The Integration Guide to Security Systems and Cameras

November 30, 2016

This Integration Guide was sponsored by Nest Pro as a supplement to Residential Systems, December 2016

One of the beautiful things about living in the modern age is witnessing how the connected world is expanding and creating new and intriguing ways for us to not only interact with each other, but also with the appliances and devices that are continually redefining how we live.

Sometimes, however, all of this interconnectedness can prove dangerous and scary, as demonstrated during October’s DDoS attack, when hackers commandeered millions of internet-connected devices, including security cameras, to overwhelm the servers of DNS provider Dyn, effectively bringing down major websites like Netflix and Amazon. It was a wake-up call not only to the U.S. government about the vulnerability of our cyber systems, but also brought to light the minimal to non-existent security measures implemented in the connected devices that are increasingly brought into our homes.

The irony of using connected security devices, such as cameras and video door locks, to enact a security breach against major online outlets is not lost on the custom integration community. Less than a week after the DDoS attack, CEDIA issued best practice guidelines for implementing secure IoT devices, including a note to industry manufacturers explicitly imploring them to “build product that does not sacrifice security for convenience. The ability to allow installation professionals to enter secure passwords, close unnecessary ports and, most critically, enable IP-connected devices to be securely updated when their software has been compromised is essential.”

Nest Labs’ Nest Cam Indoor and Nest Cam Outdoor are Wi-Fi-connected security cameras

Security systems manufacturers that work within custom integration, including Nest Labs, SnapAV, Nortek Security and Control, and others are quick to clarify that they have always taken precautions to protect their security products against “zombification.”

“Access is not a big problem for hackers,” said SnapAV’s Alex Patrao, director of product–surveillance. “To break in, there are two main options: First, if the integrator who sets up the system does not change their username/password, then it’s easy to get in. We highly encourage integrators to always change the credentials immediately after setup is complete.

SnapAV’s Luma IP cameras are used in security applications

“Second, because port forwarding must be set up for dealer remote access, sometimes the hacker can exploit known vulnerabilities and hack the device, regardless of user credentials. Their game is to find and exploit any loopholes, just like viruses on a PC, while our goal is to fix loopholes.”

SnapAV is taking several steps to combat hackers. Once they find vulnerability, they fix it as soon as possible with a firmware update. The real challenge is getting integrators to update their systems with the new firmware update across hundreds or thousands of devices. That’s one of the reasons the company built OvrC, its device management and service platform. One of its core features is the ability to simply update firmware, turning a 15-minute process to update a single device into a 10-second command.

Mehul Nariyawala, product manager for Nest Labs, made clear that the company’s products never ship and never have shipped with default login and passwords, and cannot be remotely controlled via the Nest app without a user creating a Nest account, which itself has a number steps before it can be activated.

“When connected to the internet, Nest products are securely connected to Nest’s managed cloud service,” Nariyawala explained. “To our knowledge, Nest products have not been impacted by the malware being used to hijack devices and redirect them to a different destination. Nest uses embedded security measures like code signing to validate the software running on devices. In addition, Nest remotely updates the software and firmware of its products that are connected to the internet on a regular basis to ensure they are secure and provide the best user experience. If we identify an issue, we can move quickly to fix the problem by seamlessly updating devices over the air.”

Steve Connor, product marketing director for Nortek Security and Automation, encourages consumers to play a role in strengthening their cyber security by protecting their home network with simple steps like changing default passwords, but also default SSID (service set identifier) along with implementing WPA or WPA2 security options with AES encryption and setting up separate guest passwords. His company’s products, like the GoControl line, communicate and connect via Z-Wave technology, which uses AES120 encryption. This is the same level that major banks use to protect financial information and safeguard connected devices.

Nortek Security and Control’s 2GIG GoControl GC3 Panel

“Each Z-Wave network has a unique ID that gets assigned to every device on the network,” Connor said. “That ID is different for every Z-Wave hub, meaning that your neighbor’s hub, or stranger’s hub, cannot control your devices.”

CI-Strength Security Options

Even as hackers challenge the security of connected devices, security cameras and systems remain one of the biggest growth sectors for both commercial and residential integration, and continue to be the major entry point for consumers to get their feet wet with practical aspects of the smart home concept. Everything from video door locks to simple motion detectors is opening up consumers to what is possible beyond traditional alarm systems.

Nest Labs’ Nest Cam Indoor and Nest Cam Outdoor are Wi-Fi-connected security cameras that provide 24/7 live streaming in 1080p HD quality through the Nest mobile and web apps. These products offer attractive price points and strong brand recognition.

“Many customers subscribe to optional Nest Aware services, which adds an intelligence layer where the camera sends the user an alert if there’s a person in front of their camera—using person detection,” Nariyawala said. “They also get access to a revolutionary feature called Sightline, which allows users to review hours and hours of information within a matter of seconds using continuous scrollable Timelapse.”

SnapAV, which at press time announced its acquisition of Visualint, a Florida-based company that manufactures “intelligent surveillance equipment” for the custom integration channel, also provides Luma IP cameras for security applications. According to the company, its dealers like the picture quality achieved with the cameras’ 4MP sensors. The 700 series features a motorized lens, eliminating the need to adjust the picture while on a ladder, while the line offers significantly more motion configuration options with improved basic motion, advanced motion, and smart motion, Patrao noted, which introduces some video intelligence and customized settings to minimize false alerts.

Nortek Security and Control has introduced a number of security solutions this year, including a full line of 2GIG IP video solutions that feature indoor and outdoor mini dome cameras, a Wi-Fi indoor camera, and a network video recorder (NVR), as well as the GoControl Smart Doorbell Camera.

