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Security providers early winners in home automation/home security space

But telecoms and cable companies also are ‘in it to win’ and shouldn’t be discounted, an industry analyst says
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05/29/2012

DALLAS—Security providers have a “first mover” advantage in home automation/home security right now, but the big telecoms and cable companies entering the space are serious competitors who may be game-changers in the future, according to a market research company analyst.

Getting home security from the cable guy: drawbacks along with benefits

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

We’ve written a lot here at Security Systems News about more and more telecoms and cable companies getting into the security market. And now mainstream media is taking note. For example MSN Money had a recent post from its SmartMoney partner site, titled “Home security—from the cable guy.”

I read the post, thinking it would simply extol the convenience of bundling security with your cable. But it was actually a balanced piece that included the argument from professional security companies that the service they offer is safer. In fact, the subtitle of the piece was: “More cable TV companies are offering home-monitoring systems in their markets. Know the drawbacks before you sign.”

Here’s what the April 20 post had to say to consumers:
 

The same company that provides your home phone, Internet and television services now wants to offer some protection.

A growing number of telecom providers have added home security to their lineup of services. Their interactive systems use sensors and cameras to monitor the property, while apps let users check in remotely and receive alerts about trouble.

Comcast has expanded its Xfinity Home system to 65 percent of its markets since the 2010 pilot. In October, Verizon introduced Home Monitoring and Control in 12 states and Washington, D.C. Time Warner Cable launched IntelligentHome in markets including Los Angeles, Hawaii and upstate New York last summer. Cox Communications and AT&T are separately in the process of rolling out similar programs.

For the companies, the services are a way to "improve their revenue per user" by tapping into the $8 billion home security market, says Tom Kerber, research director for home controls and energy at Parks Associates, a research firm. Telecoms are worried about slowing broadband growth – 62 percent of households already have it, according to PewResearch –  as well as the rise in landline cord-cutting, he says.

CTIA-The Wireless Association reports that roughly a third of households are wireless only, up from 11 percent in 2006. It helps that smart-home technology has also become cheaper and more widespread in recent years, as consumers get used to using their smartphones to control the thermostat or sync with the car's entertainment system.

These companies say their smart-security set-ups let consumers have more interaction with their home than simply arming an alarm when they leave home and disarming it when they get back. Window and door sensors and cameras interact with apps and a control panel, letting customers set rules about when the system reacts, and how.

For example, "when doors open, the system takes a video of whatever made that door open, and I get an alert on my phone," says Mitch Bowling, a senior vice president for Comcast Cable.

Users can also set alerts for things that don't happen, such as if the front door doesn't open by 3:30 p.m. when the kids should be home from school. As an added benefit, most systems can tie in technology to control home appliances such as the thermostat, lights and door locks from afar. So you could set the system to turn on the light when that front door opens, or turn on the air conditioning when you're on your way home from work, says Ann Shaub, director of product management for Verizon.

Cheaper -- but is it better?

The services are typically cheaper than going through a dedicated security firm -- $10 to $40 per month instead of $30 to $75. But experts warn that consumers are likely getting less protection. More elaborate home security systems can monitor for threats as diverse as carbon monoxide and rising water levels that smart systems can't detect.

In addition, some telecoms' monitoring services only alert solely to you, without relaying an alarm in a central monitoring station that would call the police or fire department, says James Orvis, a past executive vice president of the Electronic Security Association and owner of Security Solutions in Norwalk, Conn. Miss the text that the door sensor tripped, and the police may not arrive in time to catch the burglar.

It's also added risk if you're at home during a fire, break-in or other emergency where calling for help yourself isn't easy or safe, he says.

On the other hand, alerts that go only to you limits the number of false alarms, which some police departments add a fine for responding to, Orvis says. Verizon's Shaub says Home Monitoring and Control, which doesn't use a central monitoring station, still provides peace of mind and keeps consumers in tune with what's going on in the house. At the very least, it's a way homeowners can keep tabs on their kids and pets.

