What To Look For In A High-Tech Security System
Every smart home is unique, and that's one of our first considerations before putting together this list. It's not enough for an alarm company to offer smart home features to become a great company for techies. Nevertheless, smart home features are vital, but so are third-party integrations.
Smart Home Features
Most alarm companies today promise and promote smart home features, but not all of them can really smarten up your home. To truly make your home smart, you need a company that provides a solid home automation platform that not only lets you control your home from afar but also lets you create automation rules and scenes.
Rules will tell your smart home system how to respond to events happening in your home. It would be ideal to, for example, have your thermostat automatically set to the right temperature as you come from work or have your lights turn on automatically at sunset. Scenes, on the other hand, can help you quickly perform routine activities. Instead of turning your lights off one by one and locking your door at night, you can use a scene to do all those things at once.
Alarm companies can only offer so much smart home products, so if you want a comprehensive smart home, you'll need a system that integrates with third-party smart home products.
Some systems connect to other products over the cloud, which means both the system and the third-party device need to be connected to the internet. An example of this is how Amazon's voice AI, Alexa, integrates with hundreds of smart home brands, allowing users to control third-party smart home products with their voice.
Other systems use their wireless radios to communicate. Most smart home systems use Z-Wave or Zigbee, which are low-power radio signals used to connect the system to third-party brands that use the same frequency.
There's No One-Size-Fits-All Solution
As we've said earlier, every smart home is unique. There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to smart home technology. With that being said, the companies listed below are not ranked, like we normally do. All of them are strong options, but it's up to you to choose the one for your smart home based on their strengths.
ADT: Best For Third-Party Z-Wave Integrations
ADT is often known as an alarm company with a traditional approach. After all, they are one of the very few big players that still offer landline monitoring, often regarded as an old-school technology in the home security space. However, ADT's smart home offer, ADT Pulse, is one of the strongest out there when it comes to Z-Wave integrations.
ADT Pulse is offered with the Total Protection and Premium Protection plans, which are ADT's mid-tier and highest-tier monitoring plans. With the feature, you'll gain access to the ADT Pulse app that you can use to control the smart home products sold by ADT. However, ADT's portfolio of smart home products is limited. They only sell smart lights, smart thermostats, smart locks, garage door controllers, and smart switches and plugs. You can smarten up your home with these devices, but if you need more, ADT supports third-party Z-Wave devices.
The Z-Wave integration is made possible by the control panel used by ADT. The control panel, which is the same device that ties together ADT's security system and smart home products. It is also connected to the ADT Pulse app over the cloud, allowing you to control your security system and smart home products, so if you connect a third-party Z-Wave product to your control panel, you'll also be able to control the device using the app. Take note, however, that not all Z-Wave products are compatible with ADT Pulse. The app looks at third-party devices according to their category in order to provide control options, and if your Z-Wave device doesn't belong to a category supported by ADT Pulse, the control panel won't be able to recognize it. As a pro tip, when buying Z-Wave devices for your ADT Pulse, do your research first and find out if anyone else has made the integration work.
In addition, the app might not be able to control all the features of your Z-Wave device. For example, if you bought a Z-Wave smart lock with a built-in video doorbell, ADT Pulse will only recognize it as a Z-Wave lock. You will be able to control the lock, but you won't get access to the video features. Because of that, it is best to buy single-function Z-Wave devices.
Does ADT offer smart home features?
If you have the right monitoring plan, then yes. ADT Pulse, ADT's smart home offer, is available to Total Protection and Premium Protection users. You can learn more about ADT's plans here.
Is there a limit to the number of Z-Wave devices I can connect to ADT Pulse?
Probably. Most control panels can only accommodate a certain number of wireless devices. However, in most cases, the number is in the low hundreds, which is most likely enough to add smarten up an average-sized home.
Can ADT Pulse also connect to Zigbee devices?
Unfortunately, no. ADT Pulse only supports Z-Wave devices.
What other integrations does ADT have?
ADT Pulse also works with Alexa and Google Assistant for voice control. Both connect to ADT via cloud connection.
Where can I learn more about ADT Pulse?
Simplisafe is currently running one of the best promotions we've seen. Check their website for full details.
