CES Takeaways: Exclusive Q&A with CEDIA's Giles Sutton

Feb. 9, 2023
Why home network monitoring may be the key trend of the show for residential security integrators

This article originally appeared in the February 2023 issue of Security Business magazine. When sharing, don’t forget to mention Security Business magazine on LinkedIn and @SecBusinessMag on Twitter.

Giles Sutton, current Senior VP of CEDIA, has been going to CES for quite a long time, dating back to his roots as a home technology and smart home consultant. I was able to catch up with him post-show to get his take on the technologies and trends on the show floor that are most likely to impact smart home and AV integrators.

Security Business: What are you looking for when you are walking the CES show floor?

Sutton: I’m really looking at the entire connected home, everything that is connected within the home. To that end, I was just blown away by the sheer quantity of products that I saw there – everything from security to wearable technology, electric vehicles, robots, home companion
robots, and just the proliferation of connected devices that we are going to see coming to the home and to the wellness market. Even [traditional faucet brands] Kohler and Moen had connected wellness products and power management systems. One of my big takeaways is that the number of devices within the home is clearly going to rise exponentially, which is a tremendous opportunity for security professionals.

How will this rise in connected products impact traditional home security providers?  

Beyond the need that consumers will have setting up their systems, the research shows that consumers get to a point where they always will lean to a professional, because even with DIY products, there is a point where they have so many that it becomes hard for them to manage. There is a need for professionals to secure the home, and that really goes beyond those core security technologies that we have been used to, like video surveillance and gate controls and things like that. I really believe that security now must extend to the home network as well, because when I see all these products that have an IP address, they are all potentially hackable technology.

That need is even more pronounced now that we have more people working from home post-pandemic. Homeowners are accessing their office networks, and the home network is incredibly vulnerable if you are just using consumer technology.

Do you think traditional security integrators are not paying enough attention to home network security?

I think there is an opportunity there more than anything. It is an evolution of the security professional's role in response to some of the DIY products that are coming onto the market. This is similar to CEDIA integrators – there is always a role for a professional CEDIA integrator, and at some point there is a level of sophistication with these systems where you are going to need a professional. Beyond those more sophisticated systems, all these homes are going to need a professional to ensure their networks are secure. I don't think anyone is really paying enough attention. It is not just security installers, it is CEDIA integrators as well. Like I said, I see this as a huge opportunity.

Did you notice any home network monitoring technology on the show floor?

I didn't. And if anything, again for me, another takeaway is that a lot of the products that I saw at CES are either heavily on the consumer electronics side and DIY products that are ready for consumers to start buying right away; or, on the other hand, the products that are not yet ready for the market. That reinforces to me the need for trade shows that are specifically for the security and integrated channel. CEDIA Expo is a great example of that, and ISC West as well.

I noticed some new Wi-Fi 7 routers as well. They are pretty early-stage products, but it was quite interesting that the messaging surrounding those products focused on how the pandemic has put enormous strain on the home network, because so many people were working and going to school from home – this is almost a response to that, that people need more robust, higher speed Wi-Fi within the home to support all of the devices and the proliferation of devices that we're seeing. Again, it is that switching the narrative to the network being the key use of infrastructure within the home that holds everything together.

We need to go beyond just having the router that is supplied by your cable provider. It needs to be more robust and more secure to support all of this.

What about gadgets? Did you see anything that turned your head?

So much stuff. I noticed that the safety and security of the elderly is something that I saw as a trend. I saw products that look like light fixtures but could monitor behavior, such as whether someone got out of bed in the morning or if someone has fallen.

I saw some great products focused on sustainability and a lot of home power management as well. With the increase in electric vehicles, that puts a lot of stress on the home from a power perspective. Surge protection, home batteries I think are going to become very popular. I even saw a home battery that could be powered with water.

Sustainability can be one of those big trends. Back to the fact that Moen and Kohler – traditionally associated with the bathroom space – had such a presence, it shows that they are now seeing themselves more as technology companies. Again, it comes back to this theme that the home is increasingly becoming a place where people work, and people want technology to enable them to both work and relax.

I know Moen introduced a water monitoring device a couple years ago that attaches to a home’s pipes, and Alarm.com came out with a water monitoring device at CES. Is water the new entry point to monitoring technology in the home?

Absolutely. I think when we talk about monitoring in the home, we are starting to see the next frontier in the smart home, where AI is going to leverage the “mass sensorization” of the home. Technology is getting to a point where it can monitor your behavior, understand your routine, and then create customized responses and experiences based on that behavior. I think that's where we're going to see a lot of development over the coming years. We have spoken about home automation for a long time, but we know in reality there hasn't been a lot of automation. It started with the intelligent thermostat, but now we're starting to see other products that are monitoring and responding to events.

It is interesting how a lot of these manufacturers have positioned themselves at this show in that regard. For example, Sony didn't have a single television at their booth, and Bosch was really all-in on sensorization. The reason is that sensors will lead to AI. At some point, there's a tipping point where everything in the home is going to be connected, which again, reinforces the need to secure the network.

If you are a residential integrator you are going through this magazine, or you went to CES and you see a pet monitoring device or a smart toaster, what's the next step to getting it into your offerings?

The interesting thing is that you have two groups of companies at CES – the really big household names, and then the startups. I was actually on a Parks Associates panel and we talked about, this issue that a lot of technology companies and manufacturers are so obsessed with developing a product that they don't give enough time to thinking about how it will go to market.

They are not necessarily aware of the professional channel, which is why there were a lot of distributors from our channel that were there, such as the Powerhouse Alliance, and a lot of manufacturers rep firms. Part of our role is to educate these manufacturers on our space – that there is a professional workforce here that is ready, willing, and able to install these products so manufacturers are less likely to get tech support calls from consumers.

I think distributors like the Powerhouse Alliance are an important way of filtering the products hyped at CES and making sure that they are ready for our market. Once all of that's in place, then integrators can get access to them, with a certain amount of margin built in.

That leads to the million-dollar question for residential security and AV integrators: Is all this good or bad for business?

I think it will be really good for business. It just requires looking at things in a different way. I think the industry has spent a lot of time speaking to the convenience of having integrated systems and the aesthetic appeal of having integrated systems.

I think the value proposition of having secure integrated systems is a new conversation that installers need to have with homeowners. It's a new value proposition because it seems to me there is no other professional out there that is really focused on this and has the experience that both security and AV installers already have in this area. 

Paul Rothman is Editor-in-Chief of Security Business magazine, a printed partner publication of SecurityInfoWatch.com. Access the current issue, archives and subscribe at www.securitybusinessmag.com.