Helpful DIY Security Tips

We posted a shorter version of this on Facebook and a few of our local media platforms recently. We thought it might be useful to share with a broader audience. We also decided to expand on our list of tips to include information for managing security systems by both the home and the security provider.

 

Unfortunately, the past year has been a year of conflict and violence ending with the chaos in Washington DC. There is also an overall trickle-down effect from this climate, and increased crime is one of them. We see this increase locally in Central Oregon, in Portland, and throughout the entire state. We also know that Oregon is not that different from the forty-nine other states in our great nation and that crime will be increasing everywhere. With this in mind and twenty years of experience in the security industry, we also understand that the best security prevents your home or business from becoming the target. Here is a good list of our recommendations focused on deterrence, the first layer of an excellent comprehensive security plan.

 

Best Security Deterrence Tips 

 

  • Make sure doors and windows are locked, especially the garage.
  • If you have an alarm system, make using it standard practice for everyone in your home or business and make sure signs and stickers are visible and in good clean condition. You want everyone to know you care about security, at least enough to keep the signs clean and upright.
  • Pay attention to vehicles and people not familiar with you and call them in to the police.
  • Leave a radio or TV on when you leave your home.
  • Close the blinds when you leave your home or business if you have them.
  • Leave a few low energy lights on without visual access from the outside. Timers for lighting control with schedules in place can make this one of the easiest to implement.
  • Turn the front porch light off when you leave.
  • Do not let mail or papers stack up if visible.
  • Install visible cameras and doorbell cameras that can be seen quickly by drive-by traffic. And know how to operate them and review recorded data.
  • Install motion-activated lighting for dark areas around your home or business.
  • Dogs are a good deterrent, the bigger and more protective, the better.
  • Do not have your address on your keychain, especially if you have a disarming remote for your alarm system attached to the keys.
  • Take your garage door opener with you when you leave the car. Not leaving your opener in the car is particularly important when parked outside your garage.
  • Your WIFI network needs to be locked down. Meaning your password should be long, random, and complicated. Do not give unauthorized individuals access to this password… We have all seen hackers get access to video camera data, and being careless with network security is one way to lower this risk.
  • Get creative with deterrence. My father in law had a sign in the front of his house that said, “This house is protected by shotgun three days a week. You guess which three.” I will always remember this sign, and he has never had a break-in.
  • Make sure all members of your family and business know what to do in the event there is a break-in or a life-safety emergency. Installing panic buttons in discrete locations is highly recommended for emergencies. 
  • Find out if your alarm system is programmed for a duress code to be entered into your alarm system to alert the monitoring center discreetly that you need help and dispatch of police is necessary.

 

Best Tips for Managing and Maintaining your System Alarm System.

 

  • To prevent false alarms, ensure all authorized individuals know the abort code. The abort code will stop an unnecessary dispatch of the police and fire department. It may seem obvious, but many false alarms occur because of forgetting abort codes.
  • Change all life-safety device batteries annually, whether needed or not. A simple call to your alarm system provider can set this up in most cases.
  • When one door contact battery gets low or needs replacement, take the extra time to replace all additional door contact batteries. 
  • Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors have a life-span. Typically, the lifespan is 7-10 years when replacement is necessary. Check the manufacturer’s information to confirm the smoke and CO detectors’ life-span in your home, replacing them when required. 
  • Take some additional time to understand your security system’s operation and features and ensure that all family members also know how to use it. 
  • Make sure your alarm system has encrypted technology, preventing hackers from gaining access to your system. 
  • Ensure your camera recording devices, either on-site or remote, are long, complex, and random.
  • Routers and modems need to be updated often, and passwords should be changed frequently. Know how to change your passwords or hire a reputable firm to do it for you. 
  • Do not leave a key outside in what you consider to be a great hiding place. Invest in at least one coded door lock, eliminating the outdoor key’s necessity. 
  • Once you have purchased a security system, continue to add protective sensors and devices as your home, security needs, and lifestyle change. Look for areas that remain vulnerable and fill in what is missing.

Best Security Cameras for Your Home

Security Camera Purchase Considerations Beyond the Confusing Acronyms and Tech Speak. 

Let’s put an end to all the consumer confusion on security camera purchase decisions. I have wanted to write this article for far too long. My goal is to help customers considering the purchase of security video cameras navigate the landscape of a complicated and rapidly changing sub-sector of the security industry. I live in Bend, Oregon, and have helped customers with camera systems for more than two decades, consistently finding confusion in the marketplace and the need for clarity on making purchase decisions. Naturally, the information provided will have the Central Oregon climate in mind, but the information should be helpful far beyond our pacific NW state lines. 

