Home Security With Some Automation - ST + Abode (or Scout or ?)


(Matthew Greig) #1

I’m looking for some recommendations after spending the last two weeks reading everything I could find on the subject of Security and Automation. Basically, I’d love to know what folks would do today if they had the opportunity to build greenfield.

Here are my general requirements:

  1. I really don’t like monthly fees. I may be able to swallow something like $10’ish/month (particularly if there’s an annual discount) - but no way am I paying $40+/month for subscriptions

  2. In general, I don’t want to spend a lot. The idea of being able to link different systems together is appealing so I’m not getting gouged from one manufacturer (Apple et al…)

  3. I work IT for a living so can engineer/figure most things out - but it doesn’t mean I really want to spend my time debugging/trouble-shooting ever week.

  4. Integration is nice/ideal but I’ll take “just works” over integration

  5. I don’t like the idea of Cloud-dependent … (ironic I now realize - didn’t fully appreciate SmartThing’s near 100% dependency on Internet connectivity/cloud)

I currently have not installed anything so have a greenfield environment and my plan was to have only SmartThings as the central hub and use it as a security first/automation second platform. After reading about all the issues, outages, resetting, Cloud-dependencies, etc… that seems like a bad idea. I’m kind of questioning using SmartThings at all honestly but there don’t seem to be a lot of other good alternatives and the community support here seems like the best.

What I think I’m leaning towards is:

  1. Abode for security (long-term will likely go with the no-service (free) option and then add monitoring when gone on vacation but there are some attractive one-year, fully monitored options that I will probably go with if I go this route.

  2. Blue Iris for security camera + ?Amcrest? cameras and a PC w/ HDD (have lots laying around)

  3. SmartThings as hub to tie security into camera solution (+IFTTT?) and perhaps minor automation (more around life-safety - i.e. water sensors, smoke detectors, etc…)

I live in a major metro area with reliable Internet (using an old cell phone with an almost free plan + Asus router for Internet backup) and unfortunately an exploding homeless crisis that has lead to theft and break-ins everywhere.

What I’m really looking for is reliable triggers if a door/window is opened (+ glass break monitor), motion inside my home, and I way to quickly and easily verify if it’s a false positive (video) so I’m not sending the police to my home if there’s not a real event. I’d like to include a video doorbell in the security system but may need to think of it more like a video add-on?

I also have a few general questions around:

  • How easily can security events set video triggers?
  • Do folks even bother with video triggers or just have constant recording and then go in and view video if there’s an event?
  • How easily (if at all) can a sensor be purposed for both security (say Abode) and automation/video - SmartThings or Blue Iris or …?

I’d really love to get recommendations/feedback from folks as I gotta believe I’m not that unique here. I think most of us were drawn to the open platform nature of ST and the lack of monthly fees.

Thanks in advance


SimpliSafe Alarm Integration?
(Mavrrick) #2

So I know this isn’t the direction you were going but. I would suggest you look at the ADT Smartthings panel and arlo cameras.

The ADT panel is a full blown alarm system with Smartthings that doesn’t really require hack for standard alarm system functions like a keypad and entry exit delays. There is also no contract if you choose to self monitor. The ADT sensors will also trigger any Smart things activity you want as they are exposed to any automation. So that will cover automation. The Arlo cameras are great and include 7 days of video for free. There are variations of camera from fully wired free with battery power to POE cameras. They integrate well with smart things and there is a app called Arlo pilot that helps improve it even more. I don’t think the developer has released the updated version for the ADT panel, but I have a fork that has the support.

You would also want to look at a smartapp called ADT Tools that adds allot of extra integration to trigger activity based on alarm events.

I have the Arlo Q wifi cameras and they work really well. They seem to be fairly well priced right now at 144 a piece on Amazon. That is allot better then were they were when they launched.


#3

I was also going to suggest looking at the ADT/smartthings security panel. It gives you everything you get with the other smartthings hub home automation systems (Including the cloud dependencies and lack of reliability), But the security piece is Essentially a separate silo and fills in a lot of the gaps that the other smartthings model lines are missing. Including local operations for the dual logo devices, which are the ones used for security.

It looks to be a decent low-cost security system. And it does have the advantage that while you cannot use the single logo SmartThings Sensors to trigger a call to the ADT monitoring center, you can use the dual logo sensors in home automation routines as well as the security system. So it’s just much cleaner integration than pretty much any other method.

I’m not saying it would be the best one for you, but I would definitely put on your candidate list. :sunglasses:

Here’s the main community discussion thread for that system if you want to talk to other people who have it:

Abode also seems to be a good security system candidate in the low-end range. They have an entirely new model scheduled to come out in July, so That’s just something to be aware of.


(ActionTiles.com co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #4

Well: Automation doesn’t have to require a monthly fee, so it may be wise to consider separating your requirements if finding the lowest cost but reliable Security System.

