ADT Pulse vs. ADT Command and Control: What’s the Difference?

Thanks to Command and Control, ADT sees the 3G sunset as an upgrade opportunity, rather than a 3G-replacement burden. Here’s how the platform differs from Pulse.

ADT Pulse vs. ADT Command and Control: What’s the Difference?

Jacob Menke of Zions Security reviews new ADT Command and Control, noting user-replaceable cellular radios and RF sensors with 4x range.

And there’s this: native Amazon Alexa in the panel, allowing users to issue security and automation commands by voice, or otherwise utilize the device for voice-activated services.

ADT Pulse never had this: support for up to eight secondary keypads (source: Zions).

Menke says this is “one of the features that is different than any other security panel on the market.”

He also provides some insight into what ADT is enabling today, and what functionality might be coming soon. Bluetooth disarming, which can occur when a user comes into range of the panel, has limited availability at launch, but will become “more available” in time, he writes. Commercial applications are coming. Up to eight motion viewers will be supported “eventually.” Compatible outdoor wireless sirens will be available in May.

Also, ADT customers now will be able to take advantage of the full Alarm.com ecosystem and feature set, for example, integration with Apple Watch, Amazon Fire TV (controls and alerts on the TV screen), geofencing, multilanguage support and more.

“The new ADT Control platform will have nearly all the features that ADT Pulse has had with the addition of some new exciting ones,” Menke writes in another blog. “The only feature that might be lost is the ability to have Home View, where you can put your devices on a floorplan display.”

ADT launched the Home View app for Pulse in 2012, allowing users to view the status of all their connected devices, and interact with these devices from a floorplan view. That feature disappears with Command and Control.

2.6 Million Pulse Customers, 3G Sunset: Tough Conversion Ahead

Zions is one of the more progressive ADT dealers, diving right into the new Command system as soon as it became available on a limited basis. So far, the company has installed about six units.

Menke tells CE Pro that other ADT dealers are probably still installing Pulse systems, “as they are comfortable doing what they have always done.”

It’s only a matter of time, however, that “ADT completely cuts off new Pulse customers,” but that’s beside the point. Security dealers still selling Pulse systems are doing a “disservice” to customers by providing end-of-life equipment and a limited upgrade path, Menke says.

So how much life does Pulse have left, and is there a transition path for existing subscribers? We asked ADT, and the answer was something along the lines of: It won’t be much different than any other migration of products or services.

Quite right. ADT will replace panels and upgrade services when it’s time to do so for any given customer, or when Alarm.com shuts down the old Icontrol platform. The old Pulse systems won’t work on the new Alarm.com platform.

A bigger issue has to do with the impending 3G/CDMA sunset, which will kill cellular service for millions of security panels that use cellular for their main alarm communications or for back-up if IP or POTS (plain old telephone service) fails.

A good chunk of ADT Pulse products utilize AT&T’s 3G network, which sunsets in February 2022. Those products don’t support IP communications for alarm signaling, so if the customer doesn’t have a POTS line, their security service is dead … unless ADT replaces the radios at a substantial cost of time and labor.

3G Sunset Sticker Shock
ADT says that more than half of its 7.2 million security panels use 3G cellular service today, mostly from AT&T, which sunsets the service in February 2022.

Let’s say it costs ADT $200 in parts and labor to replace each radio (or panel). Multiply that by a conservative 3.7 million customers, and the bill could total some $740 million.

About 2.6 million customers already subscribe to Pulse, so ADT can’t really expect to “upgrade” those customers to higher-revenue systems.

The security company hopes to use 3G as an upgrade opportunity for non-Pulse customers, and a takeover opportunity for non-ADT customers.

Of course, competitors will find takeover opportunities for ADT’s 3G customers.

Will ADT make an effort to swap out these radios in advance of the sunset — it’s still three years away — and prolong the life of these legacy systems and the Icontrol platform that drives them?

Or will ADT move to replace the aging panels with Command and Control, and be rid of the legacy systems once and for all?

Neither solution is pretty, but it’s the same conundrum facing the entire security industry, which could see millions of subscribers disappear when their cellular service dies.

In ADT’s recent Q4 2018 earnings call, CEO Jim DeVries hinted that the company would use ADT Command as something of an alternative to 3G radio replacement … or a ballast for subscriber defections.

In addition to attracting new customers in general, he said, the new Command and Control solution would “also serve as a central piece of our upgrade strategy with current customers using legacy systems.”

More than half of ADT’s 7.2 million customers are using 3G today, he noted. As with other security providers, ADT would have to spend a small fortune in labor and materials to physically replace these radios at their customers’ premises — perhaps $200 to $250 per customer (our estimates, not his). Multiply that by 3.7 million or so customers … yikes (see sidebar).

Now, if they could upgrade their non-Pulse customers to the new interactive security and home automation platform, they could mitigate the potentially huge losses from truck rolls and lapsed accounts, and appease queasy investors.

Not surprisingly, then, “a central part of our strategy will be to offset the expected one-time radio replacement cost with the recurring benefits of upgrading a substantial portion of our customer base to our latest technology in security and smart home innovation,” DeVries says.

Ultimately, ADT is treating the 3G sunset as an upgrade opportunity, rather than a 3G-replacement burden, he explains. Plus, the fact that mom-and-pop security dealers and “even our traditional competitors” won’t be able to switch over their existing customers, “there is an aspect of the 3G sunset that we’re viewing as opportunistic for ADT.”

He acknowledges the company is still weighing the options but assures investors “we’ll update you with our assessment and plans as this process evolves.”

In any case, ADT and others in the security industry have learned their lesson regarding cellular sunsets. The Command panel is modular, so consumers can swap out cellular radios themselves, and dealers can perform firmware upgrades without a truck roll.

