Control & Automation

CommandScape is High-End, Cybersecure Home-Automation System from Netscape Founder Jim Clark

Cybersecurity at core of CommandScape, a building-management and home-automation manufacturer launched by Netscape founder Jim Clark, and run by former ADT exec. Don Boerema.

CommandScape is High-End, Cybersecure Home-Automation System from Netscape Founder Jim Clark
The CommandScape home-automation system from Netscape founder Jim Clark is fully wired and highly secure, with modules provided on DIN rails. The UI is based on floorplans for navigation via room, floor or property.

Read CommandScape Press Release, Next Page


Julie Jacobson · August 22, 2017

It was bound to happen: A home-automation and building-control system with cybersecurity at its core. The system – and the venture – is CommandScape, launched by Netscape founder and Internet pioneer Jim Clark.

Netscape invented the SSL (now TLS) encryption scheme eons ago so it should be no surprise that everything in the CommandScape ecosystem – from the hubs to the end devices – is “wrapped in a cybersecure envelope,” says former ADT executive Don Boerema, president and CEO of the start-up. “We’re the first ones to use a [security] certification process fully.”

Like other home- and building-control systems, CommandScape will control lights, HVAC, security, motorized shades, surveillance systems, and more. Unlike most systems, though, this one will be completely wired. Nary a wireless sensor, light switch, door lock or keypad in sight.

The sort-of exception is that CommandScape employs HomePlug powerline-carrier technology, delivering data and power to some products over the building’s existing AC wiring.

Another unusual feature of CommandScape is that no usernames and passwords are required for entry into a secure location, or access to protected applications. Users are authenticated via their iPhones, and permissions granted and revoked by Mom, Dad or the systems administrator.

CommandScape home-automation and security system

CommandScape can do this because of its end-to-end security authentication process, Boerema tells CE Pro.

“Today, most people only verify the server, but not the clients,” he says. “We put [security] certificates end-to-end, from the clients all the way to each and every device.”

Remember that big credit-card breach at Target? Boerema reminds us the hackers got in via the HVAC system.

That can’t happen with CommandScape’s authorization scheme, he says.

Unfortunately, there’s one little exception: like if the HVAC guy borrows your phone. Or if little Amelia grabs your mobile device and wanders into the gun closet.

Asked about this fairly realistic proposition, a CommandScape spokesperson tells me: “Anyone who doesn’t keep control of their device will potentially run into problems in regards to others having access to any of the phone’s information. We do not see this as a barrier to being successful in the marketplace.”

Before joining CommandScape, Boerema was a top exec at ADT for nearly two decades, so between him and Clark, the company should have physical and digital security pretty much covered. (Earlier partners in the venture included Mike Snyder and Dennis Kozlowski, former CEOs of ADT and Tyco, respectively. A CommandScape spokesperson says the former CEOs are not now involved with the company, and they “had minimal impact on the founding of the business.”)

Keen on Security, Not So Much on Integration

At launch (which is now), the new CommandScape system offers lighting control, physical security, video surveillance, network/data security, and motorized shade control.

Not available now, but “on the product roadmap,” are climate control, energy management, access control and A/V.

CommandScape is making its own lighting, security, access and energy management subsystems.

Since the whole premise of the CommandScape business is end-to-end security, the company wants to keep it mostly in the family, working only with select outsiders that can (and will) drop a special security certificate into their devices. Currently, CommandScape is working with Axis for video surveillance and Lutron for motorized shades.

CommandScape 4-channel home-automation module

All devices in the ecosystem – from the user’s smartphone to the cloud connection to the cameras and lighting controls – “have to do a two-way handshake to verify it’s the right connection, and the individual has the authority," Boerema says.

He hesitates when asked about other integrations, but says the company will explore third-party connectivity where it makes sense, for example, TVs. On the other hand, we probably shouldn’t expect CommandScape to work with third-party lighting, security, access or HVAC control systems.

Owning the ecosystem not only improves prospects for digital security, it also can foster better interoperability among subsystems, according to Boerema. For example, a single sensor might serve the security system (trigger alarm if sensor tripped), the energy management system (set back temperature if room is vacant) and the lighting-control system (turn on lights if motion detected).

While this scenario might be commonplace in residential automation, it’s not always the case in commercial projects, where each trade has its own ecosystem and its own set of specialists.

The CommandScape Business Model

In addition to its security thrust (a compelling thrust at that), CommandScape is promoting its "exquisite" software for dealers and end-users alike.

CommandScape Editor, the company’s app-based programming tool for pros (no computer required), can “dramatically reduce labor hours” compared to competitive products, Boerema says.

That is certainly one benefit of using a single vendor for a complete ecosystem, especially when there’s no A/V involved.

CommandScape Navigator, the customer-facing UI, takes a floor-plan approach to building control, allowing users to navigate their properties by room, floor ... or country, for that matter. Touch the camera icon in a given room to view the video from that area. Touch the light bulbs to brighten or dim the space.

End users themselves have the ability to set schedules and alerts. They can create macros by setting their devices just so … and then capturing the scene.

In the future, CommandScape will offer a remote networking monitoring tool with analytics on uptime, activity, speeds, potential breaches and all the usual networky stuff.

UPDATE: CEDIA and Icontrol co-founder Chris Stevens among CommandScape leadership

Will CommandScape fly in the home-technology channel? It is primarily a building-management system created for commercial projects … and maybe some very large and busy homes with lots of people coming and going at all hours.

