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SimpliSafe home security system review: I strongly recommend it

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  • According to the FBI, property crimes rates have steadily decreased over the last 15 years, but burglaries still account for more than $15 billion in losses per year.
  • A good home security system will not stop a determined burglar, but it does an excellent job of scaring away the vast majority of thieves.
  • SimpliSafe is considered one of the best home security systems by experts and buyers alike because of its easy installation, endless customization options, and 24/7 professional monitoring.
  • Starting at $229.99 on Amazon for the home protection system plus $14.99 per month for monitoring and police dispatch, SimpliSafe is relatively inexpensive and doesn’t require you to sign a contract.

I live in Lansing, Michigan. My city has some of the highest violent and property crime rates in the United States. And, my neighborhood is among the worst in town. All of my neighbors have a story or three of someone breaking into their house and stealing whatever valuables they could grab quickly. In fact, a neighbor tells me that before I moved in, there were several burglaries in my house.

So, when I came to town five months ago, I knew I’d need to take some protective measures to scare off ne’er-do-wells. Fortunately, SimpliSafe was game to send me a review unit of their all-new third-generation home security system to test out. Below are my experiences with it.

My first experiences with SimpliSafe

SimpliSafe’s system uses Wi-Fi and cellular connections to send alerts. Each of the devices is also powered by batteries. This means that if the power is knocked out or your landline is cut, the monitoring stations will still get your signal. They have even made the keypad and base station “smash safe.”

The review set included 10 pieces of security equipment:

  • Base station — This is the brains of the operation. It also features the on-location siren that will hopefully chase off intruders. The base station communicates with all of the sensors, your smartphone, and the professional monitoring. SimpliSafe recommends installing this in a central spot in your home.
  • Keypad — The keypad is installed next to your main entrance so you can easily enter your PIN to turn it off when you get home. It also tells you if the alarm has been triggered and if there are any software updates.
  • Entry sensors (3) — These two-piece units go on doors and windows. They let you know when a potential point of entry is opened or closed.
  • Motion sensor — This uses infrared technology to tell if someone enters a room.
  • Glassbreak sensor — Installed on a wall or shelf within 30 feet of windows that are most likely to be broken into, the glassbreak sensor is triggered when it “hears” the specific frequency of glass breaking.
  • Panic button — I put this by my bed — you just push it if there is a threat that the other sensors didn’t pick up.
  • Freeze sensor — This sensor monitors the temperature in your house and sends an alert if it gets too cold or too hot.
  • Water sensor — If your basement is flooding, you want to know right away. The water sensor will alert you.

Installation of these units took a total of 45 minutes. This included reading the manual, installing the app, installing the sensors, and testing. There were no tools needed. All of the devices have adhesives on them that make it easy to stick them to the walls. They also come with screws if you want to mount them that way.

Read more: The best security cameras you can buy for your home

With SimpliSafe, you can self-monitor or pay $14.99 per month (no contract required) for 24/7 professional monitoring. If you choose to self-monitor, the onus is on you to assess the threat and contact the police when you receive an alert. Self-monitoring fails when you are in a compromised position and cannot contact the police.

With SimpliSafe’s professional monitoring and police dispatch, they call you when the alarm is triggered. If you don’t answer, they contact the backup number. If the secondary contact doesn’t answer, then a SimpliSafe representative calls 911. Because of false alarms tying up police resources, different municipalities have different processes for these calls. For instance, in order for a third-party to contact police on your behalf, some cities require you to register your security system and also provide some sort of audio or video proof of a crime in progress.

I set off the alarm a couple of times. Within about 10 minutes of leaving the house after first arming the system, I got a call from SimpliSafe asking if I had an emergency event because the motion sensor had been triggered by my dog. I gave the representative my safe word, and there was no need for a police dispatch.

The setup guide directs you on how to place the motion sensor if you have cats or dogs but not both. I have two cats and a dog. I emailed SimpliSafe’s customer service on a Sunday evening for help on the correct placement of the motion sensor, and they got back to me the next morning. The service rep recommended installing the motion sensor upside down about four feet above the floor. This is because the sensor doesn’t monitor upwards. So, people four feet tall and taller will set it off. Four-legged creatures will not. Once I resolved this, I didn’t have any other false alarms from the motion sensor.

