Tomorrow’s Secure and Automated Home Has Arrived

A zero-energy residence near Salt Lake City stands as a testament to the possibilities for home automation, energy management and security to be an integrated mainstay in smart homes. Find out how a collaboration between Vivint and a local home developer made it all possible.

Vivint is beta testing its newest self-contained panel in the Zero Home. The panel can be equipped with a hard drive for continuous recording of 720p resolution video.Vivint’s energy analytics allow the homeowner to see in real-time how much energy they’re consuming, as well as receive “actionable headlines” that are intended to serve as a catalyst to adjust the temperature, accordingly. For example, the system can notify the homeowner when they are using 10% more energy because a window is open downstairs. The system may ask, “Do you realize your window is open while your heat is runni

“If you don’t have that energy management and security integrated together, you can’t do that. Our platform on the backend is designed to do these things,” Warren says. “It is designed to pull in all this information more aggressively. We can learn about patterns, we can deliver automatic suggestions.”

Panel Runs On Own Secure Network 

Vivint’s new self-contained panel and all of the peripherals installed at the Zero Home were designed in-house at Vivint’s Innovation Center, located in Lehi, Utah. (Early development of the panel started at 2GIG, a former Vivint sister company that was folded into Linear after its parent company acquired the Go!Control panel maker in April.)

The panel features a 7-inch, capacitive touchscreen, a video camera and is outfitted with Z-Wave to ‘talk’ to home automation appliances and modules. A cellular radio provides central station and back-up communications. As Vivint sees it, a key differentiator is the Wi-Fi connectivity as well, which allows the panel to get onto a home broadband network.

“The panel runs its own secure network, so cameras can be very easily and securely attached to the panel directly,” says Warren, who previously served as 2GIG’s CTO before joining Vivint. “If a homeowner changes their router, if they change their router password, there is no disruption.”

To show off the panel’s robustness, Vivint installed about 40 circuits throughout the Zero Home that are controlled by Z-Wave, including door locks, lighting controls, cameras and other devices. Rules-based functions can be set up such as turning on a porch light and recording a video clip when the front doorbell rings. If there is motion in the home at night, then lights can turn on in a particular room.

“Our new system will relatively soon have the smarts to identify these patterns and then suggest to you to do these things automatically,” Warren says. “It is one of these hurdles. We don’t want users to have to make a rule. What we want to do is if the system has sensed motion in the kitchen five times in a row, and the kitchen light was turned on manually, then the system asks, ‘Do you want me to turn on this light at nighttime when the motion detector goes off?’”

Such questions would be posed via an app on the user’s smartphone, which Vivint considers a primary user interface. “The panel on the wall is great but the real way people will interact with our system is on their smartphone, even when they are at home,” Warren says. “We have worked very hard to make it easy to use.”

A big addition for Vivint’s new panel  is the integrated video functionality and room for a 2.5-inch hard drive. It’s another reason why the company designed the panel with Wi-Fi and with its own private network. The panel in the Zero Home is equipped with a 1TB hard drive, which can store up to 120 days of continuously recorded video or 30 days for each of the system’s four security cameras. Video is recorded to the hard drive at 720p resolution, 10 frames per second.

“For us it’s not just about having all this video to review and scan through. The really great part is integrating with the security system, the ability to automatically view clips and create rules,” Warren says. “Whenever my door bell is rung I want a clip to be taken and sent to me.”

Vivint is still figuring out what exactly its product offering is going to be while the system continues to be beta tested. One possibility is the system could be launched without the hard drive, but users would still remotely receive live video and recorded clips. An advanced events video package, especially geared for small businesses, could possibly include some analytics functionality.

During the Zero Home unveilA view inside the Zero Home and its integrated security and home control components. Photos courtesy Vivinting, Pedersen spoke about the company’s strategy to replicate similar energy-efficient residential communities across the United States and beyond. The opportunity, he said, to provide affordable, feature-rich homes that can be controlled and managed in real-time with technology is immense.

“We are building purpose-built technology,” he said, “managed through [our new panel] with peripherals and connection points to manage elderly care in the home, outpatient care in the home, you name it. We want to try to provide it.”

Rodney Bosch is Managing Editor for SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION.

Security Integrators Already Have a Foot in the Smart Home

A growing body of research shows that home automation and smart-home features are moving into the mainstream.  (See SSI’s Annual Residential Market Report.)

Fueling awareness and adoption for home controls and security packages are national marketers such as AT&T, Comcast, Cox, Time Warner, Verizon and others. Many traditional security providers are adapting their offerings to compete as well.

“Because the cost to providing [home automation] products has dropped so substantially, we’re now taking something that truly is mass to market and is going to expand dramatically,” says Linear President Mike O’Neal.

The interest from telecom and cablecom providers in the space is not to compete against the likes of ADT or Monitronics for a piece of the longstanding 20-25% of the market, O’Neal says. “If they can just create value out of the other 75-80% of the market, it’s a homerun.”

According to research conducted by IDC, a provider of market intelligence and advisory services, installing security contractors are better positioned than telecom and cablecom providers to attract consumers based on the trust factor alone. As part of a yearly IDC survey, adult broadband subscribers in the U.S. are asked which types of companies would they most prefer hiring to install a home automation or control system. The most recent study was conducted in April.

Survey takers are queried on seven different home automation applications. Those surveyed that expressed a high interest in one of the applications were given the following installation options to select from: a residential security company; cable provider; telephone provider; broadband provider; DIY; a friend or relative; or don’t know.

“We have asked this question three different years and residential security consistently comes out on top,” says Jonathan Gaw, a research manager in IDC’s Connected Home segment.

Think for a moment about the customer’s alternatives, Gaw proposes. There is the cable guy who they dislike. They dislike the telephone company. And their broadband provider has worked so very diligently to never come to their house.

“The reasoning is even if I’ve never had residential security, I know if I were to sign up with a security company they are better suited and prepared to send a truck and install this stuff,” he says.

About the Author


Although Bosch’s name is quite familiar to those in the security industry, his previous experience has been in daily newspaper journalism. Prior to joining SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION in 2006, he spent 15 years with the Los Angeles Times, where he performed a wide assortment of editorial responsibilities, including feature and metro department assignments as well as content producing for Bosch is a graduate of California State University, Fresno with a degree in Mass Communication & Journalism. In 2007, he successfully completed the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association’s National Training School coursework to become a Certified Level I Alarm Technician.

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