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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Home Security and Automation

I'm taking another look at home security/automation, and wondering what you would recommend.
For security, almost any decent multi-zone system with callout to a monitoring service (like SmartHome's $9/mo service) would satisfy Melisse.  I've got some tougher requirements though, as I want:
  • >20 zones with per-zone speech announcements e.g. "motion in basement", "motion at north gate"
  • Volume-adjustable speakers in multiple rooms to play the announcements
  • Ability to separately set any zone to 1) silent, 2) event announcement, 3) alarm
  • Multiple wall/bedside keypads to do the above setting comes close to handling the above, except for playing announcements in multiple rooms.  A gold-plated solution would be to include whole-property audio as part of the requirements, but it would add thousands of dollars to hardwire speakers into the required rooms (LR, 2 bedrooms, basement), especially if you add more bedrooms and intercom capability (because it would be silly to wire half the bedrooms with speakers, and none with microphones).  And once we're running new conduits, we'd want to pull ethernet and maybe coax to many of them too.
But I already have a decent whole-property audio hack: my FM pirate radio station.  I could allocate one of my $100 FM stations to broadcast the security announcements throughout the property, which would even tell us when someone's at the door while we're out playing in the back yard.
And for an intercom system, I think the best answer is to wait until something like becomes available as a home system.  Uniden's phones are almost there, except they can only do a voice announcement to all handsets from the base, and not from an arbitrary handset.
We'll also be wanting to upgrade our exterior security lighting, but I don't have a hard requirement that the security lighting has to be integrated with the security system.   Similarly, I want to change about half of our interior light switches to have a motion-sensing option, but I don't require scripting or central control of them.  It sounds like Insteon would be the best technology for such integration, but I worry that our 1963-vintage wiring would just lead to flakiness that would frustrate Melisse.
Speaking of Insteon, an alternative approach to a consumer security console would be to use a software package like Girder or ECS on a PC.  That would be cheaper, more flexible, more fun for me to tweak, and more future-proof, but it probably wouldn't be as Melisse-friendly in terms of easy-to-use keypads and keychain fobs.
As much as I hate looking at all the old sensors and four consoles from our 20-year-old dead unsalvageable inherited security system, I can't justify giving $4000 to an installer guy to replace it with one that will end up the same way in a decade or two.  I think wireless is the way to go in a house this old and with such inadequate crawl spaces.
Any advice?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I thought the whole idea of Insteon is that every node is a repeater in a mesh of both home wiring and RF, so you get good connectivity, plus it uses some kind of reliable packet protocol on top of that. I haven't tried it, but I was planning to put it in our next house.