The past year has been an odd one for those in the security industry. Not only did they have to grapple with a global pandemic like every other business, but they were also directly impacted by civil unrest and the rapid development of multiple technologies.

Still, when you look at the numbers, it wasn’t a bad year for business. According to SDM’s 2021 Industry Forecast, only 19 percent of those in the intrusion alarm market considered the state of the market to be “poor” or “fair.” Forty-seven percent of those in the market considered the market to be “good,” and 34 percent consider the market to be either “very good” or “excellent.” In response to the 2020 Industry Forecast, 16 percent said the state of the intrusion alarm market was “poor” or “fair,” 41 percent said it was “good,” and 43 percent believed the market to be “very good” or “excellent.” While these numbers are down slightly over the previous year, they show that the industry held its own in the face of the pandemic. And some even improved over the previous year.

“Our company performed better in 2020 than in 2019,” says Aaron Whitaker, owner of Preventia Security, Columbia, Tenn., and featured on this month’s cover. “We were fortunate to adapt daily, even weekly. We saw some really big challenges obviously around access into people’s homes, so that was really the initial rocky road we had to go down — people being uncomfortable with having us in their home.”

Preventia did so well that as other security businesses went under, they were buying them up. The company completed four acquisitions in 2020.

One factor that helped make the year the best so far for some was the increased interest and adoption of security and alarm products.

“Overall, the adoption of security and alarm products grew in 2020 compared to 2019,” says Mitchell Klein, director of strategic partnerships at Silicon Labs and executive director of the Z-Wave Alliance, Beaverton, Ore. “As consumers spent more time working, learning and entertaining from home, they recognized the importance of adopting security devices to keep their homes safe and secure. With new products entering the market in 2020, consumers had more options for adoption, allowing them to choose between DIY or professionally monitored systems that fit their personal needs.”

Alice DeBiasio, vice president of global product management, security, Resideo, Austin, Texas, says that people spending more time at home, combined with social unrest, put security at the forefront for many that had hardly considered its importance before.

“Resideo and the entire alarm industry saw strong demand in 2020, particularly in the second half of 2020,” DeBiasio says. “The uncertainty of COVID-19 drove families and businesses to seek safety and protection in their homes. People are investing in their homes and remodels and upgrades as they have spent increasingly more time in their homes, and in addition have begun investing in security and safety solutions due to the increasing social unrest surrounding many cities and suburbs in 2020.”

But while business may have been good for some, to say the year was sunshine and daisies for anyone would be a stretch, and some of the trends continuing into this year and beyond will have an impact suggests Amanda Kung, a researcher at Parks Associates in Addison, Texas. “Security and, to a lesser degree, smart home devices, face a mixed bag environment from COVID-19. Some households unwilling to risk exposure to COVID-19 avoid installation and even repair technicians entering their home as much as possible. This cramps growth for traditional security systems, but heightens the willingness to acquire self-install security systems. Countering this downward pressure for traditional security systems are strong new home sales with a higher than average adoption of security. ADT, as an example, has entered into a partnership with DR Horton, the nation’s largest homebuilder. The security system and adjacencies such as IP cameras can go straight on the mortgage. In addition, sales of second homes in vacation areas have increased substantially as households, particularly those in large cities, seek escape to tranquility.

“Overall, slow and steady growth continues for adoption of home security systems and professional monitoring. In recent years, adoption of security systems has experienced growth even in the face of attrition, continuing at an average rate over 12 percent.”


The State of Monitoring

Security professionals in the monitoring market have a largely positive view of the market, with 81 percent of respondents to SDM’s 2021 Industry Forecast saying conditions were “good” to “excellent” and 20 percent saying they were “poor” or “fair” — 5 percentage points higher the previous year. While the year was rocky, like the security industry overall, monitoring companies weathered it well. They were helped in part by updated UL standards that allowed for employees to work from home on an emergency basis.

