The Missing Link
Is Wi-Fi affordable for the connected home?
- By Ralph Maniscalco
- Sep 26, 2012
The importance of telecommunication companies on the security
and home automation scene is becoming increasingly apparent
as more end users become educated about the latest technology.
Whether through the increasingly popular TV advertisements
produced by these telcos, word of mouth or their own research, many consumers
are turning to dealers with whom they already have established relationships
How those dealers answer the questions, though, will determine if customers’
loyalty prevails or if they turn to cable or Internet TV providers
for their home security. The emergence of Wi-Fi in alarm
communications is one tool helping dealers keep those
relationships fruitful. While the buzz among some
dealers is the concern of competitors encroaching
on their territory, Wi-Fi is one of the solutions
that is allowing them to view the situation as
an opportunity rather than a threat.
“Wi-Fi connectivity is something that’s
been talked about for a long time,” said
Matt Morgan, security installation manager
for Koorsen Fire and Security. “And
it actually helps that there are telecomm
companies out there advertising it. Now
customers are coming to us for it.”
On its own, Wi-Fi gives security dealers
the opportunity to set themselves apart by lowering
their installation costs and simplifying the
overall installation beyond anything else that’s out
there. But when combined with other key advancements
that have been made in the industry over the
last few years, the benefits can go far beyond installation
simplification. Combining Wi-Fi with self-contained systems, for
instance, gives even easier access to the types of advanced capabilities that
many consumers have desired, such as affordable home automation.
Furthermore, using self-contained systems that are compatible with remote-
interaction services allows dealers to offer control and management of
systems from personal, Internet-enabled devices like smartphones.
These are all capabilities that today’s consumers have come to expect, and
Wi-Fi may be the final link needed to cement their adoption.
Convenience for Both Installer and Homeowner
“Wi-Fi is something that is definitely taking off,” said Brian Phillips, service
manager at FE Moran. “A lot of customers today already have wireless networks
within their homes, so we are able to retrofit an alarm system right in.”
Using Wi-Fi, installers can eliminate wire runs needed to connect traditional
IP communicators, a major step that greatly simplifies the process of connecting
to the Internet—and alleviates the cost of hard-wired Cat 5 installation.
“It’s one less wire that we have to run,” Phillips said. “The fewer wires there
are, the less time it takes for installation.”
Aside from eliminating the need for wiring, installers accustomed to traditional
alarm communications channels also are noticing an advantage in
Dealers who recently started installing Honeywell’s Wi-Fi-enabled LYNX
Touch 5100, an example of a recently introduced self-contained unit that incorporates
Wi-Fi, have found that the difference between time frames is
significant—some report it takes literally 1 to 2 seconds to communicate.
A simpler, faster installation also benefits the homeowner.
First, it obviously means less risk of structural
damage that can be caused by wiring and
less time an installer has to spend in the home
itself. But it also means it’s easier to provide additional
gadgets that operate on Wi-Fi, which
can enhance the overall end-user experience.
For example, products like the LYNX
Touch 5100 with Wi-Fi work with Android
tablets to give end users the ability to control
their security systems no matter where they
are in their home. This is where the confluence
of recent advancements in self-contained
units can add great value to the overall system—
value such as home automation and remote
monitoring services. In addition to providing security,
their being able to control more home functions
remotely—raising and lowering a thermostat, engaging
lighting—holds obvious appeal to the modern homeowner.
The younger generation particularly seems drawn to the
technology it has grown accustomed to—especially when it’s paired with a
more reasonable price point.
Early testers see the benefit of these self-contained systems’ ability to not
only cut installation time—even in half—but also reduce overall training time
for the end user. With touchscreen capabilities, these new solutions easily
walk users though system operation.
The Business Effect
By taking advantage of the Honeywell System’s intuitive programming and
touchscreen interface, Morgan was able to get an entire system up and running
in an hour.
“The installation is more user-friendly and intuitive. The steps are right there
on the screen, and the system walks you right through it,” Morgan said.
A faster installation, though, means
more than just convenience for the
dealer and end user. Phillips also noted
that with the time saved in the installation
process, his company could increase
the number of installs from an
average of one per day to four per day.
“This is top-of-the-line technology,
especially with the Wi-Fi capability,”
Phillips said. “In addition to the
Wi-Fi capability, the design of these
systems allows installers to install
faster—and makes it easier for end
users to understand in operation. I
stepped right through the installation
process, and the end users pick
up on it right away, too. With this
simplicity, there’s no guessing.”
While dealers see the benefits of
and opportunities associated with
moving toward Wi-Fi alarm communications,
there is a challenge that
they likewise foresee with the technology:
alarm signal strength.
Dealers’ concern with alarm
signal is ensuring the strength is
there—before the installation occurs.
Phillips noted that typically end users
want the control panel logically
placed right inside of the front or
garage door, or even in the master
bedroom, which can be particularly
tricky to avoid a potentially dead
area. Wi-Fi capabilities, which enable
controlling these systems from
a tablet or smartphone, provide an
added benefit for signal strength.
Some dealers may be skeptical of
Wi-Fi at first, but after testing with
systems like the LYNX Touch 5100,
they have been impressed with the
speed and communications Wi-Fi
affords. Once a proper location to
place a control panel is found, the
signal is stable. Common concerns of
using GSM as the primary route include
weather and cell towers—situations
where a signal could be strong
today but weak tomorrow. However,
dealers typically still recommend
backing up with GSM to alleviate any
concerns with alarm signal strength
Security, reliability, ease-of-use,
affordability: these are features that
all dealers strive to provide end users
with—and yet most struggle to find
products and systems that can strike
that balance between high-tech and
affordable. However, as the market
moves toward security systems
that go beyond security with home
automation and remote monitoring
services, self-contained systems
can provide integrators with a tool
to differentiate their business from
competitors, while giving consumers
a high-tech yet simple solution for
With advanced Wi-Fi communications
and simple programming,
consumers can find the types of capabilities
they are demanding—and
have grown accustomed to hearing
on commercials produced by telecos.
The key is the technology can now be
delivered by companies that actually
know security, inside and out.
This article originally appeared in the October 2012 issue of Security Today.