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by: Paul Ragusa - Wednesday, August 3, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa—Midwest Alarm Services, a provider of life safety systems based here, has acquired Electric Specialties Company of Omaha, Neb., a company that also specializes in life safety systems, including service, inspection and monitoring services to more than 350 customers.

The terms of the deal between the two companies were not disclosed.

Established in 1950, Midwest Alarm Services became part of Per Mar Security Services through an acquisition in 1998, which allowed the then small company an opportunity for growth, including the opening of an office in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and an office to service the Quad Cities, which stretched Midwest Alarm Services territory into eastern Iowa and western Illinois.

Doug Richard, president of Midwest Alarm Services, said that he is “very excited” to expand the company’s footprint now into Nebraska, and looks forward “to growing with the great team that is already in place” there.

Herk Campbell, who will be joining the Midwest Alarm Services team along with his employees, founded Electric Specialties Company in 1983. The company is a Notifier dealer, and provides life safety systems and services including card access systems, fire alarm systems, fire extinguishers/hoods, fire inspections, master clock systems, monitoring, nurse call systems, system design/layout and video surveillance.

Campbell said that Midwest Alarm is the “perfect fit” for his company.

Note: Check back for more on this story, including an interview with Midwest Alarm Services president Doug Richard.

by: Paul Ragusa - Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently submitted revisions to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) that would raise the salary threshold for earning overtime pay. Presently, only those employees making less than $455.00 per week are eligible for overtime compensation. The DOL’s new rule increases this eligibility minimum to any employee making less than $913.00, an increase that many in the security industry and on Capitol Hill feel will put a financial strain on businesses, which are supposed to comply by DOL’s implementation date of Dec. 31, 2016.

ESA has actively spoken out against DOL’s overtime rule, and ESA president Marshall Marinace said that ESA “objects strenuously” to the legislation, as it “will have a real consequence on employees not anticipated by the DOL.”

ESA supports efforts of Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who recently introduced joint resolutions to block implementation of the Overtime Rule. Senate Joint Resolution 34 was introduced on June 7, 2016, and was referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. In addition to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as a cosponsor, the resolution has already attracted over 43 senators to support its passage. The House version, House Joint Resolution 95, has been referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce with 22 House members as cosponsors.

“Our nation’s overtime rules need to be modernized, but the Department of Labor’s extreme and partisan approach will lead to damaging consequences that the American people simply cannot afford,” Rep. Foxx said. “This resolution will protect workers, students, small business owners, and vulnerable individuals from a rule that will do more harm than good.”

SSN would like to hear what you, our readers, think of the overtime rule, including the possible impact it could have on your businesses.

Note: SSN continues to report on this story. Please check back for an interview with ESA government relations director John Chwat.

by: Paul Ragusa - Wednesday, July 20, 2016

ADT announced earlier this week that the Ring video doorbell is now available for its customers nationwide. While the Ring has made some noise in the smart doorbell category, there are many options to choose from when it comes to this first-line-of-defense product for homeowners.

Others who have had success with doorbell cameras include Vivint, Skybell and August, to name just a few.

As more and more consumers begin to embrace smart home products like the video doorbell, dealers are adding these devices to their security and home-automation offerings, and partnering and integrating with others to provide a complete home automation and security package.

For example, ADT customers can incorporate the Ring video doorbell as part of their ADT Pulse smart home security system and lock their door, turn on their lights, and activate their ADT security system directly within the Ring app, all while seeing who is at the door.

Similarly, Vivint’s Doorbell Camera, which won a 2016 Innovation Award from the Business Intelligence Group earlier this year, works with its smart home platform, so homeowners can engage in two-way conversations with visitors on their doorsteps from their mobile devices, while simultaneously using Vivint’s smart home technology to remotely unlock the front door, open the garage door, disarm their security system, for example.

On the supplier side, SkyBell, which was nominated for a CES Innovations Design and Engineering Award, has integrated with Nest, Amazon Echo, Honeywell,, Monitronics, Kwikset, Icontrol Networks and IFTTT, all in an effort to allow complete control of a homeowner’s security and smart home system.

And the August Doorbell Cam is part of the August Smart Home Access System, so all of the August Home products, along with its app, work together. August is also integrating with other companies, such as Honeywell, which recently integrated the August Smart Lock with its Total Connect 2.0 Remote Services platform.

For many homeowners, the video doorbell is their first-foray into smart home technology, and it is helping to drive the continued growth of other security cameras and smart home devices and apps. 

