home security control panelsThere was a time when every home security system had a control panel. They had cables loads of cables connecting it to the sirens, motion and entry sensors placed around your house to detect an unauthorized entry into your home and sound the alarm.

Then they evolved with the advent of wireless technology and the cables to sensors disappeared which certainly helped in bringing the cost down and skills needed to install a DIY home security system.

Now with the internet and other smart technology the control panel is being replaced and becoming extinct.

Traditional Control Panel

The control panel traditionally was the brains of the system. It had a keypad and display on the front of it where you would program how the system would respond when there was a security event, and use it to arm and disarm the system on exit and entry. There would be a delay built into the system so you could exit before it armed and on entry you had time to disarm it by entering a password before the alarm was sounded.

It is where you set up the sensors into alarm zones and how they worked in the different alarm modes (away, home, off, vacation etc).

When there was a security event and the entry delay had elapsed it would sound the siren and contact those monitoring the system using the landline. If there was a power outage the system could still get the notifications out as they had a back up batteries so it could continue to dial out.

There are some very good systems that still use this approach to home security that you install and monitor yourself where they can work with landline and/or cellular phone networks to get the message out. I compare and contrast 4 of the best systems in this post here: PiSector Or Fortress

Moving On

One of the weaknesses with the way these worked was that a criminal could destroy the control panel during the entry delay and the siren would not sound and nor would the notification be sent out. This was particularly the case when the control panel is located next to one of the criminal’s favorite entry points – the front door.

With wireless technology there are now other ways to arm/disarm the system, so being able access the control panel is not as important and it could be hidden away to prevent this.

One company that offers a monitored service with a DIY installation of a wireless security system, has come up with an innovative solution using wireless technology to separate the keypad and the “brains” of the system. The system is called Simplisafe.

With the Simplisafe2 you install the keypad near your door for easy access and the base unit (brains) can be located anywhere in the house. When the criminal destroys the keypad the base unit is unaffected and the system continues to operate and can sound the siren and get the notifications out. It is a third party monitored system not a self-monitored one so there is a monthly fee but that is cancellable at anytime without penalty.

The Next Evolution?

As the internet, mobile technology and wireless technology are continually improving there are now systems that combine home automation with home security. They are doing away with the control panel. The keypad has gone and you are left with a small box with a few flashing lights and a lead that plugs into your router that controls the sensors wirelessly.

The programming and control of the system is done with an App on your smartphone that you can use anywhere in the world to communicate with your system you can get access to the internet. These systems definitely give you much more convenience and features including cameras (see iSmartAlarm and Canary) and are much simpler to set up and control. The Apps are free and you only pay for the equipment but they do offer premium services that you are charged monthly to use.

Aside from removing the keypad the main difference is that everything is done over the internet and you communicate with your system via the manufacturer’s cloud servers. It does add another level of dependence in the overall system that could go wrong at a vital time. But they are cheaper than many traditional professional systems and much more convenient and feature rich than traditional DIY systems.

Aside from removing the keypad the main difference is that everything is done over the internet and you communicate with your system via the manufacturer’s cloud servers. It does add another level of dependence in the overall system that could go wrong at a vital time. But they are cheaper than many traditional professional systems and much more convenient and feature rich than traditional DIY systems.

It seem this is the way traditional DIY security system manufacturers are moving as Skylink (they make the SC-1000 System) have done with their latest system the Skylinknet SK-200 but they are following in the footsteps of newer start ups that in many cases are being successfully funded by crowd funding – so there does seem to be a demand for this move into more affordable and innovative home security.

These hubs (brains) tend to be small but need to be connected usually by an ethernet cable to your router for access to the internet.

The korner system (for apartments) has the smallest internet hub of all where it is little bigger than flash drive that plugs into your router and communicates with its entry sensors.

These systems like the SmartThings do tend to have a weakness in that they do not work if the internet is down or there is a power outage as there is no backup system for this, so you are without a security system at these times as well as any home automation.

Some of the manufacturers have recognized this as being a weakness for their system, such as the Scout Alarm System, where you can add cellular back up for a monthly fee. Also the hub (the brains) has a back up battery so it can remain working for up to 24 hours.

For now the control panel is still around but it does look like they will, for most home security applications, be a thing of the past in the near future as technologies keep advancing especially if they solve the issues of the internet and power being out.

The new style systems without the control panel do give more control to the home owner and they are much easier to use and are more affordable thereby making it possible for more people to have better security of their family, home and valuables.

Filed under: Buying Advice

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