No One Should Ever Use Simplisafe

Author: Ari Erenthal, Published on Dec 12, 2016

Simplisafe, the upstart DIY intrusion alarm system, is increasingly Public Enemy Number One in the alarm business.

Recently, Security Sales ran an article from Jeff Zwirn ripping SimpliSafe apart and concluding that essentially no one should use SimpliSafe:

The business of security is a serious one, and no one should ever be sold a product that provides a false sense of security or does not fully comply with nationally recognized industry standards and best practices.

The detail critique covered at least 10 different aspects including:

  • Product Design Objections - that the product is badly designed and thought out
  • Missing Certifications and Codes Conformance
  • Lock In

Inside, we examine each one assessing their accuracy and application, contending that the criticisms are overdone, reflecting the industry's desire to protect RMR.

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Product ****** **********

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"*** **** *******, ***** *** * **** ***** ** **, is *********** ** ** ******* **** * ******. ** *** unit ***** ** ********** ** ** ******** ** ****** ** nonfunctional."

**** ** **** *********** ** *** ***** ****** ********** ********* a **** ******, * ******** ** *****. ** ********, **** our ********** **** ** ******** **** ****** *** **** ******* or **** ** ******* ** ** **** ***.

"***** *** **** ** ****** ******** ** *** ** *** wireless ************. **, ** ** ******** ******** ***** * ***** window **** **** ********* * *******, ** ***** ****** ****** the ***** ** *** *********** ** **** ****** ** *** internal *******."

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"*** ****-** ******* ** *** ******’* *********** **** ******** ** the **** ******* ** *** ******** ** ******* *** *********** means, ** ** *** ****** ** *********, ************ ** *********."

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"** * ******* *****, ***** *****, ***** ******** ** ** detector *********, *** ******’* ***** **** *** **** *** ********* capability ** ********** ***** **** **** *** ******** ***** ************ among *** ******* ** ********* ******."

**** ** *** ****** ** ********* *******, *** *** **** SimpliSafe ******* ******** ****** ****** *** ***** ******** ** '********* only' ********* **** ***, ******, ** ****. ** *** **** unable ** **** * ******************* ***** ******. ***** ***, **** ******* *** *** ******** even ** ************ ******* ***** ********** ********.

Lock ** ** ******* *******

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Comments (39)

5818MNL most likely does not have a tamper switch because it is a recessed sensor, an intruder would not have the ability to remove a battery without triggering the sensor first.

In any case, standard design principles call for multiple, interlocking layers of security- in this case, the window contact backed up by the PIR. Even if an intruder were to bypass the contact, they would be detected by the PIR.

If the motion detectors have been programmed as "Interior Followers" and system was armed in "Stay Mode" those motion detectors would ignore the intruder. However, in the event that a battery is removed the system would most likely go into a trouble condition indicating "Loss of RF Supervision" from that sensor when it does its check-in/handshake. This may not happen fast enough to give occupants sufficient time to respond.

Last year at ISC West 2Gig showed a new DIY product to compete with SimpliSafe. I have been unable to find any information on it since then.

That's actually an excellent point. So far as I can tell, SimpliSafe does not have the ability to enable interior followers. It does have a Home and Away mode.

Jeff's doing his best to raise concerns about DIY security alarm systems which are a direct threat to traditional residential-focused integrators. As a frequent Expert Witness for the alarms industry I would expect nothing less from him.

As lead heretic in my organization I installed a SimpliSafe system to compare reliability, features and value for my own insight. Comparing what a residential alarm user needs, the ease of installation and functionality (so far) the industry is right to be scared senseless.

There is substantial pushback from residential customers now aware they don't have to be held hostage to a multi year iron clad contract to get all the features they most desire on a simple intrusion alarm. The traditional alarm industry has brought this on ourselves and I see it as having the potential to totally reshape the consumer-provider relationship.

BTW, video cameras are also now available from SimpliSafe for an additional $5/month with cloud storage available.

