“Home automation and professional security monitoring don’t usually mix”: Essence Q&A

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Evolving technology is upending traditional business models in the professional security monitoring market, as Rafi Zauer of Essence noted in conversation with IFSEC Global.

We asked the Israeli-headquartered company’s head of marketing about the benefits of a cloud-based model, why he thinks security and home automation don’t tend to mesh together well, the barriers to mass market adoption of home automation and about the company’s strategic direction.

In its own words, Essence “provides smart connected-living solutions for security, convenience, communication, and healthcare service providers.”

Read our interview with Rafi below.

IFSEC Global: Can you tell us a bit about Essence?

Rafi Zauer: Essence was founded in Israel in 1994 as professional security provider with a focus on wireless alarms. As an OEM company, we don’t sell off-the-shelf through distributor channels, but sell mainly to major service providers.

For example, Verisure is our largest customer, and for the past 15 years or so we’ve been the exclusive provider of all their alarm panels and accessories for their Southern European markets. At the present time, we’re also selling in the UK through Verisure.

Essence, mainly serves the residential and SME markets.

IG: What are your other unique selling points besides your distinct distribution model?

RZ: Well, one is our customisable platform. In the last seven or eight years we’ve built a very strong cloud-based platform – also OEM, but parallel to the professional security platform – that connected smart home services. We’re quite flexible on the communication channel and design.

Our cloud platform – called [email protected] – can be DIY-installed and is self-monitoring or professionally monitored through an ARC – whichever the service provider’s or customer’s choice.

“We’re giving customers a platform that takes all management requirements off their hands so they can focus on what’s important: marketing their product and bringing in customers”

Two is flexibility. As I mentioned we sell through service providers, security providers, telcos, even utilities. For example, we work with G4S in Denmark and some of the largest monitoring companies in Europe.

Our products can increase these providers’ market share because their customers enjoy increased flexibility:  they can not only put in a security system, but also add some home automation features that usually – when you’re looking at professional security monitoring – don’t work together very successfully.

IG: Why do you think security and home automation functions haven’t tended to mesh too well?

RZ: It’s the conservative nature of the security market.

In the UK, for example, an installer will take a piece of hardware off the shelf from his distributor, then install and connect it to one of the ARCs.

Now, all the ARCs are interested in is getting intrusion alerts and information from the panel. They just want to buy security services and getting however many pounds a month they can get for these services.

So we’re trying to give our customers the ability to offer more services and expand their offerings.

IG: Is the cloud a really big selling point?

RZ: The cloud provides a couple of things. It gives users the ability to manage not just their security, but their entire home, while enabling the service provider to easily manage, from just one platform, a lot of services and accounts and customers.

In essence, we’re giving our customers a package or platform that simply takes all management requirements – upkeep of the cloud, upkeep of their IT systems – off their hands so they can focus on what’s important: marketing their product and bringing in more customers.

“We want to use data and intelligence – facial recognition, behavioural analysis, using radar to track intruders – to add more security”

IG: Does the cloud pose any problems?

RZ: We’re exploring options to bring our products into a distribution business model. But because they’re cloud-based there are some challenges that distributors have to overcome. For example, they’re not used to signing up customers on service models themselves; they’re used to moving boxes.

IG: What are the company’s strategic goals over the next few years?

RZ: Our goal is to bring more intelligence and IoT into security, and to use data and intelligence – facial recognition, behavioural analysis, using radar to track intruders – to add more security.

We aim to make people’s lives better and more convenient by helping them manage their entire home, connecting security systems to the entire management system.

What’s very important to us is getting all this – which can cost thousands of pounds to install in a costly home – to the mass market. We want it to be easily installed at a good price for people on average incomes.

IG: Why has the home automation market grown less spectacularly compared to other tech phenomena like, say, smartphones or the spread of broadband?

RZ: You might remember the first time you saw someone with a mobile phone and you might have thought: Why does anyone need a phone all the time, this isn’t going to catch on? Within a year you felt foolish and adopted the technology.

I think it will be slower with the IoT and smart home. But when we look back – maybe not in one year’s time, maybe five years – on things that seem like a luxury today, it will be the same thing as the mobile phone.

“Home automation customers don’t have a single point of contact that will assist them when the system isn’t working”

I think it’s really the value you get out of home automation: increased security, reduced energy costs, diminished environmental footprint. Those are what consumers will look back on as the advantages of home auto.

IG: Are we approaching the tipping point where home auto can really take off? What needs to change to see the mass market leap on this?

RZ: There are a few technological breakthroughs we are still looking to achieve.

Number one, a global protocol for IoT devices. There’s no single protocol that integrates everything like wifi does for remote internet devices.

Number two, there isn’t one provider giving you all these devices. So, for example, you have NEST thermostats connected to an alarm system. Something doesn’t work – which company do you call?

At the moment, there’s a breakdown in the protocol and because of that, there’s a breakdown in support. Customers don’t have a single point of contact that will assist them when the system isn’t working.

That makes the whole thing more complicated to install and maintain and is a deterrent to attracting customers.

I think the solution will be a single-source provider who provides these services and can take ownership of an entire system.

IG: Thanks for answering our questions, Rafi. Anything else to add?

RZ: I think the industry is generally moving towards cloud-based systems and open architecture. The slow-moving structures and processes of the past are going to fall by the wayside. We have to get used to these new technologies and the new business models they bring.

That’s how we develop our strategy and that’s the way we’re headed.

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