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The Pros and Cons of Home Automation Systems

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Home automation systems. What’s not to love about automatically controlling sprinkler systems, coordinating outlets, managing security systems, and turning appliances on and off while away?

Although these devices are certainly not new to the market, many systems have become much more affordable in the past few years, and the use of home automation is now more widespread than it has ever been before.

But is it right for you? Here are a few pros and cons to help answer that question.

The Pros
1. Energy Savings
Home automation systems have definitely proven themselves in the arena of energy efficiency. Automated thermostats allow you to pre-program temperatures based on the time of day and the day of the week. And some even adjust to your behaviors, learning and adapting to your temperature preferences without your ever inputting a pre-selected schedule. Traditional or behavior-based automation can also be applied to virtually every gadget that can be remotely controlled – from sprinkler systems to coffee makers.

Actual energy savings ultimately depend on the type of device you select and its automation capabilities. But on average, product manufacturers estimate the systems can help consumers save anywhere from 10 to 15 percent off of heating and cooling bills.

2. Convenience
In today’s fast-paced society, the less you have to worry about, the better. Right? Convenience is another primary selling point of home automation devices, which virtually eliminate small hassles such as turning the lights off before you go to bed or adjusting the thermostat when you wake up in the morning.

Many systems come with remote dashboard capabilities, so forgetting to turn off that coffee pot before you leave no longer requires a trip back to the house. Simply pull up the dashboard on a smart device or computer, and turn the coffee pot off in a matter of seconds.

3. Security
Remote monitoring can put your mind at ease while you’re away from the house. With remote dashboards, lights and lamps can be turned on and off, and automated blinds can be raised and lowered. These capabilities – combined with automated security systems – can help you mitigate the risks of intrusions: you will be alerted immediately if something uncharacteristic happens.

The Cons
1. Installation
Depending on the complexity of the system, installing a home automation device can be a significant burden on the homeowner. It can either cost you money if you hire an outside contractor or cost you time if you venture to do it yourself.

2. Complex Technology
Automating everything in life may sound extremely appealing, but sometimes a good old-fashioned flip of the switch is a lot easier than reaching for your smart phone to turn lights on and off. Before you decide which system is right for you, think about how far you really want to take home automation in your household.

3. System Compatibility
Controlling all aspects of home automation from one centralized platform is important, but not all systems are compatible with one another. Your security system, for example, may require you to log in to one location to manage settings, while your smart thermostat may require you to log in to another platform to turn the air conditioner on and off. To truly leverage the convenience of home automation, you may need to invest in centralized platform technology to control all systems and devices from one location.

4. Cost
Even though the price of home automation systems has become much more affordable in recent years, the cost to purchase and install a device can still add up. Consumer Reports offers a wide range of information and insights – including costs – on the best home automation systems on the market.

 

Link to the article: https://www.mythinkenergy.com/pros-cons-home-automation

Related articles: https://santacruzarchitect.wordpress.com/2018/05/19/what-is-a-smart-home/

For further assistance in home security, click here for more: https://www.yucaipalocksmith.com/

How to Make Your Home a Smart Home

Your Home in the Age of Technology

The smartphones we carry around in our pockets are powerful tools that make life easier, and every advancement in technology enhances their impressive capabilities. The next big step forward for this type of “smart” technology is into our homes. Utilizing integrated technological systems in your home is one of the most significant new trends in digital innovation. Right now is the best time to start reaping the benefits of these capabilities.

Transitioning to a smarter home can improve your control over every aspect of how your house operates, and increase the safety and accessibility of it as well. Additionally, you can reap the benefits of a more efficient home, leading to savings in your energy and upkeep costs!

Control at Your Fingertips

By installing appliances in your house, such as a smart oven, you can now use apps on your mobile device to enjoy complete control of your home’s functions from anywhere in the world. Did you leave your home and forget to turn your oven off? Air conditioner still running at home while you’re on vacation? No need to stress. You can quickly and easily power off these appliances in seconds from the respective accompanying apps.

There are no limitations to the apps that are coming to market everyday. Developers have created apps and devices to control home stereos, water usage, lighting, lawn care, garage doors, your dog’s food dish, and even grocery shopping – all easily and readily controlled by the phone you already have in your pocket.

Safety

Smart homes don’t just allow us to avert accidental house fires from unattended ovens. These homes also allow us to keep our loved ones safe. Security systems can be installed that allow owners to monitor the comings and goings of guests and alert you when suspicious activity is detected. Doors can be locked, security systems armed, and cameras monitored from your phone, creating a safer and more secure environment for you and your family.

For those of you with children, or those caring for elderly parents, these tools can make your life exponentially easier and give you peace of mind. Alerts can be sent to your phone when members of your family leave your house, and you can even keep track of where they go after they leave.

Accessibility

If you have friends or family members who are elderly or disabled, you know how difficult even the most basic everyday task can be for them. Smart home technology can greatly increase their quality of life, and utilizing voice commands can make the learning curve much easier for someone unfamiliar with computers.

