Why your alarm company may not be an automation company

 In Alarm Systems, Audio, Automation, Video

For the above statement, we need first to establish what automation is. An automation system allows for various independent systems to be integrated into one platform. This platform will then allow for the user to send commands to their security, multimedia, lighting, appliances and more. The obvious convenience for automation stems from the central user interface without the need to switch apps or even controllers. For the title to be accurate, though, there must be different degrees of automation. There are indeed varying levels of home or business automation, and we will get into further detail in this post.

Automation options

When thinking about automation, the first thought immediately goes to Sci-Fi movies. Glass touch screens, or holographic displays, as well as voice commands. When deciding on automation systems, the important factor is the question of whether you want your multimedia, such as home audio or TV’s centrally controlled. If the answer is no, then the options are wide open. In that scenario, all that will be controlled will be the lighting, security, cameras, etc.  If the answer, however, is yes, then the choices are significantly limited to the higher-end automation systems, as those are the only ones to tie multimedia into the equation. Lower-end automation systems come in a variety of shapes, such as the Logitech Harmony Remote or home alarm systems, which brings us to our exact point.

Home Alarm Systems as Automation Controllers

With the rise of a technology called Z-Wave, an array of devices was built that will support the technology and will tie into controllers. These chips are available embedded within alarm systems, the Logitech Harmony Hubs and many more “home controllers.” The crucial thing to know about Z-Wave is that it is a wireless technology that forms mesh networks. Think of mesh networks as a spider web that connects to multiple devices, always allowing for a communication path should one device malfunction. The maximum range of a Z-Wave chip is 90ft, though, in practical applications, the range is only about 30ft if you’re lucky.

Now that alarm systems support Z-Wave control, most alarm system integrators jumped onto the bandwagon and called themselves automation companies. The Z-Wave devices are however significantly restricted in functionality, range, and reliability, not to mention that an alarm system doesn’t have much spare processing power for automation control. With Z-Wave, signals are sent one after another, which means turning two lights on at the same time can take a while if one of the light switches happens not to respond right away. Regarding range, Z-Wave can be significantly impaired by metal objects. On top of that, manufacturers expect devices to be read into the system at a 6ft distance, which is often impossible with light switches. The 6ft rule alone already shows the significant impairment of communication range.

So, why are alarm companies not necessarily an automation company

Z-wave is a technology that allows for some tinkering with what an automation system could be like. The Z-Wave products oftentimes have low-security ratings, such as the Kwikset locks which are amongst the easiest locks to be picked on the market. On top of that, the mesh network can make for a very laggy response to commands and the range restriction can cause devices not to respond at all. Those are some very significant drawbacks to the “ultimate home control.” The largest setback, however, is that these controllers are not compatible with advanced voice assistants or multimedia integration.

While most alarm companies can help you turn on a few lights, view a couple of cameras and change your thermostat settings remotely, it should not be called automation. Automation is the definition of a home or business that can be controlled from a single interface, allowing for most building controls and entertainment to be manipulated at the touch of a button. A full automation provider, such as ourselves will allow for entire systems to be integrated, such as Lutron’s Caseta. Turning on a light switch will not gum up the network and not allow you to change your thermostat until the light has fully turned on.

What should an automation provider be able to bring to the table?

As mentioned above the multimedia automation portion is possibly the easiest way to find out. While some providersscreenshot of the ELAN automation app may have access to companies such as Russound or Nuvo, these units will be controlled from a separate app or screen then everything else. The intention of an actual automation system is the centralized control from a single screen. A real automation provider should offer a system that can integrate security, multimedia, lighting, irrigation, HVAC into the SAME interface. If they cannot provide such a solution, then ultimately they are a vendor of independent systems that do not provide full automation. Most automation systems now also allow for integration with the Amazon Echo, to enable full voice commands over the automation system. Instead of a few pre-selected manufacturer programmed commands, as most alarm systems have, these commands can now be complex and application specific, triggering different options at different times.

We at Authorized Security partnered with ELAN Home Systems, a manufacturer of state of the art automation systems. ELAN’s controllers allow for management of security, multimedia, lighting, irrigation, HVAC, pools, spas and more, through their easy to use g! interface. ELAN offers controllers for whole home audio and full control over home cinema setups, with driver availability for almost any manufacturer. On top of that, we can provide TV’s, speakers, seating, furniture, hardware enclosures and more to complete the automated home or business experience. Ultimately, an automation provider may only be the provider of the heart and soul of the system, such as the controller itself. Or they may be able to provide almost any aspect of the system, from the security panel to the TV’s to even the lighting automation system, which we can. The important factor to note simply is that home automation is a lot more than just turning lights on and off from a laggy interface or from a smartphone. It should make life easier and not cause more grief, as some of those lower end solutions may do.


Automation for any building is amazing. It helps with the management of resources, such as heating and lighting, while also making a meeting, or the evening movie easier. Automation systems are fully integrated solutions, and should not be mistaken for simple light switches that can be radio-activated. We at Authorized Security are a full automation company. We can provide the sub-systems, as well as the central controllers for a full automation setup. We can help you through the project from the initial planning, wiring, device installation and finally the completion of programming. We do not subcontract our programming to a separate provider, and will be your go to support, should any issues arise down the road. We pride ourselves on our customer service and the products we provide. Interested in an automation solution? Call us at 1 (844) 230-2730 or email at [email protected]

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