Smart phones and the security industry

Mobile devices matter to our industry more than ever. We see it in the number of camera viewer applications and alarm system control applications that are becoming available on today's smartphones. It's been said by industry leaders like Honeywell's...


Mobile devices matter to our industry more than ever. We see it in the number of camera viewer applications and alarm system control applications that are becoming available on today's smartphones. It's been said by industry leaders like Honeywell's President Ron Rothman, who told First Alert dealers that the consumer is driving control to mobile devices (see more of SD&I's report on last week's First Alert conference).

So, what's happening with mobile devices? Who's winning the battle?

Clearly at this point, it's a two-player market. There is Apple with the iPhone and RIM (a Canadian company) with the Blackberry. Each has roughly 1/5th of the world market of smartphones (17.1 percent for Apple's iPhone, 20.8 percent for Blackberry according to Wired Magazine). Microsoft, the early dominant player, has seen a drop in market share, from 11 percent in 2008 to around 7 percent, despite the fact that Microsoft had the early operating system platform. I don't see this Microsoft trend turning around, to be honest.

Google is the new up-start in the mobile devices space with its Android operating system, and if Google's other successes in Gmail, GoogleMaps, the search engine, and Reader are any indication, this company will become a real factor in the business of cell phones. Don't forget Palm (as in the old PalmPilot, an early player in the smartphone market), which seems to generate conflicting market share reports. IDC put them as rising to 13.4 percent of marketshare, but other reports say the company has steadily lost market share for 2 years and is now down to roughly the same level of Microsoft's OS. One thing is for sure: Google is small but getting the buzz; Palm is reinventing itself but still not getting consumers' attention the way the company did in prior years.

So now the question becomes a matter of how do smart phones affect the security industry. Here's my read on the situation:

Consumers are going to turn to smart phones like never before. I think the culmination of some really easy to use phones (even RIM's clumsy old Blackberry interface has taken a cue from Apple and is easy to use), along with a general desire to be connected all the time, has pushed consumers into this frenzy of smart phone technology adoption. The steady increase in usage of smart phones by consumers is going to mean rapid advances in use of remote connections to home security systems, business security systems and home/building automation solutions.

Video to the phone is going to explode, especially as the 3G networks roll out and the 4G networks follow suit. Video, however, isn't going to be used in a stream-it-all-the-time manner. Rather, video usage is going to be based on alerts and will be accessed as clips. There will likely be the option for streamed, real-time video for some commercial and residential systems, but not many will pay for or use that feature. Vendors' pricing structures are going to match video usage and will be tiered or will be Pay-as-you-go.

For the integrator, this is going to be enormous. With the advent of GPS in the phones owners could know where their techs are, they could get instant project status updates (which can be fed back to the customer), on-site staff can access technical documents, they can instantly message other technicians to get tips on new technologies. And unlike the guard services industry, this area of adoption could really take off because there is a tangible return-on-investment for the integration business operator who has the staff using smartphone technology to the fullest. Other places where smart phones are a win for integrators: taking photos of the job for the customer's information archive, being able to remotely connect to security systems for programming, using the smart phone to check camera placement/focus, and using the phone to track billable hours. There really is a great deal of potential here.

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