Expanding to Home Technologies, Part 1: Home Technology Defined

Welcome to a new monthly column here at SecurityInfoWatch.com. I have been asked by the editor of this publication to write a series of articles on the home technology industry for security professionals who can benefit and profit from adding this niche to their line of services.

Each month we will touch on one aspect of the industry and seek to provide real world answers on how you can engage customers who want the benefits of technology without all the hassle.

With each article, I hope you will gain greater insights into the opportunities provided by this exciting market. Our goal is help you learn some of the business and installation issues you may face as you expand into uncharted waters of doing "more than security". No matter the age or size of your company, I hope to provide you with tools that will help you run a more diverse and profitable business.

Before I get too deep into this, let me put forth a disclaimer. I am not a Harvard Business School MBA, or an accredited financial professional by any means. Please seek the advice of professionals before you take any steps that might impact your business either positively or negatively. Rather I am a senior fellow in the "School of Life" and I have "been there, done that" as they say. I even have a few T-shirts to prove it, too.

I won't bore you with a long list of my past responsibilities. Rather let me say I come from the same roots as many of you and fully understand the intricacies of running a small business.

So how do we define home technology? Perhaps we should begin with what it is not.

We all perceive life and our businesses through a paradigm. And from the paradigm of a small security dealer whose previous attempts to penetrate this "strange" market segment, you may perceive home technology as something to be avoided at all costs. You think it's expensive to buy and install, difficult to sell, impossible to make a profit from and that it requires programming more complex than the first Apollo mission to the moon.

Now let's get to the reality. Home technology is none of those things when properly designed, correctly installed and accurately programmed. The majority of your customers want technology packages that are simple to use, affordable and reliable. Nothing more, nothing less. (And isn't that your goal for security systems, too?) So when your systems meet or exceed these three goals, there is no reason to avoid home technology as one of the services your business offers.

Now that we have dispelled a few myths about home technology, let's look at what is possible and how you can expand your business into some new areas of expertise.

The home technology industry is diverse and consists of many different disciplines. For our purposes, I am going to break down home technology into 10 broad categories, starting with the familiar items that are tried and true for you.

• Security - Yes, good old security is home technology given the growth in products that do far more than just burglary and fire protection. Many of today's security systems expand to control a wide range of other technology options, such as HVAC and lighting. People are comfortable with gaining additional benefits from something they already own. Sell what you know and make it your entry point into more.

• Surveillance - Another product most of you are very familiar with. Many A/V companies are making new products that discreetly hide a surveillance camera and allow the image to be viewed from a TV and/or any web-connected PC. And it's a system that is easy to sell, install and train.

• Home Automation - What if you could provide your customers with a single system that when smoke is detected, not only would it notify the central fire station, but automatically shuts down air handlers to keep toxic fumes from spreading, while lighting an exit path to safety for the family? Or a security system that when set to "Away", turns down the thermostats, turns off the lights and sets lighting timers based upon sunset to function until the family comes home? Home automation is not always fancy keypads and RS-232 computer codes.

• Structured Wiring - A fancy phrase for a home electronic wiring infrastructure that provides the path for different types of signals, such as audio and Wi-Fi access points. There are many manufacturers of quality components and wire to choose from, particularly if you are in the new residential marketplace.

• Whole House Music - The name says it all. Customers want music to be available in many different rooms of the house thanks to the have-it-with-you-at-all-times craze that the iPod helped create. In-wall and In-ceiling speakers make it unobtrusive, recent technology advances make it easy to control and price points are far more affordable than in the past.

• Home Theater - Not the big dedicated rooms on the covers of the magazines, but multi-purpose rooms that allow the family to experience movies, games and TV on large flat panel displays with surround sound systems. People are not waiting for their old TV to go bad before buying plasmas and LCD TVs. Manufacturers are ratcheting up their capacity to meet demand and prices are falling rapidly.

• Lighting Control - This is one of the least-served market segments in both new and retrofit markets. Once people are exposed to the benefits of lighting control, they will buy and expand their systems over the years, giving you opportunities for profit over the long haul. There are issues of licensing since this is high voltage work, but a smart dealer will partner with a qualified electrical contractor or obtain the correct licensing to create profit from this underserved market segment.

• Home Networking - Using the wiring infrastructure you have already installed, here is another opportunity. In the very near future, every electronic component will be Ethernet-enabled and web accessible, so now is the time to begin learning as much as you can about this technology. Key manufacturers realize this and are now making simple to install and program routers and network components designed for the home market. Plus Microsoft and Intel are very interested in this market, so learning more about networking makes huge business sense.

• Telephone Systems - Advanced hybrid systems that are virtually plug-and-play can carry multiple lines, include voice mail for each family member and support a home office easily. Today's systems are affordable, easy to use and program and make sense for busy homeowners. Plus these systems make good use of the structured wiring you have already installed, increasing the need for the right wires in the right places.

• Central Vac - Excuse me, vacuum is a technology? Well, not in the strictest sense of the word, but this is a profit center that you should take a very close look at. Especially since you are already in a new house installing other systems, why not rough-in the piping for a central vacuum as well? Builders particularly are looking for a one-call solution to the installation of home systems, so adding this line makes sense.

So do you agree with my definitions and categories? Are you intrigued by the ideas shared here? What changes might you contemplate for your organization? Can it really be this simple? Only you can answer those questions, and I hope you will ponder them before the New Year begins and add the technology systems that make sense to your business plan.

Put aside your fears about home technology and look closely into the realities of what can be done in today's homes simply, reliably, predictably and profitably. Demand is going to do nothing but skyrocket and now is the time to enter this lucrative market when the potential for revenue and profit are at the highest levels.

Next month we will talk about the traits that a home technology dealer must posses in order to be successful. I look forward to sharing more of my ideas with you then.

About the author: Keith Davis is Senior Dealer-to-Builder (D2B) Manager for AVAD, a leading U.S. distributor of custom home electronics. He can be reached via email at d2bmanager@avadd2b.com.