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VoIP and Home Security Systems Don't Get Along

samzenpus posted more than 7 years ago | from the your-door-wants-you-to-stop-calling dept.

The Internet 187

coondoggie writes "Here is a story about consumer VoIP services that can cause your home security alarm system to malfunction or not work at all. There have been problems with customer phone systems in Canada who were using Primus but Vonage customers in the U.S have complained too. A number of sites have popped up offering suggestions to help deal with the problem."

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I can imagine (2, Funny)

President_Camacho (1063384) | more than 7 years ago | (#18018856)

Here is a story about consumer VoIP services that can cause your home security alarm system to malfunction or not work at all.

This would present quite a difficulty, if say, your home security system was ED-209.

Re:I can imagine (1)

operato (782224) | more than 7 years ago | (#18018876)

Please stop away from the keyboard. You have 20 seconds to comply.

Get it through your thick skulls (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18018858)

I don't mean to be mean, but home broadband connections and VoIP services do not meet the same standards of reliability and uptime that your landline is generally required to meet.

Whether it is 911 service or your home's alarm system, do you want to trust your home broadband connection for emergencies?

Re:Get it through your thick skulls (2, Interesting)

X=X+0 (142003) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019028)

Yes. I do... Especially ever since my local phone provider switched my land line over to fiber to the house. So my net and phone are all on the same fiber, so I might as well use the VoIP solution and save the money.

At least they put the fiber interface on battery backup so it works even with the power out. POTS is going away so we might as well work with it.

BTW, the fiber has been ultra reliable. 1 year with it now and not one outage!! Yeah! :-) So much better then the cable modem.

- X

Re:Get it through your thick skulls (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019092)

the other day it was raining here - does that sometimes in florida- and my pots phone through bell south was down. so my wife had to im me at work - since our internet was still up. go figure.

Re:Get it through your thick skulls (2, Interesting)

SeaFox (739806) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019668)

I don't mean to be mean, but home broadband connections and VoIP services do not meet the same standards of reliability and uptime that your landline is generally required to meet.

I think the issue has to do with the actual power coming over the house wiring with VoIP-based phone versus a Baby Bell's network. When I changed my phone service from SBC over to our cable provider, the service is digital, but it's not run over the cable modem, it has it's own dedicated bandwidth. It rarely, if ever, goes down. But I noticed after switching I couldn't hear my 1960's rotary phone in one room. If I'm standing right by it and a call comes in I hear a feeble tapping of the ringer, whereas it rang out clearly before. I can still make/receive calls on it though.

I also get calls occasionally at work (I work for a cable co, not the same as I have) and people have issues with alarm systems not functioning right when all the phones are working.

It seems as though IP Phone adapters don't put out quite the same voltage as a "normal" phone line, so the alarm system may read it as having no phone line connected.

Re:Get it through your thick skulls (1)

loid_void (740416) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019770)

And more to the point. Do we want to rely on a home broadband connection for us to set off our alarms accidentally?

Bah! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18018860)

If you''ve got VOIP, you've got an IP network.

Get an alarm system that uses your IP network rather than legacy POTS network.

Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18018886)

Just call VoIP to shut down security

Aren't these known issues? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18018908)

There is a lot of signal degradation converting from analog to digital, lossy compression of the digital signal, and converting it back to analog. Not to mention the analog to digital conversion has to happen twice (once over the VoIP carrier, and again when it's received).

Re:Aren't these known issues? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18019520)

FYI, everything you mentioned either also happens in POTS networks or doesn't necessarily happen with VoIP: AD-conversion is good for the signal, as anyone who remembers analog line quality can attest. That's not due to the conversion itself, which is of course lossy, but due to avoiding degradation of the signal in transmission. It's best to digitize the signal as close to the source as possible and convert it back to analog as close to the recipient as possible. Lossy compression is a choice, not a necessity with VoIP systems. You can get full ISDN quality from your VoIP gateway if you want to. Besides, cheap POTS providers further compress the signal too. Transmission from the VoIP carrier to the POTS is digital, you might have one recompression, but most likely you're connecting uncompressed 8kHz sampled 8bit streams (64kbps).

Not sure why we're trying to go digital-modem-analog-ATA-digital-VoIPgateway-POTS- analog-modem-digital though...

It's not just that. Mainly timing. (5, Informative)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 7 years ago | (#18020072)

There is a lot of signal degradation converting from analog to digital, lossy compression of the digital signal, and converting it back to analog. Not to mention the analog to digital conversion has to happen twice (once over the VoIP carrier, and again when it's received).

It's not just that.

POTS signals are generally converted to digital samples at the first switching center they hit (or at curbside equipment along the way), switched as a digital signal, and converted to analog again similarly near the far end. To avoid clicks and pops (and persistent phase jumps) the sampling rates at the D->A and A->D conversion must match - exactly. The phone companies use very accurate clocks, synchronized across their whole network, to make this happen.

The phone companies originally used digital just to pack multiple phone calls for a hop from one analog switching center to another - and D->A->switch->A->D converted at each switch - with synchronization only needed between the ends of the hop. This saved a lot on cabling and gave better signal than analog transport, but not as good as digital from one "last mile" to the other. Then they added digital switching to eliminate the degradation of the multiple A/D conversions and simplify the switch - and spent a decade or more getting clocking synchronized across the whole network to eliminate the resulting glitches. Even today, in the being-retired POTS network, "timing is a third of the problem".