 

The Confusion.

 

If I were to list, without explanation, all the considerations recommended for security camera purchases, it would read like this.

 

“When making your camera decisions, consider the following: 1080p or better, motion-triggered analytics, video verification, sd, cloud or NVR/DVR storage, video monitoring vs. video verification, and lastly, IP66 rated and adjustable 30fps or better. Oh, and I forgot to specify whether we are discussing analog, IP, or HSCVI core technology platforms.”

 

It’s not hard to understand why consumers get confused. Any time you start using acronyms with letters and numbers combined, eyes glaze, and we start thinking about what we’re going to have for dinner or anything but technology. I witnessed this entertaining reaction in countless training seminars on security technology as the audience does their best to look interested while considering what time they should start the barbeque. And I get it, put me in an unfamiliar technology seminar and start using acronyms and I am the first to get that glazed look and thoughts of my stomach. So let’s clear these confusing camera skies and shed a bit of light on the security camera landscape. What this industry jargon means and how it is relevant when making your purchasing decisions.

 

The Basics.

 

All cameras need power. 

This may sound obvious, but when we start talking about wireless vs wired cameras it may not seem as simple as it appears. To my knowledge, there is no way to transmit power over long distances wirelessly, at least not yet. The data, or the information provided by the camera, is a different story and that can be transmitted wirelessly. So when I use the term wireless, understand I am referring to the video data being transmitted wirelessly. Below are general and common options for wireless vs. hardwired cameras and what you need to know.

  1. Wireless Data Transmission Cameras that plugs into an AC outlet.

-Easy to set up with existing WIFI network information handy.

-Good for indoor and outdoor use

-Outlet is needed preferably close to the camera location

-Potentially slows the speed of home or business internet using existing wifi.

-Can be set up on its own WIFi Network and not use the existing network to avoid issues.

-Most common type of camera for DIY or Self-Installation with consistent power. 

-If WIFI or power goes down so do your cameras.

  1. Wireless Data Transmission Battery Powered Cameras that do not need an outlet.

-easiest to self-install and locate

-no outlet needed

-batteries need to be recharged frequently

-generally fewer features and services

-typically stand-alone system not tied to a full alarm system. 

  1. Wired Data and Power Over Ethernet Cameras using Cat5 or Cat6 wire..

-good for commercial and advanced system needs

-needs cat5/cat6 wires run to each camera location.

-most often installed professionally unless you’re comfortable running wire and terminating Cat5/6 cable. 

-power considerations may be needed for  wire runs (75 meters is safe for most Cat5/6 wire types.)

  1. Wired Data and Power over Cable Analogue Cameras.

-Needs RG cable runs to each camera

-Most often professionally installed

-Older technology (this is where CCTV systems began)

-Runs of 500ft are good for power and data without additional adaptations.

-Video image quality can be upgraded with new equipment if wiring already exists.

Storing the Video Content Captured by the Cameras.

 

“I watched the guy taking the package off my front porch but I don’t have the video data stored.”

 

Let’s avoid this scenario with a discussion on storing video content captured by security video cameras. Stored data can happen in two basic ways.

  1. Onsite Data Storage

 The first is onsite with an SDcard in the camera or a recording device like an SVR/NVR/DVR. These acronyms all end in video recorder and in simple terms act like a computer or VCR if you’re old school like me. These devices record and store the video data the cameras capture. How much data storage or how long before re-recording over the older data depends on the amount of internal storage in each device and the amount of data content transmitted to the storing device. 

  1. Cloud Stored Data

The second option for storing captured video data is cloud storage. This is where video data storage is headed and I believe the best option for most consumers. In the event, a criminal gains access to the house or business on-site data can be stolen or destroyed and cloud storage eliminates this possibility. Alarm.com has an excellent platform for cloud-stored data as well as an option for locally stored data on an SVR for additional video data security.

 

Resolution or Max Resolution

 

Just like your television set, security cameras have different set resolutions like 1080p, 720p, or 1mp(megapixel). These numbers are heavily marketed by all camera manufacturers. What is not mentioned is that with wireless wifi cameras the higher the resolution the more potential for wifi bandwidth issues. Multiple WIFI camera systems will perform better and cause fewer WiFi bandwidth issues when they have their own network. Additionally, the greater resolution will impact the length of recorded time captured on the data recording devices. Adjustments can be made with how many frames per second get recorded but understanding the cause and effect is good to know before making your purchase. As a general rule, a camera with 1080p resolution at 30fps is sufficient for most residential and small business applications. 