That must have raised some hackles.

don't have to be held hostage to a multi year iron clad contract to get all the features they most desire on a simple intrusion alarm

Jack sounds like you could work for the SimpliSafe marketing department :)

Ari, this is a great article and discussion because it neutralizes

As and business owner I am not troubled by these systems or summer sales programs because they create awareness of a product and service for the industry. Sure they do take opportunities away from our company but they also bring opportunities in the door. There is a lot of work to go around, I don't have a problem with it.

We live in a land of capitalism, the people will decide what is valuable and what price they are willing to pay. I like watching new companies bring new ideas into the industry, it promotes conversations about change and brings about new ideas.

Keefe,

That's scary in itself. :-)

RMR is the only value many residential integrators have on the books and they are very, very exposed when there's a DIY offering. DragonFly may be DIY, but the consumer has to buy it from an alarm dealer and obtain monitoring through them. The industry is scared to death of DIY residential systems but since our company refuses residential systems, doing commercial/institutional/governmental clients only we aren't so worried.

It once took me 9 months to get a name from ADT of my responsible account executive when I was a Fortune 1000 customer. It's not hard to see why more informed and technically astute consumers are leaving the large nationals in their dust in the race to DIY.

Perhaps Mr. Zwirn is paid by a competitor, DragonFly, take a look:

Good find!

Since when does UL recognize gear as "reliable"? (0:54)

I guess recognized as reliably not starting house fires. But vague statements like this make it sound like they're testing quality. Instead of innovating and addressing a changing market, the intrusion market does crap like this.

Can any outdoor device powered by 4AA batteries really be considered reliable?

That's evidently part of a 4 video series for Dragonfly / Videofied:

The Dragongate scandal claims another independent, the venerated Ken K., shown here with his free Dragon.

Why does Kirschenbaum say 'courtesy of DragonFly, i might add, they were kind enough to give me the equipment'?

Can he seriously not afford a DIY intrusion kit?

Why does Kirschenbaum say 'courtesy of DragonFly'?

His conscience made him do it ;)

Zwirn, on the other hand, has a different philosophy:

Posing as an ordinary consumer, I recently purchased a SimpliSafe package in order to forensically investigate if claims about its products...

Here's another strange thing about these videos, Zwirn never actually says 'DragonFly' or any company name, instead just saying "this security system.", for instance here in the damning last sentence of the 'limitations of Dragonfly'...

So was Zwirn being cagey here in not saying DragonFly? My guess is that the videos were made before the product name was decided upon... Still awkward...

So what are the limitations in DragonFly?

It won't be able to alert you and your friends if

  1. You don't turn Dragonfly on
  2. You don't turn your cell phone on
  3. You can't hear your cell phone
  4. Your friends cell phone is off or turned down
  5. The intruder enters thru an area not covered by the detectors.

The first 4 of these are clearly idiotic and wouldn't stop anyone from purchasing. The 5th one is true, but the motivation there is "buy enough cameras".

But of course, these obvious 'limitations' are just stated so that consumers feel like the company is being honest.

But if they were honest, they might have added one small limitation:

6. You might not get an alert if any of the 4 AA batteries in the detector die.

Dragonfly/Videofied don't use AA batteries. They use 3.7V lithium-ion batteries. You can't just stick Duracells in the detector.

Dragonfly/Videofied don't use AA batteries.

Actually they do. AA is a designation that refers only to the size of the battery not the voltage.

Agreed, harder to come buy, so even more of a pain in the neck.

The batteries are rechargeable. So when they die, I think you spend a few hours charging and you're back in business. I recharged a demo kit's batteries once and only once so can't tell you how long it really takes.

And yes, AA is a form factor but colloquially it means that form factor, 1.5 volts. The lithiums are usually referred to as 14500s. I have a super high output flashlight that takes them also.

And yes, AA is a form factor but colloquially it means that form factor, 1.5 volts.

I was just going on what they said in their video:

Anyway with a max of 25 devices x 4 batteries, I would expect a week wouldn't go by without a battery dying.

And that's if they last 6 months.

we sell alarm stuff yet Im still amazed at simplisafes business model.

