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Total Connect 2.0 Navigation OrderAlarmNet has given its Total Connect 2.0 app a much needed update. While the iPhone and Android apps remain largely untouched, the new enhancements give access to the robust functionality of the Total Connect website to both iPad and iPad mini device users. The experience is now more uniformed across the platforms, giving iPad users the ability to do many of the things they were never able to do from the old app: configure the system, make adjustments to Honeywell's cameras, create custom scenes, setupz-wave device behaviors and more.

In addition to these improvements in functionality, Honeywell has given all the apps, including Total Connect for the iPhone, some cosmetic upgrades as well. This enhanced user experience allows the app to take advantage of the phone's landscape rotation capabilities, and Total Connect cameras will be given signal strength indicators so that you can understand the fidelity of their connection to the modem - information that is critical for anyone who wants to make sure that their security system is performing optimally.

The update hasn't been released in iTunes quite yet, but will be getting released within the next few days. If you are one of Alarm Grid's many Total Connect users, be sure to download the app so that you can take advantage of all of its new features.

Total Connect Logo

For those of you who are not using Total Connect, but are wondering what it's all about and whether it's right for you, feel free to use our demo account. The interactive services that Total Connect make available, will allow an user to receive text and email alerts, as well as take control of the security system as a whole. Any of Alarm Grid's monitoring packages that include "interactive services," come with Total Connect.

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Just a little while back, we wrote about how Honeywell had introduced the new Honeywell 6162 and 6152 keypads. These new wired keypads have some awesome new features that make programming a little less confusing, and a little more "GUI" (graphical user interface) based. Honeywell is calling the new programming interface VIP and it is only available to users with VIP compatible keypads if their alarm system has the newest 9.18 PROM chips on their Vista 20P and VISTA 15P circuit boards. Honeywell is shipping the new V20P/V15P panels that have the 9.18 chips already installed for those that are purchasing new systems. However, if you are interested in upgrading an existing system to support the VIP programming, you don't need to purchase an entire new system. We offer a standalone VISTA-20P PROM chip and a standalone VISTA-15P PROM chip that you can use to to upgrade the panel without needing to reprogram any settings. Until this week, we were distributing the older 9.12 prom chips that supported Total Connect 2.0 as Honeywell had not released the standalone 9.18 chips. We are happy to announce that as of this week, we do have the new 9.18 PROMs.

While having an updated, state-of-the-art panel is what everyone wants, getting the 9.18 PROM chip is not necessary for everyone. First, check the revision of your system. Then, here are a few things to consider before you jump in and get the new chip set:

What is different about the new revision?

The only difference so far as we have been told between the 9.12 PROM and the 9.18 PROM is the ability to use VIP programming. So before you jump into a new revision, decide whether the VIP programming is something you want. If you have an old 6160 keypad, the answer is simple. You can't do VIP programming. On the other hand, if you have a 6162 keypad, the VIP programming is something you can definitely make use of if you have the right PROM.

Do I need the 9.18 PROM to use Total Connect 2.0?

Nope! The new 9.18 PROMs do support Total Connect 2.0 service, but any system with at least a 9.12 PROM will support Total Connect 2.0 as well. The 9.18 chips won't give you any added Total Connect features as of yet. We'll let you know if that changes.

Will the old communicators work with the new revision?

Honeywell hasn't made any changes to their communicators. So the 15P and 20P communicators that worked for 9.12 panels will continue to work for 9.18 revision panels: GSMV4G, GSMX4G, 7847i, and iGSMV4G

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I'm not into saying "never", so I won't say that Alarm Grid will never make its own security system. But we get a significant number of people asking why we don't do it now, so I've had a lot of practice answering this question. While it might be in the cards someday, let me explain our thinking on why we have made the decision to sell other company's security systems rather than make our own. Our decision is, I hope you will see, consumer-centric. We think that it is better for you, and after you read this, I am certain you'll agree.

1) Creating a better security system than already exists would be really really really expensive...

Modern security systems have hours and hours and hours and hours of R&D. Hardware requires some incredible expertise, and the best hardware designers do not work at Alarm Grid. In fact, those engineers capable of making amazing systems are at places like General Electric and Honeywell. 2Gig is a lab full of former Honeywell-ers, and there are a few other companies that are full of pretty capable hardware creators.

