Home Sweet Home
Consumers now have the ability to control multiple systems
- By Mike DeMille
- Aug 01, 2011
Considered a fast-growing segment, the home controls sector has
experienced numerous changes in recent years thanks to the introduction
of affordable, user-friendly technologies.
With these two developments, today’s home control technologies
provide consumers with the ability to manage multiple systems
within their homes. The sector also is breaking free of the stigmas of being
a complicated and expensive application. Now, instead of being perceived as a
high-end system only the wealthy can afford, the market is realizing that the average
homeowner can have home control solutions.
Homeowners are now technologically empowered to control costs in their
homes that have skyrocketed in recent years—such as energy management and
remote home monitoring—and they can feed their ever-growing appetite for entertainment
options, such as remotely managing the recording of a favorite television
show. One of the biggest hot buttons is remote video. Many consumers want the
ability to remotely view live video of their home to check on their children after
school, or to make sure, while traveling on business, that their spouses are safe.
As a result of the growing adoption of home automation solutions, security
dealers can reap the benefits of the home controls market by integrating security
with home automation systems. This allows dealers to capture additional recurring
monthly revenue and improve overall customer retention.
A Long Road for Home Controls
More than 10 years ago, when home controls technologies were first introduced,
the implementation rate proved limited. Touted for its ability to remotely manage
the whole house—lights, heat, air conditioning and even music—these systems
were typically expensive to purchase and install, with consumers having to pay
tens of thousands of dollars to implement a whole-house automation solution.
While price was not an obstacle for homeowners with deep pockets, the high
cost associated with home automation technology meant it was not appealing to
the average homeowner.
At that time, the ability to remotely manage home automation systems was limited.
Originally, remote management capabilities were available only via a Web-based
application on a computer, meaning that the homeowner had to physically sit in
front of a computer to make changes to the lights, heating or air conditioning system
remotely. Access via mobile devices, such as cell phones, was limited and expensive.
The market began seeing a change in the home automation industry about four
years ago, thanks to the further development of wireless and cellular technologies.
The driving force behind the broader adoption rate of home control solutions
can be linked to consumers’ widespread use of smartphone technologies. With
such technology in hand, consumers gain instant access to data for their home no
matter where they are—whether at the office, out shopping or on vacation.
It’s About Price, Technology and Remote Monitoring
In addition, the price for home control products has come down with more home
control devices incorporating low-power, wireless device technologies. There are
hundreds of devices available on the market that incorporate common communication
standards or technologies, such as ZigBee or Z-Wave, for lifestyle systems. These
two communication protocols are also being used to augment existing proprietary
protocols found in wireless security devices, which are dedicated life safety devices.
As a result of communication protocols becoming more prevalent or leveraged
to augment systems, such as controllers, thermostats, locking systems, irrigation
systems and security sensors, the overall cost of home automation devices, in turn,
As early as 2009, more than 18 million U.S. households were using VoIP service
instead of copper phone lines. This use of high-bandwidth communications such
as broadband and cellular has opened the door for these additional home control
services that were less practical on regular phone lines. By this year, AT&T estimated
there will be more than 45 million VoIP subscribers.
Both lower cost and the adoption of smartphone technologies are playing a
role in the demand for home control solutions, which is expected to grow considerably
within a few short years. Last year, Parks Associates, a Dallas-based research
firm, released a report indicating that the home controls market is expected to
grow from 6 percent to 20 percent by the year 2014 among U.S. households.
Parks’ researchers determined that a few technologies are driving the demand
for home controls, including energy management, remote home monitoring and
entertainment systems. Because of skyrocketing energy prices, many consumers
want to implement energy-management related solutions to help control their utility
bills. This can be as simple as turning the heat down a few degrees or limiting
the use of the air conditioning system when no one occupies the home.
With remote monitoring, consumers now have the ability to check into the home while they are away. This can include receiving
a text message on their cell phone
indicating that the alarm system was
disarmed when the children returned
home from school, or viewing video via
the Web or a smartphone that shows the
children entering the front door.
On the health monitoring side,
home automation can also track activities
of older people who might be living
alone. For example, a sensor can be
attached to a refrigerator or medicine
cabinet to report that an elderly parent
has opened the door several times during
the day. This data can prove useful
to adult children who live out of town,
providing peace of mind that an older
parent who still lives independently is
taking care of daily tasks.
Building RMR and
The benefits to the consumer on home
controls are vast, and so, too, are the
benefits to the dealer community. Dealers
routinely look for a sticking point
with security customers. They want to
attract new customers and retain them
long-term, rather than spend their efforts
trying to recover a lost customer.
Tying home controls to a security
system is one approach that dealers
take to deliver a system the consumer
market strongly values.
By tying in home controls with a security
system, security dealers can offer
customers a variety of applications to
remotely manage and monitor multiple
elements within their home. An
iPhone or Web-based application might
cost the security dealer a few dollars a
month, and that expense, plus a small
fee charged to the consumer, can translate
into additional recurring monthly
revenue in addition to the typical central
station monitoring fee.
The financial benefits can quickly
add up for a security dealer with as
few as 50 home automation customers
who pay an additional $10 a month for
remote monitoring capabilities via a
smartphone or Web portal.
In addition, home control systems
today are easier to upgrade because
they are software-based, so consumers
do not have to worry about their system
becoming obsolete in a few years. This
also is a money-saver for security dealers,
who can remotely update the home
controller software instead of having to
physically make a trip to the property.
Simply put, when it comes to home
controls, consumers today want to integrate
their home control systems
with their security systems, enabling
them check the alarm system to see if
and when the kids arrived home after
school, or to remotely view live video
of the babysitter while she watches the
kids. In addition, they want the freedom
to manage multiple systems within
their home from any location.
The market demand is there for an
integrated home controls and security
approach. Security dealers have a significant
opportunity to leverage this
demand as they build their business for
the future and strengthen their relationship
with the customer.
This article originally appeared in the August 2011 issue of Security Today.