How do they get away with licensing? Are they really licensed in all 50 states for central station monitoring. I know in Oklahoma its unlawful to provide central station monitoring to customers unless you are licensed with the state. Of course this state has made it utterly ridiculous and convoluted for any new company wanting to install security systems, so I am confused on how simplisafe got away with this.

Simplisafe contracts the monitoring. For Oklahoma, and a good part of the US, Simplisafe uses C.O.P.S. (OK License #899).

got ya, thanks!

now that I think about this, alot of alarm companies contract out the monitoring right? So again, how does simplisafe get away with this but any joe schmo installer without a license cannot. Is it because its self installed by the home owner? If so thats cray cray.

It was my understanding, that central stations arent supposed to provide monitoring to anyone other than licesned installers

The licensing laws exist to protect consumers from unskilled, inexperienced or otherwise unreliable providers who provide services for compensation. The end user can install their own equipment themselves, as with SimpliSafe or DragonFly, without a license.

Central stations will provide monitoring for whichever market segments they wish to serve and until a couple of years ago I didn't know of but one independent central station that served the end user segment. Most everyone was and still is focused on serving their alarm companies using them for monitoring.

To my knowledge, C.O.P.S. is licensed in every state. They also must subcontract monitoring to a "local" central station as backup for some jurisdictions like Las Vegas that require a "local" monitoring station be used as primary with signals also relayed to the big, bad national central station provider.

Several years we provided a couple of security designs for a massive bridge security deployment utilizing mesh networking, crossline detection, motion detection, etc.

When we went to the pre-bid RFP, they specified cheap Videofied cameras and the one dealer who was authorized at the time of course won it. Just shook our heads and didn't bother...Even dept. of transportation entities are using DIY products to protect $4B bridges!

Although alarms and RMR and not a huge part of our income, we do offer monitoring. I see the DIY alarm systems in the same light as DIY video systems. Not to get lost in semantics, I don't consider DIY video to be professional surveillance. It is, for the most part, a recorded observation system, not much more sophisticated than a video intercom system. That sounds critical, but I don't mean it to be. If any of you have ever ridden motorcycles, there is an old saying in the bike world...there is a seat for every rear end. Not everyone wants or can afford a Harley or an Indian.

Along those lines, DIY alarm systems are not professional intrusion detection systems and cannot be relied upon as such. They are at best presence notification and in my experience, very unreliable, although not always because of the equipment itself.

I still would maintain that most, not all but most DIY customers are not potential clients of ours. Were it not for the reduced cost of ownership and in some cases the novelty, those consumers would not purchase a security system. I am not loosing a lot of business to the DIY market, and if I do, it is business I likely don't want anyway.

One issue I do take exception to in the article is the mention that RMR breeds contempt. That is without merit as written and paints with a broad brush which is typically a bad habit. First of all, RMR is just an acronym that bean counters use. A large portion of our customers pay annually, not monthly. Second, monitoring does cost money the same as any other service. Monthly payments are offered as a convenience to the customer more often than not because the potential customers cannot discipline their yearly budgets. While there is a ton of automation in a Central Station, there are still people there and those people expect to get paid. They provide a very necessary service in a professional manner and overwhelmingly, day in and day out they do so correctly. Central Stations need money to do all of that. It comes from the dealers who install and maintain the alarms. The contracts are with the installing dealers. They pay the Central Stations and do so monthly. If I carry your note, I expect to be paid for that. It is only fair. I am not a bank (and banks charge interest too). To have reliable equipment and services cost money and yes, in a free-market economy, the cost are always passed on the the consumer. They have to be.

As for lockout codes, we don't use them. The customer owns our system (we don't offer a monthly price that includes the equipment). I don't want a customer that does not want to be here. You can walk away anytime you want to. We know we have to prove ourselves every day. I don't have a big problem with lockout codes as long as the system is not paid for. Once payment is complete, yes, it should be unlocked - for free.

