Automation Biz Can Make Competitors ‘Green’ With RMR Envy

It seems wherever you turn these days everyone is looking at “green” technology concepts. Automobiles are getting more miles per gallon and going hybrid. What better time than a hot July to start applying more energy-saving technology in the form of home and business automation to your customers and prospects? 

I know some of you may have been putting off working in this arena for many reasons, including rapidly changing technologies, lack of standard/open integration and extra expense to your customers. Let’s see if we can allay those concerns a bit. 

Break the Ice With Temp Controls
Environmental (temperature/humidity) technology is a good way to get started. It is an easy service to explain to customers when you want to save them money. Remember, every extra service can bring extra recurring monthly revenue (RMR). 

Many years ago, I started out with the basic Winland analog temperature meters. I still chuckle thinking about how I quickly learned not to place these devices near cooler doors (the vibration of the closing door will falsely trip them, trust me). I then graduated to more reliable multiprobe digital units; a simple installation for sure.

As we know in other areas of security, insurance may cover a small business owner’s loss when a meat cooler goes bad and warm, but replacing stock to keep running may do him/her in. A few extra dollars a month for temperature monitoring is the right choice. This can be a simple lesson for your customers. 

Two thermostat manufacturers to check out are Kimball, Neb.-based George Risk Industries (GRI) and Winland Electronics of Mankato, Minn. 

Note that many of the security manufacturers mentioned in this article have partnered with established home automation equipment suppliers such as Home Automation Inc. (HAI) and Residential Control Systems (RCS). The RCS “communicating” thermostat series also has a nice thermostat demo program to check out at

Why Not Take on Automation?
Since you are now putting in temperature sensors, why not break into the big leagues and provide intelligent control of heating and lighting with automation? This can be as simple as starting with integration of existing controls, such as those from alarm control manufacturers like DSC of Concord, Ontario, Canada, and Hildebran, N.C.-based Elk Products. I recently ran across some interesting tech tidbits from these manufacturers. 

For a while now, DSC (now owned by Tyco) has made a data interface module for its alarm controls called the PC5401. A newer and more improved version of this model, the DSC IT-100, is now just coming onto the market. This integration module provides an application programming interface (API) to facilitate third-party home or building automation applications, like Control4, CentraLite, AMX and HomeLogic, to communicate with DSC PowerSeries control panels. Expect to see applications for this automation module as well. 

Speaking of the PC5401, I recently had the opportunity to visit the Web site of a creative group at MyAlarm.Com. The owner, Dave Ferguson, has a nifty little demo program that will allow an installer/dealer who is familiar with DSC panels to test the PC5401’s two-way data communication capability. A free copy can be found at I hope it gives some of our more tech-savvy readers a start at programming their own PC/data automation interfaces. 

For those dealers looking more for a turnkey automation package, your day has arrived. DSC announced at ISC West earlier this year the emergence of its DSC HOME Powered by Life|ware product bundle. With the use of the DSC IT-120 WSD integration module, Exceptional Innovation introduced Life|ware 2.0, an entirely new, Windows® Vista™-based interface.

Home automation manufacturers have made a developer’s kit available for PC-based data interfaces such as the DSC PC5401, IT-100 and IT-120. These kits offer the opportunity to interface existing security panels with the new PC media-based technologies. Check out more at 

Elk is impressive for its never-ending expansion of its popular M-1 Cross Platform controls. The company has a whole bunch of new automation demo and training programs, along with white papers and application notes. I have always liked the way Elk’s application information is available digitally online at 

One of the things Elk is known for is integrating with new technologies such as Z-Wave and UPB (Universal Power-line Bus) technologies. Z-Wave, with the large group of Zensys and Z-Wave Alliance manufacturers, is becoming very popular in the home automation sector. It is an RF-based, two-way mesh network communications protocol that enables everyday devices to be controlled and monitored wirelessly. UPB is a power-line carrier technology that claims to have improved on some previous technologies such as X-10. 

Both of these technologies provide considerable flexibility in applying home automation technology, especially now that manufacturers such as Elk have working interfaces. 

Microsoft CEO Hails Future Trends
Every few months, I have talked about the Web 2.0 interactivity experience that has evolved from the Internet. In that vein, Microsoft visionary Bill Gates recently talked about not just breakthroughs in technology, but also the changes in how it’s being used. 

“If you look at things like how people think about the Internet and video, over the last couple of years it’s dramatically different. It’s really become the mainstream of how people think about creating, distributing, and getting video, and that has some implications that are pretty profound,” stated Gates. 

The Microsoft Windows Home Server system is exciting. The product was originally mentioned at the January 2007 CES show. The software comes from the Windows Server platform. Automation partners such as Embedded Automation are developing their own Home Server applications. 

Another exciting approach Microsoft recently took was announcing a $50,000 contest called “Code2 Fame,” which will reward coders who write plug-ins for the platform. Plug-ins should allow Windows Home Server to take on more of the functionality of the Windows XP™ Media Center Edition, which was eventually folded into Windows Vista. This should be exciting times for automation people who have wanted easier-to-use applications for their customers.

For the complete version of this story, see the July issue of Security Sales & Integration magazine.

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