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Is price or paranoia driving home security?

In a recent market study, U.K.-based IMS Research found that over 1.1 million security cameras were sold globally through the retail, or consumer channel in 2010.


April 12, 2011
By Jennifer Brown

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That means individuals bought a home security camera system of some kind purchased from a department or big box retailer and set it up themselves — basically DIY security.

William Rhodes, market analyst with IMS says that video surveillance equipment sold through the retail channel has fallen in price in recent years. Another driver in the market is the increased functionality available for consumers. Many solutions now give users the ability to remotely view and manage video through a web browser or smartphone, meaning they are able to remotely check up on children, pets and their homes without engaging a service provider.

In its news release, IMS posed the question: Does that mean the threat and fear of crime is causing more consumers to increase security for their homes, or is it because the price of cameras has come down and the ability to watch one’s home has become easier? I tend to think the latter.

Installing cameras might mean you can see who is there and may, on some level, offer some kind of deterrent, but it isn’t necessarily making your home more secure. Unless the cameras are monitored and an incident can be responded to by professionals, are you really any safer?

And the reality is crime is actually going down, even though our perception or fear is quite possibly on the rise.

The rate of break-ins in Canada has dropped to its lowest level in over 30 years according to Statistics Canada. Since peaking in 1991, the rate has fallen 50 per cent, including a five per cent drop in 2006. There were about 250,000 break-ins reported to police in 2006, of which almost six in 10 were to residences.

According to Stats Can, break-ins have been steadily declining since peaking in the early 1990s, including a four per cent drop in 2009. Police reported just over 205,000 break-ins in 2009, of which six in 10 were residential.

Both residential and commercial break-ins also declined last year.

Part of the reason for these reductions in break-ins may be related to specific police crime fighting programs targeting break-ins in specific high-risk neighbourhoods. This was the case recently in Calgary when private security with the City of Calgary worked with local police to target violence and vandalism around public facilities.

Another contributing factor may be an increase in the use of home security devices by Canadians. The Stats Can General Social Survey reported that more than twice as many Canadians had installed burglar alarms or motion detectors in 2004 (31 per cent) than in 1993 (15 per cent). Also, 34 per cent of Canadians reported in 2004 that they had installed new locks or security bars in their home.

Whether it’s driven by real crime or the perception of crime, it is likely that an increasing number of consumers will look to install video surveillance equipment on their homes — especially as the price for the equipment falls, or service providers make a good case for doing it for them.

So what will drive consumer investment in home security in the future? We hear that people decide to upgrade their security if they have a break-in or crime spikes in their neighbourhood.

But what is the industry doing to help educate consumers about the difference between buying a system off the shelf and having proper protection? Will the future really be in selling home automation alongside the security spend? Analyst Alastair Hayfield of IMS Research doesn’t think so — the value proposition isn’t there yet. Will there be a day when they want one more than the other? Quite possibly, as mobile devices become the one thing that manages just about everything for us.


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