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Vivint Upgrades Security/Home-Automation System

Provo, Utah — Direct-to-consumer supplier Vivint launched its next-generation security and home-automation service, which offers multiple new features based on its own Cloud-based platform to work with the hardware that it designs and engineers.

The service, called Vivint Sky, is not only available direct to consumers but through kiosks that Vivint set up late last year in a handful of cellular stores to test retail distribution.

Vivint CEO and founder Todd Pedersen said the company has no set timetable to expand retail distribution. The test is designed “mainly to learn” about retail distribution, he said.

“Selling [monitored] security has not traditionally worked great at retail, but with the integration of more [home-automation] services, it [retail] could be quite successful,” he said.

The company, which previously used’s Cloud platform, paired its new proprietary Cloud-based platform with a new on-wall control panel to deliver upgraded service, which stars in TV commercials also launching today.

By developing its own Cloud platform and its own hardware, Pedersen said, Vivint added new service features, improved ease of use, and incorporated learning capabilities to move home automation “beyond 1 percent adoption.”

The new service, for example, detects recurring household behavior patterns, such as whether someone leaves the house for work at a particular time in the morning. If the system detects no motion in the house for five minutes after the front door is closed, for example, it will notify the user’s smartphone that a door has been left unlocked and ask for permission to remotely lock the door and put the thermostat in economy mode. After a few weeks of detecting a similar lifestyle pattern, Vivint will automatically lock doors and put the thermostat into economy mode.

Like before, Vivint offers an on-wall control panel with LCD touchscreen; Z-Wave for wireless control of door locks, switched outlets and thermostats; Wi-Fi to connect to Wi-Fi surveillance cameras; and 345MHz wireless to connect to fire and smoke detectors and sensors such as motion and door- and window sensors. Wi-Fi enables wireless access to the Internet for remote monitoring by Vivint’s central station and remote monitoring and control by a user’s smartphone or computer. Built-in cellular is included as a backup in case a Wi-Fi network goes down.

The panel incorporates a speakerphone to enable the central station to contact homeowners in a potential emergency. The speakerphone connects to the central station via Wi-Fi or cellular. If no one answers the panel, Vivint contacts multiple phone numbers, then contacts police if no one can be reached. Vivint also listens into the home to detect whether a fire or burglary is in progress.

New features and services of Vivint Sky service and hardware include a 7-inch capacitive touchscreen instead of a 4.3-inch resistive touchscreen to “make it easy to use like a smartphone,” said innovation VP Jeremy Warren.

Its screen will be less busy, will display only relevant information, and use conversational onscreen prompts rather than icons to guide users in controlling and monitoring their home, he said.

The new panel will also display live system-status updates automatically rather than requiring users to hit a refresh button. And the screen will display not only live security-camera video but also video clips recorded when, for example, a door or window opens or motion is detected. The panel comes with 4GB of embedded memory to store video but can be equipped with an optional 1TB hard drive to store 120 days of 24/7 video from one camera or a month of video from four cameras. 

Previously, live and recorded camera video could be displayed only on the company’s smartphone apps and through web browsers.

In other changes, the system will send confirmation within two to three seconds that a command sent from a smartphone or PC has been executed. Previously, users had to manually check system status to determine whether a command was executed.

In addition, the company’s Android and iOS apps will have the same UI as the control panel.

The new panel adds a built-in Wi-Fi router so that users can set up security cameras from the panel’s touchscreen. By operating on its own Wi-Fi network with its own firewall, security is improved, the company said.

The panel also offers improved Z-Wave range, and its emergency button and cellular technology lets homeowners engage in two-way voice communication with emergency dispatch professionals.

Other upgrades to the Vivint app include multiple system control, enabling users to log into one account and switch among multiple systems with one swipe.

The app also makes shared-entry access easier. Users give friends and family access to their home by entering the phone number or email address of the friend or family member into the Vivint Sky app.

Vivint generates 25 percent of its sales volume from consumers responding to TV and radio ads and to its online presence. The remainder comes from an army of Vivint-trained direct sellers. Systems are installed by Vivint installers.

More than 800,000 systems have been installed in homes, and the company generated more than $500 million in revenues in the last year, excluding sales of solar panels, with recurring revenue up 28 percent in 2013, Pederson said.

The company charges $99 to $199 to install and activate its systems, including hardware, and it charges monthly fees of $53 to $69 depending on the level of service. Security monitoring is included in the pricing. Service contracts run from 42 to 60 months with service prices locked in during that time.

In contrast, cable operators charge higher installation/hardware prices coupled with lower service fees, Pedersen said.

The on-wall control panel gets power through a low-voltage line run inside the wall back to a wall-wart that is plugged into an electrical outlet. If a security system had been installed previously in the home, the panel will connect to the old panel’s low-voltage wires.

In 2012, Blackstone acquired Vivint for more than $2 billion.