As mentioned in my Future Home Security Plan post, I have been researching and piecing together a hardware/software list to increase the protection of my new house. I had originally planned on using a collection of Ring products to provide video surveillance in addition to the items I already had purchased (keypad deadbolt, upgraded locks, indoor camera, Echo Dot).
After careful consideration, I found that my proposed build really didn’t cover as much of the house as I needed. For example, there would be no 24/7 monitoring, door sensors, smart fire/heat detection, or any form of interior motion detection. ADT, whom I must say, are quite vicious when it comes to trying to sell you something, have been constantly offering me discounts and special packages. I put all of the offers on hold, not wanting to pay a significant monthly fee, but in the end, ADT offered me a deal I couldn’t refuse.
Allowing me to choose my own parts, ADT offered to give me all of the equipment for free, not pay for installation, and get the first two months of monitoring at no cost. The plan itself is pretty expensive ($63/month), but with the Pulse package, I have access to the ADT mobile app (Alarm.com), pro video with some hefty storage, two-way voice capabilities, and use of the Qolsys IQ Panel 2. I was hoping I would receive a significant reduction on my homeowner’s insurance with the system (it would make sense, right?), however, I later found I saved like $6 on the entire premium; yeah, it’s pretty lame.
At the heart of the security system lays a Qolsys IQ 2 7” HD Touchscreen, or to better describe it, a 7” Android tablet controlling both home security and automation. Measuring 5.0 x 7.7. x 1.0 inches (HWD), the device holds some impressive hardware despite its small size.
Here is a quick hardware summary of the Qolsys IQ Panel 2.
7-inch LCD: 1280×800 resolution, 300 cd/m2 brightness, 24-bit RGB, capacitive glass multi-touch touchscreen, glass break sensor.
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon Quad Core.
User Codes: Up to 242 unique role-based codes (Durres, Guest, User, Master, Installer, Dealer).
Wi-Fi– 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac dual band 2.4/5G, including built-in router capability.
Image Sensor– Proprietary Image Sensor capable of pairing with up to 5 devices.
Z-Wave Plus– 119 total device capability (up to 80 lights, 6 locks, 6 thermostats, 6 garage doors, 21 misc.).
Cellular– LTE (Verizon).
Security R/F– S-Line Encrypted 319.5 MHz, up to 128 security zones.
Bluetooth– Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) 4.0.
Radio Slots: Fits up to 4 replaceable radios.
Flash Memory: Internal Storage- 8GB NAND Flash.
SD Card Slot: Micro SD.
Speaker Stereo: 1W x 2 Stereo speakers (unified audio system).
Camera: Front Camera- 5MP fixed focus.
Battery: Lithium Polymer 3200mAh.
The Qolsys IQ 2 captured my attention early on with its wide range of features and impressive internals. I wanted an alarm system that could monitor doors, windows, motion, smoke/heat, and carbon dioxide, as well as be able to record data from multiple cameras. The system also needed to be able to be completely controlled and monitored from a mobile device, providing me real-time video and alerts, regardless of my location. So, after researching several of the available products and brands out there, I finally settled on a Qolsys system with ADT monitoring.
The Panel itself is quite amazing in both functionality and appearance. One of the major deciding factors in wanting a security system is to make the house look cooler (and to protect my wife and baby, of course). When you enter my house, the first thing you notice is the SkyBell Slim Doorbell Camera’s bright LED light illuminating the surrounding area with an essence of awesomeness, and then the once you open the door, you are greeted with a Kwikset SmartCode 909 Electronic Deadbolt, requiring you to enter a code to be granted access to my domain of technology. Upon entry, the alarm will sound and you will need to enter another, separate code on the Qolsys IQ 2 Panel. At night, the Panel’s bright display lights up both of our stairways and can also be used as a customizable photo frame. So, when not in use, the Panel will display a cascading series of photos that you can upload using a Micro SD card. I have not yet had the time to mess around with uploading pictures, but if I can get some form of a Star Wars logo to display at all times, I will be one happy nerd (just kidding, I am sure it will just be baby photos).
For the functionality of the device, I am pretty surprised at how much I can do with the Panel. I can view weather information, access messages, watch video tutorials, arm/disarm my system, engage in two-way voice with ADT, request police, fire, or even an ambulance, view the status of all of my current active open/closed sensors (open, closed, active, idle, unreachable, tampered), connect to the device using Bluetooth (auto-disarm when my phone gets close to the house), have pictures automatically taken when anyone disarms the Panel, control various devices like thermostats and lights, as well as view a live feed of either of my outside cameras.
As if the Panel 2 didn’t have enough features already, the ability for the device to use either Wi-Fi or Verizon LTE offers comfort knowing someone can’t just snip my data wire and render the panel useless. Also, in case of a power outage, the panel will remain on for up to 24 hours. Someone forcing you to unlock your door and turn off your alarm? Even if they are standing right behind you with a gun to your head, you can enter the special distress code and the alarm will say it is disarmed, but secretly notify the police (as well as take a picture). Additionally, the Panel offers numerous settings you can edit, such as auto-arming your Panel when you are a certain distance from your house. Pretty cool, right?