 

Climate Considerations Indoor/ Outdoor and an IP66 rating

 

A few years back Central Oregon received four feet of snow over a few days. In fact, we had so much snow it collapsed the school gymnasium roof across the street from where I live. Fortunately, it was very early and there were no injuries, just a delay while every other school in the area was examined by engineers. Needless to say, most cameras were buried under ice and snow or at least heavily exposed to moisture. It is due to these events that cameras are rated for indoor or outdoor conditions and where the term IP66 comes from. The IP in IP66 stands for International Protection and is a standard for the housing that protects the camera itself. An IP66 outdoor rated camera is a safe bet in most climates and my recommendation when considering outdoor camera purchases and periodic extreme weather events or harsh conditions. Indoor cameras do not need to be IP66 rated and typically cost less than outdoor cameras for this reason. 

 

Style or Shape of Cameras

 

Every year it seems that there is another style of security camera on the market. Ten years ago the discussion pretty much ended at bullet or dome camera but now the number of styles, shapes, and names seems to be endless. For the majority of consumers, the choice between a bullet and dome is sufficient for pretty straight forward reasons. Security bullet cameras are typically mounted on walls and security dome cameras are mounted on ceilings. Yes, for commercial applications there are good reasons for the various other shapes and sizes and the purposes they serve but for residential and small business consumers the determination is pretty simple, is it going to be mounted on a wall or the ceiling? Where we’re headed next is, in my opinion even more important and often overlooked.

 

Angle of View

 

The angle of view dictates how wide the angle or how much of an area is being captured. This combined with the quality of the image is two of the most important considerations. Most spec sheets will give the angle of view in understandable language using degrees to indicate how wide the captured image will be. We know that 360 is the total so a camera providing a 117-degree angle of view is almost a third of the total circular view from the position of the camera. The idea here is to capture as much of the view as possible in the direction the camera is facing and clearly capture and record it on video. 

 

IR Range – InfraRed LED Bulb Lighting Range – Night Vision

 

In simple terms, how far can the cameras see in the dark? Keep in mind, even a camera with a good IR range specifications is not going to look nearly as good as the image quality during the day. But it is an important consideration. Most importantly, make sure the cameras you’re considering do in fact have IR night vision capabilities. Anywhere from 30ft to 40ft of range is common and does the job for most consumers. 

 

Video Verification vs Video Monitoring

 

The future is clear and widespread adoption of video verification services will be a standard in years to come. Video verification allows a 3rd party monitoring center to view and take action by viewing the cameras at your home or business during a triggered alarm event. It does not have widespread adoption yet, but given its inherent nature of preventing false alarms, I believe it will become the norm in the years to come. Video monitoring on the other hand is a term that creates more confusion than serving a purpose. Without verified video, the only video monitoring taking place for the consumer is in reality self-video monitoring. Meaning the consumer is the one monitoring the video stored data. Having a security video solution and an intrusion alarm system combined and working together on one software platform is my recommendation. Unless you have established video verification with your security system monitoring company, understand that the only recorded video monitoring taking place will be done by you. When consumers purchase a security camera system without also purchasing an intrusion alarm system there is often a disconnect between the level of protection perceived and reality. The fact is that without a monitored intrusion alarm system, should a burglary occur, unfortunately, they will be watching video footage of the bad guys taking their possessions. The intrusion alarm system is the primary system that will dispatch authorities in the event of a burglary.

 

Warrantee

 

Like any technology product, the warranty on the equipment should also be considered carefully. Most camera manufacturers offer a three-year warranty and given the rapid advancements in video technology, in most cases, there will be a much better product on the market by the time the warranty ends. At Innovate Security for Life, we extend the manufacturer’s warranty by an additional two years with intrusion alarm system monitoring. We understand that our clients may not want to upgrade their cameras in three years even if there is better technology available.

 

Clearer Skies to Make Purchasing Decisions?

 

I hope I have clarified the overly complicated security camera acronym filled language and provided most of the important considerations to help you navigate your security camera purchase decisions. It would be easy to turn this into a thesis paper on video cameras but my goal is to provide a simple and comprehensive article to help residential and small business consumers weed through the complicated nature of the video security industry terminology. A basic video camera education and major consideration simplification can make the selection process less complicated with a better final camera system installed.

 

Below are additional cameras and security-related technologies my company, Innovate Security for Life Inc. offers that meet our quality and feature requirements. All of the listed devices below work in conjunction with Innovate’s selection of smart home automation and alarm system platforms monitored 24/7 for life safety and intrusion detection. For more information please go to www.innovatesfl.com and contact us. We’re happy to answer additional questions by email or zoom consultation.