Not every company mandates locked in contracts (we don't and I personally know a lot that don't). The nationals tend to yes but certainly not the regionals and locals. The contract is more often than not a legal declarative of liability limits of the parties involved. Contracts are absolutely necessary in the litigious environment. They also almost always explain the owners responsibility as well, and contrary to popular belief, they do have some responsibility.

As far as millennials are concerned, this is sometimes the same generation that wants to redefine life in general; they want life on their terms as if they have figured out something we missed. They want a job, but only on their terms, their hours etc. They often think cable TV is social entitlement and have no issue with walking out on a job with no notice what-so-ever. I have millennial children and I love them, but they are not always right headed.

There is a old axium in business: (20% of your customers consume 80% of your resources). Many business consultants will honestly tell you that you should get rid of your lowest performing customers annually. To me, in our business model, that is the DIY'er. You can't lose money you never had. Just my opinions.

Mark, thoughtful comments, thanks!

As for your comment about: "One issue I do take exception to in the article is the mention that RMR breeds contempt." What we said specifically was:

The alarm industry breeds contempt with mandatory contracts and dealer code lockouts

To All:

I have just been made aware of IPVM's article and the responses to same. Given that, I will be providing my responses accordingly. In the future, I trust that IPVM will notify me so that I can be aware of same in real time, since I authored the article.

Respectfully submitte

Jeffery D. Zwirn, Certified Protection Professional, Certified Fire Protection Specialist, Certified Fraud Examiner, Fellow of the American College of Forensic Examiners, Certified in Homeland Security-Level IV, Senior Engineering Technician Level IV Certified in Fire Protection, Certified Criminal Investigator, Master Burglar Alarm Technician

As a follow up, and once again, I wish I would have been advised of the IPVM article in real time, then I could have responded timely. In any event, I will be responding now because there is a huge disconnect between what IPVM states they found and the mandated code requirements which all equipment manufacturers are required to comply with; including and most notably, the National Electrical Code ( NEC), in that all equipment shall be listed for its intended purpose.

Similarly many of the comments posted are also erroneous as well.

The NEC is adopted in all but three states, so in 45 states it applies and arguably it applies in the other states as well due to all of the regulations by the AHJ as we are talking in part about a "life safety system" whether it is self-contained or a system detector. Clearly, if equipment manufacturers did not have to list smoke alarms and smoke detectors they would not do so. In fact, I do not believe that you can find any smoke alarm or smoke detector available in the US that is not listed by an NRTL such as UL or ETL. If your comments are correct, which I respectfully dispute, why can we not find non-listed smoke alarms and smoke detectors? The answer is quite clear, the profusion of equipment manufacturers who design, manufacture and sell these products agree with my interpretation of the NEC and NFPA 72. In fact, NFPA 72 specifically requires what I am positing here. Once again, the listing requirement as elaborated to above follows through in the 3 states where the NEC has not been adopted.

Simpli-Safe is required to be licensed based on what they do; and subsumed in the alarm contractor licensing laws across the country are the adoption of both the NEC and NFPA 72 which AHJ's require.

The argument that the NEC does not apply is erroneous and would equate to equipment manufacturers being able to sell either a smoke alarm or smoke detector and not be required to have listed by an NRTL such as UL or ETL. In other words, the NEC applies and not just for smoke alarms, smoke detectors and CO alarms and detectors; but for all control panels.

In fact, even Radio Shack equipment from the 1980's was listed by UL. Was this by happenstance? No way. That said, the same holds true today. The information which supports my expert opinions is based on over 40 years in the alarm industry, my education, skill, knowledge, training, experience and nationally recognized peer reviewed credentials and serving on 24 UL technical committees. Furthermore, and in this matter, the wireless smoke detectors have been designed to activate their "control panel". Therefore and once again, it is an undisputed material fact that all household burglar and fire alarm control panels shall be listed for their intended purpose. Just like alarm companies, Simpli Safe is required to follow the same rules. Finally, Simpli Safe repeatedly failed to respond to the article and that in my opinion speaks volumes to the fact that what I proved after testing their product and investigating same, was technically accurate.

