The Comfort Zone. Bleeding edge offers opportunity for integrators.

Oct. 27, 2008
Out with the old and in with the new. In today’s fast-paced market, communication has changed immensely.

Browser-based connectivity, text messaging and interactive video monitoring is changing what we as the industry call a turnkey residential security, fire and automation design. For the integrator, it opens up a host of applications and new ways to create recurring revenue.

For example, text messaging or SMS, which stands for Short Message Service, is one communication method morphing the way an alarm or supervisory signal is transmitted while offering new options to integrate the home’s functions. The SMS protocol allows the interchange of text messages and these are now used to transmit alarm notifications or other alerts to the user and/or the central station. In its simplest form, residential customers can receive notifications or alerts to telephone, PDA or laptop. But many take it a step further by adding pictures to the mix.

Now, the customer gets a notification and video link to the captured action – which may be a child, or teen, opening a liquor cabinet or other alarm incident.
Considering there’s only some 23 percent penetration for security systems in the U.S., there’s a whole untapped residential market and this may just be the greatest thing since sliced bread to many of those who are still unconvinced.

National Security Inc., Fairfax, Va., has an extensive remote video monitoring demonstration area at its HQ showcasing the service to customers. Seeing is believing and there’s been increased interest and demand for remote video monitoring, said Lou Gibbs, president of National Security.

“They may want it to check in on their pets during the day while they are at work or to observe a caretaker or nanny or similar situation,” he said. “There are all kinds of ways to use the service and there’s definitely demand for it,” Gibbs said.

National Security, which focuses on high end residential and commercial, has offered video surveillance to residential customers for some time. “Many of our upper end clientele have used cameras and we’ve been integrating them in residences for the past 4 to 5 years. But they were cost prohibitive—anywhere from $500 to $1,000 each. The advent of IP cameras has changed that. Now customers can get a camera for about $375 and monitoring at $10 to $12 per month,” he said.

“Customers are hungry for technology,” continued Gibbs. “They want to do more than simply turn their system on and off,” he said. Gibbs uses a solution from, Tysons Corner, Va., that doesn’t require a phone line or Internet connection to communicate signals to the monitoring center. It’s designed for customers who use VoIP or cellular phones instead of regular landlines.
According to Mary Knebel, vice president, Marketing & Business Development,, video allows the owner to actually look in on their property in response to intrusion, environmental and non-alarm alerts to help them determine the proper course of action.

“There is a much higher comfort level in seeing that your children are home safe from school than just getting an e-mail message or phone call that they are home,” Knebel said. “The video feature can also eliminate the inconvenience and expense of actually driving home from work to investigate an alert from your security system.”

Going ‘live’ with customers
Still, there lingers that low market penetration rate for residential security—could remote connectivity and video hold the key to breaking through those numbers? Many in the industry believe so.
“Once you offer something beyond traditional safety and security, there’s a huge market for those who want to be connected,” said Reza Raji, president and chief operating officer of iControl Networks, Palo Alto, Calif. “Best of all, the customers value their service and use their system every day,” he said. iControl Networks recently released a Web-browser interface that leverages the existing infrastructure of a security, broadband, telecommunications or cable provider’s connectivity within the home.

“Home Security 2.0 adds broadband and mobile access, low-cost IP cameras and remote lighting, thermostat and lock controls to traditional monitored security systems. Whatever existing system they have we extend it and build on it by making it Web-enabled,” Raji said.

Raji added that some 60 percent of homes have broadband connectivity and “everyone’s using mobile and all kinds of widgets. Pictures and video clips are the hottest thing right now,” he said.
Based on recent research and market analysis, GE Security forecasts a radical shift toward interactive services that will more than double the size of the residential security market in the next five to seven years. Homeowners that don’t purchase monitored security in any form today will be interested in the interactive services of tomorrow, according to Jeff Wilson, Market Development Leader, GE Security, Tualatin, Ore.
“As soon as you are connected to a high-speed, always on Internet connection, the potential number of applications becomes staggering – the real challenge in the residential security space is identifying and pursuing the applications that homeowners are really interested in,” he said.

Wilson said that the expectation for this level of technology is that it should be interactive, configurable, personal and accessible anywhere and at anytime. “The proliferation of applications on mobile devices like the iPhone, Treo and Blackberry has removed boundaries between systems. Consumers now get e-mail, Web content, GPS services, text messages and digital music on their phones – it only seems logical that they should be able to control their security systems, get information about changes in their homes when they aren’t there and control devices like a thermostat from the same handheld device.”
Sounds like opportunity knocking for the security systems integrator.

Sidebar 1:
Is Video On Demand Coming to Your Home?
Well, yes and no. The term video on demand is generally associated with entertainment downloads, but there’s a new side to this when it comes to security. Companies like use Remote Video Monitoring to describe the capability for homeowners to view surveillance video of their property from their PC, mobile phone or other device. “This service is absolutely coming to the residential security market, because for the first time advances in technology have made video affordable and easy to use for homeowners with friendly interfaces and enhanced feature sets,” said Mary Knebel, vice president of Marketing & Business Development,

Sidebar #2
Stats to Get You Movin’
In recent consumer research GE Security conducted in August 2007 and verified by quantitative research performed in April 2008, homeowners saw tremendous value in being connected to their home and family and were willing to pay more for services that allowed them to monitor and control their homes while away.
According to GE Security, the application that has the most interest from homeowners (even those who don’t own security systems) is video. This is especially important because the penetration of video in the residential setting today is almost negligible as a percentage of homes that have a security system. Other applications that scored high include:

  • Ability to know if doors or windows are open when homeowner is away from home
  • Ability to remotely arm and disarm security system
  • Ability to remotely control home lighting simply and easily
  • Ability to remotely control thermostat
  • Ability to monitor home water and energy utility usage
  • Ability to quickly view information such as weather, traffic or a family calendar on the way out the door