Setting up automated systems for activities like lawn care removes unnecessary stress from the lives of these individuals. As the technology moves forward, more and more difficult tasks will become accessible, improving flexibility and independence in housing for people who might not be fully capable of taking care of their homes on their own.

Energy Efficiency

While many benefits of a smart home include ease and accessibility, there are even more perks to enjoy. Smart home technology allows appliances to work with the least amount of energy needed. For example, induction cook-top stoves now have the intelligence to heat exclusively when a metal pan is placed on top of it. No more burners running uncovered, and no more pans being overheated. Stove tops can even manage a perfect boil while using the least amount of energy possible.

Saving money on that water bill has also never been easier. Certain faucet technology can maximize shower water usage by shaping the individual droplets of water to create a more full and fulfilling shower experience while still using less water than the everyday shower head.

Cost Effectiveness

If “going green” wasn’t enough to pique your interest in smart home technology, the financial savings will get your attention. In a study done by the US Environmental Protection Agency, it was reported that users of smart home technology for thermostat control alone saved anywhere from 10%-30% on their energy bill. Over the course of a year, or 5 years, those savings add up quickly.

Saving money with smart home technologies is simple and easy. Timers and monitors make sure you only use the money and energy you want, and incredibly intelligent occupation detectors insure these products are only active when users are present.

To further your savings, the addition of solar power or other energy transmuting devices can save costs, and help you become more self-sufficient.

Not only do these improvements save on your bill payments, the resale value of your home increases with each addition of these technologies. It may be a chunk of change up front, but these additions soon pay for themselves.

The Future

While some technologies are only in early development, the future is already here. Some elements of a smart home may require significant investment with long-term rewards. Others are simple, affordable, and can impact your home now. Making small changes to your home’s functionality can help you embrace the larger ones to come, and enjoy the potential savings that add up.

 

Link to the article: https://www.directenergy.com/learning-center/modern-home/advantages-smart-home

Exploring Home Automation and Domotics

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Photo by Javier Pierini/The Image Bank Collection/Getty Images
A smart house is a home that has highly advanced, automated systems to control and monitor any function of a house — lighting, temperature control, multi-media, security, window and door operations, air quality, or any other task of necessity or comfort performed by a home’s resident. With the rise of wireless computerization, remote-controlled devices are becoming smart just-in-time. Today, it’s possible to pin a programmed chip onto any occupant and have systems adjust as a person passes by and through a smart house.

Is It Really Smart?

A smart home appears “intelligent” because its computer systems can monitor so many aspects of daily living. For example, the refrigerator may be able to inventory its contents, suggest menus and shopping lists, recommend healthy alternatives, and even routinely order groceries. The smart home systems might even ensure a continuously cleaned cat litter box or a house plant that is forever watered.
The idea of a smart home may sound like something out of Hollywood. In fact, a 1999 Disney movie titled Smart House presents the comical antics of an American family that wins a “house of the future” with an android maid who causes havoc. Other films show science fiction visions of smart home technology that seems improbable.
However, smart home technology is real, and it’s becoming increasingly sophisticated. Coded signals are sent through the home’s wiring (or sent wirelessly) to switches and outlets that are programmed to operate appliances and electronic devices in every part of the house. Home automation can be especially useful for the elderly, people with physical or cognitive impairments, and disabled persons who wish to live independently. Home technology is the toy of the super-wealthy, like Bill and Melinda Gates’ home in Washington State. Called Xanadu 2.0, the Gates’ house is so high-tech that it allows visitors to choose the mood music for each room they visit.

Open Standards

Think of your house like it’s one, big computer. If you ever opened up the “box” or CPU of your home computer, you’ll find tiny wires and connectors, switches and whirling discs. To make it all work, you have to have an input device (like a mouse or a keyboard), but even more importantly, each of the components has to be able to work with each other.
Smart technologies will evolve more quickly if people didn’t have to buy entire systems, because let’s face it — some of us aren’t as wealthy as Bill Gates. We also don’t want to have 15 remote control devices for 15 different devices — we’ve been there and done that with televisions and recorders. What consumers want are add-on systems that are easy-to-use. What small manufacturers want are to be able to compete in this new marketplace.
Two things are needed to make homes truly “smart,” writes research journalist Ira Brodsky in Computerworld. “First are sensors, actuators and appliances that obey commands and provide status information.” These digital devices are already omnipresent in our appliances. “Second are protocols and tools that enable all of these devices, regardless of vendor, to communicate with each other,” says Brodsky. This is the problem, but Brodsky believes that “smartphone apps, communication hubs and cloud-based services are enabling practical solutions that can be implemented right now.”
Home energy management systems (HEMS) have been the first wave of smart home devices, with hardware and software that monitors and controls a homes heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. As standards and protocols are being developed, the devices in our homes are making them appear smart—very smart!

Prototype Houses

The U.S. Department of Energy encourages new smart designs by sponsoring a Solar Decathlon, held every other year. Architecture and engineering college student teams compete in a number of categories, including intuitive control of devices and appliances. In 2013 a team from Canada described their engineering as an “integrated mechanical system” controlled by mobile devices. This is a student prototype of a smart home. Team Ontario’s design for their house is called ECHO.

