ISC West 2017: Few ‘CEDIA’ Smart-Home Brands Chasing Security Dealers
At ISC 2017, Core Brands touted Proficient Audio and Gefen; URC and RTI (Pro Control) showed security-friendly home-automation; Luxul and other CEDIA-oriented companies also chased high-volume security dealers.
Every year, a handful of manufacturers from the traditional smart-home (CEDIA) channel appear at ISC West, the big security conference. ISC 2017 was no different, with Core Brands continuing its major presence, and URC, RTI (Pro Control), Russound, Luxul, Clare Controls and others dipping their toes into the security waters.
The security industry represents a large group of low-voltage installers who typically do a high volume of projects every year – from hundreds of homes to hundreds of thousands of them. That volume contrasts with the traditional home-technology (CEDIA) channel, where dealers might complete five or 10 higher-end projects per year … or as many as 200 or 300 mid-market jobs. (The median number of smart-home installations for CE Pro 100 integrators is 150 per year.)
Not surprisingly, then, many CEDIA-oriented vendors want to tap the security market for high-volume, very-efficient dealers. But they don't seem to be trying too hard. The vendors tend to come and go in the alarm industry, trying new product lines and exhibiting occasionally at ISC.
They are finding that it takes commitment – and a lot of time – to secure a following among alarm installers. Only a handful of traditional CEDIA manufacturers exhibited this year at ISC.
Missing were a few usual suspects like Channel Vision and Leviton (HAI), but also security-industry dabblers like Lutron, Pakedge and Savant. Elan wasn't there, despite being a Melrose (formerly Nortek) sibling of 2Gig, which had a giant security and home-automation booth. We hear that Elan will be represented in the 2Gig booth next year, though.
Control4 skipped the show. CEO Martin Plaehn tells us that, while the security industry could be a rich source of high-volume dealers, Control4 won't go there until the company is ready to make a serious investment in the channel.
To succeed in the channel, he says, you really have to appreciate the complete value chain. You can't just dabble.
ISC Staple: Proficient Audio
Proficient Audio, part of Melrose's Core Brands, is one company that has “made it” in the security world. The company has been exhibiting at ISC consistently for many years, almost always being the only company with live audio demonstrations.
Proficient is in fact Core Brands’ audio line for the security channel, with a dedicated team focused on product development, sales and support.
Once Proficient became part of Core Brands, the audio brand has shared space with sister brands including Xantech and Panamax. This year, Proficient brought Gefen to the show.
Gefen, a leader in multiroom video distribution, seems a natural fit for the security channel, especially when it comes to video over IP (1080p for now, 4K coming soon) for surveillance systems, including multiscreen control rooms.
But Gefen also was touting its KVM switches, enabling users to operate remote computers via local keyboards, video displays and mouse controls.
Loren Maldoon, director of sales for Proficient and a longtime friend of the security channel, says Gefen’s KVM products make sense for venues such as call centers and prisons, where “you want to provide access” but you need to put “all computers in a safe space, not out in public.”
Gefen’s computer and video network products also work well in schools, where “you can just plug in your laptop and broadcast to a screen,” Maldoon says. “The school can also broadcast to every room” from a central location.
More Audio/Video at ISC
Proficient isn’t the only audio game in security-town. Russound has long held a dominant position in the channel as well, this year participating at ISC as part of ADI’s A/V Technology Pavilion.
Yamaha also took part in the ADI Pavilion, along with the Harman and Soundcraft commercial A/V brands. Over at ADI’s main booth at the front of the hall, the distributor showed plenty of other custom audio/video solutions at its own massive booth, including an LG Electronics video wall, held up by mounting systems from Peerless AV.
Elsewhere on the showfloor Christie Digital – a leader video-solutions provider for digital signage, commercial theaters and commercial applications – made its second appearance at ISC, demonstrating monitoring solutions for networked control rooms.
In one particularly interesting development at ISC 2017, we noticed that traditional alarm systems are starting to integrate with pro-centric multiroom audio systems.
Legrand demonstrated the first multirooom audio integration with Alarm.com, a leading SHaaS (smart home as a service) provider for the security industry. Legrand showed how its OnQ Digital Audio System could be controlled through the same user interface as Alarm.com’s other supported products including alarm panels, door locks, SkyBell video doorbells, Amazon Alexa and more.