Creating a security system that is better than any of these companies is going to be nearly impossible. There are options available to us. We could, for example, go to a wholesale site like alibaba.com and source foreign-made security systems, slap our sticker on them, and ship them to you. But whatever the case, there is one thing I can be sure of in a world where we go that route: our security system will be inferior to the high quality Honeywell security systems we sell now.

A lot of the systems that are "made" by other companies lack many of the basic features that Honeywell builds into their most popular system, the Honeywell LYNX such as APL (colloquially known as smash & crash), baby-sitter codes, or a graphical user interface that is simple to use and program. Honeywell and these other companies that make big systems have poured many millions of dollars into their R&D. Are their systems perfect? Not by a long shot. But they are very good.

If we ever put our name on a security system, if we are going to willingly call something a product that we created, we are only going to do it because the quality of the system is so incredibly high and the features included in the system are so surprisingly many. Until then, you can expect a store full of Honeywell security systems (and eventually other brands will make it into our catalog as well).

2) Generally companies that make their own security systems are doing it to give the impression of being the good guys... but they aren't...

There are a lot of companies out there that have decided to go the make-their-own-security-system route. They pitch them as more affordable than the alternatives, and many of them have positioned their company as the security company that is responding to the evils of deceptive contracts and pushy sales.

While these companies may provide no-contract alarm monitoring, much like we do, the fact that they have a proprietary system effectively guarantees that their customers don't leave. Unhappy with your system or service after 5 or 6 months? Too bad. If you want to secure your home with someone else's service after you've purchased their equipment, you're going to have to shell out money for an entirely new security system. So while you don't have to pay to terminate a contract early, the price of leaving their company is going to be between $200 and $500 (more if your house is very large). That's about what it would cost to terminate a contract early. So... what's the difference?

3) We View Ourselves Fundamentally as Service Providers

Alarm Grid isn't a hardware manufacturer. We just aren't.

We know a lot about the products we sell. If you check out our reviews.

You will see that people think that we are more knowledgeable than any other company with regard to our featured product lines. What we have built this company on is the desire to make sure that our customers get the best service they can. We don't think that the gap in the industry is on the hardware side. There are a lot of really competent hardware manufacturers. But all you need to do is look at the public facing twitter feeds or read a few reviews of some of the nations biggest alarm companies to see that there is a huge gap on the service side.

We see it a lot when our technicians answer phone calls. Customers call after having left a company that tied them into a long-term contract, pushed them into getting services they didn't need, and they are suspicious of us when they call. We are able to restore their faith in humanity by being kind and answering their question with no pretense.

Focusing on doing things outside of our core competency - such as trying to build a team to put together a hardware system - would require us to sacrifice the human side of our business which is what we're more interested in the first place.

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We hear from apartment renters pretty often wondering if a security system is right for them. One of our goals has been to make sure that anybody and everybody has access to state-of-the-art security, and it's no different for apartment dwellers.

We know that just because you don't own the place where you're living, it doesn't mean that you don't want to protect your property. Thieves don't care whether you own the house or rent it. That's why we've made it simple to setup your system and even simpler to pick it up and move it if you leave your home.

Setting up an apartment security system is easy. So take a look below, we'll explain exactly how we would go about it.

L5100

1) Pick the right system: Honeywell's L5100 panel is the best option for any renter looking for a beautiful, but affordable way to get big-home security. The Honeywell Lynx comes with an energy efficient touch screen, and a 95 db speaker built right into the unit. With the help of our Youtube videos, you can figure out how to use almost every single function of the unit with relative ease.

2) Don't wreck the walls: The L5100 is wireless, except for its need for power. While most security systems are mounted on the wall, no one says you have to be conventional. And, since the wall is owned by your landlord, we would hate to have to lose your security deposit because you punched a hole near the door for a security system. So with the help of an LT Cable and a handy dandy desk mount, you don't have to run wire behind the drywall, and the system will look great just sitting on top of your counter.

3) Wireless means no wires, and sticky tape means no holes: Since this system's wireless, you won't have to go into any attics and pull up wire. All you need to do is teach the system about all the different sensors you've installed in your apartment. You do that by typing in the serial number of your various sensors.

