Subscribe to RSS - Apple


Apple Watch SOS and mPERS: Apples and oranges?

PERS execs compare features, assess competition

YARMOUTH, Maine—On first inspection, the Apple Watch’s newly announced ‘SOS’ feature may seem similar to an mPERS device, but PERS experts who spoke to Security Systems News said comparing an Apple Watch with an mPERS device is like comparing apples and oranges.

Industry reacts to Apple, other possible PERS threats

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

In last week’s Monitoring Matters blog, I discussed the Apple Watch’s new SOS feature, and its similarities and differences between PERS functions. A few security professionals took me up on the opportunity to respond.

Daniel Oppenheim, VP of Affiliated Monitoring, said that the heightened consumer awareness of personal emergency features could grow the market, instead of cannibalize it, and that the demographics are different. “I think the Apple Watch, specifically, is for a more mobile, more active, more tech-savvy person who would not yet be an mPERS or PERS customer.” Affiliated hosted a PERS-focused conference in May.

He pointed to Amazon, and its Echo product, as another possible entrant. “In its current iteration, the Amazon Echo is not competition, but it is a harbinger of things to come, which is the realization that consumer products now have the ability to replicate or even improve on the current technology offerings of our industry.”

Oppenheim said that neither are large concerns, but something the industry should keep an eye on. “I don’t view either [Amazon Echo’s virtual assistant] Alexa or the Apple Watch as a near-term threat to the PERS industry—I think it’s something that we need to be focused on.”

Brock Winzeler, GM of mPERS manufacturer Freeus, didn’t see much threat in the announced Apple SOS feature. “I don’t think the impact would be significant,” he said. “The reason is: It is very, very difficult to replace the services that we offer. … Our devices call a monitoring center that is specifically built to handle PERS phone calls and PERS emergencies.” 

Oppenheim shared a similar sentiment on the value of a monitoring center. “That crucial decision making process, by which an operator can have a conversation and identify whether or not help is needed—and stay on the line with the customer as help is on its way, for those that do need it—I do not see that being replaced by technology.”

Speaking more generally on voice interaction, Oppenheim said that the technology could become more prevalent in the future. “It seems complex now, but in a short period of time, the concept of voice interaction with a virtual assistant will become commonplace.”

Winzeler also said there is a technology barrier for the traditional PERS demographics. “I think you’ll have a really tough time getting the senior demographic to adopt this type of technology. I think it’s just a little more challenging.”

Rich Darling, CEO of Instant Care, an OEM PERS manufacturer, also said that PERS and Apple Watch feature differ due to their target users' abilities. “It is our belief that the Apple watch is a fantastic device for the tech savvy user. However, as a … PERS OEM we have found that the most successful products targeting the PERS market are designed to require very little from the user, and perform as required when the need arises.”

Will Apple take bite out of the PERS market?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Apple recently announced a new ‘SOS’ feature coming to the Apple Watch—similar to a PERS device.

If an Apple Watch user holds down the device’s side button, emergency services local to that user’s location will be notified, as well as emergency contacts.

I spoke with former Numera CEO, current Group VP of the Nortek Innovations & Incubation Foundry, about how the Nortek offerings compare to the announced features of the Apple Watch SOS. He said one particular differentiator for Nortek is "the advanced fall detection capabilities. In order to have highly reliable fall detection, you need to have something around your torso."

Smokoff noted the difference in battery life. The Apple Watch lasts about 18 hours and the Libris mPERS device lasts “about 2-and-a-half days on average,” he said.

There is a gap in price between the Apple Watch, which needs an iPhone to work, and the Libris mPERS device which stands alone and costs less than the Apple Watch by itself.

While I’ve heard of new and emerging markets for personal emergency devices—such as hikers, lone workers or for college campus safety—many of the PERS and mPERS companies I’ve spoken with point to the aging-in-place market as the market’s main demographic.

It seems to me that there are several reasons why the Apple Watch SOS feature wouldn’t break into the aging-in-place market. Firstly, both the Apple Watch and the user’s iPhone need to be charged and both devices need to be near each other.

Second, older PERS or mPERS users may not be as comfortable with technology and, therefore, less likely to own and operate an iPhone in conjunction with an Apple Watch.

