On Top of Your Game
How to stay at the top of your game? Stay attuned to change, specifically to game changer technology platforms, including the ones discussed in this article, that are poised to take security from ‘what it is’ to ‘what it will be.’
Almost everyone has heard a version of Isaac Asimov’s famous quote, “The only constant is change,” which is a translated version of a quote by Heraclitus, a 500 B.C. Greek philosopher. However, looking at the quote in its entirety gives Asimov’s statement even greater meaning. He goes on to say, “Continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be.” That is the discernment needed to capitalize on a “game changer” — which, according to Oxford University Press, is a person, an idea or an event that completely changes the way a situation develops. Those visionaries that pursue game changers are the ones who can see the world as it will be.
In the security industry today, visionaries are involved in changing the game by inventing products, conceiving solutions, adopting and marketing new innovations, and generally leading the way as the industry transitions into the next phase of its evolution — IP-based and network-based technologies.
“Color cameras, digital video recorders, proximity access control — all of these technologies were around for a little while before they were commonplace, but once they took hold there was absolutely no going back,” says Ed Bonifas, vice president, Alarm Detection Systems (ADS), Aurora, Ill., and the current president of the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA). “Now you can’t imagine having anything but a color camera. Who would put in a VCR anymore? The stuff we’re talking about today — cloud computing, video verification, home automation, remote operation of alarm systems — it is the same concept as all these other technologies where you either got out in front of it or it ran you over and you had to pick yourself up off the ground and dust yourself off and see what you missed.”
Other game changers that changed the “world as it is” according to Mark Visbal, CAE, IOM, and director, Research and Technology, Security Industry Association (SIA), Alexandria, Va., include:
Those game changers seem so obvious now, but they required a major adjustment at the time and came with industry resistance. It is hard to step away from “the way it’s always been.”
As John Jennings, chief executive officer of Safeguard Security and Communications Inc., Scottsdale, Ariz., defines it, “a product or service that is a paradigm shift from what we ‘always have done’ is a game changer.” When it comes to classifying technology platforms as potential game changers, security professionals are eyeing things such as mobile apps, home automation (finally), cloud-based services, smart cameras, and many more platforms that dealers and integrators have cited (and are described on the following pages).
Of course, there is no crystal ball to clearly see the world as it will be, but, when speaking with industry professionals, several characteristics make a game-changing technology or product easier to spot.
Game changers make people uncomfortable.
“I remember game changers from the past — such as when digital dialers were not universally accepted,” says Rod Garner, president, Mountain Alarm, Ogden, Utah. “Think back about that. They would say things like, ‘Direct wire offers you supervision of your phone line; digital dialers don’t. It’s a degrade of signal transmission.’
“So many older people resist change because it’s not how we used to do it. When you talk to an older person, we draw a line in the sand and say, ‘This is as much change as I’m comfortable with.’ So I surround myself with bright, young people that don’t have those same biases,” Garner says.
Game changers are more relevant than product changes or upgrades.
Lance Holloway, director of Technology Strategy, Stanley Convergent Security Solutions (Stanley CSS), Naperville, Ill., says “Changes to all products and technology happen within the normal life cycle of products and evolution of technology. Typically, the changes are improvements to a given product line or technology by which something becomes cheaper or more efficient (faster, easier, more robust, etc). However, a product or technology game-changing moment occurs when the customer’s experience and expectations are revolutionizing to the point that other products and technologies no longer seem relevant.
“Not only do game-changing products and technology motivate customers to convert or change from older systems to new solutions; even better, they motivate new customers to become users,” Holloway describes.
Game changers affect the company from top to bottom.
“A game changer gets embraced by all facets of the business. Not just the wow factor of the customer, but the excited installer, the technician, the monitoring center, the customer care center — everyone. When you get the whole company embracing that kind of change, then you’ve got forward movement,” says Patrick Egan, president, Select Security, Lancaster, Pa. “If sales says, ‘We’ve got this great thing,’ but installation says, ‘We can’t install that,’ then it’s not a game changer for them. You have to have buy-in by the whole company.”
Game changers are something you want yourself.
“One of the ways I know something is a game changer is when it is something I want,” Bonifas admits. “When I forget to disarm my system so the neighbor can water the plants, of course I want to be able to fix that situation from my office! Today everything is wrapped around connectivity and the ability of the system to reach out to where the customer is at.”
Today’s game-changing security systems can be armed and disarmed from smart phones and computers thousands of miles away. It is another step in the evolvement of everything that is possible with security systems. New capabilities come on the heels of game changing inventions that start with “wow” and fade to relics of the past. One such step in the past included Wells Fargo’s Multiplex central station computer (pictured on page 52), a one-time game changer that is now a soon-to-be museum piece. Bonifas still has one in operation in his central station. “We have one account on it and that is headed out the door…headed for the CSAA museum,” he says.
