Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Corliss Expert Group Home Security: How to Secure Your Home without Spending Too Much

Imagine if there were no burglar or criminals who threaten the safety of our homes; we will be surprised how much savings we would have on several things we do to secure ourselves and our loved ones. We would not need fences, gates with locks, doors locks, window grills, CCTV cams, perimeter lighting, shotguns and baseball bats. The cost of maintaining these things can run up to the entire cost of building another room or, in some cases, a whole new house.

The rationale for home security is the same for national security. A nation maintains an army whether it has enemies or not; so, whether burglars will come or not, we have to prepare for the eventuality. Hence, we end up spending for something we might never put into the actual use it was intended for. You buy a pistol and when a burglar breaks in you fire the gun either to scare or disable the intruder. We hope we will never have to use these things; but we still buy them for the peace of mind that comes from knowing we can secure or protect our family and home.

Home security need not be an expensive undertaking. Here are 5 tips on how you can set for yourself a home security strategy without having to spend so much:

1.     Security is primarily a state of mental preparedness.

A lot of people do not buy guns or CCTV cameras and are able to sleep soundly because they do not depend totally on themselves and their abilities or on technology. A person who has a positive outlook or a prayerful attitude may appear fatalistic, especially in areas where lack of home security is suicide. Yet, in reality, even during the time of war, a lot of our brave soldiers felt secure because they had prepared their minds to accept the dangers as well as the consequences of facing them. People who commonly see pickpockets in buses or holdups in dark alleys have set their minds to either run or give up their wallet in case they run into a similar situation.

Preparing yourself for what could happen, like blowing a whistle or ringing a loud bell during an intrusion, may be all that is necessary to prevent burglary.

2.     Engage others

But what if you leave the house and nobody is looking out for you? There are neighbors you can call upon to house-sit or watch over your home from a distance. It is essential to keep good relations with your neighbours or to have a strong and effective neighbourhood association in your area. The police may not be as dependable as a nearby group of families you can count on for help and you can help as well. Some areas actually have roving residential members who take turns scoping the neighbourhood round-the-clock. It is an old-school approach but a cheap and effective way of keeping bad elements away.

3.     Design you home for maximum security protection

Before even buying all those expensive gadgets, consider the lines of defenses you can put up to, first, discourage and then, second, prevent illegal entry into your home. A high solid fence is not advisable as you cannot see who is behind it. A see-through or low fence is much better. Having high fences and CCTV cams are not always the better alternative as they lessen your real-time response to any emergency. Having to look at a monitor inside a room or even in your iPad will mean seconds lost when the burglar may already be inside your home. Having a low fence and a lawn between it and the house will allow you to see any movements easily.

Of course, it is a great help to have several cameras showing your whole perimeter area. But having big wide glass windows with iron-grills will also give you that advantage of a clear view from your living room and provide you enough space or leeway to protect yourself as you see fit. You can either run upstairs into a built-in secure panic- room inside your bedroom or out through a small escape back-gate where you can at least call for help. The latter, of course, is the cheaper alternative; but a panic room need not be expensive. It could be small space you can build behind a cabinet or closet where you can hide and call for help via phone.

4.     Prepare for the worst scenario

Knowing what could happen can provide peace of mind as well. But, we have to admit that people are worriers, in general. And so, many spend so much on home security and still do not sleep soundly. What is the use of having all the protection when you cannot have peace of mind?

Remember, any security protection can be breached. Any CCTV camera can be disconnected or even disabled just by covering it. We know that from Mission Impossible. Any iron grill or steel door can be broken into because all it takes is a key to unlock the padlock or a saw. Any high fence can be scaled by a determined burglar. So, what is the alternative? Let them come and prepare to protect yourself. How? What is your last line of defense?

The answer is obvious to many – they buy guns or tazers. Others learn self-defense. It is each person’s call. But having a connection to public emergency support (911, police or neighborhood group) can provide enough deterrent and protection for most instances. In case the burglary or the crime has been done, you can still catch the perpetrator or recover whatever you lost if people come around to help you in time.