(These days the clocks are synchronized even between carriers by essentially all of them getting their master clocking from the atomic clocks of the GPS system. Before that they used things like LORAN D - a pre-satellite clocking-based radio navigation system for ships - or generated them in their own committee of atomic clocks and distributed the clocking along with the signals using the carriers of the SONET optical fibers or the T1 and E1 carriers of copper and microwave days, and these methods are still used to synchronize boxes that aren't in installations big enough to rate their own satellite-derived clock.)

The signal is encoded as a "DS0" stream of 8,000 8-bit samples per second, in one of two closely related floating-point-like coding schemes ("A-law" or "u-law" where "u" is "mu"), depending on whether you're using European or American-style standards.

So the signal is only capable of carrying 64,000 bits per second. (In fact the LSB may be "stolen" every few samples for ringing, off-hook, and dialing information, so only 56,000 bps are reliable - and it's actually a bit lower since some code sequences are forbidden by a regulation.)

Modern modems are designed around this and try to use as much as possible of these bits for data. In typical ISP-type modem banks the ISP end is connected to the phone company by a digital link and can directly control the bits, without incuring an A->D penalty, so the downlink can approach 56k, with the modem figuring out the actual sampling boundaries as part of the decoding. The uplink (or both sides in communication between two modems on analog POTS lines) comes pretty close to it - though it has to sacrifice some bandwidth to use a coding scheme that can survive clocking-rate errors between the modem's transmitter and the digitizer.

Of course if your VoIP link uses compression to carry your signal in less than 64k bps of payload, you're totally hosed. (And many of them do. For starters, if you're working over a dialup line you don't HAVE 64k bps to use.) Your modem assumes it's working over the POTS network and tries to use the bandwidth. And its signal gets totally hashed by the compression.

But even if you have the bandwidth (or the modem figures out that it's got a "noisy link" and down-speeds), you're still hosed. Because the clocking used for VoIP A->D and D->A steps is just not stable enough for the modem to take advantage of the bandwidth in the digital link.

One of the big pieces of persistent fallout from the war between the "Net Heads" and the "Bell Heads" is that the internet just doesn't do end-to-end timing. Period. It was designed to get the data there as best it could, and let the endpoints handle the rest. But it doesn't limit jitter or distribute timing. It does connectionless transport with best-effort packet delivery. Connections were built on it at the ends of the net. Now, as streaming is being added, quality-of-service jitter and packet-drop limitations and connection-like behavior is being retrofitted to the net's backbone. Yet timing synchronization is still off the radar screen - and actively opposed by the executives in the equipment companies, who want to use the endpoint workarounds rather than become non-competitive by adding extra expensive stuff to their boxes. The migration is away from transports that carry timing (like SONET) toward cheaper stuff that explicitly doesn't (like Ethernet). VoIP and similar streaming protocols approximate the timing when they reconstruct signals, smoothing out the glitches by interpolation, and that isn't good enough to keep modems happy.

Even transport that DOES inherently carry high-accuracy timing (such as WiMax or cable modems) may not synchronize with a network timing source. Then again, they may. For instance: Cable boxes also use a timeslot arrangement based on an 8 Khz clocking reference. A cable provider who sells you a POTS replacement built on a 64 Kbps transport carrying a DS0 MAY synchronize his head end box with the phone backhaul's clocking. Then if your settop box with the POTS jack on the back synchronizes its AD with that clocking you're as good as POTS. (Better, since the analog run is feet, not miles.) But even then you may have issues: If the cable connection or power to the box is interrupted, once it's back the recovered clock may take tens of minutes to stabilize to the accuracy needed for your high-speed modem or FAX machine to be happy.

For a DSL modem hooked to a VoIP card or dongle, forget it! The DSL modem also uses that 8 Khz clocking internally. But even if your ISP synchronized his DSLAM's clocking to the network, that clocking isn't even present on the line from the modem to your computer, and your computer's clocking isn't stable enough to give the dongle enough information to get it right even if the computer could get the timing from the DSL modem. Instead the card/dongle makes up its own timing, which is good enough for A-D for getting audio signals around (with that VoIP application smoothing things at the receiving end), but just not in the ballpark of what a high-speed modem needs. If your POTS-replacement doesn't plug into the DSL modem, you're out of luck.

Which does not mean nothing can EVER be done.

Your VoIP box IS able to generate a clocking good enough to make the modem able to talk to IT. If it then does a local softmodem function it could recover the data stream, and the application could pack THAT up in some protocol other than VoIP for transport across the internet to a similar function on the other end. Then the timing issues can be sidestepped, with the TIFF stream from the FAX or the PPP (or whatever) on the modem slipped coherently by appropriate idle insertion/deletion or the equivalent. The machine at the far end won't see the identical bit stream, but it will see a stream that is semantically equivalent. Then your modem or FAX machine would work just fine.

But your typical VoIP service doesn't do this for you. So that's why your burglar alarm, FAX, and modems don't work.

(Similarly with digital post-AMPS digital cell phones: They have network timing from the cell - but do compression that the modems don't take into account. So you can't run a modem or a FAX machine over them - and your burglar alarm probably won't work either unless it uses some REALLY slow and simple system that can survive the voice-optimized compression. Their internet service, on the other hand, is a digital link all the way and takes full advantage of what bandwidth is available in the cell tower cell phone path.)

so what else is new? (3, Insightful)

Swave An deBwoner (907414) | more than 7 years ago | (#18018920)

Depend for emergency communication on a shared bandwidth communications link whose functioning depends on utility power availability coupled with some ISP's service plan, and maybe when the bad guys break in you won't get the call? Huh? You think? Or, to put it another way, there's no guarantee that The Phone Company's own landline will work perfectly either, but if I had to bet my home on it, I'd go with TPC over VoIP. In fact, personally, I've stuck with TPC landline because of E911, because my landline has always worked during NYC blackouts even when my cellular phone didn't, and because I have yet to see a VoIP service provider that would guarantee that if some guy in Afghanistan (or Milwaukee, for that matter) somehow manages to clone my SIP identity and proceeds to make N-billion dollars (well, amounts are relative to my savings account balance) worth of international phone calls, that they won't hold my feet to the fire if I refuse to pay the bill. But of course, you may see things differently.

