It's Crunch Time

Traditional security dealers and alarm companies, as well as central station monitoring firms are struggling to make the move to new technologies but they know they must to survive.

No surprise. According to recent SD&I research, more than 85 percent of readers said keeping up with new technology is their biggest challenge. In the morphing landscape of residential systems, nowhere is that more evident.

The world of residential systems has morphed into wireless and Internet-driven technology big time. Apps, smartphones, iPads and other remote connectivity devices rule. Video is prevalent and expected especially to look in on the home and check occupants. The good news is these conveniences and functionality may finally help penetrate the market beyond the current 20 percent installed base of security.

Energy management is an up-and-comer for users who want to save money and assist green efforts. Especially as Generation Y customers, also known as Millennials (born between the mid 70s to the early 2000s) come on as customers, security dealers and integrators will have to learn new technologies and train technicians for these new subscribers. Another piece of good news: subscribers more engaged with their systems tend to be stickier, meaning a lasting customer and possibly ones less prone to attrition.

Not only is technology a challenge, but so are sales. The days of leading with selling a motion detector, keypad or contact are gone. So are profit margins on products. Not to say these devices aren't necessary, but the focus is on customer convenience and staying connected to the protected premises.

Snapshot isn't rosy; better days to come

No denying, the residential systems market has had a tough go of it the last several years. New construction ground to a halt and foreclosures rose to all-time highs. Moving and upgrading to bigger homes is a thing of the past for the time being. For those with systems hit by the recession or who lost jobs, they may have dropped services or landlines and stuck with cellular only, good for adding value but bad for the uninformed central monitoring station.

While some in the industry have been concentrating their efforts on installing products-central vacuums, theatre systems and the likes-the RMR is just not there as it is with other emerging technologies. This is where the systems integrator has to concentrate their efforts-on convenience, connectivity, remote operations, smartphones and more.

Energy management is a big deal for APX Alarm, Provo, Utah, which began offering the wireless Z-Wave-based 2GIG Technologies(r), Melville, N.Y., Go!Control security and home management system. They continue to go hard and fast after emerging technologies and it's improving their bottom line. APX Alarm focuses on same-day installation for its customers, another competitive edge.

"We're seeing a lot of exciting innovation in the residential market," said Jim Nye, vice president of Business Development, APX Alarm. The company OEM'd a smart thermostat and lighting control compatible with the Go!Control security system when it began its energy management endeavors last summer.

"It's these kinds of home services customers are looking for," Nye continued. "We offer security in the traditional sense, but enhanced services go above and beyond. For current subscribers, there's no additional base equipment needed for the energy management component. When they have the security system it's ready to upgrade. We simply add a thermostat and it works via the Z-Wave protocol and then they have the energy management component when they are ready, including smartphone control," he said.

Nye said APX Alarm continues to look for other smart features to add to its portfolio. "The Z-Wave Alliance is working with lock providers on a smart deadbolt with a wireless module that integrates with the security system. GPS tracking is another opportunity."

LifeShield Security(tm), Yardley, Pa., is also on board with smartphone applications and recently introduced a free virtual application for real-time control and on-the-go monitoring of home and business security systems.

"Smartphone applications are one of the fastest growing tools in the technology sector, however, until the advent of wireless systems, home security companies could not offer this platform to customers," said Louis Stilp, chief operating officer and founder of LifeShield Security.

It's all about a mindset and a fundamental shift in the way systems integrators do business. Many have realized this, and while the transition is difficult, it's necessary.

Learning curve is steep but worthwhile

Stephen H. Wheeler, president of Holmes Security Systems in North Carolina is an iconic company name in the industry. The 102-year-old company, founded by Oliver Wendell Holmes as Holmes Electric in 1908, is not going by the wayside by any means-so Wheeler is doing something now about the way the residential market is changing. He said keeping up with technology is a major challenge and the company has spent a considerable amount of time and money to educate staff on technologies and also, on training personnel on new sales techniques. It's been expensive but he wants to be around in the future, so he knows it's imperative. Holmes Security Systems is an independent central station company that serves two distinct markets, the military community near Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, N.C., and residents in Wilmington, N.C. Wheeler said the company has done well in the residential market despite the economy but ties that to the growing Fayetteville market.