In fact, new research that came out this week from Parks Associates estimates that nearly 24 percent of U.S. broadband households will have an IP camera by 2020, while more than 50 percent will have a smart home controller and 26 percent will have a home security system.

What this study and others like it are finding is interest in products like the video doorbell is driving consumer interest in security, which can only benefit security dealers moving forward.



by: Paul Ragusa - Wednesday, July 13, 2016

YARMOUTH, Maine—Security dealers have a new security threat to warn homeowners about: Teenagers and adults (yes, grown men and women) taking to the streets, on foot and in their cars, to capture Pokemon creatures with their phones, in and around your neighborhoods, your mailboxes (more on this later), your garages, your backyards—you name it.

If for some reason you have been living under a rock and haven’t heard, Pokemon is making a comeback in a big way, in the form of a location-based augmented reality mobile game, which means players can use the GPS and the camera on their phones to capture, battle and train virtual Pokemon who appear—superimposed—throughout the real world.

And while the smartphone app has become the most downloaded in the United States within three days of its release, stories are flooding in about the many security and privacy concerns the game raises.

Which brings me back to the story of the mailbox. A friend of mine posted on Facebook last night that a car full of teenagers driving around her neighborhood with their smart phones hanging out the car windows managed to crash into her mailbox while playing the game. The teenagers apologized saying, “Sorry, we were trying to catch Pokemon,” as if that was a defendable reason for smashing into her mailbox.

That one Facebook thread alone defines the new security concerns created by this game craze now taking hold. One person posted on that same Facebook thread how she found teenagers in her garage looking in and around her car for Pokemon, while another said he had already found some kids in his backyard hunting for the cute little creatures, and yet another said a teenager, glued to his phone and playing the game, stepped in front of her car.

And security concerns don’t just stop in your neighborhoods and homes, they extend to commercial and private properties. The game is taking people into some dangerous areas. One girl was led by the game into the woods, where she actually found a dead body, while others, lacking proper judgment—obviously—are playing the game in places such as the National Holocaust Centre and Museum, Arlington Cemetery, businesses, and in and around police departments and private properties.

And this doesn’t even include the stories about thieves using the game to lure players to unsafe places where they can rob them and possibly do them harm, as well as the privacy concerns for people who play the game, in terms of their information being shared.

So if your false-alarm rates have been unusually high the past few days, and you’re getting complaints from customers about the high number of notifications they are getting from their security systems, just blame it on Pokemon.

by: Paul Ragusa - Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Melrose Industries Plc, a UK-based investment firm with a penchant for quick turnarounds, announced today that is has acquired Nortek, Inc., a global company with brands including 2GIG, NuTone and Elan. What this means for Nortek Security & Control, which specializes in residential security and home automation products and services, is still unclear.

As I wait to hear back from both Nortek and Melrose for more on the particulars of this deal, the big question is: What kind of impact will this have back here in the U.S., as Nortek is now in 18 million U.S. homes, and has positioned itself with the recent acquisition of Nuiku, a natural language processing company, as a leader in the area of smart home technology.

In a prepared statement, Nortek's president and CEO Michael J. Clarke said, "We are very pleased to have reached the proposed agreement with Melrose Industries, which represents a significant premium for our shareholders, We believe this partnership with Melrose will enhance Nortek's ability to further leverage its industry-leading brands and market positions to continue driving profitable growth. We believe this transaction will be a positive for our employees and customers alike."

From what I can see, Melrose has an excellent track record in investing in and improving businesses before reselling them within a two- to three-year window, and has been able to increase operating margins by five to nine percentage points in all of its historical investments.

Melrose's chief executive, Simon Peckham, said in a prepared statement that although Nortek “serves attractive end markets at good points in their cycle, with strong brands and market positions … there remains solid potential for further improvement under Melrose’s guidance. Our ability to apply our industrial experience and investment expertise, as well as to liberate Nortek from its current capital structure will transform the prospects of the business."

Melrose's chairman Christopher Miller said in a prepared statement that since the firm’s inception it has created and returned more than £2.8 billion ($3.5 billion) of value to its shareholders and he believes that “Nortek presents an excellent opportunity to build substantially on that track record.”

The acquisition will be implemented principally by way of a cash tender offer to Nortek shareholders by Nevada Corp., a wholly owned subsidiary of Melrose. The offer price of $86 per Nortek Share, net, in cash and without interest, values the issued and outstanding shares of Nortek at $1.436 billion with an enterprise value of $2.810 billion.

