On the Brink

Home security stands ready to leap into the future

Think about it. Two decades ago, cell phones were the size of bricks and could barely receive phone calls; today, they are wafer-thin and offer Internet access. Traveling to unknown destinations required detailed instructions scribbled on a notepad; today a car’s navigation system will direct the driver while the kids watch a DVD in the back seat.

So why hasn’t home security evolved?

Traditional monitored home security is just that—traditional. The system installed in a home 20 to 30 years ago is not too different from what’s being installed today. Central monitoring stations are partially automated—some devices such as motion detectors and door sensors are now wireless, and many systems now offer cellular backup to old telephone service connections. But, the core home security value offering is as dormant as the VCR that keeps blinking 12 a.m. when the power goes out.

Security 2.0
So what’s next for home security? The better question might be, what’s next for broadband? The Internet has changed lives, offering new ways to stay connected and access information across the world. Most traditional home security providers have yet to truly embrace Web technology, bringing their offerings into the 21st century and, in turn, opening the door for a new breed of competition.

Introducing broadband connectivity to traditional home security systems not only offers another source of communication to a central monitoring station, but it also opens up an unlimited supply of functionalities, enhancing homeowners’ peace of mind. Web-based remote home monitoring and home control services can now accompany a security system that keeps you connected to your home via any Web browser or mobile phone from virtually anywhere in the world. This is home security 2.0— the future of home security.

In addition to central station-monitored protection, newer products offer always-on connectivity. So if you forgot to arm your security system before you left home, you can access the secure Web portal and click a button. Need to let the maid service in without setting off the alarm system? Just click a button from your cell phone and the system is disarmed.

It also is possible to receive text and/or e-mail messages when happenings occur— or do not occur—in your home, such as a front door opening, a room being entered or the basement temperature nearing freezing conditions. View live video, video clips or pictures of your home via wireless cameras. Program the system to capture video of the person walking in the front or back door so you always know who’s entering.

Imagine how this functionality will minimize or eliminate false alarms. Better yet, imagine being able to know when the kids get home from school, what they are doing while you’re at work or if the pet sitter arrived. Now your computer and mobile phone are your eyes into your home while you’re away.

In Control
Also consider the advantages of remote home control. Turn lights off, change a thermostat setting remotely from your Web portal or mobile phone, or set lighting and thermostat schedules to maximize energy efficiency. It is even possible to preheat the pool or hot tub in a vacation home so they are ready for your arrival.

Is it unexpectedly raining today? Access the Web portal to deactivate the lawn sprinkler system. Remote home control ideas are endless, and manufacturers such as Intermatic, Leviton and others who support the new Z-Wave wireless protocol are now offering devices that enable this functionality.

Some pioneering security companies are already embracing the future. Monitronics, one of the largest and fastestgrowing home security providers in the United States, recently announced it will deploy the new technology, offering it to all customers.

“As technology advances, consumers are demanding new capabilities from their home security systems,” said Mitch Clarke, vice president of marketing and market development at Monitronics. “Our customers want more—in addition to securing the home, they want to stay connected while away. This new functionality offers this and greater peace of mind to our customers.”

Other home security companies likely will follow, but not just to stay competitive. Broadband providers and telcos are now stepping into the home security space, and they know they must offer a better solution than traditional monitored home security. You may say, “What? My phone company is going to try to sell me something else?” Of course they are. The more services they sell you, the less likely you are to switch to another service provider. Since acquiring a new customer is substantially more expensive than keeping one, there’s nothing more that a telco or ISP would rather do than increase customer retention.

A New Standard
The attractiveness of this next-generation concept for home security companies and service providers centers around interactive functionality. It’s estimated that 50 percent of home security users who have a monitored home security system don’t arm the system when they leave home. Eventually, they realize they are paying $35 a month for a service they don’t use and then disconnect it.

The new integrated solution brings interactivity to home protection. Seeing live video of your home, receiving text messages when a door is open and taking pictures or video clips of unanticipated events makes the service tangible. Remote home control allows the homeowners to stay in charge.

Monitronics has not announced equipment or monthly subscription pricing yet, but it is estimated to be a moderate upsell from the traditional offering. The new service caters to a semitech-savvy customer who is accustomed to spending a little more for enhanced services as long as the experience proves to be worth the added expense. However, with broadband penetration estimated to hit 60 percent in the next four years, we’re all becoming aggressive adopters of technology, which makes this solution much more of a mass market offering.

Is this truly a new revolution in home security? At the very least, these trends represent progress that the industry hasn’t seen in decades and have the potential to become the new standards in home protection.

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