Shoppers should also be careful to dig into package details to determine the full cost before signing up, says Chris McGoey, a Los Angeles-based security consultant. Telecom companies' $70 to $500 one-time equipment charge is typically for a basic kit with a monitoring station and a few sensors; consumers with a large house will need to buy extra equipment for thorough coverage. So will those who want remote control over more home devices.

Services may also charge extra for connectivity to a cellular network so alarms will sound even if the power goes out. "By the time you get the system that you really want, it costs you a heck of a lot more than the promotional offer," he says.

Consumers may have little recourse to change their mind, either: Some offers require a two-year service contract.

 

Pilot shows smartphone potential

HID: Other applications in the works
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01/30/2012

IRVINE, Calif.—With the announcement today of the completion of its smartphones-as-keys pilot project at Arizona State University, HID officials hope more integrators will begin to investigate how NFC-enabled smartphones might fit into their access control offerings in the future.

Comcast ahead of curve in security space

Telecom led others in launching a home security/home automation option and will add Tucson to its markets this year
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01/04/2012

PHILADELPHIA—Many telecoms decided that 2011 was the year to launch a home security/home automation offering—Verizon, Time Warner Cable, Frontier Communications, AT&T and Cox Communications among them.
But Comcast, based here, was ahead of the curve, launching Xfinity Home Security in Houston in June 2010. The company, with millions of customers nationwide, has so far made the product available in other major markets around the country, and plans to launch it in Tucson, Ariz. sometime this year.

The Cable Guy goes pro as telecoms enter security space

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Watch out security industry! Here comes the new version of the Cable Guy—one that’s more likely to wear a suit and have a computer science background than be a rube who’s always late.

As the telecoms enter the security space at a fast and furious pace—I’ve recently written about the new home security/home automation offerings of Verizon, Time Warner Cable, Frontier Communications, AT&T, Cox Communications, and Comcast—the security industry has expressed confidence that small, professional security companies will outperform those giant companies when it comes to service.

That’s because the archetypal Cable Guy in everyone’s mind is someone who’s always late and barely seems to know what he’s doing. But as the telecoms offer new products such as professionally installed and monitored home security systems, they’re also creating new teams of professional Cable Guys to install and service those products, according to a recent The New York Times article.

Here’s more from the article, entitled “Today’s Cable Guy, Upgraded and Better-Dressed:”
 

“Long depicted as slovenly cranks who dodged growling dogs and tracked mud on the living room carpet, cable guys (and gals) these days often have backgrounds in engineering and computer science. That kind of training is now required — along with a new dress code for some, calling for button-down dress shirts and slacks — as cable companies and their telephone rivals try to lure customers and increase revenue with a suite of [new] products. ... That means added pressure for installers and new requirements for a job that traditionally appealed to high-school graduates looking for reliable blue-collar work. …

… Robert Kolb, a 33-year-old installation and service supervisor for Comcast’s Xfinity television, phone and Internet service, has a one-year certification in network engineering. He wore pressed slacks and a sporty fleece jacket on an Internet upgrade job in the Philadelphia suburbs recently, where he worked on a company-issued MacBook laptop and had a waterproof hand-held computer that could withstand a five-foot drop.

… To make sure he stays up to date, Comcast requires him and other installers to take classes at an in-house training facility known as Comcast University.

OK, the advent of the upgraded Cable Guy doesn’t mean that small professional security companies won’t still have a service edge with customers who continue to view them as their trusted security provider.

But I do think it shows that no security company should be complacent about the telecoms entering the market this time around—and that having professional, well-trained staff that provides excellent customer service is a key to success, no matter what size your company is.

 

Cox at home with security in Arizona

The telecom has joined the state alarm association and plans to launch in other markets in 2012
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12/21/2011

MESA, Ariz.—Cox Communications, one of the largest cable entertainment and broadband service providers in the country, has been offering a home security/home automation product in Tucson, Ariz., since last summer, and expects to launch it in additional markets in the new year, a company spokesman said.