“When Tom LeNay invented the Multiplex computer for central stations he was decades ahead of his time in late ‘70s. He invented a high-security central station automation system and receiver at once. Suddenly you could arm and disarm, modify opening and closing times — and he did it without a LCD display and all through simple feedback from a red light and a green light and a buzzer. Already there was a wow factor that was hard to sell against in those days, and today’s systems exponentially offer more.
“Think about the homeowner that hears the sales presentation that if you forget to arm your system you can do it on the way to dinner and you can see when your kids are home. Compare it to what we’ve been selling the last three decades and that old system starts to look like a black-and-white camera. It is hard to be an old-school alarm company and ignore this anymore.”
Game changers meet a need.
“When it benefits our customer base and is a new technology that we can be first to market with, that’s a game changer. Sometimes people take technology and try to find a use for it — we look at something and if it meets a need, then we take it to market,” says Mike Fleenor, president, Fleenor Security Systems, Knoxville, Tenn.
Game changers can be more than technologies.
“Game changers are not always technologies; sometimes they’re people within your organization. For example, Todd Pederson at APX; I think he is a game changer as a person. The way the company goes to market and the team that he’s built is driven by his personality. All the way down to the service guy and installer and salesman — they can be game changers, as well, by virtue of their passion and capabilities. Every technology that we’ve addressed will be a game changer for some companies and a total flop for others, depending on their people and their execution,” Garner believes.
Game changers offer a reward.
“The cost and reward plays a big role in making a technology a game changer. When the digital dialer replaced old tape dialers, the cost and reward shifted exponentially. Before the digital dialer, the tape dialers often broke and required high maintenance and tied up the phone lines when they were in use. A technology like the digital dialer really was a breakthrough in efficiency and a win-win for all sides of the market,” says John Reidy, president, SMG Security Sales, Elk Grove Village, Ill.
Being an early adopter has its pain points, but, when you’re right about a game changer, it has rewards that only come from being that early adopter.
“A vast majority of our industry — 85 percent I would say — take a wait-and-see attitude and use old technology until the customer says ‘I don’t want this DVR, I want storage in the cloud or on the camera’ or ‘I want managed access.’ They are then forced to adapt their model because it comes from the customer. There does come a tipping point where the rank and file pile in, but by that time they’ve lost the higher margins; they’ve lost the opportunity to operate with lack of competition and they’ve lost the early entrance advantage,” says Bill Bozeman, president and chief executive officer, PSA Security Network, Westminster, Colo.
Being an early adopter of game-changing platforms has its competitive advantages, but the most important reason to stay open to change is so that your company can remain relevant to customers. Staying current with potential game changer technology platforms keeps your business “at the top of its game.” No matter what a game changer means to you, the end result is that it provides an opportunity to sell more systems.
Right now the security industry is rife with game-changing technologies that are being applied to customer-friendly platforms. Be a visionary by adopting the game changers proposed by your peers — and see the world of security as it will be.
Near Field Technology (NFC)
First there were Wiegand cards, then there were proximity cards followed by contactless smart cards and now there’s a new generation of access control technology to pay attention to that uses near field communication (NFC), a set of short-range wireless technologies that enables a whole new world of credentials. NFC allows people to touch or hold their device close to something and initiate a desired service. Smart cards still rule, with ABI Research estimating that about 1.5 billion “smart credentials” will be issued through 2014, but future-focused integrators will also be ready for NFC and virtualized credentials that include smart phones. As Dr. Tam Hulusi, senior vice president at HID Global Inc., Irvine, Calif., explains, “The move toward virtualized credentials is fueling a shift in the industry, where the concept of “identity” is being expanded beyond traditional I.D. cards to include many different form factors for credentials. This new way of thinking marks a tipping point in the access control industry, and is driving fundamental changes in how we deliver and manage secure identity. For instance, today’s mobile phones can do so much more than just making and receiving calls. They can now also be used to open doors, make cashless payments and access secure data. NFC phones are one example of a new form factor for carrying a credential that can enable many types of contactless access-control applications and secure-payment or data-access transactions.” Virtualized credentials offer the promise of more convenient and secure access and transactions.
Applications / ‘Apps’
There definitely is “an app for that” when it comes to physical security — and the number of apps being introduced to the security industry grows weekly. Where do the opportunities end with this technology platform? From the consumer side to the business side, there really do seem to be endless possibilities. The ability for homeowners and business managers to control and interact with just about any aspect of their security system from a mobile device such as an iPhone is a true game changer for security companies, helping them to renew the excitement among customers about owning a security or surveillance system. Not only that, but new apps are extending the way security companies operate in their sales and installation departments.
