Selling Home Automation with Security

A Q&A with Home Automation Inc.'s Tom Pickral about what the home automation industry holds for security dealers

Can you tell us about the marketplace and whether that is changing?

It typically has been an upper-end offering. But I do see that changing. People really want these kinds of products, and it's not just the wealthy homeowner. It absolutely is making a shift to the affordable housing market. We saw a developer in Texas using our technology whose homes were prices from the $120Ks to $130Ks. Affordability has changed; these systems can be appropriate for any of today's homes, from the trailer home up to the mansion.

While the products are definitely designed for professional installation -- and we make it a point to support the dealer channels -- we've had interest from companies like Home Depot and Lowe's to offer these products. That's how the market is changing. And these products are going to become even easier to install.

Dealers selling this kind of technology need to think about the buyer of today. What factors are changing with the potential buyers?

Generation X and Generation Y are going to have an enormous impact upon the marketplace. Because homes have become so expensive, we're seeing most people are buying homes now in their early to mid-30s. Even though that may be a little later than it had been in the past, this generation is much savvier. They grew up around this technology. They grew up with Ethernet connectivity, using email alerts and seeing cell phone tie-ins. They've been able to email video clips. And if the price difference for their home to have these kind of control functions is only a few hundred dollars, then what are they going to do?

All that said, these systems still do not sell themselves. Faced with things like upgraded countertops, upgraded flooring, unless someone is selling one of these systems, you will get a lower response.

The market, in many ways, is still in its infancy. It's really just getting started after all these years, regardless of what the sales numbers were this year. And eventually we think we'll find a central home control system in every home that's built.

In close, what would you tell the residential security dealer who may be starting to look at home control product sets?

I'd say every security dealer needs to understand what these products offer because eventually that's going to be what they have to offer. Today's buyer is looking for more than just security.

Automation and integration is what's going on in the industry today. To remain competitive in the industry, they'll have to learn these products and offer these kinds of products, or else they'll be run over by their competition.