"Technology changes have us working harder," Wheeler said. "The systems customers are demanding are ones we too have to learn. We are trying to figure it all out like the rest of the security community. We have had to completely switch gears and reinvest time and money in learning technology. It's one of our biggest challenges today-and one which will be around in the next several years, because many new technologies continue to emerge and we want to make sure we select the right ones to move us forward," he said.

Wheeler said he hires IT-savvy people and also re-educates existing technicians through classes and training. "We've also had to re-educate sales people-they aren't selling a switch or a sounder anymore," he said.

Holmes Security Systems is a Honeywell First Alert Professional dealer and offers Total Connect to customers. "They want to control the alarm system from their phone, but right now I'm not quite sure they are willing to pay the amount necessary for those services," he said. "We still have customers who want basic alarm systems, but the younger customers are driving the move to new services." He added that customers are dropping their phone lines and moving to cellular or GSM radio, but many do not know that in the process they may be compromising their monitoring. Wheeler believes the company's monitoring expertise, reputation and longevity is a differentiator that helps bring in new customers and keeps them.

"I've had conversations with our employees-and told them if we don't change that within five years we won't be around anymore," he said. "That's why I'm spending so much on training and learning new technologies, so we will be around. There has to be an investment on our part or it won't happen."

Jumping on board to be ready for what the future brings

Many other traditional security companies have seen the light, including ADT Security Services, based in Boca Raton, Fla. Last October it rolled out ADT Pulse, an interactive smart home solution designed to provide a new level of control, accessibility and connection within the home, focusing on the needs of today's mobile consumer.

"This service is a natural evolution of traditional home security services that takes into consideration the needs of today's always-connected consumer," said Don Boerema, chief marketing officer, ADT Security Systems. Built around products that support the open Z-Wave standard, the solutions are bundled in Select, Advantage and Premier packages and allow for remote system arming and disarming; notification of alarms and events; look-in real time video or viewing of stored clips; and automation of lights, appliances and temperatures.

Alison Rhodes is an ADT Pulse customer and mother of four in the New York area who appreciates the peace of mind the system affords her as a business woman on the go. "ADT Pulse is home monitoring on steroids. I travel a lot for business and I can control virtually anything I choose in my home, all from my iPhone. I can see video from cameras at my home or a computer and see my children playing at home. This gives me peace of mind that they are OK."

Based out of Boise, Idaho, TYM Security is a relative newcomer to the home security industry, with about one year under its belt. Its successes in the home market prompted the company to expand into other markets, including Dallas-Fort Worth, according to Scott Montgomery, vice president of Marketing. TYM is a Security Networks affiliate, offering the Alarm.com interactive platform as well as 2GIG Technologies solutions.

New residential technologies offer cost effectiveness and ease of use, Montgomery said. However, he added, those advantages might not have caught up to the consumer. "In the past, home automation was expensive and hard to use. Now, everything can be controlled easily from a smartphone," Montgomery said. He added that currently customers are not aware of the different capabilities available-from energy management, security and lighting control to remote video-so TYM has to educate the consumer. "Bundling is important. In the past, security companies took a cookie-cutter approach; now it's all about being able to offer options and customize the solution for the customer's needs," he said.

TYM perhaps hasn't had the learning curve most traditional security companies have had. "We trained on wireless and new interactive technologies from the very beginning," Montgomery continued. "Systems today are quite easy to use. Our technicians use iPads on site to demonstrate capabilities and also, to decrease the programming time at the customer's premises." The company uses the phrase: "life made simple."

"It's all about adding value. When a customer says: 'Wow, we want that' that's what we want to hear," Montgomery said.

NEW THREATS, OPPORTUNITIES

Video is a great product to lead with especially for those who can use their smartphone to access live and recorded clips of occupants and their children. Once hooked with the video, add other conveniences and options.

In vogue is a new term called "personal security consultant." This is someone who helps with Internet protection, computer virus protection and even identity theft and thwarting risk of sexual predators.

Cyber bullying has become a big threat to children and it happens on Facebook and Myspace. Now there's a new player called Formspring.me, which is turning into a sensation because users are attracted by the ability to leave their names off their comments.