Domotics and Home Automation

As the smart house evolves, so, too, do the words we use to describe it. Most generally, home automation and home technology have been the early descriptors. Smart home automation has derived from those terms.
The word domotics literally means home robotics. In Latin, the word domus means home. The field of domotics encompasses all phases of smart home technology, including the highly sophisticated sensors and controls that monitor and automate temperature, lighting, security systems, and many other functions.
No need for those pesky robots, however. These days most mobile devices, like “smart” phones and tablets, are digitally connected and control many home systems. And what will your smart home look like? It should look just like what you’re living in now if that’s what you want.

Sources

  • Amazon Lets Users Create Their Own Smart Home by Ángel González, The Seattle Times for Government Technology, April 6, 2016
  • Sources: 19 Crazy Facts About Bill Gates’ $123 Million Washington Mansion by Madeline Stone, Business Insider, Nov. 7, 2014;
  • The race to create smart homes is on by Ira Brodsky, Computerworld, May 3, 2016 [accessed July 29, 2016]

 

The Advantages of a Smart House

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So-called smart homes take advantage of automation technology and modern building techniques to give homeowners a new level of control. Smart homes may be built from scratch with automation as a key design goal, or constructed from existing homes during a major renovation. In both cases, smart homes offer several advantages over conventional homes.

Convenience

Convenience is one of the biggest reasons that people build and purchase smart homes. These homes give users remote access to systems including heating and cooling systems, intercoms, music and multimedia devices throughout the home. Integrated hard drives allow homeowners to watch video or listen to audio in any room; video intercoms make it easy to communicate with others in the home or visitors at the door. All of these smart home technologies streamline common tasks.

Security

Smart homes include advanced security systems with cameras, motion sensors and a link to the local police station or a private security company. Smart homes may also use key cards or fingerprint identification in place of conventional locks, making it harder for someone to break in.

Accessibility

For elderly or disabled residents, a smart home may feature accessibility technologies. Voice-command systems can do things like control lights, lock doors, operate a telephone or use a computer. Home automation allows an individual to set a schedule for automatic tasks like watering the lawn, removing the need to perform these labor-intensive tasks on a regular basis.

Efficiency

Smart homes offer enhanced energy-efficiency. Lights can shut off automatically when no one is in a room, and the thermostat can be set to let the indoor temperature drop during the day before returning it to a more comfortable level just before residents arrive in the evening. All of these automated tasks, along with modern, energy-efficient appliances, combine to save on electricity, water and natural gas, thereby reducing the strain on natural resources.

Resale

When it comes time to sell a smart home, sellers will have an abundance of effective selling points. Whichever advantage of a smart home appeals to a given buyer, the seller can explain the system and discuss how it makes life easier. Homes with automated systems have the potential to sell for much more than comparable homes with conventional technologies. Automating a home can be a worthwhile investment in increasing its market value and attracting possible buyers in the future.

 

How effective are guard dogs really for home security?

In Home Security by Jody

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Guard dogs – A bit of a mixed bag

Alright, I know that most of you that are reading this probably already love dogs, are biased, and will defend their effectiveness to your grave.  So, I’m going to throw you a bone.  I think that dogs CAN be effective deterrents to criminals.  On the other hand, I’m going to tell you why they aren’t fool proof.

Don’t have false illusions the the effectiveness of your dog as a home security solution (AKA guard dog).

After all, their effectiveness can be a mixed bag.  I picked this up in just a few minutes of reading “Ask me anything” (AMA) posts from former burglars.  In response to a question about how a person could keep their things secure, he responded,

Get a dog. Houses with dogs don’t get robbed. Dogs are loud, hard to spot, and bite. Doesn’t have to be an attack dog – just a barking dog. Thieves would rather save the hassle and hit the next house.

On the other hand, the next AMA with a thief said just the opposite,

I am amazingly good with dogs and have never had a problem with them making noise. Professional guard dogs are a problem, and I’ve never had to deal with them. If I had to, I suppose it would be to have a mild tranquilizer mixed into some steak to throw over the fence. It would depend on the situation I think.

And, then he further clarified later by saying,

I only encountered a couple barking dogs so far. I’m good with animals and know how to approach them. I’ve only had one dog not calm down after a minute. In that case I just grabbed what I could in a minute and walked out.

Here’s the link if you want to read it for yourself.  So, what should we think with this conflicting information?

One of the best questions may be, is this your dog

or is this your dog. To summarize if you didn’t watch the video, all 5 of the dogs failed to stop an intruder and most either licked or played with the guy when he broke into the home. In summary, the average dog makes a lousy security system. They need to be trained specifically for that purpose and even then, they may be circumvented with some pretty obvious techniques depending on their training.

First, let’s dispense with some misconceptions

Let’s go through the arguments you may think of to support the effectiveness of a dog.

  •  My dog barks at everything, so he’s as good as an alarm.

