Total Security WiFi System
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Worked as stated, even more features then I was aware it had. Customer support is very responsive and knowledgable.
I was one of the first purchasers of the Fortress Total Security Wifi, and have a great deal to say, after nearly a year of use. Ultimately, this could be a five-star product, but wavers between three and four because of a few software/hardware glitches, incomplete documentation, and an app that isn't at all user-intuitive. The system generally does what it's intended to do - helps secure your home, and warns you if an alarm is triggered. But it's currently intended for intuitive people who like to tinker and learn a new technology. There's room to grow, and I hope my review will help both customers and product developers within the company. Before I begin, I admit, it's a small company. When I placed my order, they had one person handling orders, doing tech support AND writing the manuals. My hat's off to Jessica for the tremendous effort - six stars out of five. INSTALLATION: I bought TS Wifi package "C". Everything shipped promptly, and was packaged neatly and securely. Before starting, I read the manual, and it gave a simplified overview that helped get everything started. I had read concerns about the adhesive used on the sensors, but they're solid. After a year of use, all are still attached where I placed them. Be sure to clean the area with rubbing alcohol and allow to dry before mounting. Generally, if you have steady hands, this step is simple. I recommend to plan out the location for each device before you begin. One initial installation challenge I discovered was that the devices are pre-programmed to the alarm unit, but that fact wasn't explicitly highlighted in the manual, so I started manually adding each device, and created double entries, which became a problem later. Also, there's a battery-blocking plastic tab installed in each unit. DO NOT REMOVE THE TAB BEFORE THE SENSOR HAS BEEN PUT IN PLACE. Otherwise, you'll set your alarm off repeatedly until the lesson is learned. Also, the manual recommends setting up the GSM before installing. For the reason above, and for general testing, I suggest that communications be enabled LAST. Another hint: leave the big outdoor siren turned off during setup and testing. INTERFACE: Once the sensors and sirens were installed, I began getting technical with the user interface on the alarm unit. Again, the manual gives a simplified overview of the features available and how to use them. But it doesn't go deep enough, in my opinion. There are a lot of features/pages on the GUI that aren't explained in the manual, and there were a few things I wanted to do but couldn't find the steps to take. As I set up my alarm, I also noticed that the touch-screen buttons were far too sensitive. Sometimes the device registered touches after I'd taken my finger off or touched another button, and as a result it would enter incorrect data on configuration screens - probably just a software tweak, but this became a MAJOR problem later. I enabled the alarm, then walked through the house tripping one after another sensor. They all worked. I was really happy, and thought I was done. I'll explain communications setup after a short warning. The system worked great and I was really pleased for the first few weeks (additional challenges noted later). Then, around the third week, I opened a door without turning off the alarm: and nothing happened. I checked the alarm, and somehow, all sensors had been deleted from my unit. That sensitive button issue had actually manifested into unattended autoscrolling, and my best guess is that it had "walked" itself onto the "delete all" sensors option. I reached out to Fortress Security Store and they sent me a brand-new head unit. CONNECTIVITY: I purchased the Total Security Wifi because it has the ability to connect in three different ways: over wireless internet, using a GSM SIM card, or over a traditional PSTN landline telephone. All three were important to me for best available connection security, and I wouldn't have purchased my unit without. Each also came with its own share of difficulty. The first form of communication I set up was WiFi. Programming the alarm should have been simple enough, but, once again, the manual didn't explain how the interface worked, so I had to email in for assistance. Once explained, I discovered my wireless network and joined the alarm to it. Good enough. The ability to connect to a standard telephone line was huge for me. My unit arrived with a standard gray dual-plug telephone wire. But there wasn't a phone jack anywhere on the alarm. It turns out, there were two terminal screw posts mounted to the board that are capable of telephony, but it wasn't outlined at all in the manual. This required another call to tech support. Once I was made aware of the terminal screws, I cut the end off one of the wires and got the phone connected. Then I just needed to test it. I entered the user interface and dialed my cell phone number. Nothing happened. I tried again, pushing different number combinations, resetting the device, even reversing the red/green wires. I was feeling rather disappointed. So I called into the unit, and it rang and answered. Then I tripped an alarm, and the unit called me. It could dial out for a programmed alarm event, but couldn't