When someone comes to our door, the doorbell camera triggers and records the person, notifying me of the event, and I can then use the Panel (or mobile device) to view and communicate with the person. So far, I have not had a single false alarm or issue with the Qolsys IQ Panel 2, and honestly, I really do feel safer knowing my wife and baby are protected at home while I am at work.
In our basement, I opted for a single motion detector to cover the entirety of the area. The Qolsys IQ Motion detects infrared body heat and motion, which actually comes in handy for both security and automation. For example, I can create a rule which triggers an alarm or a light to turn on whenever someone enters the basement. The motion detector also states that it is immune to anything under 40 pounds, but I have yet to test that theory as I have no pets or a walking child yet. The detector will cover up to 35’, making it ideal for the specific location where I have it installed.
Here is a quick hardware summary of the Qolsys IQ Motion.
Wireless Signal Range: 600 ft, open-air.
Transmitter Bandwidth: 24KHz.
Transmitter Frequency: 319.5MHz +-15KHz.
Code Outputs: Paring, tamper, tamper restore, alarm detect motion, alarm restore, supervisory, low battery.
Max Horizontal Sensing Angle: 80°.
Sensor Range: 30 ft (9.1 m) x 50 ft (15.2 m).
Despite its relatively small package, the 2.4” wide and 3.4” long motion detector seems to be more than up to the task of detecting movement and body heat, without fail. I tested the detector by attempting to ‘sneak’ into the basement multiple times and to my amusement, the Panel’s alarm went off each try. Using the mobile app or Panel, I can see the IQ’s status at all times and receive an instant notification on any changes. The only downside I found was it failed to detect anything directly below the device, however, due to the device’s placement, that really shouldn’t be an issue. I was originally taken back by its necessity to be powered by three AAA batteries instead of a direct line, but the IQ supposedly lasts around three years. For the price, the IQ truly serves as another set of eyes in my house.
For door sensors, I chose to grab three Qolsys Mini DW-S sensors, one for the front, back, and garage door. Using a compact and encrypted sensor, the DW-S securely connects to the IQ Panel 2 and alerts me if a door is opened, left open, closed, or tampered with. Additionally, based on the sensor’s status, I can use automation to turn on lights or even increase/decrease the temperature as soon as a door is opened. The adhesive on the device makes installation a breeze and also offers an added safety precaution on safes or medicine cabinets. Using the IQ Panel, I can name each sensor based on their location, so I always know exactly which sensor is currently activated. For the security of the device itself, there is a built-in tamper switch which will go off if the cover on the sensor is removed. Powered with two 3V lithium batteries, each sensor’s power should last around five years.
Here is a quick hardware summary of the Qolsys IQ Mini DW-S.
Sensor: 2.25” H x 1” W x .5” D.
Wireless Range: 600ft, open-air.
Code outputs: Tamper, tamper restore, alarm, alarm restore, low battery.
Transmitter Frequency: 319.5 MHz
Supervisory keep-alive interval: 70 minutes.
RF Peak field strength: Typical 36000 uV/m at 3m.
Once again, I tested each door sensor to see if I could bypass it; long story short, I couldn’t. The response time of the sensor activation to an alarm is pretty much instant. The only placement in my house that the sensor wouldn’t completely inform of entry would be the back, glass door; the sensor would not go off if someone just broke the glass instead of using the door. In the future, I may look into adding a Qolsys IQ Wireless Glass Break Sensor. Overall, the device is so small that you don’t notice it, adds a virtual ‘seal’ to my house, and would allow me to be notified if my son tries to sneak out to a party in the future (glad I wasn’t a teen in the age of wireless tech).
While I already had a few smoke detectors in the house, I wanted at least one smart device which will communicate with the IQ Panel. Since my house is a split-level (all floors are visible upon entry), I felt that a single IQ Smoke would be sufficient as smoke on any of the floors has easy access to pass from one floor to the next. The IQ Smoke is active 24/7, regardless if your system is armed or not, detects both heat and smoke, and communicates with the IQ Panel, thus sending me instant notifications and triggering alarms. I have yet to test the smoke/heat detection abilities of the device as I am scared of triggering a false alarm, but I am sure they are more than adequate. Paired with a 3 to 5-year battery life using 3 AAA’s, the IQ Smoke was an easy choice to protect my loved ones when I try to cook something.
Here is a quick hardware summary of the Qolsys IQ Smoke.
Audible Signal (ANSI Temporal 3): 85dBA min. in alarm.
Sensitivity: 1.5 – 3.5%/foot.
Supplementary Heat Rating: 135°F.
Operating Temperature: 40°F-100°F.
Relative Humidity: 15-90% Non-Condensing.
Dimensions: Diameter 5″ x 2.5″ D
Regulatory Listing: UL 217.
