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State of the physical access control market, part II

Market gaps and strengths, and a future look into physical access control
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10/02/2019

YARMOUTH, Maine—Security brands and companies offer varying technologies, products and services within the physical access control (PAC) market today; therefore, all security companies and professionals must work extra hard to stay relevant.

Global smart home market still growing

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Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The global smart home market is forecast to grow by nearly a factor of five to reach more than $192 billion in 2023, up from $41 billion In 2018, according to the latest Smart Home Device Database from IHS Markit.

The research firm noted that the United States led all countries in 2018, representing about 35 percent of global market revenue. China was second, accounting for an 18 percent share.


The fastest-growing device types in the market include lighting, smart speakers and connected major home appliances, according to Blake Kozak, principal analyst for IHS.

“The brilliance of the smart home is that it can be molded to suit the requirements of any kind of consumer, from the strictest demands of power users to the simplest automation needs of dabblers,” said Kozak. “Irrespective of consumer tech-savviness, the smart-home market has bourgeoned into a consumer technology heavyweight, eager to move beyond the basics of security and single-family homes and into uncharted opportunities. However, these uncharted opportunities are coming with concerns about privacy and the technology’s readiness for primetime. The remainder of 2019 and start of 2020 will be a pivotal time for the smart-home market as companies and service providers fine-tune their strategies and reposition to compete with the smart home juggernauts — as well as newcomers looking to upend the status quo.”

Smart-home companies look to future opportunities

Kozak pointed out that companies looking to make waves in the smart home market include IKEA and newcomers such as Wyze, which offer ultra-low-cost devices.

He added that major players also will make pivotal strategy changes to enhance their competitiveness, with examples including Google, which recently ended its  “Works with Nest” program. In another example, he pointed to Amazon Alexa, which achieved compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA).

“For its part, Ring is launching into the small-medium businesses (SMB) segment,” said Kozak. “Comcast will focus on its Xfinity platform and hone its strategy around content deployment. Meanwhile, Centrica, which offers the Hive smart home, plans to focus its platform on energy and services.

Software, analytics and partnerships

A brief hiatus in hardware development has prompted smart-home companies to make advancements with software, analytics and acquisitions/partnerships, according to IHS. However, Kozak noted that another hardware push is set to arrive soon, with the arrival of new smart speakers from Google, Apple and Samsung as well as offerings for insurance companies and apartment complexes.

US smart-home penetration rises, despite privacy concerns

Although the U.S. smart-home penetration exceeded 38 percent in 2018, IHS said the market’s further progress could be impeded by privacy concerns, which is why IHS is advising technology providers to take steps to alleviate consumer apprehension.

“Rapid innovation often breeds speculation and mistrust,” Kozak said. “Because of that, smart-home companies should be as transparent as possible regarding data usage. They also should focus on edge-based processing, which reduces the need for cloud-based computing systems that send private data over the internet. The smart home should also make greater efforts to comply with standards and regulations for sectors such as security, healthcare and senior care. By having more standards and regulations in place, innovation in the smart home will be less a source of anxiety for consumers and instead become a cause for optimism and a fulcrum for peace-of-mind.”

The IHS Markit Smart Home Device Database assesses the market for smart home devices including unit shipments, installed base, housing type, route to market, system type, connectivity type, network controller, country/sub-region and market shares.

American Defense Systems acquires Direct Protect Security and Surveillance

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08/23/2019

DALLAS—On Friday, August 16, 2019, American Defense Systems of Dallas acquired Direct Protect Security and Surveillance out of Costa Mesa, CA. Direct Protect has provided smart home solutions to residents and businesses in over 13 states for approximately 10 years.  

Resideo acquires LifeWhere

Smart home company focuses on preventing HVAC and appliance failure
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07/08/2019

AUSTIN, Texas—Resideo Technologies Inc. announced it has acquired Pittsburgh-based LifeWhere, which uses machine learning and analytics to predict potential failure on critical home appliances, such as water heaters, furnaces and air conditioners.

Guardian Protection teams up MiLB, becomes official smart home security partner

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06/21/2019

PITTSBURGH and ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.—Security solutions provider, Guardian Protection, recently announced a new partnership with Minor League Baseball™ (MiLB™) to become the “Official Smart Home Security Partner of MiLB” and the “Preferred Partner” of targeted MiLB teams across the country.

The race to control the smart home

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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The battle for the smart home has raged on for quite some time now, with the big players like Amazon, Google and Apple making major plays to dominate the space. But, with the smart home market flooded with a ton of IoT devices — and many more to come — the new race is to see who will come up with the go-to platform to make all of these devices work in perfect harmony … I can dream, can’t I?

A new Parks Associates research report — Race to Control the Smart Home Ecosystem: Attracting Partners — looks at this dilemma, and finds that adoption of connected point solutions and the advent of smart speakers will drive demand for platforms to coordinate and centralize control of smart home products and capabilities in U.S. households. The report reviews the strategies of major smart home platforms in the consumer electronics and security industries and their approach to attracting manufacturers to their ecosystem.

"The percentage of U.S. broadband households highly familiar with smart home platforms increased across all platforms from the end of 2017 to the end of 2018," Chris O'Dell, research associate, Parks Associates, said in the announcement. "Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant saw the biggest jumps of all listed platforms, so voice control is a key factor in driving consumer interest in the smart home and the adoption of multiple devices per household."

