Opinion: Abode Is Most Promising Home Security Solution in a Long Time

Backed by former ADT president Mike Snyder, Abode is UL-compliant security system with pay-as-you-go monitoring; gateway features ZigBee, Z-Wave, IP for home automation; platform ideal for both DIYs and pros.

Abode is a new security and home automation system that offers the most promising technological and business platform I’ve seen in a very long time. It is more than the classic “home automation hub” with ZigBee, Z-Wave and additional smart-home protocols. It is also a complete UL-certified security system with a pay-as-you-go professional monitoring option. And it has a perfect blend of both DIY and professional sensibilities.

Founded by former ADT executive Christopher Carney and Salesforce.com veteran Brent Franks, Abode is backed by former ADT president Mike Snyder and Hotmail founder Jack Smith.

Abode is currently in beta testing and is expected to fulfill orders soon for its March Kickstarter backers. Systems for the general public will ship later this year. So this isn’t one of those Kickstarter campaigns that will lead to naught. I’ve been to Abode’s office in Palo Alto, Calif., and the company is the real deal. It’s also quite special.

Why? For the past several years, we’ve noted some of the hottest trends in security and home automation, and Abode fits the bill on every one:

  • Growing DIY and enthusiast market – systems that allow more user configuration and engagement
  • Importance of the professional installation channel – Compare the relative success of ADT Pulse, AT&T Digital Life and Comcast Xfinity Home to DIY home automation hubs from Wink, Staples Connect and Revolv, for example.
  • Security driving the home automation category
  • Professional security monitoring becoming increasingly necessary because of police non-response without verified alarms (more links below)
  • Flexible pay-as-you-go security plans
  • Pro-configured systems for DIY self-installation (like FrontPoint and Protect America)

Home Automation Hub that Starts with Security

The Abode system begins with a gateway that communicates primarily through a wired Ethernet connection but includes a cellular radio as a back-up alarm transport. Although it’s elegant enough to place on a living-room shelf, the unit would most likely sit in a closet next to the home router.

The gateway includes ZigBee and Z-Wave radios for automation, as well as a 433 MHz radio for secure, power-optimized communications with traditional security sensors.

Abode says its 433 transmitters utilize a “unique device antenna design” that extends signal range to over one mile and a proprietary encryption scheme that thwarts attempts to decode or steal signals between the sensors to the gateway.

The gateway also has a built-in siren.

Below, we get to the home automation features of Abode, but the product and the company has “security at its core,” says Carney, so we’ll start with that.

Even Abode’s industrial design, with its stark black-and-white theme, evokes the police and suggests a system that is “super-secure,” Carney notes.

In addition to the gateway, two camera types are integral to the ecosystem. One is a battery-operated “motion camera” built into a ZigBee-enabled PIR motion sensor. When motion is detected, the device captures images and delivers them via ZigBee to the gateway, which in turn sends the pictures to the homeowners or professional monitoring station per the users’ specifications. The device can last around four years with only two AA batteries, which are easily replaced, thanks to a clever magnetic mounting mechanism.

It is similar to but more elegant than the Image Sensor offered through the SHaaS (smart home as a service) provider Alarm.com (Nasdaq: ALRM).

In addition, Abode offers a full-featured IP camera (Wi-Fi) with live streaming to the users’ smartphones and computers. Both local and cloud storage is available.

About the Author

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Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration.

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