How to spot Santa with your smart home this year

Santa coming down the chimney
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Stokkete)

As everyone knows, Santa is, indeed, real. He might be magic, able to come down the smallest chimneys and deliver gifts to millions of kids all over the world in a single night. But he is still no match for all our technological advancements, not when we’ve got Teslas whose detection system can apparently sense the presence of ghosts and smart home devices which can give users real-time notifications when they detect the smallest movements even in the dark. 

Heck, I’ve seen footage recorded on people’s indoor home security cameras of hair-raising entities appearing and disappearing in their homes. Those videos could be fake, but they could be real as well. It’s not like we can actually prove that the supernatural doesn’t exist.

So, if Santa knows what’s good for him, he better watch out – or avoid smart homes altogether this year. Of course, living in the North Pole, he may not even be aware that most of us now have all devices that can catch him enjoying his milk and cookies in our homes. So, there’s still a big chance that you might spot him, not to mention, see if reindeer really know how to fly with your smart home devices

Here’s how.

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Alexa can help with that 

Or at least your Echo speaker! Some Amazon Echo smart speakers, like the Echo (4th Gen) and the Echo Dot (5th Gen), have motion-detection capability. That allows users to set up routines to automate things like turning on your smart lights when it detects a human presence in the room that the smart speaker is in. 

If you’ve got an Echo device with motion detection, that’s probably all you need to catch Santa in the act. Just make sure to turn on your device’s Ultrasound Motion Detection on the Alexa app (and maybe adjust its sensitivity and range based on the size of the room it’s in). 

Also make sure to set up a routine so that when the speaker detects people at a certain time (specifically when everyone in your home has gone to bed and you just want to catch Santa’s arrival), Alexa will sound the alarm by making an announcement, turning the lights on, or playing music.

Your smart display is gonna spy

The newer smart displays from Amazon also have motion detection, but they’re best utilized to spy on Santa. Some smart displays like the new Echo Show 8 (3rd gen) have Amazon’s Home Monitoring feature so that they can function as a smart home camera that gives you a secured live feed of the goings-on in your home (or at least in its field of view).

Via the Alexa app, you can set up routines that trigger when the display’s camera detects people nearby. And you can use that to your advantage so you’re alerted when Santa has arrived. What’s more, if you don’t want to scare the man – he is, after all, over 1,000 years old and you don’t want to give him a heart attack – you can just silently watch him using your smart display’s camera, also on the Alexa app.

Want a recording of the big event? Use your smartphone’s screen record function!

Point that outdoor security camera up

If you’re looking to catch that sleigh as it lands on your roof, I would turn your outdoor home security camera – something like that Ring Stick Up Cam Pro or the Anker Eufycam 2 – upwards and point it to the skies. It may be dark by the time Santa and his reindeers come, but many security cameras have night vision, which means they will catch Santa’s sleigh in action if it flies into view. Especially with Rudolph flying around with his very shiny nose. Fortunately, a lot of these cameras have a wider angle, so they’re going to cover a lot of ground – or, more appropriately, sky.

You can even set up rules so that when the cameras detect motion, you will get notified on your phone. Just make sure you don’t set a rule that will trigger the alarm though, as that might chase the man away – not to mention, annoy your sleeping neighbors.

Don’t forget to slot in a microSD card or set up a cloud account, which you may have to pay extra for, for each camera so that it will actually record the spotting. That way, you have definite proof that Santa is real.

Let your indoor camera do all the work

Indoor home security cameras such as the Blink Mini and the Arlo Essential work just as well as their outdoor counterparts, except instead of that action sleigh shot, they can actually get up close and personal with Santa as he’s putting all those presents under the tree and while he’s drinking the milk and cookies you left out.

Like with your outdoor cameras, you do have to make sure that the indoor home security camera you set up has a microSD card or can save videos on cloud storage. That way, if everyone in the family is a sound-sleeper, it can record and save the Santa footage so you can watch and enjoy later on.

Be sure to turn the camera’s motion detection and night vision features, and set it so that it records every event. Also mount it somewhere where it can see everything in the room, especially your Christmas tree, so it doesn’t miss a thing.

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Michelle Rae Uy
Computing Reviews and Buying Guides Editor

Michelle Rae Uy is the Computing Reviews and Buying Guides Editor here at TechRadar. She's a Los Angeles-based tech, travel and lifestyle writer covering a wide range of topics, from computing to the latest in green commutes to the best hiking trails. She's an ambivert who enjoys communing with nature and traveling for months at a time just as much as watching movies and playing sim games at home. That also means that she has a lot more avenues to explore in terms of understanding how tech can improve the different aspects of our lives.