Who Will be the Next Icontrol?
If Icontrol is acquired by Comcast and Alarm.com, we'll see a gaping hole in SHaaS (smart home as a service) providers for integrated home automation and professionally monitored security. Here are some likely contenders as the 'next Icontrol'.
Julie Jacobson · June 17, 2016
Yesterday we reported that Comcast and Alarm.com (Nasdaq: ALRM) were in talks to acquire Icontrol, a leading SHaaS (smart home as a service provider) for interactive security and home automation. A dissolution of Icontrol would put Alarm.com in a near-monopoly position as a provider of cloud-enabled home control integrated with professional security monitoring.
Today, Icontrol powers Comcast's Xfinity Home, as well as similar services from most of the major cable companies. Icontrol also powers ADT Pulse, which has over 1.5 million subscribers. In all, Icontrol is estimated to have between 2.5 million and 3 million subscribers -- about the same as Alarm.com.
The big difference is that Alarm.com serves thousands of independent security and home-technology installers, while Icontrol historically has served only the giant service providers like Comcast.
Since Alarm.com is so dominant in the indy market, it has been able to keep prices relatively high vis-a-vis competitors. It has also enjoyed the luxury of limiting integration with third-party devices, so it could push its own products (cameras especially).
So it was a big relief to independent dealers when Icontrol launched a competitive service, called Icontrol One, that would compete with Alarm.com.
Read the main story: In-Depth: If Comcast and Alarm.com Acquire Icontrol as Rumored
Announced in 2015, that program was just getting off the ground when rumors of a possible Icontrol acquisition started circulating. Those rumors were committed to ink by IoT reporter Stacey Higginbotham earlier this week.
Earlier I wrote: "There is no doubt we will see another dominant player emerge for those dealers held hostage to Alarm.com."
Some of those players are mentioned below, but first a couple of notes:
1) We are looking for providers who integrate lifestyle-oriented home technology with professionally monitored security. No doubt security monitoring will change over the years, but consumers still will want a way to automatically notify emergency responders during an alarm event.
2) Any of these players could tank if they are found to infringe against the extensive patent portfolio shared by Alarm.com and Icontrol. This is a very important caveat. Lawsuits already have been initiated against would-be competitors Zonoff and Securenet.
One of the original SHaaS (smart home as a service providers), Alarm.com caters to thousands of independent alarm dealers and home automation integrators. The company currently has 2.7 to 3 million subscribers and licenses its technology to security giant Vivint, which is building out its own platform.
Another of the SHaaS originals, Icontrol mostly powers solutions from big service providers including ADT Pulse, Xfinity Home, Cox Homelife, Rogers Smart Home, BellAliant NextGen Home Security, Time Warner Cable IntelligentHome, Bright House and Comporium ReadyHome.
Icontrol launched the Icontrol One platform and service for independent dealers in 2015, but that program is still in the start-up phase.
The company acquired the Piper DIY home-automation-system-in-a-camera from Black Sumac in 2014, and has deployed that product with an Icontrol back-end through retail and service providers (currently Bezeq in Israel).
Icontrol is estimated to have between 2.5 and 3 million subscribers.
Closest Analogs Today
SecureNet is becoming an increasingly popular alternative to Icontrol and Alarm.com, currently (or soonly) working with security systems from Resolution Products, 2Gig by Nortek, Honeywell, Interlogix, DSC and Napco. But ... there's that issue of the Icontrol lawsuit.
Created by Connected Technologies, Connect One started out as a SHaaS provider for the M1 security and home automation system from Elk Products. Since then, the company has added support for Bosch and DMP security panels.
We’re seeing some innovative new services from the company, so they’re definitely one to watch.
In-House Security SHaaS
Honeywell Total Connect
Honeywell's SHaaS platform is highly successful, but it only works with Honeywell products sold through Honeywell dealers. Will they open the platform to third parties? Doubtful.
Like Honeywell, the Interlogix platform(s) only works with Interlogix security products. Their in-house offering, UltraSync, was acquired from an Australian firm in 2014. We don’t see any indication that UltraSync will be available for third-party security and home-control products.
At ISC in April 2016, the company announced the new StarLink Connect communicator with Z-Wave, cellular and Wi-Fi. The gateway enables alarm panels from Honeywell and DSC (soon Interlogix) to tap into the iBridge interactive service.
DMP is a smaller but strong player in the home and commercial security business, but its home-grown "Virtual Keypad" provides one of the better user interfaces for interactive security and home automation. The solution has features not available on other platforms, for example the rooms function enables users to take a photo of a space, then create "hotspots" on the photo that correspond with smart devices.
Create a hotspot around a Z-Wave-controlled light fixture, and then touch it to turn it on. Draw a hot spot around an outdoor camera, and then touch it to view the scene.
As with Honeywell and Interlogix, DMP's platform works only with DMP security panels.
Tyco, which owns DSC and a good chunk of Qolsys, doesn’t have its own platform either. Qolsys and DSC use Alarm.com, and DSC also works with Icontrol and Securenet.
Bosch recently introduced a DIY platform for home control, but to integrate Bosch’s home security panels with home automation, you would use MiOS or Connect One.
Leviton Security & Automation (formerly HAI) has its own interactive service and pretty much started it all back in the late 1980s when you could control your security and control system remotely through DTMF touchtones.
Cellular Alarm Providers
Telular is a major provider of cellular (and now broadband) solutions for alarm communications. The company created Telguard in 2013 to provide interactive security and home-control services to its customers. The resulting Telguard HomeControl offering was based on Icontrol and was meant to be Icontrol's solution for the independent dealer. Since Icontrol launched its own dealer program under Icontrol One, we are likely to see a phase-out of Telguard HomeControl, which currently supports security panels from 2Gig and DSC.
