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Architecture of ADT Pulse: What it Can & Can’t Do

ADT is rolling out its Pulse security/home management system to the masses, but few people know what the "system" looks like. CE Pro illustrates a basic ADT Pulse ecosystem powered by iControl.


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Simplified ADT Pulse ecosystem. Click to Enlarge

What does an ADT Pulse security/home management system look like?

Few home systems integrators know much about it because ADT uses technology from iControl, an OEM provider that has not presented its products in public for several years. Industry insiders, including CE Pro editors, however, have followed the company's progress since the beginning.

iControl's ConnectedLife platform is a software-based solution that unifies alarm systems, cameras, thermostats and other electronic devices in a single interface, allowing users to monitor and control their home via the Internet, cellular and potentially other networks.

For industry folks, the ideas aren't particularly novel, and the technology isn't necessarily new, but iControl has been working to perfect the platform since 2004 -- thanks in part to funding from Cisco, ADT, Comcast and GE -- and the system works very well.

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Most of all, it works just like ADT wants it to.

The two companies, along with their security partners GE and Honeywell, have been working together for two years to create a solution that can be sold and installed simply and profitably by a national army of ADT employees.

What the customer sees is a simple yet elegant interface that allows them to monitor and control many key functions of their home, primarily for security and energy management purposes. In addition, they can program their own scenes, such as an AWAY mode that arms the security, sets back the thermostat and turns off select lights depending on the time of day.

Compared to the systems we see today from more established home-control vendors, the ADT Pulse system is somewhat limited, but certainly well suited for the masses -- including the mass of ADT installers, salespeople, service personnel and number crunchers.

The solution needs some work on the hardware side. ADT, iControl and their security partners are working to integrate more of the disparate components and to support more devices.

But the current product is stable and works perfectly well for ADT customers.

Below is a simplified illustration, created by CE Pro, of an ADT Pulse system incorporating iControl technology.

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Click for slightly larger view of ADT Pulse Ecosystem.

Notes


iHub
  • Includes built-in Z-Wave and Wi-Fi wireless communications.
  • iHub creates a Wi-Fi subnet to maintain a more reliable and secure in-home network for the monitored devices, and to avoid interference with other Wi-Fi devices in the home.
  • iHub and the ADT/iControl software do not currently integrate with third party subsystems other than those shown here, plus certain other Z-Wave devices.
  • iHub interface is accessed remotely via secure iControl servers hosted by ADT.
  • iControl platform adds about $10 to $20 to a standard ADT monitoring contract.

Security
  • iHub communicates via hardwired serial link to select security panels from GE Security (Simon and Concord models) and Honeywell (Vista and Lynx). Communications with the Lynx product is different than illustrated here.
  • As usual, sensors and other security components communicate within their own security ecosystem.
  • Integrators can tap into the security panel's I/Os for basic integration, but the serial port is consumed by the iHub.
  • Standard communications to the security monitoring station is over POTS but a cellular connection can be added.
  • System is not compatible with some GE, Honeywell and other ADT security panels that are already installed.

Cameras
  • Analog cameras are hardwired to a decoder box, which connects to the iHub.
  • ADT supplies Wi-Fi cameras that communicate directly to the iHub, not through the home network (likewise for the wireless ADT touchscreen).
  • Currently the system does not support standard IP cameras.

Z-Wave Devices
  • Since not all Z-Wave devices are interoperable out of the box, currently ADT installs and vets only a handful of mainstream products.
  • After initial installation, consumers can purchase additional Z-Wave devices, and easily enroll them into the system.

ADT Pulse in Action


A real customer takes us through a 20-minute review of his ADT Pulse installation and how he uses it.



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Article Topics

News · Product News · Home Automation and Control · Control Systems · Security · Z-Wave · Icontrol · Adt · Adt Pulse · All topics

About the Author

Julie Jacobson, Co-Founder, EH Publishing / Editor-at-large, CE Pro
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. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson. [More by Julie Jacobson]

11 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by Michael Freeman  on  01/28  at  12:53 PM

I strongly discourage anyone from buying this system.  At first I was exuberant.  I am building an 11k sqft home.  The home is framed and walls will be closed in soon.  I called ADT and spent over an hour on the phone trying to get answers to simple questions about their system (i.e. max # of cameras..)  The said that only a technician can answer my questions and that I should call them back when house is completed.  I explained that I need to no more about their system and design before walls are framed bc most other systems are not wireless.  After spendinga another 30 mins while he got appprovals from supervisors….keep in mind 1.5 hours just to set up appt…they agreed that we could meet in about 55 days.  House is in wifes name they needed to record a call with her rather than me.  3 days later they called back and she had to answer all of their questions again, then they asked her social securtiy number.  She said not giving it and inquired why.  They said that they have to pull her credit to set up appt.  WTF???  I pulled phone from her and they insisted on SS# to setup appt. so they can then answer my questions so that I could see if this is the way I want to go.  This is probably going to be a 40k+ system.  There is no reason for them to pull credit just to meet but they would not budge. She has a 730 credit score and we have a construction loan that will need to go to permanent financing in a year.  A credit inquiry that is senseless will bring score down when we go to permanent.  This much trouble just to speak to someone….hardly worth it.  BTW, I have used many security companies at other homes and none have pulled credit.

