In the security and fire/life-safety industries, technology is moving at a fantastic rate. Now more than ever, customers have the ability to completely control their homes, from anywhere.
However, protecting lives and property is still the No. 1 goal of this technology. And now is the time for dealers and contractors to capitalize on customers’ new demands and expectations — while helping them to stay grounded in reality.
The Informed Consumer
Today’s consumers expect a lot from their technology, especially when it comes to protecting their families and property. They want reassurance — and convenience — from their home security systems, personal safety devices, smoke and CO detectors, panic and duress sensors, and more.
For each individual consumer, the role of security and fire/life-safety products is different — and expectations can vary greatly.
“The ‘sphere of concern’ of end users has always varied from one person to the next,” says Jim McAward, director of market research for Honeywell Security Group. “One customer may be concerned about their baseball card collection, another may be concerned about their pets, another may be concerned about their teen driver on the road, or their elderly parents in another state.”
To achieve that reassurance, consumers are no longer content to protect their home solely with traditional technology, such as motion sensors, glass-break detectors and smoke detectors. Instead, demand is moving toward technology that will keep them informed 24 hours a day, no matter where they are.
“The technology for security and home awareness has evolved from a gadget that protects a house into a full-on digital communications backbone, which protects against a variety of threats, that can be accessed remotely and controlled using mobile devices,” McAward says.
Kirk MacDowell, residential sales leader at Interlogix, has also seen an uptick in demand for “lifestyle safety” products. For example, activity sensors can be set to notify the user via E-mail or SMS that a certain event has taken place at home.
“Lifestyle events, such as a medicine cabinet being opened, or a snapshot of who disarmed the system, can be delivered to the consumer without central station notification,” MacDowell says. “Environmental sensors can also give homeowners peace of mind in knowing that water detection sensors or freeze sensors can detect a problem and notify the homeowner before serious problems develop.”
Dealers and integrators should be prepared to pitch these remote capabilities to prospective customers — especially those with children, pets or elderly parents.
“Today, people are more likely to demand that 24/7 comfort of being able to look in on their home, their kids, or even their pet, just to make sure everything is OK,” says Bruce Mungiguerra, vice president of sales and dealer development at Monitronics Int’l. “More and more, they’re wanting the capability to check video feeds on their smartphones, receive alerts via E-mail or text message when a certain door is opened, and more. Dealers need to be ready to offer these products and really explain their value to customers.”
The Role of Central Stations
Customers are now more aware than ever of what security and fire/life-safety products can do to safeguard their homes and families, thanks in part to advertising and greater market penetration. And with 44% of Americans using smartphones, according to PC Magazine, more and more people are seeking remote safety and security apps. But experts warn that the remote capabilities of certain products do not supersede the need for professional central station monitoring.
“Although consumers love to be connected to their home remotely, we believe that critical event monitoring, such as fire, life safety or CO detection events, need to be sent to a central station where trained and experienced personnel can dispatch the proper authorities,” MacDowell says.
The traditional approach for clients included a few unmonitored fire and CO detectors placed in the home. In the best cases, the detectors would notify them there was smoke, excessive heat, or CO present. But without professional monitoring, the risk from these sources is ever-present. For example, what happens to an elderly parent or the family pet when a fire breaks out at home during the workday?
“Remote awareness of fire and life-safety information is a matter of reassurance: a nervous homeowner can check to see that their house is safe. But, no mobile device can replace a professional central monitoring station,” says McAward.
Even as user-monitored products become more popular, it’s important for contractors and dealers to remind customers that most lack the central station element. A video feed or personal safety device that routes alerts directly to the user’s cell phone can only inform him or her — not dispatch professional help.
While the draw of remote-enabled safety and security applications continues to grow, remind your customers that it’s vital to investigate which apps have professional monitoring services attached to them. For example, of the 10 most popular personal security apps available today, eight send alert notifications to a user’s emergency contacts; only two are professionally monitored.
“Without central station monitoring, consumers are putting themselves at risk,” says Mary Jensby, director of the Monitronics Central Station. “With a monitored smoke detector or personal protection device, help can be on the way in a matter of seconds. If the safety of your home and even your family is on the line, you want the police and fire department to know as soon as humanly possible.”