The app is incredibly easy to use and makes it effortless to customize your experience. You can choose to get push notifications, SMS texts, or emails when any of your sensors are triggered. There is also an option to instantly sound the alarm. I set this up for when the glassbreak sensor is triggered.

Read more: The best home security products you can buy

Some concerns about the home security system

At 95 decibels, the alarm is quite loud, but it may not reach all parts of your home. SimpliSafe instructs you to install the base station in a central location in your home. At first, we figured that would be the second floor of our three-story home. But, from the first floor, where intruders will likely enter, the sound of the siren was not as intense as we would have liked. So, we moved the siren to the first floor. It would be nice if SimpliSafe offered a few sirens throughout the home. For $60, SimpliSafe offer an extra-loud 105-decibel siren that can be used inside the home or outside to alert neighbors.

I wanted to keep the key fob on my keychain for easy access, but I accidentally armed the system while it was in my pocket. At the time, I was next door talking to my neighbor and didn’t have my phone on me. I faintly heard an alarm-like sound, but I assumed it was coming from elsewhere. Well, it turns out it was our system and my wife got a call from the SimpliSafe rep. Now, I just keep the key fob next to my bed to arm the system when I go to bed. I use the keypad when leaving the house.

Lastly, there’s a reported hack that can disarm the second-generation SimpliSafe system. The signals for the new third-gen system are encrypted and should protect against this hack. If you are concerned about this, I recommend not advertising that you are using a SimpliSafe system. Instead, consider purchasing generic signs off Amazon or elsewhere. Either way, it’s important that you advertise that you have a security system. That should be enough to deter most scofflaws.

Bottom line

Even the best security system won’t stop a determined burglar. But, when it comes to opportunistic crimes, a security system should be enough to ward off most criminals. In the five months we’ve lived here, we haven’t had any security issues. And, my wife and I sleep easier at night knowing that our home is being monitored 24/7.

Based on my experience, the third-generation of SimpliSafe’s wireless home security system is everything it claims to be. I strongly recommend it for safeguarding your home.

Buy the SimpliSafe Wireless Home Security System starting at $229.99 on Amazon

Update 10/30/18: After this review was published, SimpliSafe contacted us to let us know about their video alarm verification. If you have the SimpliSafe Camera, the monitoring center will receive a short clip of what triggered the alarm and use it to verify the alarm for the police. They never have access to your camera so your privacy is protected. SimpliSafe says this reduces false alarms and often leads to faster dispatch and higher arrest rates.

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Trudeau Government Should Turn to Sustainable Floor Heating In Its New Deal

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A consortium has been chosen by Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) to manage the $1.1-billion overhaul of five heating and cooling plants in the National Capital Region. However, this decision has been met with a lot of disapproval by the country’s largest federal public service union.

Early June, the department announced that Innovate Energy has been awarded the 30-year contract “to design, retrofit, maintain and operate the plants,”winning the bid over a rival group that included SNC-Lavalin.

Minister of Environment, Catherine McKenna, said the federal government was “leading by example” in its bid to drastically reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions across the country. McKenna noted that by supporting this project, they’re utilizing heating and cooling infrastructure to promote a more environmentally friendly option.

“We’re very proud that our government is working with partners like Innovate Energy to modernize this critical infrastructure,” she said during the announcement at one of the facilities that will be upgraded, the Cliff Heating and Cooling Plant in downtown Ottawa.

The plants would be known as the district energy system and would heat 80 buildings in the area with steam. It is also expected to cool 67 of these buildings with chilled water through more than 14 kilometres of underground pipes.

Under the Energy Services Acquisition Program, PSPC will be tasked with modernizing the outdated technology in the plants to lower emissions and supportgrowth in the eco-friendly technology sector.

