Next time you set up your cable, Internet and phone service, you could also bundle in a home security system that turns on the porch light, sees if the kids have friends over and adjusts the thermostat from your smartphone.
“It is something I would consider for sure,” said Scott Firmstone, 44, an Iowa City resident with three boys who sees potential for better efficiency and watching the house while out of town. “For someone like me, it’s going to be a cost thing. Can I get a lot out of it for what money goes out the door?”
The product, called Home Controller supported by iControl OpenHome software, should be available through Mediacom in the Cedar Rapids, Iowa City areas, as well as other parts of eastern Iowa, including Marengo, Fairfield, Burlington and Washington areas beginning in early November.
It rolled out in the Des Moines area in September, and will eventually reach Black Hawk County and other parts of Iowa, said Phyllis Peters, communications director for Mediacom, Iowa’s largest cable provider. Getting technicians certified, which is required by state law, factors into the timing of the rollout, she said.
The Home Controller has a start up cost of $250 to $450, including installation and equipment. The basic package includes two door and window sensors, a motion detector and a key fob. The more expensive packages include a thermostat and cameras, and the price can climb by adding extra sensors, cameras, carbon monoxide detectors, and others.
The monthly service charge ranges from $35, $40 or $45.
A customer may customize the service to send an email if a child doesn’t come home after school or send a picture when someone is at the front door. Another customer could use it to control the temperature, Peters said.
“This is absolutely not a cookie cutter type of product,” Peters said.
Mediacom is one in a wave of media companies, such as Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable Inc., delving into home automation, and more specifically home security.
The new product allows Mediacom and others to leverage their pricey broadband infrastructure and it could provide a boost to offset declining demand for video services and increasing programming costs.
Home security is a core feature of the product, regardless of what level you buy-in, Peters said. An intruder would trigger an alert to a third-party 24-7 call center through Comporium Communications, which would then notify local authorities, she said.
While people such as Firmstone are intrigued by the product, he questions whether the value will outweigh the price tag, and whether customers will feel comfortable entrusting more of their privacy and safety to their media provider.
“If you have a home on the internet, monitored through your smartphone, you could end up with some security problems,” said Doug Jacobson, an Iowa State University professor of electrical and computer engineering, who specializes in networking and computer security.
Jacobson said the risk isn’t so much with an unsecured provider, in this case Mediacom, but with the end user updating and protecting passwords. Still, it’s a logical next step for Mediacom and others given their infrastructure, he said.
The home security industry in the United States is worth about $16 billion, according First Research, a market analysis firm based in Austin, Texas. ADT is the largest player with about 25 percent market share, and serves about 20,000 customers in Iowa.
Tony Wells, ADT chief marketing officer, said on the front end customers should research the experience level of technicians assessing a home’s vulnerability, and on the back end who is monitoring. He said ADT technicians have on average 12 years experience, and they have redundancy of six in-house call centers.
“Customers should think about who is monitoring (their home security system) on the other end and what is their experience. Is it an outsourced call center? That is the moment of truth, when you are in need, getting the call out rapidly and getting emergency responders to the right address. That is one of our big differentiators.”