LAS VEGAS -- While many companies displaying their "smart home" innovations at this year's International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) seem to be catering to an audience for whom cost is no object, Echostar has brought to the show a home security system called Sage, under the Hughes brand, that marches boldly in the opposite direction.
Sage is a "home automation" kit, heavy on security devices, that can be installed by hand, according to the company, by a novice do-it-yourselfer. In the area of cost, said spokesperson Linda Haugsted, it liberates homeowners from monthly service fees.
Although reluctant to reveal the price of the Sage "starter kit" until it hits the market officially, she named Sage's target competitor, saying, "We will be disruptive to ADT's business model."
ADT, a leader in home security, charges both for installation and requires monthly fees. Sage, after installation by the purchaser or with professional help, falls entirely under the homeowner's control. Its current features include home-network links to security cameras, lights, locks, doors and windows, thermostats and various sensors.
David Lett, vice president of engineering in charge of Sage, used Sage's external security camera as example of the product's ease of use.
"Using just a screwdriver," he said, the homeowner can attach the camera to an outdoor wall. Then, stringing a flat wire indoors through the edge of a window, the user brings all the controls, including power plug, inside the house. This protects all but the weather-proof camera from the elements and, said Lett, "You don't have to worry about thick walls blocking WiFi reception."
Lett also emphasized that Sage is currently unique in offering system controls both remotely through a connected mobile device and the television set at home.
A camera in the nursery, for example, or the thermostat, can be accessed -- with screen-in-screen display -- on the TV screen. The same option applies to checking locks, seeing who's at the door and other couch-potato dreams come true.
Sage's home security system has the unique feature of display on the home TV screen as well as on mobile devices.
Lett said, "It's great to be able to control all that stuff, but the security stuff is killer."
He emphasized the fact that, once a Sage system is registered with local police, a 911 call -- if it proves necessary -- will be associated not with the location of a mobile device, which could be miles away from home, but with the actual home address. Moreover, because the system's cameras are linked to the mobile device, the homeowner can often check the cause of a security alert before pushing the panic button and calling the cops.
This is important, said Lett, "because "95 percent of 911 automatic security system calls are false alarms."
Significantly, the Sage system seems to focus on practicality and affordability. The company is eager to add features, including sensors to detect problems like water and gas leaks, smoke, glass breakage and more.
"There's some really cool stuff that's yet to be announced," said Lett. But he added that Sage, and its creators, Hughes and Echostar, are reluctant to plug in functions that people already do, by themselves, easily and naturally -- without resort to electronic middleware.