Home Security Blog

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Canary in the coal mine

I was born in Brazil back in 1985. Calling the US was expensive, and my parents rarely did it. To save money, my father got his HAM radio license. We would go to a little room upstairs in a publishing house down the road from where we lived in Belo Horizonte, and we would call America at scheduled times in order that whoever was on the other end could hear our message and respond. We would also write our fair share of traditional, pen-to-paper letters.

But everything has changed.

As I see it, no one really understood how disruptive all this new technology was until around 1999 when Napster changed the landscape of the web. The impending slaughter of traditional business was unknown, but it wasn't long before the first victims of this new age began to close their doors. A mere 10 years after Napster started the revolution with their peer to peer music sharing technology, the last Virgin megastore in New York city closed. Those years destroyed the entire music business as we knew it. And yet, even in spite of that, the number of artists we have come to enjoy seems to have swelled as hard-working musicians are suddenly able to promote their own music and actually make money (unlike in the old model).

Everything has changed since 1999. Most people have gotten rid of their pesky house phone, copper lines are dying, 8 year olds have their own phone numbers, 2 year olds know how to operate tablet PCs, phones are computers and one of the biggest, most important companies in the world started off indexing pages on the internet. The tech bubble died, language has changed ("lol", "ROFL", and other weird letter-based phrases have entered the vernacular), and we purchase products - site unseen - by going to websites and typing in our address and credit card.

Unfortunately for those who are frustrated by the rate of change, the future doesn't look like it's going to slow up at all. Google's self-driving cars are sure to kill the truck driving industry or taxi industry, pharmacists may start being replaced by robots, and the rise of e-books will continue to change traditional publishing. Every industry is ripe for disruption... and that includes the home security industry.

So what is next for alarms? What is the future going to bring?

The question is important, and we need to understand some of the changes that have already happened. 1) home security systems have become affordable enough that anyone can put them in their homes; 2) advances in simplifying user interfaces made by companies like Blackberry, Palm, and Apple have made security systems simple to program and use; 3) the evolution of wireless technology has revolutionized the industry as they no longer need complicated wire-runs in order to work; and 4) open source operating systems like Linux or Android, open source sensors and open source computers like Arduino or Raspberry Pi make the production side of home security attractive decreasing barriers to entry for competitors with some of the biggest home security companies.

The most important of these realities is number 4. While it hasn't been done well yet, these open source platforms decrease barriers to compete. Preliminary evidence of the attempts to use these projects to disrupt the industry can be seen in such products as Ninja Blocks. While new, Ninja Blocks is built on open source software (Linux), includes open source hardware (Arduino), and is encouraging that their users take advantage of open source technology to make the produce more and more powerful. While Ninja Blocks does not yet have the capability to inform a central station of a break in, and (as of the date of this post), it doesn't appear to have such safety designations as a UL listing, it's presence certainly makes it clear that this industry is being primed for a disrupter to emerge.

Thankfully, as a result of Alarm Grid's newness and understanding of these technologies, our goal is to both disrupt and encourage good disruptors who are willing to work with us, in order to make sure that we survive the coming changes.

Anyhow, that's enough about how far the world has come since we were all younger. It's important to understand how the world has changed, but that is only part of the story. Maybe I've convinced you that the home security industry needs to be disrupted, but now you're left wondering why part of that disruption will have anything to do with a rise in that DIY mentality.

Well the truth is, one of the things that makes the home security system industry so ready to be changed has to do with the installer model. It's not to say that no one will ever use an installer. Au contraire. It's just that if more people do their own installations, fewer installers will begin to get a bigger piece of the pie. Less jobs=less installers. It's sad, but it's often what happens when technology marches forward.

So why DIY is all the rage?

The easy (though non-scientific) answer to why DIY is all the rage would probably be to point to the economy the last 10 years and say people want to save money. But I'm not so sure that's the case. The truth is, the do-it-yourself American spirit has really been a mainstay of American life for a very long time. When cars were not so complex, men loved working on them in their garage. Even today, thousands of husbands have abandoned their wives to live in the garage where they are restoring an old hot rod. Humans are hands-on. It's sort of part of our caveman nature. For many of us, building things makes us feel accomplished.

So what makes something drop into the "this is a weekend DIY project" category? Well, for that to happen, the consequence of doing the project without having any previous experience can't be dire. The project has to be sufficiently simplistic; the complication needs to be largely stripped out of it. Finally, it has to be fun.

You know what's not fun?

