How to Make Smart Home Installs Easier

Aug. 10, 2020
Four ways security integrators can maximize customer satisfaction while minimizing future truck rolls
This article originally appeared in the August 2020 issue of Security Business magazine. When sharing, don’t forget to mention @SecBusinessMag on Twitter and Security Business magazine on LinkedIn.

A common theme that has remained constant in the rise of smart home adoption and mainstream acceptance of connected living has been the role the home security market has played in introducing the overall “smart” concept into the lives of today’s consumers.

The current smart home market is made up of a mix of the DIY and DIFM (Do-It-For-Me) consumer models – with overlap between them. As a result, we are seeing a convergence between the DIYers and the consumers who preferred the white glove experience of their entire security system being set up and monitored for them. That gap has created a major opportunity for anyone in home automation or home professional installation services to jump in and create new sales opportunities as integrators.

Smart home technology is meant to make life easier – not more complicated – and the home security market is among the strongest place for integrators and others to capitalize on the growing popularity of security products, especially as more consumers spend an increased amount of time at home.

Attachment rates for security systems have traditionally been non-existent, as the drive for monitoring contracts focused traditional residential security integrators on acquiring more customers with less focus on devices. This is changing, and the transformation is well under way, as national security companies like ADT and Vivint promote themselves as smart home providers, with security as but one of the many smart devices they will sell and install for customers.

Door locks, thermostats, cameras – packages with add-ons are becoming more common; but the real opportunity is there for the integrators who have more personal relationships with their customers. There is a lot of opportunity for integrators to use their services to fill in the gaps for homeowners who want to continue adding compatible devices to their system. Plus, communicating benefits like cost savings on energy and insurance, in addition to entertainment and comfort, will help to drive awareness and increase adoption of these systems.

With the ever-growing opportunities being made available to today’s residential security integrators, here is a checklist of four technology considerations that they should always be heeded when selecting a smart home security system to offer to customers.

1. Only install and recommend products that are tested and certified. Do not trust devices that have not received testing or certification, and consider the networking protocols being implemented, as well as interoperability and product support.

Among the various smart home protocols, Z-Wave is the longest established, and as a result, has reaped the benefits of years spent on developing features focused on security and safety. Z-Wave certification is a rigorous process that institutes a comprehensive testing suite to ensure enterprise level security and guaranteed product interoperability, meaning that all certified products will work together, regardless of manufacturer or product type. 

A Z-Wave-certified device will always be backwards compatible regardless of upgrades in any future versions that are released, ensuring a customer’s devices will work now and, in the future, no matter how the technology evolves. This means that integrators will not have to worry about rolling a truck every time technology advances.

2. Install devices that have additional security built-in. In addition to being reliable through third-party certification, make sure each individual product also provides some level of built-in security.

For example, Z-Wave certified products require the Z-Wave Security 2 (S2) framework, developed in conjunction with the cybersecurity expert community and designed to create a defense against anyone trying to gain access to connected devices. This gives the already secure Z-Wave device ecosystem new levels of impenetrability and protection against common hacker methods.

Network security remains a cited concern from customers; thus, explaining that you are installing technology that prioritizes network security – in addition to the physical security benefits a customer receives from smart home security – will be an important point inspire customer confidence and trust. 

3. Implement AI-based, context-aware networks and devices. An AI-enabled, context-aware environment in the IoT and smart home refers to the ability for devices on the network to learn from data and the information it gleans, and make intelligent decisions, recommendations and actionable changes to its operational capabilities. In layman’s terms, it is the ability for a device to adapt to the context in which it is, or has been, used.

The original smart home device model relies on human interaction and programming. A smart light bulb must be taken out of a box, connected to a smart hub, and then programmed on scenes or routines, or given a voice command in order to be used. The context-aware smart lighting system would use data from user behavior by reading sensor data from the surrounding connected devices to learn when to automatically turn on or off.

4. Use devices that make installation easier and reduce truck rolls. When deploying smart end-devices, user interaction is often restricted to extremely rudimentary interfaces, such as buttons or switches. The gateway typically presents a more user-friendly interface, through a web browser or a smartphone app. The installation of an entire system, on the other hand, can be time-consuming – and any issues that the user has after the install often have to be addressed through repeat truck rolls and visits.

Integrators should consider using devices that prioritize simplifying the install process. Z-Wave SmartStart, for example, aims to shift the tasks related to inclusion of an end-device into a network away from the end-device itself, and towards the more user-friendly interface of the gateway. SmartStart removes the need for initiating the end-device to start inclusion; instead, inclusion is initiated automatically at power-ON, and repeated at dynamic intervals for as long as the device is not included into a network. As the new device announces itself on power-ON, the protocol will provide notifications, and the gateway can initiate the inclusion process in the background, without the need for user interaction or any interruption of normal operation. This improvement also removes the possibility of other devices being included, as the inclusion process only includes authenticated devices.

By moving the device authentication process into the manufacturing and distribution phase – or service provider domain – the end-user is no longer required to do anything but power on the devices. This enables a simplified user and install experience where the device is genuinely ready to use, right out of the box. It also allows for the preparation of device inclusion prior to the devices being installed at the end-user’s home, which also enables a more streamlined installation process.

Mitch Klein is Executive Director of the Z-Wave Alliance. Request more info about the Alliance at