Why Wi-Fi Is a Wise Upsell Feature

Wi-Fi connectivity is creating opportunities for alarm dealers to offer added feature sets and services to homeowners and small business clients. Communications protocols like Z-Wave enable systems to communicate with other components such as lighting control, thermostat, shades and more.

With an ever-expanding list of competitors popping up in the home security space, taking advantage of technologies that people are already using in their homes may be an installing security dealer’s key to holding onto customers.

A few years ago, this trend started to emerge as dealers began offering the ability to manage security systems using smartphones. Because an estimated 50% of homeowners in the United States already own these mobile devices — a number that is expected to reach 65% by 2015 — it only made sense to extend security to these devices as well.

Today, as a growing number of competitors jump on the mobile-device bandwagon, dealers are looking for the next in-home technology that can help them grow their businesses. Wi-Fi is well positioned to be that technology as more homeowners opt to install wireless routers in their residences.

A new generation of control panels with Wi-Fi connectivity is emerging as the latest tool to enable dealers to strengthen their footholds within homes and small businesses, as well as to deliver more of the high-tech solutions that end users are demanding.

Self-Contained Systems Offer Ease of Installation

More than ever before people have grown accustomed to technology that makes their everyday lives easier. It’s a phenomenon that security dealers are increasingly exploiting to create new customers or upsell their existing client base.

“It’s a lot easier to retrofit a system when the underlying technology you need is already there,” says Brian Phillips, service manager at Champaign, Ill.-based FE Moran.

Choosing to add Wi-Fi connectivity in security offerings provides dealers with one of the fastest ways to combat the competition. This is because using this wireless technology allows installers to eliminate cable runs needed to connect traditional IP communicators, a major step that significantly simplifies the process of connecting to the Internet while lessening the cost of hardwired Cat-5 installation.

As Phillips notes, the math is easy: the fewer wires there are, the less time it takes for installation. “Fewer wires has literally made the difference between averaging one install per day to where we are now, which is four installs per day,” he says.

Taking the trend one step further, some dealers are turning to the combination of Wi-Fi-enabled, self-contained systems that provide advanced functionalities but in an easier fashion. Some of the tools that help in this regard are touchscreen capabilities featured in the newer self-contained systems. By taking advantage of its intuitive programming and touchscreen interface, for example, Matt Morgan, security installation manager for Indianapolis-based Koorsen Fire & Security, was able to get an entire system up and running in an hour using a touchscreen. 

“The installation on a touchscreen is icon-driven, making it more user-friendly and intuitive. The steps are right there on the screen and the system walks you right through it,” he says.

Easier operation and functionality of self-contained systems also extends to the homeowners themselves. These solutions are designed to easily walk users through the arming/disarming process. Early testers of these types of systems, for example, report a reduced overall training time for end users.

“Not only is it easy from an installer’s viewpoint,” says Phillips, “the end users pick up on it right away too. With this simplicity, there’s no guessing.”

Home Automation by Way of Z-Wave

While Wi-Fi might represent a breakthrough in ease and installation, those benefits are still primarily felt by the dealer as opposed to the homeowner. At the end of the day, the dealer is still forced to provide some sought-after feature sets that the average consumer has come to expect in a gadget-heavy world. Connected home capabilities are the types of features that provide that necessary “wow factor.”

Although Wi-Fi itself doesn’t create those capabilities, it still represents an easier path to them. This is particularly true when combining Wi-Fi with self-contained systems. Many of these self-contained units have been positioned as affordable home automation solutions by employing communications protocols such as Z-Wave. This technology allows the unit to communicate with other home systems such as lighting, HVAC, locking, shades and more.

“Home automation is a huge trend in the industry right now. Customers are finding solutions that have capabilities to control lights and thermostats,” says Phillips, “Why wouldn’t there be a solution to control the alarm too in one system?”

The benefits to Z-wave technology provide end users not only with a simple answer for home automation, but also a solution for energy management. For example, with the ability to control lighting or thermostats directly from one self-contained system, homeowners can set lights to turn on or set thermostats back at a certain time before getting home from work. This not only allows end users to take advantage of energy-saving opportunities, it also provides dealers with an opportunity for recurring monthly revenue (RMR).

“This kind of connectivity has been talked about for a long time. With an all-in-one system, the technology isn’t just pieced together; technology features are included that work, and work together well,” says Morgan.

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