DIY Apartment Security

DIY Apartment Security and Smart Home Automation

Millennials are smart. In fact, I would argue not only are they smart but they are also pioneering. I am not a millennial so don’t think that this article is some self-aggrandizing way to celebrate my own demographic. As a fifty-year-old engaged in creating products that appeal to Millenials, I have spent countless hours in meetings all centered around how millennials think differently on many levels than other demographic groups. The topics range from purchasing behaviors to how to manage millennials as employees. What has become clear is how millennials approach almost everything is very different than what is traditionally expected. What I have come to understand and appreciate about the millennial way of life is that the only ones pulling their hair out trying to figure out why they don’t operate like the rest of us is the non-millennial. 

 

Being an entrepreneur myself, engaged in new approach opportunities, and most often thinking about things differently, I have come to the conclusion that millennials are “demographic entrepreneurs.”  I don’t know if anyone has ever coined that phrase before but I sure like it. What I mean by this is that they are willing to evaluate how things have been done in the past and different or not, chart their own course bending it to fit their desired outcome. Some would call this problematic, I consider it smart and pioneering. And now that millennials are the largest purchasers of goods and services it is up to us non-Millenials to meet them where they want us to be.  

 

One of these meeting points is the idea that renting an apartment or condominium is a better option than owning a home. You may ask,  “But what about the American dream of homeownership?” My answer is simply, did you own a home in 2008? Or how many hours have you spent mowing the lawn or trying to figure out why a zone in your sprinkler system isn’t working? It is this line of questioning that leads me to a new level of understanding and appreciation for millennial thinking. It’s that very willingness to look homeownership right in the eye and say, “not for me.” And taking it one smart step further, applying pressure to the rental market to provide a product that has the features and benefits the millennial wants and expects. High on that list of features is technology. But not just any technology, affordable, and durable technology that simplifies and enhances lifestyle.

 

This is precisely the area that I have spent the last two years focused on, developing innovative new products for a new category I am calling “apartment smart technology.” It’s the idea that you don’t have to be a homeowner to have smart home technology as part of your lifestyle. Think of it as a blend of cutting edge technology with a solid value proposition that is flexible in that you can install it yourself and take it with you when you move. Apartment Smart Technology gives you all the automated features of a smart home, but with lifestyle flexibility built into the product design. 

 

Considerations included, easy to set up and take down without causing damage to a rented living space. High-quality technology that has the latest in automation technology like Bluetooth disarming touchless disarming and high-resolution video. Providing the same level of backend service and a better warranty on equipment with the understanding that there is absolutely no difference between a customer that is renting and a customer that has purchased their home. My company, Innovate Security for Life Inc. is founded on the idea that there are many approaches to lifestyle but there is only one approach to how to treat the client. Coming from a background in traditional security and home automation products focused on traditional lifestyles and homeownership, just like millennials, I chose to change direction and pioneer a new method of doing business and an innovative way of thinking. Keep in mind that what you see now on our site is only the start of an entire line of innovative Apartment Smart Technology products. Visit innovatesfl.com for more information and to learn more about our innovative products.

What Makes a Security System Worth the Money

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article titled “Are Security Systems Worth the Money?” Given my career path, needless to say, I had no problem filling the pages with good reasons for why the purchase of a security system is worth the dollars spent. But a better question keeps spinning in my head, beckoning to be answered. Of course, I think security systems are worth the money, but what truly makes a security system worth its value? Is it the rapid technological advances that have allowed for better products or the feeling of safety when you close up the house at night and tuck the kids into bed? At Innovate SFL, we have invested in answering these questions and providing the customer with simple solutions to achieve peace of mind. We believe that security customers are looking for easy to install, high-quality security solutions that are less expensive than the traditional dealer products and backed up with ongoing customer service. Before Innovate SFL, the DIY security marketplace didn’t have a product that could meet all these needs. Understanding our customers’ needs is the heart of Innovate Security for Life. 

 

In the twenty years of helping customers design and purchase security systems as an owner of a custom security installation company, there was a common thread of what created the “worth” for clients. Clients wanted to know that the company they decided to provide security was sincerely invested in protecting those they care about and the things they valued most. It wasn’t the technology or the price; although the price was important, it was the idea that the company they had picked really cared about what the security system is designed to help protect. Their family, their pets, their heirlooms, and the things that could not be replaced if lost. So in simple terms what really creates the worth in the security system purchase equation is customer service and the idea that the company monitoring your home or business really cares about the ongoing job they have been hired to do. 

