Broadband service providers changing home security landscape

A number of home security providers are changing the game and suffice to say, it's not only those that reside as providers in the electronic security industry. Comcast, who first offered their XFINITY Home Security service to Houston residents in mid 2010 is now rolling out the service to six additional U.S. market areas including Philadelphia, Portland, Ore., Jacksonville, Fla., Sarasota/Naples, Fla., Chattanooga, Tenn., and Nashville, Tenn. Additional markets will be introduced on a rolling basis. Now, the nationwide provider most known for their Internet and home entertainment services has the backing of broadband home management software-provider iControl Networks, whose OpenHome software platform now powers Comcast's XFINITY Home Security package.

"Home security is going to be the basis for the broadband home," explained Jim Johnson, co-chief executive officer of iControl Networks. "It is about to change. We get a lot of inquiries about applications not only related to energy management but home healthcare. There are many home monitoring and elderly home healthcare device manufacturers that are approaching us to enter our partner program and become authorized manufacturers. And this resonates with consumers. They are the ones who should start looking for those types of capabilities in a home security platform."

And while Johnson was not specifically referring to Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) he confirmed that the technology is a large part of this application development. "It might be somebody proactively saying 'I need help' but it might a device monitoring the quality of your sleep or your weight or measuring your blood pressure or glucose," Johnson continued. "Software in the back-end analyzing this data from those types of devices and passively monitoring that and alerting you when there is something you should be aware of."

The XFINITY Home Security platform offers consumers the ability to create personalized settings that provide users with real-time e-mail or text alerts when doors open or close; or when motion detectors report activity occurring inside or outside of the home. The touchscreen security panel is UL-certified for dual-mode broadband and cellular connectivity to the central monitoring station.In addition to Comcast, iControl also works with ADT in helping them to provide their Pulse home management solution.

A number of partnerships among home security providers drives this market right now. This was evident when iControl and uControl joined forces in late 2010 and continues to be present as the company strengthens its platform, partnering with such technology providers as Visonic and Technicolor in recent months.

"Visonic has a proven, long history in the security space," Johnson said. "Zigbee enabled their existing family of home security sensors and that enables them to talk with the touch screens-the media tablets-that are deployed with any of our partners. We also have a number of partners that manufacture the media tablets that go in the home which coupled with the Visonic sensors, creates a nice partnership for Visonic and our customers. It's a win-win for everyone."

ZigBee technology offers numerous benefits for security devices designed to operate as part of a complete home management solution, including long battery life and long range. The first Visonic iControl-certified security sensors and peripherals will be available later this year.

"Right now, what you see for the first time is Comcast starting with a similar replica of the security solution that the security industry is evolving to," Johnson said. "In general, the utility industry is looking for a way to effectively manage energy consumption. And there are a number of partnerships we are excited about with utility companies and broadband service providers and that will start with things as simple as the broadband service providers helping with the installation of thermostats to facilitate energy management applications."

Johnson referenced the second step to be some co-marketing opportunities. "There are several utility companies that are going to help security companies and service providers market the broadband home management platform and that means marketing a home security and energy management solution," he continued. "The third phase of this will be opportunities for the utility companies to subsidize a portion of the capital equipment for the thermostat cost that goes into a home." So while the broadband service provider may pay for the bulk of the home security solution, i.e., the capital equipment that goes into the home, "we think the utility company might pay for a portion of that as well," Johnson confirmed.

And while users today may have difficulty discerning the differences in the home security platforms provided by the number of players in the residential space, Johnson confirmed that they indeed are very different under the hood.

"There will be things that cable companies will leverage in the platform that are different than the things that ADT will leverage in the platform," said Johnson. "Consumers will start to see the differences over time but today, the interactive platform and the capabilities it provides-such as viewing cameras remotely, lighting and thermostat control-are roughly similar from a consumer standpoint."

The iControl partner program was started to create a very wide ecosystem of application and hardware partners, according to Johnson. "When we started, we didn't try to predict what the next really cool applications would be," he stated. "We focused on creating a platform that is something consumers can't live without. Now, we need the biggest and best brands to help us bring this technology to market. ADT, Visonic, Technicolor and now Comcast are all huge parts of that initiative. And we will continue to expand the iControl program to other hardware and application partners."

For integrators and those dealers for existing home security companies, these platforms are just another application that they have the opportunity to sell. "And we believe that increases the market opportunity-not only the revenue that comes out of the homes but the number of homes that are interested in the service," said Johnson. "It increases the opportunity for the integrators."

And Johnson foresees opportunities for the integrators to partner with some of the broadband service providers to help them do the installations as they become more complex, such as in instances when homeowners may want more devices and applications as they become available.

"But the integrators need to get trained on each of the platforms and become familiar with the different devices that need to be installed," Johnson concluded.