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New Alarm System (2)

James F. Carter <>, 2019-12-01

I'm getting into an active mode on the new alarm system. See also New Alarm System, which has earlier design plans.

This month I got the ZoneMinder camera recording software working, using a little USB webcam for testing, and I purchased and tested a Wyze Cam Pan ($38). But it's obvious that I need to go back to talking about and deciding several key aspects of the alarm system, which would normally come before the action items.

What Really Is Our Use Case?

A specific event put a bee in our bonnet, alarm-wise. We were in another city on vacation, and the Napco Gemini II intrusion alarm detected a threat. At that time it was professionally monitored. They contacted us by phone, and we decided that calling the police would be a good idea, which they did. There was no actual intrusion, and we got stuck with a $350 bill for a false alarm.

The bill is annoying but in the grand scheme of alarm selection it's a small issue. But its real significance is in making clear an inadequacy of our existing security system. Here's what we think should actually have happened:

So what capabilities do we want?

How Much Will Be in the Cloud?

Alternatives are:

What Features Do We Want?

What features do I actually want in my camera(s)? For my use case I'm looking at detecting a breakin by other means, and using the camera to determine if it is, or isn't, a false alarm.

It's interesting to read the terms of service for the Wyze Cam. They explicitly state that it is not to be used for security or life safety purposes (don't sue us if it works sub-optimally when you are burglarized), and they explicitly mention that a sophisticated attacker can jam wireless signals. All the product hype shows monitoring babies or pets.

Searching for a Security Camera

The first step is going to be to obtain one security camera and to set it up indoors with the eventual monitoring software, expected to be ZoneMinder.

List of cameras included as parts of starter kits mentioned in the previous document:

Google search for home security camera — there are a lot advertised. I'm starting with this review from Safewise, Best Home Security Cameras for 2019 by Rebecca Edwards, 2019-11-27.

Another interesting article: Wyze Cam: The cheapest security camera I've ever tested might be my favorite by Megan Wollerton, 2019-08-29. This is the bare bones member of Wyze's product line, having a manually tiltable base. Other than that, the specs seem similar to the Wyze Cam Pan reviewed above: 14 days cloud storage, free alerts, and a micro-SD slot if you want autonomous recording. She thinks it's a very good camera, particularly at this price.

ZoneMinder has full integration, so they say, with the Wyze Cam series. This is the one I'm going to try out, as the first candidate.

Testing the Wyze Cam Pan with ZoneMinder

This feature list is from the Wyse web site and jimc has kind of commingled the Pan and non-Pan cameras. Some specs are slightly different between them and I didn't list them separately if minor.

Which cameras are supported by ZoneMinder? Basically, a lot of them. Mostly I'm cueing on cameras mentioned above. The start point for this is the ZoneMinder Hardware Compatibility List on their wiki.

Checking Out the Wyze Cam Pan

I was able to make it do these features, controlling it from the mobile app: