Telecompany hopes to lock your doors

Jacob Lane · Wednesday, July 16, 2014
So you're sitting at your work desk late in the morning, half a cup of coffee in hand, wondering, 'did I lock the door on the way out'? That little thought keeps eating and eating at you the entire day.

But, what can you do?

Well, according to Liberty Communications, just pull out your mobile device and lock it. It's as simple as that says Marketing Coordinator Sandee Buysse-Baker.

"Essentially it’s a cloud based service," she said about the company’s new home automation and monitoring system. "You can use an app to manage your home or your business."

Liberty Communications, a local telecommunications company that serves West Liberty and West Branch, is branching out into the field of home automation.

From a mobile device or computer, customers can turn off lights, lock doors, control the thermostat, check live feed from a camera and a variety of other tasks.

"We have one farmer who has been using the service since last August," added Buysse-Baker, "With their hog confinement they have temperature sensors that they can keep track of and get text alerts if the temperatures get too cold or too hot."

Liberty Communications quietly launched the service a few months ago; however, it has been testing the system at select locations since August. Now it's ready to unleash its latest product on the community.

Buysse-Baker describes it as a home monitoring system, it's not a substitute for a home security system. However, what home automation can do is give the viewer access to live cams around his or her property.

They can also install a security alarm and have full control of locking the doors. Home automation also has several everyday practical uses.

Lights can be turned on by a touch of the screen, or they can be scheduled to turn on and off at specific times. One can connect the system to a cooler, so when it gets near time to go home they can switch it on, rather than letting it run all day long.

The system requires the installation of special locks. As for turning devices on and off, a special plug is required that cuts electricity on and off.

For example, a lamp in the living room is plugged into a device, which is then plugged into the wall. The user turns that lamp on by controlling electricity flow through the device to the lamp via his or her app.

There is an initial fee for installing the necessary equipment, afterwards the price varies from $16 to $20 a month depending on the customer.

The home automation and monitoring system is part of Liberty Communications’ continued push to stay current and on top of technology.

With the always changing telephone/cable/internet market and border lines that keep independent telecommunication companies in their own territories, it was time for Liberty Communications to try something new.

"We need to expand into different businesses, we need to figure out different ways to grow revenue," said Buysse-Baker. "This is just one area that we're moving towards."

The company is also expanding its fiber network, which was originally launched in January of 2010. Currently the city limits of West Liberty and West Branch, as well as their subdivisions, have access to fiber.

Fiber-optic communication transmits information, such as internet and cable TV, from one place to another by light impulses. The system is replacing the previous technology of copper wire communication.

Liberty Communications is embarking on a campaign to replace the copper system with fiber to around 50 to 70 farms near West Liberty. Afterwards it will do the same in West Branch.

Right now there are 95.5 miles of fiber in Liberty Communication's network. After the rural build out in West Liberty it will have around 102 miles.

The fiber installation will allow the farms to increase their speeds from around 8 MGps to 25 MGps, just like it is within city limits.

Slabach Construction, out of Kalona, Iowa, is in charge of digging the trenches and installing the fiber underground, a project Liberty Communications hopes to have completed before winter sets in West Liberty.

"Iowa is unique, we have a ton of small independent telephone companies and so many of them have invested in fiber, you don't see that all the way across the nation," said Buysse-Baker, "I believe less than 15 percent of the U.S. has access to fiber."

With the launch of its home automation and monitoring system and the expansion of its fiber network, Liberty Communications continues to fight for small local telecommunication companies in Iowa.

Established as the West Liberty Telephone Company in the late 1800s, Liberty Communications has seen several shifts and taken several new directions during its life. Breaking into the world of apps and tablets may just be the next step in its continued evolution.
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