DIY security and the professional installer

Posted On 03 Nov 2017
Comment: Off

The popularity of do-it-yourself (DIY) security systems is on the rise owing to their low cost, easy installation and smartphone-enabled operation. Anna Sliwon, research analyst, building and security technology, IHS Markit looks at the impact of DIY security on the professional installer

In 2016, the global market for DIY security equipment reached $60 million, with the great majority of gear (85 percent) sold in the Americas. The American market for DIY intruder alarms is forecast to grow at a CAGR of more than 20 percent over the next five years.

In recent years, the residential security market has seen an influx of DIY intruder alarm system providers from internet service providers such as Deutsche Telekom and consumer electronics companies including Ring and Nest — the latest such providers to offer DIY security systems.

The popularity of DIY systems is on the rise for several reasons.

  • Firstly, self-install systems have no installation costs and can be set up fairly quickly. Equipment usually comes pre-configured, and often only requires a basic understanding of wireless technology. And end users are becoming more tech savvy thanks to the increasing availability of how-to video tutorials on intruder alarm system installation.
  • Alarms can be monitored through a dedicated smartphone application, bringing the costs down to zero while also freeing users from lengthy monitoring contracts.
  • Professional monitoring contract options for DIY systems often come at a lower price than contracts for professionally installed systems. Also, with the growing availability of pay-as-you-go monitoring, users can opt to have the alarm monitored only a few months a year, further reducing the overall annual cost of monitoring.
  • In some cases, the cameras used in DIY systems are more affordable when compared to those offered as part of a professional package. In certain DIY systems, cameras can also be offered at a discounted rate if the user opts out of alarm monitoring services for the camera. DIY end users also have more options available to them, as they can choose from a wide range of consumer devices. With professionally installed systems, usually only one type of pre-selected camera is offered. This limits the end user’s choice to accepting the supplier’s camera or not having a camera in the system.
  • Very often, equipment is interoperable with a wide range of commercially available video cameras, voice speakers or video doorbells, and allows for virtually unlimited expansion and customisation. Professional security systems also allow for expansion, but the services of a professional installer may be required to integrate some of the devices, and advanced features are often turned off when a service contract ends. This means that a customer may still be able to arm and disarm the security sensors for a local alarm, but any advanced automation features will not be available to non-active subscriber accounts.

New players have entered the security marketplace from other industries, resulting in increased competition and pricing pressures.

The flexibility of DIY systems has allowed non-traditional security equipment providers to increase the overall penetration rate of homes with alarm systems — something professional equipment providers have long struggled to achieve.

DIY systems are most likely to be chosen by young apartment renters, where there is no previous history of security equipment and the likelihood of annual moves is common.

In regions with high population densities, this will lead to the replacement of the professional install option, leaving DIY as a first choice for newcomers to alarm systems. For new homeowners who are also young families concerned with monthly fees, DIY systems may provide a viable option for securing property without long-term contracts.

The rise of the DIY market poses the biggest challenge to suppliers of professional security equipment. However it’s not all bad news….

Silver linings

DIY systems have helped lower the barriers to acquiring security systems. As the needs of DIY consumers evolve over time (for instance, they become property owners), they are more likely to switch to professionally installed systems, thereby increasing opportunities for the professional market via system upgrades.

DIY systems rely on open protocols and Wi-Fi connectivity that can sometimes be unreliable, creating connection issues. Some of the sensors can become unrecognisable to the system, requiring intervention from the user. In contrast, professional wireless systems rely on UL- or EN-certified equipment and operate on the basis of proprietary frequency, enabling them to work with the control panel much more seamlessly.

The need for professional installers will not disappear completely anytime soon. Professionally installed systems provide added peace of mind that when equipment malfunctions, any issues can be addressed immediately by a qualified engineer. And what’s more, the quality of the equipment is usually higher in professionally installed systems, and professional configuration and setup greatly reduces the potential for connection instability and false alarms.

Although DIY security equipment is in principle very easy to install, it is still relatively new technology. Therefore, software and connection issues are likely to surface in the process of operating the equipment, which will undermine the performance of the system. Dealing with technical support that’s available only online or over the phone could be a daunting process and may not appeal to every consumer. Professional installers are usually located across numerous local offices, making an in-person interaction much more accessible and simple.

So how can professional security installers lessen the threat from the growing popularity of DIY systems? Find out in the December edition of PSI magazine