What’s Wrong With Home Security?

After living in my house for 22 years my illusion of security was shattered.  Three high school kids created a mini-crime spree, breaking into something like a dozen houses in my generally good neighborhood.  With squad cars roaming the streets and police helicopters overhead the group broke into their third house that day – mine.  They were caught but made a general mess of my place and a number of missing items were never recovered.  OK – fine…  Time to close the barn door after the horse escaped.  I need a security system.

Quick research taught me that, something like cell phone hardware and the phone company that provides the service, there is the security hardware and, separately, there is the company that provides the monitoring service.  I called one of the security companies and discussed my needs with an extremely well spoken woman who suggested I schedule an installation.  She offered that I was lucky to have called because they were in the middle of a major promotion.  She waived installation fees and gave me several free sensors.  She introduced me to her manager and made sure I was getting all the discounts available.  Cool, I thought, and was very impressed.

A few days later the installation technician showed up.  He removed his shoes before entering my house – another example of quality employees and good training, I thought.  Things took a negative turn, however, when I understood some equipment needed to be installed at the point where my phone line enters the house.  That was very inconvenient since doing so would require removing a cabinet and cutting into drywall.  The technician explained that the module needed to be installed at the point where the line enters the house and would not work correctly if simply connect to one of my many phone jacks.  Well, said I, that would have been good to know before we scheduled this appointment…

The technician pressed on and suggested an upgraded glass break detector.  He said the one I was to receive for free was not very reliable.  Finally, he suggested we upgrade to the GSM module so we would not need the home phone line to report a problem.  Using the GSM module would circumvent the need to use the home phone line – but unfortunately would add $10 per month in monitoring fees.  I decided to cancel the installation but the technician would hear none of that.  He insisted on putting me down for another appointment to “give me a chance to think about it”.

A couple of days later I called the company to cancel the new appointment.  What a change.  I was magically transported to a used car lot where I found myself apparently talking to a used car salesman – or at least it seemed that way.  They didn’t want to hear about canceling the appointment.  Wasn’t I aware of the crime statistics?  Didn’t I want my family to be safe?  I could have the GSM hardware for free (but NO discount on the monitoring).  On and on this continued and became difficult.  Eventually, I successfully cancelled the appointment.

What was I to do now?  I wanted a security system but didn’t want my wall damaged and didn’t want to pay extra fees.  I thought about the problem…

WAIT!!

Isn’t a home security system simply an embedded system with a remote connection?  Haven’t I worked for years on embedded systems that communicate via the Internet?  Don’t I have a perfectly good wireless LAN in my house?  Why can’t the security system just connect to my wireless LAN and handle all communication needs through the Internet?  I walked around my house and made a list of what I actually wanted and started calling security companies.

Oh my!  The world of security companies does not deal well with a customer that specifies what they want.  The business model of most of the companies seems based on some very simple principles:

  • Sell fear
  • Sell the 24 hour monitoring service
  • Avoid discussing details

Maybe I just had some bad luck, but I ran into very deceptive statements and practices.  I eventually DID get a security system and that salesman and the installation technician were very professional.  However, my brief experience in this area tells me the home security industry is well behind the technology curve and desperately needs to be dragged into the future.

The home monitoring companies have an extraordinarily profitable business model and, from a technology perspective, are years behind.  It seems to me the days of this business model are numbered.