In Australia, Going High-Tech for Home Security

HI-TECH security systems, once seen only in Hollywood blockbusters, are being fitted in an increasing number of Sydney suburban homes.

Families are installing biometric alarm systems worth at least $30,000. They include fingerprint readers, retina scans and facial-recognition software similar to those seen in the Mission: Impossible movie trilogy.

Phill Whyte, director of Smart Access Systems, which specialises in fingerprint door locks and installs about 5000 annually, said sales were growing as biometric systems became more affordable.

''It's undoubtedly increasing,'' he said. ''One of the biggest benefits of a fingerprint lock was that, unlike a key, it records who has entered and when,'' Mr Whyte said.

''One of our clients is the Queensland Ambulance Service, who keep a certain amount of drugs at each of their centres,'' he said. ''The locks record who has entered, so people can't use the excuse that they gave out a key to someone else and pass the blame.

''On the residential side, it's a benefit for parents with children, as kids don't have to take a key to school which they can lose.''

A simple fingerprint reader attached to a front door costs up to $1400 to be installed.

Wary homeowners can also install an access system which will perform other sophisticated tasks, such as turning on different lights at different times during the day or night.

Depending on the size of the particular house and the desired security features, a complete biometric system can cost upwards of $30,000.

Suretek is an Australian company that advises security firms on biometric solutions.

Product manager of Australian biometric security company Suretek Phill Perry said hand recognition was more reliable than some lower-end fingerprint readers but, costing about $3000 per door, was still affordable.

''Biometrics is gaining in popularity,'' he said. ''But facial recognition readers and iris recognition are still very expensive -- up to at least $12,000 per door.''

Raj Masson, director of ECS Services, said his company installs 200 to 400 biometric systems every year across the country. Based on recent growth he expects that figure to rise substantially next year.

"We expect to do about 20 to 30 percent more next year," he said. "It's definitely becoming more popular."