Readers warming up to stand-alone home automation

Most News Poll respondents say security companies should at least offer a smart home-only package
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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

YARMOUTH, Maine—In June, Comcast, a relative newcomer to the industry, rolled out Xfinity Home Control, which allows homeowners to control lights and thermostats and remotely view rooms in their homes without what was traditionally the foundation of such a package: a home security system.

According to respondents to SSN’s September News Poll, 63 percent say professional security companies need to offer such a home automation package without a security system. However, 56 percent of the 41 respondents say that a professionally monitored security component will remain the backbone of any package.

Some participants saw the merit of a platform consisting exclusively of home automation features, but said it may take a particular type of market for it to gain a purchase. “Only in certain residential markets where crime is low, there’s a lot of self-monitoring for burglary, but remote energy management is considered for saving energy costs,” one respondent said.

Another reader, citing information gleaned from Lee Jones of Support Services Group, an outsourced technology solutions company, suggested that Comcast’s calculus might be a function of dismissing too easily some enduring realities of the business model—most notably that the alarm industry requires local police to be a voluntary, high-priority business partner.

This, according to the respondent, is not always the case.

“We believe the telco and cable television giants recently entered the private security industry and are just now completing belated market research,” the respondent explained. “Some of them have discovered that the basic alarm industry business model is flawed and not business compatible, and it’s outside their control.”

In the poll, 56 percent of respondents say they agree with Comcast’s belief that an untapped market exists for stand-alone home automation.

One respondent, who noted that crime is down, said that average citizens “can’t afford a new security system and don’t want to spend the money on something they won’t even use. But if it has to do with a cool cell phone app, then they will sign up.”

Only 14 percent of respondents believe the home automation-exclusive platforms are just a fad. Steve Kaufer of Maximum Security, who belonged to this group, believes homeowners will find other means of home automation outside the industry.

“The homeowner can easily set up their own home automation with, for example, the Next thermostat that’s a snap to self-install and has a free app for free remote access,” he said. “Or lighting control with the Phillips light bulbs that allow Wi-Fi control, again for free. These light bulbs just screw in, no skills required. Doesn’t make sense that a homeowner would need an alarm or cable company to accomplish this low-level, albeit useful, level of home automation.”