After deploying to three million homes, Icontrol Networks was acquired by and Comcast!

Icontrol Networks

UI Designer
Web, iPhone, iPad, Android, Touch Screen

David is an excellent user experience designer and brings a blend of creativity, practicality and insight into everything with which he is involved. We collaborated on many design projects together and David tackles each aspect of a design from tough interaction issues down to asset production with enthusiasm. I had a lot of fun working with David. He would be a great asset to any user experience design team.

—jim fulker, senior director of user experience

As a User Interface Designer on a team of three (myself, manager, and illustrator), it was my responsibilty to design the iPhone, iPad, Android, mobile web, touch screen, and web applications.

Home security had barely developed in 30 years until iControl came along. They created a box that brought WiFi cameras, light modules, door locks and touchscreen keypads together into one coherent domestic security system. My job was to design an ecosystem of applications to address a variety of users.

The project was enormous. It required hundreds of mockups, hardware and software working together, and involved huge risks. However, we overcame the challenges of building an entire ecosystem of apps and services. We went head to head against giant companies with deep pockets and came out with a superior product.

The unique iControl system has been adopted by ADT Pulse and installed in over three million homes. That means parents can be notified with a photo when their children arrive at home after school, be alerted by text message if there's a smoke alarm, and watch live video of their pets when they please.

The Orb

A home security system is a complex combination of sensors. The challenge is to provide a visual layer to summarize all environmental and security related activity in the home; a layer that is glanceable and trustworthy. Experienced home security users have never seen all sensors’ states simultaneously. They are accustomed to one small line of text flashing random words like “FAULT” and “READY” on a wireless keypad from the 1980s.

The Orb is the result. It appears on all clients to convey the security panel’s arm state, how many doors or windows are open, if motion was recently detected, and if the panel is able to properly communicate with the central monitoring station.

Developing the orb concept went through many stages, but it all began with a button.


This image can be broken down into several parts. It's red to indicate the security panel is in an Armed state. The shield represents an area where the Orb can be branded. For example, it is replaced by "ADT" on all ADT Pulse systems. Last, this image is synchronized across all clients, so a user can quickly see the state of her home on any client. This includes the web portal, mobile apps, touch screen, and administrative portal for support technicians.

For secondary information, a few snippets of text are inserted below the Orb.

orb with two bars

Like the Orb, these snippets of text are also synchronized across all clients. The left bar is used to reinforce the exact state of the security panel. This can be Disarmed, Armed Stay, Armed Away, etc. The right bar is used to provide additional details like All Quiet, 2 Doors Open, Sensor Tampered, etc.

orb with bars and icons

There are some extra icons to help call attention to what sensors are currently reporting. The yellow circle shows a number to represent how many door/window sensors are open. The exclamation point icon appears when there is a more troubling issue like a communication issue with the central monitoring station.

These behaviors were tested amongst casual security system users, those who do not own a system, and experts. Its success as a way to simplify the security system interface has led to hundreds of thousands (and soon millions) of ADT Pulse installations.

Sensor List

After tapping the Orb, a list of all sensors appears. The challenge is to categorize and present the sensors in an order that is, again, glanceable. Security panels operate using the following jargon: open, closed, motion, tripped, triggered, trouble, problem, and many more. This creates a confusing experience for users who want to quickly glance at the state of their home.

Heuristics were created to simplify the parsing of all this data, and present the sensors in a meaningful and pleasing way. Sensors have an icon, name, and state. In a situation where a home is all quiet, the sensors appear in alphabetical order. However, if a sensor is open, it bubbles up to the top of the list for discoverability. The Orb is updated to reflect this change as well, so users know to tap on the Orb and arrive at the sensor list.

orb with bars and icons

Remember when iPhones fit in your hand?

Touch Screen

Imagine the possibilities of merging your security system and home automation devices with a wireless, battery-powered touchscreen: arm and disarm your security system, view live video, control thermostats, turn lights on/off, view your morning commute, read news, check stocks, check the local weather, view a slideshow, play sudoku, view energy usage, control locks, alarm clock, view your home's activity, report an emergency, etc.

This can quickly become an iPad-like device. When initially developing the features and functionality of the touchscreen, we used wireframes to chart various flows. The goal is have all stakeholders involved in the project align on functional requirements.

wireframe flow

Once the initial wireframe is approved, we begin creating a structure of common UI elements.

grid wireframes

As these individual wireframes become more detailed, we continue to update the flows wireframe.

grid wireframes more detail

Testing the UI was done with beta systems that were actually deployed in homes. New features would be remotely added to systems, and then detailed feedback would be gathered. We also set up a usability testing lab, and recorded both novice and expert security system users interacting with the product.

Eventually, we have the UI that is now in paying customers' homes.

touchscreen hardware