Rolling around in your attic on fiber glass insulation running wires. Mike Rowe might enjoy that sort of thing, but for your average Joe, tearing up from all the itchiness is not our idea of having fun. It's also not fun to have to remember weird button sequences to get zones programmed. Hit *18 + 79 + *33 + 82 then tap 0, 16 times, spin around, touch your toes twice, and hit Away, then slap the wall next to the keypad, and say the magical phrase, "supercallifragilisticexpialidocious." That's how programming a wired Vista 20P system sounds to most of us. I'm amazed that people can and do do it. You know what is fun? Spending only 10 minutes programming a system, using fun home automation technologies that make your lights turn on and off, and then instantly being gratified as you hit buttons.

The rise of the wireless security system has changed everything. Now, programming the system, pairing it to the WIFI or GSM network, and even installing the system are easy as pie. Likewise, since we can now check your system's programming from hundreds of miles away from an office in Florida, we can mitigate any consequences that you might have suffered as a result of not programming your system correctly because you didn't know what you were doing. But I can assure you, you will likely have no problems with programming at all. Programming these state of the art systems is easier than you could ever have imagined.

If you are interested in installing your own DIY home security system, let us know. We have a YouTube channel and incredibly knowledgable techs on hand who will make this process ridiculously easy. Be prepared to be surprised by Alarm Grid's amazing service.

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LYNXTouch with Total Connect

Home security systems have been getting cooler and cooler. Not that long ago, just 15 years or so, these systems were like lights, you could turn them on and you could turn them off. But in the last 10 years, there has been a revolution of sorts, and in many ways, the security systems of today are becoming the brains of your home.

When all your system could do was be turned on and off, and you only really ever wanted to do that when you were home, it made sense that you had to be standing right in front of the panel to make it do anything. But now, as the systems can do more, there are a lot of reasons that you might want to access your panel from a place other than the house.

To access your security system while your in New York city and your house is 2,000 miles away in Salt Lake City, UT, Honeywell created the Total Connect app. And while it's revolutionary convenience is the sort of thing that many of us have always dreamed of, the app itself is a bit of rigmarole. It works by connecting to servers some place in Melville New York, talking to those servers, then the servers send a signal out to your panel, wherever it is. So while it's convenient, sending a single command can take 10-20 seconds some times. That's awesome when you're home isn't nearby and any communication is nice, but that's unacceptable when you're upstairs in your own house and you simply want to arm away for the night, or maybe you want to turn off the Z-wave lights in your room so you can go to bed and your panel is just 30 feet from you. When you flip that switch, you want it to be instantaneous... right?

Enter stage right the L5100 Connect app. This nifty little bugger controls your system using the WIFI network in your home. It only works locally (which means you can't use it when your not on the same network), but since its on the same network, it's really quick, it effectively turns your iOS device into another keypad, and it's only $9.99!

The process of getting it up and running is pretty simple. First, make sure that you have a WIFI communicator installed in your L5100 (you probably do, but some people only have the L5100's cellular communicator installed). If you want to know how to install it, watch the video below.

Then pair the system to the network.

Then watch the following video which shows you how to pair the iOS device to the L5100 once you've got everything going.

Why am I so excited about the price? Well, if you were 'round these parts back in March of this year, you may remember Honeywell sending out its own 7-inch tablet to pasture. The tablet, known as the MID-7H, was slow and nobody liked it. While it was Android, it was basically just a glorified keypad since it came pre-installed with this app and really wasn't powerful enough to support many others. That tablet set users back about $180, and that was the only way you could control this system locally.

While we eulogized the MID-7H tablet back in March, (sort of) lamenting its passing, we mentioned that we were excited for the day that Honeywell allowed local control from tablets and phones using that app which wasn't yet released to the public. Well now, it has been. So get all the benefits of that tablet coupled with all the benefits of having an iOS device that you love. Dim the Z-Wave lights while you're watching a movie in the family room, turn up the heat during the winter using your Z-Wave thermostat, see arm your system as you are about to walk out the door, see which zones are faulting without leaving your chair.

Sit back, relax, and realize that now that you can finally control your security system without getting up out of your recliner, the future has arrived.

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Jonathan G Meath portrays Santa Claus

It's almost like a holiday in itself. Making that list to hand off to your wife (or mother... we don't judge) letting them know what you want Santa ;) to bring you this holiday season.

We are getting a lot of phone calls lately from all of you indicating that you are looking at Alarm Grid's security products as great items to find under your Christmas tree. While we're honored that you think we can make your holidays better, we also feel a tremendous sense of obligation to make sure that Mr. Clause has a simpler time getting you what you need.

So, wives, girlfriends, mothers and daughters, husbands, sons, fathers, and uncles, if you are looking to fulfill the dreams of whomever handed you their list, we are here to help. Call us today and let us help you understand what that special list-maker really wants.

