Polling the views of hundreds of installers, IFSEC Global found that 92% saw the ‘smart home’ – whereby lighting, heating, alarms and other household functions are interconnected and remotely controlled via smartphone or PC – as a potential area for diversification.
No surprise, then, that almost as many – 88% – would be more likely to attend IFSEC International if a dedicated home automation zone were introduced.
“In the top end of the market, people are spending hundreds of thousands on smart home technology,” write one installer who completed the survey. “There are a few cheap end products out there, but the most important factor here is that products can be retro-fitted and not too expensive.
“It would be great to see a security system that integrates as one package. As far as we are aware this does not exist. We’ve been trying to push the home automation side, but are still seeking the right product.”
A similar proportion – 86% – would visit if an area dedicated to ‘smart buildings’ – essentially the same concept applied to commercial premises – area were launched.
Which is indeed what is happening, on both fronts: for the first time IFSEC International will feature a dedicated Smart Zone for its 2016 edition, comprising a replica ‘smart home’ fitted out with the latest home automation innovations from top exhibitors including Y3K, Lilin and Control 4.
Also incorporating presentations on ‘smart cities’, a smart theatre will star leading speakers on the internet of things, home automation and the latest building automation technologies. Another installer who completed the survey noted that “new technologies for IoT are emerging, such as LoRa and associated data visualisation and analysis, which are reaching the market in 2016.
Currently in developers hands, the likes of Microsoft, Arm and IBM are showcasing the ability to connect many sensors ( up to 5,000 per cellular gateway ) at very low cost. Most tier one cellular carriers are in the early stage of deployment for public networks to support this.” Asked which home automation technologies they would be most interested in, or already actively selling and installing, more installers selected IP CCTV than any other technology, polling 78% of the vote.
No surprise there, perhaps. Surveillance cameras account for 54% of the physical security market, after all, so it makes sense that installers would initially diversify into what they know best.
Close behind on 72% and 71% respectively, the same logic applies to the technologies ranked second and third, alarms (remote notification) and smart locks/door entry. “Home automation has natural synergy with the alarm industry and cannot be a separate entity,” wrote one of the survey respondents.
“Integration in the early stage is a worthwhile development.” If it’s hardly revelatory that non-security technologies should trail security technologies, then it reflects strong ambition on the part of security installers that lighting/blinds, HVAC and audio-visual technologies all polled not far short of 50%.
So almost one in two installers/integrators, few of whom will have experience in these fields in a commercial space never mind an internet-of-things (IoT)-driven smart home, are interested in diversifying into areas traditionally outside of the security sphere (albeit the IoT age is now exposing even these technologies to security threats).
The traditional physical security industry remains in rude health. Driven by innovation and the evolving nature of security threats, upgrades and fresh installations in new premises has powered nearly 8% (CAGR) growth in global physical security sales (Memoori).
Nevertheless, home automation’s growth potential is enormous with only the homes of (often affluent) technophiles boasting any degree of automation. Markets and Markets projects global growth of 11.36% (CAGR) between 2014 and 2020.
Poor interoperability, unintuitive products and a ‘nice to have, not must have’ perception have hitherto hampered growth, but the buzz at CES 2016 suggests a tipping point is imminent. “Home automation systems are not new; I’ve been interfacing with them for 12 years. Its definitely here to stay and will only increase your margins for profit,” said one installer. Offered another: “This has been a growth area for at least the past 10 years with security integration growing in the past five. The manufacturers will drive this by providing more for their products – eg Videx and BPT are the initial door entry systems for Crestron and Control4.”
Boasting knowledge of security standards and regulations, commercial security installers will hope to compete well with IT companies in any foray into a still-immature market. Training and education will be essential to a smooth transition, albeit installers and integrators will bring plenty of transferrable skills.
“Home automation is a relatively new area for me,” commented another respondent, “but I would say that home automation (for lighting and heating), although used for security reasons (not heating), is usually installed because of the automation benefits, with the security benefits secondary. Having said that, it is useful to offer the above benefits from a single platform and I would be very interested in finding out about the options home automation has to offer.”
Said IFSEC and FIREX event director Gerry Dunphy: “Although we sensed that home automation and smart buildings were on the brink of a growth surge, even we were taken aback by the enthusiasm among installers to move. It certainly seems to vindicate our decision to launch an area dedicated to home automation and smart buildings for IFSEC International 2016.”
We also sought to gauge confidence levels in the market at a time when the global economy faces multiple headwinds, not least turmoil in the Middle East and the slowdown in China. Installers were nevertheless very optimistic about the year ahead, with 91% expecting to install more systems in 2016 than they had in 2015.