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.
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.
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.
Click for slightly larger view of ADT Pulse Ecosystem.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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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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. Email Julie at [email protected]