When communications service providers talk about “multi-play” services, one of the options they usually focus on is home security—and as an announcement from Comcast today reveals, home security may be one of the more promising multi-play options.
Comcast found itself in the home security business when it bought Time Warner Cable’s Houston area business some years ago. Initially offering basic burglary and fire alarm monitoring, Comcast more recently added home automation capabilities to its home security offering—including the ability to control home heating, cooling and lighting systems and to add video surveillance.
Today Comcast announced that it is expanding its home security offering to six additional markets—including Philadelphia, Portland, Jacksonville, Sarasota/Naples, Chattanooga and Nashville.
The Comcast offering uses broadband connectivity, which is what enables it to support high-bandwidth capabilities such as the ability to stream video from surveillance cameras. Customers aren’t required to purchase broadband from Comcast, a Comcast spokesman told Telecompetitor–although many of them do.
Traditionally alarm systems have worked over a basic POTS line, but there has been a shift in the alarm industry—primarily toward cellular-based systems—as more homeowners have cancelled or opt not to purchase traditional voice service. Traditional alarm companies are wary of using broadband for alarm connectivity—in part because of concerns about the reliability of the Internet and in part because they don’t like the responsibility of touching the customer’s broadband connection, fearing that the customer will blame them for anything that might go wrong with their computer.
Comcast apparently shares the first fear. Its system has cellular backup. But, perhaps because the company typically is also the broadband provider, it has less hesitation about connecting to the customer’s broadband connection.
Ultimately perhaps broadband connectivity will be what differentiates communications service providers in the home security business. Like Comcast, some smaller telcos also use broadband to offer home security and automation services –and so does Verizon.
Hybrid equipment designed for the unique needs of communications service providers in the alarm business also has begun to appear. For example, Comporium offers what it calls an SMA TouchScreen that combines an alarm system, communications gateway and home automation platform in a single device.
Because broadband can support higher-bandwidth applications than cellular, this should give the telcos and cable companies an edge in the long term—particularly as the role of the home security system begins to expand to support the needs of utility company smart grid deployments.