Do-It-Yourself Video Meets the Security Dealer

The LukWerks (pronounced "look works") Digital Video Surveillance System, which was released by WiLife Inc. last December, offers an affordable, easy-to-use video kit for home and small business owners to keep watch over their property. However, given the fact that customers can easily set up the system on their own without having to use a drill or configure a network, could it actually be in competition with security dealers?

"When I first heard about LukWerks, I actually didn't like what I heard," says Jim Jennings, owner of Elite Security in St. George, Utah. As a security dealer who was used to installing professional-grade DVRs for $4,000 to $6,000, he wasn't too excited to hear about a $300 do-it-yourself system. "I thought, 'Yeah right. Give me a break.'"

But Jennings has changed his tune on WiLife's LukWerks system, mainly because he now knows from experience that the system delivers-and it has helped his business.

How it works

For $299, the LukWerks starter kit comes with PC software and one camera. Each additional camera is $229, and the system can handle up to six total cameras. Each camera, which is essentially a computer with a 400 MHz processor, can sit on a desk or hang from its suction-cup on a wall or window. From there, the camera just needs to be plugged into a standard electrical outlet. The beauty of the LukWerks system is that it creates a computer network over the building's existing electrical lines, and the video footage is compressed down to 200 times its original size before it's transmitted from the camera over the network to the user's computer. Since the video data has already been compressed into Windows Media Video format (.wmv) by the time it reaches the PC, there is less stress on the PC's processing resources when it's displaying and storing video (especially when it's coming from multiple cameras).

Some of its software features include: recording only when motion is detected (saves hard drive space), active alerts that can send notification via cell phone or email, pre-program areas of a screen where you want motion to be detected and where you don't (let's you focus on what's important), and remote viewing via cell phone of any computer hooked up to the Internet. The images are displayed at up to 15 fps.

What people are saying

Evan Tree, president and co-founder of WiLife, has over 20 years experience in the security and surveillance industry. In 1999 he sold his own dealership, Double Tree Security, to Mountain Alarm. Tree's experience as a security dealer was one of the main driving forces behind the development of LukWerks. After all, he had many a time been requested to come out to a home and give an estimate for a surveillance system installation, only to lose the deal after the homeowner found out the price.

And Jennings can relate to that story. "I would guess 1 out of 15 or 1 out of 20 residential customers ever go for a digital video system because of the price," he says.

Jennings has used LukWerks as both a leader and a closer for alarm sales, and he claims that the system has given him an advantage over his competitors when he uses it to complement his alarm business. "People really love the free remote viewing in conjunction with their alarm monitoring."

Thomas Lienhard, partner and vice president of sales for Artery Lock Technology Group in Medford, MA, says his company was admittedly drawn to the do-it-yourself nature of LukWerks. Artery Lock Tech has a retail shop on the second floor of their building which has LukWerks on display for customers to see how it works; and in the short time that it has been there, the showroom camera has recorded a few instances of interest to police.

One of those instances was an assault that took place across the street, and Lienhard recounts the ease with which he was able to put together a presentation for the police. In just 45 minutes, he was able to turn five static film shots into .jpg images, save three different movie clips as .wmv files, write up a timeline in a word processing program, burn a disc, and put a label with his company's logo on the disc which he gave to police. "Seriously, in about 45 minutes I gave them quite a package," says Lienhard.

What can be improved

Jennings readily admits that he'd like to see a higher profit margin on the LukWerks equipment he sells. With a LukWerks camera, he buys it for $220 and sells it for $300. He says that he'd like to at least be able to double his money. WiLife says its understands dealers' concerns here and that the company is working to launch a professional-grade version of LukWerks specifically for dealers this fall.

Lienhard also notes that a LukWerks camera pointed outside, through a window, sometimes will pick up the window's reflection. But again, this is a problem that WiLife says it is trying to remedy by coming out with new types of cameras in the near future, including an outdoor camera and an underwater one.

Lienhard also says that most of the service calls he's received for LukWerks have been from customers who are trying to use the system on a computer that doesn't have enough resources. He says users will need to make sure they use a "fairly up-to-date" PC and that it is kept clean from malware or spyware which could block some of the ports LukWerks needs to properly operate. (The LukWerks' system requirements can be found at: www.wilife.com/About/Requirements.aspx.)

From a total security standpoint, Lienhard likens LukWerks to being one tool among many in his security shed.

"One tool in the shed for all of the chores you have to do may not be enough," he explains. "But as one tool with all of the other tools you use, this has proven to be a valuable one."

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