Check back for more on this developing story, including interviews with Melrose and Nortek management.

by: Paul Ragusa - Wednesday, June 29, 2016

With more and more consumers adopting smart home technology, and more and more players moving into the smart home space, this is a pivotal time for security dealers, as the window of opportunity to reconnect with customers—and let them know about all of the interactive services they can now provide as part of the overall security package—will only stay open for so long.

In terms of smart home adoption, almost every day a new study comes out showing that Americans are embracing smart home technology. A recent survey of U.S. adults by Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC and CNET finds that 28 percent of Americans own at least one smart home product and almost half of millennials are adopting the technology.

"Smart home technology is catching on because it is changing the way we live in our homes," said Robert Burns, president of Coldwell Banker Mid-America Group. "Not only is it shifting the financial perception of the home, but it's also transforming our emotional connection to our homes. We have entered a transformative era. We believe that in two to three years, homebuyers will expect smart home technology." 

Of the early smart home adopters, the research shows that 45 percent of Americans say that, on average, their smart home technology saves them more than $1,100 a year, while 72 percent say smart home products provide them with peace of mind when it comes to home security, and 81 percent said they would be more likely to buy a home if smart technology was already installed.

But while consumers are showing interest in, and adopting smart home technology, a recent study from research firm Parks Associates shows that less than 30 percent of U.S. broadband households are familiar with where to buy smart home products or services.

“In addressing the low consumer awareness for smart home solutions, all players have ample opportunities to make inroads in this early market,” said Eddie Accomando, research analyst, Parks Associates. “Roughly 40 percent of the U.S. broadband households familiar with smart home products or services learned about them from TV or the Internet. In 2016, we are seeing smart home companies develop more robust TV and Internet consumer marketing strategies to reach the consumers who don’t know where to buy smart home products.”

This is both good and bad news for security dealers, as this uncertainty of where to go for these products creates an opportunity for them to be that provider, as opposed to an MSO or a retailer.

According to Parks’ research, home security providers are not far behind retailers when it comes to being the likely purchase channel for smart home products and services, with 31 percent of broadband households preferring to buy these products from a home security provider, compared with between 35- and 40 percent prefering to buy from retailers, 23 percent from an Internet service provider, and only 12 percent preferring a pay-TV provider.

“To move the smart home from early adopters to the mass market, companies and industry players must address low consumer awareness,” Accomando said.

And this includes dealers, too, who must continue to reach out to their customers. As one dealer said during a session at ESX in Fort Worth earlier this month: “When I hear that one of my customers left us because they didn’t realize that we offer these smart home services, it keeps me up at night.”

by: Paul Ragusa - Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Just as we have seen with the smart phone revolution, the battle for the smart home looks like it will be just as hotly contested, as there is no denying that consumers today are embracing the smart home concept. 

Studies are popping up weekly confirming that demand is increasing for smart home products and services as homeowners learn more about smart home and home automation technology available today.

The latest research, from market research firm Berg Insight out of Gothenburg, Sweden, shows that North America is leading the global smart home market with 12.7 million smart homes in 2015, a 56 percent year-on-year growth. According to the research, the strong market growth is expected to last for years to come, driving the number of smart homes in North America to 46.2 million by 2020, which corresponds to 35 percent of all households.

The study found that the most successful products in the smart home market include smart thermostats, security systems, smart lighting, network cameras, and multi-room audio systems.

“There is no doubt that regular consumers in the future will own and operate a wide range of connected objects in their homes, from connected home appliances and luminaires to thermostats and security devices,” said Johan Svanberg, senior analyst, Berg Insight. “Attractive use cases, interoperable devices, and well-implemented user interfaces are needed in order to accelerate the market.”

Although Amazon Echo’s Alexa is leading the smart home charge right now, Apple is making a serious play with its announcement at its Worldwide Developers Conference last week of its new app called Home, which will be a hub on the iPhone for all the connected devices in the home. The app is the logical next step for Apple’s HomeKit platform, and both work with Siri, who is getting some improvements and upgrades as well.

Apple also announced that it is working with homebuilders—Brookfield Residential, Lennar and KB Home—to build homes later this year that come with built-in Apple HomeKit infrastructure.

Other major players in this battle for the voice-driven smart home include Microsoft with its Cortana voice platform, and Google Home’s Assistant, which was announced in May. Rumors abound that both Microsoft and Google, like Apple, are gearing up for a serious play for a piece of the smart home market. 

