A Burglary and a Plan to Get Even

When singer-songwriter Olga Nunes came back home one night, she found that her window had been smashed in and robbers had ransacked her apartment. Instead of panicking, she channeled her creative energy into building a fully robber-proof home using SmartThings.  


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“I came home a few weeks ago to find my door open and my window smashed in. In a panic, I ran in to assess the damage, phone in hand, and to call the police.

The strange thing was that nearly nothing was missing. A few things were, of course: some cheap jewelry, some loose cash, a backpack that was filled with vitamins, and charger cables that wouldn’t do anyone any good.

But on the whole, the big stuff – the laptop, the iPad, the music gear – was all miraculously untouched.

I sat in the mess of my apartment waiting for the police to arrive, oddly scared to leave.

Because if I left, of course, the logic goes that they would return. They’d scoped the place out, and they’d definitely left the most valuable stuff behind.

It was the creeping feeling of vulnerability setting in that upset me the most.

I’m generally a human who deals with things with a sense of humor. So after some hand-wringing, I decided to turn my apartment into a robber-proof haunted Rube Goldberg machine.

I wanted spooky noises. Flashing lights. Voices and sirens, and the sort of thing that would communicate “hullo, robber, please reconsider your life choices,” as well as perhaps filling Mr. or Ms. Robber with an eerie sense of dread.

Enter: SmartThings, stage left.

smartthingshub

SmartThings, like most smart tech today, doesn’t presuppose how you might use it. You’re given a collection of sensors, and an app that allows you to trigger events based on those sensors.

For example, you can choose to turn on an FM radio, blink the lights, and randomly switch on your blender if your front door is opened when you’re not home.

It’s a little difficult to wrap your head around at first, but you can basically use sensor data from virtually anything to trigger virtually anything.

After some trial and error, I thought building an outright haunted house was maybe too subtle for the sensibilities of the average thief, so I opted for something a bit flashier.

Daisy-chaining SmartThings to IFTTT to Dropbox, I managed to set up a system that sends me photos of intruders, turns every light in the house into a flashing strobe, and triggers a playlist of terrifying sounds if an unwanted robber-human attempts entry.

smartthings


My grocery list:
SmartThings Know and Control Your Home Kit ($329)
Philips hue Lights Starter Pack ($199)
FortrezZ Siren/Strobe Z-Wave Alarm ($49)
Foscam Pan & Tilt IP/Network Camera with Two-Way Audio & Night Vision ($79)
SmartThings app (free)
IFTTT (free)
Dropbox (free)
Automator (free with Mac OS)


Starting with zero knowledge on how to do any of this stuff, it took a few days of teaching myself how to use Automator and figuring out how to wrangle the Philips hue lights so they could both be triggered by SmartThings. (Thanks to Leon Meijer for showing me the secret sauce to triggering the strobe effect on the hue.)

In the end, I think I managed to make my place pretty inhospitable to casual thieves. Here’s some video of what happens when my SmartThings alarm is engaged:

Bonus: I love that the whole system can be taken down and setup at a new house without a lot of hassle. If you’re interested, here are the IFTTT recipes, and here are the Automator scripts. (If you have Philips hue, you’ll have to get their API up and running as well as set up the pointsymbol for each light before the strobe effect will work for you.)

Next-step possibilities include triggering a loud movie and/or flick on the house lights when SmartThings senses someone on the front porch, so it seems like someone is home. (And, if I can swing it, do a little more research towards figuring out how I can make my burglar alarm a little less SFPD and a little more Sixth Sense. Because scaring burglars is awesome.)

Full disclosure: No one paid me to say any of these terribly nice things. I just think these things are terribly nice.” – Olga Nunes


Full disclosure: We think Olga Nunes is terribly nice, too. Not only was she kind enough to let us repost this story from her blog, but she was also kind enough to pass along a song of hers. You see, when Olga isn’t dreaming up awesome ways to scare off burglars, she writes really beautiful music. Check out this track from her forthcoming album, “Lamp.” Appropriately, it’s called “Sirens” …

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  • Patrick Kajirian

    What a great setup! I’ll definitely look into integrating Automator into my home security workflow. Did you know you can also setup a IFTTT recipe to call your neighbor and deliver an automated voice message saying your home is being intruded? The possibilities are endless.

  • Ryan Gallagher

    Awesome. This is like the system I am building. It will be using SmartThings, multiple UBI boxes, LED strip lights, Co2 nozzles and FortressZ valves to trigger a fake “gas leak”).

  • love this!

  • Ron Anthony Quinn

    Now, if SmartThings would integrate my (your) Foscam cameras!

    • alttext

      SOON!

      • Ron Anthony Quinn

        That would be awesome! I have 9 Foscam’s!

  • Chris Birkhimer

    I have smartthings and IFTTT connected and I am confused how this works on the basis that a file is created in drop box when an intruder is detected when the homeowner is away. I don’t see any way in IFTTT for it to know when the user is away so to only create the file in drop box when the user is away. It would seem, without more detail, that the system would trigger anytime the home owner or anyone else moved in the house or opened/closed the monitored door. Can anyone explain this?

    • Steven R.

      Any answers on this?

      • Connor M

        IFTTT is triggered by SmartThings. So when SmartThings Knows there is an intruder, SmartThings will Trigger IFTTT to add a file to dropbox and that file will run the automator. IFTTT does not know when there is an intruder, IFTTT is just a part of the chain reaction that is caused by SmartThings. So SmartThings will cause the trigger and IFTTT is the bullet

  • NowaCurmudgen

    None of this works if the bad guy turns off the electricity. All houses have an outside breaker panel that I bet local codes prohibit a lock to be installed on.

    • Frank Brown

      batteriies work

      • NowaCurmudgen

        If the devices used to make outside contact have them or are plugged into UPS box. How many people have a UPS near the device making the phone call?

  • Frank Baine

    It may not be able to trigger my primary wireless device when I am in my home as the intruder breaks in…my chopped 12ga pump with #4 buckshot followed by 2 Dobermans to clean up. Aloha.