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Prowler in Paradise

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    Josef KonradParticipant

    I’ve been reading all about security inside the tent here but what about security outside the tent. For the last 3 nights I’ve had someone moving about outside in front of my tent but he’s gone by the time I get up.

    I don’t want any LEDs warning him that he’s been detected. I just ant fair warning so I can take action. Somebody suggested a trip wire like they use in the military but that seems like a complex solution that works better in bar room talk than real life.

    The owner is no use at all, he says nobody can get in here, so maybe it’s another camper.

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    Fyko
    Fyko on

    You’re actually asking two questions here:

    • How to reliably detect a prowler in close proximity to your camp,
    • How to alert yourself to that fact promptly but without the prowler knowing that you’re onto him.

    For the first issue you want a detection system that’s quick and easy to set up, and take down, while at the same time having a high rate of successful intruder detection and a low rate of false alarms.

    Here I would suggest a PIR that clamps onto a 1 inch tent pole and looks downward onto the target area. This unit can quickly clip onto an upper and outer tent pole while its trailing cable plugs into a receptacle on the outer wall of the caravan. The whole setting up takes just a few seconds and its just as quick to break down. Any device that requires complex or time-consuming setting up will fall into disuse sooner or later.

    A downward looking PIR, or one that looks downward at an oblique angle is very effective at protecting an area that is smallish and that you want to keep confined. Mounted to look horizontally the range can vary but will likely be bigger than you’d want, given that there are neighbouring campsites and the access road nearby, but when you face the PIR downward, or near downward, the edge of the observed area is quite easy to determine and also easy to limit by using strips of shiny tape at the edges of the lens.

    Also the ground that the PIR is looking at is incapable of generating false alarms since no heat source can spontaneously arise there, but small animals will be detected, which may or may not be desirable. You may for instance want to be alerted to the presence of a mongoose or a monkey, but not the movement of your little dog.

    The second part of the question is how to be alerted to the detected intruder? Since I know of no competing product I’ll use our own as a generic solution. We have 3 ways of alarm annunciation – a built-in non-adjustable piezo buzzer that has a muting switch, a mobile phone screen display with accompanying sounder which can be adjusted or silenced, an SMS sent to any mobile phone that displays relevant data and produces whatever audible and vibrator output the phone has been programmed for by the user.

    It seems to me that in your case you’d want to mute the local buzzer since that will most likely be audible outside the tent in the quiet of the night,

    Using the screen annunciation would work well if you expected an imminent intrusion, but would require the app to be running in the foreground which would increase power consumption and shorten battery life considerably.

    For non-imminent threats i.e. those that have a moderate to low probability of occurrence the SMS option would be best. It will take just a few seconds for the SMS to travel through the network to your phone, and you can set your phone up with the combination of audio and vibrator response that suits you best, without conveying anything to anyone outside the caravan or side tent.

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    Josef Konrad
    Josef Konrad on

    Thanks for that very comprehensive and informative answer.

    What do you mean by ‘receptacle in the caravan wall’

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    Fyko
    Fyko on

    Unless they are super-easy to deploy, systems that are non-essential to the camp, such as security, tend to fall into disuse over time, resulting great unhappiness when a crime occurs that could have been prevented had had that system been in use.

    Our security control unit is always ready – it just needs to be switched on, in fact it can be left switched on at home while the caravan is on float charge. That way the gas detectors will always be active and the intruder detection will be working even while the caravan is hibernating waiting for summer. Since annunciation is primarily via SMS it can even be kept in a remote storage facility and still be safeguarded.

    But the external, demountable, PIR detectors that protect the inside as well as the outside of the tent need to be put in place and connected to the control unit to make them operational. Each PIR is connected by 4 wires, 12V, Gnd and 2 signals.  To place and secure the PIR unit takes only seconds, it has clips that are designed to hold it onto a standard 1 inch tent pole. All you do is unroll the cable and snap the PIR in place using the attached clips. But connecting 4 individual wires to the control unit after threading the cable through a hole in the wall or the floor would irritating, time-consuming and would soon fall by the wayside.

    To facilitate a quick cable connection we attach a high-quality 4-pin plug to the outer wall of the caravan to accept the cable from one or more PIRs. However many are leery about drilling holes in their caravans thinking that this will devalue the asset when it comes time to sell it.

    So we make a little box that stick to the caravan wall with mounting tape and it requires only a single 4mm hole for the cable connecting to the control unit to pass through. One 4mm hole high up on the caravan wall is easy to close up and make invisible. There are 4 conductors in the cable from the plug box to the control unit and these are permanently connected.

    The spot chosen for mounting this receptacle should be opposite a cupboard so the cable can be led unobtrusively back to the control unit where it is permanently wired into one of the 4 available zone inputs and can thus be disarmed at the flick of a switch. He alarm zone can be named from the mobile phone app to reflect the alarm source in any alarm SMS sent to the mobile phone.

    A secure connection that is easily removed when no

    longer needed without damage to the caravan

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