Adding value with appliance control

The trend towards smart solutions is accelerating at a pace, both in residential applications as well as commercial and industrial sectors. Demand for automation, remote control and on-the-move diagnostics has never been greater, but while IT and consumer technology providers are focusing on what end users want (and will subsequently pay for), many installers and integrators are still dragging their heels when it comes to adding value for the customer. Benchmark considers the simple step of adding appliance control.

No matter what your opinion is of the Internet of Things, smart homes, intelligent buildings, artifical intelligence and device integration, the fact is that these technologies are currently being actively sought by end users. In a wide range of markets, from residential and lifestyle consumer through to business, industry and critical infrastructure, the benefits of connectivity and interoperability are being embraced.

For the security market, one element of this is frightening. These technologies are not coming soon, they are not the future and they certainly aren’t mere trends that will disappear when the next new thing arrives. They are technologies that customers are spending money on today. They are available on-line and on the high street in department stores, PC and household appliance outlets, technology and telephone stores, supermarkets, DIY sheds and even catalogue-based low cost chains.

The adoption of innovation is a well-understood model. All new technologies follow the model, which is represented by a curve, commonly referred to as the diffusion of innovation. This identifies five groups of consumers: Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority and Laggards.

The Innovators are the first people to adopt new technologies. For them, cost and – to a certain degree – performance matter not. They simply want to be the first people to implement new technologies. As a percentage of consumers, they are small in number making up around 2-3 per cent.

Early Adopters represent the first significant shift of users to a new technology. They are more discerning than Innovators and will want to ensure that their investment is in a technology that offers longevity and user benefits. They represent around 13-14 per cent of the market.

The Early Majority are considered to be the ‘average’ consumers. They adopt technologies some time after the Innovators and Early Adopters. They demand value for money and want to purchase proven products. Their focus is more on reliability and a proven return on investment than innovation. They buy products because the benefits are obvious. Such customers represent around 34 per cent of the market.

The Late Majority are generally sceptical and only adopt technology long after it has enjoys significant market acceptance. Such customers will be more focused on price than everyday benefits and will be happy to sacrifice some performance to save money. They represent around 34 per cent of the market.

Finally, the Laggards are the type of customer that will only invest in new technologies when the ones that have been disrupted are no longer available. While a more basic and cheaper option exists, they will not change their ways. These consumers represent around 16 per cent of the market.

It is generally accepted that the ‘tipping point’ for any technology occurs when the Early Majority adopts a technology. The question is at what point does the smart system market currently sit?

If you talk to many in the security sector, they will tell you that the market is currently appealing to Innovators or Early Adopters. However, given the shift to acceptance of such technologies, this is a very misplaced estimate, based more upon the attitude of the security sector rather than the customer or the marketplace. Experts is smart solutions outside of the security market recognise that the market is currently attracting the Early Majority. The tipping point has been passed and the demand for such systems is soaring.

Technology-based products are desirable, aspirational and form an essential part of the fabric of many people’s lives. Whether mobile telephony and computing devices, data sharing and management systems, social media and connectivity, remote control, status reporting or home and building control, customers are finding the money to invest, even in challenging economic conditions.

When you look at the drivers for these investments, they make interesting reading. The three significant considerations are convenience, energy and resource control, and enterprise benefits. Looking across a wide and diverse range of research and market analysis – and it is worth noting that few of these reports contradict each other – security is an important element of all three.

Smart alarm and monitoring systems, smart locks and access control, video and site status reporting are typically at or very close to the top of desired product listings, regardless of the sector.

One final point to consider is that when customers, both in their business and home lives, consider smart systems from outside of the security sector, they are aware of all the functionality on offer. They understand that these systems provide automation, appliance control, energy management, remote monitoring and switching, data management and site security. When you look at the marketing materials for these systems, security is typically listed as one of the first benefits.

When the same customers consider a smart system from the security sector, how aware are they of the full range of benefits on offer? They understand that they are getting site security, but do they fully understand all of the other benefits that are available? If installers and integrators are not highlighting these benefits, the customer might not be aware that the security system is superior in every way – reliability, performance, communications, flexibility, customisation, etc. – to the other smart systems they are considering.