Similarly, Honeywell demonstrated the integration of its security and home automation products with pro-centric audio from Denon HEOS.
With both the Honeywell and Alarm.com integrations, dealers can create scenes that blend security and audio, for example, when the security “home” mode is activated, a specific music selection could be played throughout the home.
While music integration doesn’t create RMR opportunities per se, it can help to create stickier security customers who continue to renew their alarm-monitoring subscriptions.
The home-automation and networking companies that cater to home technology integrators seem to flit in and out of the security channel, as they wonder how to attract dealers that live on recurring monthly revenue (RMR).
This year, there were no biggies that really stood out, but URC and Pro Control (from RTI) were there with tabletops, promoting new home-control products sold through security-oriented distributors.
In 2016, URC introduced HomeSet, a basic A/V and home-automation controller that starts at just $299 for a hub. The company demonstrated the product this year at ISC.
The fact that it doesn’t provide RMR per se doesn’t faze URC. It’s actually an advantage for an industry that typically waits two or three years to break even on a security system.
“It provides profit right now,” says URC’s Andre Lalande. “You don’t have to wait for the ROI later on.”
HomeSet does not integrate directly with security systems; however, it accommodates third-party apps through a drop-down menu, so alarm systems with their own apps can be accessed through the URC interface.
Meanwhile, competitor RTI has been promoting its sub-brand Pro Control through security channels for several years. As with HomeSet, Pro Control provides a simpler solution for installers that don’t require complicated A/V and home-automation integration.
Pro Control integrates with third-party alarm panels via two-way drivers, currently supporting Interlogix, Honeywell, Elk and DSC.
RTI marketing director Brett Stokke reports on ISC 2017: “Traffic was very good, and the Pro Control Z-Wave gear was a hit.”
RTI demonstrated a line of Z-Wave light switches, dimmers, a lamp module, and receptacles that integrate with Pro Control via the Pro.zwi Z-Wave interface module.
Clare Controls had its best ISC ever, which isn’t really saying much. The company participated in past shows with the Powerhouse Alliance network of distributors (not at ISC 2017). This year, Clare partnered with alarm-systems manufacturer Resolution Products, rolling out a complete program with RMR for the security industry.
Clare, a low-cost cloud-enabled home-automation system for custom installers, already integrates via two-way drivers with DSC, Honeywell and Interlogix alarm panels.
At ISC, the company demonstrated even richer integration with Resolution’s Helix system, enabling auto-discovery of Helix-connected sensors and other devices.
The Clare software “automatically sucks up all the data from Resolution,” says Clare VP sales and marketing Delia Hansen. “Then you can create actions like having security sensors trigger home-automation events.”
Calling its Cliq automation hub "your alarm gateway," Clare introduced at ISC an RMR program that combines its own cloud-based home-automation and surveillance service with professional monitoring from most of the popular central monitoring stations.
You can imagine that enterprise-grade networking solutions like Luxul’s would make sense at a security conference, especially for hardwired and wireless IP surveillance systems. It seems, however, that the security industry – especially residential – hasn’t approached the category with the same urgency as A/V integrators.
This year Luxul, part of the Legrand family of custom home-technology brands, came to the show with a potential RMR opportunity for security dealers: parental controls from partner Router Limits.
Traditionally specializing in physical security (protecting people and property), the ISC crowd is now looking at data-security and privacy as the next great frontier in RMR.
Trendnet and Ubiquiti, two other brands that cater somewhat to the CEDIA channel, also exhibited at ISC.
Besides its networking gear, Ubiquiti touted its third generation of cameras and new HD (“High-Density”) solutions supporting up to 400 clients, “where customers want more capacity than coverage,” according a Ubiquiti rep at the booth.
In addition to ADI, a handful of other integrator-centric distributors exhibited at ISC 2017. Volutone made its first appearance at the show.
WAVE Electronics continues to bolster its presence in the security industry, this time using ISC to launch its new in-house line of surveillance products under the Lux Technologies brand. Unfortunately, the company missed a great opportunity to promote its in-house audio brand Elura, powered by Sonance.
Worthington Distribution is arguably the most consistent exhibitor at ISC among integrator-centric distributors. The company was at the 2017 show, once again “owning” the Z-Wave Pavilion.
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Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Email Julie at firstname.lastname@example.org
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