Re:so what else is new? (4, Funny)

scottv67 (731709) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019094)

...if some guy in Afghanistan (or Milwaukee, for that matter)...

Do not meddle in the affairs of people from Southeastern Wisconsin, for you would taste good boiled in beer and smothered in sauerkraut.

Re:so what else is new? (2, Funny)

McNally (105243) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019798)

Do not meddle in the affairs of people from Southeastern Wisconsin, for you would taste good boiled in beer and smothered in sauerkraut.
One Dahmerbraten coming right up!

Re:so what else is new? (1)

BronsCon (927697) | more than 7 years ago | (#18020264)

Then, you would be shit out, processed and sold nationwide as a fertilizer, under the name Milorganite.

No, really, go to Home Depot. Hell, google it. I'm not kidding.

Re:so what else is new? (3, Interesting)

timeOday (582209) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019104)

I had to bet my home on it, I'd go with TPC over VoIP. In fact, personally, I've stuck with TPC landline because of E911, because my landline has always worked during NYC blackouts even when my cellular phone didn't


I dunno. Before plugging my VOIP service into my home circuit, I of course had to disconnect my home curcuit from the phone company. I can tell you it was very easy; I just opened a plastic box on the side of my house and unplugged it. If you're worried about "bad guys," a cellphone might be better.


In type type of general emergency likely to kill cellphones (or Internet), I don't think you have great odds of contacting the police and getting a swift response anyways. You're worried about the Internet as a shared bandwidth link? Well 911 and the police are shared resources, too. I can tell you plenty of folks called 911 from the WTC, or when New Orleans flooded, and it didn't help them much.


If you're worried about a random Internet or cellphone outage at the same time as a random burglary, go ahead, but for me personally that's on the other side of "lightning strike."

Re:so what else is new? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18019178)

I have yet to see a VoIP service provider that would guarantee that if some guy in Afghanistan (or Milwaukee, for that matter) somehow manages to clone my SIP identity and proceeds to make N-billion dollars (well, amounts are relative to my savings account balance) worth of international phone calls, that they won't hold my feet to the fire if I refuse to pay the bill.

That is the most interesting part of your comment. I have a landline because I do not trust doing 911 or just having a reliable line out any other way. My home does not have much worth stealing and I do not have any high tech security system. Broadband is not at this residence because I am just out of the DSL service area and the cable company's monopolistic practices in most cities I have lived in leaves me not using them. But if I were online at speeds able to support VoIP I would sign up. Or, at least, I would have. I now wonder about this SIP argument. Is commercial VoIP service not everything it was cracked up to be?

my security system is unharmed (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18018926)

I have a large locking screen door with bars across my $500 steel door.
Inside, I have an army of the most vicious dobermans you have ever seen.
If you get inside my bedroom, my Arabian stallions bred in Enumclaw will destroy you.
Vonage is the least of my worries in my home security system.

Re:my security system is unharmed (5, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019252)

What are the Arabian stallions in your bedroom really for?

Re:my security system is unharmed (1)

nothing now (1062628) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019594)

ouch

This one smells (4, Interesting)

kilodelta (843627) | more than 7 years ago | (#18018964)

It smells because there are easy solutions to the problems. First of all, you can supply backup power to your ATA and not have to worry.

Secondly you should wire your setup as RJ31X so the alarm system can cut in and take control.

Thirdly - you can set your bandwidth so that fax and modem signals will work. Better yet, how come no alarm company has an IP based monitoring setup? Be pretty simple to do with VPN's, etc.

Finally the E-911 issue was resolved a long time ago. I have full E-911 service through Vonage.

All this leads me to believe that ILEC's are behind these stories. They're losing business left and right to less expensive VoIP carriers. And Verizon for one is in a particularly bad spot, their little fiber build out isn't generating the returns they expected.

Re:This one smells (1)

mikerozh (710568) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019318)

You see, the problem is that no VoIP provider gives you five nines availability SLA, but I think this is what government requires from land line phone providers. My ISP (one of the biggest in Canada) can disconnect me for half an hour or 1 hour during night time without any warnings. I bet other ISPs have same level of "service".

And while I totally agree with you that VoIP phone is as good as land line for phone calls, I would not base my security system on it.

VPNs. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18019346)

Direct all complaints to dsanfte. Due to asshat mods I must now post Anonymously.

No apostrophe needed when pluralizing an acronym. VPNs is fine.

Re:This one smells (1)

datafr0g (831498) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019370)

you can set your bandwidth so that fax and modem signals will work

Doesn't this also depend on the codec used to make the call as well as bandwidth? Obviously a codec that doesn't compress data (G.711 at 64kbps) will require more bandwidth than say, G.729 at 8kbps but regardless of bandwidth, the codec needs to be correctly set on both sides too, otherwise data will be lost through compression.

Re:This one smells (1)

NormalVisual (565491) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019746)

I don't know of too many U.S. VoIP providers that *don't* support G.711u, which is your best bet for fax/modem stuff anyway.

Re:This one smells (1)

Agripa (139780) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019900)

I don't know of too many U.S. VoIP providers that *don't* support G.711u, which is your best bet for fax/modem stuff anyway.