Samsung SmartThings ADT Home Security packs no-contract ADT monitoring into a touch panel that doubles as a SmartThings hub. Aside from the SmartThings functionality, the $400 system seems dated, with clunky sensors and the SmartThings app, which in our tests had routine problems loading the ADT portion. (Samsung updated the SmartThings app in March 2018, but at the time of this writing the ADT system is limited to the “classic” version.) During testing, we received automated ADT calls on three separate days stating that the system wasn’t communicating with the monitoring company, even though everything looked okay on our end. Also, in our tests of response times, ADT failed to call in two of our six tests.


(Matthew Greig) #5

I looked at the ADT panel and liked everything but the monitoring option at $30+/month… I’ll have to go take another look at the panel as I didn’t realize there was a self-monitored option. In that form - the panel would act just like a generic ST hub BUT have full ADT integration? I’ll have to call ADT tomorrow and get details on this but can I then use any sensor that the SmartThings hub recognizes (Z-wave, etc…) and use those as triggers for BOTH security (most important) and automation (20% as important to me as security)? The other biggie is video so I’ll have to look more closely at Arlo…

The Abode option was particularly appealing in that I can self-monitor 90% of the time and then just pay when I’m out of town … but I should run the math on that scenario and see if it actually pencils out in the long run.


(Matthew Greig) #6

I ready through that review - looked earlier at SimpliSafe and seemed cool… The integration piece for me becomes important in the video piece. Maybe that doesn’t require integration …? I just don’t want an alarm going off without the ability to see why.


(Matthew Greig) #7

Thanks JD - was hoping you’d chime in - having read some of your other comments in other threads. I’ll look into the ADT more and may have some additional ?'s after digging into it more.


(Matthew Greig) #8

A few other ?'s…

  • Do any of the paid monitoring services look at video feeds when an alarm is triggered? I can’t seem to find this info anywhere and it would seem like a big benefit to preventing false emergency calls…

  • I’ll have to do some Googling on the Abode changes but any other details you can share? Are they going to go the Scout route and start charging for things that were previously free? I hate that … feels so bait and switch if that’s the case.

Thanks all


(ActionTiles.com co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #9

Well… I presume SS at least tells you the triggered sensor.

For video recall, you’d be better off with a Blue Iris system or … heck… affordably the Wyze Cam is beginning to sound very attractive for $25 which includes cloud access and motion detection.

(Though I probably shouldn’t chime in all that much, as I don’t believe security systems add significant value to the home. As a side-effect of SmartThings, it’s a nice to have.)


(Jimmy) #10

Just a note because it isn’t clear on the SmartThings site, but the paid ADT monitoring isn’t required. You can get the benefits of a segregated and more reliable security system with the ADT hub without having to actually pay ADT for monitoring.


#11

High end custom security systems look at video feeds, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.

The industry buzz when Abode (founded by a former ADT exec) was that Abode would be the first low-cost system where the central monitoring center would look at video feeds. They do, but I Don’t know if Abode is still the only one that does in this price tier.

Here’s the really big deal: Video and snapshots from the cameras are relayed to the security monitoring station for alarm verification. This is a major missing element in today’s DIY-friendly security systems and requires a special relationship between the product manufacturer and the central station.
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The reason video verification is so crucial is that police departments throughout the U.S., in addressing false-alarm rates of up to 99%, are severely restricting their response to residential alarms. In some instances, they will not respond unless there is an eye witness or live video attesting to a legitimate emergency.

The new Abode model, the Iota, is primarily being released to provide HomeKit compatibility, but also has some hardware improvements including a built in 1080p camera.

They haven’t said one way or another if fees will change, and we should also note that the company was very recently acquired by a big European IOT company, so that could also drive changes.

https://iota.goabode.com

One thing to note about Abode is that you are limited to a total of 160 devices for both security and Home automation combined. It’s pretty common for low-end security systems to have similar or even lower Device count limits.

The following is a good indepth review from late 2017:


#12

Many low-end security systems don’t. Instead, they treat all contact sensors as a single zone. This came from the old wired sensor paradigm where you didn’t have individual sensor reporting: just “circuit intact” vs “circuit broken.”

Up until August 2017 this was also true of Simplisafe.

In the Fall of 2017, they did add the ability to check the status of an individual contact sensor, but you had to drill down into settings to see which individual sensor was open.

I’m not sure what it does now, but if individual alerts are important to you, check with each company before purchase. There is a lot of variation in how this is handled.

You can also talk to people in this community who use both simplisafe and SmartThings:


(Mavrrick) #13

The offical ADT Notification app does send you the specific sensory description name that triggered an alarm event. So that would atleast help you know which camera to look at in short order.


