Home security isn’t just home security anymore. These days cameras, door and window alarms are just pieces of the web–enabled “smart home.” And, the home is getting smarter, as service providers begin to merge home security systems with home automation. The added value of these additional features is now drawing more potential customers to the security systems market. Consider Icontrol’s recent introduction of its new water sensor – the first of a line of Z-Wave-driven accessories for its Piper Wi-Fi-enabled all-in-one home awareness and automation device.

Home automation accessories

Consider Icontrol’s recent introduction of its new water sensor – the first in a line of Z-Wave-driven accessories for its Piper Wi-Fi-enabled all-in-one home awareness and automation device. The water sensor can detect the presence of as little as 0.03 of an inch of water (less than 1 millimeter), and be set to trigger security rules and send alerts to the homeowner’s mobile device. Piper already provides panoramic video and security features for the traditional security tasks of protecting against home break-ins.

Piper is a single, self-contained unit that includes a 180-degree camera that can zoom or pan around the room controlled by a smartphone. Its sensors can detect motion, sound, temperature and humidity. It also has a speaker and microphone, and siren. Users can set up rules for what the device should do when it detects sound or motion, or certain changes in temperature – and now moisture.

Rise of ‘smart home’ systems

As with other products, these devices are going far beyond what was once considered “home security” and in the process offering new opportunities for the security industry.

“It’s become ‘I’ve got this alarm system, and it’s doing much more for me,’” says Raoul Wijgergang, vice president of the Z-Wave Business Unit at Sigma Designs and a member of the Z-Wave Alliance, a global consortium of over 325 member companies supporting the Z-Wave wireless IoT (Internet of Things) standard. “That has greatly reduced the churn for these service providers and it also has allowed them to create additional revenue from the 20 percent of the base of the U.S. households that have [security systems], but also has the potential to expand beyond people that normally would not have bought alarm systems.”

The move to providing smart home systems has changed the paradigm for all service providers. The fact is, consumers viewed arming and disarming a security system as an essentially bothersome task. “Security systems don’t really spread that much other than in neighborhoods where there are burglaries taking place,” Wijgergang explains. The added value of being able to manage and control thermostats, lights and door locks from a smartphone app changed their perspective from doing something that was good for them (home security) to something that was even fun.

Move away from traditional home security services

They are now selling a smart home system with a security feature whereas in the early days they were selling security system with a smart home feature

“Yes, security is still a big factor, but it’s not the one and only factor anymore,” says Wijgergang. “They are now selling a smart home system with a security feature whereas in the early days they were selling security system with a smart home feature.”

More than 90 percent of security panels include Z-Wave while nearly all smart home hubs being sold in the retail sector include it, according to Wijgergang.

Piper’s devices are part of a growing number of products using the Z-Wave short-range wireless protocol. This technology has proven ideal for these kinds of home-area networks. Z-Wave was developed by Zensys (later acquired by Sigma Designs) as a proprietary wireless standard. It’s estimated that more than 500 consumer home control products are available from retailers including Amazon.com and Home Depot. Home improvement chain Lowes recently launched its own Z-Wave enabled smart home system – Iris.

With the introduction of this and other planned accessories, users can easily update their homes to become a truly connected home through Piper. It’s one of a number of DIY home security systems that has moved away from traditional subscription-based services. Instead of a call center monitoring the system, the device alerts homeowners via their smartphones – and they can decide whether to call the police.

Share with LinkedIn Share with Twitter Share with Facebook Share with Facebook
Download PDF version

Author profile

Randy Southerland Special Assignment Contributor, SecurityInformed.com

In case you missed it

What’s the next big thing in video image quality?
What’s the next big thing in video image quality?

Superior image quality has been the “holy grail” of the video surveillance business for several years. A transition to 4K images and a race to ever-higher pixel counts have dominated product development conversations for a while now. However, it’s now possible that the tide has turned. These days, data is sometimes more important than image quality, and increasing use of smaller-format mobile devices has helped to make image quality variations moot. As the industry changes, we asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: What’s the next big thing in video image quality (beyond 4K and megapixel)?

How do agricultural security systems measure up against livestock theft?
How do agricultural security systems measure up against livestock theft?