Should people take notice of Apple’s entrance in the market? Will Apple take customers away from dealers in the PERS and mPERS space? If you have any thoughts, feel free to email me:

Smart home wars heating up

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Just as we have seen with the smart phone revolution, the battle for the smart home looks like it will be just as hotly contested, as there is no denying that consumers today are embracing the smart home concept. 

Studies are popping up weekly confirming that demand is increasing for smart home products and services as homeowners learn more about smart home and home automation technology available today.

The latest research, from market research firm Berg Insight out of Gothenburg, Sweden, shows that North America is leading the global smart home market with 12.7 million smart homes in 2015, a 56 percent year-on-year growth. According to the research, the strong market growth is expected to last for years to come, driving the number of smart homes in North America to 46.2 million by 2020, which corresponds to 35 percent of all households.

The study found that the most successful products in the smart home market include smart thermostats, security systems, smart lighting, network cameras, and multi-room audio systems.

“There is no doubt that regular consumers in the future will own and operate a wide range of connected objects in their homes, from connected home appliances and luminaires to thermostats and security devices,” said Johan Svanberg, senior analyst, Berg Insight. “Attractive use cases, interoperable devices, and well-implemented user interfaces are needed in order to accelerate the market.”

Although Amazon Echo’s Alexa is leading the smart home charge right now, Apple is making a serious play with its announcement at its Worldwide Developers Conference last week of its new app called Home, which will be a hub on the iPhone for all the connected devices in the home. The app is the logical next step for Apple’s HomeKit platform, and both work with Siri, who is getting some improvements and upgrades as well.

Apple also announced that it is working with homebuilders—Brookfield Residential, Lennar and KB Home—to build homes later this year that come with built-in Apple HomeKit infrastructure.

Other major players in this battle for the voice-driven smart home include Microsoft with its Cortana voice platform, and Google Home’s Assistant, which was announced in May. Rumors abound that both Microsoft and Google, like Apple, are gearing up for a serious play for a piece of the smart home market. 

Apple’s brand equity with consumers, though, shouldn’t be ignored, as it is not a big leap to think that consumers would be willing to take the plunge into the smart home market with Apple, a company they know will be able to provide a complete, somewhat air-tight system from the ground up, so to speak.

One negative for Apple is its seemingly late entry into the smart home space, where many early adopters are already using many smart home products that will not work with Apple’s HomeKit platform, which requires using a special encryption chip. Some HomeKit-certified products are currently available from companies like Honeywell, August and Phillips Hue, and Apple said that there are close to 100 more compatible products coming this year.

Stay tuned, because things are starting to get interesting in the smart home space.

Lowe’s Iris thriving two years after launch

The home improvement retailer also is testing an installation option for customers who need assistance with the DIY smart home product

MOOREVILLE, N.C.—In the two years since Lowe’s launched Iris, the new do-it-yourself home automation/home security product is doing so well it’s offered in Lowe’s stores nationwide and the company is trialing an installation option for customers who need extra help.

Another tech giant making a $200m move into the connected home?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

I’ve written recently about Google’s $3.2 billion buy of smart thermostat and smoke alarm maker Nest Labs, and then Nest’s $555 million plan to buy Dropcam, which makes video cameras that stream video to a user’s computer or cellphone. Also, Apple in June introduced HomeKit, its new home automation/home security framework.

Now, Samsung also may be making a home automation push with a $200 million buy of startup SmartThings, according to news reports.

The potential deal was first reported in TechCrunch.

Forbes says that SmartThings is based in Washington, D.C. and “sells $100 hardware hubs and provides a cloud platform to make the hundreds of smart gadgets out on the market talk to each other in one unified app.”

Forbes notes that Samsung “already has many connected home appliances on the market.” However, Forbes says SmartThings could enhance those.

“What the SmartThings technology could do is better connect its appliances to other third-party devices onto one central platform. This is what Apple looks to be aiming to do with its HomeKit and what Nest may one day achieve after opening up its API program to allow other devices to talk to its growing family of smart gadgets.”

SmartThings, founded in 2012, has “tens of thousands” of SmartThings systems currently installed in U.S. households, Forbes said.


The iBridge Connected Home product now available for Apple, Google platforms.


AMITYVILLE, N.Y.—NAPCO Security Technologies announced June 30 that in order to provide customers with seamless integration of its products, iBridge Connected Home is now available for both Apple and Google platforms.

