The Smarter, Safer Tech-Adept Home
Futuristic smart homes promise, among other things, greater security. Options range from all-encompassing remotely controlled systems that let you "take your home with you" to inexpensive DIY motion-detection and video-monitoring systems, to low-tech physical barriers. The home is no longer a collection of disparate functions but rather an organic whole that can be managed entirely with a 7-inch portable, interactive touchscreen device.
04/17/12 5:00 AM PT
Forget to turn on your security system at your home in Denver, and you're on a business trip in Chicago? No problem: With the tap of a finger on a touchscreen, you can switch it on. And while you're at it, you can adjust your home's temperature and flip on a few lights as well.
In the converging world of electronics, home security systems are joining a whole suite of offerings making homes smarter and more in sync with the lives of their owners.
As part of this trend, many of the leading electronic home security manufacturers have begun to bundle together a variety of services and products with their security offerings.
Home as Ecosystem
Comcast's Xfinity Home, for instance, gives homeowners remote access not simply to their security systems, but to climate control and lights, as well.
"It's much more than security," Mitch Bowling, senior vice president and general manager of new businesses for Comcast, told TechNewsworld. "What we have is a platform that delivers security, home control and energy management."
Comcast's system offers mobile connectivity to the home and its electronic security system.
"It's effectively taking your home with you," said Bowling. "We're selling a connected home solution -- a smart home. People have been talking about a smart home for decades, but we're actually delivering it."
The home is no longer a collection of disparate functions but rather an organic whole that can be managed entirely with a 7-inch portable, interactive touchscreen device.
"We have one platform that was designed for all of these functions to really create an ecosystem for the home," explained Bowling.
ADT offers a similarly comprehensive security and home management service called Pulse.
"ADT Pulse is a professionally installed lifestyle safety and monitoring service," said Bob Tucker, director of public relations with ADT. "It combines the most comprehensive monitoring available to help protect against intrusion, fire, flood and dangerous levels of carbon monoxide."
Like Comcast's Xfinity Home, Pulse lets homeowners control lights, thermostats, small appliances and many other devices -- and they can also receive real-time video, as well as text and email alerts.
ADT Pulse can be controlled via a home panel, through an optional wireless touchscreen controller or with a variety of mobile devices.
Out-of-the-Box Security Solutions
For people in apartments or townhouses -- or who don't want to spend the money on a monthly subscription fee to a security service -- DIY security systems are becoming increasingly popular.
With wireless motion detection and stick-on ease of installation, these offer relatively high-tech security without the high price tag of more complex, professionally installed systems.
Manufactured by companies like Mace and Defender, these systems use combinations of wireless communication, motion sensors, video cameras, lights and other features. They can typically be set up in a few minutes and require no special expertise.
"They've really evolved to the point where the average homeowner can take these units out of the box, attach the sensors, and you're set up in 20 minutes," Jordan Frankel, vice president of operations with Global Security Experts, told TechNewsWorld.
"They're very reliable," Frankel said. "They also have motion and glass-break sensors. These set up ultrasonic tone that the sensor picks up."
Low-Tech in a High-Tech World
Despite all the technological advances in electronic home security systems, some security experts say that low-tech techniques still have a role to play.
"Low-tech is still best for some things," said Chris McGoey, president of McGoey Security Consulting.
"I like physical barriers, good solid doors, good locks, good lighting, good neighbors," he said. "All of those things work better than an electronic gadget to keep your home and family safe."
Even some of the offerings of companies like Global Security Experts rely more on advances in materials and design than on electronic wizardry.
One of the company's bestsellers, for instance, is the OnGARD Security Door Brace, which adds extra protection to the most common site for break-ins: the door.
"It's a very unique device, under (US)$100, made out of lightweight, strong polymer," said Frankel. "It never rusts or chips, and it provides an extra layer of security."