During the first stage of the overhaul, the system would be converted from steam to low temperature hot water and then switched from steam to electric chillers—with the estimated completion date being 2025. PSPC notes that the project will reduce current emissions by 63 per cent, the equivalent of removing 14,000 non-eco-friendly cars off the road.

Afterwards, the natural gas powering the plant will then be replaced by carbon-neutral fuel sources, which according to estimated will reduce emissions by a further 28 per cent. The renovation project is bound to save the government an estimated fee of more than $750 million in heating and cooling costs in the next 40 years.

Furthermore, the implementation of radiant floor heating in Ottawa by the federal government would be an additional step in driving its agenda for a more eco-friendly state.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Savers website, radiant floor heating has a lot of benefits and advantages over alternate heat systems and can cut heating costs by 25 to 50 per cent.

“It is more efficient than baseboard heating and usually more efficient than forced-air heating because no energy is lost through ducts,” the website states.

Radiant floor heating provides an equal amount of heat throughout a building, including areas that are difficult to heat, such as rooms with vaulted ceilings, garages or bathrooms. Consideringit warms people and objects directly—controlling the direct heat loss of the occupant—radiant floor heating provides comfort at lower thermostat settings.

“Radiators and other forms of ‘point’ heating circulate heat inefficiently and hence need to run for longer periods to obtain comfort levels,” reports the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNet).

Radiant heating is a clean and healthy option—a perfect choice for those with severe allergies—as it doesn’t rely on circulating air, meaning there are no potentially irritating particles blowing around the room. Additionally, it is more energy efficient, aesthetically pleasing with wall radiators or floor registers and virtually noiseless when in operation.

“They draw cold air across the floor and send warm air up to the ceiling, where it then falls, heating the room from the top down, creating drafts and circulating dust and allergens.”

It is important for the leadership in Ottawa to equally drive the adoption of radiant floor heating as doing this would lead to increased usage in residential buildings—and even government-owned buildings.

However, in October, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), a representative body of employees of the plants,began a campaign target at the government against their decision to use a public-private partnership (P3) for the retrofitting project, citing concerns about costs and safety.

According to the union, outside employees won’t be bound to the same health and safety standards of government workers and that typically P3 projects cost a lot more than traditional public financing deals.

The union demands that the government scraps the proposed project and meet PSAC members and experts to brainstorm on a new way forward that would ensure federal employees continue to operate and maintain the plants.

However, parliamentary secretary to public services and procurement minister, Steve MacKinnon said that the union officials have consulted him but that after conducting an analysis, the P3 option was still the best for the job.

“We didn’t have (to) sacrifice on safety or health — we didn’t have to sacrifice on job security,” he said.

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Steps to becoming a Data Scientist

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Data science has become one of the most in-demand career paths in this century, according to Business Insider. With the amount of information being circulated online, it has created a huge demand for storing, interpreting and implementing big data for different purposes—hence the need for a data scientist.

Today, there too much information flying around for regular people to process efficiently and use. Therefore, it has become the responsibility of data scientists to collect, organize and analyze this data. Doing this helps various people, organizations, enterprise businesses and governments to manage, store and interpret this data for different purposes.

Though data scientists come from different educational backgrounds, a majority of them need to have a technical educational background. To pursue a career in data science, computer-related majors, graduations and post graduations in maths and statistics are quite useful.

Therefore, the steps to becoming a data scientist are quite straightforward.  After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in an IT related field—such as computer science, maths or physics—you can also further your education by obtaining a master’s degree in a data science or any other related field of study. With the necessary educational background, you can now search for a job and obtain the required experience in whichever filed you choose to invest your acquired skills.

Here are the necessary steps to be taken to become a data scientist.

Step 1: Obtain the necessary educational requirements

As earlier noted, different educational paths can still lead to a career in data science. However, it is impossible to begin a career in data science without obtaining a collegiate degree—as a four-year bachelor’s degree is really important. However, according to a report by Business Insider, over 73% of data scientist in existence today have a graduate degree and about 38% of them hold a Ph.D. Therefore, to rise above the crowd and get a high-end position in the field of data science, it is important to have a Master’s degree or a Ph.D.—and with various online data science masters program, obtaining one is quite easy.

