"I want my alarm to call my cell phone..."

Old 02-24-07, 08:31 PM
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"I want my alarm to call my cell phone..."

This is a topic that seems to pop up multiple times a week, and now (Spring, 2017) it’s time for a bit of an update:

First, when we speak of “security systems” we are generally speaking of intrusion alarm systems. Many mass-marketers sell video/cctv systems as security systems, but they are not really (at the consumer level) an integrated system. At best, they may share an interface on a customized application platform.

Security systems, for the most part, were designed prior to cell phones being a common item. Most older systems have no practical means to call a normal phone of any sort. They were designed to place calls to an alarm receiver system. If they don't get the correct connecting signals (a "handshake" and "kiss off"), the system doesn't log it as a completed call and will generally try again and again (anywhere from 3 to 10 times) before generating some form of "failure to communicate trouble". There are a few direct to consumer systems on the market that allow various forms of direct user interface; but all have major “cons” that can offset their “pros”.

Newer systems (most built since the mid 90s) often have a "pager format" of some type that, while meant to contact a digital pager of some sort, can be used to connect to a cell phone. You won't get the information a pager would receive, unless your phone service has some form of pager emulation, but you will at least get the calling phone number on the phone's display. Some models have a variation on this scheme that let you key in a response using the phone dial pad (DSC, for example, calls this “residential dial”). It doesn’t always work because some mobile phones, and some phone systems do a better job than others in generation and transmittal of the DTMF (touch tone) tones.

If you want more information than that, there are Voice dialer devices made by companies like United Security Products, Visonic, and a couple of others that are effectively reverse answering machines that can dial one or more programmed phone numbers and deliver a recorded message.
Depending on the details of which model you get and how your alarm is configured, they vary widely in difficulty of initial setup.

Some of the more modular traditional alarm systems, do offer dial in intercept boards, virtual keypad interfaces, and other such features; but they all vary in ease of configuration, access and end use.

There are a small handful of alarm systems reaching the market (as of early 2007), that have such voice dialer functions built in, but are either fairly proprietary systems or the relatively limited modular systems (like Lynx or Simon). Pretty much, you have to look at these things feature by feature to see if they meet your needs.

Other options, are generally small scale and have limits in various features. If your goal is to “harden the target”, and you are protecting an apartment or condo; these may fill your bill; just realize that no solution is going to be 100%.

There are a handful of third party add-ons, that (generally for a fee service) can connect to specific brands and models of standard intrusion alarm systems and provide pretty good interfaces, especially for common brands like the Honeywell Vista, and DSC Power Series systems; you have to compare them on a case by case basis.

To this mix, we have now added the fading of the classic telephone land-line. In their place have come various forms of broadband derived voice communications. The hallmark of all of these is that the wired phone connection at the point of use gets translated to digital data, either at the point of use, or at the nearby telco switch. These systems are optimized for voice communications; so the analog to digital conversion that has to happen at each end of the connection often mangles the precise tone signals used by alarms to send and receive signals; so it's a factor that has to be taken into consideration. Cellular connections to intrusion alarm signals generally pass through subscription services.

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