5.     Be creative

Break-ins are often done by creative professional criminals. The amateurs may also pose a threat; but they often target small stuff, like stealing a phone or an appliance they can carry. The rest may have vehicles to cart away bigger stuff and even people.

Prepping your home to counteract these pernicious social elements can be a great challenge that need not be expensive. A friend once used empty sardine cans put on top of one another to rattle anyone who might topple them in the dark. Or having a bright light that can be triggered by a nylon string pulled across the lawn or before a backdoor will give enough security defense.

In the end, home security is not a person or a family’s exclusive concern. It is a concern of society and the government as a whole. Perhaps, the best home security people can provide for themselves is to teach their children good morals and values so that more people will be law-abiding; which means fewer people will be a threat to security. In the long run, good education protects more than all the security measures we can ever think of.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Corliss Expert Group in Home Security - Systems Reviews 2014

Home Security Systems Reviews 2014

The security industry is highly competitive, from local mom and pop companies to international giants. It is a relatively easy industry to enter, but a very hard one to offer a consistently great product and service over time, especially with new technologies being released every day. It has become difficult to keep up with all the changes and wrap your head around the latest and greatest house alarm offerings. With so many to choose from and so many things to consider, how do you know which home alarm system is right for you? Our home security systems reviews cover the top contenders and bring you our findings in our regularly updated reviews.

Best Security System Awards
The winners of our coveted best alarm system awards are listed below. For an alphabetical listing by Security Company, please see the list in the next section.
·         1st Place Gold, Winner
·         2nd Place Silver, Runner-Up
·         3rd Place Bronze

Reviews of the Top 9 Home Security Systems for 2014
We evaluate the largest names in the security industry based on our research, and give you a concise summary of their offerings and pros and cons for each.
Click on a company name in the list below to jump straight down to its security system review (they are listed by ranking):
1.      FrontPoint
2.      Protect America
3.      LifeShield
4.      SafeMart
5.      SimpliSafe
6.      Guardian Protection
7.      Vivint
8.      ADT
9.      AlarmForce

Companies Not Rated:
·         First Alert
·         Link Home Security
·         Monitronics
·         Protection 1
·         Pinnacle Security (out of business as of 2013)

Don’t see the company you’re looking for? Comment below with the security company you’d like reviewed and we’ll get right on it!
To help you to choose the right home alarm system for your needs, we have put together a home security systems comparison table that highlights the main features of each system along with the pros and cons of each. There is also a rankings table so you can see the score that we assigned to each company. We have also made a quick video to help you understand the rigorous process we use to pick our winner.
We have a listing of terminologies that will help you evaluate the best home alarm system for your needs that appears below the comparison table, as well as at the bottom of this page.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Corliss Expert Group in Home Security: Boost productivity with tech upgrades

Do you have people on your team who are so amazing, you wish you had an extra hour of their time every day? With technology you can have exactly that.

The following upgrades can save anywhere from a few minutes to over an hour EVERY SINGLE DAY. Even the smallest improvements, just a few seconds here and there, really add up when they are repeated over and over throughout the work week.

Some of these upgrades require you to spend money, but think about the benefits you’ll see when your top people – including yourself – find all that extra time.

New computer

If your computer takes more than a few seconds to boot up every morning, it’s time for a new one, or at least a tune-up. For best performance, replace desktop PCs every 3 to 4 years and laptops every 2 to 3 years. If a newer computer is slow, ask your IT team to check it for spyware. They may recommend wiping the entire hard drive and reloading everything, which will give you a fresh clean start. Just be sure they backup data and settings so nothing is lost during this process. With faster speeds, you’ll gain time when you log in every morning and also throughout the day.

Manage email

It’s common to receive dozens, if not hundreds, of emails daily. Saving a few seconds every time you check email is a big deal. To accomplish this, first make sure your spam filter is working well and customized to your needs. You should have very little spam, and your legitimate emails should nearly always make it through. If not, have your tech team fix it. Use Outlook rules to automatically filter email and move it to folders, so that you can easily find what you need. Make sure mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, sync email so that anything you read on your phone is already updated on your computer. Lastly, take an hour and go “unsubscribe.” Most people receive email newsletters they never read. Click the unsubscribe links or block them with your spam filter, and then you never have to see these again!

