CES Tech Creates Opportunity

Feb. 12, 2021
How security integrators can leverage the “cool gadget” hype
This article originally appeared in the February 2021 issue of Security Business magazine. When sharing, don’t forget to mention @SecBusinessMag on Twitter and Security Business magazine on LinkedIn.

Professional technology integrators have an increasingly uneasy relationship with CES. To many security integrators, it seems like a massive pep rally for DIY devices that threaten their livelihoods.

Every year, we see a new class of compelling consumer devices that promise homeowners easy installation, management, and control. Every year, I also hear more and more technology professionals dismiss CES as a “gadget show” – either refusing to take these consumer devices seriously, or willfully denying their appeal to their customers.

The real threat to the industry is not CES and the “gadgets” that premiere there, but in ignoring these innovations and broader opportunities they represent. Simply put, security integrators can ride this wave of innovation, or be overcome by it.

This year’s CES featured several security devices aimed at both consumers and professional security integrators that indicate promising avenues for expanded opportunities. For example, the newly-announced Den SmartStrike is aimed at homeowners who want the convenience of a smart lock, but would prefer not to advertise that their front door is on the network. This discrete solution integrates with a range of smart home platforms and protocols, including BLE, Zigbee, Wi-Fi, and Z-Wave (read more about it on page 47).

Crucially, the products at CES also address the network security of these types of physical security devices, with services like Zobi Home Intelligence (https://zobi.ai) promising to monitor network traffic for suspicious activity across all major smart home protocols. The crucial implication here is that security systems are part of the larger smart home ecosystem, both in the eyes of consumers and in practice.

Emerging security devices are leveraging their ability to integrate into a holistic smart home environment as product differentiators. For security integrators, that means presenting your work as part of that ecosystem and diversifying your business portfolio to include additional smart home technologies to resonate with your customers.

Your customers are likely already considering additional smart home purchases. Smart home research firm Parks Associates recently found that 63 percent of security system owners plan to purchase a smart home device over the next 12 months, compared to 40 percent of all U.S. broadband households. Shouldn’t the security integrator the customer has already entrusted with protecting their home be the one to provide the other elements of the smart home?

Integrators Must Think Tactically

For security integrators, the key to a successful smart home play is understanding how the security system can contribute to a customer’s larger needs and goals. This means thinking both tactically – for example, ensuring the products you recommend integrate with any existing or planned smart home systems – but also strategically.

If you understand a customer’s health and wellness goals, for example, you might incorporate a product designed for that purpose into your design. What’s more, you might have the opportunity to introduce the customer to smart air and water monitoring devices that integrate with the system to further support their wellness goals.

Extending a security integration business in this way requires paying careful attention to emerging products in the smart home space. CEDIA, the global trade association and central touch point for residential technology, can help security professionals make direct connections to innovative vendors that will help them differentiate their offering.

CEDIA’s recently-launched Propel affinity program is specifically designed to help companies find new technology products while enjoying exclusive member savings. In the coming months, Propel partners will offer training on how to integrate these products and position them for clients.

Take Advantage of the Hype

There is another reason to embrace the innovations emerging from CES: in the end, many simply cannot be avoided. On projects ranging from a suburban townhouse to a multi-million-dollar estate, clients may insist on familiar products – or ones they heart about reading CES coverage – be incorporated into a security system.

Homeowners are increasingly integral to the brand choice process; thus, incorporating popular consumer devices into your service offering can be profitable. For example, one of Propel’s first partnering brands is Amazon, which many pros may already be familiar with or actively using. Through Propel, Amazon is extending CEDIA integrator members access to preferred pricing on Echo and Ring devices, with discounts of up to 25% off when ordered through Amazon for Business.

The innovators at CES know they have brilliant products – and they also know those cutting-edge products have the best chance of resulting in a great customer experience when they are integrated by a professional. CEDIA Propel will continue to be an incubator for new products in the smart home category; and it can be your source for the latest tech as you reach into the smart home market.

Giles Sutton is co-CEO of CEDIA (https://cedia.net), a global trade association and central touch point for 3,700 member companies who design, manufacture, and install technology for the home. Visit http://cedia.net/propel for additional information on CEDIA’s Propel program.