Safe and Secure

New Technologies in
Home Security

Story By Jamey Bradbury

Until fairly recently, home security was relatively low-tech. A burglar alarm, a bulky camera, a sign in the yard announcing that your home is protected by XYZ Security – these were the tools meant to ward off potential home invasions.

Today’s technology has ushered in a new era of home security, one in which homes aren’t just safer, but easier to control with just the touch of a smart phone screen.

Get connected – at home or away

If you’re looking to have a home security system installed, first decide what kind of system you want. For new builds, you may go with a traditional wired system, where the components are hardwired into the home and connected to a central control panel.

But, says Christopher Bracken, vice president of Action Security in Anchorage, “90 percent of what we run into is after construction, so we typically do wireless devices.” A wireless system uses radio waves to communicate between the control panel, sensors and cameras. While the components can be a bit bulky, one big advantage is you never have to leave the system behind; when you move to a new home, your security system can go with you.

SECURITY SCAMS

“Security’s not an amateur’s game,” warns Bracken, but that won’t stop fly-by-night security companies from sending inexperienced – and sometimes unscrupulous – door-to-door salespeople your way.

A legitimate company will develop an overall security plan for your property. But a salesperson who pulls a “standard” security system out of the trunk of his car? “That’s concerning. There are gaps that’ll be left in the home.”

Oftentimes, these traveling sales agents will try to pressure you into buying expensive but substandard systems by offering you limited-time offers, pressuring their way into your home or claiming to be from your current security company.

Don’t fall for it. If you’re in the market for a security system, seek out a reliable company with a good history and a staff of experienced installers.

As for those traveling salespeople? “Security systems aren’t vacuum cleaners or Girl Scout cookies,” says Bracken. “Anybody knocking on your door to sell security, that’s a problem.”

Wireless systems can also be integrated with phones and computers, allowing for remote access. “With these newer systems, you can call in and adjust the temperature of your home, turn the heat on, turn on some lights,” explains Bracken.

Bracken sees a big advantage in remote access, particularly for Alaskans who own houses or cabins in far-flung parts of the state. “People who own these cabins, they want a way to turn on the heat from afar,” says Bracken. “The best way to do that is not through the heating and cooling industry but through the alarm industry.” With a wireless system, controlling your home from far away is as simple as turning on your smart phone and opening an app.

Keep an eye on things

Security cameras have also improved, with models that have night-vision capabilities or motion activation. “These aren’t cameras like you see on TV, where you’re rewinding a tape,” describes Bracken. “This is live-view. So if an alarm goes off, you can log in online and verify whether you have an intruder or it’s just a false alarm.”

While there are also higher-end cameras that do allow recording, the real advantage to newer security cameras is the interconnectivity they create when paired with your computer, smart phone or iPad.

“When your kids come home from school,” says Bracken, “you can get a text message that lets you know they’re inside the house. At the same time, you can easily pull up the camera feed online and see if they’re doing their homework like they’re supposed to.”

Save with security

With home security, not only are you safeguarding your family and your belongings, but you’re potentially qualifying for lower home insurance premiums, up to 10 percent. “That’s the standard discount with the two largest insurance providers in Alaska,” according to Steve van Horne of State Farm Insurance. “That discount is only going to apply to the portion of the policy that covers the home and its contents – not liability or other parts of the policy.”

The cost of a new security system depends upon the features and coverage it offers; smart buyers will shop around first to see which system best fits their budget and their lifestyle. Part of the expense is the monthly service fee: With home automation, your cell phone communicates to a server via encrypted data, and the server is what controls your security system. That, says Bracken, is what you’re paying for.

Of course, no cost is too great when it comes to the safety and well-being of your family. But as technology gets better and more accessible, it also gets cheaper, says Bracken. “It used to be that it was only rich people that could afford home automation. Now, we can go into a typical home and set up automation for any device you like. We have systems that protect apartments, too. The technology is there so that we have a solution for any situation.”