Secure Your Home through Your ComputerKim Boatman
The idea of installing your own home security system used to be an intimidating prospect. It took wires and know-how. Lots and lots of wires. But thanks to evolving technologies, securing your home these days can be only slightly more complicated than sticking a stamp on an envelope.
“We’ve gone from granny sitting in a rocking chair with a shotgun, to all kinds of fencing, to lots and lots of great wireless technology,’’ says Robert Siciliano, a Boston-based security expert and consultant.
New systems hitting the market allow you to:
Monitor your home remotely from the Internet
Arm and disarm alarm systems remotely
Receive updates about events on your cell phone or smartphone
View videos and photos remotely
Recognize only relevant video, such as a car stopping in front of your house versus a kid riding by on a bike
Sensors, Wireless Connection and the Internet
Systems such as InGrid Home Security rely on your broadband Internet connection, taking modern wireless telecommunications to home security, explains Fred Siegel, the chief marketing officer for the Berlin, Penn.-based company. Two-way digital sensors send a signal to grid controllers in your home, much the way cell phones send pings to cell towers. “It’s really taking the best of wireless technologies and turning them sideways to be more useful for everyday protection and security,’’ says Siegel.
To understand, let’s use the stamp-on-the-envelope analogy. InGrid’s system uses 1-inch square sensors powered by a coin battery designed to last 10 years. You peel and stick the sensors where you want, on doors and windows. You can name the sensor by location so that when you view information on the company’s Web portal, you know which sensor has sent an alert. As long as they’re protected from moisture, the sensors can be used outside -- on the gate to a pool, for instance, so that you can tell if anyone has entered.
Systems such as InGrid are also expandable, allowing you to add more sensors. That’s an important consideration, say experts. For instance, you might want to add sensors if you remodel your home. Being able to move and adjust sensors to fit your needs is helpful. Installation of the system itself is designed to be “plug and play,” says Siegel, meaning it's easy to install.
Integrating systems for your primary residence and a vacation home is also possible, says Siegel. You can control both homes over the Web as if they are connected, receiving alerts via the Internet.
Staying Connected and Informed
Knowing what’s going on at home without wasting time is a significant consideration when it comes to home security. If you install cameras with InGrid’s system, you can configure the system to take snapshots or video at certain intervals.
Debuting this month is a so-called intelligent video monitoring system called Archerfish by Cernium Corp. Archerfish uses identification software to scour video taken by cameras in your home, sending you a notification of significant events to your mobile device, email or custom Web portal. You create a profile to determine what sort of events you want to know about, what time of day, how much video you want to see, and so on. “It saves you from having to look in when nothing is going on,’’ says Cernium CEO Craig Chambers. “You’re only presented information when it’s relevant to you.”
The flexibility in today’s wireless technology offers you the ability to do more than secure your home from the bad guys. You can monitor when your kids come home, or when your cleaning person arrives and leaves. There’s the potential to monitor liquor cabinets and drawers or to even place a water-detecting sensor on a hot water heater. Temperature sensors let you know if a heating system has failed, and InGrid offers a glass-breaking detector that alerts you if a sliding glass door or large picture window is smashed.
Siegel foresees applications that make it possible for an elderly relative to remain in his or her residence since you’ll be able to monitor whether, for instance, a medicine cabinet or refrigerator is opened. If the medicine cabinet door doesn’t open, you’ll know it’s unlikely your elderly mother took her medications.
You should be aware of what you’re getting for your money. You may pay a fee for monthly monitoring, but it’s often up to you to call the authorities if they’re needed. While inexpensive systems are blossoming on the market, think carefully about cutting corners, Siciliano says. For example, it’s worth paying more for clarity of images. If you’re using a Web-based portal to review surveillance, make sure you guard the password. Look for consumer reviews of the system you’re considering. You want an effective, easy-to-install system that doesn’t send annoying false alerts.
“Generally, these systems work seamlessly,’’ says Siciliano. “The only problem you might face are generally with investing in technology that isn’t ready for prime time.’’
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