Magid: A virtual security guard for your home

Magid: A virtual security guard for your home

There are many home security systems on the market, including some standalone cameras that will alert you if there is movement, all the way up to fully monitored

Larry Magid 

systems like Deep Sentinel that’s only one-step away from having a security guard posted in front of your house.

Some, like the Canary, start at under $60 and come with an app that lets you see whatever the camera sees. Canary offers both indoor and outdoor cameras.

A popular outdoor camera is the Ring doorbell, starting at $100, that replaces your doorbell with a combination doorbell/camera that lets you see visitors on your phone and speak with them either through your phone or an Alexa device like the Amazon Echo.

Any of these cameras let you check your home (or vacation home) at any time via an app.  But, for the most part, they’re “DYI” devices that you install, and you monitor yourself.

Monitored systems

If you’re willing to spend a monthly fee, you can get a fully managed system from ADT, Vivint, Comcast and other companies that include the cameras, installation and monitoring.  I have a Vivint system in my home which includes a doorbell camera, a driveway camera and a couple of inside cameras.  Vivint recently upgraded our driveway camera with the new Outdoor Camera Pro, that features a Smart Sentry AI tool “that not only identifies true threats, but also helps prevent break-ins by warning lurkers on your property they’ve been spotted.” according to their website. I know it works because someone was hanging out in our driveway for a while and, sure enough, I got a warning, though the person didn’t pose any real threat.

One thing I like about this new camera is that it’s less likely to record random events that don’t need your attention. The previous generation camera recorded every car that drove by my house, recording so many “events,” that I was likely to miss any real threats. The new one seems to be able to better determine the difference between a possible threat and normal movements.

As with the Ring and many other home surveillance cameras, there is a talk feature that allows you to speak to whomever triggered an event.

Fortunately,  the events recorded by my systems were not threats at all. And there have been times when having a doorbell camera has been great – such as when we weren’t home when a repair person showed up.  Not only could we see and speak with him, but we have also have Vivint smart lock on our door with which I was able to unlock from my phone to let him in.

Deep Sentinel employs human security guards

I’ve recently been testing out the Deep Sentinel systems that consists of three wireless cameras installed around my home plus a 24/7 monitoring service that uses a combination of artificial intelligence and humans to keep an eye on our house and yard.

For $500, you get three install-it-yourself cameras, a smart hub that wirelessly connects to the cameras and an extra battery that charges inside the hub. The good news is that these cameras are battery operated so you can put them virtually anywhere without having to worry about wires. The bad news is that that battery has to be changed out every few weeks, which is why there is always an extra battery charging in the hub.

In addition to buying the cameras, you’ll spend $49 a month for the service, which is Deep Sentinel’s secret sauce.

Lots of companies will, for a monthly fee, monitor an alarm system and call the police if an alarm goes off, but Deep Sentinel’s AI and human guards strive to prevent someone from breaking into your house before a crime is committed. The AI software looks for suspicious activity such as someone lingering on your porch, reaching for packages or trying to force a lock. If the software finds something suspicious, a human guard takes a look and has the option to talk with the person (the cameras have speakers and microphones)  to find out what they’re doing and ask them to leave if necessary or call the police if the person continues to pose a threat.

I inadvertently had a chance to test the system in action a few weeks ago. I was out of town when Deep Sentinel called me to say that police where on my porch. It turned out that our house cleaner had inadvertently triggered an alarm on our Vivint system because I had accidentally turned off a feature that disables the alarm when an authorized person enters their code on our electronic door lock. Vivint tried to call me but I didn’t get the call so they called the police. Ironically, because I was also testing Deep Sentinel, their agents saw the police at my door and called me to explain what they had observed.

Had I only been using Deep Sentinel, and not Vivint, the police probably never would have been called because Deep Sentinel’s human guards might have determined that our house cleaner wasn’t a threat. That’s not a criticism of Vivint — their agents did what they are supposed to do — call the police if an alarm goes off. But there is something to be said for Deep Sentinel’s approach, which is more protective than reactive.

And speaking of reacting, my house cleaner was understandably shaken by the alarm. That’s why I immediately called her to reassure her and apologize and then disabled the alarm and remotely unlocked the door for her.  I also sent a note to the police to apologize for the false alarm and thank them for coming out.

Larry Magid is a tech journalist and internet safety activist.

Published at Thu, 11 Jul 2019 11:00:44 +0000