“March hit and we started seeing people struggle, but others started taking advantage of [the situation],” says Steve Mayer, vice president of operations and administration at Emergency24, Des Plaines, Ill. “Obviously there was some limited access to buildings and we saw that, but on the other hand, there was an uptick later in the year. Operationally we didn’t skip a beat. We had technological and operational efficiencies we were able to leverage, and we had the capability of monitoring remotely under the revised UL standard.”

Sending monitoring center employees to work from home was an adjustment many companies went through in 2020. While Emergency24 has brought most of its monitoring staff back into the office now, some employees are still working remotely.

Steve Schmit, senior staff engineer at UL, Northbrook, Ill., suggests they might further revise UL827 to allow for monitoring center employees to work remotely in non-emergency situations as well.

“Social distancing and other risk mitigation techniques that were considered temporary last year will likely be part of the environment for all of 2021, and possibly become permanent conditions,” Schmit says. “It is interesting to observe how pandemic conditions inspired or kick-started innovation and experimentation that might have otherwise not been attempted. Efficiencies gained and lessons learned will likely remain long after pandemic conditions recede.”

Jim McMullen of COPS Monitoring says the pandemic — a possibility seemingly no one was prepared for — better prepared monitoring centers for future disasters.

“Prior to the pandemic, the comprehensive redundancy of our six monitoring stations and distributed staffing made us better prepared to withstand localized situations and outages,” McMullen says. “As the result of the pandemic, our systems, procedures and employees are now better prepared to endure circumstances that are more widespread. UL also reacted quickly and decisively to the pandemic. We expect that UL will broaden the guidelines that govern monitoring companies to allow us to react to changing conditions while adhering to their standards.”

The COPS dealer base of roughly 3,500 companies ended 2020 with a net positive number of accounts over 2019, according to McMullen.

“There was an obvious negative impact from COVID-19 and the resulting governmental restrictions on traditional residential sales, yet many of our dealers were able to pivot and adapt,” McMullen says. “Very early on, we introduced a program with SS&Si [a dealer network in Deltona, Fla.] called do-it-together where we trained dealers how to sell DIY with the added benefit of real-time video chat support from a local alarm company. We also saw an uptick in video sales, which we attribute not only to the fact that people were away from their businesses for extended periods of time, but also to the civil unrest for much of 2020.”

Though not new, video monitoring became a major trend in 2020.

“The adoption of video by consumers is a crucial trend,” says Anne Ferguson, vice president of marketing for, Tysons, Va. “The demand was there prior to the pandemic but has likely accelerated during this time, as the need to further protect the things we care about in and around our homes has increased. Video will also play an increasingly important role with central stations, adding value to professional monitoring and the ability to facilitate rapid, 24/7 emergency response.”

The demand for video monitoring is so strong that Dennis Holzer of the PowerHouse Alliance believes it could contribute significantly to the growth of the entire security industry.

“The biggest monitoring trend contributing to the growth of the security industry is video surveillance,” Holzer says. “Consumers are looking for security systems that give them an immediate overview of the status of their home. Video surveillance devices provide a clear view of events happening in and around the home as they occur. The introduction of video surveillance security devices added an extra layer to the business and home. Consumers are now adopting systems that allow them to self-monitor the home because they can do so without having to rely on professional monitoring personnel. Security systems that include video surveillance have opened a segment of the business that was widely unused two or three years ago.”

Chris Brown, CEO of Immix, Tampa, Fla., saw many new companies switching from traditional monitoring to video-centric and event-based monitoring, and investing in the space. “People became more comfortable with remote video and this sparked a revolution in thinking for many.”

Anna Sliwon-Stewart of Omdia adds, “The direct result of the pandemic has been an increase in demand for video monitoring services. New subscriptions started during 2020 are likely to continue into the future years, as increasingly video surveillance systems are equipped with video analytics software and can double down as security and business analytics devices.”

Schmit says that while analytics and video will improve efficiencies, these features will also raise the bar for dealers and integrators.

“Artificial intelligence, machine learning and algorithmically-based solutions will dramatically change the industry in the years ahead,” Schmit explains. “AI and machine learning have the potential to significantly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of alarm service. At the same time, it may challenge current workforces by requiring different skillsets, in different quantities, than is needed today.”

