Before jumping into these waters headlong, installers should thoroughly research and learn about the Z-Wave and ZigBee
wireless communications protocols, which are the most popular for achieving tight integration between security panels, thermostats and lighting systems. Both protocols have made significant strides toward offering a more widely implemented standard in home control. Note that consumers will want assurances before opting to upgrade to either of them.
Manufacturers of Z-Wave devices should design them so they can “talk” to all Z-Wave products on the market. This is an example of a deep integration at both the radio and application levels.
ZigBee, however, is integrated only at the radio level. These modules come from a variety of manufacturers. ZigBee-enabled devices are oftentimes developed with propriety software; therefore, interoperability among brands is not usually guaranteed. To this point, the ZigBee Alliance, a user group for manufacturers integrating ZigBee standards, is addressing this issue. In the coming year, the industry can expect to see more security devices on the market with embedded Z-Wave and ZigBee modules than ever before.
Why Touchscreens and Wi-Fi Are Key
For homeowners, the concept of a “connected home” is especially vital because lifestyle has become just as important today as life safety. With that in mind, two of the biggest “lifestyle technologies” that have taken their places in everyday living are Wi-Fi and touchscreens. Wi-Fi enables the mobile access and connectivity that today’s consumers have come to expect from their gadgets. The touchscreen has become the interface of choice for everything from smartphones to wall-mounted keypads.
It stands to reason that being able to incorporate these types of technologies into energy management solutions is important when trying to market the offering to customers. As mentioned previously, the ability to control a thermostat from a mobile device will be just as appealing to the homeowner — if not more so — than the ability to manage the security system’s control panel.
Likewise with the touchscreen interface, technology is leveraged to simplify the overall operation and user experience. Thus, the ability to use a single touchscreen keypad that can handle both security and HVAC operations can be a key selling point to the homeowner. It is also vital to simplify operations for the homeowner by ensuring the user interface of the local device within the home matches that of the mobile device used to remotely connect to it.
How Analytic Tools Provide Value
Enabling the connectivity and providing a sleek-yet-simple interface is only the beginning. The bigger fish to fry involves analytic tools and the subsequent automation capabilities. Providing control is good, but is your solution truly providing data and information to the homeowner? And once that data is provided, does the homeowner have the tools to act upon it?
Analytic tools are designed to provide the true value of energy management by giving the homeowner an accurate measurement their home’s energy efficiency. For example, the industry can expect to see newer touchscreens on the market that not only provide control capabilities, but also show homeowners how much energy their appliances are consuming, the current prices of energy, etc. These capabilities are expected to be enhanced as the highly discussed smart grid concept and associated smart thermostats and meters become bigger realities.
By receiving data such as the current cost of electricity per kilowatt hour and how much energy appliances are consuming, for instance, a connected system will theoretically be able to automate responses that enable the home to operate in a more energy-efficient manner. This will give homeowners more flexibility in being able to measure their usage levels by day, week, month or year. With the cost of energy going up each year, this type of information can help close the sale and add RMR.
Information Is Power
At present time, it’s difficult to characterize just how big of a market energy management truly is for the electronic security industry. One thing that’s certain, the concerns around improving energy efficiency are not going away any time soon. Quite the opposite; the quest for optimizing energy usage both in the residential and commercial markets is here to stay.
Whether it’s in the home or in the office space, security technology in many ways is truly the most logical to facilitate energy management capabilities. The reason is quite simple: Human activity drives energy consumption, and security by nature is designed to track human activity at a very granular level in real-time. The recent advances in security integration capabilities now enable energy systems to draw on the information to enhance energy savings by matching human activity to energy usage.
That’s why security installers looking to differentiate their offerings would be correct to embrace this trend as something that can add real value to their services, and build loyal customers in the process. After all, protecting customers’ wallets is just as big a selling point as being able to protect their properties.
Rob Puric and Carlos Lopez-Reyna of the Honeywell Security Group are Director of Product Management and Marketing, and Product Marketing Manager, respectively.
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