“Some embark on farmyard heists whilst others are devoted to back-bedroom chicken sanctuaries,” a quote taken from Channel 4’s new documentary ‘How to Steal Pigs and Influence People’. Whilst many think this is part of the positive vegan uprising, The National Pig Association have expressed grave concern of the glamorisation and condoning of livestock theft from farms. Wesley Omar, who was featured in the documentary, was found guilty of theft after he broke into a farm and stole a pig stating "he was saving it from slaughter." Due to this ‘humane reasoning,’ he received a 12 month community order and completed 100 hours of unpaid work. However, the farmer in question incurred huge losses as he could not reclaim the pig due to potential contamination and had a cost of £6,000 to upgrade his security. The cost of rural crime Opportunistic thieves have now turned into organised criminals According to NFU Mutual, the cost of rural crime has risen by 12% since 2017, and the Home Office statistics stated that 26% of rural businesses experienced at least one crime incident in 2018. However, the face of rural crime is changing, with M.O.’s shifting. What once were opportunistic thieves have now turned into organised criminals stealing heavy machinery and livestock. One example saw around 200 sheep stolen in the last three months within the Wiltshire area alone. Due to the volume of these incidents, police speculated only skilled sheep rustlers could conduct this crime so efficiently and undisturbed. The result of this crime has cost the agricultural industry £3m in 2019 alone. However, theft isn’t the only emerging rural crime trend hitting these farmers. Fly tipping on private land has risen considerably over the past few years with figures constantly rising. Once again, like the face of rural theft, criminals are evolving. The Environment Agency has stated that organised gangs are making high profits through ‘waste removal’, undercutting legitimate waste management sites through fly tipping. This crime is affecting 67% of farms and landowners as criminals try to evade landfill taxes. But what happens when you’re the victim of this crime? According to Countryside Alliance, it is the only rural offence where landowners are legally responsible for the disposal of said waste, costing them around £47m each year. So, how can farmers and agricultural landowners protect their premises and assets from both animal rights activists and organised criminals? A scheme has been introduced within specific areas in order to curb the increasing rates of rural crime across England and Wales. Dedicated police teams have been created to provide protection and support to rural areas, with specialist knowledge in dealing with cases. Agricultural physical security How does the farming industry's physical security measure up against these criminals? With this in mind, how does the farming industry's physical security measure up against these criminals? How can they prevent these targeted attacks on their livelihoods? One area that should be considered is a line of defence that deters, detects and delays these intruders - rather than allowing them onto the land - whilst waiting for police to respond. Security measures nowadays are able to delay intrusions, being the difference between criminals getting away and getting caught. A physical fencing system with anti-cut and anti-climb features would offer the first line of defence to farmers and landowners by restricting access onto their fields. Alongside effective high security fencing systems, used to prevent livestock trailers entering farmers fields, entry points need to be reviewed and addressed on whether they are effectively deterring criminals. Many successful livestock thefts are due to organised criminals and their vehicles being able to access fields undetected. Improving the security of field perimeters and entry points is the first step in protecting a farmer's livelihood against criminals. In turn, having a single entry point in and out of fields and premises is also an effective deterrent. Properties with various exit plans are more likely to be targeted as criminals have a higher percentage of escaping. Access point security Security measures such as CCTV cameras or motion sensor lighting have quick installation times In order to increase security at field access points, blocking off the gateways to these fields would act as an extra deterrent to those looking to steal livestock and fly-tip. With perimeter and access point security comes additional physical security measures that could help prevent the theft of livestock. Security measures such as CCTV cameras or motion sensor lighting have quick installation times that help detect an intruder rather than deter and delay like perimeter security. With rural crime on the rise, livestock theft and other criminal activity is becoming a common occurrence for farmers and agricultural landowners. Rural crime is not only having detrimental effects on the individuals but also communities across the UK. Many other industries such as the commercial industry and sports sectors utilise effective physical security within their premises in order to protect their assets. And so we are asking; why is the agricultural industry any different?

Face recognition: Privacy concerns and social benefits
Face recognition: Privacy concerns and social benefits

