The security industry has penetrated 20 percent of residences and has remained constant at that level for years, according to Mark Ingram, president, Visonic Inc., Bloomfield, Conn. However, that number is destined to increase as security, lighting and other home systems continue to converge. As more homeowners ask for it and as more homebuilders offer updated and upgraded security systems technology, the increased market penetration will offer new opportunities for electrical contractors.

Technologies to watch
Residential security system technology is constantly evolving to keep up with customer demand. Wireless technology has had one of the most substantial effects on home security. According to Tad Linder, president of Linder Security Systems Inc., Atlanta, most new systems installed today are capable of being monitored through a cellular network rather than the old landline format.

“There are also adjunct products that can be added to many older systems to upgrade them to cellular monitoring,” he said. Cellular-based monitoring eliminates landline vulnerability, such as lines being cut and storm damage.

Smartphone integration is the major trend today, according to Louis Stilp, founder and COO of LifeShield Security, Yardley, Pa.

“Most consumers now expect that whatever they buy can be connected to the Internet,” he said.

To meet that demand, most new security systems offer texting and/or other applications that can be programmed into smartphone operating systems.

“These apps enable remote arming and disarming, and some of them provide notifications whenever someone enters or exits the home,” Linder said.

Camera installations are also a growing trend, according to Stilp.

“Not as popular as wireless and smartphone integration, but since cameras have become more affordable, people are putting them around their property to guard against vandalism,” he said.
The creation of Internet protocol (IP)cameras also has been a factor in bringing these devices into the residential market.

“IP and standard cameras can be viewed remotely via computer, smartphones and other handheld devices, and an accompanying DVR system’s recordings can be used to help apprehend and convict perpetrators of crime in or around the home,” Linder said.

What once was limited to high-end homes and cost $30,000 or more, smart whole-home automation—controlling lights, thermostats, security, cameras, appliances and more—is now being offered to a broader spectrum of homeowners.

“There are a number of mass marketers selling smart home systems for anywhere from around $300 to a few thousand dollars. These systems tend to be wireless, and now that the price point is more affordable, they have become more accessible,” Stilp said.

Another emerging concept, Linder said, is the security system as the main controlling hub for many of the automated features in the smart home.

“The security system, which is most often connected to monitoring stations, will open up opportunities to incorporate video monitoring systems and even, potentially, thermostat and lighting feedback,” Linder said.

What is most important, according to Ingram, is the end-user experience.

“The industry is at a point where we now understand that residential security is more than a siren or police response. It is the daily enhancements, such as remote control and viewing, video verification, and lighting control, that give people reason to desire a system that goes beyond security,” Stilp said.

What you need to know
Today’s systems are certainly more user-friendly but also more installer-friendly, Ingram said. Residential kits may come with pre-enrolled wireless devices, so the installer saves time and effort in programming. As an additional method to make things easier, some of the latest wireless technology has range verification light-emitting diodes that indicate if a device is in proper range of the main control panel. Although easy, there are several pertinent things that installers should know.

“Electrical contractors need to understand that the security industry is about recurring revenue rather than installation profitability and that homeowners want the latest technology that seamlessly blends with their daily lives,” he said.

Stilp said electrical contractors need familiarity with routers and Cat 5 wires that connect Internet-ready products.

“About 10 percent of product installations have some sort of technical issue that needs to be solved, and the average homeowner doesn’t know how to set these sophisticated systems up or how to solve the problems. Electrical contractors need to adapt and think about becoming small [information technology] professionals,” he said.

Ingram advises electrical contractors to use the very technology homeowners want incorporated with their security system to demonstrate their capabilities beyond traditional installations.

“Set up a sophisticated security system in the office, and then demonstrate it via smartphone or other wireless device,” Ingram said.


BREMER, a freelance writer based in Solomons, Md., contributes frequently to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR. She can be reached at 410.394.6966 and darbremer@comcast.net.