Mircom taps into 'connected condo' market

The Canadian company says residents of multifamily residential units want home automation features too
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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

LAS VEGAS—Everyone has heard of the connected home, but what about the connected condo? That’s an untapped market that Mircom, a Toronto-based manufacturer and distributor of intelligent building and life safety solutions, says it is successfully targeting.

Mircom announced at the ISC West show here that it has taken its expertise in providing security, fire and life safety solutions for multiresidential buildings and gone from the lobby into upscale condos and apartments, where it offers residents the latest in home automation services.

“We feel it’s the first of its kind,” said Jason Falbo, Mircom VP of engineering. “No one in the home automation market today is targeting the multifamily buildings.”

Rick Falbo, Mircom VP of marketing and business development, said Mircom has 24 Mircom Engineered Systems offices in Canada, the United States and internationally and is “well recognized for our fire and life safety solutions.”

But at the show, he said, the company introduced something a little different: its TX3 InSuite and its TX3 Community. Those are the latest additions to its TX3 Platform, which “provides a total management, communication and security solution.”

Jason Falbo explained that “the previous generation of the products were focused at the lobby of the building,” providing such services as access control. But InSuite, Falbo said, “allows to get a footprint inside the tenant suites of the building as well, for a total management solution.”

He continued: “It’s a revolutionary home automation platform. Most of our competitors are focused on the single family home market but we’ve leveraged our experience and skill set in the multifamily sector and developed this home automation controller to provide the best in functionality from standard home automation equipment. And, in addition to that, we interface with what were previously stand-alone building solutions.”

For example, Falbo said, “with our controllers, not only can you manage the devices within your own home or condo, things such as door contacts, motion sensors, door locks, thermostats, lighting etc., you can also receive alerts, notifications and emergency notifications from systems such as the fire alarm detection system, the mass notification system, the building automation system and the energy management system.”

Falbo said, “Some of the alerts you might receive …[include] an emergency alert when the fire alarm is active in the building. The benefit of our platform is you can now customize that message that’s going into the user suite based on their particular needs. For example, if English is not the first language of the user in the suite, they can get a translation in their language of choice of the information.”

Also, he told Security Systems News, the message could be customized to contain emergency communications messages, such as telling residents to shelter in place. That is important because when there’s a fire in a high-rise building, it’s sometimes safer to remain in an apartment. That was tragically illustrated earlier this year in New York City, when a man died in smoke-filled hallway trying to escape a blaze that actually didn’t impact his own apartment, 18 floors above the fire.

Energy management is an attractive option for condo and apartment dwellers, even if they’re not paying for their individual utility use, Falbo said.

He said the Mircom offering allows tracking of the “independent energy activity for each suite or condominium, power or electrical usage, over a period of time. This allows tenants to actually see their impact on the footprint of the building.”

For buildings where residents share operating and maintenance costs, Falbo said, such information could allow the building association to say to members, “You’re in the top 5 percent of all energy users in the building; perhaps you can look at turning some lights down.”

Also, he said, buildings can arrange for advertising on the system’s home screen panel. For example, the panel could have an icon for a local taxi service that offers special discounts to building residents if they press that icon and summon a taxi.

Mircom also has an app that provides the same functionality as the touchscreen for that and other services, Falbo said.

Another feature is a “portal” that is “a social network for that micro-community in the building,” Falbo said.

He explained, “Every user in the building receives an account which is also tied to the telephone entry system and the card access system. This account is used to log into the portal and from that portal you can do things [such as ask for tips from neighbors on babysitting or plumbing services] … and make forum posts to discuss relevant building community issues. You can also have FAQs and bulletins boards and documents.”

Falbo said the Mircom offering is “meant for luxury environments but we are receiving a lot of traction in the apartment market.”

He added, “We found that there are a lot of people doing automation for single family homes, but our legacy and our expertise have been in doing high-rise projects over the course of our 20-year history, and we felt that was a market that was requiring some differentiation of that product and customization, and we do a good job with it.”