AI technology is big for the security industry, Brown says. “There are so many new, as well as a few well-established, players in the field that many of them are trying to do something a little different or unique to their specific offering. I expect to see a good bit of consolidation with these companies over the next few years. Additionally, I do think that mobile apps will continue to drive consumer demand. Much like the automobile changed the state of the country, and world to a large degree, in the middle of the last century, we have not seen something drive change in the world the way mobile phones and devices have. Our industry, like most others, needs to be able to meet that demand. And given the technical proclivity inherent in our industry, I believe we can meet the challenge.”

Aaron Whitaker of Preventia says his customers really enjoy AvantGuard’s online chat feature.

“I do like where AvantGuard and others are headed offering a chat feature, understanding that we have to communicate with customers the right way,” he says. “We’re excited about it, we like our customers to use it if they’re comfortable, and it’s what people are used to. More and more people don’t answer phone calls, so we felt it was the right thing to embrace. I think that will be a good contributor to our industry as we see that accepted more.”

The looming 3G sunset is of course another factor affecting the monitoring market at the moment.

“The 3G sunset is around the corner with a sunset date of February 2022,” says Telguard’s George Brody. “We are encouraging dealers to start now in updating 3G devices in the field while they are at homes and commercial facilities for service or maintenance to minimize the resources and provide enough runway to migrate before the sunset.”

The sunset can be seen as both a challenge and opportunity for dealers, says Alice DeBiasio of Resideo. “Our industry today is undergoing one of the largest technology transitions it has seen, with the 3G/4G technology sunset presenting both a significant challenge and large opportunity. Every security dealer in this industry will need to engage with their customer base, [and] have the opportunity to upsell devices or new services and upgrade their end users’ security solution experience.”

Brad LaRock, vice president of marketing at Alula, St. Paul, Minn., says this is the largest sunset the security industry has ever faced. “Millions of 3G devices in the U.S. must be upgraded or they will go dark. The need to update systems before they go offline is massive. Those dealers who use the sunset opportunity to engage with their customer will be best served. … Do not sleep on the cellular sunset. Much of the industry is behind schedule to make the needed updates. Get ahead of it while the sun is out, because as last year proved, none of us can predict the future.”


Getting a Foot in the Door

In the first half of 2020, a profitable year seemed out of reach for many in the alarm industry, mostly because in many areas of the country, it was nearly impossible to get into a building to do work.

Parks Associates research shows that COVID-19 caused about one-third of security system owners and “intenders” to avoid professional installers due to their unease around having a stranger in the home.

On the contrasting side, pandemic-related concerns influenced more than half of the 40 percent of security system owners that told Parks Associates they were planning on upgrading their system in 2020.

“While there was substantial growth in 2020, there were also many industry setbacks as a result of the pandemic,” says Chris Carney, CEO of Abode, Palo Alto, Calif. “Demand boomed but doing business became more challenging than ever before. The industry experienced supply chain issues that made it increasingly difficult to fill the rising demand for product, and homeowners were more hesitant to allow installers into the home as they kept their contact bubbles tight.”

Whitaker says that already being established in an area helped Preventia get into homes and businesses during shut-downs, but they still weren’t spared from scheduling woes.

“I think we benefited strongly by already being a trusted advisor, but there was absolutely a significant percentage of people that would schedule an appointment, confirm the appointment, and as the technician was driving there the customer would change their mind and cancel,” Whitaker says. “Sometimes this was because of a potential exposure the night before, and it was a really big challenge scheduling and maintaining a high level of efficiency.”

Preventia was able to find success by quickly pivoting to a broader base. Since the initial challenges with getting into homes were mostly on the residential side of the business, projects were still in motion on the commercial side. Then once commercial jobsites started getting shut down, people were more comfortable with technicians coming into their homes.

