Two decades ago,
if a parent left their child home alon with an ayah or a carer, there
would be a slew of instructions: Make sure you keep the door locked;
don’t let strangers in....
Fast forward to 2010. When Delhi HR manager Jyoti Gupta and her
chartered accountant husband head for work leaving their two children
alone at home with the nanny, they are relatively unworried. “There is a
fire alarm and an intercom in our high-rise apartment. But as our
children are young, we have installed video surveillance cameras in the
living room and bedroom to see what the nanny is up to. We can watch the
images online,” says Jyoti.
Then, there is Sameera Singh, a TV anchor in Mumbai. Singh is single
and lives alone in a studio apartment in Dadar. She has installed an
“electronic watchdog” to keep intruders at bay. “This gadget, which I
got from Bangkok, can sense if someone is approaching. When the person
is within 20 ft, it makes a barking sound like that of a large dog,” she
says. “The fun part is that the barking gets more intense as the
intruder comes closer. And if, for example, it’s tampered with, it can
even send messages to my phone number as well as to my parents. My
parents laugh at my ‘Chinese dog’ but it works for me!”
Welcome to the world of high-tech home security. The expansion of
the Indian middle-class has meant small families and more working
couples who love to travel. Unsurprisingly, Indians increasingly need
surveillance gadgets to protect their homes while at work or away on
holiday. The market has surged and the current estimate of Rs 800 crore
is expected to grow 20% annually.
This is in line with the worldwide market for such products and
services, which is estimated to be $7 billion, says Gurudas Parwani, CEO
of Smart Guard Systems, one of India’s first manufacturers of security
Architect Jayanta Dutta says builders and people who are building
their own homes generally ask for security gadgets to be installed
during the construction stage, especially in metros.
“As for offices and retail outlets, it’s become a must now to have
wiring and sockets for automated safety devices such as digital locks,
swipe-card readers, CCTV cameras, etc.”
But are these gadgets foolproof ? Do they really prevent break-ins?
Dutta remembers the strange case of an office complex in Bangalore where
the fire alarm didn’t work last year because “the electricity had
tripped at the time of the eventuality, and the entire system collapsed.
For the same reason, theft alarms too don’t work sometimes”.
Manufacturers and security companies admit that most of these
products need uninterrupted power supply, making it difficult to keep
them in a state of constant ‘alert’ in a country like India.
A technical analyst from a leading security gadgets company in
Delhi, said on condition of anonymity that “many of the gadgets used in
India are bulky and consume a lot of power. Some have a longer ‘dwell
time’, due to which timely action gets delayed. Moreover, Indians prefer
to buy stuff from the grey market, which is cheap and has no credibility
Parwani says there is yet another problem with ‘hightech’ security
in India. “Many places in India use the earlier generation of CCTVbased
passive surveillance systems, but these just record. Most western
countries have switched to the IP (Internet Protocol) based systems that
provide ‘anytime, anywhere’ monitoring, including from handheld devices.
Coupled with intelligent video solutions, they also offer automatic
alerts and enable real time responses. These systems also provide
superior image quality as compared to CCTVs.”
Many gadgets imported from the west are unsuitable for Indian
conditions. “Take fire alarm systems. Outdoor use is not successful as
the weather here changes so frequently that the system becomes
vulnerable to false alarms, due to which many people keep them switched
off,” says Dutta.
Given the nature of surveillance, miniaturization is the next
frontier, says Parwani, making for devices and systems more suitable for
India because they will “need less power.”
Video surveillance: Used in homes, offices and stores. CCTVs
register images and beam them to the monitoring agency
Security alarms: Made up of input devices such as panic switches,
motion detectors and glass-break detectors. Output devices include
speakers, sirens and alarm panels
Fire alarms: Sensitive to smoke particles or visible products of
combustion. A fire is detected either by a rise in temperature or
increase in light intensity. Handy for currency chests
Access control: It restricts uninvited guests. It has three
components – reader, controller and electric lock release indoor phones.
Identity is validated through swipe cards, etc
Audio/video door entry systems: Outdoor and indoor phones
(intercoms) enable access and centralize surveillance and communication
without the door being physically opened