Did your husband say that he wants to make his VISTA 15P compatible with wireless sensors but can't decide between the 5881ENL or a 6160RF in order to accomplish his goal? Did your wife say something about liking 5820L sensors more than 5811s because they are cuter and would work better on the thin window frames? Wondering what your father means when he says that he is rearin' to add more zones of on his VISTA 20P but that it's going to require some zone doubling, which he isn't sure how to do but is excited to learn? Did your son tell you that he loves the new VIP programming on the Honeywell 6162 alphanumeric keypads? Confused? Have absolutely no idea what the heck they're talking about?

Don't worry! We are here to help you navigate this weird alarm-system language. If you need some help purchasing equipment for that special person in your life, call us today, and let us make your Christmas as amazing as it can be.

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Hello deal shoppers!

I'm sorry, you're not going to find any big sales on Alarm Grid today. It's not because you haven't found the super special secret page where we list them just for certain customers. It's because we don't actually run deals on Black Friday or Cyber Monday.... Actually, since we started Alarm Grid, we've never run any deals at all.

Why you ask? Will we ever run a deal?

Well, the why is really simple. We do our best to price our products as low as we possibly can. When we are cut a deal by our suppliers, we try to pass it off to you right away. We also try to manage our inventory very closely, so we don't end up with much overage each month.

Now the question of whether Alarm Grid will ever run deals is a bit more difficult. We aren't opposed to running deals when it is necessary. But we do find something a bit objectionable to the idea of giving some people one price, while giving the rest of you a different price simply because you purchased 1 day later or earlier. Our philosophy has been to be fair, up front, and very honest, and in some very existential way, deals run counter to that philosophy.

We're not going to state definitively that we will never run a sale, but as for the moment, don't bet on it happening any time soon.

If you're looking for that perfect security system that you want today, and you like what you see on Alarm Grid, go ahead and ask us anything you'd like to know. We're available by chat, by phone (888-818-7728) or by email: support@alarmgrid.com.

And we love to help!

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Turkey FryerFor Thanksgiving this year, our Alarm Grid's president, Sterling Donnelly, has decided to fry a turkey in our special Alarm Grid turkey fryer. It's dangerous, yes, but if you've seen any of our Alarm Grid videos, you would know that Sterling is a dangerous man, performing all of his own stunts.

That said, we're still all a little bit nervous, and have decided to close down the office for the day in order to make sure that Sterling doesn't do something foolish and burn the company to the ground. So if you try to call in tomorrow and you get the answering machine, now you know why. We should be back up and running Friday, and we'll be on in a limited capacity on Saturday and Sunday as usual.

As is always the case, Alarm Grid's central station never shuts down. If you need to contact the central station for any reason, call the main number, and select option '1.'

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Like Honeywell's VISTA series AUI keypad, the Tuxedo Touch, these keypads feature sleek, rounded corners. While Honeywell has used the old 6160 for years and years, rarely updating their keypad interface, this new keypad marks a new era in Honeywell design as they are moving to a more end-user friendly design. The large backlit display of the new Honeywell 6162 makes understanding what is being done on the keypad much more simple, even for those who are not that familiar with the wired systems.

What's that all mean? This is better for all you DIYers out there! It gives you way more options. If you are more comfortable with a wired system, or simply like some of the added functionality of a wired system over the wireless series panels, such as the L5100, then now is the time to become a home security DIY genius. It will work with any new VISTA-15P or VISTA-20P panel that sports revision 9.16 or higher. The VISTA-21iP panels need to be revision 3.16 or higher and the VISTA-10P panels need to be 4.16 or higher.

The new keypads also come in a variety of choices. For those wanting the voice annunciation features that are built into some of the newer systems like the L5100, the 6162V or 6152V should be your weapon of choice. For those looking to add any of Honeywell's wireless sensors, the 6162RF and 6152RF are where you'll want to look. Like the 6160 and 6150 series keypads, the 6162 is the alphanumeric programming keypad, and the 6152 is the less expensive, fixed-English keypad. Both of them look great and are a better user experience, but only one of them is recommended for programming.

It's an exciting time to be a Honeywell customer, big changes are coming! Honeywell seems more and more dedicated to making sure that end-users have full control of their monitored security systems.

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Thanksgiving is right around the corner!

As I think toward the holidays, memories of Turkeys, green bean casserole (hot dish as they call it in my home state of Minnesota), cranberry sauce, and those delicious sweet potatoes sitting underneath a bed of oven-baked marshmallows make my mouth water. It's my favorite holiday, and the accompanying discussion of things we are thankful for make the holiday as sweet as any holiday that ever was.

