Alarm monitoring makes a fascinating bellwether for the evolution of technology in the electronic security industry and never more so than now. If the industry has a technological bleeding edge, it’s here – in the place communications, management and sensing technologies meet.
ALARM monitoring is also at the bleeding edge when it comes to industry acquisition and collaboration, as we saw recently when Vivant Smart Home announced it was working with Google to make every new Vivant smart home voice-enabled using Google Assistant. Interesting, too, is the way this is being managed. It’s not really a choice. Every Vivant customer gets a pair of Google Home Mini Devices free, while Nest Thermostat E and Google Wi-Fi are now listed as options in the Vivant product and services suite.
While the move is advantageous to Google, it’s good for Vivant as well. The collaboration pushes forward Vivant’s Google Assistant integration, which already allowed users to manage lights, locks, thermostats, garage doors, gates, cameras, alarm sensors and more using voice commands. Having Google Wi-Fi onboard allows the Vivant to deliver customers networked wireless doorbells, as well as internal and external cameras, and in time, perhaps, more besides.
Happily, for Vivant, Google Wi-Fi is a bit special. It’s not only being described as offering the easiest Wi-Fi network setup experience ever, with one of the best self-management capabilities, it’s a mesh network, so the bigger it gets, the better it gets. Google Wi-Fi is built around wee cylinders which support IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, AC1200 2×2 Wave 2 Wi-Fi (expandable mesh; dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz, Bluetooth and more. You buy 1 or 3-packs and any can be router, and the others offer wired or wireless internet.
You address your Google Wi-Fi with an app that leads you through the process of router bonding with Wi-Fi points. The app monitors the network and all points and devices connected to it and alerts you to issues. It measures network connection point health, repairs itself if a network point goes down and allows bandwidth and smart home devices (like Vivant’s) to be managed. Performance is plenty enough to stream 4K – that’s strong – and when combined with the reportedly outstanding house-wide coverage, Google Wi-Fi is making waves in home and SMB networking markets.
What does all this mean? If these 2 companies were old-school security outfits hanging onto the tail of the galloping security/automation/networking market, it might mean nothing at all. But the privately-owned Vivant has 11,000 employees and was valued at $US2 billion back in 2012. And Google has 85,000 employees and turned over $US110 billion last year. Sheer scale means that whatever passes between them and whichever technologies they provision are worth consideration.
What stands out is the idea of voice control as an intuitive interface. It’s hard to argue against the case that for humans, language is the most intuitive interface of all. Being able to instruct your home automation solution to turn on lights, lower or raise the temperature, arm or disarm all or parts of the security system – these are significant developments. For a security company to come up with a voice control interface would be expensive and time consuming. Google brings this interface to the table for Vivant customers.
Google brings something else, too. That thundering Wi-Fi coverage, moving forward on a broad front, allows support for better CCTV cameras at the fringes of a home where ordinary people generally choose to put them. Trying to get sufficient coverage to make a proper fist of CCTV coverage in home automation has long been a trial in medium sized homes, especially if they are multi-storey or have more than a handful of cameras.
According to research outfit, IHS Markit, while 92 per cent of alarm systems are managed with keypad or keyfob, the company was expecting that number to fall to 82 per cent over the next 4 years. But the research company pointed out that because devices like Google Home listen constantly to hear a wake-up call and then record conversations, there’s work to be done convincing consumers that voice assistants don’t hear too much and are secure.
Perhaps most interesting of all, IHS Markit found in a recent alarm monitoring report that in 2017 around 21 per cent of professionally monitored home alarm systems had additional connectivity and functionality unrelated to alarm signalling associated with them. This add-on to the alarm monitoring market is projected to grow at 17 per cent over the next 4 years and will represent 35 per cent of all systems by 2022.
If the past is any guide, Google is unlikely to dominate the alarm monitoring market, no matter which companies it partners with. But in an increasingly consumer-driven market segment, where the bleeding edge goes, the rest will surely follow.