2011: The Year of the Telecom

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The year is not quite over yet, but it’s clear that 2011 has earned a new name as far as security is concerned: The Year of the Telecom.

That’s because the year has been marked by at least five telecoms entering the security space. And those who have yawned and said, “What else is new? The telecoms have tried this before and failed,” had better take note. There are some indications the telecoms are doing things differently this time—for example, they’re teaming up with other professional security companies and joining industry associations.

Verizon led off in January, debuting its home security/home automation product at the Consumer Electronics show. After beta testing in New Jersey, it followed up in October by launching the product to its broadband customers nationwide.

While Verizon’s product is designed to be self-installed and self-monitored, it appears other telecoms are going with professionally installed and monitored products—and in some cases using professional security companies to do the installation and monitoring.

Cox Communications launched a home security/home automation product in Tucson, Ariz. this summer and is planning to launch in other markets in 2012.

Also in the fall, Time Warner Cable and Frontier Communications joined in by launching home security/home automation offerings in upstate New York, and Frontier also is experimenting with a security product in Pennsylvania .

Frontier, which tried going it alone previously a few years ago, is now partnering with professional security companies—with ADT for its New York offering, and with Protection 1 in Pennsylvania.

There’s also recent news that AT&T is creating a new Atlanta-based division to offer customers home security and home automation.

The Georgia Electronic Life Safety and Security Association (GELSSA) is urging AT&T to join that group and be a good, ethical participant in the industry. That’s what Cox has already done in connection with its Tucson launch, joining the Arizona Alarm Association and attending seminars.

In 2012, we’re likely to see more activity from these telecoms and maybe additional players jumping in. Will the telecoms turn out to be competitive players this time around? Only time will tell.

AT&T to enter Atlanta security market

The telecom is not yet revealing details of its products and services, but it will reportedly open its own monitoring station
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12/07/2011

KENNESAW, Ga.—The news that AT&T is creating a new Atlanta-based division to offer customers home security and home automation—and that it reportedly will open its own monitoring station—carries some positive implications for local alarm companies, said John Loud, owner of Loud Security Systems, which is based here.

In your face, telecoms!

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I’ve been writing a lot recently about telecoms—Comcast, Verizon, Time Warner Cable, Frontier Communications and AT&T—entering the security space.

The industry experts I’ve talked to about their new competitors have all been polite, saying that basically, the telecoms don’t have the security expertise or the reputation for good service that security companies have earned with their customers.

So I had to smile at the more in-your-face way that a consumer expressed that same idea in a recent Los Angeles Times article. Here’s what it said:

“Consumers reacted with derision when the Consumer Reports website the Consumerist published a piece on Comcast's entry into the business.

"Yes Mr. Smith, we got a report that your burglar alarm is going off, we are dispatching a security officer to your home and you can expect him on Monday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.," one commenter wrote.”

The article also points to the reasons why those big companies are so interested in security/home automation.

It’s not just that there’s so much money to be made in the space, the article said, but because “the cable industry is facing myriad challenges to its core businesses. The weak economy has led many consumers to cancel their pay-television service, while others are switching to competing video-delivery options, such as satellite operators, telephone companies and the online services Netflix Inc. and Hulu.”

Telecom partners with professional security companies in second go-round

After going it alone in beta, Frontier decides partnering with big national security companies is the way to go
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12/01/2011

STAMFORD, Conn.—Frontier Communications about four years ago tried a go-it-alone experiment offering home security in a small town in Pennsylvania. The telecom, based here, did everything from marketing the product to monitoring it through a third-party monitoring center.
Now Frontier is taking a different approach in a second foray into the security market: It’s partnering with two security giants, ADT and Protection 1, to offer security products in two separate six-month trial programs, one in upstate New York and one in Pennsylvania.

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