Lifestyle technology and intruder alarms
The lifestyle technology market is accelerating at a rapid pace, and many new tech start-ups are addressing smart home and intelligent building needs. One area often included is such solutions is security. Given that the take-up of professional intruder alarms in the residential sector has traditionally been low, does the growth in smart homes offer an opportunity to installers and integrators? Benchmark talked to some thought-leaders in the alarms sector to find out.
The intruder detection system is the mainstay of many security solutions. The technology has a wide reach across a number of sectors, from high-risk sites with significant security needs, through mainstream commercial and industrial businesses and organisations, down to residential users with monitored or bells-only systems.
In recent years the technological landscape has changed beyond all recognition. Much of this has been accelerated by faster communications, flexible infrastructure and data sharing, mobile computing and most importantly faster and more powerful processors. These technologies are ubiquitous. They are increasingly being embraced by the consumer sector. The technology forms a part of today’s socio-economic infrastructure. The adoption of technology is not going to change. Society will not regress. The world is advancing, and security is a part of that world.
Many people remain uncertain as to the benefits of a professionally-installed alarm over a DIY or unapproved system. Most end users are reliant upon information from an insurer or are driven by the pitch from the installer or integrator. However, one thing the end user does have an understanding of is the simple fact that the police are unlikely to respond – in a timely fashion or at all – to an intruder alarm activation.
Police forces across the country have been under increasing pressure to reduce budgets for some years now. The latest news that some senior police officers are prophesising an end to ‘Bobbies on the beat’ simply underlines the belt-tightening exercises that the police are facing. This is coupled with a growing concern from the public that police don’t take crimes against property seriously.
Despite this, today’s intruder alarm sector is still focused on the standards and documents required to achieve URNs and to tick that ‘police first response’ box. Technology, meanwhile, has advanced to a point where the customer has a wide variety of choices as to how they react to information. Lifestyle technology and security must inevitably come together; the customer will demand it! But where does this leave the intruder alarm sector?
Benchmark solicited the views of market leaders in the intruder alarm sector to find out.
Clym Brown, Marketing Director, Texecom
The smart home and ‘Internet of Things’ concept is becoming a world-wide phenomenon, but as of yet actual customer purchases have not lived up to the hype. The principle reason for this is the lack of interoperability between different home devices and a lack of a clear eco-system for devices to connect to. This is resulting in end user customer confusion and is delaying the smart-home becoming an effective mass-market proposition.
Instead what we are seeing is a significant increase in connected systems: systems that do not form part of a wider eco-system but are connecting over IP and cloud based services to enhance the value and user experience, none more so than in the home security sector, where residential security systems are now offering app-based smartphone interactivity that feature push-based notification of system events and direct IP camera streaming.
These added features put homeowners in control of their own security, without affecting any professional security monitoring services that may be in place.
The proliferation of wireless security sensors is making connected residential home security system installations even easier than ever before. Mesh-based wireless sensors are ideal for covering large areas, and the ability to quickly deploy wireless security and home automation devices are increasing the appeal of connected secure homes.
It is important to recognise that end users do not need to choose between ‘lifestyle’ technologies and professional police-response systems, as it is possible to have both. Systems exist today that can offer home monitoring, home automation and other lifestyle features that also meet EN standards and offer police response. So long as security standards continue to focus on the quality of security on offer, and do not prohibit the proliferation of non-security features and integrated connected-home solutions, then it is entirely possible that security standards can be maintained without stifling innovation or limiting consumer choice.
The key difference in this new connected-home world is how consumers perceive the benefits of connected systems and are taking a more active role in product and service selection. Security can now be seen as a value-add proposition, rather than just a grudge purchase, and those capable of marketing and upselling the new benefits on offer will have a significant advantage over the more ‘traditional’ sales approach.
Paul Singh, CEO, Smart-i
Customers increasingly want to monitor all aspects of home security from their mobile devices. Systems must enable home owners to monitor interior and exterior cameras with both video and audio, receive alerts from door, window and movement sensors along with smoke, fire, water and carbon monoxide alarms. They want to be empowered to turn electrical appliances on and off, and even speak to people inside and outside the house, all from their mobile phone or tablet.
As well as offering security, systems should be able to be used as a child monitor, so that wherever the customer is, whether inside or outside of their home, they know that their loved ones are safe.
Our homes are the most valuable thing that we own but most people have very little control or knowledge over what is happening to them when they aren’t there.
There are a lot of home security systems but they don’t give the customer an early warning of danger, and without that there’s little or nothing they can do to prevent harm happening to theirr family and house.
