PC-Based Home Security: Do It Yourself

The Schlage WCW100 wireless camera has a WPS pairing button, but the instructions explicitly say not to use it. Instead, you connect to the camera by Ethernet , enroll the camera through schlagelink.com, go to the Cameras tab, and click Add Camera.

The WCW100 tops out at 640 x 480 @ 30 fps, and it’s a fine enough camera for non-discriminating users. With only MJPEG and MPEG-4 support, somewhat grainy video, and the ability to work with exactly one platform (Schlage’s) the unit is a bit pricey at $133.78 (Amazon). If this were any other IP camera, it would cost about half that amount. But Schlage knows that it has the best if not only game in town for consumer-level, Web-based door security, and a big percentage of those buyers are going to want to have a total package. Someone rings the doorbell, you check the camera stream, see it’s the person you’re expecting, and key in a manual deadbolt unlock. Or if that Miscreant Kid comes wandering in at 2:40 AM, wouldn’t it be best if the door unlocking triggered an automatic video recording of who comes in and the condition they’re in?

Ah, therein lies Schlage’s inexcusable flaw. There is no video recording or snapshot capturing on this system. Nor is there any sort of event triggering. LiNK is a security system with a gaping hole in its security functionality. You can watch a two-minute stretch of live footage from any Web browser, including on iPhones and Android devices, but that’s it.

Fortunately, Schlage recognized this hole and is about to fill it. If you check out this video, you’ll see that the next LiNK software update, which Schlage tells me will arrive “early in the second quarter of 2011,” will offer manual and triggered video recording capabilities. And yes, door openings will be one of those triggers.

This video also shows sensors, such as a back door sensor. Knowing that the Schlage LiNK is based on Z-Wave wireless technology, which, like ZigBee, is supposed to be a common protocol that spans a wide number of devices, one Z-Wave vendor’s sensors should work on another Z-Wave vendor’s controller system. When I started this article, I was told that the LiNK Bridge would operate with sensors from Homemanageables.com. In fact, that company was kind enough to send me moisture and motion sensors to integrate with the LiNK system. Unfortunately, these sensors will not work until the new LiNK software arrives. I wish I could show you the devices in operation. They form a very important part of home security, allowing you to safeguard various portions of your home and perimeter. But we’re a couple of months shy of all the pieces working together.

Another thing you’ll see in Schlage’s video is that the company is very aware that energy control will soon be a driving force in the adoption of products like LiNK. When smart grids and computer-managed systems can save users hundreds of dollars in energy every year, you’ll see adoption skyrocket, and we’re very close to that being a reality now. Companies such as Schlage are jockeying to be in position for when the day arrives. This is why you’re seeing LiNK evolve with features that control lighting, home climate, and device automation. (If you want to see what the Trane thermostat installation and functionality looks like, space wouldn’t allow running it here, but you can catch the play-by-play at williamvanwinkle.blogspot.com.) All of these things can be scheduled, monitored, and tracked over time. Today, you can manage lights and temperature. Soon, it will be much more. This is only the beginning.

Ultimately, that’s the message that I hope emerges from this article. I confess, I was disappointed to see so few IP-based security product types in today’s market. There’s some variety within the camera category, and I like the directions that D-Link and Logitech in particular have taken. But we should have been farther along than this by now. We should have had a dozen vendors like Schlage with refined, turnkey solutions based on more evolved standards than where Z-Wave is today. That part disappoints me. The encouraging part is that I believe those solutions are still coming, and we don’t have 10 years to wait. The energy market will spur the security market. More varied and affordable options will be arriving. It’s all going to work out, and you’re going to be able to keep your home safer more thoroughly and conveniently than ever before.

William Van Winkle is a freelance editor and tech journalist who has been writing for more than 20 years. His work has appeared on Tom's Guide, Tom's Hardware, Tom's IT Pro, AMD, Seagate, Computer Shopper, and more. He is also an author, writing poetry, short stories, and science fiction and fantasy books.

  • thegreathuntingdolphin

    Cool article. I have been looking into security cameras for the home, especially ones that are outdoor or pointed outdoor (some noobcakes have been hitting cars and driving off in my apartment complex). I am a bit dissapointed that most of these don't really seem good for outdoors or for long distance night recording (I know some of these said up to 20 to 30 feet but in my experience that means they are really only clear at 10-15 feet). Foscam has a number of cheap IP cameras with pan and tilt, are for outdoor use or longer night vision use. Do you have any experience with them?

    The Schlage system is looking good. Hopefully others will jump on the bandwagon and get more products out. I am glad the Schlage deadbolt is not motorized like the Kwikset one since it greatly improves the battery life. Whenever I get a house I am definitly going to do something like the LiNK system.

    I too am disappointed in the current IP-based offerings. The perfect IP-based camera seems illusive. Too many have half the features. Most the N wireless ones seems to lack really good night vision capabilities and the ones with good night vision capabilities usually are G only or have N are stupidly expensive.
  • Nice article!
    It’s interesting how IP cameras and emerging technology, such as Jabbakam.com enable average people to transform a home surveillance system into a shared camera network that can be accessed by whoever is invited by the camera owners, to view the footage via an online account accessible from anywhere at anytime.
    Jabbakam is a system where you have complete access to your footage, to manage and share as you want. You can easily create a network (public or private) and invite your friends or neighbours to join and add their cameras so that you all have access to the footage of the cameras as a group.
    You can set up alerts so that you will be notified by email or sms if your camera detects something happening in front of it, and you have peace of mind that your camera is doing its job and working, thanks to a monitoring system that checks your camera status every few minutes. The Jabbakam website offers users a lot more functionality besides. Check us out, and join us on Facebook.com/jabbakam and Twitter (@jabbakam). We’d love to hear from you!
  • It is still an annual subscription of $80 a year it is only very well hidden by Logitech (just try and buy it and you will figure it out).
    The hiding of subscription cost itself is terrible, but also that they sell you just part of a product is outragous. It makes me mad and takes some of the joy of owning such a cool (and expensive) product.
  • I'll never buy a product that requires a subscription or is dependent on another site or "the cloud". Excellent article, except for the WPS thing.. WTH is that?