Getting into the House

Technology helps broadband providers participate in the residential game

Chances are good that your local broadband service provider will soon be offering home security and monitoring services along with bundled TV, voice and Internet connectivity. A convergence of new network technologies, digital homes and entrepreneurial security startups has given service providers an opportunity to wrestle a big slice of the $6 billion market away from the traditional security alarm vendors.

uControl has developed a security, monitoring and automation system designed to be sold and managed by broadband providers. Following successful trial deployments in hundreds of homes, the company is set to announce major deals with some of the nation’s biggest cable, telco and DSL companies by year’s end.

The SMA system includes a variety of wireless sensors -- such as motion, smoke and glass-break detectors, door and window contacts, key fobs and keypads -- and a touch screen controller that serves as an alarm system, communications gateway and home automation platform all in one.

All components are wirelessly enabled using the ZigBee and IP networking standards. ZigBee is a lowpower wireless technology that lets devices talk to each other -- known as machine-to-machine communications or M2M -- while IP is the network protocol that powers Wi-Fi networks and Internet communications.

These wireless technologies are critical to the system’s simplicity and reliability. They’re also a key reason why service providers are able to get into the home security game now.

One in four homes -- about 28 million -- already has a home security system of some kind, with threequarters of those being monitored by ADT and other telephone-controlled alarm companies. A majority of customers typically change or sign up for home security services only when they move. Yet studies show that these homeowners tend to call their local cable or telephone providers first before they even think about home security, giving these service providers a signifi- cant marketing advantage.

A simple-to-install wireless SMA system enables broadband providers to leverage their field technicians, who already are doing in-home installations of their broadband and other services. ZigBee technology means that uControl’s sensors, devices and control panel automatically self-configure themselves. The mesh networking feature of ZigBee technology also can be leveraged, if needed, in the future to extend the network within and even outside the home.

Mesh networks help overcome interference and signal degradation in in-home wireless environments.

The redundant paths of mesh networks ensure alternate data path routes and eliminate any single point of failure should a node on the network fail.

The uControl control panel serves as the ZigBee to- IP communications gateway to the provider’s broadband network, which ultimately connects them to the provider’s security call center.

ZigBee’s resiliency and automatic self-configuration solves one of the biggest deployment hurdles for broadband providers. It also makes maintenance easier. Sensors and devices in in-home security systems typically sleep for much of their life and wake only on activation or for periodic status updates. Zig- Bee was specifically designed to take advantage of the low-power requirements of these sleep-and-wake environments.

Consequently, SMA sensors do not have to be wired or plugged into the home’s electrical system, but rather can operate flawlessly for years on inexpensive batteries. ZigBee technology also is designed to scale to support up to thousands of devices. This means broadband providers can easily extend the SMA system with new devices without having to worry about overburdening the network.

The SMA system also can work with traditional alarm systems that may already exist in the home, such as Honeywell or DSC products. All the existing keypads, sensors and peripherals continue to operate normally in conjunction with the SMA system. This not only eliminates the barriers of resistance for customers who already have installed systems, it enables them to dramatically enhance the features and capabilities of their home security system without wasting their investment.

The technology’s remote manageability is another key capability enabling broadband providers to enter the market. The SMA system uses Ember’s ZigBee chips and software. Ember’s technology provides a two-way messaging capability, enabling broadband providers to continuously upgrade sensors and devices remotely by simply downloading the software to the control panel, which then pushes it to the appropriate devices wirelessly.

Any time a wireless technology is deployed to protect the home, wireless security is a natural concern. Many believe wireless networks are inherently vulnerable to malicious security hacks and threats. Unlike other wireless technologies, ZigBee provides strong security capabilities. The ZigBee standard requires a security policy to be designed into all ZigBee devices. It is based on a 128-bit AES algorithm and incorporates the strongest security elements of the IEEE 802.15.4 standard, making it virtually hacker-proof.

Broadband connectivity also gives the system a security and reliability advantage over alarm systems, which have traditionally relied on some form of telephone communications.

The fact is, the telephone is the wrong communications path for security systems for several reasons. Telephone lines can be cut. And many homeowners use only cell phones. SMA provides redundant connections via Ethernet broadband and built-in GPRS cellular backup communications should the broadband connection fail. The touch-screen device also contains a 24-hour battery back-up, continuing to power the cellular backup in the event of a power outage.

And unlike traditional alarm systems, homeowners gain many more options for monitoring and controlling their home security systems, and can be accessed not only from the touch-screen control panel, but from their TVs -- through integration with the service provider’s set-top box -- mobile phones and Web-connected devices.

For example, customers can access their systems remotely via the Web or a mobile phone to arm or disarm the system, and see the current status of their home. They can set up e-mail and SMS alerts about events in the home such as a child returning from school or a window being opened. They can view a historical summary of all the events in their home and see live streaming video from security cameras.

