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March 13, 2013

Protecting Your Home With In-Home Computers

Editor’s Note: This article is the second half of a two-part series. The first half was featured on SiteProNews March 6.

As criminals become more sophisticated in their abilities to attack our homes with technology, we need our home security to be smarter too.

While traditional house alarms are fine for basic security, a Smart Home automation system integrates video and online monitoring.  Check up on your house live on your computer or mobile device, or have footage stored in the cloud so you can catch perpetrators “on tape.”

Here are the security components of the Smart Home products we highlighted last week:

Wireless IP cameras can be installed inside and outside your home and offer high-quality, digital surveillance. Instead of wondering what caused your back door to trigger, for example, you can see your “wonder dog” force the door open with your own eyes, catching him “red-pawed,” as it so happens.  Exterior motion sensors can alert you whenever a car or person walks up your driveway.  You can even set up your garage door controller so you can check it (and close it) using your Smartphone if you can’t remember closing it when you left the house.

Insteon can provide you these capabilities, in addition to smoke and carbon monoxide detectors that e-mail or text you when triggered and motion sensors ranging up to 3,000 feet.  It’s designed to be self-installed, so you can personalize it to fit your family’s needs with a multitude of devices that integrate into the core monitoring hub, letting you decide if you prefer basic door and window monitoring or Fort Knox lockdown.

Because all of their devices communicate through radio frequencies in addition to the existing power lines, you always have a back-up should one system fail.  Each device repeats the signal it receives from the other three times, thus amplifying the information being conveyed and substantially increasing its range.  As an added security feature, every device has a unique ID which prevents hackers from controlling your home.

Lowe’s also has a universal home monitoring service called Iris.  Their basic security program starts at around $175 and you install it yourself by plugging the base unit into your Wi-Fi router and setting up the point-of-entry sensors.  Monitor the system on any Internet-connected device, including your Smartphone.

The system has motion sensors and window and door contacts that can be tailored to your home’s specific needs.  When one is triggered, you receive a text, e-mail, or phone call to alert you of the problem.  Install cameras inside your home and use your Smartphone to record video when you need it.

Iris Modes allow you to set multiple devices with one click.

Away for the day? 

Touch one button and your motion sensors and alarm are turned on while lights are turned off.

 Home for the night? 

Motion sensors are toggled off so you don’t inadvertently set off your alarm by going to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Build advanced functionalities using “Magic Rules.”  

For example, if a motion detector is triggered you can set your cameras to automatically begin recording video. Because you monitor it yourself, you are free of the monthly fees that alarm companies charge, unless you want to use their premium monitoring services ($10/month), which includes saving recorded videos to the Web and the ability to notify more people of alarm triggers.

AT&T’s Digital Life, coming to most metropolitan areas this month, promises to provide home security with 24-hour home monitoring for break-ins, fire alarms and medical emergencies, and it’s paired with video monitoring both inside and outside your home.

It is IP-based (meaning you can monitor it over the Internet), and includes motion detectors, wirelessly-controlled cameras, security keypads and window and door sensors, integrating them with other home automations.  No word yet on pricing for equipment, installation or monitoring.

While many look to DIY home security systems as a way to avoid paying monthly fees for equipment leasing or monitoring, it’s important to note the drawbacks to going solo – just you and your gadgets.

When you’re out of town and one of your windows is broken at 3 a.m., it’s up to you to call the cops.  Unless you have a Smartphone with great reception, you won’t always be in range of a Wi-Fi signal to check your video feeds.  Finally, keep in mind that equipment does age over time and home security isn’t a “set it and forget it” proposition.  You will need to maintain your system regularly, checking sensors to ensure they are working properly.

Andrea Eldridge is CEO of Nerds On Call, which offers onsite computer and laptop repair service for homeowners and small businesses. Based in Redding, Calif., it has locations in five states. Contact Eldridge at