New features and functionality make it possible for end users to take control of their homes and get a better view of what is going on when alarms occur, whether they are on the premises or not.
Perhaps the best news for dealers is that these products are easy to install. This means that technicians no longer need to be well-versed in IP technology to install and configure IP-based systems that integrate with other automated systems such as lighting and entertainment.
Additionally, many security products and systems coming to market are more open in their design, which in turn provides dealers with more opportunities to add features and devices from the smart home market.
Finally, although the focus is pronounced on installing such products in new construction, the installed base of customers is not out of dealers’ sights or minds.
Integration, Integration, IntegrationThe newest products from DSC, Toronto, a division of Tyco Safety Products, are designed to take advantage of the expanding home control market, according to Rob Guttentag, vice president and general manager. The new GS3055-I GSM communicator provides the flexibility of using the established cellular network as either a primary or secondary communication pathway for alarm signals. It connects to any security system using the well-established Contact ID protocol.
“In terms of home control integration, DSC recently launched two products that interface with the latest home and building automation products and audio distribution systems to create seamless, fully integrated control solutions for residential customers,” Guttentag declares.
The IT-120 integration module uses Web Services for Devices (WSD) to interface with DSC PowerSeries control panels and Life|Ware home automation software from Exceptional Innovations, Westerberg, Ohio. The IT-120 module allows for USB-like discovery of the security system on the home network and reduces the need for complex programming, Guttentag explains.
Life|Ware software has been developed to be compatible with anything that can get onto the network, adds Mike Seamons, vice president of marketing for Life|Ware. “We started with 10 products and now more than 150 devices can be connected and communicated with via graphical displays,” Seamons notes.
Life|Ware partnered with DSC a year ago in order to gain access to the security contractor market, Seamons relates. The move was important to Life|Ware because the company believes security contractors are one of the most influential channels into the new construction and builder markets.
Security dealers like the solution the two companies developed because it is preconfigured and set up to work, he maintains. “When a security contractor installs the light switches, thermostat, security system and camera, the entertainment server in Life|Ware connects all those things together and provides an experience on the screen of how they interact,” Seamons notes. The big difference between a solution that uses Life|Ware and other company’s smart home offerings is that Life|Ware is a combined effort between Microsoft and Exceptional Innovations that makes software the key connection point between all the different manufacturers’ systems in the home, he explains.
“We have a strategic agreement with DSC, and right now our focus is to help DSC be successful and help security dealers evolve their businesses into entertainment and automation,” Seamons declares.
DSC’s new bi-directional RS-232 communication interface, the IT-100, provides an interface for home control products from Control4, AMX and Homelogic, and lighting control products such as those from Centralite, Mobile, Ala., and HAI, New Orleans.
It allows any control system with serial outputs to act as a virtual keypad and to control and display alarm system status and trigger events, Guttentag adds.
“Going forward, DSC plans to continue to work closely with the leading manufacturers of home control products to ensure that our products easily integrate into the home environment,” Guttentag asserts. “Over the next year, we will be announcing new hardware and software products that allow dealers and homeowners to take advantage of the investment they have made in today’s wired and wireless communication pathways.”
Also in the GameNAPCO Security Systems Inc., Amityville, N.Y., also is in the smart home game. The company spent the past three years fine-tuning its VIP-Gateway, according to Tom Karl, vice president of sales development for NAPCO Security Group.
Relaunched in August, the gateway is an IP-based module that interconnects with up to four cameras of any brand, which consumers can access via the Internet. NAPCO includes 24 months of iSee Video server service with the purchase of the VIP-Gateway.
The gateway is unique in that it is agnostic regarding operating systems (OSs) and access devices, Karl points out. It works with Linux, Apple, Firefox, Windows Explorer and other systems.
“Lots of products you buy require the latest version of Windows,” he explains. “We don’t care about the OS. And we are also compatible with any cell phone that can access the Internet. Many products require software on the phone or computer.”
A NAPCO-developed, patent-pending device dubbed the G-box is used to install the gateway. The G-box looks like a router, but it operates as the interface between the home’s DSL modem and the VIP-Gateway.
The G-box’s software automates necessary port forwarding and negates the need to touch the customer’s computer equipment, Karl declares. The gateway is tied to the security panel via an alarm output.
“You don’t need to be an IP professional to install the gateway,” Karl maintains. “This sets us apart, because it allows the average alarm company to sell and install an IP-based system without hiring IT professionals. We realized early on that this was an absolute necessity, and we went for it.”
Once installed, the system enables end users to view live video or stored video clips associated with an alarm. When an alarm trips, the system sends an e-mail or phone alert to the end user.