An alarm that goes off all the time (false alarms) is useless, because you will turn it off so that it doesn’t drive you crazy. A dog that barks all the time is just as useless. It’s worse than an alarm system, because you can’t turn it off. And, it’s just as ineffective because you and your neighbors won’t pay any attention to it because it always barks.

  • My dog is very protective of us/our home, so she’ll defend our house.

If a person your dog doesn’t know approaches you on your lawn, how does your dog react? If she doesn’t bark and otherwise show some discomfort until getting a signal from you that it’s OK, then you have to wonder if she would be just as docile meeting a stranger in the home. Even if there is a naturally protective nature that you encourage and do not train that behavior out of your dog by getting on to her when she acts that way, are you confident that she will not quietly and happily chew on a steak rather than attacking a stranger in your house? This will most likely require training your dog, and can cost thousands of dollars. And, even trained guard dogs fail this distraction, the most obvious of attacks.

We put together a Slideshare presentation that summarizes the shortcomings of using dogs for home security pretty succinctly.

Now for some good news

Dogs are definitely a deterrent.

  1.  Just like some of your neighbors may not be comfortable with dogs or you may not trust dogs that you don’t know. There will be some criminals that either don’t have or don’t like dogs or have an innate mistrust of dogs. I haven’t been able to find any stats on what percentage of the population that is, but at least you take a portion of the criminals out of the equation.
  2. To get around an aggressive guard dog, a certain level of preparation is required. That can mean tranquilizers slipped in a door or windows in a piece of meat and waiting 10 minutes before the dog is asleep. Or, it could mean some steaks wrapped in butcher paper in a backpack. Either way, your dog may turn away the thief that doesn’t come adequately prepared.
  3. Good dogs bark at the right times. And, if you are a criminal breaking into a house, a sudden source of extra noise to draw attention to you is the last thing that you want. So, add one to the dog column once again.

And . . . the bad news

Some of these, I have already covered. So, I’ll be brief.

  1. First, your dog needs to be effective as a guard dog. Most of the dogs that I meet are very friendly with strangers, so the odds are against you here.
  2. It’s not that hard to shut even a trained dog up. Just bring a large, tough piece of meat with you when you go robbing houses or a tranquilizer in some meat that you pick up from the vet.
  3. Even if your dog barks and acts tough, without training it probably won’t actually attack and interrupt a burglar’s routine. After all, burglars usually just need a few minutes in your house to grab any cash, jewelry, and small electronics that they can find. Even if your dog follows them around barking or confronts them at the door, they may be able to keep him calm long enough to steal some valuables.
  4. Some people are just great with pets. What dog doesn’t become friendly when a person acts like a friend and gives him rawhide treats.
  5. Dogs are expensive. According to the ASPCA, they are $700 per year expensive, plus another $600 for other one time costs. For that kind of cost, you can afford a really great security system with top-notch monitoring services, cellular backups, and multiple cameras.

#2 is confirmed in this scenario, again taken from Reddit:

I drove around his home with binoculars and found the shortest point in his fence. I hopped it. I knocked on a window and sure enough, dogs start barking. I had some dog tranquilizer (very easy to obtain) and some lunch meat in my bag, as I was expecting dogs. I walk around his house a bit and see a power box. I start picking the lock, it opens, and I power down the house. I pick the front door open, set the drugged meat down, yell at the dogs and hop the fence again. I wait ten minutes and I peek back over and the dogs were out. So I stroll on in the houses and start loading up.

So, what’s the score?

Of course, this is your decision. But if I look at it objectively, I can do a lot more with my money by increasing the robustness of my home security with an alarm system and other home upgrades. So, if I get a dog, it’s because I want to train him to hunt birds with me and not because I want a deterrent for criminals.

I’m sure some of you will disagree with me and may even have great stories of how your dog as helped you. Feel free to share those with us in the comments below.

 

Link to the article: https://24-7-home-security.com/guard-dogs-home-security/

Related articles: https://peppereyes.wordpress.com/2011/03/31/the-barking-dog-security-system/

For further assistance in home security, click here for more: https://www.yucaipalocksmith.com/

4 Tips to Secure the Privacy of Your Home

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Roughly around 325,000 homes across the US are broken into every year, usually in plain view. Altogether there are about 2.5 million burglaries reported and 66% of those are in homes. Most break-ins happen during the day when people are most likely to be out and about.

There are certain things you can do to protect your home in order not to become a statistic. We’ve rounded up 4 tips to protect your home, your family, and belongings better.

1. Keep valuables out of sight

It’s not difficult for anyone to just walk up and take a peek through one of your windows and see what you have lying around if you don’t have thick curtains or forgot to close them on your way out. While some items are not really meant to be moved around, like a TV screen, others are easier to move and keep out of view. Laptops, mobiles, all other small devices, purses, and wallets can all be put away when you’re out of the house. Even if your purse or wallet is actually empty and the mobile is old, a burglar wouldn’t know that, and it would just be too tempting in their eyes.