“Predictably, lockdowns and restrictions due to the pandemic impacted end customer behavior in varying ways,” says Clint Choate, senior director, security market, SnapAV and Control4, Charlotte, N.C. “The residential segment saw enormous demand in all things security, surveillance, smart home, networking and adjacent technology services provided by the alarm industry such as audio, video, entertainment and lighting. The commercial, educational and industrial segments were much more negatively impacted as businesses worked to preserve cash and did not spend on capital projects.”

Anna Sliwon-Stewart, senior analyst at Omdia, London, says that many commercial projects have been postponed, with only the biggest projects managing to continue, though still with delays. “This negative development clashed with the emergent need to secure facilities that have suddenly become unoccupied, while in the past they have been used 24/7,” Sliwon-Stewart explains. “Smaller businesses, which had to shut down temporarily, became an easy target for opportunistic burglars. … Q2 meant for many [security] businesses almost no activity and very limited revenues. However, the pace of recovery at the end of Q3 and Q4 have helped even out companies’ financial books, and order intakes have been steadily higher going into Q1 2021.”

When the pandemic first hit, Omdia forecasted global intruder alarm equipment revenues would decline by 4.9 percent in 2020, but according to their latest analysis, the market only ended up declining by 3.3 percent.



With so many smart home products on the market, end users are now demanding that they all work together.


The State of the Smart Home

While some expected demand for smart home products to fall once the pandemic hit, it actually had quite the opposite effect, says Blake Kozak, senior principal analyst at Omdia.

“Once the pandemic took hold around March 2020, smart home consumer brands and service providers alike were bracing for a freefall, but the smart home market didn’t collapse — rather, in some ways, it was strengthened,” Kozak says. “Prior to the pandemic, Omdia forecast global smart home devices to reach about 693 million shipments in 2020. Our revised forecast from February 2021 estimated 563 million smart home device shipments in 2020, a downward revision of about 19 percent.”

So while fewer smart home products were sold than originally expected, the total number of shipments didn’t end up too far from pre-pandemic forecasts.

“Homeowners are becoming increasingly more interested in smart home technology and have since begun adopting many solutions in their house as costs have decreased, making it easier to create a smart home, more so than it was just three or five years ago,” says Alice DeBiasio of Resideo.

Parks Associates research shows that those intending to make changes to their home express a higher inclination of buying smart home devices in the future, with 69 percent planning to buy at least one smart home device, compared to 40 percent on average.

“The emergence of smart home products helps extend the value of a security system, but it also increases competition, as smart devices are often sold independently of a traditional security system,” says Parks Associates’ Amanda Kung.

Mitchell Klein of the Z-Wave Alliance says the COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the positive performance and sales increase the market experienced in 2020, “Consumers spent more time at home, which kept safety and security top of mind. Homeowners were also looking for ways to upgrade their living areas with technology, and smart alarms and security devices are accessible entry points into the smart home. This supports overall smart home industry growth because as more consumers install security devices, they are also looking to what’s next and adding new devices to grow their systems.”

Preventia Security has been a provider of smart home products since it was founded in 2010. Eleven years later, Aaron Whitaker sees great opportunity with camera analytics.

“We’re at a very, very high penetration point with people having cameras in their home,” Whitaker says. “We know they love them, and we know they can be an annoyance if they don’t do what they want. So I really feel like that’s going to continue to drive demand, provide a better experience and be a really big positive the better the analytics and software behind [cameras] gets.”

Brad LaRock of Alula considers this an exciting time to be in the smart home market, since smarter security systems drive convenience for consumers.

“Thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence, the smartest homes will be able to truly learn about their owners and occupants, eventually anticipating their needs, and increasing that convenience factor we’ve all relied on over the last year,” LaRock says. “Artificial intelligence will drive smarter automation, resulting in technology becoming more ingrained in our daily lives and routine.”

The smart home market is currently being flooded with offerings from a number of different providers, and customers are often confused as to what the best solution for them might be.

“The consumer today is bombarded with a myriad of different smart home technologies and security solutions,” DeBiasio says. “The marketing ads — and sheer number of products on the shelves — can be enlightening on the technology available to them yet confusing with the choice, differentiation, cost and let us not forget trust in the product or offering to deliver on its value proposition.”