3) Even the communication is wireless: The L5100 can connect to the central station using either the phone line, WIFI, an ethernet cord, or over the cell network. While using the phone line or running an ethernet cord will require some wire, using wifi or cellular (GSM) means that you can have the system sit on a counter top, monitor your wireless sensors, and have nothing more than a power wire running from the system to an outlet. The WIFI communication path is the most commonly used pathway by Alarm Grid customers, but the GSM pathway is a little bit more secure (although it costs $10/month more to be monitored over cellular). All you have to do is decide how you want to be monitored. For WIFI, use the L5100-WIFI; for GSM use the GSMVLP5-4G. Installation is as easy as 1-2-3.

Below is the L5100-WIFI Installation Video


Below is the GSMVLP5-4G Installation Video


5) Home automation is for everyone: This system can be equipped with a Z-Wave module. What that means is that even renters can get creative with home automation. Whether you install Honeywell's ZWStat, or use the Leviton's z-wave plug-in outlet so that you can control the lights in your home.

Below is the L5100-ZWave Installation Video

This system will allow any apartment owner to pick up and go when they are ready to leave their home. And the sensors can go too. Whether you move into another apartment or you end up buying a home of your own, this system really is the most modern security system on the market.

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Unfortunately, the President of Alarm Grid, Sterling Donnelly, has decided that tonight is the night to test out his new herd of flying reindeer. As you can imagine, flying reindeer through the air is a bit hazardous in this age of aviation. Because we don't want him getting hurt, all of us have decided to go and watch (supervise) President Donnelly as he performs his very unsafe antics. That said, as a result of Sterling's insistence on flying his reindeer around tonight, we are going to have to close the offices tomorrow, which means no tech support on Christmas day.

Tech support will also not be available on January 1st, but that's just because it's New Years day.

You can still reach the central station (as is always the case) and if there are problems, they will still be able to reach you.

That said, our hope is that all of you who are celebrating this very merry holiday are at home surrounded by those you love. And don't worry too much about us. Sterling is an experienced flying reindeer handler. He does this about once a year in a big red furry coat and hat, and he always insists on doing it Christmas Eve. We just like to watch to make sure that he's doing it as safely as possible.

We promise that we'll be back on December 26th, and we will be just as jolly the day after Christmas as we were the day before.

Oh, and before 2014 rolls on in, we just want to take a moment to thank you all for making Alarm Grid's first full year in service a successful one. We love serving you, and hope that 2014 brings with it many more opportunities to exceed your expectations.

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For many of us New Years is when we promise to start trying to lose weight, eat better, stop procrastinating or whatever else you might have resolved for the coming days. Honeywell, on the other hand, has announced its release of two new security systems, the Honeywell L5200 and the L7000.

While we're a bit fuzzy on the details, their announcement in Security Systems News gives us some delicious details about what we can expect from the new systems. According to Honeywell's senior director of marketing, Alan Stoddard:

the soon-to-be-released Honeywell LYNX Touch 7000/L5200: You can view video on display and connect 84 zones. It has a 7-inch display; two-way voice over wifi, and a number of other newer features.

Does this mean you should hold off on getting the L5100 or VISTA system? We wouldn't recommend it. there is no indication from Honeywell when these systems will be out, though we are hoping to see them in the first half of this year. And since the L5100 just saw a new update back in September, chances are, the release of the L5200 will simply be a slightly updated L5100.

New features? Maybe some. More zones? Definitely. But since the L5100 already handles 64 zones, there are very few for whom the L5100's zone count is limiting. So if you're looking for a great system, the L5100 is still the best wireless security system that any security company has to offer. But that will, very soon, no longer be the case. The other advantage of the L5100, for the moment, is that the ecosystem of products is highly developed. Honeywell's L5100 Connect app, was released years after the L5100 was created. The app, which allows for local control of the L5100 from any iOS or Android tablet device, is robust, beautiful, and elegant. Will the L5200 have anything like it when it's released? While we're working to confirm with Honeywell whether it will or not, if I were to bet money on it, I think the best assumption is to expect no added features. The L5200s features will in all probability be very weak at first, like any security system that is newly released. The L5100 is likely to be the better system for at least a year after the L5200s release. So I wouldn't be too reticent to purchase the current system. But chances are that once the L5200 is released, it won't be long before the L5100 is no longer available which means that you'll have to upgrade, like it or not.