2. Wire up

It doesn’t matter if you live in a building, a house, or own a shop or any other business, you can use a security system to put your mind at ease. If moving into a new home or looking to sell your old one that’s a good time for when to get a wired security system. Having a wired system can increase the cost of your home when selling, and may also have custom made options that wireless security systems do not always offer.

3. Don’t provide hiding places

Your landscape, tall trees, and bushes are lovely to sit near and under. They provide nice shade on hot days but they also provide more opportunity for thieves and the likes to hide in. Keep shrubs and trees trimmed, at least trimmed enough that they do not block windows. Besides that, don’t leave items outside. Many people will leave a ladder outside after doing some roof repair, for example. This is inviting a would-be thief to the upper floors of a house where windows might be often unlocked.

4. Change locks when necessary

Anytime you or someone else loses a key to the house, change the lock. You can never be sure if the key was actually lost or if someone got their hands on it, giving them more than easy access to your home. If you rent out a home, it’s also recommended to change locks after a tenant leaves.

You can never be too safe

There really is no such thing as being too safe when it comes to protecting your home. Be an alert homeowner and find out more ways to protect your property. Always keep all doors, windows and the garage locked. You can ask someone you trust to keep a watchful eye if you have to leave home for an extended period. As we say, better to be safe than sorry.

Home Security Tips

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According to the FBI’s there were over 1 million home burglaries reported in 2015. That’s a rate of one burglary for every 134 homes making home security more important than ever. At the most basic level, making your home more secure is preventing a would-be burglar from entering your home. This can be accomplished by following a few basic rules and by employing security solutions that are effective and realistic.

We’ve compiled a few tips to help guide you on your path to a more safe and secure home.

  • Securing Exterior Doors
  • Securing Windows
  • Garage Doors
  • Make Your Home Look Occupied
  • Keep Burglars at a Distance

Securing Exterior Doors

Exterior doors are the most used point of entry for burglars. There are several points of potential weakness on a typical door such as: the handle and lockset, hinges and their mounting screws, strength of the door itself, and the door jamb or frame. Sliding patio doors and French doors present a whole new set of weaknesses. Here are some suggestions on how to make your doors a safer barrier:

  • Don’t rely on the spring-latch lock on your door handle. These locks are easy to compromise. Incorporate a sturdy deadbolt lock.
  • Install door armor kits on exterior doors to help prevent burglars from taking advantage of the weakest parts of your door. These kits usually include 3” screws to replace short screws that come with door hardware, hefty strike plates for handles and deadbolts, and metal framing to place around the hinge and handle/lock hardware.
  • Add auxiliary locks to sliding doors. Options include loop locks, security bars, or a vertical bolt locks.
    Security bars are sometimes known as sliding door polls or charlie bars.
  • Add a security bar to French doors to decrease the likelihood of a kick-in. These bar systems might not be the most attractive, but they make up for their looks with effectiveness.
  • A sometimes overlooked detail about French doors, and doors in general, is hinge placement. Ensure that all of your hinge pins are interior-facing to avoid giving burglars easy access without force.
  • Add security film to glass doors. This window film prevents glass from being easily broken. Security film is an inexpensive way to help stop an intruder from quickly kicking through a patio door without sacrificing the benefits of having a glass door.

 

Securing Windows

Windows can be easily secured. There are numerous window security solutions for new and old windows that increase effectiveness at keeping out intruders. If you’re in the market to replace your windows, here are some key suggestions:

  • Look for reinforced glass or acrylic windows. Reinforced (tempered or laminated) glass and acrylic (polycarbonate) are much harder to break than traditional glass windows. This can help deter criminals from continuing an intrusion after they attempt to break your windows.
  • Multiple panes of glass are better than one large pane. Multiple glass panes provide added strength and durability to repel break-in attempts.

If you’re looking to increase the security of your current windows, these devices can help:

  • Add after-market window locks to your built in window locks. These simple gadgets are cheap and very successful at helping to stop a window from being forced open. Depending on your window style, you may need double hung window locks, sliding window locks, or locks for casement windows (sometimes called crank windows.)
  • Exterior window bars can be added for additional protection. Many window bars come in decorative designs and can accent the style of your house just as well as they can help protect your windows.
  • Security film can be added to windows to decrease the likelihood of break-ins. Thicker film provides the highest level of protection.

Garage Doors

Garage door security is often overlooked by homeowners. While breaking into a garage via the garage door seems unlikely, the truth is it can be done quickly. The worst part about attached garage break-ins is that criminals can shut the garage door behind them and take their time breaking into your home without worrying about being seen. Here are some strategies to help prevent garage break-ins:

  • Don’t leave garage door openers in your vehicles. It might seem inconvenient to bring them in each night, but the inconvenience is well worth it by saving you the time and trouble of replacing your belongings.
  • Help secure your garage door emergency release to prevent easy intruder access. This can be done by either fastening it with a zip tie (which can be broken by yanking the release cord) or by placing a barrier between the top of the door and the release. Check out a guide for securing your emergency release cord at Family Handyman.
  • Use a garage door sensor to remotely alert you when your garage door has opened. Some newer garage door openers have this feature built-in as well as an auto-closing feature that will close your garage door when it has been open for too long.
  • Have a dead bolt on the door between your garage and home to prevent further intrusion. It is also a good idea to install a peephole viewer on the door to make it easier to inspect the garage without opening the door.
  • Have bright, motion sensing lights in the garage to bring attention to an open garage door.

