High-tech security

SO you're on a tropical beach, sipping a daiquiri, and your cellphone rings. You pick it up, look at the video display and see your living room, your expensive stereo system -- and a burglar about to make his move.

Press a few buttons, and the stereo turns on, full blast. Seconds later, your voice is broadcast through the house, and you startle the burglar as you yell: "I see you -- yes, you, in the living room by the north window! Get out of my house, the police are on their way!"

Welcome to the cutting edge of high-end home automation. Personal, mobile access to home security cameras is the latest development, made possible by the most recent generation of video-enabled phones.

Pluto Home, a start-up company in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has begun offering a video surveillance system via a Nokia camera phone, modified to run software the company has developed over the last 18 months.

Although just a handful of high-end homes in South Florida have been equipped with the Pluto Orbiter system so far, the company plans to make its West Coast debut in the coming weeks.

Spokesman Aaron Baalbergen says Pluto Home will be at the Electronic House Expo next week in Long Beach, and the company is equipping a demo home in Los Angeles.

"Monitoring companies have had the remote audio-video capability for a while, but I can see the benefits of the video cellphone access with other situations as well, like [talking to] latchkey kids or teenage kids left at home alone," said Michael Rock, owner of Electronic Home Concepts in Campbell, Calif.

Such a luxury, of course, comes with a price tag. The industry standard for wiring a home with integrated control over security, lighting and electronics is $2 per square foot -- not including the cost of all the automation-ready appliances and hardware, according to Julie Frisino, co-owner of ReelTime Sound and Video, a custom electronics installer in Escondido.

Pluto Home, which does offer some all-in-one packages, says equipping a house with its mobile security feature alone would cost about $7,000. Add all the other bells and whistles -- control over audiovisual devices, home computers and networks, phone systems, lighting, appliances and more -- and you're looking at $12,000 for a small bachelor pad, and as much as $50,000 for a large house.

Which is just the type of comfort that might make you want to order another daiquiri.

-- Melissa Milios

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