Build a Secure Home: From Curbside to Rooftop

Oct. 27, 2008
Time and labor savings is key as today’s homeowners secure their homes using functional and convenient design.

The residential market continues to grow to meet the increasing demands of the user. Leading integrators and product providers discuss some of the basic needs of the homeowner who looks to security professionals for advice on installing a versatile system on which to build a foundation on.

What are some of the things you would put in a home today that you would consider securing it from top to bottom?

Joseph Ingegno, vice president/owner, GC Alarm Worldwide Security, Garden City, New York: Starting with the outside of the home, I would recommend an electronic eye, which would alert residents when someone enters the property or goes near the pool if there is one. We also recommend contacts on the windows and doors as well as adding motion detectors.

John A. Murphy, president, Vector Security, Pittsburgh: It’s my consideration that due to a baby boomer’s age, position, stature in life, concern for crime and the impact of being targeted by a criminal, they probably have a stronger commitment for the overall reliability of their security systems. If you follow that trend, the systems baby boomers also prefer would include a variety of security and safety services including two-way voice communication, security, fire detection, environmental hazard monitoring and personal emergency response.

Greg Ohanessian Jr., president, I-Tech Security, Old Brookville, N.Y.: In new construction I always recommend pre-wiring a house for an alarm system, smoke detectors and gas detectors. This includes wiring the windows and pre-wiring for a camera system as more people are looking to put surveillance into their homes.

Thomas Pickral, Jr., director of business development, Home Automation Inc., New Orleans, La.: Lighting control systems are one of the most effective deterrents for security purposes and can be used throughout the home effectively. When the interior lights come on in response to an alarm and the exterior lights start flashing then there is a tremendous deterrent effect. Lighting can also be used to enhance the response to a fire alarm by allowing the occupants to have a well lit exit pathway.

Louis Stilp, CEO, InGrid, Berwyn, Pa.: Security is only as good as the installed sensors. I would recommend sensors on all accessible windows and doors, including the garage. Control points should be placed throughout the house to make control of the system and the ability to reach for help easier. A system with remote access and automatic text messages along with a Web-based event log provides users with a history of who is coming and going.

Merek Weisensee, partner, Security Systems of New Hampshire, Northfield, N.H.: A great cornerstone to any security system is redundancy and fault tolerance. A cheap way to accomplish this is certainly with what many homes today have readily standing by – the Internet.

What are some of the convenience functions customers want more of: remote video monitoring; lighting and spa control; whole-house audio; other?

Ingegno: Customers want all the convenience functions. Especially where a customer can dial up remotely and check on the premises. This can be integrated with other products in the house so that the user can run such items as the security, lighting and energy systems remotely.

Murphy: The baby boomer wants to increase the options of communicating with their security service provider. The ability to have emergency messages texted to cell phones, PDAs and laptops and/or to log into their systems, obtain data or operate their systems remotely. Lighting, spa control and whole house audio may be secondary considerations, and largely impact sales made to new homes in 55-plus communities.

Ohanessian: Definitely whole house audio, control over the Internet. Being able to watch their homes through their cameras over an Internet connection is very important to homeowners.

Pickral: We are seeing a significant increase in the demand for those three categories as well as energy efficient products. As the “Green Revolution” continues, a large number of customers are looking to make their home more efficient. Security systems have a large number of door and window sensors and motion detectors that can be used as occupancy sensors for energy management purposes.

Stilp: Lots of people think about remote video monitoring, but it’s still hard to sell the idea of interior cameras watching you while you're home. Exterior cameras are easier to sell because there are no privacy issues. With many camera solutions available they are especially valuable when connected to security sensor triggers. Lighting control and whole house audio are still generally attractive only in upper end-homes; we have not seen this in demand in the mass market.

Weisensee: Less hands-on is a growing convenience feature finding its way into the residential mainstream. Security keypads that no longer require a code, but instead rely on wireless remote keyf obs, intelligent systems that know when you vacate or arrive and proximity and biometric inputs take the codes away and make for a much easier system to use.

What do you expect to be an up and coming market in terms of what constitutes a secure home today: medical alert monitoring; direct connect to medical alert facilities; community-based response teams; more medical emergency and new growth in private security guard services?