Add a monitor

Adding a monitor is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to get more done in less time. Studies show varying results depending on the type of work you do, but one thing is crystal clear: dual monitors are a huge productivity booster. This can gain you a full day a week, if not more, and there’s almost no training time required. Keep email open in one screen, and whatever you are working on in another; compare spreadsheets or documents side by side; copy information from one software package to another; keep your main system front and center while browsing the Internet for research on the other monitor. It sounds simple, but that’s the beauty of it. It IS simple, and it really makes a difference.

Remote access

Make it easy for people to work anytime, anywhere, and give them the flexibility they need to do just that. Switch from a desktop to a laptop, buy them an iPad or Droid tablet, or give your staff a data plan that lets them connect to the Internet anywhere they might be. It’s not just the workaholics who will love you. Your hardworking staff who struggle to balance work and life will be especially appreciative. When they have the right technology to work remotely, along with flexible work schedules and your trust, you are likely to see them put in not only more hours, but also more productive hours because they have their home life better under control.

Upgrade Internet

Do you use cloud-based services? Spend a lot of time online? Check out faster Internet connections for increased speed throughout your day. High speed business-class cable Internet is one of the best values today. Fiber Internet connections cost more but provide fast speeds with extremely high reliability and very few outages.

Easier access

Information overload is a huge issue and time-waster. Employees spend hours every day searching for what they need, reformatting what they have, transferring information from one system to another and re-creating information they can’t find. At minimum, clean up and reorganize your company’s shared data drives. Communicate the new structure to your team, and challenge your managers to enforce the new structure. If you want to take it further, investigate document management systems. These provide greater structure and security to company information and include advanced search capabilities to make finding data as easy as possible.

Instant messaging

Instant messaging is a quick and easy way to communicate with others inside the company. It’s more immediate and interactive than email, but less disruptive than a phone call. It’s a very efficient way to communicate and yet another way to save a few minutes here and there throughout the day.

Reorganize desktop

Take a page from Lean manufacturing, and have everyone on your team reorganize their workspace to make it more efficient: make everything you do on a regular basis accessible within one to two mouse clicks.

Start with the applications you use daily. Add shortcuts to your desktop or taskbar for each of these, and clean up any that you don’t currently use. Also add shortcuts to the folders you access most. Create bookmarks for the websites you visit most often, and rearrange your browser toolbars so that you can get to those websites with a single click. Is there a feature in Office that you use constantly but it’s hidden in the ribbon so you have to hunt for it every time? You can add that command to the very top of the window in the “Quick Access Toolbar.” Google for instructions on how to do this in your version of Office.

Ready for more?

There are always more ways technology can make your team more productive, and it’s never “one size fits all.” The key is to be clear about what you expect and what the value will be. Then you can choose the very best technology tools for your business.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Corliss Expert Group In Home Security | Piper Review: This Security Camera And Z-Wave Hub Has Room To Grow

The best smart-home systems are modular, letting you add sensors and devices to meet your home’s exact needs, and they should be easy to install too. Piper, a home security camera with additional sensors and Z-Wave support, meets those two requirements. But I didn’t find it reliable enough to justify its $199 price tag.

When it works, it’s great—the camera’s wide angle can see an entire room at once, and Piper’s app is well designed and easy to use. In fact, the app was what let me know the camera was losing its network connection pretty much every day, usually just for a few minutes, but sometimes for hours.

Great for renters

Piper is super easy to set up. You can mount it to a wall, but it’s even easier to just attach the sturdy metal stand and place the Piper unit on a shelf or a mantle. It does need to be plugged in to power, but three AA batteries provide backup if your power goes out, and let you move the camera to a new spot without taking it offline. On the flip side, on a few occasions when I wanted to power-cycle my Piper, I had to unplug it and pull out one of the batteries to get it to turn off, but most users won’t have occasion to power-cycle their Piper as often as I did during testing.

Piper’s easy installation makes it great for renters, along with the fact that the camera unit also has built-in sensors for temperature, motion, and ambinet light, and a microphone to detect sound. So you can get more detail about your home without having to buy and install extra sensors.