 

But in a world where person-to-person interactions are becoming rarer and quick and easy e-commerce is dominating the consumer market, how does a company create an authentic customer service value proposition? I believe that this value has to be inherent in the culture of the organization. An understanding that what makes our job worth doing is that we play a critically important role in helping to protect people “just like us.” We all have people, pets, and things we care about and want to safeguard. This is a company’s cultural mindset and it cannot be achieved without being genuinely invested in the well-being of our clients. So in order to create real value for customers buying security systems, at its core Innovate Security for Life Inc. had to start with an inherent understanding that our clients are just like us. And if it were our loved ones, family pets, captured memories, or items passed down through generations being protected, what would we want in customer service from our security equipment and monitoring company? 

 

Innovatesfl.com acts like a small company in attending to its customers’ unique needs, all the while growing into an organization with a national reach through an e-commerce platform and a greatly expanded market. In order to keep this balance, the innovatesfl.com team carefully planned out how to bring the same level of customer service we offered on a local level to a client base that is national in scale. The PSA (Personal Security Assistant) program was born. It is the blending of the traditional security company with the ever-increasing trend and widespread adoption of the DIY/self-Install security option. 

 

When I was evaluating the DIY/self-install offers before creating innovatesfl.com, this blending of the older traditional security model and the new DIY/self-install e-commerce model was what I found missing in the broader market. The DIY offers that existed and for the most part have not changed, had a low price, low-quality, “buy your system and you’re on your own” attitude. This is the attitude innovatesfl.com is changing with a completely different DIY/self-install style and offer. Yes, it is possible to have a DIY/self-install security product that provides high-quality customer service through a ”just like us” company culture, with the highest quality professional products at prices far below what traditional security installations cost. With our patented installation mount, Innovatesfl has a security offer that has filled the wide gap that exists in the DIY/self-install security market offers today. 

 

So, what makes a security system worth the money? In my opinion, it isn’t the latest cooler than cool tech feature or the questionable limited time only free security system offer, but rather the ongoing relationship between the security provider and the security client and how that relationship is established, maintained, and managed. At innovatesfl.com we understand our clients are all different but at the core, they are “just like us.” 

Are Security Systems Worth The Money?

Are Security Systems Worth the Money?

 

I can’t make the case that I am unbiased, given that I have been in the security industry for more than twenty years, now CEO for my second security industry company innovatesfl.com. I can at least lay out a good case for the benefits of purchasing a security system based on my experience. To begin my efforts in persuading you to purchase a security system, I am going to list my top ten reasons why security systems are worth the money, and are an investment in your home or business worth making. 

 

Top 10 Reasons Security Systems are Worth the Money:

  1. Well-designed life safety and security systems can save your life and save the life of your loved ones, including your pets.
  2. The cost of life safety and security systems is extremely small relative to the cost of an intrusion event, burglary, fire, or water damage disaster.  
  3. Homes and businesses targeted by criminals most often do not have security systems of any kind.
  4. Security systems are the most undervalued systems in your home due to a lack of understanding of their capabilities.
  5. The life safety features of a security system work whether the system is armed or disarmed. 
  6. Current code required life safety systems are problematic and unreliable due to the methods used to install these systems, the location of the devices, and poor unmonitored maintenance protocols used by most businesses and homeowners.
  7. Insurance companies studying the statistics of property loss understand that security systems reduce claim amounts, and will provide discounts to homeowners’ insurance plans with installed life safety and security systems. 
  8. The price and ease of installing security systems continue to improve, making the entry price point and purchase accessibility of security systems easier for home and business owners. 
  9. The quality and reliability of security systems have improved with the advancement in technology, limiting the number of false alarms dramatically.
  10. Realizing you should have installed a security system after an intrusion, fire, or preventable disaster will not make you feel any better.

 

Top 10 Reasons Why Purchasing an Innovate “Security for Life Inc.” Security System is Worth the Money:

  1. The management at Innovatesfl.com have been in the security industry for more than twenty years. We have provided trusted monitoring of security products and services for thousands of clients, builders, and developers.
  2. Innovatesfl.com provides dual-encrypted high-quality systems with ongoing monitoring and service in the DIY or self-install security marketplace.
  3. Innovatesfl.com has created the systems and patented mounting equipment to make installation of advanced life safety and security systems easy to install and maintain.  
  4. Innovatesfl.com offers professional-grade systems at a lower price than hiring and scheduling local security professionals to install a system.
  5. Purchasing a professional-grade system from Innovatesfl.com is faster and easier than hiring and scheduling the installation of an equivalent quality life safety and security system.
  6. Through experiential learning, Innovatessfl.com pays attention to the details of both products and services.
  7. Innovatesfl.com takes pride and cares about the clients, families, and businesses we serve. Our goal is to provide ongoing “Security for Life.” 
  8. Like our name, Innovatesfl.com will never stop innovating and improving our services and our product offers.
  9. Innovatesfl.com understands that when you purchase a life safety and security system through our e-commerce site, it is not a one time sale. We invest in an ongoing relationship with our clients.
  10. We love what we do and take great pride in protecting lives, homes, and businesses with the products and services we offer. 

