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How consumer habits are shaping the modern alarm system

The modern-day consumer’s purchasing habits are changing more rapidly than ever. And in the security industry, both residential and commercial consumers have far higher expectations when it comes to the solutions they ultimately select for their homes and businesses — even more than they did just a couple of years ago. In general, consumers today are more tech-savvy, resulting in an increased demand for more high-tech solutions.


September 28, 2011
By Lori Herder

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One of the best examples is the way we communicate: first, landlines were out, and cell phones and VoIP were in. Now, smart phones are all the rage, and cell phones are “so five years ago.”

 “I noticed it more this year than last, and last year I noticed it more than the year before. More and more people are opting out of landlines and going with cell phones only,” said Paul Ingram, of Halifax-based DNS Systems.

As a result, forward-thinking dealers are even opting to include IP capabilities right away, whether or not the customer demands it in the first place.

“In the past, people have called us up and have wanted to make the switch to VoIP solutions, and it would leave us scrambling to keep up. Now by installing panels that use Internet communication, we can activate that portion of the panel when customers are ready to make the switch to IP – without having to charge for an add-on or issue a new agreement,” said Bob Hoevenaars, of London, Ont.-based Alarmtech.

Customers are finding these options to be incredibly attractive due to access to services like remote monitoring which keep them connected to their homes while they’re away.

More established customers and early adopters have already tested out this new technology, such as Honeywell’s Total Connect 2.0, and started to incorporate it into their security systems.

“With the home automation aspect, customers being able to get a text message from their security system really upped the interest for them to have it,” said Elisha Walsh of Calgary-based AE Security.
“The older generation has already bought into security systems, and the younger generation is now meeting the older demographic in terms of seeking security with remote access solutions.”

Walsh noted that the younger demographic is demanding more smartphone capabilities, but it’s a trend the older generation is starting to seek out as well.

“Twenty-to-40-year olds are used to having that information at their fingertips,” said Walsh. “They want smartphone capability to remotely access these systems. And now, with baby boomers beginning to retire, they like the new toys as well with the option to check in on their vacation homes while they’re away.”

There’s an app for that
In terms of smartphones, it’s an app-filled world. Security vendors are starting to catch on with apps to help customers access their systems on their iPhones, iPads, and similar devices to virtually transform the screens on their devices into fully functional keypads.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for residential users. Remote monitoring services allow for lighting control and viewing surveillance cameras from your mobile device. Through the Internet, we can take our homes with us on the road,” said Ingram.
 
As technology like remote monitoring services improves, many dealers are noticing that the price point decreases, which only increases the buy-in for the younger generation.

 “Things like video monitoring used to be a high-end solution only, but it’s becoming more and more affordable, causing growth in both the residential and commercial spaces. Customers that would originally shy away from these systems due to expense or price are now entering the marketplace,” said Hoevenaars.



Control at your fingertips
On top of implementing new technology to meet their security needs, customers are paying more attention to more aesthetic features of their systems.

“If you have a powerful system, but the keypad looks generic or average, the customer is less likely to buy in. It gives the impression that the system isn’t as powerful,” said Ingram. “People are looking for the ‘wow factor’ with touchscreen keypads.”

Not only is there an improved aesthetic quality with these touchscreen devices, dealers are also noticing that it adds to the ease-of-use for their customers. “Customers like reading well laid-out graphical interfaces. They’re used to being on computers throughout the day, and are comfortable with systems that look similar to that,” said Ingram. “The touchscreen takes it to the next level.”

The increased usability of a touchscreen panel versus some of the older models comes down to the intuitive screen and easy setup for customers.

“People who aren’t technical don’t have to be with these touchscreen keypads. Customers change codes every three months, or even just once a year, and it’s a big deal for them to have to go through that process. They always have the fear that they’ll accidentally set off the alarm in the process,” said Ingram, who finds his customers gravitating toward newer touchscreen interfaces like LYNX Touch from Honeywell. “This existing interface is so intuitive; if you can use a computer, you can use a touchscreen panel.”

RMR, labour-saving, and value-add opportunities
Customers aren’t the only ones seeking easier-to-use technology like touchscreen keypads. Installers and dealers alike are reaping the benefits. “When I first saw the LYNX Touch debut, I was first impressed by the touchscreen interface,” said Ingram. “It was the first keypad I could program without a manual. Everything is graphical, so it was the easiest alarm I’ve ever installed.”

An easy installation cuts down on the time it takes to install – less hassle for both the installer, and the end user. “A normal install takes about three hours,” said Ingram. “With LYNX Touch, it was cut down to about two hours and fifteen minutes or two and a half hours. If you take that times 100 alarm installations, it starts to add up.”

Ingram argues that more technology providers need to focus on the keypad itself.

“Most alarm companies don’t focus enough on the keypad, and I think that’s a mistake,” said Ingram. “It doesn’t matter how powerful the system is under the hood. If a customer doesn’t know how to use it, it’s useless.”

In addition to that, touchscreen technology is a way for dealers to increase the retention rate of their customers and boost RMR.

Another key opportunity lies in the initial installation, especially when a homeowner or small business owner is building a new house or facility.

There’s a market today for environmentally-friendly consumers, allowing dealers to leverage things like Z-wave technology to not only increase energy efficiency in the home or business, but create a value-add opportunity in a sale.

“Customers really want to do it all, and I think there will be a lot of growth in that as an add-on,” said Hoevenaars. “We’re always looking for something that will add profit on the initial installation, in addition to the RMR.”

The ability to “do it all” is what today’s consumers are ultimately demanding.

 “We’re still seeing a transformation, changes in the economy. A year ago, these types of services were a want,” said Walsh. “Now that the economy is getting back on track, it’s becoming more of a need.”

Lori Herder is the Marketing Communications Leader for Honeywell in Canada.


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