And now for the home spy camera

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The Independent Online
COLIN MULLEN doesn't worry too much when the doorbell rings these days. He just turns over the TV to another channel - the one showing who is at the door. If he wants to know what any of his three children are up to, he can switch over to another channel, which picks up a picture from their room. And if he wants to know who came to the house while the family was out, he can just rewind a video linked to the outdoor cameras.

Mr Mullen's picturesque home, in Barthomley, Cheshire, is just one of more than 500 in the county which have been fitted with a new audio- visual control system, developed by a British company. The system combines cheap mini-cameraswith fibre-optic cabling cemented into the internal walls of the house and infra-red outlets in each room.

"I put the system in because we live in the country and security is important to my wife when I'm away," says Mr Mullen, who is a builder. "When she's on her own during the day, anybody could walk up to the house. But they can't get in without being seen." He has also put the same system into 40 houses he has built since November. Fitting the system during building helps keep costs down. An average cost might be pounds 1,000, depending on the cameras and wiring used.

The system was devised by Total Sound, of Runcorn in Cheshire. Chief executive Peter Temperley said: "We started working on this about three years ago. It has created a lot of interest. Builders have been receptive because they are aiming to make houses more secure and make people feel their homes are safe places to live." So far 27 housebuilders in the county are incorporating the system into new homes.

"It's not a wire fence, but if you're in bed at midnight and the doorbell goes, you can see who's there without having to get up," says Mr Temperley.

The same system also means that homeowners can listen to music in different rooms without lugging a hi-fi around. The infra-red links can power speakers, meaning that listening to music in the bath no longer means risking electrocution. "It also stops me fighting with the children over who's going to listen to what," says Mr Mullen. "I can take the hi-fi remote control with me and that's it."

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