[lug] off-topic: wireless ip security (summary)

Michael J. Hammel mjhammel at graphics-muse.org
Sun Oct 13 14:31:52 MDT 2013

On Fri, 2013-09-06 at 11:31 -0600, George S. wrote:
> Did you have a traditional, monitored alarm system in place? Is there a 
> reason one of those wouldn't work?

As promised, here is what I ended up doing with respect to my security
system at home:  Lowe's IRIS.  Let me explain why, and what I've learned
since installing it.

IRIS starts with a small server box connected to your home network.  It
communicates with IRIS's home web site which is where you do all your
configuration.  Not crazy about cloud solutions, but I was kind of
limited when it came to the rest of the things I wanted, so I sucked it
up on this.  Turns out it was a decent compromise.  The server can also
be outfitted with a GSM modem in case the wired net is cut and it will
run on internal batteries for awhile (not sure how long) if electricity
goes out.  It will report both event types to who ever is configured to
get notifications.

All devices reporting to the server in your home are wireless, utilizing
Z-Wave technology.  This is similar to ZigBee but operates at 900MHz.
I've had a very few drop outs possibly due to the 900MHz channel, but
these have been very few and only when first installed.  Communications
have been very stable since then.

Attaching a new device to the server is simply a matter of going to the
web site, telling it you're going to add a device, putting the battery
in the device, and waiting till the server at home beeps.  This is
called pairing and the two devices should be near each other to do it
(re: do it before installing the sensor). Takes a minute or two, worse
case.  Often, just seconds.  I've installed windor/door open sensors,
wireless IP cameras, motion sensors, electric outlets and light
switches.  Takes longer to actually physically install them than to add
them to the network.

Web site was the kicker.  I can configure outlets and light switches for
multiple schedules to simulate a presence at the house.  The window/door
sensors include temperature sensors that report the temp around the
house. I configured my wife and I to get SMS alerts and it also sends me
an email notification.  There are a lot of configuration and
notification options available.  I'm only using a very few.

Service is free but a little limited in configuration options.  Paid
service, which I've opted for after being convinced the thing works, is
only $9/month, which is pretty cheap, to get full configuration
capabilities.  There is some work to be done on their end to expand
capabilities, but I've already had multiple firmware updates delivered,
much like you get phone updates.  The web site is a little klunky, but
easy to use.

Wireless IP cameras work well.  You can watch live video that is about
10 seconds behind.  It will also record 30 seconds (or more, at your
configuration) when sensors are tripped.  You get something like 10GB of
disk space to hold recordings.  I hardly used anything the few times I
accidentally tripped the sensors and got automatic video recordings.  

My only complaint is that updates to the phone apps (Android and iPhone)
are a little slow, though its probably the carriers fault.  So when we
leave the house and want to enable full security it takes a minute to
download current status before allowing us to set a new state.  But
that's not really been a big issue for us.

IRIS supports lots of other devices, including automatic door locks,
keychain fobs. thermostats, keypads, electric meter readers, and smoke
alarms.  It says wireless window shades are coming soon too.
Technically any Z-Wave device will work though its not guaranteed to
support all functions of that device.

Every window and door has a sensor on it now.  I have two cameras in
place, three light switches and four outlets.  Total cost so far is
about $800 I think, but I kinda lost track.  All I need now is a device
that drops an electrically active net on the intruders ala the Wolowitz
intruder detection system.

Caveat:  the on/off light switch they sell doesn't work with two wire
homes.  You need three wires.  To get around that, get the dimmable
light switch.  It works with two wires.  You just get to watch it slide
from 0% to 100% and vice versa when IRIS controls it.

Hope that helps someone else *before* they have uninvited guests.

Michael J. Hammel                               
mjhammel at graphics-muse.org / http://www.graphics-muse.org
His men would follow him anywhere, ... but only out of morbid curiosity.  
-- From a real employee performance evaluation.

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