With all the excitement around the burgeoning field of home automation, it's perhaps easy to overlook an important aspect of what people really care about in the home. A number of surveys taken over the past year indicate strong consumer sentiment about what underlies the current explosion in systems for the home: peace of mind, and that means home security.
Here's some context: electronic home security has been around for a hundred years, in one form or another, and it's evolved a lot more slowly than many other technologies. A great example of that concept is the statistic on cell phone replacement vs. a home security system upgrade.
How Long Do You Keep a Cell Phone?
Try this test: ask a group of people how many of them use a cell phone they have had for three years or more. Pretty much everyone will give you a funny look! Then ask a group of people with home security systems how long it has been since they upgraded that system, and you will get a very different response – because many homeowners still use the antiquated technology they purchased ten or even fifteen years ago. And the reason is, the system still makes them feel safe.
Home Security Does a Lot More Today
Yes, there have been many enhancements and improvements in home security, most of them in just the last decade or so:
- Safer cellular communication vulnerable phone or Internet connection to the monitoring center
- Wireless sensors that are easier to install, move, replace, and troubleshoot
- Pre-programmed fully functional security systems that are easily installed by the homeowner
- Apps for remote arm/disarm, and text or email notifications of alarm and other events
- Video features, for remote viewing into the home, and capturing alarm events
With all these developments, many of them relatively recent, it’s no wonder that more people are choosing peace of mind/home security for the basis for their purchase, and that home automation is an add-on service – the "icing on the cake," if you will.
More industry gurus are talking about this concept, including at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES). I found this great article describing a session at last year's CES that speaks volumes about the primacy of home security over home automation for most homeowners. The panel of experts was focused on Do-It-Yourself systems (DIY) – particularly relevant for Frontpoint's "Easy Setup" business model – but the concepts do carry over to traditional security installations as well. Here are some telling excerpts from the panel discussion:
The first concept all panelists agreed upon was the primary human need that initially attracts consumers to DIY smart home, regardless of the confusion they will face at retail: security. "What would make people happy is to never enter a dark home," opined Lutron's Pessina. "The idea is, if you can be secure in your home because you home is lit up before you go into it, that's a very good application. Consumers understand that." "That first initial experience typically does start with a security mode," agreed Iris' Bowring. "Security is a known entity."
Security is the Universal Pain Point for Consumers
According to Pessina, security, entertainment, energy and health make up the four pillars of DIY smart-home solutions, another point of agreement among the panelists. While security seems a universal pain point that DIY smart home can alleviate, Bosch's Kallenbach pointed out that energy management was a close second in Europe, although not necessarily in the U.S. or other markets.
Integration: Another Important Point
How smart-home systems are assembled is a concern, but figuring out what products work together and which don't is a more pressing consumer pain point. "It's just not a matter of ease of use; it's how can systems interoperate," Bosch's Kallenbach countered, citing his own company's recently-announced open Home Connect appliance platform co-developed with ABB and Cisco.
This last point references a common complaint with most of today's smart home applications: it’s hard to find one that performs more than two or three functions, to say nothing of integrating home security and home automation. And when you add in the requirement for monitored home security – the only way to get real peace of mind – the list of options for the consumer gets even smaller.
Get the Best System for Your Needs
The home automation marketplace will continue to grow and evolve, although we expect to see plenty of the current providers merge with other companies, or fall by the wayside: there’s just too much competition. But one thing we don't expect to change is the fact that it all starts with home security. And when it comes to home security, you certainly want the safest, simplest, and most reliable solution you can find, from a company you can trust. Have fun shopping for your system, and be sure to read all the reviews you can find!