 

In my opinion, security systems are absolutely worth the investment, and purchasing a system from my company, Innovate “Security for Life Inc.,” is also a good investment. Our team has designed security kits to fit multiple variations of client needs. For example, a condominium owner may only need one motion sensor, a couple of door sensors, a smoke detector, and a carbon monoxide detector for a complete life safety and security system. Whereas a family building their dream home on a five acre parcel of land with three separate buildings will need many sensors, smoke/carbon monoxide detectors, security cameras, and systems capable of automating doors, thermostats, and security camera video data. Innovate’s security kits are designed to handle an extremely wide range of client needs with an understanding that client needs change over time and that our products need to be adaptable and expandable for these changing needs. 

 

Now let’s take a look at what creates a good value when thinking about a life safety and security purchase decision. In years past, quality systems could only be found through experienced local security companies and required scheduling coordination, many hours of labor at well over $100.00 an hour, and often wall and ceiling damage due to invasive wiring of the needed equipment. Technology and some innovative thinking have opened the door for professional quality systems that can be easily installed without wiring and damage to the walls or structure of your home or business. Add this simplicity and ingenuity to a comprehensive offer which includes: ongoing 24/7 professional monitoring of your system and alarm event response coordination with a full line cutting edge products such as doorbell cameras, outdoor cameras, motion sensors, garage door alerts, glass break detectors, and door/window sensors. The value proposition for home and business owners becomes exponentially better. 

 

Home security systems of the past were often only considered necessary for higher-end custom homes and businesses. Technology and the continued reduction in equipment cost combined with direct fulfillment through e-commerce purchasing and simplified self-install have not only changed the perception of what type of home/business should have a security system, but it has also eliminated the barriers to entry for an ever-increasing population needing security protection. In the years ahead and technology continuing to improve, not having a security system installed in your home or business will be considered rare. And with insurance companies paying closer attention to the reduction in loss statistics for homes and businesses with professionally monitored life safety and security systems it will most likely become a requirement for obtaining home and business property insurance. 

 

Technology has not only brought the price down and reduced the barriers to entry of life safety and security systems, but it has also created a pathway for the convergence of smart home automation with life safety and security systems. Bluetooth and Z-Wave technology now available in products like the Qolsys IQ2 security panel allows for the integration of smart home technologies of all kinds including the following: smart arm and disarm through mobile handsets, remote thermostat control, remote outdoor camera viewing with data storage, entry doorbell cameras and alerts and even control over opening and closing garage doors remotely. The convergence of technologies is what clients are asking for with simple ease of lifestyle additions integrated into the life safety and security systems being purchased. Companies like Qolsys are paying close attention to these trends in consumer behavior and lead the security industry in offering products providing more than just the protection of homes and businesses. This attention to consumer demand will continue to drive innovation in the industry and convergence of systems designed originally to protect lives and property into systems that not only perform the originally designed intent but also simplify living through incorporated smart home automation technologies. I envision a security landscape in the future in which, for roughly a dollar a day in monitoring costs, end-users have security systems that provide a full range of automation technologies for all smart devices in their home. Considering the broad scope of lifestyle improvements with automation, built on the backbone of life safety and security protection, the monthly fees start looking very small relative to services and lifestyle improvements that are provided to the end-user.

Home security panelThe key to the success of the industry is placing security at the center of smart home automation. Security is the level of customer service provided by equipment and monitoring providers. If done correctly, strong lifelong relationships with customers can be built. The ongoing expansion of systems to include new technologies will not only benefit the end-user but also the vendor through continued purchasing and system expansions. It is this concept that has been my focus while building innovatesfl.com. Security systems are a good idea, I don’t think there would be much argument on that point, but security systems can be more than just a good idea. In my view, it is the relationship between my company and the clients we serve that is at the heart of our success. We can sell our customer’s security systems and monitoring, but I see the true value in our offer as what our tag-line illustrates. “Security for Life,” is the concept of building a strong relationship with our clients through continued service and support including creating awareness of new technologies that can simplify and protect lives and property. I don’t see an awareness of this concept in the current DIY or self-install security marketplace and I have tasked my team to make this our core value proposition through service and action.