Stated differently, no control panel manufacturer made professionally or in a do it yourself format can sell products to the public and/or in the stream of commerce without the product being listed by an NRTL; and the Simpli-Safe control panel is not listed. Interestingly their smoke detectors are. My article focused on the gross misrepresentations of what Simpli Safe touts, when in reality, the product is dangerous and is a misapplication of technology. Please remember I put Simpli Safe to the test of what they say their equipment is and what it does. Given that, my article, proved that they system miserably failed. In closing, I do not care if Simpli Safe has 100,000 accounts or millions of accounts, they are still duty bound to comply with codes and standards. The foregoing opinions are held to a reasonable degree of forensic and professional certainty. More to follow.

Respectfully submitted

Jeffery D. Zwirn, President, Certified Protection Professional, Certified Fire Protection Specialist, Certified Fraud Examiner, Fellow of the American College of Forensic Examiners, Certified in Homeland Security-Level IV, Senior Engineering Technician Level IV Certified in Fire Protection, Certified Criminal Investigator, Master Burglar Alarm Technician

IDS Research and Development, Inc.

46 West Clinton Avenue

Tenafly, New Jersey 07670

Phone: 201-227-2559

www.alarmexpert.com

Apparently the wireless signals are unencrypted, simple google search yielded:

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/02/17/simplisafe_wireless_home_alarm_system_cracked/

Unfortunately, this is but one of the serious dangers with the Simpli-Safe equipment.

Please review my forensic findings in the article which I authored for Security Sales magazine.

Jeffery D. Zwirn, President Zwirn Corporation

Can you post a link for that article Mr. Zwirn? This seems like an interesting topic.

It is the one cited in the opening of this article, which is a rebutt to that one:

Recently, Security Sales ran an article from Jeff Zwirn ripping SimpliSafe apart and concluding that essentially no one should use SimpliSafe:

Wow... I feel smart. Thanks Brian.

No worries!

Unfortunately, this is but one of the serious dangers with the Simpli-Safe equipment.

UL or not, SimpliSafe installs are doing a better job today protecting life and property than the DragonFly EOL systems you pitched, yes/no?

Well if supporting all regulations is the issue then I hope no one here ever took a Uber ride. In fairness I did not read every comment so if someone said this I apologize..

Greg:

This is not a yes or no answer.

My demonstration showed how Dragonfly functioned before they were sold to Honeywell. There is no evidence that Dragonfly contained the serious defects and irregularities that Simpli Safe had at the time when I forensically examined their system, and as to the other things which I learned in my forensic study of this "alarm system". Please see the article which I authored. Furthermore, we are talking about two completely different systems, one being a wireless "alarm system" by Simpli-Safe that is not UL Listed, their system does not comply with Temporal 3 and Temporal 4 annunciation, their system does not comply with NFPA 72, and there are many other serious defects and irregularities which I identified. To date, Simpl-Safe has been completely non-responsive to what I forensically identified. At the same time, they continue to sell their products to unsuspecting families and businesses nationally.

In other words, just because a company purchases another company, and then the new company decides to discontinue one of their product lines, does not mean that a company who continues to sell dangerous and defects products, being Simpli-Safe, is doing better than the other product. To the contrary, Simpli-Safe is putting their customers at risk to the extent that they have not corrected the serious defects and irregularities which I identified.

ALL alarm manufacturers need to follow the same rules as to nationally recognized industry standards and practices, as to UL Standards and as to NFPA Standards.

Are you saying that you have the audacity to support any household control panel which is not listed by an NRTL, and of which, does not comply with UL, NFPA Standards and nationally recognized industry standards and best practices?

Yes or No?

Remember, what is worse than no security is a false sense of security and I forensically identified that through my investigation of Simpli-Safe products.

The foregoing opinions are held to a reasonable degree of alarm science, forensic, technical, professional and educational certainty.

Respectfully submitted,

Jeffrey Zwirn, President- IDS Research and Development, Inc.

Jeff, I think you meant to respond to me not Greg, as his reply preceded mine.