Ingegno: In addition to medical monitoring, a growing trend for homes is monitoring the vitals of the house. The ability to monitor such vitals as the temperature of the house and the presence of water is important to homeowners. We now have the ability to monitor the refrigerator to make sure residents of the home are eating and drinking and to make sure medicine cabinets are also being used to make sure people are taking their medications.

Murphy: I find all of these new age alarm services would be attractive to baby boomers since they all reinforce the hallmark of reliability, pin-point communications and follow through.

Ohanessian: The medical monitoring industry is really going to take off for many reasons. The ability to verify that loved ones are safe is a growing need. The systems are affordable and it allows people to stay in their homes longer. People are concerned about their family members and they cannot always be there.

Pickral: The integration of security with lighting, energy management, audio and video is the market that we see growing quickly. Security installers should be well positioned to offer a large number of systems to their customers.

Stilp: Medical alert monitoring is up and coming. It is a good value to older consumers who want to feel that help is easily available, and to their adult children that want to know if their parents are okay.

Weisensee: IP surveillance via the Internet and wireless is so much more affordable now. Keeping a watchful eye on what matters is possible from almost anywhere and the human eye isn’t nearly as cheap. Try hiring someone to babysit that party-prone teen and I'd wage that invoice against an IP camera system any day of the week!

What types of products being installed have you seen a recent surge in popularity or what types of products do you expect to see increased growth (besides medical alerts)?

Ingegno: Types of products that we are seeing a surge in popularity is everything associated with total connectivity; being able to see what is going on remotely or being alerted to what is going on in the home. We can keep users informed through text messages to their cell phone and e-mails to their computers.

Murphy: Since baby boomers are relying on connectivity, any enhanced aspect of central station monitoring that allows them to receive priority and non-emergency information via their laptops, cell phones or PDAs, while they are home or while they are traveling would be a great asset.

Ohanessian: The nanny-cam sector is growing rapidly as people want to make sure their children are safe while they are working or away from home.

Pickral: Recently, we have seen a surge in the popularity of fully integrated home automation systems.

Stilp: For most people, the cell phone is the center of their communications and so home systems that are always connected and communicating and accessible from the cell phone are now increasingly popular. Many people now have second homes, and they want to monitor the second home when they are not there and their primary home when they're at work or away.

Weisensee: Connected home control is very popular. Cell phones are more than just a communications convenience in an ever-more "connected" daily lifestyle. Wireless handheld devices and smartphones such as the Blackberry, iPhone, featuring "PC-esque" functionality are enabling homeowners to connect with their home as another entity in their mobile "network."

Anything else you consider to providing a secure home from top to bottom?

Ingegno: I would also recommend wireless central station via cellular radio backup for when there is a storm or when a connection is lost. Internet connectivity issues do occur so we highly recommend a backup so the home is always connected to the central station.

Murphy: We envision the next generation of central station services to include providing homeowners with community-based security and safety reports and information content they can use to increase their level of security.

Ohanessian: The main items still remain burglar alarms, CCTV and the home monitoring. These three offerings are the main aspects of what customers want in their homes.

Pickral: Consider the kinds of systems the customer may want in the future like lighting, temperature, surveillance and audio and make sure to start with a security platform that can connect with these other systems.

Stilp: While we tend to think of technology when talking about securing a home, there is still no substitute for good locks on the doors and windows, good exterior lighting to make it less inviting for burglars, and keeping the shrubbery maintained so burglars have no where to hide. Technology will detect and notify, but these common sense items will help keep burglars away and moving on to an easier house.

Weisensee: I would advise that a secure home have a dependable monitoring service in place. A monitoring company with a good infrastructure and proven solidarity with its customers that offers the life safety elements – intrusion, fire and environmental such as carbon monoxide and radon in areas where this gas is found, is essential. Medical monitoring systems are also easily incorporated into the mix.

Louis Stilp, CEO, InGrid, Berwyn, Pa.

Merek Weisensee, partner, Security Systems of New Hampshire, Northfield, N.H.

Joseph Ingegno, vice president/owner, GC Alarm Worldwide Security, Garden City, New York

John A. Murphy, President, Vector Security, Pittsburgh

Greg Ohanessian Jr., president, I-Tech Security, Old Brookville, N.Y.

Thomas Pickral Jr., director of Business Development, Home Automation Inc., New Orleans, La.