November 15, 2007
| by Ben Hardy
The growing niche in home security is the remote home monitoring system. Sometimes considered a DIY security system, a remote home monitoring system puts control in the hands of the homeowner. The list of companies offering these systems is steadily growing, and though their products may fall under the same heading, there can be some important differences that shopping homeowners will want to know and consider when in the market for such a solution.
Remote Monitoring – Basic Principles
The concept behind any remote monitoring system is virtually the same – the homeowner has remote access to the home’s security system via IP-enabled PC, laptop, PDA, or cell phone. Depending on system specifics, users can access and view security cameras, track activity into and out of the home, turn the system on or off, and perform other tasks and control actions, all through any web-enabled device. Systems can also be set up to alert the home owner via email or text message if an alarm is tripped. Once installed, most of these systems are accessed by the user through a secure company website, and most systems charge a monthly or annual subscription fee.
Remote access informs the homeowner of what is called “non-emergency events,” like a child coming home from school or a liquor cabinet being opened. “The homeowner has knowledge of all the events that happen on the security system,” says Jim Kitchen, Director of Product Management for uControl. Greater access to and control over the home’s security system is what remote monitoring, and remote access, is all about.
Know Your Needs – Devices, Monitoring, and Remote Access
Many companies offering security products and/or services fall under the “Remote Home Monitoring” umbrella. The difference in offerings from company to company can be great, however, so it is important to know exactly what one is looking for. Within this family of companies one might shop for devices, monitoring service, remote access, or some combination of the three. The devices that make up a home security system can include the main security panel, control boxes or devices, window and door sensors, and any of the other wired or wireless devices used to detect intruders, smoke, etc. Some homeowners move into or live in a home that has an existing security infrastructure in place, and may not have a need for these devices. Those who do have this need can choose from a wide range of device options, from a professionally installed, wired solution, to a self-installed, wireless “starter kit” that can be added onto over time.
The monitoring side of a security system refers to the professional monitoring most people associate with companies like ADT or Brinks. An offsite central monitoring station is employed with workers who monitor for and respond to triggered alarms. Response can include a call to the home to verify the event as well as a call to emergency services. This monitoring takes place 24/7, and typically incurs a monthly or yearly fee. Again, some households may already have both the devices and the professional monitoring in place.
The latest addition to the home security system is the remote access feature, which is described above. This “enhanced” monitoring empowers the homeowner to have greater control over the security system, and greater access to the information being logged by the system. Typically the companies that offer this enhancement to an existing security system also offer professional monitoring, and a monthly or yearly subscription fee includes both services.
Between watching re-runs of the The Jetsons and convincing his Insteon and Z-Wave controls to get along, Ben Hardy is immersed in the world of home automation, home control, and home networking.