Vivint launches own panel, own platform in new solution

Vivint Sky not the limit—Vivint’s goal is to ‘control anything and everything’ in the smart home; Vivint beta testing Internet service as well
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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

PROVO, Utah—Vivint today launched Vivint Sky, a new cloud-based smart home solution featuring the company’s own control panel and software. The company anticipates a gradual migration of its more than 800,000 subscribers over to Vivint Sky from the 2GIG Go!Control panel and the Alarm.com software that they currently use.

Vivint Sky––and the wireless Internet service that Vivint is currently offering on a trial basis in Utah—are all part of Vivint’s plan to create its own ecosystem in the smart home.

“Our intention is to control anything and everything inside of the home and small businesses that’s technology related,” Vivint co-founder and CEO Todd Pedersen told Security Systems News.

He noted that other big players in the home security/home automation space, such as ADT, AT&T and Comcast, all have their hardware and/or software provided by partner companies.

Now, with Vivint Sky, Pedersen said, Vivint is “the only one … that actually is building this solution from A to Z.”

Jeff Kessler, managing director of institutional research at Imperial Capital, a New York City-based full-service investment bank, believes that what Vivint is doing is unique. “Vivint is creating what we believe could be a new standard in vertically integrated, subscription-based home automation services, with its own control interface, its own platform, [and] some of its own devices,” Kessler wrote in a recent report on the security industry.

The Vivint Sky launch is for new customers but in the near future Vivint plans to offer an upgrade to its existing customers to move over to the Vivint SkyControl panel with Vivint’s software platform, according to Jeremy Warren, company VP of innovation.

“We hope that all of them see the benefit and make that choice,” Warren said. However, he said, Vivint expects the transition will be gradual, so “we will continue to be close partners with Alarm.com and with 2GIG [by Linear] … for quite a time to come, just to continue to really provide really great service to our existing customers.”

Pedersen and Warren praised 2GIG Technologies--which was bought by Nortek, parent company of Linear, last year—and also Alarm.com, an interactive security services provider.

Pedersen said that Vivint, founded 15 years ago, was part of the 2GIG GO!Control panel design and build. “It’s been very well adopted,” he noted. “There are thousands of security companies using the product … which is kind of cool.”

And of Vivint’s current back-end provider, Alarm.com, Pedersen said, “They’ve got a nice product, it’s a great company and it’s obviously gained a tremendous amount of market traction.”

However, Pedersen and Warren—formerly CTO of 2GIG—said that the vertical integration of smart home technology is better for Vivint and customers. “2GIG is a great company, Alarm.com is a great company, but when you have two separate companies serving lots of customers it waters it down a little bit, dulls the tip of the spear in taking an idea that will really work for these customers,” Warren said.

So now Vivint has built the SkyControl panel, which Pedersen described as “a brand new, from scratch panel that we think is beautiful.”

And Vivint also created its own software platform. “Our view was we’re the one who creates the customer, we’re the one who does the install, we’re the one that does the service calls, we take the monitoring calls and all the customer care calls and everything else—who better to build the back end technology platform than Vivint, who [now] also builds the hardware?” Pedersen said.

The result is the Vivint Sky solution, which the company says “takes the home to the next level of intelligence” with cloud technology and smart learning capabilities.

The solution provides many familiar smart home features: customers can control lights, thermostat and door locks, as well as monitor a high-definition video feed from a smartphone, laptop or tablet, the company said. However, it said one of the things that makes Vivint Sky stand out “is the Vivint SkyControl panel, which features proprietary cloud technology that learns from homeowners’ behaviors and makes intelligent suggestions to add new levels of convenience and control over the home.”

For example, the system’s automatic HVAC control learns homeowners’ daily behavior patterns to make guided decisions to help increase the home’s energy efficiency.

Also, the company said, the new panel “communicates with Vivint’s connected home automation products, such as door and window sensors, motion detectors, small appliance modules and more. SkyControl collects the data from the sensors, communicates it to the cloud, and the cloud interprets the data and sends back helpful suggestions. These suggestions are then presented in a conversational, helpful tone to fit seamlessly into homeowners’ daily lives and help protect and monitor the home.”

Pedersen gave an example of how the new panel, installed in his own home, sent his wife a text message one evening that said, “It looks like you left your front door open.”

“We didn’t know it,” Pedersen said. “It was 9:30 at night and sure enough, my daughter goes to the front door and sure enough it was open, so she shuts it.”

He said he set up no rule for the system to send him that message; it figured it out on its own.

“I’m telling you, this thing learns what’s happening,” Pedersen said. “Because we were home, it didn’t ask to arm the system; we’re moving around the home and the sensors knew. … I’ve got five kids, the air conditioner is on, and it said the front door was open and it was.”

He continued, “It’s incredible. Whose system does that? Nobody’s system does that and that’s just a very small little piece of where this thing is going and what we built this thing to do.”

Warren also pointed out that the system didn’t send some obscure message devised by a computer geek—as other systems do—such as “Sensor open, delay notification, front door.”

That’s because the key goal of the Vivint system is to simplify a customer’s life, Warren and Pedersen explained.

“It doesn’t require you to be thinking about it; it streamlines your life,” Warren said. “It personalizes what’s actually happening in your home right now with the occupants of the home, your patterns of what’s normal and what’s abnormal. That’s where this industry needs to go and we’re taking a big leap in that direction with Vivint Sky and it’s a platform for us to continue to innovate further in that direction.”

Among other standout features of the new system is its instant response, in which commands are carried out in a few seconds. Unlike other systems, Pedersen said, “there’s no latency.”

Among other features Vivint plans to add down the road is voice control, Warren said. “Voice control is definitely on our roadmap,” he said. “… When you’re inside your home, I think there’s a lot of value that comes from being able to speak to control the system.”

Vivint is offering four Vivint Sky packages that range in cost from $53.99 to $69.99 per month. Activation for the packages begins at $99, the company said.

The SkyControl panel will remain proprietary with Vivint and won’t be sold to other companies, Pedersen said. One reason, he said, is that Vivint in the future plans to integrate other services—residential solar could be one—that other companies aren’t interested in and so wouldn’t want to pay for.

Vivint in 2011 launched Vivint Solar, which has since then become the second largest residential solar installer in the nation.

Imperial Capital’s Kessler also wrote in his report about “another move by Vivint into providing high speed Internet service as both a stand-alone and as a backbone to its home service platform.”

Vivint’s trial offering is small, involving only 1,200 customers. But the 50 megabits-a-second for $55 a month service is “incredibly fast,” Pedersen told SSN, and the service looks “incredibly promising.”

He said the trial actually began about two years ago and that the company is taking its time to fully explore the option of offering the Internet service. However, he added, “we absolutely intend to have that, among other things, integrated into the panel and more importantly, the Sky cloud service.”

Pedersen added, “At some point in time,” Vivint could be “a pretty large wireless Internet provider in the U.S., compared to the market.”