Residential development on the North Fork of Long Island, N.Y., has provided a good market for Paul Romanelli, owner of Suffolk Security Systems. He sells Honeywell’s Total Connect system which gives vacation home owners remote connection capabilities and doesn’t require a traditional phone line.


The North Fork of Long Island is an unspoiled beachfront area just a few hours’ drive from New York City – and a prime location for upscale weekend homes and vacation homes. Suffolk Security Systems of Southold, N.Y., has been serving the North Fork since 1972 and has installed burglar and fire alarm systems in many of the area’s residences.

More and more of Suffolk Security Systems’ clients are opting for systems that enable them to remotely control system functionality via the Internet and to receive e-mail alerts when a potential problem, such as a power outage, is detected. To serve those customers, Suffolk Security installs the Total Connect system from Honeywell, which has the added advantage of not requiring a traditional phone line — a type of connectivity that many part-time residents are lacking.

“When we first looked at Total Connect, I thought we were going to be selling this to younger people and only younger people,” recalled Suffolk Security Systems owner Paul Romanelli. Instead, Romanelli found that the system’s capabilities appealed to a wide range of clients.

“When we talk to them about all the features and how they [will] have more access to their home, they get excited about it,” Romanelli said. “We’ve sold it to customers of every age and that was really eye-opening for us.”

He cited the example of a grandmother with a “part-time” home on nearby Shelter Island, which has been in her family for years. The woman and her sister, who lives with her, were concerned about false alarms and how to disarm the system.

“We talked to them about Total Connect and I really didn’t think they were going to buy it,” recalled Romanelli, who initially assumed — incorrectly — that the women would not be familiar with text messaging.

“One of the women got extremely excited and I said, ‘Why, you know how to text message?’ and she said, ‘Yeah, I text message my granddaughter all the time. I think that’s really neat.’”

The women wasted no time in making the decision to purchase the Total Connect system. Today, they regularly use the Internet and text messaging to arm and disarm the system.

Other clients use their systems to remotely control heating and to use a computer in New York City or elsewhere to let maintenance people into the home, then rearm it when the people leave. Premium features such as those help Suffolk Security maintain its price points.

“We’ve never really sold on price,” Romanelli commented. “We always sell on value. And when we can show something like this to a customer, almost every time they buy it.”

Romanelli recounted another customer who bought a Total Connect system for his vacation and weekend home from Suffolk Security even though the price was higher than another bid he had gotten. The higher price, Romanelli explained, wasn’t just because of Total Connect, but also because of some other capabilities that Suffolk Security had added to the system. “Once we went through all those, he looked at the contract again and realized that with Total Connect, he really didn’t have to worry,” Romanelli said.

An important concern was that the client frequently travels between New York City and Washington, D.C., as well as to his Long Island home. “One day when we had a massive power failure in his town that was out for quite some time, he got signals on his Blackberry and was a little concerned because there’s been some burglaries in his area,” Romanelli said. “He immediately contacted us and we told him what was going on and made sure to check out that everything was safe at his home.” After Suffolk Security personnel were able to assure the client that everything was fine, the client was able to reset his system remotely and keep an eye on it.

“He came back two days later from his trip and contacted us,” Romanelli said. “He was really grateful how well everything worked. He was really impressed with it.”

The man’s endorsement was particularly powerful, considering that he sells technology for a living. “It was nice to see him get excited about something that no one else was offering,” Romanelli said.
Like many areas on the outskirts of major metropolitan areas, the eastern end of Long Island has experienced ongoing development and that, too, has provided a good market for Total Connect. “Another big area for us has been new construction,” notes Romanelli. “We work with roughly 40 different homebuilders — custom homebuilders — out here on the East End.”

One feature that appeals strongly to clients in general and homebuilders, in particular, is the fact that Total Connect does not require a traditional phone line. “One of the biggest challenges we’ve always had is when a home is completed, all the work is done and the alarm system is in — we’re typically waiting for phone lines to be installed,” Romanelli said. By using a Honeywell GSM radio in conjunction with Total Connect, Suffolk Security is no longer dependent on the homeowner to call to order the phone line before the system can be up and monitored.

Total Connect also can address the requirement from some insurance companies for an alarm system to be operational during construction. “Some insurance companies are requiring alarm systems during construction, depending on the value of the home,” Romanelli explained. “Total Connect and GSM alarm communications has solved all that for us. On most of our new construction jobs, we include it in our pricing. Nobody’s ever balked about it, and it allows us to get an alarm system up and running immediately, as soon as our work is done, without having to wait for telephone lines.”

Moving forward, Romanelli anticipates that Total Connect will help in retaining customers because it increases the value of the security system to the customer and increases the frequency with which customers interact with the system. “Now you won’t get those phone calls saying, ‘Listen, I’m dropping my monthly fees. I’m not using my system,’” predicted Gary Thornhill, district manager for Honeywell Security & Communications. “Once they’re tied into that system and they have that connectivity, they’re not going anywhere, and you’re going to have a customer for life.”