Apple’s brand equity with consumers, though, shouldn’t be ignored, as it is not a big leap to think that consumers would be willing to take the plunge into the smart home market with Apple, a company they know will be able to provide a complete, somewhat air-tight system from the ground up, so to speak.

One negative for Apple is its seemingly late entry into the smart home space, where many early adopters are already using many smart home products that will not work with Apple’s HomeKit platform, which requires using a special encryption chip. Some HomeKit-certified products are currently available from companies like Honeywell, August and Phillips Hue, and Apple said that there are close to 100 more compatible products coming this year.

Stay tuned, because things are starting to get interesting in the smart home space.

by: Paul Ragusa - Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Economist Alan Beaulieu, closing keynote speaker at the ESX 2016 show that wrapped up last week in Fort Worth, Texas, was back by popular demand and did not disappoint, as he was able to mix economic forecasting with a wry sense of humor that had attendees both intellectually riveted and spitting out their drinks at the same time.

After telling the audience, “Another great depression is coming in 2030,” as baby boomers continue to age and put pressure on our healthcare system and finances, Beaulieu then said the next few years will be very good for the country and the security industry overall.

“2015 was a good year—record high levels of GDP and job opportunities, and the economy is growing,” he said. “I expect the fed rates to go up, so now is the time to get that loan, and make that purchase or acquisition, hire new people.”

He said that it is also imperative to “make sure your training and retention programs are top notch,” and “plan for higher wages and energy costs” down the road.

In the short term, Beaulieu said that he sees a mild recession coming in 2019, similar to the one we had in the ‘90s, and although he wouldn’t pick our next president, he did guarantee a “one term president” because of that looming recession.

In regard to that great depression in 2030, Beaulieu said we have the baby boomers to blame for it.

“We have 80 million baby boomers, but we have 3- to 4 million more millennials,” he said. “The millennials are going to need all of us baby boomers to die off because we are going to ruin the economy for them.”

As for the millennials, Beaulieu said, “Who knew it, but they are just like us, and want the same things we do—a family, kids and a house in the ’burbs. They will be a strength for our nation, but only after us baby boomers die off.”

Beaulieu told the audience not to be afraid to hire millennials, especially at a time when it is so difficult to find quality employees in the security industry. “Just make sure you feed them,” Beaulieu said. “And I am talking actual food.”

by: Paul Ragusa - Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Friday, June 10

I started the final day at ESX sitting in on a session titled, “Rethinking the Political Landscape - How to Impact the Industry through Legislative Action,” which was moderated by Robert Few, director, Time Warner Cable - IntelligentHome, and featured panelists Todd Baxter, regional vice president of government affairs, Texas, Time Warner Cable, and David Morris, founder, Modern Systems Inc.

The Panel emphasized taking a proactive role through industry representation with elected officials.

“ESA is currently tracking and monitoring 177 bills that could possibly affect the industry,” noted Baxter, who said it is imperative that security company owners get to know their state legislature, who can make them aware of impactful legislation.

“It is so important to meet and get to know them [state legislators],” he said. “They are there to represent you.”

Morris told his story of how he was able to block some legislation in his state of Kentucky that would have been harmful to security businesses by reaching out to his state legislators and getting the word out to others in the industry and within the state. “I knew it [the proposed legislation] wasn’t good for our industry,” he said. “Don’t assume the state knows what they are doing when it relates to our industry.”

Morris was able to work with his state legislators to amend and rewrite the bill to better reflect the needs of the security industry and professionals in his state. “Everything we suggested to the state they agreed to and added in the language of the bill.”

Although the bill died in committee, the panel all agreed that sometimes halting or killing a bill that is bad for business is an important first step. 

“The entire process is set up to kill bills,” said Baxter. “I like to tell people that there are two things you should never watch being made: sausage and legislation. It is very difficult to get a bill through and more than half don’t make it.”

For those looking to dip their toe into the legislative pool, Few said participating in the annual ESA legislative trip to Washington, D.C., “was the key to figuring out the process” for him.

For the closing keynote, Economist Alan Beaulieu, a principal of ITR Economics, returned by popular demand and did not disappoint, as he was able to mix economic forecasting with a wry sense of humor that had attendees both intellectually riveted and spitting out their drinks at the same time.

For starters, to get everyone’s attention, Beaulieu started out by saying, “Another great depression is coming in 2030,” as baby boomers continue to age and put pressure on our healthcare system and finances.