The problem here is that older and most current analog modems and fax machines make some simplifying assumptions about the physical link which are violated by VOIP. For instance, the latency itself even if constant may exceed the length of the FIR filter used to adjust for far end crosstalk and echo.

Re:This one smells (3, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019422)

Firstly voip does NOT WORK for data modem calls. which alarms rely on.

Secondly, alarms are mad so frigging cheap that only ONE exists that is IP ready..... That's ADI. Problem is most alarm companies cant handle such an advanced alarm and most people buying one want the $99.00 special not the $1500.00 ADI system + 1 hour programming.

Thirdly, if the alarm buyer was not a cheapskate they would opt for the cellular connect module and forget the land line. It's another $159.99 plus and extra $5.95 a month for monitoring fees to pay for the single 1 minute call it makes every night.

Most home alarms out there installed are utter crap. The ADT junk is incredibly outdated and horribly low quality. People want cheap fake peace of mind, they really do not want to spend real money on security.

Re:This one smells (1)

datafr0g (831498) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019490)

Firstly voip does NOT WORK for data modem calls. which alarms rely on.

Yes it does. You do need a very reliable network connection though. Add G.711 and QoS you should be fine.

Re:This one smells (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18019580)

Every single Alarm company tells you that the alarms do not communicate via VOIP. call up and ask them. it is not reliable it is not use able unless you have specialized gear that can do the settings you mention and only at that moment.

Alarm companies will not support response time if you have VOIP. Most have vonnage, and guess what that dont work on vonnage.

Lumpy is right. almost no general homeowners can even get a basic understanding of what you said let alone implement it.

Problem is that he really glosses over exactly how crappy alarms are. They are incredibly crappy, most designed in the 80's and still being manufacturered today.

Re:This one smells (1)

datafr0g (831498) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019750)

Hey I agree - in the context of alarming, IP is probably not the best medium.
What was stated though was that voip does NOT WORK for data modem calls. That's incorrect.

Re:This one smells (1)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019646)

When I researched my home system, most of the signalling protocols predated Bell 212A. They were crude, proprietary, and ran at speeds measured in tens of characters per second. Anything that slow ought to be robust.

Alarm monitoring sold as VOIP compatible [tmcnet.com] , I haven't tried it.

Re:This one smells (1)

rainman_bc (735332) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019752)

Most home alarms out there installed are utter crap.

First of all, in the event of a break in, the police will show up about half an hour too late. They don't care, because you should have insurance. They know there's more important things to do like bust serious crimes.

Second of all, if I have an alarm and have made it clear by posting signs all over my house that I'm alarmed, the thief will move onto the next home that doesn't have one anyway.

Honestly, I could give a rat's ass if my alarm is top quality, I have it because I get a break on my home insurance, not because I feel safer when I go out.

If a thief wants your stuff, they'll get at it, alarm be damned. Thieves can be in and out before the police arrive. Cops show up to write a report and give you a file number for insurance purposes.

Re:This one smells (2, Insightful)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 7 years ago | (#18020228)

They know there's more important things to do like bust serious crimes.

If you're in the suburbs (30 cops in one town, one non-domestic violence crime in the last five years) that should read:

They know there's more important things to do, like generate ticket revenue.

Re:This one smells (1)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 7 years ago | (#18020262)

Thirdly, if the alarm buyer was not a cheapskate [...]

Funny you'd say that about an industry that keeps the prices high through price fixing, collusion amongst distributors, and secrecy instead of through the introduction of new technology ("futuristic" technology that doesn't work isn't the same thing as new technology).

Keep in mind what you can get for "$99" in terms of what it can do on a network. Go walk down the wireless router isle at your local computer store to see devices 1000x more complex than your average "high-end" alarm system being sold for $30. And those routers aren't "subsidized" by your subscription and contractual obligation to a term of monitoring service either.

That $1500 system you describe is only about $200 worth of hardware (assuming no video surveillance). The default system that gets installed in most homes isn't worth as much as the lead-acid battery they put in it for backup, and is essentially the same technology (they did make it less capable when they had it use POTS instead of an alarm circuit) that they've been installing for 30 years.

Re:This one smells (1)

SdnSeraphim (679039) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019424)

As a former alarm installer, all I can say is that alarm companies don't control the hardware, they only install it. Also, alarm equipment tends to lag behind current technology. Most alarms company receivers (the ones that receive the call and translate the DTMF or other coding scheme to an alarm code for the operator) run on Z-80 processors. Not that mature technology is bad, or that Z-80 processors are bad, but the alarm equipment manufacturers like to pick technology and stick with it.

Re:This one smells (3, Informative)

kybred (795293) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019432)

Better yet, how come no alarm company has an IP based monitoring setup?

You mean like this? [nextalarm.com]

Re:This one smells (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18019606)

IP based?

www.alarm.com
www.ucontrol.com

Definitely NOT VPN (at least as we know it).

Re:This one smells (1)

JimBobJoe (2758) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019996)

It smells because there are easy solutions to the problems.

I agree, I had VOIP put into my parent's home, and we got the alarm system to operate with it fine. The cable company's main concern was that the alarm system was a newer model and can dial via tone dialing (apparently there are a lot of old ones in the wild that only do pulse, which is incompatible with VOIP.)

The VOIP router has its own 8 hour battery backup, so electrical problems aren't so much a concern. And the installer had it set so that the alarm system cuts in and take priority on the line. (Like you said)

And my step-father often uses a fax machine on the same system without difficulty (indicating that the bandwidth is there for that.)