Perhaps most appealing to service providers is that they can continually add new revenue-generating services, which can be integrated with the rest of their bundled services. It also is an open platform, meaning third-party developers can build products and services that work with it.

For instance, the control panel is a natural integration point for in-home energy management, home automation, entertainment and home health monitoring applications. Homeowners can control lighting, monitor temperature settings and energy guzzling appliances, and set up automated rules to conserve energy consumption. They also can control music and video devices throughout the home.

And health monitoring features like blood glucose monitors, motion sensors and pill dispensers can help families keep a watchful eye on the elderly.

With increasing broadband penetration in homes and new home automationenabling technologies like ZigBee, broadband providers are in an ideal position to enter the SMA market. The most logical first step in this strategy is security, since it is already well established, well understood and ripe for innovation. Once in the home, broadband providers can use its security platform as a launching pad for a host of new services limited only by their imaginations.to be wired or plugged into the home’s electrical system, but rather can operate flawlessly for years on inexpensive batteries. ZigBee technology also is designed to scale to support up to thousands of devices. This means broadband providers can easily extend the SMA system with new devices without having to worry about overburdening the network.

The SMA system also can work with traditional alarm systems that may already exist in the home, such as Honeywell or DSC products. All the existing keypads, sensors and peripherals continue to operate normally in conjunction with the SMA system. This not only eliminates the barriers of resistance for customers who already have installed systems, it enables them to dramatically enhance the features and capabilities of their home security system without wasting their investment.

The technology’s remote manageability is another key capability enabling broadband providers to enter the market. The SMA system uses Ember’s ZigBee chips and software. Ember’s technology provides a two-way messaging capability, enabling broadband providers to continuously upgrade sensors and devices remotely by simply downloading the software to the control panel, which then pushes it to the appropriate devices wirelessly.

Any time a wireless technology is deployed to protect the home, wireless security is a natural concern. Many believe wireless networks are inherently vulnerable to malicious security hacks and threats. Unlike other wireless technologies, ZigBee provides strong security capabilities. The ZigBee standard requires a security policy to be designed into all ZigBee devices. It is based on a 128-bit AES algorithm and incorporates the strongest security elements of the IEEE 802.15.4 standard, making it virtually hacker-proof.

Broadband connectivity also gives the system a security and reliability advantage over alarm systems, which have traditionally relied on some form of telephone communications.

The fact is, the telephone is the wrong communications path for security systems for several reasons. Telephone lines can be cut. And many homeowners use only cell phones. SMA provides redundant connections via Ethernet broadband and built-in GPRS cellular backup communications should the broadband connection fail. The touch-screen device also contains a 24-hour battery back-up, continuing to power the cellular backup in the event of a power outage.

And unlike traditional alarm systems, homeowners gain many more options for monitoring and controlling their home security systems, and can be accessed not only from the touch-screen control panel, but from their TVs -- through integration with the service provider’s set-top box -- mobile phones and Web-connected devices.

For example, customers can access their systems remotely via the Web or a mobile phone to arm or disarm the system, and see the current status of their home. They can set up e-mail and SMS alerts about events in the home such as a child returning from school or a window being opened. They can view a historical summary of all the events in their home and see live streaming video from security cameras.

Perhaps most appealing to service providers is that they can continually add new revenue-generating services, which can be integrated with the rest of their bundled services. It also is an open platform, meaning third-party developers can build products and services that work with it.

For instance, the control panel is a natural integration point for in-home energy management, home automation, entertainment and home health monitoring applications. Homeowners can control lighting, monitor temperature settings and energy guzzling appliances, and set up automated rules to conserve energy consumption.

They also can control music and video devices throughout the home.

And health monitoring features like blood glucose monitors, motion sensors and pill dispensers can help families keep a watchful eye on the elderly.

With increasing broadband penetration in homes and new home automation enabling technologies like ZigBee, broadband providers are in an ideal position to enter the SMA market. The most logical first step in this strategy is security, since it is already well established, well understood and ripe for innovation. Once in the home, broadband providers can use its security platform as a launching pad for a host of new services limited only by their imaginations.

This article originally appeared in the November 2010 issue of Security Today.

If you like what you see, get more delivered to your inbox weekly.
Click here to subscribe to our free premium content.

comments powered by Disqus

Digital Edition

  • Security Today Magazine - October 2018

    October 2018

    Featuring:

    • Streamlined for Success
    • Making Your Expertise Unique
    • An Eye on the Campus
    • Solving Problems
    • Enhancing Security

    View This Issue

  • Environmental Protection
  • Occupational Health & Safety
  • Infrastructure Solutions Group
  • School Planning & Managmenet
  • College Planning & Management
  • Campus Security & Life Safety