A funny thing happened when I was getting ready to write my February issue column on home controls and automation — Google fired what may well turn out to be the pivotal shot in finally propelling a decades-old industry into the mainstream. Just as I was about to put fingers to keyboard, news broke that the Internet search leader turned advertising behemoth turned technology trailblazer had ponied up $3.2 billion(!) to acquire newcomer Nest, the designer thermostat maker founded by former Apple gadget geeks that recently also launched the sleek Protect smoke/carbon monoxide (CO) detector. It’s huge news any way you slice it and some long-time observers at SSI’s sister publication, CE Pro, think it will in fact serve as the tipping point toward automation becoming as ubiquitous in homes as running water.
It boggles the mind, and is frankly a little bit frightening, to ponder the personal data, information and marketing power Google will wield should such a prediction come to pass. Of course, many similar technology-based acquisitions have fizzled through the years (Time-Warner’s America Online blunder, anyone?) and even appliances giant GE failed to “bring good things to life” in the security industry before selling off those interests to UTC. So pardon the cliché, but really and truly only time will tell. That said, Google has shaken up the custom home electronics industry, and those installation professionals are understandably concerned about the looming threat of potentially disruptive technology. Those in the electronic security systems installation and monitoring field? Not so much.
Which brings me back to the premise I had intended to drop on you from the get-go, before attention-mongering Google attempted to grab the spotlight: Stay true to your security and life-safety roots and core.
There’s a reason, actually several, why 12 of the 20 largest telecommunications and cable/satellite-TV providers are now selling and bundling security services, and why the do-it-yourself (DIY) market has gained traction. It’s a business with relatively low penetration rates (especially residentially), a huge universe of prospective customers, a continuous flow of new products, ever-expanding service offerings and recurring monthly revenue (RMR) opportunities, attractive margins and manageable attrition. It’s also why other allied trades such as electrical, datacomm and custom electronics (possibly soon more than ever if Google reshapes the landscape) have long set their sights on expanding into security, particularly as a recession-combating strategy. In other words, entrenched security firms already have the best-looking date at the dance.
Does that mean security dealers and integrators should make like ostriches and keep their heads buried in the sand (a myth, but nevertheless a colorful metaphor) or go about their business with myopic tunnel vision? Naturally not. In fact, being nimble, cognizant of market dynamics, willing to change and adaptive remains essential for long-term success. And incorporating new offerings into the mix as an adjunct or add-on to your security-centric portfolio ups your game as a well-rounded provider of convenient and integrated services. As usual, this month’s issue of SSI is full of ideas that you can incorporate for boosting your services and value to customers, as well as increasing efficiency in areas that can positively affect your bottom line.
Whatever you do, don’t change just for change’s sake or because “everybody’s doing it,” and for crying out loud don’t forsake or marginalize your security/life-safety foundation chasing something like smart homes just because it’s sexy (besides, there are myriad new security technologies that are just as titillating). Do it because due diligence has proven the merits and made the business case. And never relinquish your security stronghold.