News: Johnson Controls’ Qolsys IQ Panel 4 Now Widely Available

Following a soft launch in July, the IQ Panel 4 replaces a previous iteration as the company’s next-gen tech for security and smart home installations.

Today marks the full release of Johnson Control’s next generation security and smart home panel, the All-In-One IQ Panel 4.

The official unveiling follows a soft launch in mid-July. In the ensuing period, small numbers of the panel were sent to distributors for anyone to purchase and take part in a pilot program, during which dealers could put the new offering through its paces and report back to the company with cheers, jeers or suggestions.

First, let’s take a peak underneath the hood at some of the new panel’s components and feature sets.

The IQ Panel 4 is powered by a high-performance 2 GHz Qualcomm processor (MSM8953) equipped with eight cores. That’s quite a jump from the Qolsys IQ Panel 2 Plus, the company’s most previous iteration, which was outfitted with a quad-core processor. Therein lies the validation behind the company’s claims of delivering faster speed and better range on LTE, WiFi, Z-Wave, Bluetooth, PowerG and legacy security wireless.

The new panel once again features a 7-inch touchscreen; the previous 5-megapixel camera has been upgraded to an 8-megapixel version with flex-tilt to adjust the lens angle for disarm photos, peek-in and alarm videos.

A new QuadSound speaker system allows music streaming over Bluetooth, and a SmartMount installation system is said to provide easy wall or table stand mounting options. There’s even a new IQ Base table stand subwoofer to help pump up the thump.

The IQ Panel 4 also returns with Dual SRF technology, which offers two pathways for security and life-safety devices, using legacy security protocols (319.5 MHz, 345 MHz or 433 MHZ) alongside PowerG. This allows long-range secure encrypted wireless with compatibility for existing legacy security wireless.

The company touts it has fine-tuned each radio to improve range, installation time, and provide an improved user experience. The Team Qolsys brain trust would have you know they leveraged over 10 years of hardware development, 32 software updates and copious customer feedback to deliver the IQ Panel 4.

The Almighty VOC

That process of gathering voice of the customer (VOC) feedback as a crucial aspect to the development and final design of the IQ Panel 4 involved far more than the initial soft launch. We’ll delve into that more, but Jeremy McLerran, director, Global Security & Smart Building Marketing at Johnson Controls, tells me one piece of feedback they received from dealer partners over and over was, “Change is hard.”

Those three words motivated the team to maintain dealer familiarity with previous panel iterations. The point being dealers are very busy. Adopting a new product or technology is nice, but it also means you have to retrain your staff. And so ensuring an easy transition to the IQ Panel 4 was paramount, including interacting with the backend.

“We really did make an effort to carry everything over to the new panel. The UI is exactly the same. The installation process is exactly the same. Even down to the customer training in the customer interface is all exactly the same,” McLerran says.

Along with the soft launch through distributors, the team conducted multiple pilot programs beginning about two years ago. An internal program included around 200 people, with employees, former staffers, friends and family members recruited to test drive the panel.

“We have a whole team dedicated to listening to those particular experiences, looking for bugs, looking for problems,” says McLerran. “There were times we found something that required us to pull that hardware all the way out, send them all new hardware. We made revisions like that multiple times.”

Participants were given weekly “homework assignments” to test the installation of peripherals, for example, and report back on the experience. One assignment called for long-range PowerG sensors to be deployed in various parts of their homes.

Other devices included a newly developed smart water valve that McLerran says can be installed without a plumber. The device clamps onto existing water valves and works over Z-Wave.

“So we not only wanted the experience of having that installed — can you install that and pair it with the panel easily? — but also the little water sensors that you put under every sink, under the water heater,” he explains. “We want you to trigger ‘floods.’ We want you to actually pour some water next to it and see if it does indeed set an alarm on the panel, but then also trigger the water valve to shut the water off.”

In June, the company’s top dealers began receiving the panel, allowing their technical teams to be involved in a comprehensive test and review period. Collecting feedback from the various pilot and test groups has been multifaceted, including a closed Facebook group titled “Qolsys and Installers” with around 3,000 members.

“Their reviews have been awesome,” says McLerran. “And there have been some where it’s like, ‘Hold on, why did you do this? We don’t understand why you did that. That wasn’t as important to us.’”

Music streaming was one such head-scratcher for some dealers. The panel’s four 4-watt speakers seemed like overkill, and who wants to stream music on a security panel anyway? Why not commit those resources to some other functionality?

The answer? The company didn’t set out to feature music streaming; the function is already built into the Android software. Instead, it was a cost-cutting measure while providing improved two-way voice and overall sound quality for things like on-screen video tutorials. The speaker system also remedied a reoccurring complaint about the IQ Panel 2 not being loud enough.

“We thought if we have really good speakers, we don’t need a separate siren in the panel. That helps to reduce cost. No more siren means we can play the alarms over the speakers. We can play sounds over the speakers like connecting your phone and chimes and voices and door open and things like that,” McLerran explains.

All-in-One Processor

McLerran says the IQ Panel 4’s octa-core processor will set a new standard in the security industry, future-proofing the panel for the day when new feature sets and software requirements necessitate more processing speed.

“The [Qualcomm MSM8953] strikes that nice balance between what our dealers are willing to pay and what kind of speed do we really need,” he says.

The panel offers extensive integration with interactive services and app, providing residential, SMB/commercial, wellness, builder and MDU/multifamily support — all on the same IQ platform.

One example of where the extra processing oomph pays off is with the built-in 8MP panel camera, which can now handle live stream video when available from the app.

“We knew that in order to achieve that, the processor has to more than double. When we say go from 4- to an 8-core processor, it doesn’t mean double the speed — it’s actually a lot faster,” McLerran says.

He continues, “We additionally went from a 4-core processor to an 8-core system on a module. So when Qualcomm builds these things for us, it’s not just a faster processor but we took close to 132 different components that were individual components on the IQ Panel 2 and combined them all into one module.”

Not only does that increase performance — given it’s an all-in-one component designed to work together — but the company has managed to mitigate current supply chain challenges. Consider: 132 different points of failure have been eliminated by moving to the module concept.

“So we’re able to not only get better performance out of it, but also improve our supply chain, exponentially, McLerran adds.

The company is supporting the new release with a series of training webinars and weekly tech workshops to instruct on feature sets including live answer, video doorbells, Bluetooth disarm, music streaming, built-in glass break and more.

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