I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of clients asked about the Ring doorbell. It’s another example of the continuing march of Internet of Things (IoT) products into our world of traditional technology integration. The Ring is The Logitech Harmony remote of the front door. Unlike the Harmony, however, the Ring does nothing for our business. No RMR, no margin, lots of potential service calls and more reasons not to embrace control systems like Control4, Savant, etc. That’s why last week’s announcement by Alarm.com that the Alarm.com Wi-Fi doorbell camera, Skybell HD Edition (note to Alarm.com Marketing: your 6 word product name might be 4 words too long) would begin shipping in May made me do the happy dance.
Skybell’s willingness to partner with companies like Alarm.com and Honeywell Total Connect ushers in a new era where it’s possible to profit in a category previously fraught with installation challenges and bulky gear. The front doorbell is long past due for a technology makeover. Skybell’s move ensures new sales and increased RMR for existing security dealers and may turn the heads of traditional audio/video integrators. In black and white terms, each Skybell is $199 to the customer. With installation, that could easily become a $349 sale with an additional $10+ of RMR on top of a security monitoring agreement. Maybe you’ll add another camera or two inside the house at the time of sale.
Throughout the evolution of IoT products like Ring and Skybell, it’s been hard to bear the deafening silence and awkward excuses from our control system vendors when asked about their front door strategy. Up until last week, our options had been pretty slim unless we resorted to cobbling together solutions using cameras and intercom gear or been lucky enough to get a wire to the front door permitting installation of a product like the Control4 front door video station (a bulkier product that doesn’t work from phones or tablets).
As custom integrators, we want to offer the best solutions for our customers and deliver on the promise of easy-to-use technology. The world of the IoT is changing the way we play the game much faster than we’ve been used to. Unfortunately, the slowest adopters have been the manufacturers. Those companies who create products for our channel are challenged with limited R&D budgets and slim margins. Outsiders like Nest and Amazon create products we love and usually integrate initially by hacking (think MacGyver). Over time, this seems to be changing with sites like IFTTT making it easier to tie together IoT devices. We’re all being put to this basic question: What’s your IoT strategy?
In Houston, Digital Delight decided if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Its website features IoT packages that serve as conversation starters for those potential customers more suited for custom installation work.
Other integrators around the country are adopting other angles to embrace IoT as a revenue source. CyberManor in Los Gatos, CA. openly preaches the benefits of separate apps vs. one control system and is seen as a thought leader in our industry.
Another new concept gaining traction is the idea of a small footprint retail location with IoT products and an Apple-esque training center. Imagine being able to engage customers, cherry picking the clients genuinely interested in talking about control and showing them your custom design center. A similar concept was launched (and scuttled) a few years ago by ProSource (then HES). Maybe this is the time for another Connected Source to rise?
As long as great announcements like Skybell’s continue to roll out benefiting our industry, life is good. However, we can’t afford to sit around and wait for our businesses to change on someone else’s terms. We need to take control and define our IoT strategy. What’s yours?
Stay frosty and see you in the field.