SimpliSafe: Best For Voice Assistant Ecosystems
It's a little surprising that SimpliSafe is on this list, mainly because SimpliSafe doesn't offer home automation features by itself. What it offers are helpful over-the-cloud integrations, including Alexa and Google Assistant.
Because SimpliSafe lacks a comprehensive smart home platform, you can't build your smart home system around SimpliSafe. However, you can seamlessly integrate SimpliSafe to your Alexa or Google Assistant ecosystem. Alexa (made by Amazon) and Google Assistant (made by Google) are AI personas living inside smart speakers such as Amazon Echo and Google Home. They have hundreds if not thousands of integrations, allowing you to control almost anything from lights to smart appliances with your voice. They also allow you to create shortcuts and scenes to control multiple devices at once. That said, if you integrate your SimpliSafe system with Alexa or Google Assistant, you'll be able to control some of its features with your voice along with the other devices connected to your Alexa or Google Assistant.
The key to using SimpliSafe to smarten up your home is choosing your third-party smart home products. When buying smart home products, make sure that they work with your voice assistant of choice. For example, if you want your entire smart home to be built around Alexa, then you'll need Alexa-enabled devices so you can control them all with your voice.
In order to integrate SimpliSafe with Alexa or Google Home, you'll need to pay for the Interactive Plan. It will cost you $24.99 per month.
Does SimpliSafe offer smart home features?
Yes, but it's limited. You can only use smart home features if you're on the Interactive plan and the list of compatible devices is short. Interactive is SimpliSafe's highest-tier plan.
What makes SimpliSafe good for high-tech users?
SimpliSafe integrates with Alexa and Google Assistant, allowing you to build your smart home around those two voice assistants and still make your security system (SimpliSafe) a part of your smart home. Alexa and Google Assistant both have much more integrations than security systems, so for some, it makes much more sense to build their smart home around voice assistants than their security system.
Can SimpliSafe connect to local devices via Zigbee or Z-Wave?
No. SimpliSafe only makes over the cloud connections with compatible devices.
What other devices can SimpliSafe work with?
SimpliSafe also works with Nest Thermostats and August Smart Locks.
Where can I learn more about SimpliSafe?
You can read our SimpliSafe review for a closer look at their offers.
Vivint: Best For Direct Over-The-Cloud Integrations
Vivint has always been a strong option for techies because of their innovative approach to home security. On top of the features they offer, they also sell sleek-looking products that would fit nicely into modern high-tech homes.
Vivint's strength, with regards to home automation, is their direct, over-the-cloud integration with some of the biggest players in the smart home space as well as their strong home automation platform. On top of that, if you're willing to experiment, Vivint's SkyControl 2.0 control panel works with Z-Wave devices. In some ways, Vivint is like a combination of ADT Pulse and SimpliSafe's over-the-cloud integrations.
Just like with ADT Pulse, you might not be able to access all your Z-Wave device's features. For example, if you connect a color-changing Philips Hue smart light to Vivint, you will be able to turn the lights on or off and control the brightness, but not change the color of the bulb using the app or control panel's user interface.
Because Vivint also works with Alexa and Google Home, you can make it a part of a larger, voice assistant-centered smart home ecosystem, further expanding Vivint's compatibility with third-party smart home products. As an example, if you find a product you like that doesn't work directly with Vivint but works with Alexa, you can still use the device and integrate it with Vivint through Alexa.
Does Vivint offer smart home features?
Yes. Home automation features are included in the Smart Home plan starting at $39.99/month. For more information on pricing, read our assessment of Vivint's deals and promotions.
What makes Vivint good for high-tech users?
Vivint has all the good stuff. They have a strong automation platform, they work with Alexa and Google Assistant, and they support Z-Wave devices. As a bonus, their products are modern-looking, which is perfect for smart homes.
Can Vivint connect to local devices via Zigbee or Z-Wave?
Vivint's control panel uses Z-Wave and it can connect with third-party Z-Wave products. However, Zigbee is not supported.
What other devices can Vivint work with?
Vivint works with Philips Hue, Nest Thermostats, Alexa, Google Assistant, and many more.
Where can I learn more about Vivint?
You can read our Vivint review for a closer look at their offers.