Saturday, 24 January 2009
Keeping in touch with Home
Recently I have had the opportunity to review and test the premium kit for home security produced by AlertMe.com which is a fresh, modern approach to adding peace of mind to homeowners when they are away from home. I will spare the details of the large set of features offered by the system here since you can read that on their excellent website. I will though make some comments about its performance and the impressions I have formed from trying it out.
First from a technological point of view, it is one of the best, sensible, and innovative designs and implementations of technology I have seen for the home. The use of the ZigBee mesh networking standard provides a simple way to build reliable systems suitable for the huge variation of domestic situations using small (and crucially) low power components. Its use of broadband and GPRS fits with modern (and as ubiquitous as currently possible) networking trends. And its use of a browser interface means that it is platform-agnostic as far as access via a personal computer or other devices. And it is possible for the technically minded to add other facilities using the API (Application Programming Interface) available.
Next about the design. Anyone who has opened an Apple product will know what I mean about the thought that can go into the simplest things like packaging, and not just the product. The AlertMe kit was 'Apple-esque' in both respects. It was a joy to open and explore, and the design of each component of the system is very good. One of the marketing points made is the simplicity of installation and use of the system. This is totally borne out, and I'm convinced that the most technologically inept person could easily be up and running in minutes. The website, including the support forums and online store are also well designed, and in my short experience so far the people in the company are a joy to deal with.
There are many systems available for home security. And increasingly there more and more gadgets advertised aimed at energy efficiency. Home automation systems are still in their infancy, and largely still only suitable for the hobbyist and enthusiast. But in the future, ideally all of these things should be integrated. The biggest plus for me about the AlertMe system is that it has the potential to make this convergence and integration possible. And what is more, the company seems to have the vision to want to enable this. They are soon to launch their energy monitoring service which will use many of the same components as the security service. For example the existing sensors all report temperature, which provides an interesting way to monitor your home's heating patterns. A look at the user forum website shows the range of imaginative ideas for additional types of components that could be added to the system. With many of the security systems available, it is a case of designing it, having it installed, and then living with it. And if you want to, for example, use the same motion sensor for security and automation (perhaps to turn a light on as you enter a room), it can be quite difficult. With the AlertMe approach, the flexibility to add to and modify the behaviour of components and the system as a whole is very good.
People will want to be in touch with home seamlessly and easily in the future. Innovative systems like AlertMe are an excellent step along the road to achieving this.