How Touchscreens Benefit Both Security Integrators and Homeowners

Elevating the dealer to a smart home or business expert in the eyes of the consumer reduces churn, allows for upsell and more RMR potential.

How Touchscreens Benefit Both Security Integrators and Homeowners

Touchscreen controls, like DMP’s XTLtouch, can enhance consumer satisfaction and engagement with their security systems.

Touchscreen technology is a part of our everyday life. We use them at bank ATMs, to retrieve a boarding pass at the airline ticket counter, when our iPhone battery is about to die, to control aspects of our home or office, and more.

In the not-too-distant past, the electronic security industry offered keypads to control the system and before that a key switch to turn the system on or off — yes, a real key!

Touchscreen devices for our industry hit prime time circa 2009 when 2GIG, now a Nortek Security & Control (NSC) company, developed the all-in-one control panel with a touchscreen and took the industry by storm.

Since then, we have seen most, if not all security alarm manufacturers offer touchscreens as an option, or in the case of Qolsys, the touchscreen is the panel. Now that touchscreens are widely accepted and highly functional, let’s delve into how customers may interact with them and how the electronic security industry can use touchscreen technology to myriad advantages.

These include enhancing consumer satisfaction, enabling easy upsell opportunities, and effectively meeting end users’ security and connected home or office needs. Also make sure to check out the slideshow for touchscreens currently heating up the market.

Expanding Options for Dealers & Users

Does the rise of the touchscreen mean keypads and/or other methods to control systems will go away? Probably not. Many in the industry argue that security providers should offer consumers choice in how they control their environment.

Qolsys Senior Director of Marketing Jeremy McLerran says that some residential customers, for instance, use the Alarm.com app to arm the system when they retire for the evening but the following morning may enlist the touchscreen to disarm, check the weather and get a home update before heading out to work.

McLerran adds that touchscreens make the entire system more relevant. For example, Qolsys customers can view their exterior cameras from the touchscreen. More manufacturers are building WiFi-enabled secondary touchscreens that can be tabletop mounted and placed on a nightstand for convenience.

It is all about consumer choice and the user experience, according to George Janelis, senior channel marketing manager for Resideo Technologies. Janelis agrees with McLerran that consumers may use the touchscreen for one action and an app or voice control like Amazon’s Alexa for another. It is essential, however, that the interfaces mirror each other as closely as possible.

If consumers are comfortable interacting with what they see on the app, they want to experience the same user interface on the touchscreen. So what touchscreen technology is best? Most security touchscreen manufacturers will argue that capacitive touchscreen technology is quickest to the touch of our finger. Our body, or in this case, our finger becomes the conduit for means to the input.

Resistive technology may be a bit slower to respond to touch. The touchscreen has two tiny layers of a very thin metal film separated by an air gap. When someone depresses the touchscreen, the pressure of the finger causes the two layers to press together, and the circuit is completed.

Resistive touchscreens are less expensive to produce, but most manufacturers appear to be moving toward a capacitive touchscreen like Qolsys, whose latest model is the IQ Panel 2+. Moreover, the recent trend is to offer a security and smart home system hub as the primary control in the home, and you can expect companies that don’t offer such options yet to have a keypad or touchscreen to go with their hubs soon.

Manufacturers are keen at providing options for their dealers. Keypads, voice commands, keyfobs, mobile apps can all connect the homeowner to their system, but there are hidden gems installers can unearth in offering touchscreen technology.

Wow ’Em During Installation

Touchscreen devices are big on both style and substance. They provide a visual component to the totality of the system. Luxury car manufacturer Ferrari figured that out in 1999 and most mid-engine Ferraris display their craftsmanship through glass see-through engine covers. If used and demonstrated adequately, touchscreens can deliver their own wow factor.

Let’s follow a hypothetical installation using a touchscreen to see how security providers can rev up the wow factor. In this scenario, we’ll look at a residential setting.When the technician arrives at the customer’s home, products are brought into the home and placed on a presentation mat, which incidentally has felt material on the back as not to scratch any surface.

With the homeowner present, the installer walks through the home, deciding on the best location for every device. During this process, the installer takes note of the distance of the intrusion device from the prospective touchscreen location.

As the installation progresses, the touchscreen can be used as an information system, which McLerran notes is one of the key attributes of the technology. When the system is being set up, the signal strength from the intrusion sensors is displayed on the touchscreen, which guides the installer through range dynamics.

Additionally, the installer can engage the homeowner and demonstrate that all sensors are being received by the panel or touchscreen. Consumers see this as a validation that the system has been set up correctly and provides notification if one remote sensor isn’t being received at the strength level as other sensors.

The consumer can then upgrade to a more powerful sensor, like a PowerG from DSC or Qolsys or a repeater if needed. This takes the guesswork out of upgrades and allows the customer to participate in the decision process.

Adding wireless Z-Wave devices via the touchscreen or app is another way to incorporate advanced security and smart home functionalities … and create more RMR opportunities, according to Mark Hillenburg, executive director of marketing at DMP.

There is also something a bit magical in seeing the devices show up on the touchscreen and app simultaneously.

Elevate Expertise in Clients’ Eyes

Hillenburg says DMP likes providing dealers options, so from keypads to touchscreens to its home-grown app, the company ensures its security pros are able to educate their customers on the various ways, and benefits of each, they can control their home systems.

Qolsys dealers meanwhile are demonstrating their versatility by showing customers how to use the Live View and Live Answer features of the touchscreen, which allow homeowners to view real-time events from surveillance cameras, answer the doorbell visually and to converse with the visitor at the door, for instance.

Touchscreens also draw consumers to a focal point in the home. End users can add family photos to the device to personalize the experience. Most importantly, the touchscreen serves as what some call the control center of the home.

Automation manufacturer Control4, for one, figured that out years ago. Its touchscreen removes “wall warts” in the home by allowing consumers to control lights, music, thermostats, legacy intercom systems, to name a few. All of that helps not only to increase RMR opportunities, but Control4 likes the concept of positioning the dealer as the “smart home technologist.”

Elevating the dealer to the smart home or business expert in the eyes of the consumer reduces churn, allows for upsell and more RMR potential and keeps our industry relevant to consumers and investors.

Who would have thought that the touchscreen would come as far as it has? Well, perhaps Steve Jobs did when Apple introduced the iPad … but do you think that the 2GIG team envisioned that a decade later they would be offering both a 5- and a 7-inch version of the touchscreen? Not only that, but with front-firing speakers for audio performance. So much for a key switch!

Keep Customers Engaged During Setup

Consumer Engagement during the installation process is key to successfully upgrading the consumer to the best and coolest features which can be displayed on a touchpanel. Locks, lights, thermostat settings, entry codes, partitions, sensor status and more can all be set up, displayed and demonstrated on the touchscreen during the installation process.

Have technicians be proactive with residential customers. Make sure they are asking the client questions during the setup process, allowing them to be a part of their security solution and ensuring they will then be comfortable using the device.

And if you believe that this can only be accomplished by a traditional alarm company and rolling a truck, you are wrong. Many professional DIY companies such as Frontpoint and others are engaging consumers as part of their installation network and can walk the consumer through a white-gloved installation process.

How will you differentiate? As an expert security provider give clients more reason to come back to you asking what else they can connect and control from their shiny new touchscreen.

Take a look at a handful of touchscreens being offered by various manufacturers in the slideshow above.


Kirk MacDowell, a member of SSI’s Editorial Advisory Board, is President of MacGuard Security Advisors.

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