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Smart Security Systems: A Shift In Surveillance

“Smart security system” may sound like an oxymoron to many. If you’re thinking that nearly all current home and office security systems are already “smart”, you’re right—to a degree. The intelligence of security systems comes from the fact that they’re usually connected to a network of some sort.

The first electronic security systems were connected through phone lines, but because these as land lines became less common, (not to mention they could be cut or tampered with), security companies started connecting main alarm panels through other means, such as cellular or Wi-Fi (with a cellular backup, just in case the first method was compromised). Also, if you have a door, window, or glass sensor installed as part of your security system, all of those things connect wirelessly to your alarm panel, typically with a proprietary radio protocol. If you are paying for a monitoring service, this system connects your building with a security monitoring company and first responders in case of emergency. So, in a traditional sense, smart security systems already exist.

But because technology is evolving, and criminals are becoming more sophisticated, security companies are looking for new and innovative ways to stay ahead of the game. In this article, we’ll examine some of the issues with current and legacy monitoring systems, the capabilities new systems are bringing to the table, and how current disruptive technologies could lead to greater security advancement than ever before.

The Problem With Legacy Security Systems

Many of the security systems currently used in homes, buildings, and vehicles are based on old radio technology. For instance, the key fob technology in your car key is similar to what it was 20 years ago, and many home alarm panels still use a 2G cell modem (far behind our current 4G or 5G capabilities).

Even though they were installed years ago, these systems typically still work. Since they are still functional, some consumers aren’t interested in upgrading, particularly if there aren’t any easy-to-identify new security features available. However, just because the technology is still functional doesn’t mean it’s reliable.

Take wireless car lock spoofing, for example. Some tech-savvy criminals have figured out how automatic car locks work, and they can break into your car by spoofing your key fob. In most cases when an alarm goes off, no central monitoring company is notified. Car alarm companies need to continue to innovate so that vehicle theft and break-ins are more difficult. This is clear evidence that security technology needs to become more sophisticated to stay ahead of—or in some case keep up with—these new methods of break-in and thievery.

In most cases, consumer today expect more than an audible alarm. If you can track your phone when it’s stolen, shouldn’t you be able to get real-time information about high value assets like ]your car or home? In order to achieve this, however, security companies will have to collect your data remotely, and in some cases, send it to both you and law enforcement. Right now the only (traditional) ways to do this are through cellular, Wi-Fi, or phone lines, but all three of these systems have their downfalls. Cellular is very expensive, Wi-Fi isn’t always reliable, and many homes and offices don’t even have hardwired phone lines. These three technologies are also more recognizable, and therefore, more criminals have found a way to hack them.

Smart Security System Technologies

With the evolution of new technologies, security companies are now looking to expand their market share. In addition to simple detection devices for open windows, broken glass, or motion, companies may be able to monitor physical items in their buildings, and track those items via GPS or other means if they are stolen. What security companies must now figure out, as we previously mentioned, is how to communicate that information back to a central place. If a stolen item is in a vehicle, for example, could it pick up a cellular modem built into the car? Could it piggyback off of some kind of city Wi-Fi network? The same question could be asked for home security systems—no matter what type of connection you use, you need a way to gather and send any pertinent data to emergency responders.

Live-streamed, smartphone-integrated video security systems have gained more attention in past years. Take Nest Cam (formerly Dropcam), for example. It sends video feeds from around your home straight to your smartphone, so you can easily monitor pets, children, or simply watch for suspicious or unusual activity. This technology is just the starting point for smart security systems, as many more applications can (and will) be added.

New Network Options

Technologies like Symphony Link, SIGFOX, and other low power, wide-area networks (LPWAN) are beginning to disrupt this market. These star-topology networks are perfect for applications with a high density of alarm panels, like a large office building.They’re also ideal for companies sending smaller, regular data packets to the internet. Low power systems are a no-brainer, because as we previously mentioned, they’re cheaper than cellular, more reliable than Wi-Fi, and easier and cheaper to install than hardwired phone lines.

A Shift In Surveillance

By nature, security systems have always been fairly “smart.” But now, companies are realizing that they can do more with security systems without reinventing the wheel. The principle of security remains the same: let the right people in, and keep the criminals out. But security companies are now looking for more applications to add to their current technologies and protocols, so they can find a bigger role in the IoT ecosystems. Eventually, these smart security systems may have the capability to become a hub for other smart features in the house, which will play a role in revolutionizing not just the ease of living, but safety, as well.
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Written by Brian Ray

Brian is the Founder and CTO of Link Labs. As the chief technical innovator and leader of the company, Brian has led the creation and deployment of a new type of ultra long-range, low-power wireless networking which is transforming the Internet of Things and M2M space.

Before starting Link Labs, Brian led a team at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab that solved communications and geolocation problems for the national intelligence community. He was also the VP of Engineering at the network security company, Lookingglass, and served for eight years as a submarine officer in the U.S. Navy. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and received his Master’s Degree from Oxford University.

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