Posted on: 30 Jun 2020

Blog: Time to Add Some Smarts to Your Home?

Is it now time for domestic security systems to add some Smarts….?

Over the past nine weeks I’ve had my COVID-19 office exclusion, and whilst working from home it’s become really clear that home really is where the heart is. Like everyone I am desperate to keep my family, home and possessions secure and my thoughts turned to how best to protect my premises in the future.

As someone who has now spent over half my working career in the security industry, I’ve always felt the remit of home security is a place for ‘box shifters’ – be they regional or national – with a formulaic business model that both lacks innovation and the potential to offer a ‘Security as a Service’ capability. Ironically, I’ve had flyers through the door and even the odd phone call from the installer community, but none seemed abreast with the desire to make the home ‘Smart’.

When walking with my kids I saw the all too familiar bell box blinking a visual deterrent to the wannabe burglar, but I have no doubt that inside they are furnished with the traditional low end – intruder panel – many that could have been fitted over 10+ years ago. Furthermore, the owner unless really risk adverse and having signed up to an often costly remote monitoring service, is likely to have had a limited (if any) service done and all too frequently will have neglected to have ever turned it on. Yet despite this there remains a market for the bells and buzzers approach that is peddled by both the large and small players alike, purely because it’s what they know.

Over the past 5 years, with the growth in the cloud and improved connectivity, the opportunity to make devices and therefore homes ‘Smart’ has moved from embryonic to mainstream.

We no longer need to imagine a world where all the devices in our lives could be connected to the internet – lights, wall switches, security cameras, appliances – the ‘Internet of Things’ is here and it’s a key factor in our lives today. Components that you can control, can accept your commands and act upon them.

Our internet connected devices have added a new layer of convenience to our lives, and have made it easier than ever to monitor our homes from pretty much anywhere. Smart security systems are highly customisable and available as do-it-yourself kits or as full-blown setups that include professional installation and monitoring.

Hive, Nest and alike have made the concept of managing your heating, lighting and wider controls a common theme but nobody has – until the birth of Ring – seized the ‘Smart home driven by security’ market.

For Ring they started with the doorbell and are now looking to take their disruption to the wider security proposition. The likes of Vodafone have seen the opportunity, but as non-security experts they have piggybacked off Samsung in an attempt to develop an offering. Hive, Google and others have capabilities there but, to date, nobody in the UK has cornered the market or looked at it as a Smart security system that can become the control hub on which you can hang the wider Smart capabilities.

One thing these systems do offer is simplicity and connectivity at a low cost and without the need to have an ‘expert’ engineer there to fit it for you. The world of the App brings endless possibilities, not least the opportunity to automate the whole process; meaning that the alarm can automatically be set and managed without the need to flash a token or enter a code. They are also highly modular with the ability to link them to wider peripherals and technologies which makes them a companion and not just a security tool.

The simplicity here really is the driving factor and having had more than one eye on this development I took the opportunity to work with my maturing relatives to trial a number of devices. Without degrading their capabilities, none are technical geeks, but all found installation quick, simple and effective and all actually wanted to use the systems.

With this in mind I questioned why use a professional installer – and this comes from someone running a security business! Taking this on board I invited my contacts here on LinkedIn to see if they shared my view – 54% opted for self-install systems and, on further dialogue with those who went for a professional install, 80% – justified their response based on the fact that they would want professional monitoring as a requirement and didn’t believe self-install would offer this – when outlining Vodafone’s capabilities and those of SimpliSafe their opinion quickly changed. When outlining the cost differential they were sold.

To test my case I picked up the phone to one of my major competitors to get a price for a professionally installed Smart system. It didn’t start well; despite explaining my desire for a Smart system for my home I was told that their traditional alarm panel was much more reliable. On pushing for Smart the information initially provided was at best scant. Within a day my quote came through and the costs for the install and ongoing fees made my eyes simply water.

I then talked to Verisure, the company who are quickly building a highly impressive brand in the professionally installed Smart Alarm market. An excellent customer service adviser called me within the hour and, despite their attempts to encourage me to have a home visit (which at the height of Covid did surprise me), provided me with an indicative cost – at this point my wallet slammed shut. Yes the estimated install price before haggling for my fictional two up two down was £350 – something i thought fair, I was taken aback at the monthly subscription at £35.00 inclusive of monitoring. Ok there was not tie in but if i don’t pay the subscription then the app wont work!

So, whilst I accept that not everyone will want to go the self-install route, and that for many, grading of the system will be a key requirement, the opportunity presented by the many thousands of aging fixed wire systems and the upcoming switch off on PSTN, there is undoubtedly an opportunity for significant growth in self-installed systems. With the relatively low cost, ease of installation and the capability to have professional monitoring (increasingly as a Pay as you Go Service) support, I can only see self-install driving market share.

For this reason the provision of these systems is therefore now a key part of our strategic plans for the future.

Darren Gamage, Chief Operating Officer