Smart, easy-to-use home surveillance systems that fit your budget

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Families with young children and aged parent are increasingly installing surveillance systems to keep a close tab on what’s happening back home. With time, surveillance technology has not only become better and easy to use, but affordable as well.

Pushpinder Thakur, who works as a graphic designer, has installed three cameras in his house. Thakur and his wife leave their one-year-old with a nanny. He has installed internet protocol (IP) camera in two rooms. Whenever the couple wishes, they can see the live feed from the IP camera on their mobiles. The third camera is installed above the door to keep a check on the visitors.

Depending on their needs, individuals can opt for surveillance systems that cost a few thousands to over Rs 50,000. “In a two-bedroom flat, a budget of around Rs 50,000 can get the best surveillance system available today for a home,” says Mehernosh Pithawalla, global head - marketing, sales and innovation at Godrej Security Solutions.

Low budget? Use an old smartphone: If you want to monitor a fixed area for a limited time in the day, a cheaper way is to use an old smartphone as a closed-circuit television camera (CCTV). For this, you need an app that will make your phone function just like a CCTV camera, and there are plenty of such software. These apps provide basic functionality for free. For extra features and removing the advertisements, you need to pay either a subscription fee or one-time payment. 

Alfred Home Security Camera is among the popular ones that come with a subscription fee of about Rs 2,000 a year. In the premium version, the user can use multiple smartphones; the app can detect motion and alert you via email, and so on. The other popular apps include Manythings, which uploads the recording on cloud and keeps it there for 30 days. For this, the user pays about Rs 520 a month. Another highly rated app is IP Camera pro, which can be purchased with a one-time payment of Rs 340.

To make the camera lens wider, a person can also buy a fisheye lens for mobile that costs a few hundred. This is an additional attachment on top of the mobile camera. To keep costs low, place the phone in a coffee mug instead of purchasing a stand for the mobile.

Camera kits for medium budgets: If an eye in the house is all you want, you can just purchase camera kits that come with multiple CCTVs and storage. The cameras come in different shapes and sizes depending on your space. The common one for outdoors is dome and bullet cameras. Then there are pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ), c-mount cameras and IP cameras in different designs that and can be mounted on walls or just placed on a table. Many companies have also added mic function in an IP camera, which allows the user to do a video conferencing from his mobile.

The prices of each of different types of camera increase with features. Lower resolution CCTVs – 1 megapixel (MP) – are the lowest priced. As the resolution increase, so does the price. “For home surveillance, a 2MP camera is sufficient. These are high-definition (HD) cameras and give an output just like what a person sees on his LED or LCD TVs,” says Pithawalla.

A 4MP or 5MP camera (ultra HD or 4K resolution) gives clearer video but also needs larger storage. If a person wants to remotely view the camera feed on his mobile, he would need a high-speed internet connection at his home as well as on mobile. Otherwise, the video may freeze or will not play smoothly. 

A kit comes with more than one camera along with storage. While a camera can cost anywhere between Rs 800 and Rs 2,400, the storage costs a lot more. A Godrej Security Solutions 4MP four-camera kit with 1TB hard disk costs Rs 16,798 on Amazon India. An Hikvision four camera kit (1MP each) and 1TB storage is available at Rs 9,597. Many of home IP cameras come with a memory card option. But the storage on such cards would be limited.

Next-level surveillance: If a person is looking for a more modern solution to protect against theft and intrusion, there are a whole lot of other offerings. You can install a video door phone. The unit captures the video of the visitor at the door and has a mic as well as a speaker in it. Inside the house, there’s an LCD or LED panel through which one can talk to the visitor without opening the door. The unit is WiFi enabled. If you are not in the house, you will receive a notification on the mobile app, through which you can see the visitor and talk to him from anywhere in the world. More expensive options include a better camera, better panel, vandal-proof unit, and so on. A video door unit starts as approximately Rs 5,000 from reputable manufacturers. 

Then there are sensors that an individual can install at the door and windows of the house. These sensors detect motion and sound and an alarm goes off in case of unauthorised intrusion or break-in.

Avoid spy cameras: Concealed cameras are not advisable and none of the popular brands sells them. They invade the privacy of the person and therefore should be avoided. “Surveillance systems should act as a deterrent. It’s best that everyone knows there are a camera and other security in the house, which would avoid unfortunate events,” says Pithawalla.

What surveillance systems cost
Budget 1 (only cameras) Cost in rupees
2MP outdoor camera 1,200-1,400
2MP camera for two rooms
DVR Box 1,200-2.500
2TB Storage 4,750-4,800
Kit cost (including wire and plugs) 9,150-11,200
Budget 2 (high-end) Cost in rupees
Video door phone 5,000-13,000
Windows and door alarm 12,000-24,000
Total cost (including budget 1) 26,150-48,200
Source: Company websites,

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