Protecting What’s Yours

By Karen Stein

Home and office security is such a booming industry of late that cable and telephone providers have been entering the market nationally to compete with dedicated security systems. Locally, though locking doors and securing property may still not necessarily be standard practice, residential and business security systems are gaining interest here as well.

“We used to be so isolated in Traverse City, but that’s not the case anymore,” said Gary Schilkey, branch manager of Engineered Protection Systems (EPS) northern offices. “More people who live here are starting to get security systems. And businesses are more vigilant than average homeowners, more conscientious of losses they incur.”

Part of this increased interest can be attributed to home builders who promote the systems available on the market in the $28 billion home security industry and ordinances that require businesses to implement certain safety measures such as fire alarm systems. But there is another influence at play. Said Schilkey, “The drivers for change are the new technologies that come out.”

Lifestyle Security

It’s no longer just about peace of mind when it comes to life safety – that is, being protected by fire alarms, burglar alarms, circuit cameras and controlled entry access. It’s also about lifestyle, Schilkey said. Now that hardwire telephone lines for security system communication are being replaced by faster, more reliable systems communicating primarily via internet with cellular backup, home and business owners have greater access to control arming and disarming, opening and closing doors, checking temperature, and viewing video remotely.

Schilkey gave the example of a parent at work who wants to be sure his children have come home from school or a business that is closed but waiting on a delivery. There are programs that will send a message to that parent’s smartphone to notify that the system is being disarmed and allows access to view what the camera sees of who is coming through the door.

“Seeing all that on a smartphone means peace of mind,” he said.

The business owner, meanwhile, could watch the security footage to wait for a delivery driver to arrive and disengage the system just long enough for the package to be placed securely inside and then reengaged once the door has closed.

But the ability to check temperature status, whether via smartphone app or an installed temperature monitor, is perhaps one of the technologies of most critical importance in northern Michigan homes and businesses. If a low temperature monitor alarm goes off, explained Schilkey, a central station will receive the alert and notify the owner.

“There are as many low temperature alarms as burglar alarms in Traverse City,” he said.

Smile! You’re On Camera

Cameras for business and home security also have come a long way, said Schilkey, who noted that programming certain cameras to high resolution definition and enhanced “viewability” of images via these internet protocol cameras is far superior to the traditional analog cameras. Even the look has improved, as the brick cameras are being replaced by cameras in domes, which are lower profile and less clunky.

A few years ago, in a crossover of business and residential needs, the Arbors of Traverse apartment complex in Garfield Township found that enhanced cameras of this sort was exactly what was needed in a security system overhaul.

“Before, we had a very basic, outdated security system – a security camera showed black and white, distant, grainy images that only monitored the pool and certain areas of the clubhouse, an after-hours alarm, and a punch code system for after hours access,” said Property Manager Kelly Thomson. A new policy allowing 24-hour access to all rooms of the community’s clubhouse meant a new way to ensure security of the property and the people in it was needed.

The new monitoring system includes a camera with zoom capability that yields high quality, color images and a key fob system that records the time it was scanned and the apartment associated with it. This internet-based system saves the company money in the long run, said Don Hoekstra, maintenance compliance manager for IPA Management (Arbors’ corporate parent). “The security company can log in and troubleshoot from their own office to field any issues that can be fixed remotely. It saves us from service calls if the issue is something minor, like a loose wire.”

Residents and property management mutually benefit from this new system, said Hoekstra. “It gives residents much more freedom and flexibility in using the property while we are assured our assets are being maintained.”

Employee Access

For businesses, keylocks have been increasingly phased out by proximity keycards, which are programmed to identify the employee using it and to administer varying levels of access to different buildings and areas within. The advantages of keycards have been long known – a lost proximity card only means deactivating the lost card and issuing a new one, rather than having to incur the expense of replacing all the locks. Recently, those keycards have been more integrated with camera and alarm systems; for example, a camera can be programmed to become engaged if a person forces her way through a door that has not been activated by a proximity card.

DIY Security

Cable and telephone companies are not the only competitors traditional security firms face. Inexpensive, plug-and-play small camera and microphone systems that connect via Wi-Fi recently entered the market as well. Though these systems are gaining in popularity because they can livestream activity in a designated area without the requirements of service contracts and intensive setup, they are also admittedly imperfect in detecting activity – pets moving about the home might activate the cameras and needlessly alert the homeowner – and are also vulnerable to power outages.

Selecting a System

Schilkey noted that in determining home or business needs, it’s helpful to think of security as layers. However, he cautioned, “There is no one layer that is necessarily going to save you, and there are never any absolute guarantees. But the more layers you have, the greater the odds of your safety.”