 

My answer to the original question, “Are Security Systems Worth the Money?” is a biased yes. I am in the industry and run a company that provides eCommerce security solutions to clients. What these systems provide is important, necessary and I believe undervalued due to a lack of feature understanding. When I look at my own home and care for my family and pets, I can’t think of another system within my home that serves such an important purpose. Yes, the hope is that the system will never need to dispatch authorities for fire or intrusion, but knowing that I have a comprehensive quality system in place if that need ever arises is peace of mind that I am willing to pay for. I have consulted on thousands of homes and businesses over the years. I have observed that the existing code smoke and carbon monoxide detectors installed are inoperable, removed, in a drawer or even hanging off the wall or ceiling by a wire with the empty battery enclosure open. If I can make a small difference to change this unfortunate common occurrence and provide our Innovatesfl.com clients with a product that works as intended and simplify living through technology, I will view my career as a success. 

 

 

Why Encryption Matters in DIY Security

Is DIY Home Security System Encryption a Big Deal?

Let me see if I can illustrate this well using an analogy that seems relevant. Imagine you are building your dream home. You’ve planned every detail down to what slightly improved shade of white selected for the ceiling paint. Your highly skilled and detail-oriented project manager brings you the list of needed decisions for the week, and one of those is the front door hardware. 

After scouring the catalogs and web sites for just the right handle and lock combination, you arrive at the perfect fit. You give the green light to your project manager, and the door looks great, and the hardware looks even better. 

A few days later, while searching the web for some finishing details to the new home, you happen to watch a recent news broadcast explaining how the perfect handle and lock you just purchased for your front door can be opened with a blank key from the local hardware store. 

Installing a DIY security system without encrypted technology is like making the key to your security available to anyone who knows how to purchase on Amazon. That’s a pretty large group of people and probably not what you intended for your home or business’s security. 

When making your purchase decisions for security, place encryption at the top of the list, then spend the time to figure out sensors and placement. Once you have checked encryption off the list, you can spend time putting thought into areas like where motion detection is needed and where to install security cameras. In that case, it makes good sense to ensure that a ten dollar part ordered through Amazon Alexa can’t disable the entire system. 

Fortunately, available today are excellent DIY security kits and DIY custom-designed systems that include encryption for sensors, security cameras, smart home devices, and even smart locks so you can avoid the universal key scenario. 

At Innovate “Security for Life,” Inc., the company I started, we spent weeks vetting our manufacturing partners for not only encryption technology but also reliability and a propensity for the latest in security engineering technology. Looking back at the years I have in the industry, it is easy to recall the countless and easily avoided service calls needed for various reliability issues like battery performance and adhesive materials. 

Like most businesses, the devil is in the details. In the security business, the details can mean the difference between preventing unwanted entry and a client losing all their family heirlooms. 

In addition to performing as the system is intended, knowing your DIY security system is encrypted adds one more layer to the peace of mind you are looking to achieve. So let’s go through the checklist of items to consider for your DIY security purchase. 

Combine encryption, monitoring services, intrusion detection with life safety devices like smoke detectors and CO sensors, and real peace of mind is looking very promising. Add some cool technology like encrypted blue tooth arming and disarming with a video doorbell, and the system is starting to come together. You now have also avoided the dreaded feeling of seeing a social media clip demonstrating how the system you just purchased can be hacked with a ten dollar device. Below is a simple checklist of security purchase considerations:

  • Purchase from a vendor with long experience in the security industry. 
  • Purchase Encrypted Security Equipment.
  • Use the Life Safety Features of Your System – Add Carbon Monoxide and Smoke detection.
  • Have your security system monitored for intrusion and life safety.
  • Purchase security equipment on the front edge of technology – Systems with Bluetooth and Amazon/Google compatibility.
  • Make using your system habitual – arm and disarm every time you leave the house.
  • Maintain your security system – Repair or replace broken sensors, clean sensors from dust, and make sure batteries are in good working condition.

Hackers and criminals will always be attempting to break the latest technology but let’s make sure we’re not making it easy for them. From my experience, after twenty years in the security industry, customer satisfaction starts with designing systems that do more than just giving you a cool mobile app and yard signs to show off to your neighbors. 

A well-designed DIY security system with protection for intrusion and life safety while also safe from hacking through encryption can provide you with real peace of mind. With a little education on some of the basics in security, this is attainable, and you will have a reliable system that works as intended when it counts. Learn more in our Technology Page

What’s The Most Under-Rated Home Security product?

“Don’t even think about stepping into that house!” the 6’4″ drywaller barked at me as I approached the front door. I had been called out to look at the security needs of a second home in the mountains for a couple that lived on the other side of the country. Never having had a drywaller give me instructions like a project superintendent, I felt annoyed and asked the problem. “I’m just doing you a huge favor man.” He said. “That house is a no-go zone unless you have a badass respirator and crawl suite! Black mold on every wall from the basement to attic.”

