Swann Communications will next year launch a subscription surveillance service that will see the home CCTV vendor move beyond security and into the Internet of Things.
The home monitoring service, set for a US launch at the CES expo in January followed by Australia and Europe in February, will provide a single interface connecting IP-enabled surveillance cameras and other sensors made by Swann with home automation products from third parties.
When a camera detects a possible break in or a smoke detector sniffs a fire, the system sends instant smartphone notifications to customers and/or professional security services, who can then take action to call emergency services if needed.
Swann hopes to create a large hardware ecosystem by partnering with third parties that make non-security home automation devices. At launch, these will include Phillips Hue connected light bulbs, the Nest thermostat and Kwikset door locks. Swann itself is also expanding beyond its bread and butter of CCTV systems to manufacture new kinds of security sensors.
The service will be priced at about US$10 per month for a basic residential monitoring service covering up to four homes. Add-on monthly subscriptions include fire alarm monitoring for $3.50 and gunshot detection for $1.50. Swann also plans to sell an enterprise subscription covering up to 30 locations.
Swann saw embracing the Internet of Things as critical to keeping its business relevant in the future, Swann CTO Geoff Wanless said at a Sydney lunch hosted by Zuora, the vendor providing the billing and finance platform underpinning the subscription service.
“If we did not act, someone else would be eating our lunch in two or three years’ time,” said Wanless. “In some ways we were forced to act.”
Rather than merely peddle security equipment, Swann wants to sell “peace of mind” as a service, he said.
The smart home market is an increasingly crowded space with many big names in the mix. Apple announced HomeKit earlier this year as a major new feature of iOS 8. The software adds the ability to control smart light bulbs and a variety of other connected gadgets in the home.
Swann does not see Apple HomeKit as a threat to its own IoT play, said Wanless. Apple is focussed on home automation, while Swann is focussed on security, he said.
“We don’t believe that people will pay on a recurring revenue basis significant amounts of money for turning the lights on and off and on,” he said.
“But they will pay for security. They will pay for monitoring. They will pay for things that are life critical or life threatening.”
Swann will lock down the security side of its service, with its app supporting only Swann hardware, he said. However, the ecosystem will be wide open to unrelated connected home products like lighting and thermostats, he said.
A connected home surveillance system might raise Orwellian concerns about government spying, the CTO acknowledged. However, he claimed that Swann has addressed this issue.
All surveillance video is encrypted, and data is kept onshore in secure data centres located in the customer’s country – an Australian customer’s data will be kept in Australia, he said. This will prevent a foreign country like China from spying, but would not stop a customer’s own government from seeking access to data, if the law supports it.
Swann’s entry into the IoT market is part of a larger business shift to a subscription economy, said Zuora CEO Tien Tzuo.
“Shipping a product is not sufficient anymore,” he said. “The ability to connect all your devices now to the Internet … changes everything.”
“The future really belongs to companies that know how to build relationships to their customers” and “use technology to provide a differentiated service.”
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