Now is the time to switch existing accounts and show end users all the new possibilities their systems have.
Dealers across the industry are changing their alarm communication technologies — with game-changing results.
“AES wireless monitoring changed our whole paradigm as far as monitoring. It quickly caught on that that was where the industry was heading.” — Mike Fleenor, Fleenor Security Systems
Tablets as Home Controllers
“The next wave of connectivity is something that no alarm company can ignore. Look around, almost everyone is carrying iPads. They are already prepared to interact with their systems via touchscreens,” Bonifas says.
Whether wall-mounted or portable, tablets possess the “wow” factor and the right price tag, as tablet prices continue to fall dramatically as more manufacturers enter the competition and volume increases. Multiple panels on the wall may be too expensive for some, but a portable iPad lets end users have home automation at their fingertips wherever they are in their home.
“One game changer is not anything new but it finally works,” says Bill Bozeman, at PSA Security. “So many people got burned by video analytics…we’re seeing some miraculous improvements. It is a game changer and it will drive traditional video sales to many new types of applications that will solve many types of problems that in the past could not be resolved with traditional video. It is getting smarter and smarter and better and better — and really the general community hasn’t latched onto the capabilities of the new analytics offerings,” Bozeman believes.
By “smarter and smarter” and “better and better” security professionals mean that cost efficiencies exist that didn’t exist before. Not only are analytics a standard part of the camera but power and recording functions are, too. This makes it a much more compelling sale to the middle and low-end markets.
“Analytics are going to be huge — still a little expensive but they are much more effective than they have been in the past. Today we can deploy a camera with analytics rather than put motion sensors all over a site. It is so much simpler and more cost effective and it can recognize the difference between animals and people and cars and people. The camera does the work,” explains Atronic Alarms’ Neil Atha. Smart cameras not only extend the amount of potential applications, but also make new central station services possible, too.
“Clearly, IP video with analytics — that’s a huge game changer for us. That affects the central station because we’re doing managed video. Now through the internet, we can reach into customers and do rapid video verification, video tours, video escorts,” says Select Security’s Patrick Egan. He adds that smart cameras don’t just do motion detection; they do “human detection. That camera watching a scrap yard doesn’t care that a dog ran across. But if a human runs across that, the alarm is going off,” he describes. Egan also operates a dealer program. “It’s not just me and Select Security. Our dealers have begun to embrace this. They are installing smart cameras and smart access control devices. The cameras keep coming down in price and going up in quality,” he claims.
“We adopted the 2GIG control about 18 months ago. When we first adopted it, we decided it had limited use and it would be for low-end residential. As we became more familiar with its capabilities, it sort of took over our business. Now we use it for any residential installation. The 2GIG product was such a game changer for us that it has forced its way into and throughout our organization. It kind of demands that you use it. That’s exactly what I think is going to happen because of these kind of products. Honeywell’s got a product very similar. The industry is offering a whole new generation of products that change how everyone thinks of security panels. When you get the consumer to giggle, you’ve got a game changer. These people are not about to switch; they love the product.” — Rod Garner, Mountain Alarm
Smart Grid / Home Energy Management
Companies like ADT, Alarm.com and Vivint are all offering energy management services in addition to security systems. Their reach will only grow the awareness and demand for the service.
Smart grid opportunities are also available. In addition to pilot programs all over the country, there are several programs officially in place including one by Control4, which announced the first non-pilot smart grid rollout of home energy management systems using home area network technologies, including a touchscreen controller and wireless thermostat. The opportunity seems to be now as utilities are still working on rolling out their own programs. While the utilities, commissions, cities and government agencies give-and-take as smart grid evolves, a niche has opened for home automation and home security dealers as well as remote monitoring firms to take advantage of their technologies and existing partnership connection to their customers to both educate homeowners on the advantages of home energy management and then sell, install and help monitor primarily through smart thermostats as standalones or integrated into home networks or home security systems. In a recent report, research firm Parks Associates’ forecasts that for the next several years, more independent/non-utility residential energy management networks (IREMs) will exist than utility-based home area networks (HANs). The report, “Home Area Networks: Analysis and Forecasts,” predicts that by 2015, there will be 10 million independent residential energy management services versus 6 million put in place by utilities implementing smart grid programs. “There is a window of opportunity for those who want to precede the home area networks installed by the utilities,” says Bill Ablondi, director of home systems research at Parks Associates, Dallas.