Originally, I was only planning on installing a Ring or Nest video doorbell on the front and back doors; however, after some research, I found a lot of these companies outsource their monitoring to places like India and lack many of the features I wanted. So, I settled on SkyBell’s Slim Video Doorbell with a satin nickel finish, to match my Kwikset SmartCode 909 Electronic Deadbolt. The device has many elegant features, such as a 180* field of view, a temperature range of -40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, a 3-5-year battery, two-way audio allowing you to view and talk to the device via Panel or app, and night vision (using a bright LED). My favorite features are the ability to customize the color of the brightness of the LED, as well as toggle the sensitivity of the motion detector.
Here is a quick hardware summary of the SkyBell Slim Video Doorbell.
Dimensions: 1.4 x 4.8 x 1.1 inches (W x H x D).
Weight: 2.0 oz.
Audio: Omni-directional microphone.
Mounting: Mounting plate affixes to a flat surface and utilizes existing doorbell wiring.
Video Camera: 180° view, auto-scaling, full-color.
Wi-Fi: Compatible with Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, 2.4 GHz up to 150 Mbps.
Night Vision: Infrared.
Motion Sensor: Detects motion up to 8 ft range.
While I know other brand/models have more features, I really just wanted a decent camera with motion detection; due to this, and the fact that the SkyBell’s Slim Doorbell is quite less expensive than some of its competitors, I feel it was the right choice. The only downside I can find is that it shoots in 720p and not 1080p (the industry standard). Also, due to my front door’s closeness to the street, the motion detector on the camera triggers a recording on many passing cars. Other models have AI which differentiates whether the moving object is a person and even utilizes facial recognition to determine who it is. Unfortunately, the Slim Doorbell’s ‘auto-video capture based on motion feature’ had to be disabled due to too many recordings of speeding cars (15 mph limit doesn’t mean anything to anyone apparently). There might be a way to decrease the motion detector’s sensitivity some more but I have yet to have time to play around with it.
Since the doorbell camera covers the front entrance, I needed a separate camera to monitor the rear of the house. I was looking for a wireless, smart, and compact device that can connect with my Panel 2 and provide me with a 24/7 live feed of my deck, rear door, and the surrounding area. The Vivotek IB8360-w meets all of my requirements and offers many other useful features I didn’t know I needed. With the camera, I can edit motion detection settings by specifying an exact area to watch (back door, deck stairs), use its excellent night vision, and be able to communicate with and record/stream to my Panel 2.
Here is a quick hardware summary of the Vivotek IB8360-w Wireless Mini Bullet Network Camera.
CPU: Multimedia SoC (System-on-Chip).
Field of View: 89° (Horizontal), 46° (Vertical), 105° (Diagonal).
Image Sensor: 1/2.9″ Progressive CMOS.
Resolution: 30 fps @ 1920×1080.
Camera: 2 MP.
IR: Built-in IR illuminators up to 12 meters, smart IR technology to avoid overexposure.
Night Vision: SNV (Supreme Night Visibility) for low light conditions.
Efficiency: Smart Stream II to optimize bandwidth efficiency.
Construction: Compact Size, Weather-proof IP66-rated housing.
Wireless: Built-in 802.11 b/g/n WLAN.
Software: Connects with Panel 2 and Alarm.com application.
Overall, the IB8360-w, while not top-of-the-line, offers exactly what I need for the right price. The picture quality is amazing for such a small device and using the mobile app or on the Panel 2 itself, I can access a live stream or record video. The motion detection settings are superb, allowing me to fine-tune the area the camera needs to watch (and not auto-record every time my neighbors are in their backyard). The only downside I have found is the lack of a battery backup. Since the camera simply uses a power outlet in my bedroom (with the cable running through a hold in the wall), if my power went out, I would lose video monitoring in my backyard (whereas my front yard would still remain active). I was hoping the camera would include a separate battery for use during a power failure, but I guess I could always get a backup generator (probably will at some point anyway).
Overall, I find this system to be everything I wanted it to be, providing me with the security my family needs, and the peace of mind that I require. While many of the devices are not exactly the newest model, getting everything for free silenced my initial complaints. In the future, I can always upgrade and move around the hardware, so I am not too concerned with not having the latest technology at this time. I would, however, like to upgrade the video doorbell at some point, allowing me to use the one I have currently as a possible indoor camera or placed on the backdoor. In the future, I will also add a Qolsys IQ Wireless Glass Break Sensor to each lower window, just to guarantee that any entry to the house will be recorded and alerted. ADT might be expensive, but for the cost of not going out to eat one time each month, I think the protection it offers my loved ones and possessions to be worth the cost.
Qolsys. 2019. Retrieved from https://qolsys.com.
Vivotek. 2019. “IB8360-W.” Retrieved from https://www.vivotek.com/ib8360-w.
Alarm.com. 2019. Retrieved from https://www.alarm.com/.
Image: Zions Security Alarms. 2019. Retrieved from https://zionssecurity.com/.