Home Automation Packs 1-2 Punch: Connectivity & Enhanced Security
A growing number of manufacturers are adding home automation features to their security panels to give 1) consumers the connectivity they want and 2) enhance security at the same time.
While the industry has been buzzing about home automation merging with security for some time now, this transition has now come to the forefront as more manufacturers are adding home automation features to their security panels. The ‘Wow’ factor of remote access to home automation features engages consumer interest and interaction — and with increased connectivity consumers can get more out of their security systems as well.
Mark Hillenburg, executive director of marketing for DMP, based in Springfield, Mo. says he has heard that home automation is coming every year for the 18 years he’s been in the business, but now it really has arrived: “With the prevalence of smartphones, that is really the tipping point of automation.”
Homeowners are looking for more ways to use the devices they love to enhance their lives and the industry is responding.
Protection 1, Chicago, recently introduced its P1 Life home security system. “Home automation is a sign of the times, and we view the transition as a natural one. Consumers identify with services that they can interact with via computer and handheld devices, and these new panels have evolved to provide both home automation and security with the convenience and user experience of Web-enabled services,” says Lisa Ciappetta, senior director of marketing at Protection 1.
Tom Szell, senior vice president of sales and marketing for ADS Security, Nashville, Tenn., says that adding home automation saves time and reduces stress for users, “The way the economy is and with people on the go, while life safety is important, they also need those services.”
To meet the growing demand, a number of manufacturers have recently added home automation features, complete with apps for remote access, to their panels. Specific features vary, but most panels will support lighting, automatic locks, and thermostat control. Some also incorporate home audio, cameras and support for Z-Wave devices to further expand the system’s capability.
DMP’s XT series and XTL panel, support lights, locks and thermostats, as well as all 232 devices of the Z-Wave architecture. Hillenburg says, “The control panel should be smartest thing in the system, so it can tie in other functions with security.”
Security companies can tie in home automation features with security by setting the alarm system to disarm when the homeowner unlocks the door, turn on lights when a burglar alarm goes off, or turn off the HVAC system and activate pathway lighting to the exit when a smoke detector is triggered. “This takes it from a cool feature to a life safety function that has very real benefits,” Hillenburg says.
He adds that this type of integration allows integrators to offer options not possible with standalone automation systems purchased from home improvement stores.
DMP offers a multi-feature app that allows users to quickly and easily create customized control panels for Z-Wave devices. After taking a photo of the room or area with their smartphone or tablet, users can create “hotspots” on the photo that correspond to Z-Wave enabled devices and access the controls for that device by touching its hotspot. Hillenburg says, “It provides the customer with a user interface they already know.”
Users send commands to the panel via text messages. If the user texts the wrong command, the system will respond with a choice of appropriate commands.
HAI by Leviton offers home automation features on all its panels, and combines them with security on its Omni line of home controllers. “The majority of our automation panels include security because we use the wireless sensors to act as the eyes and ears of the home,” says Greg Rhoades, director of marketing for HAI by Leviton, headquartered in New Orleans.
The Omni controllers integrate lighting, thermostats, security, access control, surveillance, audio/video control and many more features. “We try and work with other manufacturers to increase the power and flexibility of our reliable systems,” Rhoades adds.
Depending on the programming, HAI by Leviton’s products can be used to create a variety of combinations of security and automation functions. “Our systems not only detect intrusion, but also hazards such as water, carbon dioxide, fire and more,” he says.
In case of fire, the system can flash exterior lights, activate pathway lighting to the exit and shut down the HVAC, as well as dial eight pre-programmed numbers, send messages and make audio announcements.
The Go!Control panel offered by 2GIG Technologies includes built-in Z-Wave RF protocol to allow for control of lighting, HVAC, and a variety of Z-Wave appliances. “Transitioning from security-only to security and home automation functionality in the panels provides the customers with additional value and enables homeowners to not only feel secure in their homes, but now [they] can remain much more in touch with all of the goings on in and around their home. The panel’s functionality becomes integrated in people’s daily lives, they find benefit and can’t live without it,” says Jeff Thomas, director of product management at 2GIG Technologies, headquartered in Lehi, Utah.
Panels offered by Bosch Security Systems, Fairport, N.Y., do not have automation features built-in, but can be integrated with home systems. The panels are designed for Ethernet-based systems, and they also include built-in USB ports for programming, configuration and service, which may support other applications in the future, says Tom Mechler, Bosch’s product marketing manager.
“We now have an alarm system that is an Internet appliance. The ease of installation and programming makes it a lot easier for the installer,” Mechler describes.
Bosch currently offers its G-series panels for commercial and high-end residential applications. Bosch is also introducing the new B-series for residential and some commercial applications. “It’s part of a market trend. The B-series is the first in the industry to support IPv6,” Mechler says. The B-series panels will also support IPv4, and by the end of the year, customers will also be able to upgrade their GV4 panels to support IPv6. Bosch offers the Remote Security Control app for both series of panels that provide monitoring and operating tools for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.