An example she references is the video doorbell — a good product for having visibility into who is in and around the home, but often not a full security solution with the ability to detect a serious situation and alert first responders.

Still, the boost the video doorbell has given the smart home market — and security industry as a whole — is undeniable.

“One of the major smart home security monitoring trends that is contributing to industry growth is the popularity of video surveillance such as doorbell and wireless add-on cameras,” Klein says. “With so much advertising and news clips reporting on doorbell cameras, I expect sales to continue to flourish.”

With all of these new smart home products from different manufacturers hitting the market, there is now a need for a simpler way to integrate them.

“Now there are more kinds of [smart home] products than I can keep track of,” Whitaker says. “The smart home, while it’s getting more demand and solutions are more plentiful, it’s also more complicated for people, so we’ve had to adapt and constantly evaluate what we want to learn and offer and stand behind. Sometimes it’s frustrating to tell a customer we don’t work with something.”

Nate Stubbs, vice president of finance and investor relations at Vivint Smart Home, Provo, Utah, says that nearly all new Vivint customers choose to add smart home capabilities such as connected locks, lights, thermostats and cameras — and they of course want all of these products to work together.

“Today, homeowners can manage their security system, locks, lights, cameras and more from a panel or app, but they want more than these intelligent devices — more than ever, they want an intelligent home,” Stubbs says. “They want these devices to work together throughout the home in an intelligent way, creating a single, cohesive experience. They’re looking for their smart home to learn their routines and patterns of behavior to improve security and comfort, and to simplify their lives.”

Though still early in the process, Kozak says the Connected Home Over IP (CHIP) initiative could contribute to growth late in Q4 and into 2022. “Progress has been slow but the impact could be swift if the biggest names in consumer electronics can deliver the promise of a standardized smart home communication protocol, meaning devices across brands can work together in a home, with minimal impact to the consumer.”

Klein adds, “The greatest opportunity for security dealer and manufacturers in 2021 will be the increased availability of devices that are interoperable with a greater ecosystem of smart home products. The growth of the smart home market and the increased demand for multiple devices within the home has created a greater need for products that are interoperable and multifunctional. Security monitoring products that can be easily integrated with a smart light switch or door lock will be more attractive to consumers who already have smart home devices, or are looking to start building a new system that will work with the devices they add in the future.” is hard at work to solve integration problems. “One of the main trends we’re seeing is the convergence of smart devices in the home,” says’s Anne Ferguson. “With popular features like unexpected activity alerts of’s Scenes, which allows homeowners to sync up multiple smart home functions at the same time, we’re driving a better customer experience by giving the user the power to customize their home automation however they’d like. We’re also seeing this on the commercial side. Our offering allows intrusion detection, access control, video services and energy management to work in unison, again delivering a powered, streamlined user experience.”

LaRock is optimistic about what the future holds for the smart home security space. As technology continues to advance and the reliability increases, he believes smart home applications will be used to solve other challenges, such as aging in place and energy management.

According to Omdia research, global smart home shipments are expected to continue to rise in 2021, with a predicted 25 percent growth year over year for smart home devices. In the U.S., growth is forecast to be about 18 percent year over year.

“As consumers begin to travel again, there will be an increased demand for monitoring devices that provide updates about the home while homeowners are away,” Klein says. “Vacation home landlords will also rely on these devices to provide updates about their property while vacationers are staying in the home. Although consumers may not spend as much time at home making technology upgrades, I do think there is still an opportunity for continued growth within the industry in 2021.

“Security remains a leading category for entry into the smart home — its value proposition is clear and strong, and there is a large ecosystem of devices for consumers to choose from.”


The Evolution of Technologies

The pandemic wasn’t the only challenge in 2020. Those who wanted to succeed in the alarm industry also had to keep up with rapidly developing technologies, says Dave Sheffey, senior vice president of sales for the northern region at NAPCO Security Technologies, Amityville, N.Y.