But Telguard has been working on its own solutions, and may well emerge as a strong SHaaS competitor.
Like Telular, IpDatatel has been a key provider of cellular products and services for the alarm industry. The company is trying to crack the SHaaS business with a Z-Wave gateway and cloud service called SecureSmart.
Uplink is yet another cellular provider for the security industry that is trying to expand into interactive home control. 2Gig recently became the company’s first security partner.
Ah, MiOS. The developer of the popular Vera DIY controllers and MiOS cloud platform is still somewhat of a sleeper, but if Icontrol leaves the market, we could definitely see MiOS become the #2 player behind Alarm.com.
MiOS does integrate security monitoring with interactive home-control, but so far is not really engaged with the traditional security channel.
Zonoff provided the service for the nearly-defunct Staples Connect system, but so far has not integrated professional security monitoring into the remote home-management service. It no doubt could, given the rumors it might be powering a new DIY product from ADT and/or LG. But ... there's that issue of the Icontrol lawsuit.
Greenwave is run by many of the smart folks behind 4Home (acquired by Motorola), which powered Verizon's short-lived connected-home service. To date, Greenwave has announced only one significant partner -- Verizon, part II -- but we know that the company is profitable and talking to all the key players.
Verizon's Quantum gateway features ZigBee and Z-Wave radios that will at some point become active, along with a SHaaS (presumably) powered by Greenwave. To my knowledge, Greenwave has not integrated security monitoring into their offerings, but surely they could.
SmartThings was always meant to be a “platform” rather than an IoT hub and a bunch of smart … things. We’ve seen a couple of near-misses where SmartThings might have been the platform for third-party providers, but nothing has been announced.
Right now, it’s still a standalone product and the technology is supposed to be incorporated into all Samsung TVs and other consumer electronics starting this year.
Only recently has SmartThings incorporated professional security monitoring into its service via Scout Alarms. It also works with ADT’s Canopy emergency response service, but that integration is very basic.
Samsung’s Artik chipset was supposed to fuel entire ecosystem of connected devices and services from Samsung and third-party providers, but I haven’t seen much activity around that. Perhaps it will all come together with Samsung’s acquisition of Joyent, “the best-kept secret in cloud computing,” announced just this month.
After Wink went bankrupt, manufacturing partner Flex (formerly Flextronics) acquired the assets and has been pushing the Wink home automation hub and platform. At the recent Parks Associates Connections conference, the manufacturing giant -- which doesn't usually exhibit at these things -- showcased a complete smart-home ecosystem and various platforms "powered by flex."
Included in the display was a new box code-named Flex Brussels featuring WiFi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, Z-Wave and cellular radios. The new security-centric solution integrates with professional alarm monitoring services. According to a marketing piece:
Flex Brussels delivers a full-fledged security, monitoring and automation gateway with battery back-up, cellular connectivity and internal siren for peace of mind and a fully integrated Intelligence of Things™.
So far, Flex has not announced any partners for the new solution. In fact, we're not even sure if there's a "platform" associated with it or if it's just hardware in search of a partner.
Look for new DIY- and pro-friendly systems that integrate both home automation and professional security monitoring. They all have their own "platforms" for configuration and cloud control. Some, like Abode, are better than others, like SwannOne.
TV, Internet, Telecom Providers
AT&T Digital Life
AT&T’s Digital Life platform is mostly home-grown with some help from Cisco and has been deployed exclusively to AT&T customers. But it looks like AT&T plans to take its SHaaS platform to third-party telecom providers overseas with a little help from Ericsson.
That play could mean AT&T would be open to licensing the service for third-party providers in the U.S.
As a reminder, AT&T now owns DirecTV, which owns LifeShield, a popular DIY home-security provider.
Speaking of DirecTV, satellite service provider Echostar, a close affiliate Dish Network, just launched its rather interesting Sage product in service, which does have an almost-professional security monitoring component. Sage could end up being a viable platform for third-party providers.
There’s a giant category of IoT-enabling firms that don’t necessarily provide their own SHaaS ecosystems, but they do help customers get their products and services into the cloud with APIs and SDKs, ready for integration. Here are just a few of them.
MMB Networks -- RapidConnect hardware and software gets your ZigBee-based solutions ready to connect with Icontrol, Crestron, Leviton, Lowe's Iris and other cloud-enabled systems.
CentraLite – ZigBee-centric device manufacturer that recently launched the Jilia IoT development platform for third-party developers. CentraLite also makes the newest Lowe’s Iris hub.
Arrayent - IoT customers include Osram (Lightify), LiftMaster, Whirloppol, Maytag and Pentair.
ROC-Connect – Powers Ozom, South America’s version of Lowe’s Iris. Last year, ROC hired Iris architect Kevin Meagher to expand the platform into new markets.
CEL - New Cortet development tools for IoT-enabling ZigBee and Bluetooth Mesh networking devices.
Evrythng - Startup with ecosystem support for Nest, SmarThings, Wink and others.
And many more -- Make yourself known in the comments section below.
The Googles of the World
Google (Brillo, Weave, Home), Amazon (AWS, Alexa), Apple (Homekit), Nest (WWN), Qualcomm, Cisco, Intel, OCF ...
Not gonna go there today. Maybe tomorrow.
Read the main story: In-Depth: If Comcast and Alarm.com Acquire Icontrol as Rumored
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Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson Email Julie at firstname.lastname@example.org
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