Is Google poised to disrupt the home automation and security market?

Experts discuss the tech giant's potential impact on the industry


Google announced in January it will pay more than $3 billion to acquire Nest Labs, a maker of intelligent thermostats and smoke/carbon monoxide detectors. Analysts say the acquisition is an effort to position Google to offer products for the connected home market.

Although exactly what products Google and Nest Labs will develop for the market moving forward is anyone’s guess, the move could potentially have a ripple effect within the home automation and security market.

For several years now, a large number of traditional alarm dealers have been making inroads with homeowners across the country by selling security as part of an overall connected home package. It is also a major reason why many of the big cable and telecommunications providers, such as Comcast and AT&T, have decided to enter the market. With the entrance of Google, however, many people believe it proves the viability and growth potential of the market as a whole.

“I think (the acquisition) is a huge validation for the business opportunities here in this space,” says Paul Dawes, executive vice president and general manager of iControl Networks’ security and telecommunications division. “As we’ve seen this market really explode over the last couple of years with the launches of ADT Pulse, Comcast, Rogers, Time Warner, and Rogers and ADT in Canada, there’s been enormous growth in the industry.”

iControl’s home automation software is used in some of the industry’s most recognized alarm panel brands including Honeywell, DSC, UTC, and 2GIG. “We alone are managing 10 million-plus devices out there,” Dawes continues. “It has really gotten to a point where it has reached critical mass, so when you see something like this happen, it’s just a validation that a lot of the larger players who have been on the sidelines are saying, ‘hey this connected home space is important.’”

Jeremy Warren, vice president of innovation for Vivint, which provides home security, automation and energy management solutions to more than 800,000 customers across North America, agrees that this investment by Google in the connected home space is a validation of its growth potential.

“My first reaction is that it’s a validation through another established company making a big bet in coming into this space,” Warren says. “Nest was already an interesting competitor in the space, taking a sort of device-by-device approach and I think Google just makes them more formidable and stronger in terms of what their strategy had been. I imagine that this gives them more resources to accelerate the development of various devices.”

According to Warren, it will be interesting to watch how Google approaches the market. “Google in the past has generally used services that are new to them and industries that are new to them in order to get information about customers to drive better ad delivery because that’s really the way that they make money,” Warren explains. “Whether you are talking about YouTube, Gmail or Android, the main thrust has been pretty consistent in that the idea is to get information about users in order to be able to deliver better ads. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that that they would be interested in trying to do the same thing with home automation and home security.”

Jay Kenny, vice president of marketing for Alarm.com, says he’s also curious to see what types of innovations Google will drive in the industry. “Clearly, connected home technology is something that is going to be a mass market product that everyone will have,” Kenny says. “Obviously, Nest has made some beautiful pieces of hardware and received acclaim. It will be interesting to see how that partnership or integration with Google works. From our perspective, it’s exciting to see more validation of the market and also just interesting to see how these platforms are going to evolve.”

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