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Home Security Systems Exploit The Net, Messaging Options

Security vendors at DEMO conference offer wireless home monitoring, controls, alerts.

Fredric Paul

February 15, 2005

3 Min Read

(SCOTTSDALE, AZ) - "I've fallen and I can't get up!" Neither of the two home security vendors introducing new products at the DEMO conference here this week referenced the well-known old TV commercial, but both products tried to update that "rescue" message for the Internet age.

iControl Networks introduced a home-surveillance network, and Lusora's updated the capabilities of the device advertised in that old TV commercial, with a sensor that can be worn around a person's neck that will automatically set off alerts if the wearer needs help

IControl Networks, based in Palo Alto, Calif., touted what it called the first mass market home management solution. My iControl consists of three components:

  • A set of small devices such as sensors, cameras, and controllers.

  • A control box big enough to house an oversize toaster.

    The iControl portal, which lets users control the system via the Web, cellular phone, or PDA.

According to the company, installation largely consists of peeling-and-sticking the battery-powered individual devices to windows, doors, and other strategic locations, plugging in the control box, and attaching it to an existing home network router. The devices employ wireless connectivity to recognize and communicate with each other.

The portal then lets users set and manage profiles for actions and notifications. For example, the notification might trigger when a door is opened (or not opened on schedule). The system can use a digital camera to snap a picture, send voice or test messages to home security contractors, or simply dial the owner's cell phone.

The company says My iControl is suited for monitoring kids when parents are away, ensuring the safety of elders, keeping seldom-used vacation homes secure, and tracking visitors to small businesses.

Currently being beta tested in some 50 homes on both coasts, My iControl is due to be sold though major ISPs and home security providers in the second quarter of 2005. A basic system will cost $399, while monitoring services are likely run about $10/month, depending on the services desired.

Lusora's Intelligent Sensory Architecture (LISA), meanwhile, is an even more direct update of the "I've fallen and I can't get up" concept. LISA begins with a "panic button" and accelerometer on a lanyard worn around the neck. The user can squeeze the button or pull the lanyard "rip-cord" to set off alerts, while the accelerometer automatically sounds the alarm when it senses the wearer has fallen down.

Similarly, a digital camera built into a light switch can be programmed to take pictures when the switch is flipped, or not flipped, as usual. These components use low-power ZigBee wireless technology to extend battery life as they communicate with the LISA control box, which is attached to a phone line. The LISA Viewing Platform lets caregivers manage the system over the Web.

According to San Francisco-based Lusora's founder and COO Dan Bauer, the system is currently in a "handful" of beta sites, and will cost about $300 for the hardware and $5 -$25/mo for service. LISA could also be used without service, Bauer said, by setting it to simply phone, email, or text message a designated person. He noted that even with a service that directly notified emergency services, the owner would be copied on any alert messages.

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