A system should notify the user as soon as there is an intruder on the drive, smoke in the kitchen, flooding in the bathroom, or carbon monoxide coming from the boiler. It should send that alert immediately to theirr phone, and to the phones of trusted people that they choose, so that something can be done to prevent problems occurring.
Systems must be easy to set up and configure. A central gateway hub can connects to the home WIFI router and then links to all devices. When any of the monitors or cameras are activated, the customer receives an alert to their phone via text, email or a telephone call. That’s what customers expect today.
A Hybrid Platform
Orly Nahum, Strategic Product Marketing Manager, Tyco Security Products
The smart home – or home automation – is one of the hottest topics in lifestyle technology, and it is starting to have a major impact on home security. Bringing the two together in a single system makes sense, but because of their different technical requirements, doing so has so far been easier said than done. The emerging availability of solutions for hybrid systems opens a smoother path toward homes that deliver the maximum benefits of both automation and security.
Just as people have traditionally turned to intrusion alarm systems to protect themselves, their loved ones and their belongings, many are now looking to home automation in order to add more convenience and control in their lives. A recent market survey estimates that the worldwide smart home market will grow at a CAGR of 17 per cent between 2015 and 2020 and notes that security and access control systems, along with energy management systems, are the major drivers for this growth.
In the US, trends already underway in the real estate market are bearing out those predictions. A survey by the Coldwell Banker real estate firm has found that homebuyers are much more interested in homes with smart features and connected technologies than they were in the last two to five years – a trend which is expected to become the norm as home automation becomes more affordable, and as devices are more easily monitored via smartphones. Security and safety are in first and third place for the smart home categories most interesting to home buyers, indicating that people see the smart home and security as natural extensions of one another.
By integrating electrical devices, smart home systems can control lighting, thermostats and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), water, moisture and humidity, and assorted household appliances, as well as safety and security systems including devices such as door and gate locks. They can be connected through a home network via a personal computer or through the Internet. The resulting integrated system enables devices, appliances and systems to communicate with each other – and allows end-users to communicate with devices – thus achieving the goal of increased convenience, comfort, energy efficiency and security. The integration of these disparate systems has lead to the merging of security and lifestyle.
However, it’s not always clear how to bring home automation and security together in a single, unified environment. The crux of the matter is the wireless networking protocol. Typically, when selecting a wireless protocol for a home or small business, the choice is made to optimise for either home automation or security, or to make do with two separate systems that work independently. Neither approach is perfect, and it can be argued that there’s a better way: one that enables end-users to enjoy more convenience, control and peace of mind.
The field is divided into open and proprietary wireless protocols, with no single wireless protocol that adequately meets all the requirements for both automation and security.
Open protocols are typically created by a consortium or alliance and based on technologies such as Bluetooth, Thread, ZWave and ZigBee. These protocols lend themselves well to home automation since price, interoperability, and scalability – as opposed to reliability – are key concerns. They offer a lower upfront cost for devices, extensive scalability and interoperability, and suitability for DIY.
Because they have shorter battery life, limited support for advanced features, greater tolerance for latency, and lower requirements for privacy, they aren’t a complete answer for home and business security and safety applications.
That said, while they are more suited to home automation, the open protocols are typically good enough for smart home networks. That’s because dependability is not critical for smart home features. At worst, end-users may experience some inconvenience if the smart home system experiences glitches or fails to work for some period of time.
That is far from the case when it comes to security and safety systems for the home. Proprietary wireless protocols – which are usually created by a single company and used for specific applications – are a great choice for security systems, where key issues are reliability and performance, privacy and vulnerability, and usability and maintenance.
Current proprietary technologies outperform open technologies in delivering the reliability, performance, privacy, and capabilities required to support mission-critical security for today’s homes and businesses. They also score higher on usability and maintenance, with a long range that enables repeater-free installations. Extended battery life minimises maintenance costs and hassle for both installers and end-users. However, they are not specifically designed for use in home automation networks.
Fortunately, there is another option. It is possible to create a hybrid network that provides an optimised answer for both home automation and security. An integrated platform that supports multiple protocols via a network-specific gateway allows open and proprietary protocols to work alongside each other. In this way, the network delivers agile, cost-effective and convenient home automation as well as a professional grade, fully protected security and safety system, all with a single point of management and access.
With an integrated hybrid approach, home and business owners can enjoy all the flexibility and cost advantages of an open protocol for home automation applications, while also benefitting from the rigorous reliability, privacy and advanced capabilities of a dedicated protocol for mission-critical best-of-breed security. The entire merged environment, including both automation and security systems, can be controlled via a comprehensive mobile app.