This has been an eventful year for Honeywell, as they just released their 6162 and 6152 keypads for the VISTA series panels. Again, making programming and changing settings easier for the end user, Honeywell is proving their commitment to the newly emerging community of DIY home security enthusiasts.

The L7000 sounds vaguely familiar, as Honeywell retired their 7-inch tablet mid-last year recognizing its poor reputation and slowness. The mid-7h (as it was called), while not well loved, had a beautiful giant screen, but being it was nothing more than a glorified Android tablet, its reception was fairly lukewarm. Presuming Honeywell can take the beautiful, much-loved 7-inch display and marry it to the wonderful functionality of their other AUI mounted security systems and keypads (such as the L5100 or the Tuxedo Touch) the L7000 sounds like it will be a welcome addition to their line of products.

The new system may require new communicators, though we aren't sure about that either. All we really sort-of know is that the L7000 and the L5200 are going to be basically the same system. The L7000 may have a few more features than the L5200 (like maybe it will handle more total connect cameras, since we presume that this will allow for cameras to run through it like the Tuxedo currently does), but like I said, we don't have much information yet either. But it is an exciting bit of news since it shows that Honeywell is committed to continuing its excellent updates to already state-of-the-art hardware.

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We are asked pretty regularly by owners of other home security companies what we do. When I'm asked I explain, Alarm Grid sells state-of-the-art home security equipment to end-users.

"Who installs the system," I'm invariably asked.

And when I explain that we walk end-users through the install so that they can do it themselves in their own home either the blood rushes out of their face as they realize their days are numbered or they start laughing and give me a sarcastic, "good luck."

The truth is, old timers in this industry think that these systems are too complicated for just anyone to put in their home. But they aren't. The wired systems are a bit frustrating, but with some persistence, anyone can install them. That said, the more popular (and equally as powerful) wireless products like the Honeywell L3000 or L5100, are so easy that you don't need to be a seasoned expert. Learning sensors to the system are easy as pie, and the install itself is astoundingly simple. While some installers will charge something like $80 to install just one sensor, what you may not have known is that you can install them in under a minute using the industrial strength sticky tape that comes already stuck to the back of each sensor.

Not everyone wants to install their own system. But more and more people are re-connecting with their inner-caveman and getting hands on with all the various home improvements they can do. So while your neighbors are paying more than $500 per year to have their ADT or Brinks system monitored, you can get high-quality monitoring that is ridiculously affordable as well as having the satisfaction knowing that you installed the system yourself.

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In recent months, there have been a rash of projects on sites like kickstarter. These projects claim they are here to disrupt the home security industry by making changes to security systems that will give YOU full control of the unit.

The truth is, none of these products are disruptive. Security companies have been making their own products for an incredibly long time. While we sell Honeywell, and a lot of dealers also sell GE, 2Gig, DSC or other branded systems, there are tons of companies that make their own products. Alarm Force is probably the best known of these companies. The Canadian company has put millions of dollars into developing their own products. The reason companies build their own equipment is because then you have no choice but to use their service. So, if Alarm Force installs their units in a million homes, those homes will have to buy a completely new system if they do not like the system they installed. It means that either 1) they stop service or 2) they have to pay $300-800 (depending on how big their system is) to move to a new company.

A lot of companies that do sell you their own product tout their willingness to forego a contract (just like Alarm Grid does), but the catch is that you have to install their equipment, and once it's installed, should you want to upgrade or move will required that you stay with that company for the long haul since getting rid of their products and buying new products is expensive.

The difference between the new systems being developed by Kickstarter companies and those created by well-known alarm companies is that most of the DIY systems can't call a central station. So while these new systems solve some problems (some of them are prettier than what's available others are more customizable and simpler to install), the truth is, most of these systems have neat features but are neutred of their most useful feature, the ability to be monitored.

That said, Kickstarters for these products are regularly funded in the order of millions of dollars. This indicates that there are a lot of people out there willing to pay for awesome home automation and DIY home security systems.

