December 15, 2016 By Staff Writer 6 min read

Don’t let your wallet leak money when your home leaks water. Did you know that property damage, including theft accounts for 97.3% of home insurance claims? Property damage can disrupt your life through the forces of fire and lightning, wind and hail, or extreme weather events like hurricanes and tornadoes, or it can be water leaks and freezing damage, or even theft. The good news is that with the Internet of Things, smart home sensors, and the help of insurance providers, you can help protect yourself, your home, and your family from experiencing too much of the hardship associated with home and property damage.

Here is a rundown of 8 sensors that you can deploy in your home to help ensure you are safe from the storm.

1. Fire/CO detection

Fire is far and away the number one cause of property damage. For years the humble fire detector has been beeping away at the first sign of smoke in the home, but there are several types of pollutants that can threaten our home environment and air quality, all which could lead to property damage and harm to the people inside. A carbon monoxide detector measures levels of CO in the air and will warn people if levels are dangerous. Since CO is odorless and undetectable without assistance, a detector can be a life saver, especially when it is connected to an emergency monitoring service.

Some new sensors not only detect both smoke and CO, but also can monitor the overall air quality in your home and watch for pollutants like dust, soot, pollen, temperature, humidity, air staleness, pollution, and particulates. Even more attractive are the discounts that insurance companies offer when you use these sensors.

2. Leak/moisture detection

Water and freezing damage is the 2nd leading cause of home insurance claims. No one wants to get the dreaded call informing you that your house has water pouring out of it and water is leaking into the unit just below you. A water line to your ice-maker broke and water has been running non-stop for 24 hours. This is an expensive accident.

A moisture detection sensor can give you a heads up if your home is at risk due to freezing pipes, or even a broken waterline. These sensors alert you to leaks in your home so can fix the problem immediately and not after the damage has been done. The sensor can be placed around water heaters, dishwashers, refrigerators, sinks, sump pumps and anything at risk for water leakage. If the sensor detects unwanted water a notification is sent to you, so you can hurry home to check out the problem.

3. Window & door open and close

Door and window sensors let you know when people are entering and leaving your house and can even turn lights on and off as doors are opened and closed. Door and window sensors are your first line of defense for home break-ins; some sensors even detect when a window is broken by an intruder. These sensors alert you to potential intruders, not to mention a deviant teenager. Once again, the wireless technology allows you to receive notifications straight to your phone or tablet and allows you to quickly call for help if needed.

4. Video doorbell

The video doorbell is also a theft deterrent sensor. This cool device allows you to see who is at your door from your smart phone. Whether you are inside alone and want to screen who is at the door, or if you are at work and someone is at your house. You will know. Couple this with the door open/close sensor and thieves will avoid your house and stay away from the trouble of breaking in! Ring is one of the original video doorbells on the market, but there are several good options now.

5. Smart thermostat

The smart thermostat gives you control over the heating and cooling in your home – from any location. Not only are smart thermostats cool, but they’ll also help you save money by monitoring the temperature and humidity inside and outside of your home. When you are in and out of your house, the temperature of your house also changes and a smart thermostat can adjust the temperature based on your behavior and room usage. The best thermostats adjust the temperature on a room by room basis allowing you to maintain your ideal temperature when you are in the room and can default to an energy saving mode when no one is in the room. Applying cognitive technology to these sensors is paving way for a home that thinks and knows you and your temperature preferences.

6. Motion sensors

A motion sensor does what you think it does – it detects motion and movement in an area. These sensors stand guard when you are not home; they can alert you if there is movement within your home, or if your doors or windows have been opened or closed. Motion sensors become an extra pair of eyes for you, alerting you to unwanted activity in your home such as a teen sneaking out (or in), or if a child enters a restricted area in the home such as a medicine cabinet.

Motion sensors are also great for helping to save energy. These sensors can be connected to lighting or the thermostat to help control the energy usage in a room based on the occupancy of the room e.g. it will turn the lights out if no one is in the room or adjust to an energy efficient temperature when the room is unoccupied.

Motion sensors can also be connected to video, so not only do you get a notification that a sensor has been tripped, but the sensor can activate video recording to capture footage of the intrusion.

A multi-sensor combines several sensors into one device. Some of the combined capabilities include motion, temperature, light, humidity, vibration, and UV.

Not all motion sensor are created equal. Here is a quick run down of the different types of motion sensors you can use:

  • Passive Infrared (PIR): Detects body heat (infrared energy). These are the most widely used sensors for home security. They detect heat and movement creating a protective grid – if a moving object blocks multiple grid zones and the infrared energy levels change, the sensors are tripped.
  • MircoWave (MW): The sensor sends out microwave pulses to measure the reflection off moving objects. MW sensor cover more area than the infrared sensors, yet they are expensive and vulnerable to electrical interference.
  • Dual Technology Motion Sensors: Dual technology motion sensors use multiple technologies, such as passive infrared (PIR) plus Microwave (MW) – an active sensor, to monitor an area. Both sensors must be tripped in order to trigger the alarm helping to reduce the instances of false alarms.
  • Area Reflective Type: Emits infrared rays from an LED. Using the reflection of those rays, the sensor measures the distance to the person or object and detects if the object is within the designated area.
  • Ultrasonic: Sends out pulses of ultrasonic waves and measures the reflection off a  moving object.
  • Vibration: Detects vibration. There are  two main sensor types in this category – the accelerometer and the Pieozoelectric device.

You can read more than you ever wanted to know about vibration technology on the sensor wiki.

7. Smart garage door

The wi-fi connected smart garage door give you some extra piece of mind. The concept is simple, but can be powerful – never wonder if you left the garage door open. You can open and shut your garage door from your phone, from any location.

8. Intercom/hub

You have installed sensors to create your smart home, and now you need to manage everything from one location. The smart home hub and intercom system allows you access to all of your smart home sensors, a communication system across the home and allows you to call for services – emergency or repair – at the tap of a button. With an intercom system you can see through the walls and have video and voice conversation between rooms in the house. You can also use your smart phone to call a room in the house while you are away at work – this could be handy for checking in on an aging parent while you are away.

As you can see, there are several sensors on the market that can help you create a safe, smart home that is protected even when you are not there. This adoption of this type of technology is quickly catching on and is even becoming an insurance incentive. Insurance companies want you and your home to be safe and many are beginning to offer services to help you along with making your home intelligent, proactive in protecting you and your wallet.

What’s next: making your operations, buildings, facilities and assets safer and more productive, too.

Without a doubt, technology has helped us create smarter, safer houses. Outside of our homes, forward-looking organizations are finding new ways to use IoT data, AI and automated workflows to modernize work, automate for greater productivity, and scale the value of data.

Learn how IBM’s intelligent solutions can help you create a safer, more productive workplace and digitally transform your operations.

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