All by Myself
What the rise in DIY means for security and home automation
- By Steve Connor
- Sep 01, 2017
Whether it’s a solution sold at a retail chain, a
system ordered online, or the latest product on
Kickstarter, it feels like Do-It-Yourself (DIY)
is the new buzz in both security and home automation.
This is a change that feels like a threat
to many, but is a very common path for most technologies; it just
took our industry a little longer than most.
Take computers for example. When computers were first invented,
they filled entire rooms and needed complete staffs to operate. As the
famous computer pioneer, Gordon Moore, predicted in 1965, in what
would become known as Moore’s Law, the number of components
placed on a microchip would double every year, which led to smaller
and more powerful computers. The computer also became increasingly
user friendly over time, from desktops to laptops, right up to
today, where the phones we hold in our hands have more computing
capability than the computers used to send men to the Moon in 1969.
In a similar way, security systems that began protecting only banks
and jewelry stores, or the homes of multi-millionaires, have now become
much smaller, much more powerful and easier to install and
use—all the while becoming much less expensive. With self-contained
security systems using wireless sensors, security dealers are able to install
multiple systems in a day, opening up tremendous growth over the
past 10 years.
The DIY systems that are emerging today are the next logical step
for the growth of the security industry. The key to their success will
be making these systems easier to install and easier to use. These will
be the two most major success factors for security manufacturers and
security dealers alike.
If we look back to computers, software has become much easier
to install and use in the past 30 years, through the use of installation
wizards and more intuitive and user friendly designs. Security needs to
follow this same pattern to achieve success and mass adoption in the
Expanding Security System Penetration
Why go to DIY at all? Research over the past 10 to 15 years shows that
the penetration of residential security in the U.S. is somewhere between
20 to 25 percent of all homes. Many customers who see security as a
desirable product, balk due to the cost of systems, or to being locked
into long-term contracts. If you notice, that concern has become the key messaging focus of some successful entrants into the DIY space.
DIY systems hold the potential to expand the market share well beyond
where it is today. Not only could these systems be ideal for homeowners
of traditional single family homes, but due to the wireless nature
and ease-of-install that wireless sensors offer, these systems could
be installed and uninstalled and moved again and again. That would
open-up the opportunity of security to be sold to customers who live in
multi-dwelling units (MDUs) such as duplexes or apartments.
The National Multifamily Housing Council estimates that over 35
percent of Americans live in MDU homes, which is over 111 million
people. This has been a market largely ignored by security dealers,
but could be ideal for new DIY solutions. Systems that are designed
to be installed and then are easy to be removed and re-installed in the
next apartment would be more valuable to both the renters and the
dealers as the security service relationship continues from address to
address. This model has been successfully employed by satellite and
cable TV providers for years now.
Targeting these customers also has the added benefit of creating
relationships with security providers and customers much earlier in
their lives. These systems could be expanded over time to protect
more people and assets as their lives grow and include other services
like home automation equipment.
Another great target for DIY systems is existing security customers
that also have a vacation home. DIY systems could allow families that
share vacation homes to verify who is using the property, or give disarm
codes to friends for temporary use. Also, systems can be made to
be flexible enough to accommodate temporary use by renters through
property management companies or new marketplaces like Airbnb.
The owners of the property could create “temporary” user codes that
can easily be changed when that renter leaves. DIY systems can also
give added protection to locked owners’ cabinets where the permanent
owners store items that they want to keep secure from renters.
Making Installation Easier
Wireless sensors and back-end service providers offering system control
apps have made security much easier for dealers to install and
for homeowners to use. DIY systems will need to take another leap
forward in ease of install to make these systems more user friendly for
less experienced installers.
One method will be through easy step-by-step instructions videos.
The app that runs the system is the best place to provide the content
that will walk the customer through the installation of their DIY system.
Videos created to show the best practices of “how to install” a
particular sensor on a particular installation point, such as installing
a wireless door sensor on a sliding glass patio door, can show the user
what to do and most importantly, what not to do, making the installation
easier and more secure. Video satisfies most of the styles people
naturally use to learn by enabling them to see, hear and have almost
a tactile example of what a successful installation looks like, making
the installation experience better and much less intimidating.
The burden is on the manufacturers of these systems to make
them much more intuitive to program than even the best systems
of today, which have industry jargon like “entry-exit with delay” for
door/window sensors, or “interior follower with delay” for motion
detectors. DIY systems must employ common terms and eliminate
industry jargon to avoid confusion.
Security professionals should not underestimate the competencies
of today’s consumers, when given intuitive, step-by-step instructions.
For example, most of us now complete our own taxes and make investment
decisions for retirement using software tools that have made
the steps of those transactions easier. Learnings from those markets
can be transferred to DIY Security to make installation, programming
and operation of these systems manageable for all.
Easier Control and
Just like the disruptive changes that have occurred in the tax preparation
and investment industries described in the previous section,
the service models of today will need to be more flexible for DIY
Customers. The standard long-term contracts and $30 to $50 that
amortize the cost of equipment over the life of the contract will no
DIY systems should be inexpensive to start, increasing the likelihood
that the equipment is purchased up-front, making it unnecessary
for the monthly monitoring cost to spread out the upfront
expense of the physical equipment. DIY systems also eliminate installation
expenses like truck rolls. Some of these costs will not disappear
entirely, as more service operators may be needed to help DIY
customers with questions that come up during installation, but this
will significantly lower the monthly RMR.
Security dealers should recognize that these transactions, although
lower per month, can be profitable on day one, in contrast
to the contracts they use today, which take months to become profitable.
Money is made on the equipment sale itself and monitoring is
still profitable. If you look at other successful monthly services like
Netflix and Pandora, monitoring costs below $15 per month equal
payment amounts that consumers are very comfortable with making
month after month.
A step even further will be to offer either “self-monitoring” or “ondemand
monitoring” features, common of emerging DIY solutions.
Self-monitoring can be offered at a lower monthly cost like $9.99, allowing
end-users to establish their own response network for security
events. Instead of calling the police, the system may alert a roommate,
landlord or another predetermined contact. Security dealers could
then offer a step-up solution to increase consumers from “on-demand
monitoring” to professional monitoring for two weeks when the owners
go on vacation, or seasonally for vacation homes.
Where to Go From Here
While the current security model will continue to successfully sell and
deploy alarms throughout the market, the opportunity that emerging
DIY solutions present is extremely viable. DIY security must be embraced
and enhanced to match consumer’s preferences and expectations,
resulting in a product that’s easier to install, program and use.
When that perfect mix of easy and intuitive is put into a kit for
DIY customers, it opens up a huge new blend of target markets for
the entire security industry to work with, and
that is the real goal—to protect more people,
more homes and more assets, while working with
those customers to provide a monitoring package
that is right fit for them.
This article originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of Security Today.