Difference Between Motion Detection and Motion Alerts

James Beetie portrait pic

Home security cameras provide extra protection and awareness for your home. Two key features of security cameras are motion detection and motion alerts. While they sound similar, some important distinctions exist between detecting motion and sending motion alerts. Understanding the differences can help you configure your cameras for optimal performance.

Motion detection and motion alerts work together to track activity and notify you when something is happening on your property. Motion detection is the camera’s ability to sense movement in the camera’s field of view. Motion alerts go a step further by sending a notification to your phone, tablet, or computer app, letting you know motion was detected.

Knowing when motion is picked up versus when you get alerted can help tailor camera settings to your needs.

How Motion Detection Works

Motion detection relies on the security camera’s image sensor and analysis technology to detect changes in the video frame that indicate movement.

Here’s a quick overview:

  • The camera captures a continuous video stream, recording a series of still image frames.
  • The camera compares each new frame to the previous one. Any differences between the frames are identified.
  • If the differences meet pre-set sensitivity thresholds, they are considered motion.
  • Some cameras may further analyze changes to determine if they correspond to human movement before marking as motion.
  • The detected motion then triggers other actions like recording video clips or sending alerts.

Many factors influence a camera’s ability to detect motion accurately, including:

  • Camera placement – Positioning the camera with a broad vantage point of the area you want to monitor helps ensure activity detection.
  • Lighting conditions – Low light or glaring light can impact motion detection capabilities. Cameras with night vision can compensate for this.
  • Activity distance from camera – Objects close to the camera are easier to detect versus far away. Wide-angle lenses improve distance detection.
  • Sensitivity settings – Higher sensitivity picks up smaller movements, while low sensitivity detects only larger activities.
  • Environmental factors – Elements like trees blowing, light changes or passing cars can erroneously trigger motion unless filtered out properly in zones and settings.

Fine-tuning these factors will improve motion detection reliability.

Configuring Motion Detection Zones

One key capability is configuring motion detection zones – selecting specific areas of the camera’s field of view to monitor for motion. This allows you to ignore background motion like trees swaying. Zones can be tailored in the camera app to focus on key areas like entryways, vehicles, or pool areas. Only motion within designated zones will be detected.

Carefully laying out detection zones eliminates distracting motion triggers from non-essential areas. For example, you can set up zones around porch steps, sidewalks, and driveways while excluding areas with plants and trees that will move with the wind. Properly tuned zones filter motion to the most important locations.

How Motion Alerts Work

Motion alerts take motion detection a step further by actively notifying you when motion events occur via push notifications to your smartphone, tablet, computer, or connected smart displays. Here is the basic process:

  • Motion is detected within the camera’s enabled motion detection zones.
  • The video feed is analyzed to confirm motion corresponds to relevant activity and filter out false alerts. Types of movement, size of objects, and sensitivity thresholds help cameras determine if a motion event should trigger a notification.
  • If the activity meets alert criteria, a notification is sent in real time to the user through the app, including images or short video clips showing the detected motion event.
  • Alerts only occur when motion analysis determines the event meets established criteria for sending a notification. Alerts add intelligence on top of raw motion detection.
  • Alert frequency, sensitivity, zones, and other settings can be customized so you receive the most relevant alerts without becoming overloaded.

Configuring Alert Settings

Most cameras allow you to adjust your motion alert settings to avoid being flooded with too many notifications. Common configurations include:

  • Enabling/disabling motion alerts – Turns alerts on or off completely.
  • Setting alert frequency – For example, get notified every 1, 5, or 10 minutes.
  • Setting alert times – Establish a schedule for receiving alerts, like only at night.
  • Adjusting motion sensitivity – Tune how much motion is required to trigger an alert
  • Setting object size sensitivity – Filter out alerts for small objects like animals under a certain size.
  • Designating alert zones – Only get alerts for motion in key areas.
  • Activity type filtering – Only get notifications for people and vehicles, not general motion.

Carefully tuning these settings ensures you receive meaningful alerts when needed without constant interruptions.

Why Motion Detection and Motion Alerts Are Important ?

Motion detection provides the foundation for monitoring activity around your home. Motion alerts act as an alerting and notification layer on top of detection.

It’s important to have both, as detection identifies all motion while alerts focus on sending notifications for the most useful events. Relying on alerts alone could mean missed activity. Proper notification settings ensure you are alerted when needed without being overwhelmed.

Having motion detection capture everything ensures all activity is recorded. This allows you to review a complete movement history around your property when needed. Motion alerts then provide real-time notifications of the events that matter most.

What are The Benefits of Real-Time Motion Alerts ?

While security cameras record continuously, and you can review past footage at any time, real-time motion alerts provide some key advantages:

  • Notifications of activity as it happens – ability to take immediate action if needed
  • Reduced need to manually review recordings after the fact
  • Filters motion down to the most relevant events for quick reviewing
  • Can include clips that capture the motion event as it occurs as opposed to searching through long recordings
  • Creates a timeline of activity at a glance through the history of motion alerts

Motion alerts add intelligence to determine which activities are concerning enough to warrant a real-time notification. This helps focus your attention on events that are likely to be important.

Use Cases Where Alerts Are Essential

While motion detection provides a complete capture of all activity, there are some scenarios where real-time motion alerts provide far more value:

  • Home intrusions – get an immediate notification if someone enters the property or house unexpectedly
  • Porch pirates stealing packages – get alerted as the theft occurs so you can respond
  • Vandals or trespassers on property – know right away if unwanted visitors approach
  • Children or elderly family members at home – alerts if someone leaves or enters unexpectedly
  • Activity at off-site vacation property when away – receive alerts from anywhere to be aware of activity
  • Monitoring for workers or contractors arriving as scheduled – get notified when they enter the property

For many homeowners, these alerts for unexpected entries, suspicious activity, or safety checks provide the most value from their security cameras versus just passively recording all movement. Alerts bring attention to what matters most.

How To Find the Right Balance of Alerts

Determining the right motion alert settings is crucial. Too many alerts become a nuisance. Too few means you miss important activities. Factors to consider:

  • Tailor alert zones and sensitivity to the most important areas while excluding distractions
  • Set object size filtering to avoid alerts on small animals/objects
  • Use alert frequency settings to avoid constant notifications
  • Establish schedules for when you need alerts most
  • Adjust settings over time based on alert history for ideal performance
  • Consider camera field of view and number of cameras – more cameras or visibility may require fewer alerts

Getting motion detection tuned properly ensures all activity is captured. Configuring smart motion alerts on top of that provides notification of events that matter most without getting overwhelmed.


Understanding the difference between overall motion detection capabilities and configurable motion alerts is key to maximizing a security camera’s effectiveness for home protection and awareness. Motion detection casts a wide net, capturing all activity. Motion alerts add intelligence to notify you of the most important events. Using both together provides comprehensive monitoring and timely notification of unusual activity around your property. Tuning detection zones, sensitivity, and alert settings provides tailored notifications for the activities you care about most.

James Beetie portrait pic
About James Beetie

James - a self-confessed nerd - has owned smart home equipment for close to a decade, and he loves communicating the best ways of setting them up... and resolving the various bugs and issues that you'll no doubt come across!