Seeing as I did not have a respirator or a crawl suit handy, I thanked him and, tail between my legs, headed to the car, making a mental note to fill my van with recommended construction equipment for next time.

I learned later that the house had burst a pipe on the third floor during the first freeze of the season and the water ran for over a month. The house froze again and sat idle until spring when the homeowners decided to take a week off work and head to the mountains. I can’t even imagine what went through their minds when they opened the front door. I am guessing that when Dante dreamed up the “Inferno,” it was based off something that looked like this.

This catastrophe never would have occurred with just small part that costs less than $100. This little freeze/low-temperature sensor is the most undervalued alarm sensor in the industry. If you live in a cold climate and don’t have one, do yourself a huge favor and get one. Moreover, you can add a water sensor (another undervalued sensor) to multiple areas in your home due to the high potential for water leaks. Upstairs washer dryer (any washer dryer), bathrooms, dishwasher, kitchen sink, water heaters, refrigerators, (especially the ones with tap water and Ice) sump pumps, these locations in your home are ideal for a discrete device that will tell the monitoring station to call everyone on your call list, (most importantly you!) that you have a water leak problem.

Many of my customers have said to me “Oh it’s like insurance.” My response: “No, it’s much better than insurance. It doesn’t partially pay for the mess after it happens – It prevents the mess before it even begins.”

DIY security monitoring. Then and Now

Way back in the early days of security, there was a thing called a dialer. Some of you readers in my generation might remember the old modems that screeched and hissed when making a connection which was how the security systems communicated with the central station or monitoring center. The monitoring center is the staff of people who watch the information coming in from the security account system and follow the response protocol for specific signals. For example, a smoke sensor signal typically initiates a call to the homeowner and then dispatches the fire department. A door contact or motion would generate a call to the contact numbers you have provided and then dispatch the police. Each device communicates with the security panel, and the panel in turn communicates with the central station. The live operators at the central station give specific instructions on how to respond to the information.

What has changed most today is the adaptation of cellular service. I remember my father-in-law had a fake phone line in clear view of his house with a sign that read “security panel communication line” so that when the bad guy came around with his wire cutters, he would cut the fake phone line instead of the real telephone wire. I thought that was so funny and clever, but thank goodness those days are long gone! There are no longer wires on the outside of the house and most new systems are using a cellular module or communicator instead of the POTS (plain old telephone service). The use of a cellular communicator is a vast improvement for all to the security industry.

It is important when choosing your DIY security to remember that central stations are not all the same. Bigger is not always better, and in fact, bigger is often a problem. The larger the central station, the less personalized and meticulous it will become. You definitely don’t want a bunch of guys in a room taking turns nor do you want a handful of operators setting up shop in some hole in a wall. An mid-sized central station that has been around for 20 plus years and has more than one call center is about right. So, when deciding on your DIY product, make sure to ask a few questions and do your homework. Having something you can depend is worth your time.

How to use different security contacts in a DIY security installation

After helping clients design their in-home security systems for many years, I’ve seen the importance of educating people about the purposes of each sensor. Motion sensors are well understood, but, if installed incorrectly, will carry the potential for false alarms. Installed correctly, they are one of the best tools available for covering large areas without putting a door/window contact and glass break in every nook and cranny of your home. Sensors should not placed near heating vents or facing the bright sunlit windows/countertops. The key is to read the directions on the packaging of each box for each specific motion. On almost every spec sheet, there are clear instructions for the height to install the motion detector and the recommendations of where to place it. Even veteran licensed security technicians have learned that products vary and just because it is called a motion sensor does not mean it is purposed precisely the same as all the others on the market. Also, when a motion reads pet immune to specific weight, take that with a grain of salt. Active pets that jump up on anything in your house can cause a motion sensor to trigger, as well as your friendly spider or ant walking across the front of your motion sensor. Take your time and be thoughtful when reading the manufacturer’s instructions; it will pay dividends on how your DIY system performs.

Now that we understand motions sensors a little better let’s discuss door contacts, window contacts and glass break detector installation and use. The first advantage for all these sensors is that they be armed while you are in the house moving around. Almost all panels will have a stay mode and away mode. Typically in stay mode, these sensors are all armed and the motions are not. This functionality allows you to move around your house or business without triggering the alarm. These sensors also are less prone to be set off by pets. Clients I have worked with over the years who have lots of furry friends make good use of non-motion-based sensors and devices based on my recommendations and operate their systems without false alarm issues. The best systems use a combination of all the devices with a well-planned design taking client lifestyle and pet lifestyle into consideration.