“We have 80 million baby boomers, but we have 3- to 4 million more Millennials,” he said, pointing out, “The Millennials are going to need all of us baby boomers to die off because we are going to ruin the economy for them.”

In the short term, though, Beaulieu said that he sees a mild recession coming in 2019, similar to the one we had in the ‘90s. But before that happens, he says the next few years will be very good for the country and the security industry overall.

“2017 was a good year—record high levels of GDP and job opportunities, and the economy is growing,” he said. “I expect the fed rates to go up, so now is the time to get that loan, and make that purchase or acquisition, hire new people.”

He said that it is also imperative to “make sure your training and retention programs are top notch,” and “plan for higher wages and energy costs” down the road.

Although he wouldn’t pick our next president, he did guarantee a “one term president,” because of the looming recession in 2019.

As for the Millennials, Beaulieu said, “Who knew it, but they are just like us, and want the same things we do—a family, kids and a house in the burbs. They will be a strength for our nation, but only after us baby boomers die off.”

He told the audience not to be afraid of hiring Millennials, especially at a time when it is so difficult to find quality employees in the security industry. “Just make sure you feed them,” Beaulieu said. “And I am talking actual food.”

Thursday, June 9

Day two at ESX 2016 began with the Industry Excellence Breakfast, which provided the perfect setting to recognize and honor the industry’s leaders with awards. It also featured keynote speaker Michael Jagger, founder and CEO of Provident Security, who stressed to attendees that becoming great or “remarkable” at what you do involves staying focused on your business model, and many times saying no to the numerous opportunities that arise for companies in today’s security industry.

He gave the example of renowned master chef Jiro Ono at Sukiyabashi Jiro in Tokyo, a three-star Michelin restaurant located in the basement of an office building that Jagger visited on a recent trip. Ono has made a name for himself, Jagger pointed out, by “intentionally not being bigger, staying smaller and being the best sushi chef he can be,” he said.

After the Industry Excellence Breakfast, I sat in on an educational session titled, “Video is the New RMR,” moderated by Scott Carpenter, president, Action Alarm Solutions, and featuring panelist Larry Folsom, president, i-View Now, Nik Gagvani, president, CheckVideo, LLC, and Daniel Forrest, CEO, Eyeforce Inc.

Carpenter led the session off by saying, “Video is the next market that will save everyone,” as it provides the opportunity to add a new level of RMR to your business.

Gagvani pointed out that in addition to the new wave of IP-based cameras available and the capability of cloud-based monitored video being readily available, “video analytics allows you to expand your monitoring capability.”

Forrest noted that although video is being used for small to enterprise commercial locations, he sees increased adoption of video on the residential side. “There have been some privacy issues in the past for the home but that is changing,” he said, opening up another area for increasing RMR for dealers today.

Gagvani added, “There are a lot of good use cases to draw on now in the home, so video will become more accessible to, and desired by home owners.”

Moving back to the main stage for the Public Safety Luncheon, featured speaker FBI Section Chief Philip Celestini provided an overview of what the FBi is doing to combat the ever-changing landscape of cyber threats. As a veteran special agent of the FBI, Celestini is the Senior Executive FBI Representative to the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command, and has seen first-hand the financial and other impact cyber attacks have on the U.S. and throughout the world.

For example, ransom-ware attacks went from causing $25 million in losses to $200 million in just the last year in the U.S., as well as an astonishing $2 trillion in cyber crime losses worldwide. Furthermore, “80 percent of companies who have been attacked by ransom-ware are not reporting it to law enforcement,” he said, which is why the FBI is reaching out to the industry for its help in spreading the word of the importance of cyber security and working with law enforcement to minimize loss.

The second day on the trade show floor gave me another chance to check out the ESX Innovation Award winners’ products up-close and personal, and demo the latest and greatest products in the industry today.

Wednesday, June 8

The first full day at ESX 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas, began with a thought-provoking OpenXchange Breakfast discussion led by ESX Chairman George De Marco, featuring panelists Nate Williams, chief revenue officer for August, and Tim Colleran, director of Business Development for Qualcomm.

De Marco started things off right with some fun by announcing a special guest—Amazon Echo’s Alexa, who was given a seat on the panel to join the discussion. After some uncharacteristically witty banter from Alexa, it became apparent that it was not Alexa at all, but rather De Marco’s daughter, Lauren, who with the help of her father provided some levity before some serious discussions on identifying disruptive technologies and emerging trends in the industry today.

