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Increasing productivity in the home office doesn’t just mean having the latest PC. It can be something as simple as not having to get up to answer the front door. 

You’re working at your desk in your home office or two levels down from your front door when the door bell rings. If you’re out of eyeshot of the front door, you’ve got to stop what you’re doing and walk to the door to find out who’s there.

It could be an important visitor. Or, as is the case with many home office workers, it could just be the courier after a signature for a parcel. What if you could see or speak with the visitor before getting up from your home office chair?

Welcome to the new age of home and home office intercom and smart surveillance systems.

Intercom systems are nothing new in the modern household. For generations, they’ve been used to talk between rooms, or to speak with a visitor at an entry point of the home. Today, though, they’re called home communication systems, and they’re changing the way people live and work from home.

With the growth of home office workers, intercom systems are playing an increasingly important role in the home. They provide the worker with an audio link to the household and to the world outside the front door.

Equipped with video capabilities and electronic strike release, an intercom system can allow home workers to see who is at the door, chat with that person, and, if desired, unlock the door without leaving the desk. Not having to get up each time the doorbell rings can significantly boost a worker’s efficiency and productivity.

Today’s intercoms aren’t limited to the push-and-talk models of old. New hands-free models allow a user to page a family member, or to speak with a visitor at the door, without the other participant having to press a button to respond. This also allows the user to monitor family activity in other rooms, like children sleeping or at play.

“The emphasis now is on using intercoms room-toroom, or person-to-person, as opposed to being wholehome; they’re not just a front door answering system any more,” says Chiang Ooi, sales director, from PSA Products, Victoria.

“The Panacom Audio product, for example, caters for internal when you want to talk person-to-person in the house, as well as a general paging system.”

 

 

 

Choosing a System

Like any other home improvement, it is wise to think about what you need for the present, but also think about what might be required in the future.

“The style and quality of an intercom system depend on the needs of the home office worker and the layout of the household,” says Chris Morris, sales and marketing manager from South Australian company The Butler Did It.

“First consider your needs, both today and tomorrow. Do you want simple whole-home communications between all the rooms, or more selective ‘point-to-point’ conversational capabilities between individual units in order to provide privacy between users?”

A simple system with units at the front door and three interior stations can cost less than $900 (excluding installation), such as iSecurity’s Comelit 8201 kit. An audio intercom from Seadan Security or Mainline Security is approximately $518 for the Commax system (also available from Pacer Electronics at similar pricing) and $495 for an Aiphone, both including one front door station and three internal handsets. Wiring in a more complex unit that features a built-in radio tuner, CD player and MP3 playback can easily run into the thousands.

An intercom with a built-in camera to visually monitor an entrance, excluding installation costs, is around $920 one to one and $489 per additional monitor (Comelit Power Kit from iSecurity). Or you can purchase a higher-end Aiphone black and white video intercom for around $4,500 or a Commax for $2,000, both including one front door station and three internal video phones from a company such as Seadan Security.

An electric strike release, which unlocks the door to let visitors into the home, can range from $450 installed in wood-frame doors, to around $480 if in a metal-frame door. Seadan Security’s Padde ES110 is around $140, with installation into a wood-frame door about $188 and $238 in a metal frame. PSA Products basic intercom with strike release, the Panacom, comes in at around $330.

 

 

 

Some intercom systems, and even Webbased wireless cameras operated by software from the home office or any Web-enabled PC, can watch over the office while you’re away. If you have a wireless network installed at home, wireless cameras like the D-Link DCS-1000 (around $1,340) from Simply Wireless can be mounted anywhere in the house or outside, streaming the video to a computer inside the home; these can also be viewed from anywhere via a secure browser connection. If the back-to-base home alarm system is activated, for example, you simply log onto the Internet and check out for yourself if the security status of your home has been compromised. (See next page for tips to setting up a wireless camera.) Some cameras can be remotely panned and tilted, like the D-Link product, to provide a better view of entrances, such as the Eon3’s $599 WebStream 3000, a multi-camera video capture system.

If you’d rather not mount intercom stations on the walls of your home and office, consider a system that utilises telephones instead. Whenever someone presses the call button on the door station, the phones inside the home ring. You can converse with the visitor just as if you were speaking with someone miles away.

iSecurity provides a one-piece, phone-and-camera system that resembles a standard telephone for $2,450 one handset and $1,450 per additional handset. With a camera and microphone installed at the front door or another entry point, and a handset installed within the home, the resident can speak with visitors and see them on a four-inch display inside the wallmounted telephone base.

You can purchase a fourchannel modulator, the Allegro for $500 with a TFT 5.5in screen for $749 which turns into a TV signal, from Seadan Security.

And don’t get just anyone to install your system. It’s worth checking that they hold relevant qualifications. (See the section Check First, at right, for more information.

Added Benefits

Just like intercoms of old, systems today can play music in single rooms or even throughout the home. If simple ambient, lowvolume music is desired throughout the home, a Ring-master Pro 700 ($510 per intercom, $490 for the music interface) system from iSecurity provides whole-house intercom with mono radio.

 

 

 

The Sonelco ($2,550) from PSA Products is a top of the range intercom the size of a powerpoint, flush-mounted, with a selected paging system for four rooms, music distribution and an FM tuner. A basic kit ‘Harmony’, from The Butler Did It, features an FM tuner and a plug-in source from your CD player along with an audio channel. This includes four room stations with local speakers and a front door station for around $1,485, including installation.

A Do Not Disturb function also prevents the front door bell feature from ringing at desired stations. The next level is the Domus for $2,900, including installation, with two stereo audio channels and local bass and treble control.

Check First

Licensing requirements for security companies providing services such as the installation of video intercoms and Web-based CCTV systems vary from state to state. The Australian Security Industry Association (ASIAL) provides a searchable online listing of its members by area and the different services they provide. Go to www.asial.com.au and click on ‘Member Directory’ to access the nearest supplier to you.

The home office can be a boon to productivity and efficiency – as long as the worker isn’t commuting between the office and the front door every time the doorbell rings. Whether simple or stateof- the-art, voice-only or a digital voice, video and stereo music system, today’s intercoms can connect the home office worker with the world outside.

*Prices given include GST and are recommended retail price only.

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