November 29, 2011
| by Steven Castle
Verizon, which in October launched its Home Monitoring and Control service that offers basic home automation and energy management options, is looking to grow its services in the coming year.
Verizon follows other large service providers ADT, Comcast, Verizon, Vivint, and Alarm.com into the home control and remote monitoring space, though with a lower $10 monthly fee (after an initial purchase of kits ranging from $70 to $220) and an energy reader that can report on whole-house electricity usage in its Energy Control and Home Monitoring and Control Kits.
Look for Verizon to leverage the tablet platform for easy control of its services, add wireless Z-Wave-based devices and more cameras, and perhaps introduce digital home health products. “We’re looking at how we move forward to bring on more devices and functionality,” said Ann Shaub, Verizon’s director of Connected Home and CPE: Consumer and SOHO Product Management, in a webinar for service providers and others titled Learn How to Increase Revenue through Connected Home Services.
For now, Verizon’s service is available only to its broadband customers using FiOS or DSL. A FiOS connection gets you on-screen TV control, which offers a convenient way to set “modes” to shut off devices at certain times, for instance. Android-based and iOS smartphone connectivity is also available, but the limited real estate on a smartphone screen limits these devices to “really be about command and control,” says Shaub. In other words, you can get quick updates and status of your home and control the thermostat and perform other simple commands.
Shaub says Verizon has built the platform to be broadband agnostic and is working on a program to enable its connected home offerings to work with any broadband access.
“In the area of home control, we will also be expanding our device portfolio, looking to expand the number of Z-Wave devices and cameras available. We will also expand our interface options by leveraging tablets in addition to smart devices, web and TV,” she adds.
Also look for digital home health and wellness options at some point. That market is still in its infancy, says Ricco B. Winther, director of European sales of Z-Wave for Z-Wave developer Sigma Designs. “We have partners that develop weight scales with BMI calculations, that bring your results to a web-page where you (and your doctor) can monitor your development. We also have blood-pressure monitors. We even have a partner that build an IPTV [set-top box] that will allow the healthcare provider to have their own TV channel to their patients,” he stated in a Q&A session.
Winther also speaks of sensors to help seniors and alert neighbors of family members if they have stayed in bed or strayed from a normal routine, cameras so someone limited in mobility can see who is at the front door, and sensors and locks on medicine cabinets. Though which of these health care products is offered by Verizon or other service providers remains to be seen.
So far, Verizon says it is pleased by the response of its home connectivity offerings, and the more expensive whole house kit has sold more than the others. Shaub and Sigma’s vice president of corporate marketing Michael Weissman attribute this to do-it-yourselfer early adopters.
“Some results that we found unexpected were the attachment to accessories — people are buying them more than we expected.,” Shaub says. “Customers are also using modes… a new concept for most… which is great! And we are thrilled that customers ‘get’ the home and away aspects of home control… they are using smart devices to access their home.”
Winther says remote home monitoring of cameras and devices on a home network is the killer app. That certainly seems to be coming true. Though his colleague at Sigma, Weissman, points to energy management as a breakthrough app and believes service providers are in a much better position to provide energy-saving solutions for homeowners than electric utilities rolling out smart grid programs.
Shaub sees wellness and energy management as adjacent services to home control and big opportunities for Verizon in the coming year.
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates