In California’s dynamic AV market, it’s no surprise that AV professionals are taking the security of their customers seriously. From the enclaves of Los Angeles and environs to the Los Altos Hills, homeowners are affording themselves of the latest in home security and camera systems.
“We’re seeing increased numbers of high-end customers coming to us directly, whereas in the past it has been through contractors and architects,” says Tommy Bartnick, co-founder and systems designer, Malibu Wired, a Control4 dealer. The company’s market centers around both new and existing homes in the Hollywood Hills, Bel Air, Beverly Hills, and Malibu.
Many customers find the company through its Control4 website, he explains. “Control4 doesn’t offer an alarm, but they integrate, through our module, with our brands, including DSC NEO. We offer everything Control4 has, from a simple video solution up to full blown automation lighting, audio, and networking.”
Bartnick notes increased interest in DIY packages from Nest and Ring (Malibu Wired is a direct Nest dealer). “These systems are nice simple DIY solutions for smaller homes; you get a lot of bang for your buck. We installed a Nest alarm system for the storage area in one of our own three locations. Each of our techs has a key fob for in-and-out access, and the system has a motion activation feature; it’s really good for what it is.”
Alarm systems have been around forever. “My first home came with one as did my previous apartments in L.A., which had them built-in,” he says. “Now we’ve seen both Nest and Ring exhibiting at CEDIA and, for many people, these are great starting points. They can test them out, and if it doesn’t work out, they can then take a look at our DSC NEO alarm systems. What’s attracting more people to security systems is the ability to connect/disarm these systems from their phones.”
Smart home items are now displayed in all the tradeshows, helping to spread the word even more. They’re also very visible in movies and in TV shows. “I’ve seen several episodes of CSI where there’s a touchscreen used in a scene,” Bartnick says. “Many of our security system customers have done some research, but they’re generally open minded about what we specifically advise for their projects, with lighting, audio, and security as the top three priorities they ask us about.”
In cameras, the company prefers hardwired networked camera systems. “The image quality has improved so much; you can get a 1080p for $200 and a 4K for $300 depending on the system,” he adds. “We're not fans of wireless because those can bog down the network. We offer branded networked cameras.
“The best feature I've seen now with cameras is accessibility. Years ago, you had to look at a keyboard and mouse for monitoring. Now it’s all done via an app. So with Control4 you can go to a touchscreen or phone if you hear a bump in the night. Every year, manufacturers find a way to build faster gear at half the size and twice as good. We participate in a lot of tech forums and we keep in touch with other dealers around us to keep up.”
In his perfect scenario, Bartnick notes, he begins a project for new construction at the blueprint stage. “Then I can design a ‘dream system’ and I lay out icons for all the zones. I can add miscellaneous features such as gate control, pool control, and sprinkler system controls. In our showroom, we even have a demo that features an air freshener system for ‘tropical air’ or ‘mountain breeze.’”
ZettaComm, founded by company president Shawnon Parkinson, focuses on the Western Silicon Valley of California, a region rich in tech professionals and large homes located on anywhere from half an acre to a five-acre property. It’s not unusual for a home to be in the 10,000-square-foot range.
"We chose ELAN for many reasons,” he notes. “It’s one of the best automation platforms on the market — it’s easy to operate and install, very intuitive, and powerful. They also offer a full gamut of products under the Nortek umbrella and have their own camera systems. Their support is amazing. It’s like a family; if something goes wrong we can call them up about any of their products.”
The opportunity to place a call apparently extends to competing systems integrators as well. In one ZettaComm project, the homeowner had an existing automation system from another manufacturer and requested an ELAN system instead.
“Their previous AV company was not an ELAN dealer, but was still under contract with the customer, so they called on us,” Parkinson says. “Not too many people have to call in a competitor, but we were happy to go in and work with the other AV company to provide a great experience for the client and a great end product.”
Cameras and More Cameras
With the ELAN camera system there is no need for additional motion detectors, he notes. “The customer can ‘set’ the property line so that events are triggered in the control system when and if someone crosses that line. It can trigger a lighting load for a predetermined amount of time.”
From one camera you can set up multiple intrusion areas, so you can cover both sides of a driveway for example, protecting you if someone jumps the fence and avoids the street intrusion line. The system also has the ability to control PTZ cameras, managed from within the ELAN app. The system is able to differentiate between human and animal intruders.
Facial recognition in security systems is very very new, Bartnick cautions. “Even companies like Apple, which is a trillion dollar company, is having issues with security when it comes to this technology. I would not recommend this to my clients just yet. There are some good options for thumbprint access that are very reliable. Invixium for example."
The latest incarnations of ELAN cameras, shown at CEDIA and currently in beta, include updates with facial recognition, a powerful tool backed up with new touchpanels with AI built in, Parkinson says, “With Nortek’s purchase of an AI company, Intellivision Technologies Corp., customers will be able to purchase hardware and software in one package, not as separate entities. An expected software update is already generating requests from some of our customers and we’re excited about it.”
And the new panels, he adds, are “slick.” “They welcome you home and you can also load and set personal favorites such as music stations, times for turning on the fireplace, and other features.
Blue Pass, also a new product, offers the ability to a use your cell phone for gaining access, eliminating pocket clutter, fobs, or extra access cards.
And, in addition to providing typical security features such as gate control, AV companies are often afforded the opportunity install some “fun” features in projects as well. ZettComm, for example, installed a 20x10 starlight LED optic ceiling in a home theater project, displaying the constellations.
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