(Matthew Greig) #14

I’m with you on the Wyze Cam … crap at $20 I’d put them outside in under my eaves and put them in some kind of cheap enclosure and if it failed - buy a new one. The downside is no native integration with anything through correct? But that’s true of any of the more reasonably priced (like $60’ish or less IMO = reasonably priced) video solutions (Arcrest, etc…)?

One question I have with something like the Wyze Cam (or any of these cameras) is can I use the free 14 day trigger storage that comes with the cameras PLUS use say Blue Iris to continually monitor and record a 24x7 video stream. I think the answer is yes as the camera puts out a RTSP in addition to being able to send motion triggers to their proprietary off-site storage (hate the “cloud” buzz word)?

SUPER helpful dialog with the community BTW - this (and the inexpensive DIY’ish nature of ST) is why I was so attracted to ST in the first place…


(Matthew Greig) #15

That’s good to know - and that holds true regardless of paying for professional monitoring or not? … but if I’m paying for ADT monitoring (and TBH I’d have a hard time swallowing $30-$40/month for that service so not sure I would) - ADT still wouldn’t look at the video to tell me what’s going on if they have an alarm triggered - yes/no?

The scenario that I see monitoring helpful is where I can’t self-monitoring in the first place - hiking in the backcountry and have little to no connectivity, traveling oversees without Internet connection, unreachable by phone, etc… Ideally, someone else would be able to make an intelligent decision on should the police be called for a break-in.

Perhaps I’m asking too much and not willing to pay for it … but it seems like somebody should be offering this kind of service?!? If someone look at an alert coming into a central monitoring station AND they have a video feed immediately available to them - that takes roughly no more work to analyze. This coming from a guy who’s directed 24x7x365 NOC/SOC’s in the past…


(Matthew Greig) #16

Thanks for that HA Report link - I read through that one and it was really helpful to me to compare the three solutions. It was one of the primary articles that pushed me the direction of Abode over SimpliSafe (or Scout now that they started charging for basic features that used to be free). SimpliSafe is the other system that I spent a decent amount of time looking into.

I like everything about the system except for one major, killer (IMO) flaw. It effectively forces you to pay for their premium monitoring service at $25/mo because if you drop premium monitoring - you no longer have access to the mobile apps and the push service. Great - my alarm goes off but if I have no notification of that - who cares? I don’t want to be forced to pay for long-term monitoring.

Now what I’m unclear on is what can be done with a combination of SimpliSafe and SmartThings. If I can have a self-monitored SimpliSafe system (READ: no monthly fees) and take those triggers, send them to SmartThings, and then have SmartThings notify me - then I’m more interested. I like being able to pay $15 or $25 for professional monitoring if I’m headed out of town with my family for a few weeks one or two times a year but not be burned with a contract the rest of the time.

Then the question becomes - just how unreliable is SmartThings if it effectively becomes part of my security (at least the monitoring part) solution. How often, when SmartThings goes “down” (for whatever reason the hub doesn’t communicate with SimpliSafe - or ANY security system for that matter), does it come back up in a functional state? If I’m out of town and ST goes offline for 30 minutes but comes back up and is functional again … not great but unlikely that a critical event happens in that 30 minute window. However, if I’m out of town and ST goes offline for 30 minutes but comes up in a non-functional state that requires physical intervention - they system is offline for a week+ - until I get home and mess with it. That’s a big deal and a non-starter for me (and I’d think more people who are using this as at minimum a 50/50 alarm/home-automation system).

I’ll go trolling through all the SimpliSafe+ SmartThings threads I can find but any thoughts/comments/experiences would be greatly appreicated.

Thanks again - you guys rock.


#17

This is exactly the service that Abode was created to provide. They have a special arrangement with the central monitoring center that they use so the agents there do review the video feeds. This makes it a “verified” call if they do have to call the police for you. They were definitely the first low-end system to offer this, I just don’t know if they are still the only ones.


(Matthew Greig) #18

I like it … but for video - do I then have to use the Abode cameras or is there some way to leverage amcrest, wyze, arlo, whatever in place of the $150/each and indoor only Abode cameras? I want to put a few cameras outside my house and don’t see any abode cameras available (plus they’re spendy).


(Mavrrick) #19

Thought I would take another attempt at explaining the ADT system and be a bit more through.

First as already said the ADT part of the system is silo’d from the SmartThings side. So Integration can be limited if they wanted to. That isn’t a bad thing as you want the security system to be as reliable as possible. With that being said all of the sensors from the ADT side are presented to SmartThings for automation. So the sensors do pull double duty and allow automation. The SmartThings side has all of the functionality of the original hubs minus some smart apps. Samsung claims that is to prevent compatibility issues. I haven’t had any problems adding apps back though the IDE though.

