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Will Verizon Win the Home Automation Wars?

Exclusive details of Verizon's home monitoring system, and how it will compete with Comcast, AT&T, ADT and others; 4G LTE ultimately will give Verizon an edge.

Verizon Home Monitoring and Control will roll with a handful of devices including Wi-Fi cameras and Z-Wave switches, thermostats and door locks, as demonstrated at CES 2011. Alas, it lacks integration with security. Will that be a deal breaker?
Julie Jacobson · January 25, 2011
Like others of its ilk, the Verizon software lets users program their own scenes and schedules, like an away mode that locks the doors, sets back the thermostat and turns off certain lights.

Users also can program the system to alert them upon certain events. They can be notified, for example, if a security sensor built into the surveillance cameras is tripped, and a short video clip can be sent to their cell phones.

At roll-out, all integrated devices must be purchased from Verizon, including Wi-Fi cameras and Z-Wave devices.

“We don’t want to get into the hardware business, but we want a good consumer experience,” says Verizon product manager John Gravel.

His colleague Hassane Bouhia, group manager for Verizon Broadband Solutions, adds, “Eventually, there’s no reason you couldn’t pick up Z-Wave devices at retail.”

Services Limited Initially

Verizon has one monumental edge in its (eventual) home control and monitoring system: 4G LTE. But that edge probably won’t be realized for quite some time.

Verizon is counting on its breadth of content and communications services to sell Verizon-branded home control.

“They [customers] can come to one place for all their services,” Gravel says. “It’s all at 1-800-Verizon.”

That’s where customers will buy their home control products, address billing issues, and receive technical support. (“Press 1 for mobile, 2 for broadband, 3 for FiOS, 4 for home control ….”)

So will the friendly 1-800-Verizon folks be able to sell the home control system? Will it sell itself via flyers stuffed into Verizon phone bills? Or will Verizon FiOS installers be able to close the deal when they’re on the customer’s premises?

All of the above, according to Verizon.

I am skeptical.

The FiOS installers have the best shot at an up-sell, but despite its growing presence in 12 states and the District of Columbia, the FiOS crew doesn’t have near enough reach for Verizon.

Verizon believes its home-control offering is so simple (in fact, it is) that commercial messaging will compel customers to order the kits on their own. If that happens, Verizon will be the first to achieve such success. —JJ

In the meantime, today’s Verizon Home Monitoring and Control service doesn’t do all that much compared to other affordable home automation options.

For example, only a small number of Z-Wave devices are supported – the key ones, granted, but not such niceties as keyfobs, keypads and most importantly security sensors. These will surely be added to the mix in due course.

Meanwhile, the energy management piece is modest, allowing users to monitor single-device consumption, but not respond to it via smart meters and the smart grid.

According to Gravel, “We’re not tying into utilities right now.”

Then again, Verizon’s competitors are still lagging in the smart-energy department as well, despite claims to the contrary.

Most significantly, the Verizon system does not support traditional security services. It does not offer DIY monitoring solutions, and does not integrate with professionally monitored systems.

Will that be a deal breaker?

We have noted previously that consumers have never embraced monthly fees for home control and remote management, unless the feature was bundled into traditional security services.

Verizon’s Gravel agrees that remote home management “would be a hard sell” unless it was bundled with some other subscription service, but it need not be security. It can just as well be Verizon’s own mobile, FiOS TV or DSL broadband.

Verizon Roll-Out

A pilot program for the Verizon Home Monitoring and Control solution currently is underway in New Jersey.

A broader roll-out will occur “certainly in 2011,” says Bouhia. “It’s hard to put a specific date on it.”

Initially, the service will be available to Verizon FiOS and DSL customers but “there’s no reason it couldn’t be available for anyone’s network,” says Gravel.

Verizon simply wants to start with the low-hanging fruit: its existing and future broadband customers.

Verizon itself will take the tech-support calls for the home management system, with tier-2 assistance provided by partner Schlage.

  About the Author

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 julie.jacobson@emeraldexpo.com

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  Article Topics

Security · News · AT&T · Comcast · iControl · Schlage · uControl · Verizon · All Topics
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