But Piper is also a Z-Wave hub, so if you do want extra sensors, you can add those—I tested it with a basic door/window sensor as well as a plug-in module to turn a lamp on and off. Piper’s site claims it’s compatible with “hundreds of Z-Wave automation accessories: wall switches, door/window sensors, freeze sensors, and the line will expand to include even more.” But the online store only offers four Z-Wave products, and the site lacks a comprehensive list of what’s supported right now.

You make the rules

Once you get Piper plugged in, the companion app for iOS and Android helps you add it to your Wi-Fi network, and then you’ll use the same app to set up rules for its behavior in the Rules tab. You can have separate rules for when you’re home, away, or on vacation, as well as Notify Only rules that happen all the time, regardless of where you are. But like the name says, you’re only notified—these rules can’t trigger video recordings, or Piper’s ear-meltingly loud built-in siren. It should also be noted that you set your own status (home, away, vacation, or off) in the app; it doesn’t automatically change based on your phone’s location or anything like that.

As easy as it is to set up rules in the Rules tab, I was disappointed by some of the results. A few times I popped open the app and saw an alert like a loud noise or motion detected—but I hadn’t gotten the push notification I’d requested.

Disposable video

The app’s Live Video tab lets you peek in on what your Piper’s ultra-wide-angle camera is seeing—and it can see a lot. With practically a 180-degree angle, the camera even showed me objects on the same mantleplace as my Piper. The camera lens is fixed, but within the app you can pan and zoom around inside that fixed field of view. There’s even a four-up view that lets you set four different views from the same camera. Pressing the microphone button lets you send your voice to the Piper’s speaker, for two-way communication, in case you want to yell at your kids to stop hitting each other or tell the dog to get off the couch.

The Rules tab offers to record video when the Piper detects motion or hears a loud sound, but you can’t save those videos, nor can you capture the video in the Live Video tab. Dropcam, in contrast, can be set to record video all the time, but it’s saved to the cloud, so you pay cloud-storage fees. Piper has no monthly fees at all, but that also means your video is more or less disposable.
Piper’s video quality isn’t as good as Dropcam’s either, and it has no night vision. So don’t try to use it as a baby monitor, or expect to be able to share a clip with friends if Piper catches your dog doing something funny.

Vitals tab doesn’t live up to its name

The Vitals tab is just a graph showing the data from the Piper’s built-in sensors: It shows the temperature outside your house (which it gets from weather data at your location), the temperature inside your house, the humidity, the amount of ambient light, the noise level, and the amount of motion that was detected. You can see about two days’ worth of data in the graphs, but you can’t isolate one section, or scroll the graph at all. I guess it could be useful in some cases—if you want to schedule your robot vacuum for times when no one’s home, maybe?—but I didn’t get much utility from it.

Vitals could give you ideas for new rules, though. For example, if you happen to notice in Vitals that your house gets really warm in the mid-afternoon, you could plug a fan into a Z-Wave module, add that module to Piper using the Controls tab, and then set a rule that when the home’s temperature rises over 80, the fan should turn on, and your pets will be just a little bit cooler. If you’d rather schedule that fan, you can do that in the Controls tab too.

Speaking of pets, Piper’s settings has a “pet at home” switch that is meant to adjust the sensitivity of the motion sensor so you don’t get a notification every time your pet moves. I have no pets, so I wasn’t able to test that.

Bottom line

My main issues with Piper were how the notifications didn’t always show up as push notifications, even though they appeared in the app, and the fact that it dropped its network connection at least once a day. That might be my entire network going down (I have Comcast, after all), since the Piper and my router are close enough to each other that range shouldn’t be a problem.

The app could be more helpful with troubleshooting, too. I had to resort to the support site for more details about setting up the Z-Wave plug-in modules and door sensor, for example, since the bare-bones instructions in the app didn’t fully explain what to do. I’d also like an easier way to dismiss alarms inside the Piper app. I’d get a vague message that “an alarm is active, tap here for dashboard,” and I would, and I’d see that everything was fine, but I couldn’t figure out how to tell Piper that, other than turning the rule in question off entirely, or switching to Home and then back to Away.