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Canary in the coal mine

I was born in Brazil back in 1985. Calling the US was expensive, and my parents rarely did it. To save money, my father got his HAM radio license. We would go to a little room upstairs in a publishing house down the road from where we lived in Belo Horizonte, and we would call America at scheduled times in order that whoever was on the other end could hear our message and respond. We would also write our fair share of traditional, pen-to-paper letters.

But everything has changed.

As I see it, no one really understood how disruptive all this new technology was until around 1999 when Napster changed the landscape of the web. The impending slaughter of traditional business was unknown, but it wasn't long before the first victims of this new age began to close their doors. A mere 10 years after Napster started the revolution with their peer to peer music sharing technology, the last Virgin megastore in New York city closed. Those years destroyed the entire music business as we knew it. And yet, even in spite of that, the number of artists we have come to enjoy seems to have swelled as hard-working musicians are suddenly able to promote their own music and actually make money (unlike in the old model).

Everything has changed since 1999. Most people have gotten rid of their pesky house phone, copper lines are dying, 8 year olds have their own phone numbers, 2 year olds know how to operate tablet PCs, phones are computers and one of the biggest, most important companies in the world started off indexing pages on the internet. The tech bubble died, language has changed ("lol", "ROFL", and other weird letter-based phrases have entered the vernacular), and we purchase products - site unseen - by going to websites and typing in our address and credit card.

Unfortunately for those who are frustrated by the rate of change, the future doesn't look like it's going to slow up at all. Google's self-driving cars are sure to kill the truck driving industry or taxi industry, pharmacists may start being replaced by robots, and the rise of e-books will continue to change traditional publishing. Every industry is ripe for disruption... and that includes the home security industry.

So what is next for alarms? What is the future going to bring?

The question is important, and we need to understand some of the changes that have already happened. 1) home security systems have become affordable enough that anyone can put them in their homes; 2) advances in simplifying user interfaces made by companies like Blackberry, Palm, and Apple have made security systems simple to program and use; 3) the evolution of wireless technology has revolutionized the industry as they no longer need complicated wire-runs in order to work; and 4) open source operating systems like Linux or Android, open source sensors and open source computers like Arduino or Raspberry Pi make the production side of home security attractive decreasing barriers to entry for competitors with some of the biggest home security companies.

The most important of these realities is number 4. While it hasn't been done well yet, these open source platforms decrease barriers to compete. Preliminary evidence of the attempts to use these projects to disrupt the industry can be seen in such products as Ninja Blocks. While new, Ninja Blocks is built on open source software (Linux), includes open source hardware (Arduino), and is encouraging that their users take advantage of open source technology to make the produce more and more powerful. While Ninja Blocks does not yet have the capability to inform a central station of a break in, and (as of the date of this post), it doesn't appear to have such safety designations as a UL listing, it's presence certainly makes it clear that this industry is being primed for a disrupter to emerge.

Thankfully, as a result of Alarm Grid's newness and understanding of these technologies, our goal is to both disrupt and encourage good disruptors who are willing to work with us, in order to make sure that we survive the coming changes.

Anyhow, that's enough about how far the world has come since we were all younger. It's important to understand how the world has changed, but that is only part of the story. Maybe I've convinced you that the home security industry needs to be disrupted, but now you're left wondering why part of that disruption will have anything to do with a rise in that DIY mentality.

Well the truth is, one of the things that makes the home security system industry so ready to be changed has to do with the installer model. It's not to say that no one will ever use an installer. Au contraire. It's just that if more people do their own installations, fewer installers will begin to get a bigger piece of the pie. Less jobs=less installers. It's sad, but it's often what happens when technology marches forward.

So why DIY is all the rage?

The easy (though non-scientific) answer to why DIY is all the rage would probably be to point to the economy the last 10 years and say people want to save money. But I'm not so sure that's the case. The truth is, the do-it-yourself American spirit has really been a mainstay of American life for a very long time. When cars were not so complex, men loved working on them in their garage. Even today, thousands of husbands have abandoned their wives to live in the garage where they are restoring an old hot rod. Humans are hands-on. It's sort of part of our caveman nature. For many of us, building things makes us feel accomplished.

So what makes something drop into the "this is a weekend DIY project" category? Well, for that to happen, the consequence of doing the project without having any previous experience can't be dire. The project has to be sufficiently simplistic; the complication needs to be largely stripped out of it. Finally, it has to be fun.

