CCTV and Alarm Systems
Updated: Aug 24
There are plenty of things to worry about in our lives and home security is something that can help to ease the burden. Many of us have home alarm systems that we never bother to set, I have been guilty of this myself and been caught out by it. After our home was burgled, we decided to do something about it and make security part of our daily routine - but i wanted to make it super easy so that it would always be used and not just ignored.
To make this work, your system has to be simple to use - otherwise family members tend to give up using it, and....this is where we had got to - our alarm was installed by the house builder when we bought our house and was clearly the cheapest that money can buy and would bleep regularly for no reason. As per human nature, when things happen regularly - you start to ignore them because you know nothing is wrong...its just faulty, and no one uses it anymore.
Owning a home automation company, your own home is usually the last one to get finished as you spend so much time and effort getting your customer's homes right and making sure that they are happy. So, I decided to actually make the effort to secure our home properly and integrate it with our other systems as we also have an AMX Home Automation System in our home.
For our customers, we use a mix of products as not every project is the same. We regularly use Satel Security & 2N Access Control for our alarm systems and we never get any hassle with them - so this was a no brainer. It also makes an easy interface to our Home Automation system and Lutron Lighting system.
Satel Security and Access control is not the cheapest product, by any means, but it is extremely reliable and is very flexible. The great thing about Satel Alarm systems is that they can be standalone, you do not need a control system to make them work.
This is how one of our systems looks on a control touch screen(AMX). It allows a simple graphical view of the status of all of the zones.
So a few terms, before we go any further
These are used to group multiple systems together and make them easier to use. We use control systems manufactured by AMX, KNX and Savant. Systems such as TV, movie selection, Air Conditioning control, Music selection, and Lighting control are grouped together and usually controlled using a touch screen or iPad. Software is written specifically to make these systems work together how the user wants them to work. A nicely designed interface is presented to you on the touch screen that allows you to use all of your systems without knowing the technicalities. Linking everything together using a control system is known as 'Integration'. As with everything, there are good and bad integrators and as such systems that work and ones that don't. I'm lucky enough(..or unlucky enough) to be the main Software Engineer in our company, so adding this to our automation system is like another day at work.
There will be another blog article on control systems and what they do and how they work in a week or so. So please don't be over awed by the use of the terms.
This is the method used to give people access to your property. This can be as simple as a gate intercom or if you have a larger property, each person who accesses the property has their own access code or 'fob' that allows them access. The hours of access can be limited or blocked using the access control system. It is also possible to combine the alarm system with the access control system so that when trusted people use their code to access your property, the zones that they will access will also be disarmed(for example - the pool maintenance company need access to the pool and the pool plant room). When they use their fob or keycode to open the gate to exit - these zones will automatically be locked and armed again. All without your involvement. The log of the daily access can be emailed to you (or your property managers) as individual emails per event or as a summary, if required.
You then know that the people that you are paying to do work, are actually attending your property.
Access control keeps everything locked and only allows trusted persons into specific areas at specified times, but has the flexibility for you to override this if required - in the case of necessary exceptions. If you prefer to be in control at all times, you can receive notifications that things have happened.
A good security system uses multiple device types to cover all bases. In my case, we have a gate intercom, an alarm system and CCTV. As with everything there are varying qualities of products on the market. In our projects we use 2n Intercoms, Leviton Alarms and Visual Int cameras. There are good reasons for our choice, but reliability is the primary one along with the functions that they provide - how they can benefit the homeowner, as well as providing value for money.
So using our choice of equipment, we will try to explain why we use what we use and how it will benefit. However, if you are just looking for a deterrent there are plenty of reasonably priced systems on the market that you can install yourself or your local security company can install. This may seem like a self defeating statement, but everyone's idea of what is 'enough' is different - for some, doing it yourself is enough. For others, not so and would prefer a professionally 'Engineered' solution. This is what we do, our projects are customised to suit the kind of property that you have. What we offer is not only a deterrent, but also a chance to stop intruders at, or near, the property line - this is a far better option than allowing them to actually get to your property.
1. Satel Security
The alarm system complies with EN50131 standard, which in the UK means that it is suitable to be connected to 'Police Response' systems. Not that many alarms comply with this standard and being honest, these days not many systems do actually connect to Police response, its usually via a third party monitoring station. However, the EN50131 mark tells you that it is manufactured to a high grade.
As well as replacing the existing alarm system, we have also added smoke and flood detection into the alarm system. So if we get a water leak or some kind of fire break out whilst we are out, we automatically get an email to tell us as well the alarm notifying our monitoring company that there is a problem. If we are home, there are internal sirens that let us know there is a problem. Did you know a high percentage of fire are caused by tumble dryers and washing machines? neither did I, but after finding this I put a smoke detector in our laundry room as we do some of our washing over night.
