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Alarm. com and iControl are the two biggest. The former has partnered with more than 2,500 dealers and the latter with ADT and Comcast. Among other things, you’ll have to decide between a “cellular primary” or “broadband primary” system. The former is a wireless connection to the monitoring station, making it immune to power outages or someone cutting a cable. It is limited, however, with regard to transmitting large quantities of video, so many cellular primary systems incorporate broadband for video. Broadband primary services, on the other hand, have cables running down the side of a house that can be cut, thereby disabling the system. Some services offer cellular back up should this occur. Look for a home security system with a full line of wireless peripherals, including modules for controlling lights and appliances, thermostats, cameras, motion sensors some can distinguish between a pet and a person, water sensors, and glass break and vibration sensors. Look for long life battery power, too. Lithium sensor batteries, for example, can last three to five years.

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''This project started as a way for me to teach students to see andunderstand the ways that engineering can be used for the greater good,''said Kumar Yelamarthi, the professor and project leader. ''We wanted to dosomething that would help people and make our campus more accessible. '' During the spring term, Yelamarthi and five senior engineering studentstested the cane, which is equipped with Radio Frequency Identificationtechnology, similar to what retailers put on products to keep them frombeing stolen. The Smart Cane contains an ultrasonic sensor that is paired with aminiaturenavigational system inside a messenger style bag worn across the shoulder. For the test, the students installed identification tags between twobuildings on the campus in Mount Pleasant, Mich. A speaker located on thebag strap gave audio alerts when the system detected an obstacle and toldthe user which direction to move. Students wearing glasses that simulate visual impairment tested the cane. The students also created a vibrating glove to assist those who are bothvisually and hearing impaired. Yelamarthi said it's one of the first outdoor applications of RFID and saidhe plans for students in upcoming classes to further refine the systemwhilehe seeks grants to speed the research. The next step probably involves using the system in a wider area. Down theline, Yelamarthi wants to work toward integrating the Smart Cane's datawithGPS.