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Schlage's Nexia Home Intelligence system is less than the sum of its parts

Michael Brown | April 26, 2013
Schlage was an early player in the electronic home-control market. Back in 2010, the company offered DIY kits that included an entry lock with an electronic keypad. More recently, it has rebooted its efforts and given the product a new name: Nexia Home Intelligence. With Schlage now shipping its second generation of electronic entry locks, I decided to take a fresh look at its home-control system.

You create home-control rules in the Automation tab. The rules use the logic of "if this happens, do this, and then do that N number of minutes later." Each step can have multiple triggers for multiple devices, and you can link them to specific times or time periods. I created a rule that if the door/window sensor mounted on my front door is opened after sunset on any day, the camera will record a 15-second clip and the appliance module will turn on the lamp in my foyer. The door will lock itself 30 seconds later, and the lamp will turn off 5 minutes later.

You can also program the thermostat to heat or cool your house, so that it's at a comfortable temperature when you're home without wasting energy while you're away. And you can schedule lights to turn on and off according to a schedule, to make your home look occupied while you're on vacation.

Schlage offers Nexia apps for nearly every mobile platform, including Android (separate apps for phones and tablets), iOS (separate apps for iPhone and iPad), BlackBerry, and even Oracle's J2ME (Java Platform, Micro Edition).

You can program the system to send alerts via email and/or text message to multiple email address and phone numbers, to ensure that you'll receive notification when a sensor is triggered, a door is unlocked, the camera records a video clip, or one of your automation sequences is executed. But the system won't notify you when expected events don't happen. Such "nonevent events" are useful because they can warn you when something didn't happen that should have. For example, if you expect your child to arrive home from school no later than 3:30 p.m., and none of your monitored entry doors are opened before that time, the system should alert you that your child hasn't come home by the appointed hour.

Nexia Home Intelligence is a better home-control system than it is a home-security system, I think that the Lowes Iris is slightly better in that respect. Neither company includes smoke, fire, or carbon monoxide sensors in its product line, however; and because neither uses a central office for monitoring, the companies can't dispatch first responders in the event of a break-in or an emergency. As a result, your insurance company is unlikely to offer you a discount for installing either system in your home.

And since Nexia relies on your broadband Internet service to send you alerts, a burglar can easily defeat the system by severing your telephone line or coaxial cable (if your ISP is a cable-TV service provider) before entering your home. Lowes recently added cellular support to its Iris service as either a $5-per-month backup plan if your broadband service fails, or as $10-per-month primary connection if you don't have other broadband service. Lowes limits you to 5MB of data on the first plan, and 20MB on the second. Service providers such as ADT, FrontPoint Security, and Vivint include both cellular connections and central-office monitoring with their offerings, but they charge anywhere from $40 to $70 per month.


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