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DIY Systems Provider Goes Too Far in Ad Attacking Electronic Security Industry

Boston-based SimpliSafe attacked the home security industry, painting alarm companies as enemies looking to take advantage of customers.

SimpliSafe is a hybrid residential and small business security systems provider that sells DIY kits.

By ·

I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!

That’s how I feel after coming across an inflammatory ad seeking to discredit the entire security alarm industry.

The offending company first drew my attention last year with testimonial-oriented TV ads highlighting its offering was different from traditional alarm systems. The ante (and my pulse) was raised when I began to hear radio and podcast ads more openly critical of the “traditional” alarm industry.

However, the recent print magazine campaign I encountered is, in my opinion, an all-out declaration of war on our industry and as such has my blood boiling.

The egregious and antagonistic act was inflicted by SimpliSafe, a Boston-headquartered hybrid residential and small business security systems provider that sells prepackaged self-installed (DIY) kits online, with alarm monitoring principally handled by Roselle, N.J.-based AMCEST’s wholesale central station ($14.99/month to customers).

Having grown to more than 250 employees and a claimed 500,000+ customers, SimpliSafe’s aggressive marketing has been fueled by funding from investors such as Sequoia Capital’s $57 million infusion in 2014. Founded by Ivy League graduate and current CEO Chad Laurans, the company presently offers some 10 wireless home and light commercial packages priced from the $229.96 “Starter” set to the $539.85 “Ultimate” option.

Related: SimpliSafe DIY Home Security System ‘Inherently Insecure’ and Prone to Hacking, Report Finds

Highlights (lowlights) of the back inside cover print ad that nearly caused me to spit out my coffee when I saw it in July’s Popular Science are as follows:

The ad found in July’s Popular Science.

The giant incendiary headline reads: “There is something TERRIBLY WRONG with the Home Security Industry.”

The body copy includes these assertions: “Most alarm companies take advantage of people who want to feel safe. They offer you a ‘free’ outdated alarm, but then require you to sign a long-term contract full of nasty fine print. It’s pretty sickening really. Our founder, a Harvard engineer, studied the alarm industry and found all kinds of problems with it.”

During my nearly two decades in this business, I have seen many newcomers to the electronic security field deploying all kinds of strategies and making lots of claims. But never have I witnessed — particularly on such a large, nationwide scale — the brazen bashing and venom spewing now being aimed at our great, proud and proven industry by this bile-pedaling excuse for a security company.

It’s more than hitting below the belt; it is an affront to everything for which we stand. Further, it undermines the well-deserved and hard-earned faith and trust we have instilled among the public.

It’s bad enough our industry has had to contend with losing customers to deceptive sales practices and get bombarded with rampant news reports of consumers being victimized by alarm company scams. We all know, and to their credit some of our trade associations’ high-profile companies have stepped forward to publicize the fact that those cases are a few bad apples and low-end bottom feeders that are not truly representative of the industry overall (media sensationalism also plays a role).

It’s more than hitting below the belt; it is an affront to everything for which we stand. Further, it undermines the well-deserved and hard-earned faith and trust we have instilled among the public.

The closest parallel I can draw to SimpliSafe’s negative campaign is the alarm industry’s conflict with law enforcement regarding false alarms, and the few highly vocal detractors who pushed for nonresponse and excessive penalties. Thanks to better equipment and practices, along with vigilance from organizations like the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), false alarms have been reduced and relationships with first responders much improved. However, we had all better brace for a false alarms surge in the near future due to self-installed devices such as those sold by SimpliSafe.

No matter what anyone alleges, there is no substitute for a custom-tailored, professionally installed security system.

That issue is among several — not the least of which are misleading declarations and reports of system hacking vulnerabilities (sources tell me there have also been licensing snafus) — that tell me SimpliSafe ought not be throwing stones from its glass house. An outfit like that can’t touch the high skill and expertise, superior equipment, wider choice of products and services, and premium customer service, full-service operators in our business deliver on a daily basis.

DIY has its place in the market but there is no room for desperate, baseless ploys that soil the good name of our industry and its thousands of upstanding professionals.

However, just doing a good job is not enough. From grassroots to mass media, security firms and groups must actively promote the industry’s virtues and help ensure the public is exposed to balanced and truthful information.

