VIVINT: The story of how my alarm company became my SmartHome.
Part 1: Out with the old
When I think about technology, I think about machines or objects that help to make life easier in some way. Can you think about the most expensive/precious thing in your life? What technology are you using to protect it? If you said your home and family you are right in line with my belief system. A man’s home is his castle. We have come a long way from moats, archery turrets and big thick menacing walls. This is where technology has helped. Many people, myself included, have shied away from home alarm systems due to lack of knowledge, expensive cost, and inconvenience, as they tended to require involved installation and were wired. We all have seen those movies where the villain cuts the land line to the home, or the power leading into the home. What if I told you that you could have an inexpensive system that monitors your perimeter, monitors for fire/carbon monoxide and requires minimal installation? What if I told you this only scratches the surface? You need to get in touch with Vivint.
I was introduced to Vivint in 2011 by my friend Darren, while working in Evansville, Indiana. I was working late nights, my wife was pregnant with our second son, Samuel. We were living in a fine area, we had never had reason to NEED a home alarm system, but we talked it over and called Vivint. They sent over a very jovial and helpful person, we talked about the system and they installed the system in my home. I was concerned that they needed to cut a bunch of holes in my home and that there would be painting, there would be repairs etc. The panel was the only invasive installation and that required drilling a hole. Yes, that involved drilling a hole to run the wire down to the electrical outlet. Within minutes, the system was up, the hole covered by the panel and a small hole near the electrical outlet was all that remained. A white power brick plugs into the outlet and the wire runs through your wall and up into your controller panel. This alleviated my wife’s concern of unsightly wires. The only downside, you need to find a place near an outlet to install the system. So, the install went without a hitch, check. Next was installation of the door and window sensors. I had about 6 of these that I bought: front door, sliding door, garage door, Windows (one story home). Would you believe that these installed simply with double sided 3M style tape? Simply hide them in the top corner of the door (no drilling, no mess, no damage) or window. These magnetically know closed and open status and relay this wirelessly to your home controller. Open the door and you are greeted with “Front Door Open” or “Living Room Window Open.” You can change these, you can modify the names and put them on whatever access points you want. It is easy, it is painless and it is glorious.
Additional features at the time, 5 years ago, were a motion detector, smoke alarm/CO2 monitors, cameras, and they started to have some other home automation tech like power plugs, door locks. I chose to have a motion detector initially and was promised that my 50lb dog would not set this off. However, after 2 false alarm calls to my home, we found out that the dog did not set of the motion alarm, it was when she jumped onto the couch that it registered the entire thing moving and set the alarm. So, we opted for monitored smoke alarms/co2 alarms and a few more window sensors. After this, no more false alarms. My wife loved the system, as it was monitored for door/window integrity and now for fire safety. We had 2 small children under the age of 2, she was often home overnight, while I was working. I had the luxury to set the alarm to Stay mode. My family could roam inside, knowing that the doors were guarded and someone was watching for entry and fire, while she and the babies were sleeping. Here is what technology should do, it should make life easier for you. I worried much less knowing that Vivint was watching over my family.
Now, it would be great if this system solely made a loud audible alarm. It does that! The magic however, is the monitoring station. This system connects via cellular wireless system to a remote call center, who monitors your alarm. The control center does have battery backup to allow for 24 hours monitoring if power fails. If an alarm is triggered or you fail to deactivate the alarm in a certain period of time, they will call you and they will alert the appropriate authorities. If the fire alarm activates they will call you, make sure you are safe and send out fire crew, faster than you can find your phone. As stated above, I have a had a few false alarms and have had the sheriff arrive at my house. I will tell you that the entire system works well, and honestly, works faster than I thought possible. Some counties/cities may require you to have an alarm permit (fee to have them come to you if alerted) and some will not. Some may have false alarm fees that you must pay. I have now had this service for 5 years and I have not had another false alarm. Here is yet another benefit to you. Most home owners insurance companies allow you to have reductions in your cost by having an alarm system in place.
I moved in the summer of 2012 to Western Kentucky. One of the features that sold me on Vivint, as a customer, was the customer service of the company. I have never had a cross word from them, I have never felt insulted or belittled. You are greeted by happy, involved people with each call. These are people, who are service oriented, whose focus is on you and your needs. I want to make this known, I do not work for them. I just really like their style. Vivint has a wonderful move policy that is very fair to both the company and the consumer. If you have been a member for at least a year, and you agree to resign a new contract, there is no fee to move the service to your new home. If you have been a member for less than a year, there is a move fee of only $99. Now this assumes that you take your own products with you to the new residence. They will reinstall them for your at the new location. This works very well, they will do a system check-up and arrange the system in your new home. My wife and I signed a new agreement, we agreed to extend our service and have not discussed this system since 2011.
My wife and I have upgraded our system over time. We now have a total of 11 door/window sensors (each individually named). Remember, these attach via double sided 3M tape and are very secure and unobtrusive. These require button style batteries and I have changed the batteries about once every 1.5 years. The system will alert you to the need to do this. When you open any of the access points, the alarm tells you which one is open. This is very helpful for a family with small children. Additionally, my wife has a key fob, on her keyring (she does not do as well with tech), which allows her to activate/deactivate the alarm. We used to have a yard sign, with a solar light, but the elements destroyed this. We have 3 smoke alarms (opted to not have Carbon Monoxide monitoring as my home already had 3 of these). Finally, we have 2 Automatic Dead Bolt locks. It is quite amazing to not require a key to open your door. It is even more amazing to be able to open these locks using your smart phone. Simply download the app, activate/deactivate the alarm, get a history of what has happened and open/lock your doors.
This has been my story over the past 5 years, in just about 1500 words. My wife and I had begun to discuss the current alarm system, GoPro system. The sounds of the system were failing, cracking and sounding like the system was getting old. We both felt that the system was becoming outdated. The screen was small, we had someone break into our car in our driveway (accidentally left unlocked in the driveway) and knew our home system was not helping us protect outside of the walls of our home as well as it should. It was serendipity, that I met with Vivint at CES 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada 01/2016 at the Digital Experience Showstoppers Event. Here, I was able to meet with Liz Tanner and I was able to learn about the new offerings for Vivint in 2016. The newest offerings include the new SkyControl panel, the doorbell camera (MUST HAVE), the indoor ping camera (amazing for babysitters and families with children), and integration with tAmazon echo, and nest. It is truly amazing to see how far Vivint has come from alarm company to smart home.
Please see part 2 of the review to learn more about the doorbell camera and the new SkyControl Panel and the amazing app that helps to control your smart home.