Some institutions provide data science programs with courses that will equip students to analyze complex sets of data. These courses also involve a host of technical information about computers, statistics, data analysis techniques and many more. Completing these programs equips you with the necessary skills to function adequately as a data scientist.

Additionally, there are some technical—and computer-based degrees—that can aid you begin a career in data science. Some of them include studies in, Computer Science, Statistics, Social Science, Physics, Economics, Mathematics and Applied Math. These degrees will imbibe some important skills related to data science in you—namely, coding, experimenting, managing large amounts of data, solving quantitative problems and many others.

Step 2: Choose an area of specialization

There rarely exists an organization, agency or business today that doesn’t require the expertise of a data scientist. Hence, it is important that after acquiring the necessary education to start a career as a data scientist, you need to choose an area of specialization in the field you wish to work in.

Some of the specializations that exist in data science today include automotive, marketing, business, defence, sales, negotiation, insurance and many others.

Step 3: Kick start your career as a data scientist

After acquiring the necessary skills to become a data scientist, it is important to get a job in the filed and company of your choice where you can acquire some experience.

Many organizations offer valuable training to their data scientists and these pieces of training are typically centred around the specific internal systems and programs of an organization. Partaking in this training allows you learn some high-level analytical skills that were not taught during your various school programs—especially since data science is a constantly evolving field.

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Artificial intelligence pioneers win tech’s ‘Nobel Prize’

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Computers have become so smart during the past 20 years that people don’t think twice about chatting with digital assistants like Alexa and Siri or seeing their friends automatically tagged in Facebook pictures.

But making those quantum leaps from science fiction to reality required hard work from computer scientists like Yoshua Bengio, Geoffrey Hinton and Yann LeCun. The trio tapped into their own brainpower to make it possible for machines to learn like humans, a breakthrough now commonly known as “artificial intelligence,” or AI.

Their insights and persistence were rewarded Wednesday with the Turing Award, an honor that has become known as technology industry’s version of the Nobel Prize. It comes with a $1 million prize funded by Google, a company where AI has become part of its DNA.

The award marks the latest recognition of the instrumental role that artificial intelligence will likely play in redefining the relationship between humanity and technology in the decades ahead.

Artificial intelligence is now one of the fastest-growing areas in all of science and one of the most talked-about topics in society,” said Cherri Pancake, president of the Association for Computing Machinery, the group behind the Turing Award.

Although they have known each other for than 30 years, Bengio, Hinton and LeCun have mostly worked separately on technology known as neural networks. These are the electronic engines that power tasks such as facial and speech recognition, areas where computers have made enormous strides over the past decade. Such neural networks also are a critical component of robotic systems that are automating a wide range of other human activity, including driving.

Their belief in the power of neural networks was once mocked by their peers, Hinton said. No more. He now works at Google as a vice president and senior fellow while LeCun is chief AI scientist at Facebook. Bengio remains immersed in academia as a University of Montreal professor in addition to serving as scientific director at the Artificial Intelligence Institute in Quebec.

“For a long time, people thought what the three of us were doing was nonsense,” Hinton said in an interview with The Associated Press. “They thought we were very misguided and what we were doing was a very surprising thing for apparently intelligent people to waste their time on. My message to young researchers is, don’t be put off if everyone tells you what are doing is silly.” Now, some people are worried that the results of the researchers’ efforts might spiral out of control.

While the AI revolution is raising hopes that computers will make most people’s lives more convenient and enjoyable, it’s also stoking fears that humanity eventually will be living at the mercy of machines.

Bengio, Hinton and LeCun share some of those concerns especially the doomsday scenarios that envision AI technology developed into weapons systems that wipe out humanity.

But they are far more optimistic about the other prospects of AI empowering computers to deliver more accurate warnings about floods and earthquakes, for instance, or detecting health risks, such as cancer and heart attacks, far earlier than human doctors.

“One thing is very clear, the techniques that we developed can be used for an enormous amount of good affecting hundreds of millions of people,” Hinton said.

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