In any event, were your examinations of both the SimpliSafe and DragonFly products equally comprehensive?

Did you find any flaws in the DragonFly product or any outstanding features in SimpliSafe?

How were you compensated for your time in each case?

Sorry for replying to the wrong person.

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Startup Sunflower Labs is claiming a unique design on a home security system, combining autonomous drones and 'Sunflower' sensors. Imagine an...
Sublethal Camera Gun Examined on Dec 06, 2018
Sublethal is a South African company that manufactures a remotely-controlled, camera-enabled gun called the Boomslang, which is Afrikaans for tree...
VMS Live Monitoring Shootout - Avigilon, Dahua, Exacq, Genetec, Hikvision, Milestone, Network Optix on Dec 05, 2018
Viewing live video is the first interaction and most common task most users have with a VMS. Who does it best and worst? Who offers the most...
ADT Wins Fire Death Suit But Faces Appeal on Dec 05, 2018
ADT/Protection 1 has won a wrongful death court case in which it was sued by the estate of a deceased customer. However, the attorney for the...
Longse USA Profile on Nov 30, 2018
In September 2017, Longse bought and opened their USA office. As one of the largest South China surveillance manufacturers, they have previously...
ADT Promotes DIFY - "Do It For You" on Nov 30, 2018
"Do It Yourself" (DIY) is a popular expression and has become such a common word that it has even made the Cambridge English dictionary. But why...
Cybersecurity Insurance For Security Integrators on Nov 29, 2018
Most security industry professionals carry insurance to cover themselves in the event of a general loss. However, most are not carrying cyber...
Security Sales Course 2019 on Nov 29, 2018
The next IPVM Security Sales Course starts in January 2019. This sales course is customized for the needs and challenges specific to...
Vintra "AI-Powered" Video Analytics Startup Profile on Nov 27, 2018
Vintra is a Silicon Valley startup focused on AI-based video analytics. They had booths at IACP and ISC West demonstrating their hosted or...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Imperial Capital Security Investor Conference 2018 Review - ADT, Resideo, Alarm.com, Arlo, Eagle Eye, ACRE, More on Dec 14, 2018
Imperial Capital Security Investor Conference is an event matching industry executives with financiers that frequently leads to future funding...
Cisco Meraki New Cameras and AI Analytics on Dec 14, 2018
Meraki has released their second generation of video surveillance with 3 new cameras, AI-based video analytics, and 2 cloud-based storage...
Foolish Strategy: OEMing Facial Recognition on Dec 13, 2018
Almost as 'hot' as face recognition marketing right now is OEMing facial recognition. Last year, they were a who's who of company's with...
DVR Examiner - Video Recovery from Recorder Hard Drives on Dec 13, 2018
Bypassing passwords and long download times on-site, DVR Examiner collects and organizes video evidence directly from a hard drive extracted from...
2019 Access Control Book Released on Dec 12, 2018
This is the best, most comprehensive access control book in the world, based on our unprecedented research and testing has been significantly...
Huawei Hisilicon Quietly Powering Tens of Millions of Western IoT Devices on Dec 12, 2018
Huawei Hisilicon chips are powering, at least, tens of millions of Western IoT devices, such as IP cameras and surveillance recorders, a fact that...
FLIR Launches Body Cameras Unified With VMS (TruWitness) on Dec 11, 2018
While FLIR is best known for their thermal cameras, now they have expanded into body cameras, launching TruWITNESS, a public safety focused body...
Startup Sunflower Labs' Autonomous Drone Security System on Dec 11, 2018
Startup Sunflower Labs is claiming a unique design on a home security system, combining autonomous drones and 'Sunflower' sensors. Imagine an...
The 2019 Video Surveillance Industry Guide on Dec 10, 2018
The 300 page, 2019 Video Surveillance Industry Guide, covers the key events and the future of the video surveillance market, is now available,...
Multi-Factor Access Control Authentication Guide on Dec 10, 2018
Can a stranger use your credentials? One of the oldest problems facing access control is making credentials as easy to use as keys, but restricting...

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