While a home security’s monitoring center could let a homeowner and authorities know when things are amiss at home, now iPhone and BlackBerry smartphones, laptops, computers, PDAs and other Web-enabled devices can control security systems and help offer a direct link to homeowners — even if they are nowhere near the house.
No matter where he is, Scott Parker always knows when his son gets home from school thanks to new security system technology.
“Every day at three o’clock, I get an e-mail. I know he ... is in the house,” said Parker, sales manager with Central Illinois Security Inc. in Springfield.
“Several years ago, we were able to do that with pagers. But, of course, with pagers going away, (we) just have a new enhanced feature of that same kind of setup.”
And while a home security’s monitoring center could let a homeowner and authorities know when things are amiss at home, now iPhone and BlackBerry smartphones, laptops, computers, PDAs and other Web-enabled devices can control security systems and help offer a direct link to homeowners — even if they are nowhere near the house.
The ability to use this new technology to monitor homes from afar is the biggest change in home security in the past 20 or 30 years, said Jim Havey, who with his brother, Bill Havey, owns Young’s Security Systems Inc..
“In the past, it’s been guards or dogs in the house or people home all the time,” Jim Havey said.
“These days, because of our lifestyles — coming and going, people hiring people, helpers around the house, nannies, kids coming in after school — we’ve lost a certain amount of control simply because we are such a working society .... This helps us get it back.”
Young’s Security Systems offers customers the “Total Connect” digital communication service through Honeywell. It enables people to monitor their homes from practically anywhere in the world. Central Illinois Security primarily uses Honeywell-brand equipment for Total Connect.
“Can you imagine being able to drive around in your car and you wonder if you actually turned your security system on?” Havey said. “You can fire it up on your phone, view the cameras around the house and arm or disarm your system or actually activate light schedules if you want to.”
Total Connect is for a certain version of Honeywell alarm systems. Customers can connect to the system via the Internet, cellular devices or both.
In addition to controlling security systems using the “My Keypad” application, Total Connect users can be notified of activities happening inside the home, said Ralph Maniscalco of Honeywell Security & Communications.
For example, the system can send e-mails that alert users to specific events such as when a child disarms the security system upon returning home from school or when a gun or liquor cabinet has been opened.
“Either from their laptop computer, desktop at the office or Web-enabled phone, you can have access to arming and disarming the alarm as well as getting alarm events,” Parker said. “On top of the alarms and notifying when somebody gets home, we can have it set up to tell you if there’s a power failure on the alarm system, or it can activate the lights.”
Havey says lights and appliances can be switched on with Total Connect.
“You can connect up to three digital cameras around the house, and you would then be able to call the security system up, get any information about the security system and view the cameras,” he said. “The system also has the ability to send you a picture via text message whenever someone arms or disarms your system so that you get a quick idea who’s come in the house, if there’s anybody with them, and of course, what time.”
Customers also have the ability to call the system and view cameras, and even open and close garage doors through their phones.
“You can get a full status report on your house simply by going to an application on your PDA or your iPhone,” Havey said.
Parker, who carries a BlackBerry, demonstrated how he could click on an icon that looks like a keypad on his phone, enter his code and log onto his home security system.
An e-mail told him that things were “Armed Away.”
Customers ideally should have a high-speed Internet connection for the Total Connect service, Havey and Parker said. They should also consider the cellular communicator that goes with it.
Tamara Browning can be reached at (217) 788-1534 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Out of sight; not out of mind
Protection One Inc., a provider of home security systems, offers these tips for securing your home while you’re out of town:
_Remove objects that might allow access to your home, such as ladders or trash cans that could be used to enter a window or scale a fence.
_Do not post public notices on Facebook, Twitter or MySpace letting people know that you will be out of town.
_Turn your telephone ringer down so no one outside can hear repeated rings, and review your answering machine message to make sure it does not imply that you are away.
_Have all mail, newspapers and deliveries stopped or picked up by a neighbor, friend or relative.
_Never leave a key hidden outside. Burglars know all the best hiding places.
_Secure all windows, including those upstairs, and reduce the chance of easy entry by cutting tree limbs away from second-story windows.
_Have a friend move your car occasionally if it is parked in the driveway.
_Use timers to operate lights.
_Dispose of product packaging so you aren’t “advertising” recent, high-dollar purchases.