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  01/28  at  01:00 PM

The ADT Pulse product/team is not really equipped for large jobs like this. For large, higher-end jobs, you what their Custom Home Group.

https://adt.com/resi/programs/customhome_new/customhome_landing

This group does advanced security systems (cameras and alarm systems) and works with a local custom electronics professional to integrate the other goodies—lights, thermostats, AV, etc.

Or ... check http://www.electronichouse.com/installers for an independent integrator.

Posted by E Hafer  on  03/18  at  08:01 PM

Devil’s Advocate: if ADT had another group that handled larger scale housing projects, perhaps the ADT Pulse representative should have referred the first gentleman to them? Especially when the manager came into the picture, I would think.

Posted by Tj murvin  on  09/23  at  06:56 AM

Can’t seem to find two install reps that have the same answer to any question. One say they can use wireless contacts from our old dsc system, the next says they have to be hard wired. One says you can do the basic pulse system without the ihub, the next says you need the hub. Where can I get the real answers to the questions I have?

Posted by Charlie K  on  10/23  at  05:31 PM

What it sounds like is that Michael actually spoke to a Dealer.  They do not do the PULSE.  I had to deal with that the “auth Dealer” does not sell the same equipment as ADT Corporate.  I had to buy 2 systems and had to have both installed….what a pain.  I do have a 12000 sq ft house and the Pulse system works great, but the way company works is screwed up.

Posted by Mark M  on  11/07  at  11:23 AM

Ever since I had ADT install the Pulse iHub, the rest of my home network, which relies on DCHP has been wonkey. The wireless devices often times get their IP addresses from the iHub, and subsequently do not communicate with the internet. Is there someway that I can stop this from happening? Perhaps an administrative page to set options?

Posted by WSS  on  01/23  at  10:43 PM

Where can I get an ihub for the GE Concord 4 (with ADT monitoring… if that makes any difference?).

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  01/24  at  05:43 AM

You need to buy the set-up from ADT itself. If you have GE security, you can instead use a similar service from Alarm.com

Posted by Michael M  on  08/12  at  02:25 PM

First off..i am and ADT service technician with pulse training.

having said that, it is my feeling that initial launch of pulse was flawed. For the pulse system to work you do have to have the IHub, the IHub has a limitation of its own..it has a 50 foot range in all directions i found this problem on a service call , 8.5 months later ADT finally had a fix for this problem. that would boost the signal to 100 feet. At this point the only systems that we have seen with pulse connected to are, the UTC concorde 4, the vista 20P ( know as the Safewatch 300 to adt) and the ADT quick connect plus ( similar to lynx but adt only version) that is not to say that other systems are not being brough online with the pulse system but to date these are the three i know of. The pulse sytem does not effect the feild devices. These devices still report to your control panel , the panel reports to the pulse system. wireless and hardwired will both work the same on pulse. The issue occurs when your control panel is not “pluse approved” . could it be made so? probabaly, but why? Think from a business tandpoint, 1 the customer wants pulse, 2. the panel is not one approved for pulse, 3. we (the business) can sell them a new system and pulse and make more money.  Yes its convoluted, all business ideas are. if not then why shouldn’t all car parts work in any vehicle? why shouldn’t all monitors work with any hard drive? the simple answer is money. Now for brass tacks..do i recommend pulse..as an insider, as a trained tech on the system…no. I don’t feel the system has all the kinks worked out yet. Any time you lab test something like this and fail to do a feild test you are asking for trouble. Are the base adt security systems good? ABSOLUTLY if your getting a new one go either with the safewatch 3000 or the quick connect plus. Watch out for people saying they are with ADT, carefully check your paper work…ADT has a lot of “dealers” these are in effect subcontractors to ADT and they generally get away with everything..if you want to make sure its ADT..go to ADT. 18002382727.

Posted by Jeff Lew  on  07/02  at  01:43 PM

Great video and very helpful. More info than I was able to get from ADT over the phone. I’m in the process of upgrading my ADT system.

Does your new Pulse thermostat have a “fan only” mode or “circulation” mode? I’m hoping not to lose the latter or some general thermostat functions.

Do you have a model number for your thermostat—I guess ADT is telling me that they use a 4286 or 4500.

Thanks
Jeff

Posted by Lewis Heidrick  on  11/05  at  05:32 PM

I’ve had the Pulse system installed since it launched.  We are using the Safewatch Pro 3000 panel, TZ45A Thermostat (Z-Wave), about 10 of the GE/Jasco on/off light switches, and two appliance modules.  One of the modules I wired to a relay and connected to the bell terminals to use as a garage door opener.  We also got two wireless cameras.  Everything has worked great.  I wish the wireless camera resolution was a bit better but it’s not terrible.  One thing to mention though about the light switches.  You sometimes have to hold them down longer than you would expect to trigger them.  It’s always less than a second but a quick tap doesn’t always work.  I bought most of the stuff when it was installed but the light switches we added earlier.  Also as far as range goes… all the devices use one another to connect back to the iHub so the more you add the better your overall coverage is/gets.  The appliance modules are an exception to this for some reason but everything else is like that.  Our thermostat doesn’t appear to have a circulation mode but does have a fan mode.  There may be several to choose from by now.  I mainly just use it to reset the thermostat after the wife turns it up to 80.  Drove her nuts at first but she finally submitted.

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