On the Brink
Home security stands ready to leap into the future
- By Paul Dawes
- Feb 14, 2008
Think about it. Two decades ago,
cell phones were the size of
bricks and could barely receive
phone calls; today, they are
wafer-thin and offer Internet access.
Traveling to unknown destinations
required detailed instructions scribbled on
a notepad; today a car’s navigation system
will direct the driver while the kids watch a
DVD in the back seat.
So why hasn’t home security evolved?
Traditional monitored home security is
just that—traditional. The system installed
in a home 20 to 30 years ago is not too different
from what’s being installed today.
Central monitoring stations are partially
automated—some devices such as motion
detectors and door sensors are now
wireless, and many systems now offer
cellular backup to old telephone service connections. But, the core home security
value offering is as dormant as the VCR
that keeps blinking 12 a.m. when the power
So what’s next for home security? The better
question might be, what’s next for
broadband? The Internet has changed lives,
offering new ways to stay connected and
access information across the world. Most
traditional home security providers have
yet to truly embrace Web technology,
bringing their offerings into the 21st century
and, in turn, opening the door for a new
breed of competition.
Introducing broadband connectivity to
traditional home security systems not only
offers another source of communication to
a central monitoring station, but it also
opens up an unlimited supply of functionalities,
enhancing homeowners’ peace of
mind. Web-based remote home monitoring
and home control services can now accompany
a security system that keeps you connected
to your home via any Web browser
or mobile phone from virtually anywhere
in the world. This is home security 2.0—
the future of home security.
In addition to central station-monitored
protection, newer products offer always-on
connectivity. So if you forgot to arm your
security system before you left home, you
can access the secure Web portal and click
a button. Need to let the maid service in
without setting off the alarm system? Just
click a button from your cell phone and the
system is disarmed.
It also is possible to receive text and/or
e-mail messages when happenings occur—
or do not occur—in your home, such as a
front door opening, a room being entered
or the basement temperature nearing freezing
conditions. View live video, video clips
or pictures of your home via wireless cameras.
Program the system to capture video
of the person walking in the front or back
door so you always know who’s entering.
Imagine how this functionality will
minimize or eliminate false alarms. Better
yet, imagine being able to know when the
kids get home from school, what they are
doing while you’re at work or if the pet sitter
arrived. Now your computer and
mobile phone are your eyes into your home
while you’re away.
Also consider the advantages of remote
home control. Turn lights off, change a
thermostat setting remotely from your Web
portal or mobile phone, or set lighting and
thermostat schedules to maximize energy
efficiency. It is even possible to preheat the
pool or hot tub in a vacation home so they
are ready for your arrival.
Is it unexpectedly raining today?
Access the Web portal to deactivate the
lawn sprinkler system. Remote home control
ideas are endless, and manufacturers
such as Intermatic, Leviton and others
who support the new Z-Wave wireless
protocol are now offering devices that
enable this functionality.
Some pioneering security companies
are already embracing the future.
Monitronics, one of the largest and fastestgrowing
home security providers in the
United States, recently announced it will
deploy the new technology, offering it to
“As technology advances, consumers are
demanding new capabilities from their
home security systems,” said Mitch Clarke,
vice president of marketing and market
development at Monitronics. “Our customers
want more—in addition to securing
the home, they want to stay connected while
away. This new functionality offers this and
greater peace of mind to our customers.”
Other home security companies likely
will follow, but not just to stay competitive.
Broadband providers and telcos are now
stepping into the home security space, and
they know they must offer a better solution
than traditional monitored home security.
You may say, “What? My phone company
is going to try to sell me something else?”
Of course they are. The more services they
sell you, the less likely you are to switch to
another service provider. Since acquiring a
new customer is substantially more expensive
than keeping one, there’s nothing more
that a telco or ISP would rather do than
increase customer retention.
A New Standard
The attractiveness of this next-generation
concept for home security companies and
service providers centers around interactive
functionality. It’s estimated that 50
percent of home security users who have a
monitored home security system don’t arm
the system when they leave home.
Eventually, they realize they are paying
$35 a month for a service they don’t use
and then disconnect it.
The new integrated solution brings
interactivity to home protection. Seeing
live video of your home, receiving text
messages when a door is open and taking
pictures or video clips of unanticipated
events makes the service tangible. Remote
home control allows the homeowners to
stay in charge.
Monitronics has not announced equipment
or monthly subscription pricing yet,
but it is estimated to be a moderate upsell
from the traditional offering. The new service
caters to a semitech-savvy customer who
is accustomed to spending a little more for
enhanced services as long as the experience
proves to be worth the added expense.
However, with broadband penetration estimated
to hit 60 percent in the next four years,
we’re all becoming aggressive adopters of
technology, which makes this solution much
more of a mass market offering.
Is this truly a new revolution in home
security? At the very least, these trends represent
progress that the industry hasn’t seen
in decades and have the
potential to become the
new standards in home