Experiencing Security: Disruptive Forces Change the Traditional Landscape

For years, the physical security industry’s progress seemed stalled. Products advanced with the latest capabilities but rarely communicated with each other, and proprietary technology was the name of the game. Now, more systems are open and based on industry standards while manufacturers are allowing seamless integration to their products with open APIs. Convenience is key, centering on the need to provide a superior customer experience and ease of operation—a concept embodied by the iPhone generation and its desire for plug-and-play.

As technology becomes increasingly sophisticated and ubiquitous, the divisions between home and business security, audiovisual and integrated solutions are dissolving with more products applicable cross-market. Residential is impacting commercial security and commercial products are coming to the residential market.

Other influencing factors are turning the physical security industry topsy-turvy—the entrance of behemoths continues, such as Amazon and Google, while DIY systems prevail in residential. Change now continues at what seems like warp speed, influenced by increased consumer awareness and big buys such as Amazon’s purchase of the Ring Protect system as well as Blink, a startup maker of wireless cameras. Google bought Nest, maker of smart thermostats and cameras.

Mainstay companies have been changing their distribution models: Legrand North and Central America announced the creation of a new Residential Custom Integration business to support the home technology space. Sargent and Greenleaf, a division of Stanley Security that makes mechanical and electronic locks, launched S&G Lock Shop, its first direct-to-consumer e-commerce site. Most recently, ADT Inc., provider of monitored security and interactive home and business automation solutions announced a strategic initiative with Amazon to support integration of Amazon’s new Alexa Guard feature with the ADT Pulse security system, leveraging sound detection using the customer’s Echo device to listen for breaking glass and smoke or carbon monoxide alarms.

Alarm.com, based in McLean, Va., announced an artificial intelligence (AI) architecture and video analytics service for residential and business subscribers. The Alarm.com platform monitors video streams in real-time and alerts property and business owners about critical events, while ignoring regular movement around the protected premises.

“Alarm.com’s AI architecture and video analytics program are defining the next generation of smart home and business innovations,” said Dan Kerzner, Alarm.com’s chief product officer in a written statement. “We’ve been able to rapidly grow our data-analytics program, thanks to the scale of our platform and the depth of our research and development efforts. Alarm.com’s commitment to AI will enable our service provider partners to continue to deliver an unmatched smart home and business experience to millions of subscribers.”

The new landscape of security

As a new physical security industry emerges, there is additional opportunity for contractors who embrace the latest technologies and what customers in both markets are looking for—an experience they can control wherever they are. The iPhone effect and the need for simple technology permeates our lives—customers want to be able to operate systems from their smartphones, or have seamless control as they go about their daily business.

Normally reserved for commercial security in the past, video now is a primary starting point for connected, smart and safe homes.

Doug Bassett, senior director of Licensing and Compliance for XFinity Home Security Services, Philadelphia, said company research indicates 70 percent of its customers never used a security product or service previously—and the majority deploy video when they sign up.

“In the past, if a customer wanted to have a camera in their home or office, there were a lot of expenses and hardware involved in the installation,” he said. “But now, video can be implemented easily and cost-effectively—broadening its use. We’ll see more products developed like this that consumers can adopt easily.”

These technologies are impacting the way homes are secured.

“Window sensors and motion detectors are the main inputs to a security system, but, looking forward, we’re seeing the camera market explode—maybe those door and window sensors will eventually get replaced by cameras,” said Martin Huddart, president, access and egress hardware, Assa Abloy, New Haven, Conn. “Amazon introduced Alexa Guard to listen for sounds in your house (glass breaking, carbon monoxide detectors). Video and sound being an input to securing the home will change the landscape of home security.”

Now what consumers have in their home is what designers are looking to integrate into the commercial office space, such as the use of natural materials and streamlined, attractive user interfaces, according to Gerry Connolly, vice president and general manager, Pass & Seymour, Syracuse, N.Y.

“There are two big factors at play here,” he said. “First, aesthetics and the design interfaces are becoming a higher priority. Second is consumer demand to integrate advanced functionality from their workplace into their own homes. All of this falls under the umbrella of offering personalized experiences. Because of technology, individuals want to have the same relationships with our environment at work and at home.”

Connolly said contractors are able to market to consumers and leverage the value manufacturers are now providing, whether it’s aesthetics, color matching or a performance attribute.

“As an example, with so many mobile devices, there is a need to simplify and expand device-charging capability,” he said. “As we integrate more devices into our environment, the contractor must be dialed into this changing need. Looking forward, we include voice control that the user is asking for—from lighting control to audiovisual elements. This will extend from the home into the commercial environment.”

W hat does this mean for the security industry as far as product manufacturing and the integration contractor? Fritz Werder, vice president and general manager, Legrand Nuvo & On-Q, Middletown, Pa., said as security and audiovisual products are becoming increasingly connected, it means more IP-enabled end-points, more cloud services and more gateways to the internet of things (IoT).

“For security and AV product manufacturers, this means a greater need for partnerships as no one company controls the entire solution,” Werder said. “Selecting communication protocols and the right application layers becomes a core strategic decision and today still may require multiple bets by the manufacturer. On the integration contractor side, they are looking at solutions that provide ease of selection, simple commissioning and installation and robust after-market support for their homeowner customers. As devices become more connected, both manufacturers and contractors need to transition their workforce to be more aligned with these trends and market dynamics.”

There’s work ahead for everyone. Simplicity, ease of operation and a smooth user experience applies to both residential and commercial markets. Open systems and protocols need to be supported, but for now proprietary products require skilled technicians that can integrate disparate technologies so users get the simple and streamlined process they desire. There’s also increased emphasis on cybersecurity, as with open systems and the IoT comes additional threat vectors and risks.

The physical security industry is no longer about hardware. It’s about the user experience.

About the Author

Deborah L. O'Mara

Freelance Writer

Deborah L. O’Mara is a journalist with more than two decades experience writing about security, life safety and systems integration, and she is the managing director of DLO Communications in Chicago. She can be reached at dlocommunications@gmail.com...

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