manually dial out (this was diagnosed as an obvious software issue after I registered my SIM card and was able to make outbound calls using GSM). My advice to Fortress: either install a standard PSTN phone jack in the unit, OR send a phone line that's already cut and soldered on one end, and update the software to allow manual outbound calling. After getting the first two set up, I registered my SIM card and bought the basic three-month cellular package. I could use the phone dialer to call out through GSM, confirming that there was a software glitch preventing the PSTN from dialing out. That's ok, the GSM came with its own snafus. The cellular does send texts and receive calls, but the antenna must be rather weak, because I live less than a mile from a tower, and often had trouble making outbound calls, but outbound texts always made it. Next, another huge concern with the software/firmware: when the GSM receives a call, the call "takes over" the device and the alarm isn't accessible from the touchpad. The local user is "locked out" of the alarm, and the system can't be accessed or the screen reset via the touchpad. And calls don't appear to end. The display just "hangs" on the phone number until manually uplugged. This experience brough the device's security into question - if an outside caller locks the user out of the alarm, what can they do remotely without my knowledge or prevention? I cancelled the GSM plan. I know this unit is also capable of GMRS, because the display constantly tells me it's disconnected, but the manual says nothing about how to configure/connect it. There's also the ability to add a wireless camera, which I was really excited about, until I found out that the only compatible unit is offered by the Fortress Security Store. I've already got my own cameras, which I would prefer to use, and I suspect there are other units that might work, but I haven't found any information about the camera protocols necessary - which makes sense from a business standpoint, but not an end-user standpoint. APP: Last but not least is the Fortress Total Security WiFi app, which needs much improvement. I downloaded the Android app, and placed another call to Fortress for help getting it connected to my device. After a while the phone and alarm saw each other, and I thought I was good. By the next morning, the Android app had "lost" the device after just one night. I re-programmed it, restarted both devices, and haven't had a problem with connection since. I have since logged directly into the device's WIFI connection through 4g on my Android cell phone, and using an iPad over another wireless network. So, through different internet connections, I can log in, see and access my alarm without the need for a GSM. However, the initial version of the app literally used 25% of my phone's battery, and even when you hit back twice to "exit," it silently continued to run in the background. I force killed it and lived without notifications for many months. Then they released a new version. The "exit" button has been removed, and the battery consumption is much improved. It now uses less than 1% battery, and about 5mb of data per hour. The major downfall of the app, once again, is lack of documentation. The app appears to have been created by a low-cost overseas programmer, for whom English is not a first language. There are a lot of complex screens that aren't very user-friendly, and things programmed into the app sometimes don't get saved back to the device. But it does have "Arm", "Disarm", and "Stay Arm" buttons that do work from anywhere you have internet. All in all, I've been pleased with the Total Security WiFi, which, for the price, has an incredible feature set. It comes with limitations, a few minor glitches, and miniscule documentation, but it works, and has alerted me the two times someone entered my house when I wasn't home and the alarm was armed. The siren batteries last more than half a day without an external powersource, and the sensors and various remote objects all communicate with the alarm when they're supposed to. I'd love the ability to update the firmware, but I understand the security concern this would create. I'd love to be able to override the phone dialer from the device's touchscreen. I hope they've continued to work on and improve the manual, and will continue to update the alarm app.
I once installed a DIY RadioShack system in my house that was pre-wired for an alarm system. I spent several days planning and completing the installation. With the Fortress system, I completed the project in under a half day, including thorough testing. Amazing! I did have a couple of questions during the installation and the support people at Fortress were very responsive and knowledgeable. It was such a pleasure working with people who knew what they were doing and genuinely cared about their customer's satisfaction. I'm especially pleased with the Fortress total Security Wifi app. Just one note - it needs android 4.0 or higher (my old phone was a bit 'dated')... was time to upgrade anyway! I get remote alerts and can view the house interior from the remote camera - features that I was looking for in a home security system. I also like how I can easily add components to customize the system to achieve the level of security I need for my particular home's layout (unlike many 'canned' systems that are only suitable for simple interiors).