Article Topics
Business Management · Columns · Between Us Pros · Business · DIY · Home Security · monitoring · Monitoring · All Topics

About the Author
Scott Goldfine
Scott Goldfine is Editor-in-Chief and Associate Publisher of Security Sales & Integration. Well-versed in the technical and business aspects of electronic security (video surveillance, access control, systems integration, intrusion detection, fire/life safety), Goldfine is nationally recognized as an industry expert and speaker. Goldfine is involved in several security events and organizations, including the Electronic Security Association (ESA), Security Industry Association (SIA), Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), False Alarm Reduction Association (FARA), ASIS Int'l and more. Goldfine also serves on several boards, including the SIA Marketing Committee, CSAA Marketing and Communications Committee, PSA Cybersecurity Advisory Council and Robolliance. He is a certified alarm technician, former cable-TV tech, audio company entrepreneur, and lifelong electronics and computers enthusiast. Goldfine joined Security Sales & Integration in 1998.
Contact Scott Goldfine: [email protected]
View More by Scott Goldfine

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Between Us Pros, Business, DIY, Home Security, monitoring, Monitoring, Residential


Get over it. It’s competition. We’ve used similar marketing tactics against door to door companies for years. Being in the industry nearly 20 years, I can say that many of those statements hold some truth. There are traditional companies installing current but antiquated equipment that doesn’t have the features younger customers want. We’re just now seeing the major players starting to catch up with GOOD mobile apps and home automation. Our industry is at an “iPhone” moment, and if we don’t continue to innovate and provide what the next generation of customers want in there systems (do we really need a keypad?) we will be the next Blackberry. Remember those?

By Josh M on August 4, 2016

The fact that you ask if you really need a keypad shows that years of experience have left you ignorant to customer use and practical application of technology.  The concept of going all app based control for any system in a clients home is ludicrous and shows a level of detachment that is actually embarrassing to witness.  Are you taking out all thermostats?  Removing all remote controls for Audio/Video systems (do not respond to this one, you don’t have the knowledge to back it up)?  We are no where close to an iphone moment.  The point of the article is that many people have worked hard and done their due diligence to to provide a needed service that helps build a piece of mind for our clients.  To see these people attacked is harmful to everyone.  This company is the “ambulance chaser” of our industry.  If you have to trash your competition to get ahead then you have nothing to offer your industry but trash.  If your product is so great let it stand on its own and see where it goes.  Reminds me of the people that say “I can control all of the tv’s and audio in my home with an app.  I don’t need a remote!!”  then 2 weeks later call us saying that they were completely wrong and to please bring them a handheld remote.  We always program a couple of handhelds and hide them in the home for this very moment and we have NEVER not had the client ask for them.  In the statement above the person says “We’ve used similar tactics…”  ever consider that you are part of the problem.  If you have to drag someone else down to be successful then the truth is that you sucked at your job in the first place.  Good day gentlemen!!

By ProAudio Georgia on August 19, 2016

You don’t understand my comments and have proven my point.

No, we really don’t need a keypad when technologies like Bluetooth LE could enable us to unlock a door and disarm our systems just by walking up to the house and our mobile devices can instantly notify us of events and allow us to interact with the system from anywhere. Is that the most secure way to handle it? Perhaps not, but that’s what our next generation of customers is going to expect.

Home Control and Audio is a different beast than alarm systems, but the success of systems such as Sonos and Chromecast would seem to indicate the direction of customer exceptions.

In regards to my “similar tactics” comment, I’m referring to the industry as a whole, and we have used similar tactics against the door to door guys and more recently the Telcos and CableCos.

You seem to think we’re not at an iPhone moment, but I question whether or not you understand what that means. Nokia, Microsoft , and RIM (Blackberry) all responded to the introduction of the iPhone the same way you’re responding to this. Where are those companies now in the mobile phone space?

By Josh M on August 19, 2016

Of course you need a keypad. OF COURSE. What happens if your phone is dead? Lost? Kids are home but you’re not? Guests?
Seriously, do you want to go without a hard-wired alternative for emergencies? When emergencies are what our industry revolves around? I appreciate that some manufacturers in our industry have been a little slow on the integration of the very newest technology, but that is smart business. Being an early adopter does not always pay dividends (BetaMax, anyone?). Most manufacturers of burglar alarms have now begun implementing newer technologies, but that doesn’t mean that everything “old” equates to “bad”. Wireless takes batteries. Batteries fail. Personally, give me hard-wired every time. And yes, a KEYPAD.

By JBurge on November 2, 2016

By Josh M on November 3, 2016


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