One of the things I've blogged about before is the onslaught of companies attempting to fix the hardware problems in the home security industry. Generally it's outsiders looking in, and viewing the industry's problems as an un-nuanced set of issues that are easily solved.
Well, I hate to say it, but hardware isn't where home security companies or consumers, for that matter are lacking in choices. While, at the moment, Alarm Grid retails exclusively in Honeywell products, there are an incredible number of other brands producing high-quality security systems: 2GIG, GE, DSC, Napco, and more. While each of these systems differs slightly in functionality, the reality is that they are all very very similar. The industry has, for the most part, decided on what is needed on the security side and made them work.
In recent years, these systems have begun to do much more than just security as well. Some of them can be used as pool controllers, full-functioning home automation controllers, garage door controls, and more. Being an old-time Minnesota boy, I know about obscure companies like Val, which make a system called the Gain-Trac that monitors and controls poultry houses. Some of the technology that these little shops are making are really neat - the Lockitron comes to mind. But most of them fail to actually solve any of the problems that they claim to be solving. The Lockitron remotely locks and unlocks your doors, which is an amazing feature. They even give you a smartphone app if you want to do it remotely.
So what's wrong with that?
Well, it's fine, if all you want to do is expensively open and close the deadbolts on your house. There are a hundred reasons I can think of that a person might want to do that. But if you're going to spend the money to do that, why wouldn't you purchase a Yale Z-Wave lock and use an app that integrates all your devices? Do consumers really want one app for every single device in their home? The answer, to date, has been a resounding "no." That said, with relatively little effort companies like Lockitron could open up their technology to be Z-wave compatible. The fact that they haven't done that indicates to me that they don't intend to open their product up to that market. And while we wish companies like them the best of luck because we like the quality and kind of product they are making, their model is narrow minded and the result is that they have solved a problem that is too niche to matter to very many people.
In the last year, I can think of four different projects that have been crowd-funded to solve the problems inherent in the alarm industry. For the most part, however, the problems they are attacking are not that significant. Some of them claim they are making aesthetically pleasing security systems, others claim that they are giving you power over your devices. But almost none of them are UL certified, almost none of them can be turned into an actual monitored system, and in numerous small-market systems, you have to change the batteries in your sensors multiple times a year. Other companies that claim they are solving problems in the security system do it by making a proprietary system that can ONLY be monitored by them. So while they seem to have a good understanding of the industry's breakdowns, their solution is nothing more than veiled participation in the industry's problems. If they claim that the industry suffers from dishonest alarm monitoring contracts that require a fee when you try to get out of them, how have they solved anything by forcing you to buy a system that is useless if you don't use their service? What do you think happens when you leave them? You have to buy a brand new system. $500 to get out of a contract... $500 for a brand new system.... Their customers seem to feel better about the proposition, but the math is the same, and on the other end, the amount of money spent to get out of the service is almost the same. Those companies will say that they are "doing away with contracts." But they don't tell you that they are trapping you with a system that is a no better than a brick if not being used on their network.
So why does it matter?
Whenever one of these companies comes to market with a security product, I'm regularly asked, "what is going to happen to Alarm Grid?"
This is what I say: "Alarm Grid is setting out to solve the industry's real problems: dishonest sales techniques, bad customer service, a lack of access to information about your system, constant scams, and more. We are not focused on competing with companies to create a new piece of neat hardware or forcing companies to use our service."
And we stand by that. Check out our reviews. You will see that Alarm Grid's only goal is to make our customers very happy with the service they have received. Our website is replete with information, not because we don't want you to call or ask a tech, but because most of the time, you don't need to. Our goal is to advocate for our consumers, by empowering them with information. How can you make a good decision about what hardware you should use to protect your family and property if you don't know anything more than how to arm and disarm your system?
And that actually is the reason that most of these hardware companies never get off the ground in a significant way. Their systems are nowhere near as advanced as the systems that already exist. The problem with the systems that exist is that consumers don't know how to use them.
Luckily for all of you, Alarm Grid is out to change all that!