The next wave for residential
By Kathleen Sibley
The digital revolution that has changed the way consumers live, work and play has finally landed — literally — on security dealers’ doorsteps. Some industry insiders, in fact, say that security providers who don’t incorporate advanced technologies into their offerings over the next few years will find themselves locked out of a host of opportunities that extend well beyond the current sphere of traditional security services.
By Kathleen Sibley
Schlage’s new LiNK deadbolts and locks, which let homeowners remotely
control and monitor access to their home 24/7 with any web-enabled
mobile phone or computer, are one of the latest examples of advanced
technologies for the residential security market. The system provides
keyless entry through four-digit access codes that can be entered,
activated, deleted or disabled on the lock’s 11-digit push-button
keypad, or via the Schlage LiNK web portal or mobile application.
Mississauga, Ont.-based Josh Weidman, director of business development
at Schlage, a division of Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies Canada,
says the product was built on the Z-Wave wireless remote control
standard, which lets users control virtually any aspect of their home,
including lighting, heating, conditioning, access and security systems,
home entertainment and even motorized shades and screens.
“What makes the Z-Wave environment really powerful is it’s so
customizable,” he says. “Self-designed home automation is really coming
down in price, so this may be the turning point where home automation
The deadbolts and locks require no additional holes or wires, and the device pretty much sets itself up, explains Weidman.
“It’s a matter of carrying the bridge device to the lock, pointing it
at it, and entering the code. The lock self-enrols into the bridge,” he
says. “Then you plug the bridge into the back of the computer and it’s
up and running.”
Once the system is set up over the Internet, homeowners can add their
mobile phones to the account using an easy-to-navigate mobile
interface, and program it to send notifications when someone opens the
door, for example — a useful feature for keeping track of children.
There is a monthly subscription fee for access to the web portal.
Users can also easily add and delete codes for temporary purposes, such as letting couriers or service people in.
The product will be available through retailers initially, but will
roll out to dealers early in 2009. Two national full-time trainers will
be setting up training on the product through the vendor’s distribution
Dealers can take advantage of the face-to-face interactions they have
with residential security customers to communicate the details of the
product and the convenience and peace-of-mind benefits to their
customers that will be difficult to convey in advertising campaigns,
“While it’s easy enough for consumer to [self-install], it’s not easy
enough to get the whole proposition across to the consumer, so that’s
where we believe dealer will have an important role to play,” he says.
The message, he says, is that homeowners will have the ability to get
remote access to their home from anywhere anytime and be fully
up-to-date on the status of their door and their lock at any point in
“If you’re in selling an alarm system that protects the windows and
doors, here’s a way to provide very good convenience and peace of mind
to the homeowner in a category you’ve been unable to participate in
until today,” he says. “It’s a very nice added sale to any security
Tricia Parks, CEO of Parks Associates, a Dallas-based consultancy, says
IP-based remote monitoring and access control products are still
embryonic. Consumers will embrace the technologies – eventually. But
there are two issues that could stall that adoption. One is that the
biggest market for residential security products is typically among new
home buyers and those moving from one home with a security system to a
new home. The housing market, at least in the U.S., however, has taken
a nosedive, to say the least, which will have a huge impact on the
residential security market in general. The second issue is that it’s
not clear do-it-yourself approach to security.
“They may be working behind the scenes to be ready for this kind of
thing, but they’ve put so much investment into their proprietary
solutions,” says Parks. “Will they block it, will they partner, will
they experiment on the side? How will they handle this evolution?
That’s the question to me.”
One of the areas security specialists should examine for future
opportunities is that of personal health or wellbeing monitoring, such
as medical alert services that notify health care providers if a client
at home is experiencing high blood pressure or heart problems.
“That will be driven by provide safety and saving money, so that’s potentially huge,” she says.
Another example of advanced technologies for the residential security
market is The Chamberlain Group’s LiftMaster Fingerprint Keyless Entry,
a weather-protected biometric garage door control product that can
store up to 10 unique fingerprints. The product is available through
home improvements retailers and traditional door dealers.
Dan Nixa, director of marketing, Chamberlain Professional Products,
says fingerprint scanning technology has finally reached a price point
— around $100 today compared to about $500 five years ago — that makes
it more accessible to the residential security market.
“The advantage of using a fingerprint scan to control garage door
access is that kids can’t give their fingerprints away to their friends
like they do keypad codes,” he says. In many houses, “once you’re in
the garage, you’re in the house. This is a more secure way of offering
access to your property or any building.”
Fingerprint biometrics is also more advanced than any other biometric
technology, he says. “One of the reasons we didn’t go to voice is that
voice still has high propensity for false positive reads. We were very
close to announcing a voice product and it’s just not ready yet.”
Nixa echoes Weidman’s view that dealers are the key to advancing the
adoption of even more do-it-yourself types of security technologies.
“One of the problems in our industry is getting our customers to push
it to the homeowner,” he says. “They need to start pushing the message
of safety, security and convenience.”
Anything that is more high-tech than is what is in the market today is
going to be difficult to sell at first, he says, “but once it takes off
it will take off, and people who don’t bring it into their inventory
will be left out. As we look at next 24 to 36 months, it’s going to be
a large part of many installations.”
Paul Bentley, president of The Association of Ontario Locksmiths
(TAOL), agrees. For locksmiths, the marketplace is evolving towards a
hybrid of traditional door hardware and electronics, he says.
Locksmiths need to “get on board with the training” to better meet the
demands of today’s security technologies, he says, because they’re
often the ones who field the calls after 5 p.m. and have to figure out
how something works.
“We’re left to the network of relationships we have with each other” to
find out if someone else has ever seen the technology in question
before, he says, adding that it’s clear that “those who don’t keep up
are not going to get their share of the pie.”
One of the issues dealers have to be careful about is making sure that
high-tech residential security products, especially foreign-made ones,
are suitable for the Canadian climate. Many biometric products for
installation on the outside of a house, for example, are
battery-operated, which is fine, except that extreme cold can kill
those batteries. A product that locks the homeowner out, especially in
cold weather, won’t do much to promote the technology’s viability in
the Canadian market.
“Some of the stuff is made for the Asian market,” says Bentley. “Our
door hardware is different and there are codes on door hardware here.”
At Chubb Security Systems, security has grown to encompass more than
just preventing intrusions, says Jane Micalleff, project manager,
cellular backup. Chubb is focusing more on helping customers monitor
home systems such as sump pumps, water detectors and heat detectors.
“If they have a fire on the stove, it sets off the heat detector
automatically,” she says. Likewise, because many newer homes have
laundry facilities on upper floors, water detection is an important
piece of the security picture. Gas and carbon monoxide detection can
alert authorities to the fact that a house might be about to take out
an entire block, providing peace of mind especially to homeowners who
tend to be out of town for extended periods, such as snowbirds, she
“People are realizing there’s a lot more to security than just trying to catch a thief.”
Kathleen Sibley is a Toronto-based freelance writer.