Still, the easy installation, flexible rules, and Z-Wave compatibility make Piper an intriguing option for people just starting to dabble with connected home products. Parent company iControl offers a 30-day return window (just for Piper, not for the Z-Wave accessories), so you can take it for a spin at your own house with minimal risk.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Corliss Expert Group in Home Security: Tom's Fantastic Floating Home review

Tom Lawton is an inventor, and a father. He has already fathered two children – Barney and Rufus. And he has already invented a few inventions, like a recordable alarm clock, a 360-degree lens for a smartphone camera, and honking handlebars ("handlebars that honk", he explains) for a child's scooter.

Now he's inventing a boat. Well, boats have been invented obviously. He gets that. But then he's making some modifications, turning it into a houseboat/floating experimental test bed … I'm not sure what the hell it is, to be honest. Tom's head, turned inside out, floating on the water, something like that? They're calling it Tom's Fantastic Floating Home (Sunday, Channel 4).

Barney, six, is helping, as he does with a lot of Tom's projects. "Barney's got such a different perspective on things," says his father, proudly. "It's such a wonderful perspective to welcome into your world." Perspective is one of Tom's favourite things, I'd say, judging by how often he mentions it. "Sometimes it's just nice to change your situation so that you can see you life in a different perspective."

First thing is to sort out some security. What, put a padlock on the door, something like that? Pah! That's not the way Tom and Barney do things. "I love the idea of being able to capture an all-seeing, kind of like out-of-body perspective of where you live," says Tom, somewhat predictably. So security is going to be a helium balloon, with a 360-degree spy camera that looks down from above. CCTV, where CC stands for Cloud Cuckoo."The perspective would be amazing," says Tom.

"It flies in the face of your usual home-security device, but just how to get this idea off the ground," says the narrator, about Tom's pie-in-the-sky eye-in-the-sky idea. He's puntastic to and beyond the point of irritation, this narrator. Landlubber Tom was "well out of his depth" when it came to boats, needed "someone with practical nous to float his ideas past". Shut up! That person, with nous, is Tom's engineer pal Hadrian, who generally finds Tom's ideas a bit off-the-wall. Ha! You missed one there, Mr Narrator. Hadrian is called Hadrian Spooner by the way. Or is it Spadrian Hooner … Agh!

Anyway, Tom and young Barney build a prototype security system – one of Barney's teddy bears attached to a couple of helium balloons. And they immediately lose teddy, to the sky. Tethering seems to have been overlooked. Undeterred, they send a camera and a photo of themselves to the edge of space with the help of a man who has a meteorological balloon. I'm not sure what it has to do with security, but they have a lovely time doing it and chasing the balloon – and it almost certainly provides new perspectives. Oh, and then the final completed version, Balloon Cam 3.0, becomes untethered from the boat, and floats away too. Suddenly my padlock's beginning to look quite smart, if a little boring. I'm wondering if Tom's inability to tie things down is in any way symptomatic of wider aspects of his character. Mrs Lawton looks like she knows. It must be hard having a baby and (essentially) two six-year-olds, one of whom is actually six and the other she is married to.

To hell with security. Shelter is important too. They build a retractable roof structure for their boat, inspired by an armadillo, and by an amazing sliding house in Suffolk, and by a drawing Barney did of a house with chairs on the roof. Inside-outside, that's what they're thinking – living inside-outside the house, or the boat, thinking inside-outside the box, turning Tom's head inside-outside and floating away in it. And they end up with this big gold tent, maybe a little bit like armadillo, or an ammonite, but also like something Jennifer Lopez might wear on a cold day. I'd like to see what happens when the breeze gets up; I'm thinking it could end up with the security system, and the teddy bear, in the sky.

They build a beer cannon out of a toilet-brush holder, because who wants a beer that doesn't explode when you open it? And a self-contained hydroponic garden, complete with goldfish, that could be quite clever if it works.

I think I'm now less clear about what Tom and Barney are actually doing than I was at the beginning. I suspect they may be too. It doesn't really matter; they're having a nice time doing it, whatever it is. And, despite the annoying voiceover, I'm having a nice time watching too.