Small Experiments In DIY Home Security

[Dann Albright] writes about some small experiments he’s done in home security.

He starts with the simplest. Which is to purchase an off the shelf web camera, and hook it up to software built to do the task. The first software he uses is the free, iSpy open source software. This adds basic features like motion detection, time stamping, logging, and an interface. He also explores other commercial options.

Next he delves a bit deeper. He starts by making a simple motion detector. When the Arduino detects motion using a PIR sensor it gets a computer to text an alert. After the tutorial begins to veer a little and he adds his WiFi light bulbs to the mix. Now he can send an email and change the color of the lights.

We suppose, that from a security standpoint. It would really freak a burglar out if all the lights turned red when they walked into a room. Either way, there’s definitely a fun weekend project in playing around with all these systems.

34 thoughts on “Small Experiments In DIY Home Security

  1. “It would really freak a burglar out if all the lights turned red”
    Actually, that is an excellent idea to supplement the usual siren in home security systems. At night, it would be visible from the street to indicate that something was wrong.

    1. I simply blink all the lights on and off. sadly most burglaries are during the day so this will not get the attention of anyone. Almost no break in’s happen at night. I added two insanely loud sirens, if they cause pain then they wont hang around.

      1. Have an LCD screen draw the natural attention of the burglar opposite the door/window. mount the camera above the screen, with a simple flash bulb, use software to subtract/fade the known background in software (use Comparametric Equations) then change the background to the typical mugshot background, add a red “BUSTED” stamp diagonally across the image, then display this image on the screen while playing a voice sample yelling “BUSTED!” then reading out the Miranda rights…

      2. If only a security system could have a reliable “roaches check in, but they don’t check out” version. Scaring the criminals off so they can then burglarize some neighbor’s house instead doesn’t seem like a charitable thing to do.

    2. We found a pretty cool device that is a red siren strobe. I forgot the manufacturer. Maybe Resolution products. We found it on Security AllStar and connected it wireless to our Qolsys home security panel. I had not thought about programming our system to default to where all the lights in the house turn off when the alarm sounds but this panel can do it. It has the ability to default everything to alarm modes and can control the lights, door locks, air conditioner and more. I’m going to look up the part and paste the link below.

  2. Have to admit this is going in a pretty cool direction! Throw a train horn into the mix and your burglar better hope he brought some ear plugs, the neighbors will likely intervene as well due to the noise of the train horn.

      1. Slapping a fog horn off of an ocean liner on a car as a replacement for the regular horn is one idea I like to joke about with my bf — sure, it’d probably kill us both, but god damn if the other drivers wouldn’t give us road really fast, too!

  3. Friend of mine had a problem with people breaking into his yard and stealing junk he had piled next to the house. So he added trip wires over every trail in his overgrown yard and then planted some huge stinging nettles in such a way that tripping over wire will end with face in nettles. Then he added some cheap PIR-activated lights and few sirens. Now he’s planning to add electric fence used for cattle. I wonder, what he will add next: bear traps or piranha-infested pools…

    1. Yea seriously, booby-traps are illegal. And you can get in a ton of trouble. Your friend needs to read up on the law before he kills a neighbor kid looking for his cat. Law enforcement especially doesn’t like it.

  4. Actually red light is used during nighttime to preserve eyes’ adaptation to low light, if burglar should use any flashlight it should be red. To freak burglar out I would use stroboscope with interchanging red and blue, like police light but much faster.

  5. When I lived in Dallas they caught a burglar they’d been trying to catch for along time. He would pull up in front of a house in a Cadillac, walk to the front door in a suit carrying an attache case and ring the doorbell. If no one answered, he’d kick the front door open, close it quickly and walk around the house putting whatever valuables he found in the attache case and walk out the door a few minutes later. He was gone long before anyone could respond.

    Someone did this to my neighbor in a condo complex with alarms only 2 blocks from the north Dallas PD complex. The door was kicked so hard it sent part of the frame 10-15′ across the living room.

    A strengthened door with a vibration sensor wired to a siren with a strobe on top of the house is the best counter I have thought of. In general, if you can keep the burglar out for 5 minutes they’ll get nervous and go elsewhere.

  6. It’s definitely interesting to think about the different possibilities that come with DIY home security. Setting up a system to not only deter the would-be burglar, but also make some record of what they look or sound like would be ideal. Thanks for sharing this. I’m curious to see what comes of it.

  7. That iSpy outfits really gets my alarm bells ringing, and not just the usual ‘this is probably malware’ stuff but also about them using the ‘open source’ moniker and making it dirty.

  8. Anyone implementing an video based security using webcam is over doing it. If you don’t have one laying around, Android smartphones can be bought for as little as $10 and it comes with camera (some times front and back).

    You can do everything (take video, image processing, send SMS, etc) within the smartphone. It also comes with battery backup built in. If you UPS your Wi-Fi or have public Wi-Fi to fall back to, that is even better. The bottomline is, if you want simple video alarm, look no further than a smartphone.

    And, for all the crazy booby trap ideas. I have 2 words for you. False Positives.

  9. I wonder how hard it is to get the chemical that they add to natural gas.And have it in a sprayer near the door that fires when someone breaks in,Imagine breaking into a house and smelling gas.How fast would you run?

    1. You can’t imagine how this stuff (xx.Methyl Mercaptan) smell bad, 9 grammes are added to 1 tank wagon.
      Got a superior, who had a minute quantity spilled , even after washing like being radioactively contemned, his wife wouldn’t let him in the bedroom for a week.

  10. “…software he uses is the free, iSpy open source software…” I had a look, and while some limited part of the software may be open source, it appears that the bulk of the functionality is either subscription based ($8 to $50/month), or $275 per user if hosted on your server. Definitely not free. Am I missing something?

  11. Talking about iSpy, I also use Contacam that is an excellent Windows freeware that is simpler than iSpy but far easier to use/setup and can also trigger motion record upon external file’s touch date update

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