Honeywell’s Harkins transitions to new role

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Honeywell’s Scott Harkins is transitioning to a new role.

Honeywell spokeman David Gottlieb today confirmed that “Scott Harkins has accepted a new role within Honeywell to help develop global growth opportunities within the Connected Home space. He will leave his current post as president of Honeywell Security Products Americas by the end of June.”  

Honeywell Security Group has not yet announced a successor to Harkins. “Honeywell Security Group has a strong leadership team in place committed to delivering for our customers and ensuring a smooth transition while we execute our succession plan. We will share news regarding our new leadership as soon as we finalize this process,” Gottlieb said in a prepared statement.

Harkins joined Honeywell in 1995. Before he was named president of HSPA in December 2011, he oversaw Honeywell’s video surveillance and access control divisions.

I don't know if Harkins' new role will include working with Honeywell's Lyric thermostat, which it launched yesterday. There's been much in the mainstream news today about Honeywell partnering with Apple to "take on" Google's NEST. (Some of these guys do seem to forget that Honeywell HAS been in the thermostat business for a few years.)

Here's a report from Apple Insider And here's a report from Bloomberg, which goes on to talk about the connected home. 




Apple's new HomeKit connects home appliances


SAN FRANCISCO—Apple introduced HomeKit, its new home automation/home security framework, at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, held here this week.

Google’s Dropcam security push and Apple’s smart home “big play”—should security companies be worried?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Recent news reports say that Google may buy startup Dropcam, which makes video cameras that stream video to a user’s computer or cellphone, as a way to get into home security. And The Financial Times has reported that Apple is soon expected to make a “big play” into the smart home, launching a new software platform that will allow users to control security systems and home features such as lights directly from their iPhones.

Should security companies be worried? Not really, according to a report today from Imperial Capital, a New York-based full-service investment bank.

If the Dropcam report turns out to be true, it would mean Google is adding a security component on the heels of its entrance into home automation with its recent $3.2 billion purchase of Nest Labs, maker of smart thermostats and smoke alarms.

But the report, authored by Jeff Kessler, Imperial Capital’s managing director of institutional research, said it doesn’t believe the Dropcam purchase would have a negative impact on security companies or other pure play home automation companies, like Control4.

The reason, it says, is that “security companies generally are not participants in the do-it-yourself (DIY) market and do not target particular groups that may be interested in such products (e.g., college students, young professionals living in high rises).” Also, the report said, although “Dropcam could be a good entry product for those that do not understand or are not familiar with security products, it does not replace the security, home automation, and customer service capabilities which the likes of ADT or Control4 provide, and nor do we believe that it wants to.”

What about the potential Apple smart home/security play?

The report says: “We wonder if Apple will open up its “big play” to allow a broad base of installers, service, and responders to interact with it, or will it be another closed end system, in which the homeowner, or more likely the apartment owner, can check on what is going on at home on an Apple iPhone, and then have the responsibility of “making the call” to police or health responders based on what they have just seen on the iPhone. Another uncertainty is if the police would trust this system, or would law enforcement be more likely to respond to a more familiar source that has verified the same incident.”

The report summarized by saying that while the new developments are exciting and will be particularly attractive to those who don’t own homes, the lack of professional monitoring is a drawback.

“Remember, these monitoring stations (to be accredited) have to show that their average time to make a decision to dispatch or not to dispatch is less that 30-35 seconds, have tremendous redundancy, and can typically be trusted. We simply do not believe that Apple users will get that service.”

In fact, the report says that these DIY products could indirectly help professional security companies by introducing a younger generation to the idea of home security/home automation, which could lead those customers to “potentially switch to a larger, more powerful, and more comprehensive platform in the out years.”, a leading provider of interactive security services, also weighed in to me on the new developments involving Google and Apple.

That Vienna, Va.-based company stressed that security is the backbone of the smart home and noted that professional monitoring is a key differentiator, but said security companies need to make sure homeowners know that.

"The key purchase driver for home automation is security.  We see this in both consumer surveys and purchasing trends," said, in a statement.

Also, said, the announcements "validate the popularity of a growing range of connected devices and services. Security dealers should tap into this underlying consumer demand by aggressively marketing and selling a complete range of connected home technologies with professionally monitored security at its core."