We wonder if Pulse subscribers are included in the group of “current customers using legacy systems,” and how long ADT is willing to prolong the agony of supporting two separate hardware and SHaaS platforms.

Features of ADT Command and Control vs. ADT Pulse (Source: Zions Security)

The new system will have some of these features that ADT Pulse has been lacking:

  • 7″ touchscreen all-in-one
  • Z-wave Plus
  • Panel Camera
  • Bluetooth disarming when user is close to keypad (limited initially but future updates will make this more available)
  • LTE cellular radio, user-replaceable
  • Encrypted alarm sensors for added security and increased wireless range 2.5x further
  • Built in how-to videos
  • Dual Path Communications for alarm reporting and easier updating of new firmware (cell required, Wi-Fi optional)
  • Ability to add more than 10 Wi-Fi cameras
  • 3 partitions
  • Residential or Commercial use (commercial use still yet to be released)
  • 128 Wireless security zones
  • 232 Z-wave devices (but a max of 5 thermostats and door locks)
  • 8 Secondary Keypads
  • 8 Motion Viewers (eventually after future updates)
  • 32 keyfobs – 8 Functions on one zone
  • 96 Users
  • Hybrid Version that has 200mA aux output, Ethernet port, 8 hardwires zones, 2-wire smokes in zone 1, 600mA siren Output up to 2Amp, 2 trigger outputs 100mA each, and a plastic housing.
  • Multi language support – English, Spanish, French
  • Onscreen control of Z-wave Smart Home Devices
  • 2-Way voice over cell
  • Crash and Smash feature
  • Embedded Amazon Alexa Service
  • Disarm snapshots can be sent to users phone (available in the future updates)
  • See video on Apple Watch
  • Video Package includes ability to have 8 cameras and 6000 clips before additional upgrades are needed
  • Indoor Wireless Siren that can do chime like the keypad and show arm/disarm light
  • Outdoor Wireless Siren coming in May

It is compatible with older z-wave and wireless security sensors, though it needs a module to translate.


Editor’s Note: This article first ran in Security Sales & Integration’s sister publication CE Pro.

About the Author

Contact:

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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8 Responses to “ADT Pulse vs. ADT Command and Control: What’s the Difference?”

  1. Nate says:

    Unlike pulse, command program is not programmed to communicate door locks with sensors through. Please visit this concern and update lock type devices with sensor communications to locks just like you have sensor communications with light type devices through automation rule setup.

  2. Vicky Cook says:

    I have ADT PLUS , I was told due to me coming back to ADT they would install the new upgrade keypad touchscreen Monitor, know There Reneging on there offer

  3. Vicky Cook says:

    I was told by ADT DALLAS I WAS ABLE TOO Receive the upgraded touchscreen control panel due to returning back to their company. I have it all on paper with a signature and they’re on their reneging on their offer

  4. Tater says:

    ADT has taken a step backwards with Command. It doesn’t have 1/2 the programming features that Pulse has.

    I got ADT Command installed a couple of months ago and I am very disappointed in the lack of programmability. It doesn’t allow much flexibility or strong IFTTT.

    For instance, I have garage door controllers that work on Command. I’d like to have them close 15 minutes after the system is armed away just in case I or a guest who is not on my geofencing left them open. The program DOES allow a rule that will close them when armed, but, it does so immediately. There is do delay feature. Pulse has delay features.

    Or, if you want to have the garage doors close automatically at 1:00 AM every night just to be safe, you can’t do it. Pulse allows for this.

    There is limited IFTTT programming. For instance, on the Pulse system at another house, if Light A turns on we also want Lights B & C to turn on. ADT Command won’t do this.

    I expected Command to be better than Pulse…It’s like stepping back more than a decade.

  5. Jerry says:

    Pulse is way better then Command ! Here is a huge problem with command all of your cameras are programmed into your home WIFi network. So easy to hack. Pulse offers a Ihub which the cameras are programmed to. That a hacker can’t see because the IHub produces its own WiFi making your pulse cameras invisible on your WiFi network. I know this because I have to fix these systems. Adt has gone backwards and I think they are selling out your security to use a unsecured platform. In closing stock with pulse adt still offers it. Pulse is more secure

  6. Matt says:

    Just talked to a tech that updated a few of my cameras and I turned down an upgrade to Command from Pulse because the IFTTT issue is still present as of the date of this posting.

  7. Ben says:

    I had a Pulse system for five years, moved, and had ADT tell me they’re not installing Pulse anymore and Command was my only option in my new home. It feels buggy and dumbed-down, and I am disappointed in the lack of programming flexibility. I feel stuck and disappointed. I’m going to call ADT and ask if there’s any way possible to swap this for a Pulse system.

  8. Joe says:

    My ADT Pulse System is a hoot. First, I live in a small, privately owned (55+) retirement community composed mostly of mobile homes and a few ‘brick and mortar’ homes. I live in a mobile home and have two other structures adjacent that I own and I rent the lot everything is parked on. Without going into too much detail, I upgraded to ADT Pulse from a very basic Phillips Magnavox security system that came installed in the mobile home from the factory.

    A number of issues over the years. Consulted with Law Enforcement and my homeowner’s insurance – their advice was to remove my property from the area – an expensive proposition, now that I’m actually retired. 6 months after the system upgrade, My Pulse system went down for about 10 days while I was out of state.

    When service finally returned, my neighbors had largely ‘disappeared’ except for one, meaning my 7 external cameras now only recorded one neighbor along with the usual service vehicles entering and leaving the area. Loads of continuing discrepancies including vandalism and theft/unauthorized entry. System Log shows ‘no activity’ after these ‘events’.

    Dealing with ADT has been a hoot too – I’ll just keep what I have for the moment as I’m not convinced Command/Control is any better.

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