Inside Alarm.com: Execs Detail Integration of Acquisitions, Areas of Focus & More
Alarm.com leadership discusses the company’s roadmap, including playing commercial catchup to its residential sector dominance.
What are some other technology and/or service offerings you are very bullish on right now and why?
Lohse: On the access control front, we recently launched mobile credentials, the ability to use your phone instead of a traditional card. That’s been coming for a long time but it’s good to see its adoption kicking up. You imagine your typical small office might have 30, 40, 50 people using their phone as their credential. It’s certainly exciting for the end user in the sense that mostly from an administration standpoint, it’s easy. It’s super simple relative to having to give out keys or even just manage physical access cards. From the partner standpoint, it’s a new RMR opportunity. We’re starting to see some applications. We just had one that’s a corporate dog park.
There’s hundreds or thousands of credential holders that are part of this revenue model for the customer and the service they’re providing, and they have this need to provide very low friction access. The partner who sold that is making healthy RMR on it. As the technology scales it is a broad new service category within the access control space. You’ll see the demand for mobile credentials drive a huge upgrading of readers physically installed all over the place.
Bedell: The other big one that’s ongoing and still has a lot of room to evolve is video analytics and its application. If you look at a camera, even three or four years ago, where all it’s doing is recording what it sees and allowing somebody else to then later look at that, that’s about as dumb as you can get. There’s no benefit that has been brought to bear by the capabilities a computer can offer. It’s limited to what a human can see in that video.
There’s economic limitations more than technical, but if you brought enough computing power to bear watching video, you could turn it into all kinds of useful information. I can see if it’s a person that just walked in the door rather than something else, an animal, a vehicle, a package just outside my door. There are all kinds of different possibilities, especially for a business operator that wants to know average wait times or operational benefits.
In the not-too-distant future, we’re going to see a level of sophistication of insight that you gain from a camera that is orders of magnitude more than what we’ve experienced today. That’s inevitable and it’s going to make cameras even more important in a smart business scenario. They’ll always have the surveillance intrusion portion, but it’s going to provide much more utility to a business operator in managing and gaining insights and efficiencies.
The other one we obviously made a bet on is this need to solve a different class of life-safety event that we’re, unfortunately, saddled with, which is gun violence. That was the impetus for us acquiring SDS, where the amount of gunshot and mass-shooting events has become so frequent that it’s tragically almost routine. It’s an area you wish we didn’t have to build technology to solve a problem, but that really is wishful thinking. I don’t think we will ever eliminate them, but we could bring technology and innovation to help mitigate loss of life and injury and improve these situations.
The number of casualties that occurred last year due to gun violence is like 30x what happened due to fire, yet every school has been outfitted with fire safety systems. So then, what is the future of a gun violence safety system? We don’t know exactly what the complete end solution looks like, but we believe SDS’ technology will be part of it.
Rich Onofrio: As an original member of SDS, I call tell you that we have found a great culture fit with Alarm.com. We have a very real focus on product excellence, which is key for the type of product we’re offering and the issue at hand. Engineering and technology are at the core of what we do. Backed now by Alarm.com, we are placing a high priority on quality, innovation and dependability.
Lohse: Another trend we’re seeing our customers do, particularly on the enterprise side, is integrating our technology into the other existing technologies they’ve already invested in. Whether it’s a video management system or access control or mass notification, how can you leverage those, use them in real-time during an emergency event? A gunshot goes off, we detect it, we’re alerting, now you see a video feed of the hundreds of camera feeds. You have a callup now of that exact scene where that’s unfolding in real-time, no human in the loop. We’ve invested tremendous effort, resources, money into building out these other technologies that tend to be close to useless in real-time for such events.
To what extent does Alarm.com keep its eye on Big Tech and outside influences versus purely focusing inward?
Bedell: We spend a lot of time trying to understand our partner requirements and believe you need to talk to the end customers to understand the problem. We need to figure out their pains. We don’t want to build technology for technology’s sake, we want to solve real problems that provide real benefits. We spend a lot of time communicating with our partners trying to make sure we understand what the problems are that we were going to throw technology resources at.
We are involved in a lot of standards committees and also in testing many new technologies and being aware of them. Each of our product teams is constantly scanning the landscape and new innovations that are happening, and what we’re going to need to do to adapt and get in front of them. Often, we’ll be the first to market with a technology solution. The only way you do that is by being aware of both the need of the dealer plus the new technology resources we can bring to bear.
We don’t like to be second to market with a technology solution. That makes us feel like we got caught behind on something. I would argue that Big Tech is typically not as innovative as smaller tech companies. Big Tech companies buy a lot of their small tech companies to become innovative. Everybody looks at Google, but a lot of their innovations are actually small companies they purchased. As much as watching Big Tech, we’re surveying the market to identify the smaller innovators and sometimes we buy them, like SDS.
Lohse: Within commercial security technology specifically, often the cutting-edge stuff is coming out of a small booth at ISC West for these people who have this fancy new thing they’ve tried to figure out. Usually it’s extremely expensive and cumbersome to deploy. It might be a great technology. We’ve had some version of video analytics for a long time, but it wasn’t really accessible to the vast majority of the market.
Maybe an FBI facility or airport purchases this new technology for millions of dollars and has engineers on staff to really manage it, but it’s practically out of reach for the mass market of oil change shops and grocery stores. My group looks at how we can innovate and democratize those technologies. We seek to simplify and package it to bring it down market and easy to consume for a much wider segment of the market.
Or maybe someone has developed an intriguing technology but they don’t know how the security market works.
Bedell: Yes, that’s right. Part of it is the application. Some of the failures we’ve seen are companies have an idea for the end user but don’t figure out how to implement it in a way that is useful for the service provider that’s going to service that end customer. They come up with something that on paper is great, but it’s unusable to the channel, and therefore, it’s very limiting. If you do get that right with a novel idea, you’ve got something that’s going to be valuable.
For an extended version of this conversation, check out the podcast here.
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