When buying a security system, customers must be given choice. They are not obliged to invest more to achieve any potential automation, integration and smart benefits, but if they are made aware of these smart benefits, the market indicates that many will pay more.

Security is only a grudge purchase if it offers a low level of perceived value. An alarm that signals they have been burgled which the police probably won’t attend as a priority has little perceived value for many users. Add everyday benefits that add convenience, efficiency and real benefits and the perceived value grows. As the level of perceived value increases, so the ‘grudge’ attitude diminishes.

A simple addition

Many installers and integrators will actively sell and install intruder alarm systems. In many cases the customer will be sold what they have asked for: a professional quality intruder alarm. However, it is always worth having a conversation about other benefits that are available.

The Texecom Connect platform offers a wide range of additional benefits to users. It is based upon the Premier Elite range of professional intruder control panels and uses the proven Ricochet wireless mesh network for secure communications. One of the main criticisms users have of the consumer-based smart home systems which include security is that they rely on standard WiFi and connections can be dropped.

This negative point is immediately addressed by Texecom Connect as it uses a robust and supervised wireless technology.

All Texecom Premier Elite control panels running firmware v4 or later have the capability to switch electrical devices and appliances based upon a wide range of user-configurable criteria. This is achieved making use of the Ricochet-enabled smart plug.

Smart plugs are best-sellers in the smart technology market. They do have some downsides, but regardless of these they are still a very popular purchase. Texecom Connect smart plugs are significantly more reliable and flexible without most of the downsides. If users desire for smart switching is so great they will accept the issues relating to consumer smart plugs, why wouldn’t they be interested in the additional options offered by Texecom Connect smart plugs?

Consumer smart plugs rely on WiFi connectivity which does drop out on occasions, whereas the Texecom Connect smart plugs use Ricochet connectivity which is secure and reliable.

Consumer smart plugs require a dedicated app for control whereas Texecom Connect smart plugs can be triggered from the customer’s Connect app, along with a host of other devices and the alarm system itself.

Linking consumer smart plugs so that they operate dynamically is difficult and sometimes impossible. Many are either manually operated via the app or scheduled. To set them to switch lighting when someone walks up a front path or when they enter an area can’t be achieved. The Texecom Connect smart plugs can be activated manually or on a schedule, but can also be triggered by a wide range of events and status conditions captured by the Premier Elite control panel, whether the system is set or unset.

A Texecom Connect smart plug can do all the things that consumer market smart plugs can, plus a lot of things that they don’t currently do. Price-wise, they carry a similar cost to the good quality consumer smart plugs, so for any customer having a Premier Elite system installed – or for users who have legacy systems – it’s unlikely that many will reject the choice of adding switching out of hand.

Implementing smart switching

The process for adding Texecom Connect smart plugs is quick and simple. The installer or integrator should first attach the smart plug to a socket, but not switch the power on. With this done the next step is to log into the system through the Texecom Connect app (which is available in iOS and Android versions) using their engineer code.

Navigate via the app to the menu screen which provides four options: System Details, Manage Users, General Settings and Help and Guidance. Selecting General Settings gives a further four options: Cameras, Security, Connect and Sync Panel. Selecting Connect brings up a listing of connected devices and pressing the ‘+’ icon starts the learning process. The app will confirm how many free zones are on the system before giving the option tom switch the panel to learn mode for 20 seconds.

Once learn mode the power to the smart plug should be applied. The panel will detect the device and add it to the system. The final task is to name the smart plug and assign it to a room or building.

With this done the smart plug will be active and can be used dynamically as part of a recipe, switched manually or scheduled. For the user, it adds value and is a choice many will accept.

BENCHMARK
Benchmark is the industry's only publication for installers and integrators which is dedicated to technological innovation and the design and implementation of smarter solutions. With an unrivalled level of experience in technology-based systems, Benchmark delivers independent and credible editorial content.

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