RMR/CS Web Monitoring Think Outside the Security 'Box'
Adding Value and RMR Comes Easy With New Solutions

The residential market is about value-add services and there are plenty of ways to bring them into the fold. Wireless and mobility and remote connectivity continue to bring possibilities for new services to the customer, the systems integrator and the monitoring station.

Video verification of alarms is a big value-add in many ways. Many municipalities and cities require verification, at least two-call, to consider dispatch on alarm. Video is proof positive of an actual alarm and two-way audio is another up-and-comer, with some cameras having audio capabilities on board.

What about antivirus protection for mobile phones, or products that provide real-time weather forecasts and updates? Or, how about personal emergency response systems (see page 18 for some cool offerings). Or really think outside the box with the Nuvo Group USA, Montclair, N.J., Ritmo product, the way to play music to a baby in the womb. An iPod, cell phone or other audio device connects to Ritmo's controller; it also gives expectant Dads, deployed military servicemen and even couples using surrogates a unique opportunity to bond with baby prior to birth. Here's another value-add: GreenField Direct LLC, Greenwood, Neb., developed the PipeBurst Pro Jr. which provides owners with clean water domestic flood detection and it can be used with many existing security systems.

"We're starting to see more attention paid to adding value and services to the core offering so integrators can differentiate their services and become more valuable to the customer," said Jay Kenny, vice president of Marketing for Alarm.com, Vienna, Va. "There's keen interest and demand by consumers in apps and interactive services and energy management. We see a distinct trend toward interactive services in the home and that will continue to accelerate. Phone lines are going away and there will be more integration of services with GSM. Dealers who recognize these trends early and begin to install services now will be in a much better position to prepare for the future," Kenny said.

Kenny added that consumers are recognizing the savings in energy management and there is more focus on green living."There is a level of education that has to happen," he said. "The way our technology is you can install a traditional alarm signal with GSM and sell additional interactive services later; just turn those on when the customer is ready and upgrade them over time when they recognize the value of that service." Alarm.com's home automation and energy management solution is called emPower(tm) and it allows interactive management of lighting, locks and thermostat settings.

Through its Affiliates, Security Networks, West Palm Beach, Fla., is offering services such as identity theft protection, weather solutions and other value-adds, according to Gary Franklyn, vice president of Business Development. Security Networks was the first dealer network to offer the Alarm.com Web-enabled video monitoring platform. Available through Security Networks' iNet (Stay Connected) video monitoring services suite for cellular customers. Franklyn said affiliates and their customers were looking for remote connectivity through smartphones and other devices.

Apples and Oranges and More, Oh My!
Everyone wants control from their mobile phone

Residential systems and the security marketplace will see a big boost once the economy recovers-thanks to the ability to connect to systems and services from practically anywhere across the globe.

David Rosow, Palm Beach, Fla., is currently president of the local town council. He's using the MobileCamViewer from MobiDEOS, Milpitas, Calif., to look at his cameras at either of his homes when he is on his computers. However, he's not at his computers at all times. He was looking for months to find a device to allow him to connect to his cameras without being on the computer but over his iPhone. "This is absolutely perfect for me," he said of the MobileCamViewer. He installed it on his iPhone and his wife's and his iPad.

He has been using the MobileCamViewer regularly ever since. "For example, I decided to check if the person that cuts my lawn was working. So I checked, I had my iPad, and sure enough there he was," Rosow said.

Looking at his cameras is just few clicks away. "I look through all the cameras of both homes just to see that everything is ok and I feel good. For my home in Connecticut, when I'm not there it's nice to know if one of our sons is at the house and I can see his car parked in the driveway. I can control the cameras and zoom in and out easily. That's fantastic because I can see much more of what's going on."

Rosow also said with the viewer he doesn't have to have another person come to the home. "For example, we had a wind storm and I could see that we had a lot of branches down so I called someone to come and help with the clean up. That saves everybody a lot of time, because I can accurately assess the situation."

Rosow added that the apps have been phenomenal. "It's helped my quality of life and I'm more confident about what's going on at my homes. I don't need games on my phones. I use it for applications that give me the ability to manage my life better. This has helped me enormously."

In addition to the MobiDEOS software/MobileCamViewer Rosow uses his iPhone and iPads with the 3G network from AT&T. At his Florida home he uses a Dedicated Micros Sprite 2 DVR as well as nine cameras, two with PTZ. In his Connecticut summer home he has deployed the same Dedicated Micros DVR as well as six cameras, two with PTZ control.

