Vivint, Verizon and the home automation wars


UPDATE: I talked to Sam Lucero, ABI Research practice director, about Vivint's entrance into the home automation market. He actually includes Vivint in the same category as telcos like Verizon Wireless in that it provides managed home automation services and is positioned to take advantage of the mainstreaming of the home automation market. Read my story on the SSN web site.

A new ABI Research report says traditional security companies are facing new competitors, such as telcos like Verizon Wireless, in the home automation market.

The report, released yesterday, bases its analysis on what it describes as three ways to offer home automation. But with the announcement I wrote about today that APX Alarm has rebranded as Vivint to better reflect its expansion into the home automation market, I’m wondering if that company’s approach is a new fourth way to offer such home automation services such as automatic door locks, video surveillance, and lighting and small appliance control.

That's because Vivint says its home automation offering is unique in that it won’t cost homeowners much upfront and the company will service and maintain the systems for customers. "Simple, affordable whole-home automation for the average Joe," is how the company describes its offering.

The company’s announcement comes at virtually the same time as the release of the new ABI report describing home automation systems as traditionally falling into two categories: “the economical do-it-yourself model, and the expensive custom-designed installation.”  Because the first requires a homeowner to have technical expertise and the second alternative is expensive, that limits the market, the report says.

However, the report says, an emerging “third way … promises to fuel tremendous market growth:  home automation as a managed service provided by the homeowner’s cable broadband provider or telco.”

According to a statement from ABI practice director Sam Lucero: “Traditional security firms such as ADT will increasingly be joined in the mainstream by these new providers offering managed home automation services.”

Among a number of newer interactive home security products, ADT introduced its Pulse product last fall, and Honeywell has a Total Connect product.

Earlier this month, Security Systems News wrote about Verizon Wireless launching its new home automation bundle offering at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Also, according to ABI, Comcast currently is conducting a trial of a home automation offering in the Houston, Texas area.

I’ll be talking to Lucero later today about the report and how Vivint’s new offering fits into ABI’s analysis of the market. Does the fact that the company is offering a less expensive home automation alternative to homeowners that comes with Vivint’s technical service and maintenance know-how create “a fourth way” to market home automation? That’s what I would like to know.