De Marco started the discussion by saying, “Every aspect of your business is about to change,” which as the day went on, emerged as a major theme for the show, as it reflects the pivotal time in the industry right now, especially on the residential side.

Williams pointed out that the industry needs to pay attention to the success of Amazon’s Alexa, which he pointed out is in 4.5 million homes, as “voice is the next big thing, and you will see an explosion in the next five years,” he said. “Voice control is just more natural and people want that today.”

“The big challenge,” he continued, “is integrating and bridging products in the home. Over time, we have to be able to show how devices work in concert, which is already starting to happen.”

After the OpenXchange breakfast, I sat in on a spirited session, “Go Big or Go Home? Expanding & Extending into New Markets,” which was moderated by Greg Simmons, co-owner/VP of Eagle Sentry, and included a great panel featuring Jeremy Bates, general manager and co-owner of Bates Security/Sonitrol of Lexington, Inc., Barry Epstein, president of Vertex Capital and Tom Kerber, director, Research, Home Controls & Energy for Parks Associates.

The panel was well balanced, with Kerber handling the research side of things, Epstein looking at acquisitions and Bates providing a dealer’s perspective.

Kerber pointed out to the packed session of interested dealers that today “a majority of security subscribers—more than 50 percent—have interactive services,” he said. “RMR growth, for the most part, has been driven by this increase in interactive services adoption. And security is the leading channel to the smart home,” providing an opportunity for dealers to increase RMR by being able to provide these options for their customers.

Bates pointed out that with so many smart home and interactive products and new opportunities, “dealers need to be careful what they chase and stay focused on their business model” as they look to possibly expand or grow into new markets or geographical areas.

For dealers who are trying to navigate the acquisition landscape, Epstein noted that there are certain criteria that must be met before a dealer decides to buy another company. The first thing to ask is “do they have good, solid contracts?” he said, “Because if they don’t have contracts, tell them to call you back when they have contracts.”

Prior to the trade show floor opening, the Opening Keynote Luncheon featured world-renowned business futurist and innovation thought leader Nicholas Webb, author of Innovation Playbook and The Digital Innovation Playbook, who raised some important questions to ponder in this new smart-home driven world we are now living.

Webb pointed out that there are a lot of hackers, so to speak, who will try to disrupt the industry by providing innovative technology or services that consumers today want, and provided examples of what Uber did to the taxi industry and what the WAZE app did to GPS devices like Garmin.

His take-home message to a packed house: “You either become a hacker—a disruptive innovator—or you get hacked by a disruptive innovator.” 

Note: Please check back here and at SSN Editor Martha Entwistle’s blog page for updates from the show.


by: Paul Ragusa - Wednesday, June 1, 2016

With the flood of new smart home products hitting the market these days, one of the things I look forward to each day is checking my Google Alerts to see what new surprises this wild west of home automation and connectivity is bringing us now.

From smart toasters that tell you when your toast is ready, or if you like, that toasts the past night’s sports scores right onto the bread for you, to a smart-fridge that tells you when you need more milk, the number and volume of new smart home products hitting the market today is staggering. And, to say the least, a little befuddling, like the smart grill that tells you when your steak needs to be flipped, or the smart coffee maker that texts you when your coffee is ready, or … brace yourself … the smart tampon that reminds you when it is time for a change—huh?

As one of my SSN colleagues pointed out, you have to wonder if consumer interest and demand is driving this innovation or if companies are just throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks. We both agree that more often than not, it is the latter.

The latest innovation, and I have to say I am surprised it has taken this long, is the smart home robot named ZenBo, which is basically Amazon Echo’s Alexa on wheels. ZenBo, and other robots like it that will surely flood the market in the coming months, can turn on your lights, walk you through a recipe, remind you to take your medicine or even read a bedtime story to your kids, if that idea doesn’t freak you out as much as it does me.

For every convenience that a product like ZenBo can provide to a family, you have to wonder if we haven’t flipped open the lid on Pandora’s box. When will the madness end, and how are dealers to make sense of all of these new products hitting the market?

For every interesting new product I read about, like the smart go-cart that Tony Fadell, co-creator of Nest, is designing to allow parents to geofence where their kids will be able to drive, there are five to 10 other new products that make you shake your head.

When it comes to sorting through all of this and figuring out what is viable and what is just, hmm, let’s say—insane—it is important for dealers to ask themselves: Will my customers be interested in this or are these companies creating a problem where there isn’t one just to sell another clever smart home product?