Security And Home Automation: Not-So-Strange Bedfellows

An integration-friendly security system lets you start with home protection and then add automation features.

When is a home security system not a home security system? When it’s a home automation system. The addition of home automation functionality to core home security systems is a serious trend that provides a number of discernible benefits to homeowners, security systems manufacturers, and the dealer channel.

According to Jeff Lyman, chief marketing officer for Vivint, a leader in “smart security,” there couldn’t be a smoother transition.

“Really, the home security system was the predecessor to the smart home,” notes Lyman. “The panel was the brains, you had the rudimentary wired sensors, and together they ultimately take action–or alert the user as to what specific action to take. Taking the basic security capability and adding in the ability to control lights, thermostats, shades, entertainment systems–it was not a huge technological jump.”

The tie between security and automation also represents a perfect marriage, adds Greg Rhoades, director of marketing, Security & Automation, at Leviton. “At Leviton, we feel the fusion of security and automation is a natural fit. The ability to press the Arm button at night and immediately lock all doors, lower all shades, ensure safety lighting is properly illuminated, and so much more is an incredible selling feature. The ability to receive free text or email alerts that your child has arrived home from school, and the ability to view a camera, are both very basic yet powerful safety functions.”

While some manufacturers have recently added home automation performance to their security offerings, Rhoades notes that the Leviton system has actually been an automation hub since 1985. What’s more, the company is expanding capabilities on both the security and automation fronts on a regular basis. For example, Leviton will soon make it possible for home systems integrators to weave the control of audio and video systems into its Omni line of security systems.

For Honeywell, which offers automation and control solutions as one of its core business offerings, the name of the game is balance between safety and convenience. “With the addition of home automation capabilities, consumers can now tie in lifestyle enhancements while still carrying out life safety,” says Rob Puric, director of Connected Home, Honeywell Security Products of America. Honeywell began adding automation features in 2011 to its Vista portfolio of products with the introduction of the Tuxedo Touch, and then to its self-contained security system in its Lynx Touch family of products, starting with the Lynx 5100. “First, we added Wi-Fi technology so the security dealers could add IP cameras into the system and connect the system to the homeowner’s router (to support remote monitoring of the system),” explains Puric. “Next we added Z-Wave technology, due to the number of manufacturers that offer various Z-Wave devices.” With hundreds of Z-Wave-enabled devices available, consumers can easily and affordably expand their core Honeywell security system to include the control and automation of lights, thermostats, garage door openers, and a variety of other components.

Qolsys adheres to a similar philosophy: Start with a solid security offering and add on to that core gradually. “Our security system was and is our guidepost,” says Mike Hackett, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Qolsys. “We always felt like we would come to the connected home market with the security piece 100 percent fulfilled. We felt that if you have the security and life safety portion complete, it’s a far simpler task to add on control of locks, thermostats, and lights, rather than the other way around.”

Originally starting out as a dealer of security systems, Vivint theorized that they could do all of it better by themselves–the equipment, the customer service, the whole nine yards. “Vivint was really a pioneer in identifying that the home security space was a great launching pad into home automation,” states Lyman. “So Vivint started 2GIG [Technologies] in 2009, which brought the Go!Control [home] control panel to market.”

Then in mid-2014, Vivint decided to launch Vivint Sky, a new cloud-based smart home solution featuring the company’s own touchscreen control panel and software. Vivint co-founder and CEO Todd Pedersen was quoted in Security Systems News as saying, “Our intention is to control anything and everything inside of the home and small businesses that’s technology related.”

Vivint security systems include motion detectors, door and window sensors, smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, flood/freezer sensors, and glass break sensors. Vivint smart home products include automatic door locks, a thermostat, a garage door controller, both indoor and outdoor cameras, and a new Wi-Fi enabled doorbell camera.

Alarm.com has been a leader in delivering a comprehensive smart home as a service offering. The company’s interactive security solution, known simply as Interactive Security, is fully integrated with a large ecosystem of connected devices (smart light switches, electronic door locks, garage door openers, and more) so users can link to nearly every aspect of their home through a single, intuitive mobile app. Thanks to the security system and rules engine, connected devices powered by Alarm.com can automatically respond to a wide range of real-time activity around the home. “The Alarm.com smart home will take action on behalf of the homeowner so they don’t have to remember every little thing,” says Matt Zartman, the company’s director of communications. “The technology looks out for you and makes sure that you don’t forget important things. One example is our Geo-Services feature, which uses the location of the user’s smartphone to help keep homes more secure and to reduce energy waste.”

For homeowners, perhaps the most significant benefit is that a security system can provide an easy and familiar entrée into the world of home automation. It also means a one-stop solution to their security and home automation needs: an integrated security system that can also control a home’s smart devices, making homeowners’ lives safer and more convenient, all at the same time. It also proves that the days of companies manufacturing and selling just security systems are, if not completely over, certainly fading away. Security and home automation clearly have become a very happy couple. EH

ART SESNOVICH is the co-founder and principal of Bulldog Communications, a full-service public relations and advertising firm located in North Andover, Mass. His firm represents numerous companies in the smart home and connected device markets.

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