Monitoring Roundtable: Execs Share Perspectives on DIY, MIY Competition & More
Leading thinkers from six firms serving the central station channel tackle solving top challenges, dealing with the DIY and MIY threat, and how to stand out from the crowd.
Let’s discuss the DIY and MIY push into the industry. How do you see it ultimately affecting the industry? Do you see an upside? A downside?
DICE: Take our Cloud video recording solution as an example. We built it to be self-installing. The first dealer who was the beta shipped our gateway out with the first customer being 50 parking garages across the United States. When they had their installer plug it into the customer’s network, our software found the cameras and punched it through, and it started recording. They called us and asked, “Now what do we do?” We go, “We’re already receiving a recording. You don’t have to do anything.” They’re like, “What do you mean?”
It was foreign to the alarm industry that it would just do that. They are used to installing. We’re like, “You didn’t have to send an installer. You could have just shipped it and let the end user plug it into the network. It would have done it automatically for you.” As more and more technologies like that are built, both on the alarm sensor side and particularly on the video side, because I think the video side is going to take over the sensors, you won’t need these installers and things going out.
I think customers will install their products and get on a portal, turning on their own services, and then if they want monitoring, great. If they don’t, they want it to come to their phone, they’ll do that. Some people will want professional monitoring, some won’t, but it’ll all be up to the customer. It’ll be their choice, and you won’t have to have installers go out and do these things.
LAIK: I see the do-it-yourself and manned services type of environment as really healthy for our industry. The DIY market will cheapen the value proposition we currently have as an industry and cause us to re-evaluate what we want to do and be. While some people view DIY as a threat, I see it as a wakeup call that the technology has changed sufficiently that you do not always need highly skilled installers. There was a time when installing a hardwired system was an art form, especially in an existing home. They were pulling baseboard molding off to hide wires and such. You just don’t see that anymore, but those were true artisans in their trade, and that’s where the $3,000 and $4,000 install came from. With wireless technology and virtualization in Cloud-based services, it certainly has become much easier. I love it, because this industry needs a slap in the face.
BAILEY: One thing I get really excited about with the DIY and MIY is the simplicity of interface. We get our iPhone or whatever cellphone we have, there’s more technology there than any of us owned 10 years ago collectively. I can pull it out of the box and turn it on, and it just works, and I know how to use it. Those are the changes coming to our industry that will have things becoming easier and more intuitive. Still, there’s always going to be a space for technicians and experts to service people. I loved to build my own PCs back in college, and I just don’t do that today because I don’t have the time. There’s things I’m going to let experts do and take care of. My local alarm company came and installed a new panel for me and somehow missed that I have some cameras.
That was like a year ago and I haven’t had time to call them to come back. If they had enabled a way for me to do it in 5 minutes they might be connected now. But they keep wanting to provide this great service to come out and do it. I can handle it; just give me access to the panel. The cameras are on the network that I’m managing. This ease of self-management as far as the user wants to go and then providing professional services beyond that when it gets too technical or they just don’t have time to do it is what I’m excited about for the industry. I see that as the future, and disruptors are providing that. These Clouds that are being built are facilitating that and providing the inroads into the systems to be able to do a lot of the help remotely and a lot of the management remotely when help is needed.
COLES: These systems are not static, they’re dynamic. We’re talking about smart house, smart home, that’s more than just putting things up. OK, I might add a new lock to a door that I didn’t have last week. Things are going to come along the way, wearables and things. I’ve got a new watch. I want to connect my new watch to the system. I might have a blood monitor or something that I connect to the system, and now we’re not just monitoring peoples’ intrusion or fire system. We’re monitoring their blood sugar or their oxygen level, whatever we decide to do. I think it’s going to expand. There’s just more things that we can connect. I get this new watch here and say I have got a blood oxygen monitor in it. I won’t have a professional come out and install that for me. I just want to be able to click on the Internet and get it connected. Maybe it’s a buck a month, cool, done. That’s where it’s going and why DIY is great for our industry, absolutely great, because it’s bringing more people in.
NILES: Wellness as related to DIY is the next big thing. Our parent company is the world’s largest privately owned ambulance company, so we’re looked at in the EMS world very highly. When we hear from EMS companies, everyone out there talks about how wellness is coming and the paramedicine projects that Medicaid is now funding, and you have companies like Alarm.com with their wellness platform. There’s hopefully going to be a lot more coming out where you can take advantage of it and making it a DIY setup.
BECHT: There are different types of customers, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to the smart home. Ultimately, depending on what type of customer you want to cater to, DIY will be an option. I think there will always be people who just want to pay someone else to deal with it. There are options for everyone. But it’s change and if you’re afraid of it; if you try to run from it, it’ll gobble you up. There will be enough space in the market for everybody, depending on what kind of a customer they want to cater to.
How does your company differentiate itself in the marketplace?
BECHT: By being a full-service provider, the fact that we’re developing our own products, installing them, servicing it, end to end. There’s not a different manufacturer, a different dealer. We’re not buying from another source. That also gives us the ability to develop things in the way that we feel our customers are best served by them versus being dependent on what the industry produced.
NILES: We are a small to midsize central station; however, our parent company is a very large corporation. So a lot of the things that the big central stations have, the cybersecurity professionals, the IT team, the DBAs [database administrators], we get to take advantage of but when it comes to service, we can personalize that to the dealer, and it’s not the 10,000 accounts and above dealers. It’s the 500 to 1,000 that oftentimes don’t get the attention they deserve at some of the bigger central stations.
COLES: What distinguishes us is our innovation, our technology. We treat our customers as partners. We don’t just think of them as customers. We have a huge sense of community that we foster, probably the biggest community in the industry. It’s like a football team. You don’t want to leave your football team to go and see somebody else if they’re not doing so well right now. That community is really important.
LAIK: Telguard is a very well-known brand within the industry for its technology and innovation. Our products work on virtually all alarm panels out there and I think that’s something a lot of our customers are looking for. On the innovation side, Telguard has a history of a lot of firsts. We were the first to have an analog cellular communicator way back in the 1980s. We were the first to have a digital communicator when there was the conversion from what they call the analog sunset, so going from analog to digital. We were the first out with the 3G communicator when the 2G sunset happened. We also happen to be the first to release an LTE product. We’re trying to stay on the cutting edge as price points and hardware allow us to offer the best in class as quickly as possible.
DICE: We are an infrastructure provider, so this year we generated more revenue dealing with alarm industry vendors than dealers. A lot of people use our software and our API sets to build other software. It has over 800 APIs built in. Alarm companies and industry vendors can use our software to build their Cloud infrastructures, provide fiber, provide telecom. We deliver signaling to almost every central station in the U.S. in one fashion or another, and a lot of automation suppliers have integrated to some of our products or use some of our products and our Cloud center. So we don’t look at ourselves as a software company that’s necessarily competing in that market. We’re more of an R&D house that has products that can be used by anyone.
BAILEY: Two key points of differentiation are our people and our technology. We’ve chosen to locate our stations where we can find great people and provide great service. You don’t want to talk to your monitoring center operator, but sometimes you get to and at those times we want to make sure customers have a great experience. On the technology side, a point of differentiation is what we call our hybrid monitoring. There are those dealers currently doing their own monitoring and recognizing there’s some [accounts] they need to get out of, and the Cloud is a very good option for them. We augment that by also providing operators on your platform and deploying them the way you need us to. We have the best technology and are going to continue to evolve.
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