You know what's not fun?

Rolling around in your attic on fiber glass insulation running wires. Mike Rowe might enjoy that sort of thing, but for your average Joe, tearing up from all the itchiness is not our idea of having fun. It's also not fun to have to remember weird button sequences to get zones programmed. Hit *18 + 79 + *33 + 82 then tap 0, 16 times, spin around, touch your toes twice, and hit Away, then slap the wall next to the keypad, and say the magical phrase, "supercallifragilisticexpialidocious." That's how programming a wired Vista 20P system sounds to most of us. I'm amazed that people can and do do it. You know what is fun? Spending only 10 minutes programming a system, using fun home automation technologies that make your lights turn on and off, and then instantly being gratified as you hit buttons.

The rise of the wireless security system has changed everything. Now, programming the system, pairing it to the WIFI or GSM network, and even installing the system are easy as pie. Likewise, since we can now check your system's programming from hundreds of miles away from an office in Florida, we can mitigate any consequences that you might have suffered as a result of not programming your system correctly because you didn't know what you were doing. But I can assure you, you will likely have no problems with programming at all. Programming these state of the art systems is easier than you could ever have imagined.

If you are interested in installing your own DIY home security system, let us know. We have a YouTube channel and incredibly knowledgable techs on hand who will make this process ridiculously easy. Be prepared to be surprised by Alarm Grid's amazing service.

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LYNXTouch with Total Connect

Home security systems have been getting cooler and cooler. Not that long ago, just 15 years or so, these systems were like lights, you could turn them on and you could turn them off. But in the last 10 years, there has been a revolution of sorts, and in many ways, the security systems of today are becoming the brains of your home.

When all your system could do was be turned on and off, and you only really ever wanted to do that when you were home, it made sense that you had to be standing right in front of the panel to make it do anything. But now, as the systems can do more, there are a lot of reasons that you might want to access your panel from a place other than the house.

To access your security system while your in New York city and your house is 2,000 miles away in Salt Lake City, UT, Honeywell created the Total Connect app. And while it's revolutionary convenience is the sort of thing that many of us have always dreamed of, the app itself is a bit of rigmarole. It works by connecting to servers some place in Melville New York, talking to those servers, then the servers send a signal out to your panel, wherever it is. So while it's convenient, sending a single command can take 10-20 seconds some times. That's awesome when you're home isn't nearby and any communication is nice, but that's unacceptable when you're upstairs in your own house and you simply want to arm away for the night, or maybe you want to turn off the Z-wave lights in your room so you can go to bed and your panel is just 30 feet from you. When you flip that switch, you want it to be instantaneous... right?

Enter stage right the L5100 Connect app. This nifty little bugger controls your system using the WIFI network in your home. It only works locally (which means you can't use it when your not on the same network), but since its on the same network, it's really quick, it effectively turns your iOS device into another keypad, and it's only $9.99!

The process of getting it up and running is pretty simple. First, make sure that you have a WIFI communicator installed in your L5100 (you probably do, but some people only have the L5100's cellular communicator installed). If you want to know how to install it, watch the video below.

Then pair the system to the network.

Then watch the following video which shows you how to pair the iOS device to the L5100 once you've got everything going.

Why am I so excited about the price? Well, if you were 'round these parts back in March of this year, you may remember Honeywell sending out its own 7-inch tablet to pasture. The tablet, known as the MID-7H, was slow and nobody liked it. While it was Android, it was basically just a glorified keypad since it came pre-installed with this app and really wasn't powerful enough to support many others. That tablet set users back about $180, and that was the only way you could control this system locally.

While we eulogized the MID-7H tablet back in March, (sort of) lamenting its passing, we mentioned that we were excited for the day that Honeywell allowed local control from tablets and phones using that app which wasn't yet released to the public. Well now, it has been. So get all the benefits of that tablet coupled with all the benefits of having an iOS device that you love. Dim the Z-Wave lights while you're watching a movie in the family room, turn up the heat during the winter using your Z-Wave thermostat, see arm your system as you are about to walk out the door, see which zones are faulting without leaving your chair.

Sit back, relax, and realize that now that you can finally control your security system without getting up out of your recliner, the future has arrived.

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