold as bundles including the hub and an array of cameras. These systems are less flexible because the hubs will usually only work with the cameras with which they are sold. It is not usually possible to add a different brand of camera later if you want to expand your surveillance. These systems tend to be easier to set up, though, because you do not have to deal with different cameras with different capabilities and different software.

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    Recommend Products

    Logitech Spy Video Security Master System

    This Logitech product is a good example of a direct interface PC home security system. It is built to interface directly with your PC. It is not wireless in the traditional sense, but instead uses your home's electrical wiring to transmit encrypted data to a USB transmitter that connects to your computer. The Spy Video Security System costs $329.99 and disguises itself as a clock, but Logitech also offers more overt cameras using the same technology.

    Wireless 4 Camera Control Center

    This product includes four cameras that connect wireless to a provided network hub rather than directly with your computer. The cameras are extremely small and easy to mount and the hub itself simply plugs into your computer using a USB connection. The fact that you must use the included cameras makes this system a poor choice if you see yourself wanting to upgrade in the future or if you want to use some pre-existing cameras. However, it is very easy to set up even if you are new to home security systems. The package typically runs $499.99.