“The marketplace is changing at a faster pace than it ever has,” Sheffey explains. “I’ve been in this business for over 40 years, and in the first 30 years, it changed very little — some of the marketing and bundling and how dealers and large integrators went to market changed, but product didn’t. In the last 10 years, products have changed a lot, customer expectations changed a lot, so that’s had an impact.”

One growing customer expectation is that of interactive services. According to Parks Associates research in Q2 2020, approximately two-thirds of security system owners, or 20 percent of U.S. broadband households, have an interactive security system. “Now more consumers expect their security systems to provide basic interactivity that enables a user to access and control the household security system as well as receive notifications as scheduled or requested,” Kung says.

“Today’s generation is looking for interactive services and more interaction with their home,” Sheffey says. “Today you have a lot of dealers that are a little older or companies that aren’t as progressive, and you have to be progressive in today’s market and adapt to the change. If consumers are looking for interactive services and you aren’t doing them, you need to.”

It’s natural that interactive services grew in popularity during the pandemic, as they help users operate their systems remotely.

“Interactive services continue to grow, especially with existing and installed security systems to upgrade to remote services,” says George Brody, president of Telguard, Atlanta.

And while the ability to remotely control security systems has been in demand in the residential space for years, commercial clients are increasingly requesting remote capabilities, says Tom Mechler, regional marketing manager, North America, intrusion and access control, Bosch, Fairport, N.Y.

“Customers expect the ability to control their system and check system status from anywhere, and they expect that to be simple,” Mechler says. “This has been a staple of residential systems but is now expected in commercial systems as well. Technologies that enable remote programming, diagnostics and servicing, and those that allow additional capabilities to be activated remotely through cloud connections became more important in 2020. While this has allowed integrators to continue to service customers throughout the pandemic, many have found reduced travel has helped to maximize the efficiency of employees and drive savings in labor costs. As a result, they will continue to be important in 2021 and beyond.”

The cloud has also helped advance artificial intelligence capabilities.

“We’re seeing some promise with video artificial intelligence,” says Jim McMullen, president of COPS Monitoring, Williamstown, N.J. “AI is creating the ability to filter out and trigger alarms based on a number of criterion [in a way] that wasn’t possible just a few years ago.”

With these new technologies, Kung says that building on existing core offerings by addressing security-adjacent use cases could be a big opportunity for security dealers.

“Parks Associates July 2020 research shows that security system owners and non-owning purchase intenders both prioritize, after personal space and home structure, protecting cars, electronics and pets,” Kung explains. “COVID-19 has also raised interest in a variety of security-adjacent use cases and products, such as monitoring vacation homes or rental properties, monitoring family members and pets and allowing for protected package, grocery and delivery service when no one is home. Professionally monitored security may experience a boost in interest among consumers anxious about how economic desperation might increase crime rates.”

Morgan Hertel, vice president of technology and innovation at Rapid Response Monitoring, Syracuse, N.Y., believes that the biggest opportunity in the residential space is the blending of traditional security with customer lifestyles: “This will become even more crucial. No longer will delivering great security service be about having the best looking keypad.”

The need for fully integrated solutions should also serve as an opportunity for the security industry. Honeywell Building Technologies, Atlanta is trying to make dealers’ lives easier by creating solutions that meet customers’ needs for fully integrated security systems.

“We expect to see customers continuing to invest in fully integrated solutions — ones that not only integrate with their existing systems but can expand to fit security systems and upgrades,” says General Manager of Security Americas Rick Koscinski. “The word unprecedented was used a lot in 2020, but what if we use it as inspiration? We’re going to continue with the mindset of moving quickly, innovating for our customers and helping them deliver business outcomes.”

Once the manufacturers deliver these interoperable products, it will be up to dealers to make them work for customers.

“Being able to integrate and ‘talk’ with others systems like access control and video surveillance is valuable,” says Patrick Kilbourn, director of strategic marketing and inside sales, Stone Security, Salt Lake City, Utah.

“As a systems integrator, our job is to help the client see this vision, if they are not already doing this.”




Hesitant to let technicians into their homes, many residential customers chose DIY security solutions in 2020.