The alarm company was more than happy to run a series of tests to the alarm from their central station to test it after the installation and we had no issues with those tests.

Keep in mind, this was a cable company VOIP set-up and not a Vonage setup. Perhaps Vonage would present more issues.

Simple answer: Basic analog dialtone (2, Informative)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 7 years ago | (#18018970)

To a single number. And hope that your security system HAS a local call-in number (it should anyway). The neat thing is, old fashioned phone lines are self powered and always work; you can get a dialtone that will only work with 911, 0, and a designated number for as little as $12/month in some cities. You can get 911 and 0 for free in most phone companies in the nation, this is called "basic dialtone service".

Re:Simple answer: Basic analog dialtone (1)

NormalVisual (565491) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019844)

you can get a dialtone that will only work with 911, 0, and a designated number for as little as $12/month in some cities

Before taxes & fees. I have a bare-minimum POTS line here at home (BellSouth refuses to sell dry DSL), which ostensibly is supposed to be $12.85/month, but somehow magically ends up being about twice that after BellSouth is done with it. :-)

Makes no sense to use broadband for this (1)

GIL_Dude (850471) | more than 7 years ago | (#18018994)

I have to say that most people I have seen do not put a UPS on their DSL or cable modem. So all the "bad guy" has to do is turn off the house breaker and then no call out. Sorta silly. The POTS service would stay on and since alarm systems have a battery, they work. But no call goes out if your broadband is turned off or your router has no power.

Re:Makes no sense to use broadband for this (1)

Sarkoon (242637) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019218)

If the bad guy has access to your breaker, chances are he also has the ability to cut your phone line. There goes both POTS and DSL, regardless of battery backup.

The most tamper-proof of alarm systems use dedicated cellular service.

Re:Makes no sense to use broadband for this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18019880)

If he breaks into your house, he'll have the cops after him. If he cuts the phone line he'll also have the Telco after him. He'd be safer with the cops.

Re:Makes no sense to use broadband for this (1)

NormalVisual (565491) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019894)

Hell, he doesn't even need access to the breaker - plenty of homes have outdoor service entrances, and disabling POTS/DSL/cable is trivial then. However, it seems to be that that if the alarm company was on the ball they'd take notice once the alarm disappeared from their system and would respond accordingly.

Re:Makes no sense to use broadband for this (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 7 years ago | (#18020118)

They could only do active monitoring of an IP connection as active monitoring of a POTS would make the POTS unusable as a phone.

Re:Makes no sense to use broadband for this (2, Interesting)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019260)

Most houses have access to the POTS from the outside. It is just as easy for the "bad guy" to snip the POTS line as it is for them to shut off the power. Given that batteries on alarm systems are well known, it seems more likely that the "bad guy" would go the route of snipping phone lines over cutting power. Of course if the alarm is set to call over VOIP, or even as a TCP/IP, the "bad guy" would have to worry about cutting the phone line, the cable line, AND knocking the satellite dish out of alignment.

Re:Makes no sense to use broadband for this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18019952)

Doesn't really matter.

Any time the power goes out, while my cable modem is on UPS... the cable companies equipment is not.

My website to help fix the problem: (1)

The Anarchist Avenge (1004563) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019000)

Please send US$50 and your social security number to this suspicious website with a .ru tld.

Surprised? (3, Interesting)

evilviper (135110) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019008)

Is anyone (here) surprised by this? It seems painfully obvious to me, that most such services obviously wouldn't work. That this guy wasn't notified BY THE SECURITY SERVICE that his alarm system wasn't functioning for over a year, speaks volumes about how useless that service really is.

It's only too easy to cut a POTS line, or tie it up by dialing-in to it, which is exactly what any competent burglar will do... Maybe with a (pre-paid?) cell-based service, your alarm will have a fighting chance, but not a lot even then.

Re:Surprised? (2, Interesting)

Rakishi (759894) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019172)

Happened at work once, security system was accidentally disabled (its phone line was unplugged and plugged back in, the thing didn't reconnect or something). I think it took them a few days to call back or it may have been us who called them first, not sure. Either way, if someone had done this on purpose the system would have done us jack shit worth of good.

Honestly I'm amazed that security systems don't assume a disconnect of over x minutes should result in some sort of immediate response. I mean, if cutting the phone line renders the system worthless then what sort of protection is that given many phone lines can be cut from outside the house.

Re:Surprised? (1)

hurfy (735314) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019292)

And if you read the instructions i am sure they say to test it every week or some other way too often time frame to cover their ass ;)

While the times they suggest are crazy, so is less than once a year!

Regardless of VOIP or whatever the wire from the alarm could come loose or something, there is a reason they have a test procedure.

I always worried about someone cutting the phone lines too but the cel phone backup to detect a cut line was way too spendy.

PS. One bonus of being the techie at work is that i am admin for alarm too...thus my home system and work have the same codes for the admin! Much, much better not worrying about punching in wrong number or not knowing the right word ;)

You're missing the point. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18019512)

A competent burgler will get around most any system, and will have a fighting chance of never being caught.

ADT and their ilk are designed to thwart the moronic burglars, which are the majority of them.

VoIP companies don't keep this secret (1)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019656)

Is anyone (here) surprised by this? It seems painfully obvious to me, that most such services obviously wouldn't work.

My home phone service is through AT&T CallVantage VoIP. AT&T has a FAQ [att.com] on its CallVantage information pages specifically about this issue. And I quote:

No, this service does not support home alarm or security systems.

What's more, I seem to remember I was shown this information during the sign-up process and had to acknowledge on a terms-of-service agreement form that I understood that this service was not to be used for home security systems.

