Choosing the right horse in a wild, wild west
Home security, as an industry, is an area ripe for growth, but it is hindered by limited regulation. Phil Tann spoke to one Australian manufacturer about the challenges facing security system providers in a time of DIY alternatives.
The convergence of technology is becoming more holistic with smart home technology leading the way. The dark horse in the race though is home security systems with an ever-present need, in a space that isn’t fully understood or kept up with by many.
To really get a feel for what’s going on in the home security space, it’s important to keep in mind that smart home technology, automation and IoT are playing their part. Much like the rest of the tech industry, the home security space has been moving at a frenetic rate although in an evolutionary rather than revolutionary direction.
New developments in the space are focused around mobile connectivity and automation, but at the core of the system there are some must-have components.
Australian company, Ness Corporation, has a 50-year history in security systems. Founded by Naz and Larry Circosta, the company is an industry expert on the essentials of smart and integrated security systems.
Naz and Larry are very focused on what the future holds for this sector of the industry, noting that: “The term ’home security’ can refer to both alarm systems and CCTV cameras. Of course, alarm systems serve valuable roles as a deterrent, intrusion or tampering detection system and alerting system to provide alarm notification directly to the user, central station or both.
“Cellular has gained significant ground in recent years because of the additional security it offers and its ability to send notifications direct to mobile phones,” they said.
The Circosta brothers are not just watching what security systems are doing – they are also keen to see where full integration and IoT developments are leading.
They remark: “The meshing of technologies with extra layers of security provided by professional CCTV systems which, unlike DIY systems in general, can fully integrate with the alarm system to provide visual verification, identification of persons and intelligent discrimination between vehicles and humans, number plate recognition and even thermal detection. The trend of integrating security and automation will grow into the future.”
Even the company name, having changed from Ness Security Products to Ness Corporation, reflects the changes in the industry. The company has evolved from purely security focused products to the now extensive range of electronic security, CCTV, home automation, home convenience, medical alert, and industrial control markets.
At the core of a quality system, you’ll need a hub that not only controls your home security system but is also capable of outbound connections via the internet – cellular is ideal to prevent power outage or deliberate power disconnection affecting your system – for that truly connected and integrated system.
Beyond that there are five physical components that are important to ensuring your home is protected: alarms, CCTV, Smoke detectors and water leak sensors, locks, and intercoms.
Alarms are the starting point for home security, being a significant deterrent to visitors with nefarious purposes. However, they can also be used while you’re in the home. Setting a perimeter alarm to notify occupants of an intrusion is an often overlooked, but highly valuable feature to increase peace of mind. These systems often comprise of motion sensors throughout the home, window and door sensors to detect when they’re opened, and different zones allowing users to activate only certain areas of their choosing.
Building onto and complementing the capabilities of a core alarm system is a CCTV system. This can be outside the premises, inside or both, and is entirely down to the user. It offers oversight over your property, entryways as well as general traffic around your premises.
The installation of smoke detectors into homes across Australia has been legislated for some time now, with some states more stringent than others. Regardless of where you are, they are required and likely hardwired to your home’s power supply. If you’re going to this extent and have a modern home security system installed, it makes sense for these to be connected to your integrated home security and automation for the earliest possible warning of a fire in your home.
Having smart locks connected to your integrated home security system is far from essential for a large number of homes, but it’s very nice to have. These can be as simple as remote gate releases to allow people onto your property, to keyless, biometric or automated locks.
Another area where errors can be made by DIY is with poor wiring, leading to connectivity and functionality issues, resulting in cost. The other complication is the vast array of potential lock types, that makes choosing the right lock for your setting all the more difficult without consulting an expert.
An intuitive app to access and control your home system is also of great importance. This isn’t just about controlling your system however, as there are so many advantages to having a system integrated and connected to the outside world. Knowing when your loved ones are home, notifications of their arrival or departure and the aforementioned early warning from detectors and sensors.
DIY market impact and mistakes
There are some facets of home life where it’s just sensible to hire a professional including terminating cable for PoE and fibre delivery hardware (i.e. cameras), electrical cabling, setup of sensitive equipment and positioning of security cameras.
The first couple are of course, for licensing reasons, but the latter is a common issue that users face through self-installation or installs by companies without the necessary experience.
Mistakes seen by professional installers called out to fix the problems after an incomplete installation include:
Camera angles which waste available viewing area reducing effectiveness, requiring more cameras and increasing cost of the system.
The positioning of cameras causing infrared reflection, making cameras almost useless at night.
That’s all before moving towards the discussion of subscription models, something DIY manufacturers favour in order to maximise ongoing revenue streams. This also gives users access to the full capabilities of their hardware including – provider dependent – higher resolution videos, smart notifications and detection, longer storage of cloud recordings and configurable activity zones.
Naz remarks: “DIY systems have a place in the market – just don’t expect them to perform or integrate as well as professional systems. DIY serves to introduce basic security to users on a budget, many of whom move to professional systems after realising the limitations of their system, as they gain a better understanding of their needs and what is possible.”
When it comes to home security, either basic systems or professionally installed systems the buyer has a motivation. Whether that is visibility around their home, peace of mind, security or even to reduce insurance costs.
While regulations are in place, due to a variety of factors they’re open to some interpretation and difficult to enforce as noted by a report released by the Australian Security Industry Association Ltd (ASIAL) in December 2021 into the private security industry and how a regulator would assist with interpretation and enforcement.
The report advocated for: “creating a ‘presence’, in such a way that inspections are common enough that businesses are alert to doing the right thing should an officer from LRD visit their worksite.”
It envisioned that “This would operate in a similar way to the change in culture seen in workplace safety over the last 10-15 years.”
This is an issue which perplexes Naz somewhat.
“Regulations have largely been ignored for many years. Attempts have been made over the years to tighten regulations, even to the point of police intervention. However, this has failed largely because it is extremely resource intensive,” he says.
He points out that the primary stakeholders in this case are the client and, generally, an insurer, and there is little incentive for either to adhere to regulations that are too expensive to enforce.
“Therefore, the power is in the hands of insurers, but they seem to be more motivated by statistics than regulations and standards per se. The industry made a serious attempt to align standards with risk management during the last round of AS2201 updates. Significant progress was also made in making standards technology independent by reducing the prescriptive nature of previous standards in the expectation that insurers and clients would take them more seriously. Unfortunately, this did little to improve the situation.”
This leaves professional organisations with a potentially difficult sale to make and end users with a decision of cost versus quality of product and service.