Meanwhile, the camera stores and sends a clip that contains the 15 seconds before the alarm was tripped and the alarm itself to the server. The end user accesses the camera’s IP address to view live video or the server to view the clip.
The company also has introduced video motion with masking capability to its system. Previously available only in high-end DVRs, this capability supports pixel-based video motion detection.
For example, a camera pointed at a room is able to notice if any motion occurs in that room. An integrated matrix enables installers to plot the areas of sensitivity to their requirements.
“You can widen or narrow it as much as you wish, which reduces inappropriate triggers,” Karl notes. In addition to its technology, the VIP-Gateway also is innovative in its marketing, explains Karl.
“Integrators and alarm companies that are in the video business today install the product and walk away, and they don’t get any recurring revenue on a DVR they just sold,” Karl points out. “This device allows the installation company to make video a service that they provide to consumers.”
ADT, Boca Raton, Fla., is using the VIP-Gateway as part of its effort to expand its residential channel, according to Tim McKinney, ADT’s director of custom home services -- North America. The company has been rolling out Safewatch Videoview nationwide for the past six months.
Safewatch Videoview enables consumers to view their premises from their TV set, PC, PDA, laptop or cell phone. McKinney says ADT is working with several manufacturers on adding an integrated lighting solution that would tie into its security system.
“Our goal is to stay true to our core competency of security and video and what we do well, and bring in lighting and other features and functionality, or a turnkey solution, by partnering with other premiere integrators in the marketplace,” McKinney explains.
Modular ApproachA broad family of Vista Internet connection modules (ICMs) from Honeywell Security and Custom Electronics, Syosset, N.Y., offers security dealers and their customers the ability to take a modular building approach to home automation and control, says Tim Trautman, Honeywell’s senior product manager.
“If you are a security dealer, the Vista ICM allows you to automate the command and control function on the security panel either on an in-home intranet and/or via the Internet,” Trautman explains.
Because every ICM also includes camera support, IP-based cameras can be integrated with them for additional functionality, he adds. The Vista-ICM is wired to the security board or keypad via the ECP bus and connects to the residential network via an RJ-45 jack.
The dealer programs the ICM by answering a variety of preset questions on menu-driven pages that can be called up via a Web browser during installation. Additional ICMs on the network can be accessed on the same screen.
“When a security event occurs, the security ICM can send a message to the lighting ICM to turn the lights on in a certain area,” describes Trautman. If a fire is detected, it can send a message to the ICM controlling the HVAC unit to turn off the blower and turn on the lights so the family can get out safely.
“The whole idea with the ICM is to provide dealers with a building block approach to automation, because it gives them a way to expand and grow their businesses,” he notes.
Adding ValueThe thinking at GE Security, Bradenton, Fla., is that the more consumers interact with their security systems, the more valuable they will become to the homeowner, according to Jim Paulson, GE Security, global marketing leader, Intrusion Group.
For dealers that want a long-term relationship with their customers and a greater share of what they are putting in their homes, GE introduced in March the SmartCom intercom audio system.
The iPod-looking device is a user-friendly, cost-effective first step toward the company’s SmartCommand system. In beta testing at press time and slated for release in September, SmartCommand ties the GE NetworX or GE Concord 4 security platforms together with intercom audio, HVAC, lighting and security all in one.
Although SmartCommand does not have the same level of functionality as expensive, high-end systems, it does have something they lackâ€”a single, four-color graphical user interface (GUI) that manages all four capabilities, Paulson points out.
SmartCommand’s single platform approach puts an end to solutions that typically require dealers to scatter boxes all over the same wall or throughout the home.
The solution’s GUI is suited for builders and dealers looking to future-proof new construction homes, Paulson notes. The platform can be preprogrammed with standard features available when homeowners move in and still offer them the ability to add features and functionality they require going forward.
Although GE’s focus with the product is on new construction today, GE also is looking to help dealers and integrators meet the needs of their existing customer base. As a member of the Home Plug Alliance, GE is working to help standardize a means of using a home’s existing wiring infrastructure to make necessary connections in the home.
This will help address the smart home needs of the approximately 20 percent of existing homes that already have a security system today, he adds.
Although SmartCommand does not offer integrated video today, that capability is planned for 2008, Paulson reveals. In the meantime, GE’s VVMIQ video system, available in Europe now, will be available in the United States by the end of this year, he predicts.
VVMIQ includes an all-in-one passive infrared motion sensor/camera that has the intelligence to determine what has tripped an alarm and send only verified alarms to the central station.