The clever bit with the alarm system is the ability to get the alarm to make decisions and making it communicate with other systems - such as our Lutron Lighting system. So, when we Arm our system when we are leaving, it tells our lighting system that we are away and our outside lights come on as normal, however it then creates random sequences for lighting inside the house - to give the appearance of being at home...another deterrent. If we ever get a burglary/smoke/fire alert, all of the lights in the house turn on as the alarm tells the lighting system to do this.
Like many other people, we have pets. This creates a challenge when they are left on their own and you need to make sure the house is secure. For us, this is mainly at night - but again it needed to be thought out fully. Our solution was to effectively create a free area for them to roam about in and we did this by installing door and window contacts around the house, plus some break glass sensors. This created a secure perimeter, allowing them to trundle around to their heart's content without triggering the alarm. The dogs act as part of our alarm as they bark at anything that moves, and sometimes even stuff that doesn't.
We also have an electronic lock on the side gate, which has a keypad to allow the Gardener to get access. However, his access is restricted to a specific day each week and only between 8.30am and 5.00pm.
I have chosen to interlink everything together, but you don't have to - you can just have an alarm and/or cameras. I've used my knowledge that I use to create systems for clients to produce the best solution for our property.
To make the system complete, our cameras are also connected into the alarm system in their own area - this will be discussed in the next section.
We provide two specifications of camera for our client projects. One is basic, does what you expect and records everything that goes on around your property. The second is a far better specification and has far more useful features, but not everyone wants to pay the extra for what they do.
Our higher specification cameras have what is known as 'analytics' built in to the camera. This can be imagined as a camera with a brain that can analyse the image it sees, much as your eyes and brain work together - but not as sophisticated. Within the camera we can create 'virtual tripwires' along the property line, the cameras have an alarm contact built inside them that is triggered when the tripwire is crossed. The fantastic thing about 'analytics' is that we can specify size of object that will trigger the tripwire (allowing us to exclude Cats, rabbits, birds etc..) but including human size objects. We can also allow object to cross the tripwire going out of the property but trigger if they are coming in, this intelligence makes them extremely useful. These cameras also have 'Starlight technology' - which keeps the image in colour for the maximum amount of time possible as the light fades, the night vision is also excellent.
Standard CCTV cameras are good for analysing what HAS gone on. Cameras with analytics allow you to have a monitor on your property lines at all times and be alerted to what IS happening, without the cost of someone manning it, and allowing you to take preventative action before intruders even get to your home.
As an added benefit, the cameras also provide a privacy function. If your property is monitored by a third party monitoring company, it can be unnerving having cameras around your pool or common areas of your home. Whilst you are home and your alarm is off, we can ensure that the video stream that is sent to the monitoring company is turned off. As soon as you set your alarm at night or when you leave, the camera streams are turned back on.
Simple, no effort, secure!
Ah! you may say, this is all well and good but someone could just throw a plastic bag over the camera and then it doesn't work. This also has been considered and the camera can detect this and send out an alert to the monitoring station and/or email. In addition to this, because the camera has a connection to the alarm system, if anyone cuts the cable - the alarm is triggered at the monitoring station.
These cameras were my choice for my property, as I can appreciate the added value and added security it provides. Not everyone needs or wants this level of equipment and our company will provide whatever level you require.
3. Gate/Door Intercom
So, there are lots of intercoms in the market place - all do the same kind of job but we choose those made by 2N. Their intercoms suit our industry very well as they have lots of features that we can use with our AMX and Savant control systems.
Used on their own they are very simple and have an App that can be used with Android and Apple devices. The night vision of the camera is very good and quality of audio is also very good.
I wanted something for our house that, at night, my wife could answer the door without opening it and then decide whether she needed to open the door, as there is a risk to this wherever you live. We use 2N for our projects regularly and it ticked all of the boxes.
Whenever anyone presses the call button, either me or my wife can answer the intercom using our mobile devices, whether we are home or out and about as we subscribe to their cloud service. It's a little like the 'Ring' intercom but better quality and better thought out.
The intercom is compatible with our home control system but I've not had the time to link this up yet, but when I do it will provide us with call logs/missed calls/photo snapshots of who rang the intercom etc... I'll post some pictures of the interface when I get it finished.
The great thing about the 2N intercoms is that you can add keypads to allow number codes for opening gates, fingerprint readers, bluetooth connections, fob access. They have a great range of products and their cloud service that links to your mobile is super reliable.
If you are interested in improving your Home Security, why not drop us a line. We'll be happy to help. Most of this equipment can be retro fitted to replace older equipment if required. Whilst it is much easier to install at build stage, in the case of new build and refurbishment, it is possible to install this kind of equipment to existing builds depending on how much mess and making good you are prepared to put up with.
You can see some explanation videos at our YouTube site
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