Behind the Company: Q&A With Zonoff’s CEO
Zonoff Inc., Malvern, Pa., has a mission to make the Internet of Things come alive in the home by becoming a common platform enabling all wireless standards to communicate with each other. That includes security systems. The Zonoff Connected Home Platform consists of home, cloud, and app software that powers everything from entry-level point solutions to comprehensive home automation, remote control, energy management, and safety monitoring. SDM Senior Editor Heather Klotz-Young spoke with Zonoff Chief Executive Officer Mike Harris to find out more about the company and how it plays in the security space.
SDM: You describe your product as the "brains" of the connected home. How would you describe Zonoff as a company for readers who aren’t familiar with you?
Harris: We are all about the home automation and home control space, working with a wide variety of standards — everything from Z-Wave and ZigBee to a number of proprietary standards — in order to connect everything inside the home. It's really what we call the brains of the smart home; tying everything together and making it work better together.
It is also important to understand that Zonoff is a software-platform company, so generally consumers don't see our brand on the product. We are really an enabling technology supplier for everything from big device manufacturers, to retailers and service providers. Ultimately we provide the platform to them and then they brand it and put the whole solution together, and ultimately sell that to the consumers through whatever channel they already have established.
SDM: How do you play in the security space?
Harris: Well, a key point of distinction is that we are very specifically not a security vendor. We don't build security technology per se. Instead, we play in the security space with people who do that and do that very well. Ultimately, we want to let them do those managed services, the call centers and emergency response aspect, etc. that they’ve mastered, and then we really focus on the device control aspect of having the broadest ecosystem to bring devices into the home.
SDM: How would our readers would take action on using your services?
Harris: Ultimately the traditional dealer and seller won't be calling us, but they will be calling one of our customers like a Somfy or some of these other leading companies that we’re going to be announcing later this year, and then use that product.
The space for home control and home automation is moving very, very quickly where things are changing all the time and new devices are showing up all the time.
The tough part for a lot of those original security vendors is that the platforms have to be really, really solid software-wise and testing-wise. They can't ever fail, and as a result you have all the liability, but yet at the same time we're in a market where every day you turn around and there's some new compelling IP-connected devices that has just shown up on the market that people are interested in, whether it's a new smart thermostat or new color-changing light bulbs from Phillips, or whatever.
So the challenge is how do you integrate those into a security system? You can't just change the software every week with upgrades like a traditional consumer platform because there's too much risk in doing that. That's where we see this solution of two systems that can play nicely together. You can get the mission critical one from your security manufacturer and then the very consumer-facing one that moves very quickly from Zonoff; that's where we feel our strength is at, as opposed to the pure security play.
One interesting dynamic is that studies have shown that consumers really don't want to be dealing with
half a dozen different apps running different subsystems in their homes, whether that's their service stack and the lighting or the security system, etc., so I think that's one of the things we bring to the table for our partners and security companies. We partner them with a robust UI platform that can encompass sort of everything; a one-stop shop, if you will, for all things.
SDM: Can you talk about the future of the market?
Harris: More and more of these solutions are going to be rolling out into the mass market. People are going to be able to buy systems for automation and control under $100 from mass market retailer stores or online, and you’ll see more starter kits really built for self-install models.
However, I see there's a tremendous amount of opportunities that are appearing because no matter how easy and self-installable and ‘programmer-free’ our industry can make our solutions, ultimately there's a really significant percentage of consumers that just aren't comfortable installing these products themselves. They do need expert capability to come in and do that, and I do think there's a lot of opportunity for the traditional security installers to play a big role in that, even if that's partnering with retailers or partnering with some of these other players. I think that ends up being an interesting opportunity that's going to emerge over the next year or two.