 

Make Your Home Look Occupied

Whether you are home or away, it is best to make it look as though someone is home. Having an intruder invade your home is terrifying and traumatic. Here are a few tips that will help make your home look active whether you are there or not:

  • Make you home look occupied by having lamps on a timer. Strategically placing lights throughout the house on timers gives the appearance that people are using different rooms.
  • Leave a television or radio on at moderate volume. Noise is a great way to make criminals think you’re home. Televisions do a good job of creating light and mimicking activity.
  • Don’t close all your curtains and blinds. If you are using timed lights or a television to cast light, it’s good to leave a few open. Open curtains also allow the police (or a helpful neighbor) to see inside your home should the need arise.

 

Keep Burglars at a Distance

Some of the best burglary prevention techniques are things that you might not even consider to be prevention techniques. These tips are designed to help keep crooks from coming close enough to your home to even attempt to break in.

  • Get a dog. Your dog’s bite might not deter a burglar, but its bark might. A barking dog can bring attention to your house and the last thing a burglar wants is attention while they are sneaking into your home.
  • Home security system signs are a great way to help stop burglars in their tracks. A home security system means that the perpetrator has only a matter of seconds to burgle your home before the alarm sounds and the police are called. Advertise your alarm system near all entry points to your house.
  • A well-lit exterior is a great way to deter burglars. Dusk-to-dawn porchlights or carriage lights take away the veil of darkness from the front of your home. Landscape lighting placed near windows can increase visibility around the rest of your home.
  • Parking a car in the driveway is a great way to tell would-be burglars someone is home.
  • Keep bushes and shrubs around windows trimmed to avoid creating hiding spots. Additionally, having thorny or spiked plants such as blackberry bushes, holly, or juniper in front of windows can deter criminals from venturing too close.

 

Link to the article: https://www.protectyourhome.com/home-security-tips

Related articles: https://staysafeandsecure.wordpress.com/

For further assistance in home security, click here for more: https://www.yucaipalocksmith.com/

Smart home security: 10 hacks to protect your home from hackers

By Paul Walton March 13, 2019 Internet

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Did you hear about the FaceTime bug that allowed users to eavesdrop on one another? How about the US family convinced by their Nest Camera that a nuclear attack was imminent?

IoT devices are now a top target for brazen cyber criminals eager to take advantage of anything in order to get their hands on someone else’s personal details.

Yet despite the dramatic headlines, there’s no need to unplug altogether. Instead, there are several simple and easy hacks that you can do to add an extra layer of security to your smart home devices. Here’s our top 10 tips on how:

  • Smart homes at greater security risk than ever
  • Protecting your data in the age of smart homes
  • 6 ways to secure your home Wi-Fi

1. Use two-factor authentication (2FA)

For most devices, there is usually an option to set up 2FA. With 2FA you’re asked to enter a secondary form of verification after submitting your username and password. This second layer of security helps repulse particularly persistent hackers.

When it comes to finance, security is crucial so many banks go further than 2FA by sending customers a unique code to enter. Facebook gets even more creative, asking users to verify friends in photos.

However, neglecting 2FA isn’t amusing; recently a hacker spoke to a baby through a Nest security camera and then turned up the central heating. With proper 2FA, this was a situation that could have been avoided.

2. Set up a secondary or ‘guest’ network

Broadband suppliers allow you to create multiple networks on your Wi-Fi router. It’s how parents set up controlled kids’ networks and guest networks for visitors. The same can be done for smart devices.

Create a separate Wi-Fi network so that your IoT devices operate separately from personal ones like your laptop or phone. Many routers now segregate all devices on a guest network so that they cannot communicate with each other. This makes it harder for a would-be hacker to gain access to data on this network.

When creating this new network, opt for WPA2 if given a choice between this and WPA; it’s the standard encryption method used worldwide.

3. Kill the bugs

Modern technology is impressive, but we all know that mistakes do happen. One of the most common ways hackers target smart devices is by exploiting a vulnerability missed by the software developer.

Luckily, this is also one of the easiest issues to address – simply update the device. Maybe think twice before clicking ‘ask me later’ the next time an update notification appears on your phone or laptop. There are bigger bugs to fry.

4. Disable unnecessary features

Smart devices are full of features, often enabled by default. Remote access is a good example of something that may be surplus to requirements. Don’t need it? Disable it.

5. Is your device qualified?

When purchasing a smart device, make sure it has the correct certification. The “Works with Alexa” and “Works with Apple HomeKit” badges show that devices meet certain standards in responsiveness, reliability and functionality.

