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Making the most of home automation

I wrote a column on home automation in 2011 at a time when I though the technology was about to become mainstream. I believed our industry was well positioned to be a major player in home automation as long as the solutions offered were easy to use, intuitive and leverage smart devices. Quite frankly, I am astonished we have taken this long to get to where we are now.


December 9, 2014
By JF Champagne

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Yes, we have heard a lot of buzz about home automation, and despite growth in this area, our members are telling me that, for the most part, it is still a small percentage of their business.

Meanwhile, as I write this, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is in full swing in Las Vegas, bringing with it a wave of new innovations. This year’s show brings together a flow of new devices such as smart thermostats, smart light bulbs, and door locks and appliances with intuitive interfaces that not only use smartphones but voice and gesture recognition.
Siri and the like are really improving on the voice recognition front while Kinect on the Xbox360 has shown everyone what we can do with motion sensors. The real question is, where does this leave our industry, both from the perspective of selling and installing products as well as providing services such as monitoring and remote access?

On the sales and installation front, we can be reassured by looking at the trend of self-installed alarm systems. Yes, you can buy an alarm system at Home Depot and install it yourself but people still prefer to have someone else do the installation. Likewise, you can design and buy your home theatre system at FutureShop but there is still a niche market in our industry for custom home entertainment. The margins have shrunk but that should be expected once a technology becomes mainstream.

As for the services aspects of our industry that drive RMR, I am concerned that home automation might not bring the new sources of recurring revenues that we might have hoped for. Yes, Cloud services to control lights and thermostats can bring recurring revenues but it will be increasingly difficult to compete with big consumer brands that provide for remote access to devices out-of-the-box.

I am more optimistic that managed services for video, access control and integrated home automation will create new opportunities for recurring revenues. Our existing monitoring stations will be able to leverage their infrastructure and expertise to provide these services as a unique offering.

I continue to define our industry as one that provides peace of mind to consumers. We have developed an expertise in this area and we will leverage these new technologies to suit our unique value proposition. 

JF Champagne is the executive director of CANASA (www.canasa.org).