Elsewhere on the site [att.com] AT&T discusses the fact that a power outage will knock out your phone service -- in fact, it's in bold type.

I agree with the others who say it's probably the ILECs behind this kind of FUD(*). It's not that the problems don't exist ... it's that you shouldn't be complaining about them after you've gone ahead and signed up for the service, because nobody is concealing this information.

(* Ironically, however, my VoIP provider is now technically the same company as my ILEC ... though the two services are offered by very different divisions.)

Re:Surprised? (2, Insightful)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019678)

>It's only too easy to cut a POTS line, or tie it up by dialing-in to it, which is exactly what any competent burglar will do.

In movies, and in some cities. Check with your local PD's crime prevention officer about trends in your area.

Random burglars do have the option of moving on to the house next door that doesn't have an alarm system at all, saving the precious seconds to locate and cut the line. Targeted attacks are rare and quite difficult to handle.

Surprised?-What a blast. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18020038)

"Random burglars do have the option of moving on to the house next door that doesn't have an alarm system at all, saving the precious seconds to locate and cut the line. Targeted attacks are rare and quite difficult to handle."

An outside siren will take care of that, unless you live out in the middle of nowhere. But then I've found that people that independent have more than just "home security".

Re:Surprised? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18020128)

It's only too easy to cut a POTS line, or tie it up by dialing-in to it, which is exactly what any competent burglar will do... Maybe with a (pre-paid?) cell-based service, your alarm will have a fighting chance, but not a lot even then.

Many (most?) alarms have an option to connect with a dedicated cell-based device instead of a landline. I have one.

Wireless monitoring... (4, Interesting)

spiritraveller (641174) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019026)

works great, doesn't require any phone line, and has gone down in price recently.

POTS lines are no longer needed.

off topic (1)

stupidsocialscientis (689586) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019048)

i just my adt system to stop answering my phone with "system on." they deny that there service ever does such a thing, yet, it occurs with my system as well as a number of buddies who have adt. no discernible pattern to when the system picks up...

Re:off topic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18019182)

My alarm system had this setup and was triggered by dialing then hanging up and redialing which would trigger a pickup event.

Re:off topic (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 7 years ago | (#18020148)

I'm not an expert, but Have installed a few alarm systems. Every one that I have dealt with has a 'program' mode that allows a company like ADT to remotely program your controller. The way it works is that the box is set to wait for a ring, hang up then another ring. Could it be something along those lines? If it is, it simply needs a flag turned off in the controller.

This is a story? (1)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019144)

Seriously.. technology has been clashing for a long time..

My friend had a problem when he first got wireless where the phone would cut his wireless off because they were on the same frequency..

guess what.. he got a new phone... wow.. big deal!

you simply buy a different voip that gets along with your security system, or a different security system that goes with your voip.

Re:This is a story? (1)

NormalVisual (565491) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019980)

you simply buy a different voip that gets along with your security system, or a different security system that goes with your voip.

Easier said than done. While the VoIP provider has some degree of control over your packets once they're on his network, he has exactly zero control of them before they get to him. Packet jitter is always a potential problem and is not tolerated well by POTS modems, and as another Slashdotter astutely reminded me in another post, the aggregate delay imposed by the VoIP network/Internet can reach the point where any echo cancellers in the analog portions of the circuit can be rendered worse than useless even if there is no jitter at all.

co33k (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18019166)

itself backwards, It's best to try suffering *BSD = 1140 NetBSD accounts for less as it is licensed For election, I the system clean project faces a set lubrication. You

Data over Voice over IP? (2, Interesting)

ozphx (1061292) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019212)

Sounds like a modem attempting to dial out in your burglar alarm will run into problems unless your Voip gateway is configured to pass calls to the PSTN. The GSM codecs used by voip are going to seriously break any attempt at transmitting data even at horribly low bitrates.

Re:Data over Voice over IP? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18019660)

Who says VoIP uses gsm? Most use ulaw/alaw which is pretty much uncompressed and the standard codec used on ISDN lines anyway. Some use g729, and that one isn't too great even for voice (IMO).

Re:Data over Voice over IP? (1)

ozphx (1061292) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019772)

Ooops, brain-typo. Still, even G711 and 729 are around 8khz and then further compressed. Pretty unlikely to get even 2400 baud over that.

Re:Data over Voice over IP? (1)

NormalVisual (565491) | more than 7 years ago | (#18020020)

G.711 isn't compressed - it's straight 8-bit, 8KHz audio at a 64kbps rate. It *is* companded to put 14 or so bits of dynamic range into an 8 bit number, but it's not compressed like GSM or G.729.

Re:Data over Voice over IP? (1)

MrDoh1 (906953) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019830)

While I'll agree that should be the case, I have Vonage and a POTS line here side-by-side. I also have a dial-up ISP in case of travel and what not. From here, I can connect to the dial-up ISP faster over the Vonage connection than the POTS line. And the POTS line is connecting at a decent 52k. I've done speed tests and it's not just the initial connection, it can actually sustain a higher transfer rate as well.

So it can work... go figure.

Insurance. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18019228)

I live in a neighborhood where cops take 10-25 minutes to respond to a shooting. Paramedics will show up faster than any cop.

I pay insurance because I know the cops won't do anything or care about my possessions.

Can you call someone a hero is they wait until they have backup? Give me a gun and my neighbor's phone number and I'm my own malitia.

This is a pretty dumb problem to have. (1)

Moofie (22272) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019238)

Um, so maybe the home security vendors should look into IP connectivity.