However, certification is especially important in regards to smart security devices. It’s worth noting that in the UK a smart alarm needs to be certified by either the National Security Inspectorate (NSI) or the SSAIB if you want a police response.

6. Resist accessing smart devices using public Wi-Fi

Public Wi-Fi has weak security protocols and information transmission is generally unencrypted. If your Wi-Fi router is hacked your information can easily be intercepted undetected. This is what’s called a “man-in-the-middle” attack.

If you are on the go and want to check your CCTV then perhaps it’s better to take the hit and just use your own 3G/4G connection.

7. But if you must… Make sure the public Wi-Fi is genuine

Another man-in-the-middle attack exists, appropriately dubbed “Evil Twin.” In this case, the hacker creates a Wi-Fi network to mimic a public one nearby. For example, a network named Free_Cafe_Wifi could be created next to a Starbucks. This technique is especially dangerous as login pages may automatically appear, enticing you to enter personal details.

If you cannot avoid public Wi-Fi altogether, ask a café employee for the correct Wi-Fi name to make sure you are logging into the correct one.

8. Secure your phone and smart accessories

Simple, but effective. Your smartphone should have a passcode that isn’t easily guessed. No birthdays or ‘1234’.

You should also keep track of portable smart home accessories. Nowadays, smart alarms often come with key tags, allowing the alarm to be set and unset by waving them next to a panel. If lost, make sure you deactivate the tag on your smartphone until it’s found.

9. Buy from trusted brands

Cybersecurity is a top priority for consumers, but not always for brands. Beware the “poundshop” types you see on Amazon or Ebay boasting good reviews and low prices.  Do your research: look up the brand’s website and search opinions on news-sites and forums.

It’s also worth checking whether the brands encrypts personal content. Ring, for example, is known for not encrypting customers’ videos because of Ring’s belief “that encryption would make the company less valuable.” Earlier this year, this created a storm when allegations arose that Ring’s Ukraine-based employees had unfettered access to video created by Ring camera.

10. Remember: passwords are key

It’s a cybersecurity tale as old as time. But it’s true. Your passwords must be secure. Make sure each one is unique and at least 12 characters long. Avoid full words; MySecurePasswrd is far more secure than MySecurePassword simply because it’s missing the “o”.

A good password will defend against “brute force” attacks: a trial-and-error method where a computer submits thousands of passwords, using common words and patterns, to gradually narrow it down.

If you’re concerned about remembering multiple passwords then use a password manager like LastPass or Dashlane. You can also get built-in options like Keychains for iOS or Password Manager for Google Chrome.

Last but not least, don’t forget to give your broadband network a suitably obscure name. “William’s Wi-Fi” is not ideal. Think outside the box, your favourite movie or car model for instance. Maybe even try putting a smile on a neighbour’s face with something a little playful like “Pretty Fly for a Wi-Fi” or “The LAN Before Time”. You just never know. It could be the difference between being hacked or having said hacker move elsewhere.

Paul Walton, Co-Founder of Boundary

How to Protect Your Smart Home From Security Vulnerabilities

By Patrick Sinclair, All Home Robotics

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While the use of smart home devices is on the rise, experts predict there will be over 20 billion connected devices in the world by 2020, with more than half of them being in our homes, according to Gartner, Inc. If you think about it, it’s not hard to envision. How many smart devices are in your home? Smart assistant? Yep. Smart thermostat? Check. Smart lights? Of course.

When we talk about smart home devices, we often refer to them as IoT, or Internet of Things. IoT devices are essentially any device that connects to the Internet, such as smart thermostats, cameras and locks. Unfortunately, IoT users may potentially face security vulnerabilities — from a lack of authorization to privacy concerns. These vulnerabilities exist in a wide range of devices as well, from children’s toys to smart appliances and security alarms.

The best thing you can do is arm yourself with the knowledge of what the potential risks are. Here’s a look at some of the top smart home security vulnerabilities and how to help protect yourself against them.

Insecure Web Interface

An web interface is a page on your internet browser that accesses a smart device and its settings. If your web interface is not secure, your personal information may be vulnerable to hackers who may gain access to your entire network.

A few ways to help prevent access through an insecure web interface are to change default usernames and passwords on all your devices to something unique and to make sure account lockouts occur after a few failed logins. Typically you want the account to lock after three or four failed attempts, which can be managed in the settings portion of the web interface.  It might be inconvenient if you forget your login information and lock yourself out of your device and/or network, but it’s worth it to help prevent a breach in your network.

A password application that tracks all your passwords may be helpful. That way, the only password you have to remember is the one that gets you into the application. (If you’re unfamiliar with password managers, Consumer Reports provides a helpful overview.)

If you do lock yourself out of a device or network, however, you may need to manually reset the device, often referred to as a “hard reset.” This is usually done by pushing a button on the component. While a hard reset may not seem ideal, it is still better than having your information hacked.

Insufficient Authentication/Authorization

If you’re not protecting your devices and home network from unauthorized users, you may be leaving your smart devices, such as alarms and cameras, open to hackers. Typically, this type of vulnerability is a result of weak passwords, nonsecure passwords or a lack of two-step authentication. It’s crucial that you ensure your passwords are strong and that access is only given to those who absolutely need it.

