PERS: What we know, what we don't

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09/18/2013

The projected expansion of the PERS market will be fueled by several realities playing in its favor. First and foremost, the demographics, highlighted by an aging baby boomer population, are compatible with growth in the PERS space. Similarly, PERS devices make seniors better equipped to remain in their homes and possibly reap considerable cost savings. The market is relatively resilient. The technology is simple. One of the biggest barriers to entry may be tapping into the right marketing channel, Josh Garner, CEO of AvantGuard Monitoring Centers, told me in a conversation we had earlier this year on the state of the PERS industry. The marketing hurdle is not to be underestimated. But it also seems far less an obstacle than, say, mastering the technical ins and outs of a product truly difficult to integrate or install.

These are all PERS-relevant realities of which the industry already has a fairy sound understanding. While much is known, many questions still linger with respect to the future of the market. That much became clear in a recent conversation with Barry Epstein, president of Dallas-based Vertex Capital.

One question with many ramifications for the market: what will reduce the annual attrition rates for PERS devices? Will it simply come down to a broader (and younger) customer demographic? Metrics are far from perfect, and the market is still green from an acquisition standpoint, but Epstein says the attrition rate for PERS devices hovers somewhere between 24 and 36 percent. Even at the lower end of that spectrum, these rates are not conducive to huge RMR value, and they could make private equity firms leery about getting involved, at least right now. A huge ancillary question to the one posed above will be what kind of innovations, on either the dealer or manufacturer end, can companies make to reduce these less than sterling rates.

Another question: Can smaller alarm companies do PERS? Or is the market going to remain the province of larger dealers or wholesale monitoring companies who can afford to support a PERS-only division? To what extent will traditional alarm companies have a share in the space at all? Epstein, who recently moderated a panel at the PERS Summit in Park City, Utah, said the conference naturally featured an abundance of PERS dealers, but only a small fraction of them had alarm accounts.  

The development of this market will be worth watching closely. When will the acquisition tipping point occur? What will be the force behind it? What factors, as yet undeveloped, stand to drive the market’s upward trajectory? And what about mobile PERS units?

In a broad sense, we're mostly sure where the PERS industry is going. But regarding specifics, questions abound.

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