It would seem to make sense for security-conscious customers with utilitarian needs – change the lights, manage the energy, see who’s at the front door. The fun stuff won’t be available until later.

The problem, however, is that the HVAC guy and the electrician and the security guy must all install the CommandScape product. The low-voltage girl (CEDIA dealer) installs the network and maybe some parts of the other subsystems.

What’s it going to take to get all of these trades to switch to CommandScape from their go-to products? It might require an entirely new business model, where traditional home-technology integrators bring all those other trades in-house. Or maybe they just forge some very strong local relationships.

It would seem to be a mighty task for CommandScape, but perhaps no mightier than inventing the Web browser, JavaScript and SSL … and getting everyone to adopt it. Jim Clark’s been there, done that.

Boerema says CommandScape has talked to “dozens” of top installation companies in the commercial HVAC, electrical contracting, commercial integration and residential integration (CEDIA) channels.

Several installations have already been completed, he adds.

Read CommandScape Press Release, Next Page

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Read CommandScape Press Release, Next Page

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  About the Author

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]

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  Article Topics


Control & Automation · Automation · Lighting · Motorized Shades · Whole House Control · Networking & Cables · Networking · Security · Cameras · Surveillance Systems · Monitoring · News · Products · Axis · CommandScape · Cybersecurity · HomePlug · Lutron · Powerline · All Topics
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Comments

Posted by chrisconniff on August 27, 2017

The article headline says “High-End, Cybersecure Home-Automation System”.  Yet they’re “Keen on Security, Not So Much on Integration”.  And there are no capabilities for climate control, energy management, access control and A/V (granted they’re “on the road map” but for when?).  And their systems architecture & GTM model is based on being wired with no support for wireless? They’re not highly differentiated by using only Axis for video surveillance and only Lutron for motorized shades.

So why use buzz phrases in the headline like “High End” & “Home Automation” when they are neither?  I’ll give you “Cybersecure” since they make Lutron and Axis use a SSL/TLS Certificate.

I’m with mgrady, there has to be something more to their business plan other than “we use SSL/TLS Certificates and believe in wiring everything versus WiFi / NFC”.  I think this is nothing more than Jim Clark investing in a complementary business needed for his corporate real estate and high-rise businesses.  Or maybe he owns a CAT-5 plant!

Posted by Jason Knott on August 23, 2017

This CommandScape system somewhat fulfills the prediction made by Shelly Palmer last year when he was the keynote speaker at CEDIA 2016. He said that integrators someday will have clients who will pay them more money to be disconnected from the Internet than they currently pay to be connected to the web.  Looks like that day has come already.

Posted by Julie Jacobson on August 23, 2017

Good insights, mgrady. Thanks for commenting.

Posted by mgrady on August 23, 2017

I can’t imagine that CommandScape wants to get into the installation and support of any aspect of what we do as professionals. Support alone on “bullet proof” solutions in the CEDIA channel is ridiculously expensive.

That said I think their end game is to have a security feature set installed in all iOt, CEDIA and any other Home automation system so they communicate encrypted.

If they control the agreed upon encryption method for every home automation/AV/Control solution everyone will need to pay up royalties to them. They become to the control what TI is to 4K chipsets.

If they have any other end game in sight, I wish them luck, as I/We know how hard it is to impact this industry, especially if you have never been in it.

Posted by mgrady on August 23, 2017

I can’t imagine that CommandScape wants to get into the installation and support of any aspect of what we do as professionals. Support alone on “bullet proof” solutions in the CEDIA channel is ridiculously expensive.

That said I think their end game is to have a security feature set installed in all iOt, CEDIA and any other Home automation system so they communicate encrypted.

If they control the agreed upon encryption method for every home automation/AV/Control solution everyone will need to pay up royalties to them. They become to the control what TI is to 4K chipsets.

If they have any other end game in sight, I wish them luck, as I/We know how hard it is to impact this industry, especially if you have never been in it.

Posted by Julie Jacobson on August 23, 2017

Good insights, mgrady. Thanks for commenting.

Posted by Jason Knott on August 23, 2017

This CommandScape system somewhat fulfills the prediction made by Shelly Palmer last year when he was the keynote speaker at CEDIA 2016. He said that integrators someday will have clients who will pay them more money to be disconnected from the Internet than they currently pay to be connected to the web.  Looks like that day has come already.

Posted by chrisconniff on August 27, 2017

The article headline says “High-End, Cybersecure Home-Automation System”.  Yet they’re “Keen on Security, Not So Much on Integration”.  And there are no capabilities for climate control, energy management, access control and A/V (granted they’re “on the road map” but for when?).  And their systems architecture & GTM model is based on being wired with no support for wireless? They’re not highly differentiated by using only Axis for video surveillance and only Lutron for motorized shades.

So why use buzz phrases in the headline like “High End” & “Home Automation” when they are neither?  I’ll give you “Cybersecure” since they make Lutron and Axis use a SSL/TLS Certificate.

I’m with mgrady, there has to be something more to their business plan other than “we use SSL/TLS Certificates and believe in wiring everything versus WiFi / NFC”.  I think this is nothing more than Jim Clark investing in a complementary business needed for his corporate real estate and high-rise businesses.  Or maybe he owns a CAT-5 plant!