Additionally, you can turn on two-factor authorization to validate and verify access to your device each time a login occurs from a new device or location. Two-factor authorization is an added layer of security. Not only do you need to have your username and password, but you need an additional token or piece of information to gain access. For instance, if you have two-factor authentication on your security system account, you may need to enter a code that was sent to you via text in order to verify your login.

If you want to take things a step further, you can turn on re-authentication for devices that contain more secure features. Re-authentication occurs when anything is changed within the application. If a change occurs, you must enter your username and password again before continuing to use the device. Other scenarios for re-authentication might involve the application asking for credentials after a certain period of time with no activity, or when a user is accessing sensitive information.

Insecure Cloud Interface

Since so many smart devices operate in the cloud, it’s important that you be aware of potential risks. Cloud computing is essentially using the internet, instead of a hard drive on your device, to store and access data and programs, says PCMag.com. For the purposes of this discussion, this includes any smart device connected to the Internet, such as a smart thermostat, smart lights or smart camera.

To help prevent hackers from accessing personal documents, photos and other information you’ve stored in the cloud, make sure your passwords are strong, that two-factor authorization is enabled and that failed login attempts are locked out after a few tries. Establishing these protections is similar to the steps we discussed earlier for securing your device’s web interface and can typically be managed in the security settings of your particular cloud interface.

While there are several types of smart home security vulnerabilities, it’s a good idea to take responsibility to help protect yourself. However, you can help mitigate many of these security threats by using strong passwords, setting up two-step authorization and locking multiple failed attempts out. Do your part and take these actions to help protect your smart home.

Beyond Novelty: Smart Homes for Safety, Security, and Personal Well-Being

By Special Guest
Christy Matte, Special Correspondent / September 18, 2018

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Smart home technology is on the rise, both in terms of product availability and popularity. But, much like other new tech developments, many people perceive it as a frivolous add-on or a luxury option. In truth, smart home tech offers quite a few benefits, even beyond saving money.

Caregiving and Independence
For those who have children, aging parents, or disabled family members in their care, smart home technology can provide peace of mind.

Voice-activated devices – Voice-activated devices allow those with disabilities or health issues to control household devices even when they’re out of reach. Likewise, someone who is fallen and can’t get to a phone can make phone calls or connect with family using voice commands.

Video intercom systems – Video intercoms (some with voice activation), can connect family members who aren’t in the same room, or even in the same house. You can check in on kids who are home alone, an ill relative, or a grandparent with mobility issues.

Smart medical devices – There are a wide range of connected sensors and devices on the market that help monitor health and healthy behaviors. Options like beds and other furniture, socks and shoes, and heart and blood monitors, can be equipped with sensors to track changes in gait, vitals, sleep patterns, and more, and report them to medical professionals or family. They can also trigger alerts of possibly significant health changes. In addition, “smart” pill bottles, water bottles, and apps can remind users of medication or hydration needs, or track usage over time.

Safety and Security
Keeping family and property safe is always a priority. Smart homes shine in this area by alerting you to problems before they become disasters.

Water sensors – If you’ve got a vacation home or you travel regularly, a water sensor can alert you to burst pipes in the winter, a broken water tank, or flood water seeping in. It can send an email or text message so you can quickly contact a plumber or other contractor to minimize damage.

Air quality sensors – Air quality sensors monitor various factors in the air to help keep you and your family healthy. They might warn you of unhealthy conditions or trigger actions such as turning on an air purifier or the ventilation system.

Smart security systems – From connected cameras to WiFi video doorbells, smart security systems not only have remote alerting capabilities, they can trigger other actions as well. They might turn on the outside lights or sprinkler, or turn on a smart speaker so it sounds like someone is home.

Remote Access
One of the most striking benefits of smart home technology is that it’s accessible on the go. This allows you to monitor your property and control your smart devices on vacation, from work, or wherever else you need to be.

Smart locks – Smart locks provide keyless entry so there’s no worry about lost or stolen keys. But you can also create codes for your contractors, cleaning people, and others who may need to access your property while you’re away. Once their work is done, you can delete the codes. Smart locks are also great for families with the ability to send alerts to mom and dad when the kids unlock the door after school.

Smart outlets and appliances – Beyond the ability to preheat your oven while you make your way home from work, smart appliances add additional value. You can turn off a forgotten iron or lamp rather than having to hurry home mid-day. You might also turn on outside lights when you know you’ll be home late, or illuminate your house automatically when you turn onto your street.

Smart home devices can be fun, that’s for certain, but they also have the potential for increasing your family’s peace of mind, health monitoring, and security. The best part is that they can all work together through a convenient smart home hub that can be easily set up through internet service provider. Think about your needs and you’ll surely find just the right smart home technology to help you out.

Christy Matte is a mom of two and a Boston-based writer who covers home security for Xfinity Home. She is also a die-hard techie who blogs at QuirkyFusion.com.?