The DIY Disruption

Ever since DIY security solutions were first introduced to the market, they have largely been viewed as a menace to security dealers. Unfortunately, the pandemic has only increased their popularity, even among some commercial customers.

“One of the biggest trends in the industry is the rise of DIY,” says Parks Associates’ Amanda Kung. “The installation method for newly acquired security systems and smart home devices has trended towards self-installation for several years, and COVID-19 has helped hasten the transition as households seek to avoid the risk of infection.”

Parks Associates research shows that self-installation of newly acquired security systems has increased from 40 percent in Q4 2018 to 55 percent in Q2 2020, even after incorporating a substantial margin of error due to a low survey sample size for newly acquired systems.

While the economy struggled last year and budgets were slashed, there was an even greater need to secure facilities that were suddenly vacant, explains Anna Sliwon-Stewart of Omdia. “When new security devices were procured, this was done on the basis of what is the most affordable product that can help satisfy the need for increased security — and this very often meant that devices such as consumer IP cameras, video doorbells or magnetic contact sensors had been selected over comprehensive security packages.”

Preventia Security’s Aaron Whitaker says that while he knew the DIY threat existed before 2020, he did not feel it was impacting his business as a professional provider of installation. In 2020, though, his team saw far more direct competition with DIY options than in previous years.

To compete, Preventia has leaned into their ability to do professional installations, and internally focused on what they call craftsman quality. “We have seen a really positive response to that both internally and with our customers,” Whitaker says. “It has helped turn around that volume of inbound requests and interest in our services.”

This renewed focus on quality also helped his team get back to their roots, Whitaker says.

“It was easy as a company to fall into what is easy to install for our customers, and as we started to see less differentiation between what someone could do on their own and what they could hire a professional to do, and that’s when we leaned into craftsman quality,” Whitaker explains. “When we leave someone’s home, we don’t want them thinking they could have done that.”

To further persuade customers to stick with professional services, Preventia also developed self-install and pre-programmed solutions with instructions — essentially a scheduled remote install with a technical expert walking them through the install step-by-step. “That’s new to us, but we wanted to meet our customers wherever they were,” Whitaker says.


Preparing for the Rebound

While 2020 ended up being a good year after all for the industry, many believe that 2021 will be even better. Answering SDM’s 2021 Industry Forecast, 60 percent of security professionals said they expect revenues to increase in 2021, while 36 percent expect them to stay the same and only 4 percent expect revenues to decrease compared to 2020.

“We remain optimistic that 2021 will be a year of further expansion for the industry, with consumers adopting and experimenting with innovative and useful solutions,” Kung says. “COVID-19 has changed the way most Americans live, work, play and go to school, and the security industry, like many others, has been faced with a variety of opportunities and challenges. With consumers at home most of the time, many pay more attention than normal to the condition of homes, which may result in security system and product purchases.”

According to the CDC, half of U.S. adults, which equates to almost 130 million people, had received at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot at the time of publication. Kung says this suggests a return to normal is coming, and believes the pandemic will be followed by a period of strong growth as businesses reopen and Americans return to normal activities outside of the home — especially in the security industry, after the pandemic, recession and social unrest have resulted in a renewed interest in health, safety and security.

“Before the pandemic, consumers relied on security systems and devices to protect the home while they weren’t there, but as consumers spent more time at home, they realized the opposite was also true,” says Dennis Holzer, executive director of the PowerHouse Alliance, Pittsburgh. “Security devices can and should be used to add more layers of security to the home even while the homeowners are home. Security is now a focus 24/7 rather than just when the homeowner is at work for the day or on vacation.”

There is a great deal of business to be had in the commercial sector as well, Whitaker says.

“We really have seen a strong demand on the commercial side throughout the entirety of 2020 as well as into 2021,” Whitaker says. “Our biggest challenge comes back to finding good people. The labor pool is absolutely more limited than it has ever been for recruiting new crew members.”

After a short period where businesses were concerned about having enough work for all of their team members, many dealer and integrator companies are now hiring.