“Unlike some other solutions on the market, the GoControl video doorbell is a hardwired, weather-tight solution that was designed to be professionally installed by your local security dealer,” Connor said. “The fact that consumers do not need to worry about replacing the batteries or experiencing performance issues due to harsh weather conditions after the GoControl doorbell camera has been professionally installed has been a big one. The video doorbell enables homeowners to not only see, but communicate with whomever is at their front door, right from their smart phone anywhere in the world at any time.”

Highlighting a shift toward DIY-ers looking for affordable and functional solutions that they can control via their mobile devices, Honeywell has introduced the DragonFly Security System. Referred to as the DIY “business in a box” by Keith Jentoft, of the integration team at Honeywell Security Group, it includes battery-powered indoor and outdoor wireless cameras. “Users who subscribe receive video activity alerts on their smartphone device and can conveniently and quickly disarm, dismiss, or click “dispatch” to send the video alarm to a monitoring station for police response from any location,” Jentoft added.

Honeywell has introduced the DragonFly Security System, referred to as the DIY “business in a box.”

Popular CI-brand Lilin has seen an increase in demand for its SUS316 marine-rated stainless steel remote head camera model, IPC0422E4, which has a low-profile turret design and features IR illumination for capturing video in near total darkness.

“This corrosion-resistant camera was designed for yachts and coastal properties,” said Joe Cook, general manager, Lilin Americas. “We have been seeing an increased number of installations at the front door of high-end residential properties where the camera’s sleek design fits the owner’s idea for a low-profile camera. We [also] recently released an integrated door station with SIP compatibility, model IPC0522E2. The door station video records into the home’s ONVIF profile S networked video recorder along with the other surveillance cameras installed at the property.”

Lilin’s door station

The door station has high-quality video with a 2MP 1080p image sensor, lens distortion correction, white light illumination, IR cut filter, and IR illumination for capturing video in no light. The LILINVeiwer mobile app is provided for viewing on iOS and Android mobile devices.”

Home8’s Security Ultra-Secure Starter Kit—an entry-level, self-monitoring home security solution—is free after the initial purchase of the hardware. Daniel Wong, vice president of sales, marketing, and PLM at Home8’s parent company MivaTek International, pointed to this kit, along with the manufacturer’s Twisted HD Camera Ultra-Secure Starter Kit as customer favorites.

“The Twist HD Camera Ultra-Secure Starter Kit is another popular item because you get the most bang for your buck when you compare what’s being offered by other point-solution, IP-camera players,” Wong said. “For $299.99, users are getting two 720p HD Pan Twist cameras that provide a 100-degree field of view with a 300-degree motorized horizontal pan. This feature set gives users the flexibility to view more than one fixed location. This kit’s popularity has been driven by the need to have peace of mind through video monitoring for their home and for their loved ones, including pets.”

Home automation giant Control4 uses bank-level encryption for its security products, which include its EA Controller that controls integrated smart locks, sensors, cameras, and door stations in existing systems.

Control4 offers a garage door security package.

“Control4 also offers security packages like the garage door package that includes everything a customer needs to install sensors and controls that monitor garage activity,” said Paul Williams, Control4’s vice president of solutions. “One popular feature is the Control4 App that allows customers to easily monitor cameras that are placed inside or outside of their house, and remotely view security camera footage easily from their mobile device.”

Elk Products’ M1 security and automation controls use an integration- friendly approach that plays well with other smart products and features a 500-plus-word vocabulary for a built-in voice dialer that can call up to eight phone numbers and alert owners of status changes. It also includes a built-in telephone remote control that allows control of temperature settings for a water heater, as well as garage door and lighting integration.

“Our M1 Security and Automation controls are attractive to clients because they offer the ideal combination of security, energy management, and integrated control solutions,” said Amy Strickland, marketing and support at Elk Products.

Spyclops products by Metra Home Theater Group, including the Spyclops Dome Camera Varifocal 4-in-1, which was launched earlier this year, has fans among integrators.

Spyclops products by Metra Home Theater Group, including the Spyclops Dome Camera Varifocal 4-in-1

“It’s popular with our dealers and their customers because of its 4-in-1 format capabilities,” noted Jessy Crabb, general manager at Metra Home, “meaning it is compatible with nearly every system on the market, including TVI, AHD, CVI, and CVBS. The dome camera offers high-resolution images up to 1080p for both day and night viewing.”

IC Realtime’s new 4K recorders provide ultra-high definition outputs, as well as a natively de-warped view of the company’s 360-degree cameras. The new recorders, along with its 720-degree Beam camera solution, provide customers with an attractive security package.

“This camera features an amazing, immersive 360x360 degree view in Ultra High Definition,” noted IC Realtime training manager, Patrick Carter. “Our cameras keep getting better and faster with the use of smarter processors (like our latest iSniper Gen2 chip) and H.265 compression.”

SECURITY IN THE IOT AGE

The growing sophistication of security systems, especially cameras and door locks, is on track to revolutionize custom integration as a whole. With the definition of the smart home constantly expanding and improving, it is unsurprising that security systems are not only an entry point but also a safeguard for this redefined home space. On top of improved camera quality and interactivity with everyday mobile devices, custom integration-driven systems have the added value of home tech pro support and the knowledge base that can keep systems up to date and protected.

“Security cameras are getting smarter and will continue to do so,” Nariyawala said. “A few years ago, motion alerts were a cutting-edge feature, but today they are becoming common. Customers want to get the right information at the right time from their security systems, which is why Nest Cams offer intelligent alerts, such as person detection. Expect to see more innovation in this area from vendors across the industry. Ultimately, the best security cameras and systems will be able to tell its users ‘exactly what’ is going on inside their homes as well as be able to deter and prevent burglaries/ crime.”

Llanor Alleyne is a contributing editor to Residential Systems.

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