New Smartphone Apps Keep Homeowners in Touch With Security Systems

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By Natasha Baker

Homeowners worried about security while they are at work or on vacation have a range of new smartphone apps to help them remotely monitor their property and to notify them if there is a problem. In the United States in 2012 there were more than 2 million burglaries, or about one every 15 seconds, according to government crime figures. Large established companies and startups are offering apps that connect remotely to monitoring systems to help consumers keep their homes and property secure.

Viper Connect, for iPhone and Android, is an app that monitors homes and cars. The company supplies a do-it-yourself security system with motion sensors and video cameras, which can be placed around the home, and watched remotely. "Traditionally unless a home had already been wired for security and automation, it was difficult and expensive for people to get the advantage of home security," said James Turner, vice president of product development at Viper, which is owned by Directed Electronics, in Vista, Calif. Thanks to wireless devices and mobile apps that can control them, it is much easier, he said.

With the Viper Connect app homeowners can turn the security on or off remotely. If there is any motion in the home it sends a notification to the users. For an extra fee, real-time video feeds from cameras placed around the home can also be viewed.

The app can monitor up to 64 devices, including sirens, sensors and as many as eight cameras.
"Normally, when you're a considering home security system, you tend to think: Where are the areas in my home susceptible to break-in?" Turner said. The starter kit, which includes two sensors, costs $229.99. Additional accessories are also available to control lighting, thermostats and garage doors. The app is free but premium services, such as access to video feeds, costs $9.99 each month.

For $199, iSmart Alarm, connects to a similar system and lets users monitor their system without signing on for a monthly plan. The Oplink app, which costs $149, requires a monthly package that starts at $9.99.

AT&T also has a security app, AT&T Digital Life, for iPhone, Android and Windows Phone. Its basic package starts at $29.99 a month plus a $149.99 fee for equipment and installation. Users can monitor their homes and remotely unlock doors to let someone in. Most security systems will notify the homeowners, while others like AT&T Digital Life will call the police if there is a break-in.

Smartphone owners looking for a cheaper solution can turn to apps such as Presence, a free app that lets users turn an old iOS device into a security camera that can be viewed remotely. "It's an emerging market and I think it will catch on rapidly in the next two to five years," Turner said about security apps.

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