This hybrid option enables an integrated hybrid platform optimised for both security and home automation.
The Connected Home
Steve Riley, Commerical Director, RISCO Group
We live in an increasingly connected world and in a relatively short space of time the Internet has become the dominant factor in how we communicate and exchange information. It is amazing to think that every minute there are 41,000 Facebook posts, 204 million emails sent, 72 hours of video uploaded to YouTube and 36,000 photos posted on Instagram.
This connectivity is evolving into the Internet of Things (IoT), which describes a system where items in the physical world, and sensors within or attached to these items, are connected to the Internet via wireless and wired connections. It connects everything and everyone, from smartphones to coffee makers, washing machines, energy meters, headphones, refrigerators, lights, cars, wearable devices and almost anything else.
The scope of the IoT is only limited by our imaginations and according to Intel, it is predicted to grow from two billion objects in 2006 to 200 billion by 2020, when there will be around 26 smart objects for every human being on Earth.
As a result of this activity, the Internet is informing our lifestyle choices in ways that few of us could have imagined. In what has been termed the smart home, more and more devices and systems are utilising the capabilities inherent in IoT and providing enhanced benefits for managing the domestic environment.
Consumer behemoths such as Apple, Samsung and Google have recognised this and the smart home industry is expected to be worth $15bn by 2017, up from $7bn in 2014.
This poses a threat to the traditional electronic security industry. It’s why intruder alarm system manufacturers have the challenge of designing products that facilitate networking and connectivity and installers must look beyond their traditional range of activities and services.
Rather than the one-dimensional products of yesteryear, today’s state-of-the-art intruder alarm systems now have the ability to integrate, monitor and control a wide variety of other building services. That’s not to say that ‘bells-only’ solutions are redundant; they are still an effective deterrent for burglars. It’s a view shared by pretty much all of the nation’s police services, which consider standard intruder alarms to be one of the best ways to combat the estimated 6.8 million incidents of crime against households identified in the latest Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW).
That said, connected intruder alarm systems offer homeowners far more than just high quality security provision and savvy installers should certainly be looking to promote the advantages of these multi-dimensional solutions. Having a smart intruder alarm system means that in the event of a break in, rather than simply activating a bell or communicating with an ARC, an alert can be immediately sent to a designated person’s smart device, initiating an instant response.
As well as complementing modern lifestyles, one of the key drivers towards these types of systems is the financial pressure on police services and their ability to provide a rapid response. Having lost nearly 16,000 officers from forces in England and Wales – the equivalent of losing all the police forces in the south west of England – Paul Ford, Secretary of Police Federation National Detective Forum, has stated that these issues are affecting the police service’s ability to protect communities and to respond to calls.
The police service’s decision to only attend certain incidents has also made the media headlines. In August 2015 a news story broke concerning attempted burglaries and how Leicestershire Police admitted only sending forensic officers to homes with an even door number during a three-month trial, because it wanted to find out whether it had any impact on victim satisfaction rates.
In light of this worrying trend, the ability to remotely monitor, configure and maintain an intruder alarm system from any desktop or mobile device is particularly useful.
The benefits are numerous. For example, if a person is on holiday or at work and wants to release a lock to let someone in, they can. Systems can even be programmed to send an alert, informing a user about who has entered the home and at what time. This can offer great peace of mind for parents who want to know that their child has returned home safely from school. Pet owners can also use it to make sure their animals are OK and concerned relatives can install the system in the homes of elderly relatives to ensure they are safe and well.
In addition, being able to monitor and manage energy consumption remains a key priority for homeowners who want to use this resource more wisely. Therefore, the ability to switch heating and lighting on and off remotely not only reduces energy expenditure but also increases the return on investment (ROI) on the system itself.
This is all happening now and the security industry must be careful not to let standards and regulation stifle innovation and remove the benefits to consumers. Systems must be easy to use and intuitive, while offering genuine lifestyle benefits.
Regulations and compliance are obviously important. However, the industry needs to make sure it can adapt to meet the demands of the modern consumer. If we can’t, home owners may start to navigate towards the unregulated sector and products from major consumer brands such as Apple, Google and Samsung when they could be benefitting from using highly skilled and experienced professional security installers.
Homeowners are looking to integrate all the different electronic systems they have and the explosion of smart devices has increased awareness of the lifestyle benefits using technology in this way. By integrating fire detection, carbon monoxide detection, lighting, heating and flood detection systems into a intruder alarm system, users can monitor the status of a home’s infrastructure in real time, make adjustments and receive notifications of an alarm event, all of which helps to create a smarter, safer and more energy efficient homes.