Anyone who has suffered a break-in knows just how awful it feels. Even in cases where the damage and financial loss are minimal, the feeling of violation and fear caused by a theft can be overwhelming. The good news is that mobile technology is making home security easier and better than ever before and the technology is only getting better. Alarm systems that send signals and images over the mobile network can be placed almost anywhere you want.
As the current generation of hard-wired alarms comes up for renewal, mobile connectivity is clearly the way to go. According to Gothenburg, Sweden-based Berg Insight, in Europe alone 5.7 million small business and home alarm systems might be connected to cellular networks by 2018. That represents 60 percent of all alarm systems installed on the continent.
“It’s about an evolution in the small alarm industry,” comments Berg Insight co-founder Tobias Ryberg. “People are disconnecting from phone lines. Instead, there are wireless options. It’s more convenient to package, it’s easier to install.”
Using wireless sensors and communications systems make for better monitoring, he explains. Wireless alarms are not only easier to put wherever you want, but also come with image or video feeds alongside traditional circuit or motion sensors. This can allow security service monitoring teams to see what is happening during a break-in and pass on vital information to the police in real time. In some cases, particularly among the growing number of people installing DIY alarm systems, the feeds can even be delivered direct to the homeowner’s smartphone or tablet.
Receiving images that might show your home being ransacked is probably not for the faint-hearted, but at least it can let you check that the cat hasn’t set off your alarm by accident. Services such as those offered by Vivint allow you to pan and tilt home security cameras from a web browser, so you can gaze around the room even if you are miles away. But even this level of sophistication is rapidly becoming old hat as home alarms become integrated with home automation systems. Take AT&T’s Digital Life product, for example.
As well as offering round-the-clock monitoring from two United States-based service centers, Digital Life can send images to any device with a browser and can also be programmed to get your home to react automatically to the presence of an intruder.
AT&T says: “When a broken window is detected, you can program the house to turn on all the lights while it calls the police. So if someone tried breaking in, they won’t get far.”
That’s not all. If the system detects a water leak you can also turn off the mains supply remotely, even if you are on vacation. In fact, Digital Life can be used for a wide range of home automation tasks.
“Imagine leaving for work in the morning and knowing that at 9 a.m. your home will turn off all the lights, turn down the thermostat, and make sure all the doors are locked,” says AT&T. “That’s one less thing for you to have to worry about.”
AT&T launched Digital Life last year and it was named ‘Best Consumer Mobile Service’ at the GSMA Mobile World Congress in February. Convergence of alarm systems with home automation is part of a growing trend, Ryberg says.
“Some of the largest consumer alarm providers are trying to get home automation, energy management, lighting management, and that kind of things into the alarm, so it’s more like a control system for the house,” he notes.
This all-in-one approach is tricky because some of the systems involved, such as heaters or lighting, may not yet be ready for integration. But Digital Life and similar products are at least showing it is possible. The other thing that Digital Life illustrates is that household security is no longer the sole domain of traditional providers such as ADT, FrontPoint, or Protect America, all of which also offer home automation features as standard.
Nevertheless, believes Ryberg, security specialists still have the upper hand because they are trusted, they have the capability to respond to incidents, and their customers are likely used to paying a monthly fee for the service.
Regardless of which company you end up buying your security system from, the big question is whether features such as wireless connectivity and increased integration will afford greater protection from break-ins. Most sources agree that visible alarm systems, even simple ones, can act as a deterrent, as can signs that a house is inhabited.
So being able to install a security system that will also allow you to switch lights on and off while you are away, or provide other indications of activity, might be a bonus.
Ryberg adds: “The other thing is that you have a better response in the unfortunate event that something happens. If there is an alarm, you can check what’s happened. So you become more comfortable, you feel more secure. And maybe you can help to solve some crimes.”
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