Alarm Monitoring: Watch This Space
Alarm.com, which is going to be pushing into the Australian alarm monitoring market in a big way over the next couple of years, has released an app that allows Apple Watch wearers to control security from their wrist.
IF you’re a certain age, there’s something very Dick Tracy about smart watches and that applies doubly if you’re talking about using them to control security systems. In a move that confirms the truism that today’s technologies are yesterday’s science fictions, Alarm.com has optioned its Alarm.com App to drive on the Apple Watch.
Wearables are being breathlessly described by tech houses as “the new internet” and while this might be over reaching, it’s still interesting to hear Alarm.com argue that controlling smart homes is one of the most compelling applications for wearable technology. As a generally objective commentator, I find myself agreeing.
It’s not just the on-your-wrist alerts and updates that are appealing. It’s the open nature of Smart Watch ecosystems that opens me up to their potential. What’s so different about Apple Watch from other Apple releases is that it’s been completely opened up to developers. In fact Apple is relying on developers, including Alarm.com, to facilitate swathes of functionality by creating thousands of apps before Apple Watch is released at the end of April.
The idea with Apple Watch is that it stays connected to an iPhone 5 or newer Apple smart phone which provides a roving personal hotspot, allowing Apple Watch to display texts and emails, and to patch through and make and receive phone calls its integrated speaker and microphone. Along with these and other functions, Apple Watch can also act as a remote for connected home security and automation systems.
“Apple Watch and its competitors will play a role in this process not by replacing their host smart phones but by making connected systems more immediately accessible to users”
From a user’s perspective, you drive Apple Watch by tapping, swiping, pressing 2 buttons on its flanks, the larger of which is also a scrolling wheel. Tapping the screen activates the display, while swiping it brings up Glances, which are mini-apps for anything – news, weather, fitness, security. You then tap to the screen to launch the full scale app.
Alarm.com's subscription-based security and smart home service has had an iOS app for ages. This new, Apple Watch-specific extension of that app allows full control of all of your Alarm.com devices and feature functionality using a combination of Apple Glances and a full app.
When it comes to running the Alarm.com app on Apple Watch you'll need to be using an Alarm.com optioned system and there will be a subscription-based service with a number of package tiers available. Depending on option choices, you’ll get control of lights, locks, and garage doors, thermostats and cameras.
According to Alarm.com senior vice president of marketing Jay Kenny, by turning your wrist, the Alarm.com app appears on the screen of the watch, showing the status of your home devices. These status reports allow you to check if doors or gates are locked, check if your system is armed or see if automation features like air conditioning are running. Open the app, and you'll get the full suite of Alarm.com controls, so you can manage and customize each of your compatible devices.
Because the Alarm.com app leverages Apple Watch’s Glances and quick touch features, as well as the form factor of the watch face, instead of having to load an app or scroll through a menu, the Apple Watch notifies the homeowner, shows them what’s going on and lets them engage with their smart home devices faster and with the fewest instances of contact.
The Apple Watch can also leverage Alarm.com’s geofencing feature, which sees Alarm.com home security and automation systems base commands on the location of a user’s GPS-enabled mobile phone. With the new Alarm.com app loaded on the watch, the home control system can respond to the location of the watch using a system of actionable notifications.
This clever piece of tech means a user can receive alerts based on proximity to their house. Apple Watch might vibrate to let them know they left a door unlocked or the curling iron on as they walk away from their home. Then, by tapping the ‘door lock’ on the app display, they can lock the door. Still another tap might bring up a real-time CCTV image captured by a surveillance camera at the front door. The idea is that the system allows users to action remedial system events with one tap on the screen so they don’t have to progress past a Glance to open a full app.
Alarm.com’s geo-fence feature is very sweet and gives some charming functionalities. While the user is wearing their Apple Watch with Alarm.com App, the system is alerted when the user comes within a programmable range of the house at a particular time of day – it might be 1000 metres after 7pm – and it will activate the air conditioning, and turn on external and internal lighting.
With thousands of apps looming, it’s obvious Apple Watch will play a role in bringing vast amounts of information to the attention of wearers, but Kenny believes that the smart home and home security systems scenario is one of the most compelling applications of the wearable.
We talked last issue about how the way users interact with technology will drive the nature of technology. Apple Watch and its competitors will play a role in this process not by replacing their host smart phones but by making connected systems more immediately accessible to users.
The Alarm.com app will be available for download from the Apple Store when the watch is available. Typically Alarm.com systems in the U.S. have a $40-$60 monthly subscription – the figure will probably be towards the upper end of this range in Australia.♦
By John Adams