All Gemini panels offered by Amityville, N.Y.-based NAPCO Security Technologies feature home automation, including video, lights, thermostats, locks and support for Z-Wave devices. The company offers the iBridge Connected Home Services app for iPhone, iPad and Android devices to keep homeowners connected to their homes. Integrators can use the iBridge app as well, enabling “no-roll” service calls and service enhancements to be completed remotely.
With the IBR-ZREMOTE bus mount module to control Z-Wave devices, homeowners don’t need to buy a dedicated touchscreen for the system and can use their smartphones or tablets instead. “That makes dealers much more price-competitive when it comes to getting residential jobs,” says Judy Jones, vice president marketing for NAPCO Security Technologies.
Offering home automation options not only enhances security systems, but also the selling of those systems. Thermostat control is appealing because it can save the homeowner money spent on rising heating costs. Dealers can use this in their sales presentation, Jones says: “I can save you 17 percent on heating, therefore offsetting the costs of security monitoring.”
Protection 1’s new P1 Life panel enables home automation via Z-Wave devices and supports thermostat, lighting, and door lock controls, as well as energy management options.
“All of these home automation features are new to P1’s offering. We felt that it was important to wait for a panel that provided home automation features with sound core security features, and we got that by working with our vendor, Honeywell,” Ciappetta says.
Honeywell’s Tuxedo Touch controller works with the VISTA series panels to integrate security with cameras and Z-Wave-enabled lights, locks, thermostats and shades. Remote connectivity is available for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, BlackBerry, and Android devices. Homeowners can add remote video monitoring with the Honeywell Total Connect ™ Remote Services and energy management options with E-Mon Energy Monitoring Solutions and supporting hardware.
Additionally, Honeywell’s LYNX Touch 5100, which can communicate via Wi-Fi and 4G network, includes an optional Android tablet that allows users to control the system from within their Wi-Fi coverage area.
Rob Puric, director of marketing at Honeywell Security & Communications, Melville, N.Y., says, “Homeowners value lifestyle just as much as life safety…This technology combines those capabilities and provides an affordable way to create a connected home.”
BENEFITS OF THE CONNECTED HOME
Combining home automation with security benefits both the homeowner and the integrator. “There’s been a big increase in the integration of security into home automation — 75 percent of our systems now include some security, such as cameras or access control,” says Paul Williams, vice president of security and communications products at Salt Lake City, Utah-based Control4.
For ADS Security, the control of thermostats, lights, locks, and small appliances, and remote access translates into increased RMR opportunities — for new and existing customers, Szell says. “We offer ADS Home Control at a very affordable monthly fee that not only increases our RMR average per customer, but also allows our customers to save time, money on energy bills, and provides the peace of mind in a busy world.”
Williams notes that two of the biggest deterrents to theft are light and sound. Even with a robust security system, response time can be a problem because most burglars are only on the premises for a few minutes, and they are often gone before law enforcement can reach the home.
In the case of an intrusion, the security system can be configured to turn on all lights in the house, flash the exterior lights and use the audio system set at maximum volume to blast a loud, annoying sound, which can chase away burglars and attract attention from the neighbors. “I guarantee that annoying sound is going to elicit some response from the neighbors. That’s only available through combining automation with the system,” Williams says.
No matter how robust the system, it is ineffective if it is not used. According to Williams, some 15 percent of householders don’t turn their alarms on unless they’re going away for a longer period. Home automation can enhance security by getting the users to interact with the system more. If homeowners are in the habit of interacting with the system to monitor and control the home automation features, they become more comfortable with the system. “These features bring familiarity and provide better security because the system is more likely to be used,” Mechler observes.
Offering home automation and control gives security dealers more sales options, enabling them to sell additional services and reach a wider market. Dealers who add new features and remote services can also appeal to their existing customer base and strengthen customer relationships. “They’re seeing longer play and decreasing attrition. You’re not just selling security anymore, you’re selling much more than that,” Puric says.
Dealers who offer home automation services can increase RMR by opening multiple new revenue channels. “Consumers are happy to pay higher prices when all this functionality is tied into their security system,” Hillenburg says.
“Home automation is exciting. Security dealers don’t have to reference the boogeyman when trying to sell a complete system. They can sell the benefits of home automation like convenience, comfort, entertainment and reliability,” advises Rhoades.
“These devices and options are fertile ground for dealers to offer new services without getting into something overly complex,” Jones says.
As new products and technology combine to make homes smarter, there seems to be no limit to the possibilities in home automation and security. “Everything will be networked,” observes Larry Wright, senior vice president at AiN Group, based in Chesterfield Township, Mich. “I feel like the Jetsons are actually coming to fruition here.”
With increasing competition in the market, dealers and integrators face the challenge of proving to consumers that they should be the ones providing interactive services. Because technology is changing so quickly, education is key, says Dave Pedigo, senior director of learning and emerging technologies of the Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association (CEDIA), located in Indianapolis. Those who commit the time and resources to keep up with the changes will able to capitalize on emerging opportunities.
Security and home automation together create a powerful one-two punch.
“There are a lot of people vying for this space, and security contractors are best-suited for it,” Hillenburg says.
This article was originally published in the print magazine as "The 1-2 Punch."
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