But let us consider for a second the famous story penned by one of America's most prolific writers, Dr. Seuss: The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.

When all of the Whos were fast asleep, the Grinch into each of their homes slowly creeped. And he took all their gifts and their Christmas trees too. But we at Alarm Grid don't want this to happen to you.

Most Americans begin buying their gifts on that fateful day after Thanksgiving known as Black Friday. And as homes fill with presents, this joyous season has become a bit of a hot time for burglars. And just like the Grinch who stole Christmas, thieves have cast a pall over the holidays for many families who spent time and money to make the holidays a special time for their families.

Much of this can be prevented. So as you get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving, and then charge to the local outlet mall where you will fill your bags full of new computers and tvs or clothes, think about signing up for a service that will protect your home. The mere presence of a security system is a huge deterrent for thieves. And getting it monitored is likely to save Christmas for thousands of families in the coming month. Johansen Viggo - Radosne Boże Narodzenie

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Alarm-grid-in-front-of-tan-home

If you're a homeowner trying to make up your mind about whether to get a monitored home security system or not, it's worth picking up the phone and calling your homeowners insurance provider.

If you didn't know it already, most insurers provide a significant homeowners insurance discount to those who have a home security system. While the discount can range in value, some homeowners receive $5 off their insurance each month, while others have the full cost of their monitored system covered (about $20 per month). If you are on the fence about a system, giving your insurer a call is a great way to understand the subsidy you can get if you get one.

The evidence regarding home security systems and their effectiveness as deterrents against thieves is unquestionable. In a study done in the UK recently, more 100 former burglars were interviewed. These "professional" burglars, the research showed, felt that they were entitled to taking valuables from poorly protected homes. In only 5 minutes, burglars say they can cover an entire property. Old looking alarms, some of the thieves said, were simple to disable. But anything that looks new and is known to have the advanced protection logic features of top-of-the-line products like Honeywell's LynxTouch 5100, were much more likely to deter would-be crooks.

That said, it's pretty clear why insurance providers are so willing to offer a discount to homeowners who install a monitored system in their house. It makes the home that much less likely to be burgled which saves them an incredible amount of money in claims caused by robberies.

So if you're on the fence about getting a system, don't think too long on it. The emotional toll of a break-in can be altogether avoided by making sure the break-in doesn't happen in the first place. And if your insurer wants to pay for the monitoring, then that should make the deal even sweeter. If you're already monitored by Alarm Grid, and you're interested in getting your insurance discount, it's very simple to do. Simply send us the email or fax number of your insurance provider, and we'll send them a certificate of alarm. If you are not yet monitored, and want to know what's involved, give us a call at 888-818-7728. We will get you up and running within 24 hours, and will send your certificate of alarm to your insurance provider ASAP so that you can participate in the incredible savings they provide.

At the very least, at least consider purchasing one of our security yard signs or some security window stickers so that even if you don't have a monitored system, you can get some of the advantages that simply making it look like your home is monitored will bring.

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We're proud to announce the first of many Alarm Grid new features coming in the next fews months: you can now update your credit card used for your monthly monitoring directly on your account page.

After logging in, simply click on "My Account" in the top right corner. Under monitoring locations, you should see an "Update Card" button next to each of the locations.

Once you click "Update Card," you will be taken to a page that will allow you to update your card directly with our merchant processor, Stripe.

Now, the next time we try to bill you, your new card will be used. If you previously had a card that failed, we'll try and bill you in the next few days using this new card. No need to call our technicians anymore!

And for the tech savvy amongst you, the coolest part of this new feature? The security! Your credit card will get transmitted securely to Stripe and never even get submitted to our server thanks to that little pop-up.

Alarm Grid never stores your credit cards in our database and we'll always do our best to protect you, both online and offline.

If you have any problems with this new feature, please let us know. We have lots of exciting things coming!

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Lady in an Alarm Grid Polo ShirtThis might be our favorite holiday around the Alarm Grid office since we all have an insatiable sweet tooth. Tonight all the lives of the Alarm Grid team members will be  be filled with candy. But in spite of our sugar induced hang overs, in the morning our office will be open and we will be ready to help with any of your alarm monitoring needs.

We just wanted to take this opportunity to wish you all a spooky halloween!

Be safe. And remember to set your security system if you're leaving the house.

Oh, and don't smash other people's pumpkins. It's just mean. They worked really hard on them. But we do highly recommend that you consider smashing your own when the night is through.

And one last thing. When your night is all done, you're ready to go to bed, and you've eaten all the candy you can possibly eat, consider packing up the remaining sweet sundries into a big box, and sending them down the the Alarm Grid headquarters. We're always happy to get random packages full of candy! ;)

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