HERE'S HOW THE CABLE INDUSTRY GOT INTERESTED in home electronics—especially remote video monitoring. First, it has about 29 million people already hooked up to broadband cable. Can you say “test market”? But it (like virtually every other industry on the planet) is looking for deeper market penetration. It knows that broadband is a great way to monitor video streams. But the missing link had been getting that video information to homeowners remotely. No longer.

Several manufacturers have begun to offer broad band cable packages that give homeowners the peace of mind they may not have known they were lacking—such as the ability to use a cell phone to monitor their home and be instantly notified when things go wrong—a basement leak, a fire, or an unwanted visitor, etc.

According to The Boston Globe, cable providers have been encouraged by research conducted by Parks Associates, the well-known Dallas-based research firm. Parks found that 7 percent of the public (extrapolated from its surveys) would be willing to pay $5 a month for the ability to look into their home remotely via an Internet-connected camera. That doesn't sound like much interest, but it represents several hundred thousand homes.

New packages are relatively affordable—when compared to traditional security systems. For example, Motorola's new-home monitoring system, the MS1000, offered through Radio Shack, costs about $300 initially for a single-camera hookup and can be upgraded with wireless add-ons to monitor a home's HVAC, detect water leaks, and trigger motion detectors. Built on Linux-based operating software, the communications center allows many forms of access, including USB and Ethernet ports. It sends e-mail messages to the end user when trouble is afoot.

Remote home control won't be a give-away to existing cable users. Buying into the monitoring service incurs an added monthly fee anywhere from $5 to $10 per month plus an initial setup fee.

Sources: The Boston Globe, Consumer Electronics Association