The Honeywell Lyric is described as a ‘home automation system designed for the new mobile generation.’ Photo courtesy photo courtesy Honeywell.

Sweet security

New-gen systems offer sophisticated safety

A6Randy Larkam sits at his desk in southeast Calgary looking at the sunny backyard of his vacation home in Arizona. The image on his computer screen is overlaid with several transparent tinted rectangles

As we watch, a caretaker enters the frame and checks the pool and surrounding patio.

“There she is,” said Larkam. “Right on time, too.”

The coloured areas on-screen show the motion detection fields of the cameras that monitor the yard. They can be adjusted in real time just by clicking and dragging.

This ain’t your dad’s burglar alarm.

Larkam, the founder and president of AE Security Systems, is using a Honeywell Total Connect video security system. And since it’s a product he sells, it’s reassuring to see he believes in it enough to use it himself.

This type of system keeps an eye on whatever you want it to in and around the home, and lets you look in anytime from your smartphone, tablet or computer. When its alarm is tripped, it can send a video clip of what caused the alarm directly to a central monitoring station.

Larkam, 58, originally got into home security as a way to pursue his electronics hobby during the winter — the off-season for his paving-stone business. He started AE Security in 1983 well before the Internet age, and has seen the quantum leaps in technology that have taken place since then.

Many of those advances – including online connectivity, cellular data, digital video, crazy-long battery life and miniaturization – are coming together in a new system he’s excited about: the Honeywell Lyric, poised to launch in Canada this summer.

“It’s designed from the ground up to be a system you run from your phone,” said Larkam. “It’s a home automation system designed for the new mobile generation.”

Honeywell Lyric’s control panel will take a picture every time it is disarmed so you can see who entered the code. It uses WiFi with cellular backup to communicate with the monitoring station, meaning there’s no way for a bad guy to disconnect it by cutting wires.

It also accepts voice commands. Tell it you’re going to bed and it’ll lock up. Or turn the heat down and the lights off. Its smoke detectors even talk to each other. So when one sounds, they all do.

“This is new. They weren’t like this before,” said Larkam.

Another popular feature is “pet-immune” motion detection. This allows pet owners to use motion detectors that will ignore pets but still detect other movement. The Lyric system is among those that offer pet immunity.

Larkam says the most basic security setup he’d recommend would be a monitored system with coverage for the entry doors, a couple of motion detectors, a smoke detector on the top level, a low temperature detector and a flood detector.

That’ll sound good to your insurance company.

“We certainly encourage our customers to invest in a monitored fire and burglar alarm system,” said Patrick Magnusson, director of personal lines with Intact Insurance, who also suggested some form of flood detection. “Intact provides a premium incentive for doing so.”

Magnusson’s other piece of advice? If you have a security system, use it.

“When it comes to burglar alarms, they are only effective if the customer actually turns them on. We encourage being diligent with setting the alarm when you leave or settle down for the evening,” he said.

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