Now that the elections and their TV ads are over with, you might notice that replacing those politicians are ads for interactive home services and monitoring. Homeowners can lock or unlock a front door of their home from a thousand miles away. They can receive and respond to alarms on a smartphone or look in through a camera to make sure Mikey came home from school or Rover is not tearing up the house. They can monitor and manage home appliances ranging from a complex HVAC system to a simple coffee pot.

There sure is a lot of gee whiz. But are there also recurring revenue dollars for dealers in this interactive monitoring world where the Internet and apps rule the roost?

Yes and no, and maybe.

Yes. Couple traditional, professional alarm monitoring with new-age home systems and monitored home automation schemes. The added value of such a bundled approach translates to more recurring monthly revenue, especially if you bundle in ownership and maintenance of the now more complex home area network.

No, if you define interactive monitoring as, instead, homeowner self-monitoring.

Maybe? Well, even more opportunities are coming. Personal emergency response systems or PERS, sometimes monitored by traditional central stations, are getting more interactive as they evolve into home healthcare and aging-in-place services. (See related article, “Aging in Place: PERS & Beyond,” on page XX.) Monitored video verification, with prices of systems themselves tumbling, is coming inside homes. Home energy management and controls are slowly catching on; but with some levels of energy monitoring, there may be a mixture of homeowner DIY and utility-provided approaches in addition to professionally installed systems.

One of Roy Perry’s favorite phrases is “unified experience” for homeowners and small business customers. The vice president, ecosystem alliances,, Vienna, Va., points out that the value chain in the past was the home security dealer, product manufacturers and the central station. Now there is a new rich set of capabilities.

Revenue-wise, there is a larger menu of hardware and software to sell and install for interactive services and a better chance at after-install add-ons and upgrades as compared with typical home security and its professional central station alarm monitoring, obviously. RMR for professionally monitored security, with, say, Honeywell Total Connect, would only cost a little more per month for the homeowner and generate a little more per month for the dealer.

But getting into interactive monitoring and related services can more easily lead to other revenue. Perry suggests thinking outside the panel with potential “emerging revenue sources from referrals, fees and new recurring monthly revenue streams, including partnerships with organizations such as utilities, homebuilders and even government agencies that go beyond the typical.”

Steve Shapiro, group director, product management, ADT Corporation (Boca Raton, Fla.), sees growing interest in interactive. When ADT Pulse first debuted, it was sold through the company channel. “Independent dealers are now stepping up to sell and install Pulse,” thanks in part to homeowner-sought features such as remote-control home door locks and camera views displayed on mobile devices.

When considering video as part of interactive monitoring, dealers, who work with monitoring firms, should understand their clients. Clayton Kemp, president/CEO, Universal Monitoring, Charlotte, N.C., observes, “Every customer has a different need as to why they want the ability to remotely view cameras throughout their home. Watch a babysitter. Child coming home from school. Traveling parent checking in on family. See who has triggered an alarm. The possibilities are endless. From a business perspective, this will certainly increase customer stickiness and increase RMR.”

For homeowners, there are many choices — too many choices — and much confusion when it comes to home area networks, in-the-cloud apps, mobile devices and communications protocols with interactive systems and home appliances, home computers and printers, and even home entertainment systems. There is also the growing concern over computer, communications and identity security.

So look at it all differently. Many choices means greater value — that is, revenue — for expert, customized advice, installation, service and maintenance. Confusion means there is an opportunity to educate clients, potentially to “right sell” or even up sell now or later, with a better chance of a longer relationship.

But self-monitoring without third-party alarm monitoring? Kemp comments that “the customer should have the ability to take into consideration the pitfalls of self-monitoring. I would frown upon any organization within our industry that would not educate the end user as to the pros and cons of self-monitoring versus professional monitoring. Customers may not have immediate access to public safety answering point (PSAP) information [call centers responsible for answering an emergency telephoned request for police, firefighter, and ambulance services] when an alarm occurs if they are out of town. If an alarm occurs at 2 a.m., will they be alert enough to handle a burglary or potentially a home invasion? Do they really want that level of responsibility in their hands if the system is protecting their family at night? What happens when their phone’s battery is dead? What about supervisory alarms? Will the customer know what to do and how to resolve the problem? There are many questions that the end user should ask before making the decision to self-monitor.”

Overall, the future of interactive monitoring may hinge on the application of more and more sensors in homes.

For instance, in one project, the University of Alberta, Canada, and Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital are working with IBM on a pilot aimed at providing researchers and students with insights on how to care for aging populations. IBM software correlates data from sensors capturing patient activity and replicates it in a virtual world using avatars that represent elderly patients in an independent living suite. Such applications may, one day, work in all types of homes and apartments with professional monitoring tied to multiple sensors and covering everything from security, healthcare and lighting to energy management, home entertainment and home networking.