Back in the day, when Ihiji was just launching its network-monitoring solutions (with very hefty monthly fees at the time), the company tried to pitch it to dealers as a cost of doing business. Don't think about the recurring monthly revenue (RMR) opportunities it can generate, they suggested. Just absorb the cost like you would a CRM system or project-design software.
The products and services would save integrators countless truck rolls, which would save them money, and even make them money by providing a better user experience for their clients.
That particular model didn't fly at the time. The price for Ihiji and others was too hard for dealers to swallow.
Fast forward to today, though, and the wholesale monthly fees for remote network monitoring have dropped dramatically, both for Ihiji and its now-plentiful rivals. At the same time, the dialog has shifted to RMR: How much can we charge customers for remotely monitoring their home networking and automation systems … even if they see little value in it?
Dealers have struggled to recoup or (better yet) profit from such services, even though pricing has dropped and services from vendors have improved. Today, for example, you can monitor not just the network, but the smart devices attached to it, which is a very important function.
If a client’s light switch doesn’t work, the dealer must know if there is an issue with the Z-Wave mesh, for example, or the IP network. The more dealers know about the whole house, the fewer trucks they need to roll, the more money they save and the more likely they would be to chalk up remote services to the cost of doing business.
So now, I wonder: Is it time to reconsider remote-network monitoring simply as a cost of doing business? It's difficult to imagine the old days of rolling a truck whenever a customer's network goes down … inevitably in the middle of the Super Bowl. No doubt these systems save dealers money. Most weren't charging for the truck rolls anyway.
But there are other compelling reasons for dealers to consider remote access as an operational expense rather than (necessarily) an RMR machine.
Consider companies like Ihiji, Krika, Domotz (with Fing), Pakedge (Control4), SnapAV, Luxul, Greenlight Control, DIY newcomers like Eero, and home automation companies themselves, which not only provide hooks to home automation, but also visibility into the way products and services interact with each other.
By aggregating all of that data from multiple households, these companies can provide valuable troubleshooting tools for integrators — warning them of toxic product combinations, for example, or helping them interact with other dealers in the same boat.
Say a dealer is having issues with a system that includes a TiVo Bolt and an Onkyo receiver. Wouldn’t it be nice to have immediate support from other integrators who are installing the exact same combo of products … down to the firmware version?
If you’re a Krika user, you can do this by simply pressing the “Help Me” button from the client’s dashboard and describing the issue.
Through its new WHEOSE service, Krika dispatches the SOS to other dealers who are installing these two products. Krika dealers who opt into the program will receive the help call and can respond at their leisure.
Eventually, dealers could offer a subscription service that provides them with key insights like this — a service that won’t necessarily fetch more revenues but could indeed save time and money.
Krika principal Bruno Napoli isn't happy about the language we use around RMR these days. The conversation, he says, needs to be reframed.
“RMR is not here to make custom installers rich or to save custom installers from shrinking margins,” he says. “The very first purpose of RMR for custom installers is to be able to give better service to clients.”
Calling the term “unproductive,” Napoli says it is “almost never associated with 'benefit for end users.'”