Q: As their costs drop, video surveillance systems are moving beyond commercial and government installations to include more and more high-end residential homes, apartments and high-rise condominiums. How do I make sure my customers come to me if they want residential video systems?
A: With national crime rates again on the rise, people are looking for the most effective ways to protect their primary and vacation homes. This is a market with tremendous growth potential. According to Parks Associates research, only two to four percent of U.S. housing units currently have a video surveillance system in place. The major selling point is that high-end systems allow homeowners to check on their property at any time—while at work or on vacation—from any computer, cell phone or PDA with Internet access.
But for many families, video allows the user to see if the housekeeper or landscaper has come and gone as they were supposed to. They also use video systems to check on their kids to see that they are safely home from school or sports practices—the cameras can also show if homework or chores are being completed. At night, homeowners can see who is at the front door without leaving their bedrooms. Some people also use cameras to make sure that elderly relatives are up and moving about.
Oftentimes, celebrities and other wealthy, high-profile people choose a video system to help with liability issues. These systems can be of assistance when workers falsely claim to have been hurt while working on the property. The cameras may also assist in identifying stalkers and others who may become a potential danger to family members.
While prices for complete systems are dropping, the price tag will still put off many potential end users. Generally, a security dealer integrator will recommend a minimum of four cameras to cover all doors: front, back, side and garage. And in most cases, a homeowner also will want to monitor other high-risk areas such as driveways, swimming pools and backyards.
It is not unusual for a home system to include six to nine cameras—or more. In most cases, the homeowners can monitor the system on their computer and HDTV LCD monitors over a home network. An external hard drive can be used to record the video. Currently, the DVRs available are either entry-level units or commercial grade product that can push the installed price of a modest, quality system over $5,000.
Many electronics stores are now offering do-it-yourself video systems for the tech-savvy end user. Starting as low as a few hundred dollars, these very basic systems may meet the needs of some homeowners, but many will eventually want the higher quality, more feature-filled system that only a system integrator can provide.
The future growth of home video systems also will be driven somewhat by telecommunications companies and broadband cable television providers as they look for new ways to market their services. They are already offering home alarm systems. But when it comes to video there will always be room at the top end for a system integrator. And as prices continue to drop, those opportunities for you to create a new market among the less wealthy will expand. It is human nature that the more people acquire, the more they will want to protect it.
Steve Morefield is president of Anaheim, CA-based Firstline Security Systems Inc., which has provided the commercial, high-rise, medical and corporate marketplace with standalone and integrated access control, CCTV, burglar and fire solutions since 1992.