CO and Environmental Sensor Round Up

There are many products that make good add-ons in the residential market. Here are some we found that focus on carbon monoxide detection and monitoring environmental conditions.

Water Temperature Sensor

The Model 14A00-8 Water Temperature Sensor from Home Automation Inc. monitors the temperature of pools, spas, aquatic ponds and greenhouses. The temperature sensing device is potted in a stainless steel probe. It monitors water temperature from the return/source and then reports information back to an HAI Omni Family controller. The Omni controller can then have the entire home react and multiple persons can be contacted in varying manners. Visit www.homeauto.com.

Detect Smoke and Heat in One

Honeywell's 5808W3 is a 3V lithium powered, photoelectronic smoke/heat detector with a built-in wireless transmitter. It is intended for use with any 5800 Series Wireless Receiver/Transceiver for residential installations (for commercial installations, the 5881ENHC or the 5883H receiver is required).The transmitter can send alarm, tamper, maintenance (when control panels are equipped to process maintenance signals) and battery condition messages to the system's receiver. Algorithms minimize nuisance alarms by smoothing out short term spikes from dust and smoke -virtually eliminating nuisance alarms. Visit www.honeywell.com/security/hsc.

CO Detection with Voice Alarm

Kidde's Intelligent Alarm model 900-0216 uses breakthrough technology to offer a faster response to real fires, including smoldering and fast-flaming. It also provides warning of carbon monoxide (CO) and dramatically reduce the chance of nuisance alarms. The Intelligent Alarm contains a voice warning that clearly states the present danger-smoke or carbon monoxide-and announces "Fire! Fire!" or "Warning! Carbon Monoxide!" Visit www.kidde.com.

Gas Sensor with Biometric Technology

Napco Security's FWCO 1224 gas sensor uses patented biometric technology to simulate CO gas level response in the human bloodstream for immunity to false alarms from common household gases. The device has a 85db alarm sounder and an LED and features solid state electronics that won't leak or dry up. A smart microprocessor and infrared sensor optimize life safety and detection accuracy and the unit includes an active self test. The unit has a six-year life span and can be wall- or ceiling-mounted and includes hardware. It's UL-listed to 2075 and tested to meet UL 2034 CO response requirement. Visit www.napcosecurity.com.

No Flood Alarm Device

The Anti-Flood Alarm is part of Swann Security's Home Series and provides detection from water damage for home and property. The unit monitors for potential water leaks in laundry rooms, under cabinet plumbing, hot water tanks and air conditioning units. An alarm is triggered once water leakage or flooding is detected. An omni-directional sensor provides fast and accurate water detection. Visit www.swannsecurity.com.

Round Version of CO Detector

System Sensor announced availability of its new CO1224TR Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detector with RealTest(tm). The CO1224TR is a round version of the award-winning CO1224T CO detector. Like the CO1224T, the CO1224TR includes RealTest-the first and only field functional CO test fully compliant with NFPA 720: 2009. RealTest enables installers to quickly verify that the CO units are providing detection. The CO1224T and CO1224TR also provide multiple mounting options and are quick and easy to install, test and maintain. The detectors feature a low current draw, the latest electrochemical sensing cell and a six-year, end-of-life timer. Visit www.systemsensor.com/co.

Low Cost Water Sensor

Tane's WS-1 is a low cost water sensor that works on 12vdc alarm panels on a 24-hr. zone, open loop circuit. The wiring works similar to a two-wire smoke detector. The sensor draws a low current from the alarm panel's 24-hour open loop circuit. When the terminals on the bottom of the sensor get wet from the water, the transistor inside locks down to close the circuit, causing the panel to send an alarm signal. Visit www.tanealarm.com.

Critical Environment Monitor

The Winland EnviroAlert EA800 provides wireless environmental monitoring for temperature, humidity, water presence and contact closure. The EA800 accommodates sensors with a 4-20 mA output such as critical and toxic gases (CO, NH3, CH4), air flow, air and fluid pressure, vibration, extreme temperatures and tank level monitoring. With complete automatic data-logging history, LCD interface and freezer/cooler defrost time delay, the EA800 monitors industrial, commercial and residential applications. Visit www.winlandsecurity.com.
 

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