News reports and opinion columns about face recognition are appearing everyday. To some of us, the term sounds overly intrusive. It even makes people shrink back into their seats or shake their head in disgust, picturing a present-day dystopia. Yet to others, face recognition presents technology-enabled realistic opportunities to fight, and win, the battle against crime. What are the facts about face recognition? Which side is right? Well, there is no definitive answer because, as with all powerful tools, it all depends on who uses it. Face recognition can, in fact, be used in an immoral or controversial manner. But, it can also be immensely beneficial in providing a safe and secure atmosphere for those in its presence.  Concerns of facial recognition With the increased facial recognition applications, people’s concerns over the technology continuously appear throughout news channels and social media. Some of the concerns include: Privacy: Alex Perry of Mashable sums up his and most other peoples’ privacy concerns with face recognition technology when he wrote, “The first and most obvious reason why people are unhappy about facial recognition is that it's unpleasant by nature. Increasing government surveillance has been a hot-button issue for many, many years, and tech like Amazon's Rekognition software is only making the dystopian future feel even more real”. Accuracy: People are worried about the possibilities of inaccurate face detection, which could result in wrongful identification or criminalisation. Awareness: Face recognition software allows the user to upload a picture of anyone, regardless of whether that person knows of it. An article posted on The Conversation states, “There is a lack of detailed and specific information as to how facial recognition is actually used. This means that we are not given the opportunity to consent to the recording, analysing and storing of our images in databases. By denying us the opportunity to consent, we are denied choice and control over the use of our own images” Debunking concerns  The concerns with privacy, accuracy, and awareness are all legitimate and valid concerns. However, let us look at the facts and examine the reasons why face recognition, like any other technology, can be responsibly used: Privacy concerns: Unlike the fictional dystopian future where every action, even in one’s own home, is monitored by a centralised authority, the reality is that face recognition technology only helps the security guard monitoring public locations where security cameras are installed. There is fundamentally no difference between a human security guard at the door and an AI-based software in terms of recognising people on watchlist and not recognising those who are not. The only difference is that the AI-based face recognition software can do so at a higher speed and without fatigue. Face recognition software only recognises faces that the user has put in the system, which is not every person on the planet, nor could it ever be. Accuracy concerns: It is true that first-generation face recognition systems have a large margin for error according to studies in 2014. However, as of 2020, the best face recognition systems are now around 99.8% accurate. New AI models are continuously being trained with larger, more relevant, more diverse and less biased datasets. The error margin found in face recognition software today is comparable to that of a person, and it will continue to decrease as we better understand the limitations, train increasingly better AI and deploy AI in more suitable settings. Awareness concerns: While not entirely comforting, the fact is that we are often being watched one way or another on a security camera. Informa showed that in 2014, 245 million cameras were active worldwide, this number jumped to 656 million in 2018 and is projected to nearly double in 2021. Security camera systems, like security guards, are local business and government’s precaution measures to minimise incidents such as shoplifting, car thefts, vandalism and violence. In other words, visitors to locations with security systems have tacitly agreed to the monitoring in exchange for using the service provided by those locations in safety, and visitors are indeed aware of the existence of security cameras. Face recognition software is only another layer of security, and anyone who is not a security threat is unlikely to be registered in the system without explicit consent. The benefits In August 2019, the NYPD used face recognition software to catch a rapist within 24 hours after the incident occurred. In April 2019, the Sichuan Provincial Public Security Department in China, found a 13-year-old girl using face recognition technology. The girl had gone missing in 2009, persuading many people that she would never be found again. Face recognition presents technology-enabled realistic opportunities to fight, and win, the battle against crimeIn the UK, the face recognition system helps Welsh police forces with the detection and prevention of crime. "For police it can help facilitate the identification process and it can reduce it to minutes and seconds," says Alexeis Garcia-Perez, a researcher on cybersecurity management at Coventry University. "They can identify someone in a short amount of time and in doing that they can minimise false arrests and other issues that the public will not see in a very positive way". In fact, nearly 60% Americans polled in 2019 accept the use of face recognition by law enforcement to enhance public safety. Forbes magazine states that “When people know they are being watched, they are less likely to commit crimes so the possibility of facial recognition technology being used could deter crime”. Saving time  One thing that all AI functions have been proven to achieve better results than manual security is speed. NBC News writes, “Nearly instantaneously, the program gives a list of potential matches loaded with information that can help him confirm the identity of the people he’s stopped - and whether they have any outstanding warrants. Previously, he’d have to let the person go or bring them in to be fingerprinted”. Facial recognition can also be immensely beneficial in providing a safe and secure atmosphere for those in its presence With AI, instead of spending hours or days to sift through terabytes of video data, the security staff can locate a suspect within seconds. This time-saving benefit is essential to the overall security of any institution, for in most security threat situations, time is of the utmost importance. Another way in which the technology saves time is its ability to enable employees (but not visitors) to open doors to their office in real time with no badge, alleviating the bottleneck of forgotten badge, keycode or password. Saving money A truly high-performance AI software helps save money in many ways. First, if the face recognition software works with your pre-existing camera system, there is no need to replace cameras, hence saving cost on infrastructure. Second, AI alleviates much of the required manual security monitoring 24/7, as the technology will detect people of interest and automatically and timely alert the authorities. Third, by enhancing access authentication, employees save time and can maximise productivity in more important processes. The takeaway AI-enabled face recognition technology has a lot of benefits if used correctly. Can it be abused? Yes, like all tools that mankind has made from antiquity. Should it be deployed? The evidence indicates that the many benefits of this complex feature outweigh the small chance for abuse of power. It is not only a step in the right direction for the security industry but also for the overall impact on daily lives. It helps to make the world a safer place.