“Our expectations are optimistic,” says David English, vice president of sales at Southeastern Security Professionals (SSP), Norcross, Ga. “While we expect the market to demand increased service costs, we anticipate growing our revenue and adding additional technicians to our team to keep up with the competitive market.”

The supply chain is also a concern as the demand for security increases.

“In 2021, I expect the industry to continue the upward trajectory that we experienced in 2020,” Carney says. “Many of the same challenges remain in place, specifically, the supply chain ripple effect and how that will continue to impact product development and sales. The real estate market as a whole will also impact sales in 2021 as there is a high demand for new homes but the supply is low. In general, the demand for security devices will still be high but the success of the market in 2021 will fall on whether or not the supply chain can keep up with consumer demand.”

One thing is for sure though — for the companies that were able to turn the lemon of a year that was 2020 into lemonade, no obstacle is too great.

“2020 has proven that every business in every industry needs to adapt to change, embrace technology and push through adversity to ensure our essential workers across the globe are supported and celebrated,” DeBiasio says. “In doing so, it puts in perspective what our industry does: we protect people and property and during times of uncertainty and stress we never waiver on that commitment.”

Other dealers would be wise to follow suit, Parks Associate research suggests.

“There is a heightened desire for remote technical support that COVID-19 has accelerated,” Kung says. “Parks Associates Q2 2020 research shows that 30 percent of consumers prefer remote support for maintenance at this time, and nearly 30 percent are hesitant to have an installer in their home.”

And the trend of remote technical support will likely not recede post-pandemic, Kung adds. Instead, consumer interest will continue to grow due to the added convenience. “As consumers move towards online and digital services, security dealers must continue to develop more tools to help support customers remotely, such as YouTube video tutorials and do-it-with-me installation help via video, phone or chat.”

Understanding this challenge its professional partners were experiencing, Alula now offers pre-enrolled kit options.

“These kits allow the professional dealer to install the out-of-the-box-ready, pre-programmed systems in customers’ homes,” says Alula’s Brad LaRock. “The industry’s growth demonstrates consumers need experts now more than ever — especially when it comes to personal safety.”

Nick English, North American sales manager for Kwikset Residential Access Solutions, Lake Forest, Calif., says that while he expects people to become more receptive to having installers enter their homes as vaccines are more widely distributed, his team is working to provide solutions for those still hesitant.

“For those homeowners who are still reticent to allow in-home installations, we want to work at developing more options to allow them to perform the work themselves, while setting up additional support and technical help to guide them through the installation and help troubleshoot any issues,” English says. “As more people look for DIY locking solutions, the dealer channel that we work through runs the risk of decreasing revenues, which of course would translate to fewer locks sold. On the flip side, despite DIY, there are myriad studies showing that a large percentage of customers still seek out the service of a professional. And let’s face it — even products that are labeled as DIY are really not DIY unless the consumer is particularly handy.”

SnapAV’s Clint Choate says that Google’s recent partnership with ADT demonstrates how security professionals are needed to sell, market and deploy systems. Dealers need to prepare by becoming a trusted advisor with home and business owners, rather than starting a relationship and expecting RMR to continue flowing.

“Far too often, the traditional security installer has simply said, ‘Because of these competitive pressures, I don’t do residential anymore, I just do commercial,’ and I push back when I hear this,” Choate says. “First, RMR is the lifeblood of the security industry, so fight for every dollar of it — it’s worth far more than any profit or margin dollar is to your business. Companies that focused exclusively on commercial suffered in 2020, and frankly there aren’t enough businesses to go around while ceding the residential space to new entrants or the ‘big boys.’ These same competitive pressures have already moved to the SMB space and are quickly bleeding over to the upper commercial space as well.”

The solution, Choate suggests, is to be more creative in how you go to market and how you service your customer.

“Differentiate your offerings and your services,” he says. “Be a trusted advisor for your customer for technology. Offer creative programs that allow you to compete with $99 installs and capture RMR. Offer consumer finance programs. Provide remote and interactive services. There are a myriad of ways and resources for the industry to be successful in the spaces that the vast majority of our pros are competent in.”