Another option (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18019264)

You could also try the LoBenn solution. I requires support from the Alarm company, and if you ask for it they are much more likely to support the solution! (squeaky wheel and all that.)

http://www.lobenninc.com/ [lobenninc.com]

I have a monitored alarm in my home. In my case, the phone line passes through the alarm (to allow the Alarm system to cut the rest of the house off when communicating.) If you dial my home and hang up after one ring, then dial back in again, the alarm modem will pick up. Apparently, this is done to allow the alarm company a dial-in "back door." One ring, hang up, call back. Annoying sometimes for me.

alternative alarm monitoring: Internet (2, Interesting)

DuctTape (101304) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019272)

Places like NextAlarm.com [nextalarm.com] do broadband alarm monitoring. They also say that they can help you modify your current alarm system to let it be monitored over broadband.

Caveat: some of their links were broken the last time I checked. Makes you wonder.

Obligatory disclaimer: I've just hit their website looking for a similar solution; not a customer (yet).

DT

Re:alternative alarm monitoring: Internet (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18019456)

I've been a NextAlarm customer for over a year (since I rid the house of all POTS lines) and their service has been great. The alarm has gone off several times and they responded quickly every time. They even called once when the system reported a strange code to make sure all was well. Reporting logs are available online, which makes it easy to see when the pet sitters come and go.

The phone rang... (1)

physicsboy500 (645835) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019276)

Then the house said...

"I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid can't do that"

Much better than a flaccid firm (2, Funny)

sharkey (16670) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019302)

According to the Allied Fire & Security firm firm

I ALWAYS want my firms to be firm.

simplify (1)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019344)

The main problem is your security system contains a modem which is plugged into a VoIP adapter which encodes and decodes the analog signals on both ends of the connection, potentially distorting the communications.

Well, what about plugging the alarm system directly into the internet, bypassing the VoIP link? This might allow even MORE reliable communications between the alarm and the monitoring station than the phone line link would be.

My home security system is provided by (1)

pair-a-noyd (594371) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019356)

Mr. Smith & Mr. Wesson and by Mr. Avtomat Kalashnikova
And is backed up by two German Shepherds.

No problems here.

Re:My home security system is provided by (1)

/dev/trash (182850) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019550)

Your dog wants steak.

Re:My home security system is provided by (1)

peektwice (726616) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019600)

And he can get it from the burglar's ass.

Re:My home security system is provided by (1)

vadim_t (324782) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019652)

A bit pedantic here:
Kalashnikov is the guy who came up with it, but "Avtomat" isn't part of his name, it means "machinegun" in this instance. So the name would stand for "Kalashnikov's machinegun"

Re:My home security system is provided by (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019682)

... one cubic meter of bluff backed by a trained, testicle-eating fruit bat. Oh, and by having a shabbier looking house than my neighbor. What I really need, though, is an old, oil-dripping Harley ratbike chained to the front gate. That way they'll never guess I couldn't bench-press a yawn if I were soaked in sterioids, or that all my weapons are made out of pixels.

Security? HAH! Couple of fireballs & a weapon proc will fix them...

Re:My home security system is provided by (1)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019708)

>No problems here.

Unless you have a fire when you're not at home.

Fax on VOIP (1)

Timbotronic (717458) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019384)

Has anyone ever stopped to consider just how incredibly stupid this is? You're converting a digital signal to analog via a very slow modem over a simulated voice line running over a much faster digital network.

Fax machines would have to be the most redundant technology since the floppy. Why isn't there an IP transmission option for faxes?

Re:Fax on VOIP (1)

karnal (22275) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019672)

Careful, you're showing your age young whippersnapper! When I was your age, I was lucky to have a cordless phone!

Re:Fax on VOIP (1)

thule (9041) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019694)

Why isn't there an IP transmission option for faxes?

I guess T.38 is the closest to this. It is a protocol that converts fax signals to IP data and back to fax signals again. :)

Re:Fax on VOIP (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 7 years ago | (#18020130)

Unfortunately it takes more expensive peripheral equipment and/or more software to make it happen, at both your end and your VoIP provider's VoIP/POTS bridge. (Your VoIP dongle/software needs to be a smartmodem, not just an A/D converter, for starters. But the POTS bridge equipment is probably a bigger cost boost for the ISP. Your provider is stuck in cutthroat competition with other providers and doesn't need to quadruple the price of his equipment to handle something that only occurs rarely and wasn't part of the deal.)

So most VoIP services don't handle it. (Let alone figuring out how to automagically recognize a FAX call and switch modes in mid-call.)

IP Transmission Option for Faxes (1)

Nick Driver (238034) | more than 7 years ago | (#18020216)

Why isn't there an IP transmission option for faxes?

Probably because of e-mail having made paper faxes about 98% obsolete so nobody bothered to promote with any vigor, any form of ip-enabled fax transmission protocol so there never has been any serious enough demand for it to come into common use.

Primus? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18019402)

I didn't know they did VoIP - I thought they were just a really cool band...

This is not news (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019568)

Vonage was upfront about this when I got their service. It shouldn't
be a surprise -- and it only affects those alarm services that use
copper to monitor the system. If your alarm system is independent of
the phone lines (i.e., doesn't need Daddy watching it all the time) there
is no problem.

Security companies using VOIP? (1)

ardiesr (861538) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019658)

I find that interesting, maybe it's a difference between Canada and the United States. I work for the ILEC up in British Columbia, and we receive numerous calls from customers who recently ran off seeing some happy Vonage ad that later find out their alarm companies won't offer service on a VOIP line. Maybe it shows they care about their customers more, rather than raking in the cash with a service that is subject to power outages, etc.

