Our research suggests that customers nowadays are less likely to buy a voice-assisted smart security solution if the voice sounds robotic, like many of the non-AWS services out there. Our customers love how human the Amazon Polly voices sound.

 

Devin Chawda CEO

Using AWS, Y-cam Solutions transformed itself from a hardware vendor into a service provider with a more valuable business model. Y-cam developed an artificial intelligence solution to deliver home-security monitoring and alerts, eliminating the need for a traditional network operations center. The company uses Amazon Polly to provide a human-sounding voice and Amazon Lambda to run code in response to events in a serverless architecture.

  • About Y-cam

    Founded in 2007 with a mission of making smart home security affordable and accessible to all, Y-cam uses artificial intelligence to provide a monitored home-security service at a price point much lower than traditional security companies’ offerings.

  • AWS Services Used

  • Benefits of AWS

    • Increases revenue 75% year-over-year
    • Innovates with art-curating Twitter bot
    • Launches AI services in four hours instead of weeks
  • AWS Partner - Twilio

    The solution includes a bot—created in collaboration with Twilio, an Advanced Technology Partner in the AWS Partner Network (APN)—capable of providing substantially the same services as an NOC.  

Y-cam Solutions was rethinking its strategy. It was early 2016, and the U.K. company, which was originally a pioneer in Internet-connected home-security cameras, was feeling the pain of a business model based on hardware sales in a market that was growing ever more crowded.

“The Internet camera market was becoming increasingly busy, and the competition for customers was fierce,” says Devin Chawda, the CEO of Y-cam Solutions. “We decided to try something different.”

Y-cam was proud of its wireless home-security cameras but knew they were not a complete home-security system and were dependent on the Internet to show live feeds and store videos. That’s a potential risk when, according to Y-cam, the average U.K. home experiences 18 days of broadband outages each year.

Chawda and his team decided that the best step forward would be to develop a service offering that provided additional security features, an even better user experience, and redundant communications with the Y-cam platform.

 

Y-cam’s new offering would be a smart, affordable, monitored alarm system that homeowners could install and manage with a smartphone.

Moving Y-cam in this direction appealed for two reasons. First, it aligned well with the company’s mission of making smart home security accessible and affordable to all. Second, as a monthly subscription service, it would provide a more predictable and higher-value recurring stream of revenue.

 

There was one major challenge: traditional big alarm companies sell subscriptions by operating 24-hour network operations centers (NOCs), staffed with employees who call subscribers when alarms are triggered. But staffing and operating NOCs is very resource-intensive. “When we studied the big alarm companies, we realized it would cost us £10 per customer, per month, just to cover call-center salaries,” says Jey Jeyasingam, chief technology officer at Y-cam.

“That cost, plus other expenses and a reasonable margin, would have required charging a monthly fee of about £25, similar to what the market leaders charge. That was a non-starter for us. We didn’t want to start managing call centers, and we couldn’t charge what the big alarm companies do without turning our backs on our company mission.”

Y-cam believed it could solve this problem by using Amazon Web Services (AWS), based on extensive experience with AWS dating to 2011. That year, the company shifted its production video-processing platform and multi-petabyte data storage from an on-premises data center to AWS, cutting its costs by 80 percent. “We have built our technology platform on AWS, so we had no hesitation in betting that AWS could help us take this step, too,” says Jeyasingam, who adds that Google Cloud Platform tried and failed to win Y-cam’s business for the project.

“We understand AWS technology very well, and we have found that, whatever AWS sets out to build, it always ends up doing it very well.”

Y-cam used Amazon Polly text-to-speech service, AWS Lambda, and Amazon API Gateway to build a platform with a serverless architecture for its new Y-cam Protect line of home-security systems. The solution includes a bot—created in collaboration with Twilio, an Advanced Technology Partner in the AWS Partner Network (APN)—capable of providing substantially the same services as an NOC.

 

Y-cam Protect, which launched in January 2017, is a full-featured, home-security alarm system with wireless access and motion sensors that customers can install by themselves in minutes. The Protect Hub, the system’s nerve center, includes an eight-hour battery backup and a preinstalled SIM card to keep the system connected to Y-cam’s highly secure cloud platform in the event of power and internet outages.

When an alarm is triggered, the bot uses a Twilio service to call the customer and then uses Amazon Polly to deliver dynamic messages with natural-sounding speech. If the person answers, the bot explains which sensor was triggered and asks what the customer would like to do (e.g., “Call your neighbor?” or “Turn off the alarm?”). If the call goes to voicemail, the bot leaves a message with instructions about how to take various actions.

Y-cam diagram 7

Architectural Diagram

By using an artificial intelligence solution instead of a NOC, Y-cam can offer its services at about one-third the price charged by big alarm companies, remaining true to the company’s mission while still securing the necessary margin to support improvements and the development of new features. The price point and the natural-sounding speech Amazon Polly delivers have been popular with customers.

“Our research suggests that customers nowadays are less likely to buy a voice-assisted smart security solution if the voice sounds robotic, like many of the non-AWS services out there,” says Chawda. “Our customers love how human the Amazon Polly voice sounds. In fact, many people think it is a real person.”

Building Y-cam Protect in the AWS Cloud took only six months—at least nine months faster than it would have taken in an on-premises data center. “I know of a company trying to build something similar in their own data center,” says Jeyasingam. “So far, they’ve been at it for more than 15 months, and they’re not done yet.”

The AWS solution’s serverless architecture makes management simple and straightforward—a perfect fit for the historically lean, agile company. “With AWS automation tools and the availability of a serverless architecture, we’re able to run the whole Y-cam Protect platform with a 10-person team,” says Jeyasingam.

Most importantly, Y-cam Protect and the AWS infrastructure supporting it have helped Y-cam transform its business and lay the groundwork for an even more promising future. “By building the Y-cam Protect platform quickly, easily, and affordably on AWS, we have transitioned from being a vendor of connected cameras to a provider of home-security services,” says Jeyasingam. “AWS technology has enabled us to evolve so that we now more fully perform our mission and can better sustain our business going forward.”