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Home surveillance: safety, security and peace of mind

With individuals’ concerns rising over safety and security issues, home surveillance is just one of the ways you can achieve peace of mind — particularly if you’ve recently moved to a new country. 

Home surveillance usually consists of installing a security camera in or around your home, allowing you to keep a watchful eye on your property. Expatriates can particularly benefit from the peace of mind camera surveillance provides, having left the comfort of a familiar neighbourhood behind.

Our guide explains the background to home surveillance and how it’s used, and offers valuable security advice from Aetna Security Assistance — powered by now provided by Crisis 24 (04/2021).

How home surveillance has developed

The first modern home security system using video surveillance was patented in 1969 by Marie Van Brittan Brown. It is believed this was in response to feeling unsafe in her neighbourhood of Queens, New York.

The main reason behind installing cameras outside your property remains as a deterrent to potential thieves — three-quarters of burglars avoid homes that show signs of a home security system. However, there are alternative uses for camera-based surveillance. Enabling home video monitoring lets you check on pets and children, or simply to see if a parcel has been delivered.

The benefits of installing a security camera system can be seen to far outweigh the possible high price tag. They not only provide an extra level of protection for your valuables, potentially lowering some home insurance premiums, but increase the safety and sense of security for you and your family. As Aetna Security Assistance noted: “The technological advances of home surveillance and development of affordable solutions have encouraged more and more people to equip their homes in order to protect their property and family.”

The rise of the smart home

Improvements in technology, and the mass-market affordability this brings, have made it easier than ever to monitor your home from just about anywhere. The global home security camera market is predicted to be worth $8 billion by 2023.

The Internet of Things (IoT) — the interconnectedness of internet-enabled, or ‘smart’, devices - is a phenomenon that’s driving developments across the home security and automation industries. Cameras are often integrated into smart doorbells for instance, showing you via your mobile device who is at your front door. In the 12 months ending June 2016, 61% of U.S. smart-home revenue came from the sale of network connected cameras. Smart-home security device shipments are forecast to reach 709 million units worldwide in 2019, compared to 41 million in 2014. That’s an increase of 1629%, representing massive growth in the industry.

Homeowners are often able to install wireless options on their own — some systems even allow footage to be recorded for playback purposes by connecting the camera to a mobile app. Live video feeds let homeowners monitor home activity, receiving real-time alerts to immediately control the situation, no matter where they are.

Motion sensors are often integrated into the latest surveillance cameras, sending alerts to the connected device, and allowing for remote viewing of any potentially dangerous situation. Expats can take advantage of this development. It may offer particular comfort if they have moved to a region with high crime rates.

Remote monitoring can ensure individuals are prepared for the situation without physically being in immediate danger, giving them time to consult experts like Aetna Security Assistance. Some security systems will even count the number times someone (or something) leaves or enters the house. 

Why people use home surveillance

Safety, security and justice

Many people desire a smart home and, according to NPD (formerly National Purchase Diary) Connected Intelligence, for 40% of them, this sparks from a desire to make their home more secure.

Cameras can prevent break-ins, with burglars almost three times more likely to target a house without a security system in place. Not only this, but should an incident occur, the footage recorded can often be used to achieve justice during police investigations, with the help of face-recognition technology. Intruders in Massachusetts, U.S.A. were caught thanks to the high-resolution footage captured from the home-owner’s surveillance cameras installed outside the property. The face-recognition was even able to analyse the face of the getaway driver, leading to his arrest. British Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan Howe has urged individuals in the UK to install home surveillance “to help detectives solve crimes in the age of austerity.” 

The advice from Aetna Security Assistance reiterates how valuable this footage can be within a police enquiry: “Although public closed-circuit television (CCTV) networks are widely spread in large cities such as London and Beijing, police encourage homeowners to install their own surveillance. Apart from cutting through the volume of recorded incidents on public systems, home surveillance, if installed at eye level, can also help the police with face recognition.”

Peace of mind

More than half of smart camera owners use their systems for tasks such as monitoring pets or children, in addition to the security benefits they provide. Remote access can be reassuring to the globally mobile who may regularly travel internationally and work away from home, allowing users to check in on their house, or even on elderly or young relatives who may be home alone during the day.

Surveillance systems also allow for homeowners to check on the status of maintenance work being done on the property. Some people have questioned the ethicacy of this, but when both parties are aware of cameras, they can be mutually beneficial.

This is also the case when it comes to ‘nanny cams’, the slang term for cameras used for surveilling child carers working within the home. Video footage can offer parents peace of mind when leaving loved ones in another’s care, particularly if they’ve recently relocated to a new country and are unfamiliar with the carer. Video footage can provide the carer with evidence in case of any disputed incidents, or simply be used by working parents to capture precious childhood milestones they may otherwise miss.

Which home security system to choose

Home surveillance cameras come in many forms, with wireless options often easier to install compared to the cheaper hard-wired option. Hiring a home security company for ease of installation and monitoring purposes is always an option worth your consideration.

Before deciding on which system to have installed, contact your home insurance company and enquire whether it is accepted by your insurer in return for a decrease in premiums. It’s a great bonus if so.

When it comes to which model to install, below is a list of features to look out for:

  • Auto motion detection. Cameras with motion detection can alert you to movement on your property so you can review the live footage for suspicious activity.
  • Field of view. This is basically how much the camera can fit in the frame. In models where the field of view is wider, the camera can capture a greater area and fewer devices are required. Revolving fisheye models are a cost-effective option as they cover large areas minimising the need for multiple purchases.
  • Resolution. The higher the resolution, the clearer the recorded image is. This is particularly important if the footage is to be used as evidence for facial and object recognition.

Privacy concerns

The surge in home security systems has sparked the debate on security over privacy. Although home surveillance devices can be easily purchased, it is important that you research what the laws are in your country of residence. They will impact what type of surveillance you are allowed to set up, as well as the location and direction they can be installed. In general, hidden cameras and those installed in private areas, such as changing rooms and toilets, are not allowed.


Home surveillance not only provides users with peace of mind whilst at home or away, but tech developments are leading to new possibilities within a smart-home setting. Those regularly working away from home can benefit from the ease of home monitoring via mobile devices, while expats can increase their sense of security in an unfamiliar country. 

Learn how Aetna International and Aetna Security Assistance work together to keep you safe from terrorism and other threats to personal safety and security.

For information on a range of international countries and what you need to know before moving abroad, our Destination Guides feature articles on accessing health care, the cost of living, getting a job, business etiquette and more.

If you’re looking for international private medical insurance that includes high levels of security cover, contact our expert sales consultants to talk through our plans. We can cover individuals through our Aetna Pioneer plans, for example, while employers can benefit from our Aetna Summit plans. 

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