It's Crunch Time

Hearts and minds echo 'now is the time' as dealers look for success in the residential market

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.