New Mobile Apps Make Homes Smart

Home invasions are hard to prevent. You can place a security company’s plastic sign in your yard, buy a dog, and lock your windows; but when the holidays come around, basic security tricks aren’t necessarily enough to protect your empty home.

Burglars get smart; they approach breaking and entering like a heist — planning ahead, watching houses closely to determine if those lights inside are on a timer, or if someone’s actually home.

Home security goes wireless

Now, instead of scrambling to find a reliable house sitter who doesn’t have his or her own holiday plans, homeowners can choose from a variety of new apps designed to allow remote home monitoring and provide instant notification if anything’s out of the ordinary. In the past, wiring home security systems was cost-prohibitive for app developers and homeowners alike, which left the smart home in the realm of science fiction. Now, as wireless and mobile technologies develop and improve together, fantasy is becoming reality.

There’s an app for that

Long-established companies and burgeoning start-ups are rolling out apps that allow individuals to protect and monitor their homes from anywhere in the world via remotely controlling wireless surveillance devices.

Viper Connect, an app owned by Directed Electronics of Vista, California, works with iPhone and Android operating systems to secure both homes and autos. What’s great about this app is that the company also provides the necessary tools — motion sensors, cameras — that the user can install on his own.

The Viper Connect app enables homeowners to activate or deactivate their personalized system remotely, and notifies users if it detects any in-house activity. (If you have a dog, this app probably won’t do you much good.) Users can install and monitor as many as 64 unique devices. Up to eight of those can be cameras, which can be viewed live for an extra fee.

What it’ll cost you

To install the Viper Connect starter kit, an upfront investment of around $200 is required, but the app is free thereafter, unless users subscribe to the premium service package, which costs around $10/month.

So far, the market is hovering at an approximately $350 annual investment for the first year, with a limited $120 investment thereafter, but each provider offers a different style of package. One slightly less expensive but similar system, iSmart Alarm, costs just under $200, but doesn’t require any kind of monthly fee. Another, Oplink, costs only about $150, but has packages starting at $10/month and more for expanded services.

For users who prefer a company with name recognition, AT&T has also developed the Digital Life app, which works on all operating systems. This app is more expensive, but also more comprehensive: $150 start-up and $30 plus per month gets users home monitoring, installation, equipment, the ability to remotely lock and unlock doors, and a courtesy police call if your home is violated.

Thrifty options include apps like Presence, which cleverly employs old or extra iOS devices as security cameras, and saves users the hefty installation fee. So whether you’re in the market for a new home or hoping to secure your old one, you can choose the smart home investment that matches your needs, and never have to worry about whether the college student you hired to house sit is using your living room as a dance floor ever again.


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