Neighbourhood watch on the Web

UPDATE: Implementation:

Since my mother-in-law was robbed a few months back and since I've observed security in our neighbourhood to be lacklustre, I have been thinking of a simple alarm system.

In my mind this incident could have been mitigated if there was a quick and easy way to notify the local guard house. Currently finding the number, calling it and telling who you are is far too time consuming and difficult. My goal is to have a system as simple as a button press to call a guard to your house within 2 minutes.

First I took pen to paper to flesh out the problem.

Then I created a "mock up" of how I imagine the "management page" to look like:

First responders on

Implementation challenges


The hardest problem in my mind is determining who is on duty to send the notification too. Since that pretty much requires some sort of time and attendance system. I'm going to assume that security personal aka "responders" have access to a mobile browser. So the problem boils down to session management on the back end. Tbh I've never found this trivial. Options included:

Notifications themselves

I am assuming there is a reliable, fast and inexpensive SMS gateway in Malaysia. Need to evaluate Twilio, Clickatell & Nexmo. Tbh I have doubts! So complementary ways need to be implemented.

Text log

I think it's important to have a "chat like" log of every incident. And that sort of requires an interactive 2 way chat system between the home owner & the responders. Web sockets? Urgh! Complexity. Non-trivial. I heard a lot of communities have an "SOS WhatsApp" group for this very use case.

Human factors

Registering and signing up every house to the system will be a great challenge. I personally would like to avoid passwords. So each home owner would need to go through a procedure like:

  1. Home owner registers upon filling in name, address, telephone number, submit form to be redirected to a special page
  2. (optional?) Management calls number to confirm registration
  3. Home owner saves special page to homescreen (simplest way on IOS/Android)

So the alarm is raised with a GET request (can't POST from homescreen can you?). People could accidentally click the home screen icon and trigger an incident. On the page that is loaded, there will be a textarea and button to indicate an incident has been resolved.

In future I would like to see management sell wireless connected buttons capable of performing a GET request with the correct parameters. Unlocking a phone to click a home screen icon will be too hard for the old & very young.

There needs to buy in. Management needs to drive this initiative. Train the security staff. Run drills!! And most importantly in my mind... ensure the response times are consistently low.

I'm confident I can write a working prototype, in which I will be always ensuring the system as simple as possible. Please let me know about existing solutions out there and if there was anything I overlooked.


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