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John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Cable, Telephone, Internet and...Security?

Posted on December 4, 2013 at 3:20 PM

Your ISP wants to put the cable guy in charge of your security, automation and more…

Like a modern proof of Newton’s Third Law of Motion – for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction -  as more people look to cord-cutting as a way to sever ties with their cable and satellite providers, service providers continue looking for ways to retain customers and bring new customers back into the fold. To maintain this delicate Yin and Yang balance – and to continue lining the corporate coffers and shareholder bottom lines – big cable and Internet service providers like Time Warner and Comcast are looking beyond their traditional cable, telephone and Internet service offerings and getting into the word of security and automation.
Time Warner’s system, called IntelligentHome, is rolling out nationally and according to Time Warner’s Website, “Our next-generation home security and management system puts you in control of your home like never before.” Comcast is offering similar packages with its XFINITY Home Control and Home Secure systems.

If the thought of willingly giving the cable company even more control over your home gives you the malaria sweats, read on to see what these systems offer.

What They Are

After perusing Time Warner’s Website and seeing things like “starting at $33.99** per mo.” and “Free installation offer includes standard installation only,” or the “Details and Restrictions” links on Comcast’s site, I decided to dig into the system a little further and see if these systems are truly smart or just another cable company money grab. To get some answers on the system, I reached out to Adam Mayer, Time Warner’s IntelligentHome VP.

At its most basic, IntelligentHome begins life as a security system. Whether you purchase the Select, Premier or Ultra package (more on them later), you receive the same in-home touchscreen controller which is the heart, brains and soul of the system.

While Comcast’s Home Secure system is very similar from a monitoring and security standpoint, they also offer a lower-priced home control only solution that does not offer any security monitoring, but provides access to automation and control features.

Both companies use software provided by iControl Networks and although Time Warner wouldn’t specifically confirm, the touchscreen appears to be the SMC Networks RB5701-Z panel, a 7-inch panel with 800x480 resolution running Android OS. The panel has redundant connections using built-in cellular and 802.11g WiFi as well as hardwired broadband 10/100BaseT Ethernet, meaning that it should be able to phone home in the event of an emergency. (“Home” being Time Warner’s Central Station Alarm Association 5-Diamond Certified Central Station, and a UL-certified central station for XFINITY, both of which can then call you and/or dispatch the authorities or emergency personal.)

While it is wireless, it is not meant to be a tablet that you take with you and stroll around town, watching movies and playing Candy Crush during your morning commute. In fact, since it’s the hub of your security system, it’s not to be taken outside the home, and should spend the majority of its life on the docking/charging cradle. The touchscreen features a 24-hour battery back-up in case power to the home is lost and has an internal siren to hopefully scare off the intruders before they steal your new PS4 or spray paint “ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES JACK A DULL BOY” all over your living room walls. While it also features the anti-tamper sensors necessary to be compliant as a home security system, be advised that you’re likely on your own in the event of an Ocean’s 11 style EMP attack.

Besides being the alarm panel and control hub for the home, the touchscreen can also display live, full-motion video from any connected cameras and can run weather, news and sports apps. If you like a personal touch, it can also serve as a digital picture frame showing pictures of your family. If you like an impersonal touch, have it display pictures of someone else’s family. The panel is not there to cast judgment.

The touchscreen is yours to use as long as you subscribe to either company’s service, but must be returned if you ever cancel. According to Mayer, “We own the touchscreen, so if it breaks for a reason unrelated to customer negligence, we will replace it for free.  If it breaks due to customer negligence, there may be a charge, but that will be determined on a case-by-case basis.” So, if you’re prone to having wild, vodka-filled Super Soaker battles or host protracted or Gladiator-style dodge ball competitions in your home, be sure and place the touchscreen appropriately.
Beyond the touchscreen, you can also control and monitor your home when away via the magic of the Internet using a computer or by using the IntelligentHome app on a smartphone/tablet. 

Comcast customers going the Home Control only route, get a Hub – essentially a purpose-built router – which must be returned upon cancellation.

Please click here to continue reading at Digital Trends.

Categories: December 2013, Electronics, TV

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