POTS or VoIP ONLY is a bad design anyhow (1)

Aqualung812 (959532) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019676)

If you are going to spend the money for monthly monitoring of your home, then why make it so easy to disable? POTS lines are very easy to defeat as all you need to do it go to the network interface outside the home and pull the RJ-11 plug. 30 seconds of work and your $3000 security system is useless. Sure, if you are home the system might squeal when it drops dialtone, but the police and your monitoring company are not aware of what is going on.

Cell backup for security systems should be a requirement. I have ADT going into my Vonage box but wired ahead of the home telephone wiring so the ADT can grab the line if it needs it. However, if my Internet connection is down for whatever reason, a cellular call is placed from the ADT. It isn't that much more, and it makes it far more likely that someone will actually be aware what is going on.

Also, some people have asked why no company does Internet based monitoring. There is an ADT system [adt.com] that does this and also requires the cellular backup.

Beyond my reach, but looks cool.

Re:POTS or VoIP ONLY is a bad design anyhow (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019730)

Actually a better design might be a buried land line of some type to a buried dedicated wireless router with a hidden antenna (could be also buried, if carefully done -- perhaps a directional?) encrypted and securely locked to a receiver on the alarm system controller's transceiver (mounted in some inconvenient place about the premises). Top-slot floor safes make excellent portable equipment bunkers. No visible lines. Use frequency swapping. Set off a loud alarm if jammed.

See? Easy.

Re:POTS or VoIP ONLY is a bad design anyhow (1)

Detritus (11846) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019946)

Back in the old days, alarm companies leased dedicated loops from the telephone company. If the line was cut, it would immediately generate an alarm at the monitoring station.

Use a Cell/1X based System Instead... (1)

pdaoust007 (258232) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019778)

In Canada they just launched this service [bellhomemonitoring.ca] which uses the 1X network to monitor your home. It's much more advanced than classic alarm system because you can also self-monitor over the Internet, get paged/IM's/texted/emailed when something happens in the house etc. It also supports motion activated cameras that send pictures to your web account. I'm sure a similar service must exist in the US. Bottom line is this will work even if you're on VoIP... Oh, and no I'm not affiliated with them, I just thought it was relevant to the discussion. I have not tried them myself but will consider them when my current contract expires.

Dealt with this before... (2, Interesting)

rayvd (155635) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019910)

Used to work at an ISP that did VoIP (wirelessly in fact). If you could tweak the baud rate on your security system and drop it down to say 1200bps, it would typically work. It was still fairly hit and miss though. Add to that that many customers had no clue how to do this and alarm companies didn't care enough to try and help them.

Modem-type communications expect timing to be near exact (something the PSTN can guarantee) and just don't work well with the random delays (caused by 'net conditions, jitter buffering, etc) that are inherent with VoIP. T38 helps with faxing, but any sort of modem connection is going to cause problems.

We made sure our customers knew that burglar alarms were _not_ something we supported over VoIP. In fact it's a downright silly idea tying your home protection in with your Internet connection in most cases anyways. You can often get a phone line specifically for burglar alarms for less than you'd pay for a line used for talking on as well, so this is typically what we'd advise customers to do.

It's getting harder to get a secure connection (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 7 years ago | (#18019922)

Alarm systems used to use a separate solid copper connection between the premises and the alarm service. The better systems sent a continuous psuedorandom code sequence, constantly reporting "OK here"; anything that interrupted the connection raised an alarm. US telcos stopped offering solid copper connections because people were ordering those and using them for high-speed digital connections.

There used to be "data under voice" services, which provided a very low bitrate channel in a narrow band below audio. These were used for alarm systems. But data under voice can be incompatible with DSL [qwest.com] (which is "data over voice", in a higher band), and has mostly been phased out. Actually, there's no fundamental reason you couldn't have data under voice, analog voice, and DSL on the same line, but all three services have to have the right filters to prevent interference.

Then there was ISDN, but that was botched in the US. In many European countries, ISDN voice is common, and the premises equipment is powered via the ISDN connection. So alarm signals could be sent over the D channel. In the US, ISDN was priced higher than analog voice, and powered from the premises end. So it never went anywhere.

Alarms over analog dialup lines are common, but not really very secure, since they're not in continuous communication with the security monitoring center. But at least they don't require AC power at the premises.

There's an installed base of alarm gear that operates over cellular phone services, but much of that is AMPS, the older FM analog cellular system, which, in the US, sunsets next year.

As for the VoIP issue, here's the Central Station Alarm Association's white paper [csaaul.org] (.DOC format) on the subject.

Pure FUD (2, Informative)

SpaFF (18764) | more than 7 years ago | (#18020138)

Vonage works just fine with my alarm system. The only thing I had to do to make it work was have the alarm technician set the system to dial *99 first in order to put the vonage ATA into "fax mode". This is supposedly needed to make vonage lines work with TIVO also.

Obviously the author of the article (and the submitter) didn't do their homework.
A great place to start looking for how to make your alarm work with Vonage can be found here [vonage-forum.com]

And as for the people posting that using VOIP for an alarm is foolish because all a thief would have to do is cut the power: A thief is more likely to cut the phone line going from the PSTN to your house than he is the power. He isn't going to think, "Hmm, this person might have VOIP. I'd better cut the power, the cable, and the phone line outside the house just in case".

Vonage is what it is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18020244)

I have Vonage and my alarm system works fine. No, I don't trust my home security to Vonage. I bought the cell phone sending unit and it works perfectly. Vonage drops calls from time to time but they are still much cheaper and better than Bellsouth. Just use your head when you purchase your alarm unit.
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