Qolsys Making Meaningful Headway in Crowded Home Controls Market

In an exclusive interview, find out from Qolsys Co-Founder Michael Hackett how the developer of Android-based security and home automation systems is making its mark with dealers and consumers.

Since its inaugural launch at ISC West in 2013, San Jose, Calif.-based Qolsys has made significant progress advancing its flagship product – the IQ Panel – in the rapidly expanding wireless security and home controls marketplace. In the following conversation, Michael Hackett, co-founder and vice president of sales & marketing, discusses the company’s portfolio at length, among related topics.

Qolsys took a big risk entering a very crowded market with some big, big companies. How has Qolsys managed to break through?
The short answer is by listening to the customer – as in the end user and the dealer – by starting with the customer experience and working back. Prior to launching, we spent three years developing the IQ Panel and learning about the security channel while equally focusing on the burgeoning smart home space. The market, relatively stagnant for decades, has responded by embracing the Qolsys vision of an attractive, tablet like, true all-in-one solution. Also, dealers have responded to our marketing campaigns – Retire the Truck, Kill the FOB, 1980 Called it Wants its Security Panel Back – these have been fun and a fresh approach to differentiating our brand and products in the channel.

Can you give us a quick rehash of your new products, services and initiatives over the past six months or so?
In the last year we delivered three software updates from our IQ Cloud to our growing installed base of IQ Panels. In fact, one customer, with the press of a button, updated thousands of panels with a 40-megabyte software update from our IQ cloud. No one else can do this. The SW updates provided improved performance and functionality, including increased support for Z-Wave devices and Wi-Fi connectivity.

Michael Hackett

Qolsys Co-Founder Michael Hackett

We also added a robust Z-Wave diagnostic toolkit enabling dealers to design, troubleshoot and maintain more reliable Z-Wave networks, added a “Neighbors List” app that displays the Z-Wave network topography in the home to improve troubleshooting and the creation of pathways. Our cloud capabilities will continue to be a strategic initiative, enabling Qolsys and our dealers to deliver a competitive and upgradeable product. We also responded to dealer feedback and released new and improved devices into the ecosystem; such as our IQ Doorbell, a very inexpensive and elegant device that connects every existing doorbell to the IQ Panel and back end rules engine enabling alerts and other event triggered devices such as light, video and locks.

We released the 16-zone IQ Takeover for the retro and new home builder segments, its innovative feature set includes LED lights for ease of installation during the learn-in process and troubleshooting, EOL resistor learning supports 1K to 10K Ohm resistors which automatically calibrates and speeds up installation time, and an onboard supervised power module [500 mA] allows for easy takeover of hardwire motions, glass breaks, etc. The Takeover includes a charging circuit for a back-up battery which is fully supervised and provides recovery after a power outage.

What are some of the most popular attachments to a Qolsys system, whether your own devices or third-party products that integrate?
At a high level, dealers report increased attach rates across the board with their IQ Panel installations. The attractive form factor and all-in-one technology instinctively compels end users to embrace the functionality and attach more devices and increase connectivity to their home. For example, we’ve “killed” the key FOB and put the IQ Doorbell in our IQ Security Kit. We see the front door as a hot trend, but a $250 doorbell is more than most want to pay. Our connected doorbell has been very popular as a mass market device, while providing an obvious upgrade path to the versions with more bells and whistles.

Qolsys started life as a higher-end touchscreen-based security/automation system. Is a more nuts-and-bolts system on the roadmap?
We respectively disagree with the notion Qolsys is a higher end solution. We believe the IQ Panel is the right solution for every home. Consumers have spoken in terms of their demand for a richer experience provided the value can be clearly demonstrated. Apple is a perfect example, we would still be making calls from Motorola clam shells if the iPhone hadn’t successfully demonstrated users would spend more upfront for a phone with a great user experience and features people couldn’t live without.

We extend this value prop to our dealers – if they spend less time installing, maintaining and rolling trucks to our products – the lifetime value of that customer, and the total cost of ownership will result in increased profitability.  We don’t only consider the upfront cost of the hardware as the total solution cost.

At CES Qolsys showcased voice control via Amazon Echo. What are your thoughts about the voice-controlled smart home?
If it can be done in a way that enhances the customer experience we love it.

What can we expect to see from Qolsys at ISC West?
So much more! Recently we’ve seen the market aiming at and even behind the technology and market curve.  At ISC Qolsys will be moving the entire playing field.

Have you seen any particularly innovative sales, business models or successes from dealers who are using Qolsys?
More than anything, we are seeing a renewed sense of passion and focus, whereby dealers are now leading with user experience and benefits when in the past they led with $99 down. With the IQ Panel the broader IoT space is more accessible to dealers – which represents challenge and opportunity. 
We help by providing weekly Webinars and marketing assets in our dealer portal. Every day we see our dealers becoming better marketers, repurposing our marketing assets to communicate the features and, more importantly, the end user benefits. It’s fun to see dealers finding creative ways to promote our 7-inch touch screen; our dual path communication by illustrating the simultaneous cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity; the panel camera with images of family members disarming the system; and the co-branded help videos.

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