Home Automation

The New Security Sale

The reality is that the security industry is undergoing technology-driven changes, and nothing can be done to arrest them. It’s not hard to find signs of the upheavals. No doubt you’ve seen big-box store or telecommunications companies’ television spots in which they advertise new homeautomation capabilities.

By definition, home automation is the bundling of life safety and lifestyle services into one solution that allows an end user to manage his or her security system and basic household functions via presets or by controlling them remotely. For example, no longer does the homeowner need to worry whether he or she locked the back door or that the kids have arrived home safely from school. In the fully automated home, uncertainty is a thing of the past.

It’s All in the Numbers

Home automation is no longer the province of early adopters. According to a report by BCC Research, the U.S. market for home automation systems and devices was valued at roughly $3.2 billion in 2010 and forecasted to reach $3.4 billion in 2011, the year of the study. Going forward, the projection is for strong renewed growth in the home-automation sector, as it’s expected to exceed $5.5 billion in 2016, which comes to a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.5 percent.

To put a finer point on it, lighting, home entertainment and security systems accounted for almost 58 percent of the U.S. home automation market in 2010. That slice of the market is expected to increase to $3.8 billion by 2016 (CAGR of 12.2 percent).

The upshot for you, the small to mid-sized security dealer? No longer is offering merely the “usual” suite of security services enough to thrive in this changing environment. Consumers are already beginning to demand more, and these numbers prove it. Be assured that your customer base is already seeing those ads mentioned above, and the telecommunications industry and big-box stores are putting home automation squarely into the customer’s consciousness.

Home Automation and the Security Dealer

Rather than fearing, or worse ignoring, what’s going on, recognize that these marketplace evolutions, if approached and leveraged properly, present you, the security dealer, with a rich opportunity for growth.

The first, and most obvious, step is equipping your business with a full complement of homeautomation solutions. This means giving your customers centralized control of lighting, thermostats, appliances and security locks of gates and doors with security cameras trained on points of entry and throughout the interior of their home. Most of all, it means the customer has the ability to control it all remotely via smartphone or mobile device.

For instance, is your customer the parents of teenagers? You can set them up to receive a text message any time the sensor-equipped gun or liquor cabinet is opened. Are your customers worried about the rising cost of utilities? They can remotely control the thermostat along with all exterior and interior lighting systems. Does your customer travel often for work? From the hotel or even the conference room, he or she can arm or disarm the alarm system, lock or unlock doors and control lighting to make the home appear occupied.

Video Enhances Security

The real game-changer, though, is video. It’s one thing for a smartphone app to tell your customer that their doors are locked, their lights are on and all is well; however, it’s a completely different level of control to be able to call up live video of their home at the press of a key or the swipe of a touchscreen from anywhere in the world.

Of course, the benefits of having video cameras installed go beyond allowing the customer to survey their property while on business travel. It’s knowing when a package has been delivered, that the dog is staying off the new sofa or seeing the kids walk through the front door after school or soccer practice. It’s automatically receiving a clip when a motion-detector is tripped. It’s being able to turn over to law enforcement the relevant before, after and in-the-act footage following an attempted break-in.

Indeed, it would be impossible to catalog all the scenarios in which remote viewing of event-triggered clips, images and real-time streaming video would benefit a property owner. Simply put, nothing provides the customer with the situational awareness they want quite like video capability.

Offering Video Monitoring

The marketplace reality is such that if you’re a security dealer of any size in 2013 and you don’t offer wireless-enabled video monitoring, then you’re not just falling behind, you’re already losing the race.

The good news, both for security dealers and end users, is that video these days is better than ever in terms of functionality and affordability. The real impetus, though, is the sense of empowerment that video provides the homeowner by allowing him or her to take on an active, real-time role in keeping watch over his or her home, valuables and most of all, loved ones. Not being physically present in one’s home no longer means relinquishing control of their home, and it no longer means a compromised level of—and here’s the key word—security.

Therein lays the obvious overlap with what you do for your customers every day. Automation services are uniformly packaged with security services because security services are the driver for any such purchase by the end user. Convenience is a selling point, sure, but feeling secure when in one’s home and feeling secure about one’s home when away are the underlying motivations for the consumer. Plus, you know security better than any cable company, wireless provider or home-improvement retailer, no matter how big they may be. You’re the security expert.

Controlling the Home Environment

Home automation is really home control, and home control is about security at every level of the residential environment. Now, do you think customers, the existing security-only ones you’re about to upsell or the new ones you’re poised to recruit, want you, with years of industry experience and security acumen, to install and maintain these new implements of control? Or, do you think they want the cable guy to do it? That’s an easy answer provided of course, you have the right tools. In this instance, the right tools are not only what works best for your customers, but also what works best for you.

If you’re a small to mid-sized security dealer and you’re one of the many new to home control, what would you want from a solutions provider? Your checklist probably reads something like this:

  • A trusted provider that has experience in security and offers home control training to your sales and installation team, and promises readily-accessible customer service.
  • A provider that offers service-level pricing as opposed to an a la carte structure. After all, service level means lower costs and easier invoicing on your end as well as lower costs and appealing simplicity for the customer.
  • A provider who understands that your customers need, say, commercial fire communication paths or PERS, or landline-replacement solutions and that your business grows through diversification. Since all such products must be activated, you know that it’s easier and more efficient to standardize and work with one activation portal and one customer service team. So, find that one provider who equips your customers with the broadest portfolio of tiered solutions. Doing so means you’re focused on growing your business and not lost in the drudgery of managing the back end.

By now, two things should be clear: home automation is here to stay, and you, the security dealer, can easily position your business to take advantage of this growing industry. All that’s needed is a strategy of focused outreach to customers and a trusted partner to help you give them what they want. At this point, the only way is forward.

This article originally appeared in the October 2013 issue of Security Today.

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