The ADT SmartThings system has Door/Window Sensor, Water Leak Sensor, Motion Sensors, Carbon Monoxide Sensors, and Fire sensors that are available. There is also a keyfob but that is simply used to change alarm modes or trigger a panic alert. These create a pretty complete setup. The main panel houses battery backup, cellular radio backup, and a full blow alarm system with all of base functionality you would expect. There is also some TTS functionality built into the panel for the sensors as well. Simply put you can have it chime or say the location name when the contact is opened. ie Front door opened.

One of the biggest complaints people have is that the ADT Side requires the sensors to be the dual branded ADT/Smartthings sensors. If they are not they will never trigger alerts to ADT. This means you can’t just buy any Zwave/Zigbee sensor and expect it to send alerts to ADT. If you were heavily invested in SmartThings already and used Smart Home Monitor this could be a dealbreaker. Since you are not then it is just a matter of making sure you get the right sensors for what you want to do. Generally speaking the sensors are fairly well priced. I purchased all of the Door/windows sensors on sale for $19.99 and at most they seem to be around $25.

Don’t forget of the cost of the sensors. The starter kit is just that a start. You need to look at the size of the space you have to secure, and then how you want to secure it. Motion detectors can help reduce the number of sensors you need by covery a large space, but that also means someone has to be inside to trigger them. If you have pets motion sensors also can be problematic I prefer the perimeter based protection method. Simply put any entry point has a contact sensor. It adds up fast when you consider you have to account for each door and window, but it is a good method to lock things down and potentially stop access before it even starts. I had 18 sensors I needed to get to fully secure my house so the sensors along were about the cost of the starter kit.

Though the system is from ADT there is no contract. You can use it completely unmonitored if you like. There are also 3 plans you can choose from if you want to subscribe for monitoring.
14.95 for essentially Water leak and fire monitoring
24.95 for Intrusion monitoring
34.95 for all of it.
There are also 6 month prepaid plans that allow you to lower the cost a bit. ie if you prepaid for option 2 for 6 months it ends up being around $21 a month.

The ADT setup and management is integrated into the Smartthings Classic App. You add the Sensors from the SmartThings App. Once they are added you go through and configure them with the ADT Dashboard which leans on the ADT’s Canopy system. This isn’t new and technically you can access it from a website. As I was told they don’t really want that, but my point is that this isn’t something that is strictly Smartthings. With that system you setup each sensors type and TTS/Chime information, the location in ADT’s system for monitoring and contact information, and billing. It is very straight forward.

Once that is configured you can now change alarm states from your phone or the panel itself. From your phone you can change the system from Disarm, to Arm/Stay, to Armed/Away at any time without any additional code input. You can do this at any time from anywhere. On the panel you can configure multiple users if you like, and probably should configure a password for each person that will use the alarm. It also has a interface to go through and do a walkthrough test of all of your sensors.

Now that the system is setup what does that mean will happen when alarm is triggered. Well depending on how you setup each sensor they will either give youa entry delay of 1 min or they will trigger immediately. Once the alarm is triggered the ADT Notification app will send you a message with the sensor that has triggered the alarm, and the internal siren will go off. You still get a short period of time to disarm the alarm and not have it trigger a call to ADT. I have seen that happen to me a few times when I was testing the ADT Tools app. The ADT alarm functions are all local services. So if internet goes out it will still be completely functional. Monitoring should work as expected whereas if it keeps going off they simply call you to check. ADT only monitors the sensors they provided though so monitoring a camera is out with them.

This is where many people get frustrated with the ADT SmartThings panel. They realize that all they do is get notifications from the Alarm side when an alarm is triggered. Though they can use the sensors to trigger automations, nothing else was there to extend the ADT integration. The ADT Tools smart app changes that by enhancing notification for mode changes, custom actions based on triggered alarm within SmartThings, and then enabling Alarm state changes from Smart apps. It really extends the functionality allot and I frequently see powerful things the tool can do I didn’t originally think about when creating it.

As far as cameras go as I mentioned earlier the only one I have familiarity with is the Arlo Q. The Arlo line have a wide range of abilities. The Arlo Q is simply a wifi enabled 1080p camera that has 2 way audio, motion and audio detection capability and night vision. Though it doesn’t integrate with the ADT side of the system Arlo Pilot can be used with the system to change modes of the cameras when the alarm changes modes, You an also include the Arlo Camera’s in the apps from ADT Tools to change there state between on and off. The Arlo Camera’s function not only as cameras in SmartThings, but Motion Detectors, and Sound detectors. They aren’t cheap cameras but they are good at what they do, and the video is pretty good quality. with a 120 degree viewing angle you an cover a large area.

You can take a closer look at ADT Tools on “Things that are Smart” to get more details about that app.


#20

Abode works with Nest cameras Through an official integration from both sides but I don’t really know any more than that. You need to check with someone who is using it to find out more.