The report states that as device adoption continues to increase each year, smart home platforms will help establish order out of the chaos that comes from the steady influx of connected devices in consumers' homes. According to Parks Associates research, 28 percent of US broadband households now own at least one smart home device, and device-owning households own an average of six devices in their home.

"Companies competing in the smart home ecosystem can leverage platforms to provide a reliable, interoperable ecosystem with a simplified user experience and deliver expanded value through enhanced features such as cloud intelligence and data privacy and security," O'Dell said.

When implementing a smart home ecosystem in their home, consumers care less about name brands of key devices and more about a seamless experience where all devices in the ecosystem work together smoothly, Parks found, noting: “Consumer preferences favor vertically aligned players, such as Comcast and Vivint Smart Home, which have introduced their own branded devices to optimize the experience on their platforms while also maximizing profits.”

Additional questions addressed in the report include:
•    Who are the major smart home ecosystem players by category?
•    How is the rise of voice-first control platforms affecting smart home ecosystems?
•    How can smart home ecosystems help the smart home industry overcome interoperability issues and concerns?
•    What are the smart home platform strategies of the leading CE and security industry players?
•    What approach are these companies taking to attract manufacturers to their ecosystem?

For the complete report, click here.

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Smart home market is growing and maturing

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Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The smart home continues to grow in awareness among homeowners, with approximately 22 percent of U.S. Internet households reporting owning a smart home device in Q4 2018, up from 17 percent in Q4 2017, according to The NPD Group. Alongside ownership growth, 2018 saw an 18 percent dollar sales growth in home automation devices compared to 2017, and NPD’s latest Future of Tech forecast expects the category to reach $2.5 billion by the end of 2019.

According to the Connected Home Automation Report from NPD’s Connected Intelligence, smart home device awareness has reached 42 percent among non-owners; but growth in awareness is beginning to slow, indicating that the marketplace is maturing. Additionally, the report shows the largest increase in ownership occurred in the 35-54 age bracket, from 16 to 22 percent, a sign that the smart home concept is shifting from early adopter to mainstream consumer.

This is further evidenced by the broader scope of retailers through which purchases are being made. In fact, consumers are increasingly buying smart home devices from cable/telco providers, home improvement stores and pure play online retailers, according to the NPD Group. Out of the more than 5,000 consumers surveyed who own a smart home device, the research firm found that 13 percent indicated making at least one smart home purchase through their cable/telco provider in Q4 2018, up 6 percentage points from year ago.

The home improvement channel also realized sales growth, particularly in the smart entry category, where 27 percent of consumers reported purchasing in this channel in Q4 2018, up from 16 percent a year earlier, NPD Group found. Finally, sales through pure play online retailers saw increases in smart power and smart lighting, with 51 and 38 percent of respondents indicating purchases were made in those categories through this channel in Q4 2018, up from 38 percent and 30 percent year ago.

“As consumers become more familiar with smart home products we are seeing that they are more open to purchasing through a wider variety of channels,” said Weston Henderek, director, industry analyst for NPD Connected Intelligence. “This demonstrates the importance of having strong retail distribution across a wider number of retailer categories for smart home OEMs.”

The NPD Group Connected Intelligence Connected Home Automation Survey is based on consumer panel research that reaches over 5,000 U.S. consumers, aged 18-plus from diverse regions and demographical backgrounds.

Connected Intelligence provides competitive intelligence and insight on the rapidly evolving consumer’s connected environment. The service focuses on the three core components of the connected market: the device, the broadband access that provides the connectivity and the content that drives consumer behavior. These three pillars of the connected ecosystem are analyzed through a comprehensive review of what is available, adopted, and consumed by the customer, as well as reviewing how the market will evolve over time and what the various vendors can do to best position themselves in this evolving market.

For more information click here

 

The eavesdropping Alexa … is it really that much of a shock?

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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

For the past few weeks, I have been rather intrigued with IoT devices, smart homes, and security and safety of people in this context. (After all, aren’t our homes supposed to be our safe haven … our place of escape from the crazy, hurried world we live in?) After perusing the internet regarding this topic, I thought I had read about almost everything imaginable, but I was thrown a curve ball by a man, Geoffrey A. Fowler, technology columnist, The Washington Post, who literally made a song out of the recordings Alexa had of him! (Click here to listen.) 

Fowler reported that he listened to four years of his Alexa archive that highlighted fragments of his life: spaghetti-timer requests, houseguests joking and random snippets of a once-popular TV show. Alexa even captured and recorded sensitive conversations—a family discussion about medication and a friend conducting a business deal—apparently triggered by Alexa’s “wake word” to start recording. So, why are tech companies recording and saving our voice data? According to Amazon, “when using an Alexa-enabled device, the voice recordings associated with your account are used to improve the accuracy of the results.” 

Fact or fiction? Maybe both, because another main reason is to train their artificial intelligence (AI). 

I may be going out on a limb here, but if people’s voice data is being recorded and USED without their knowledge, isn’t this an invasion of privacy? I say, “Yes, without a doubt!” Not only that, but shouldn’t these tech companies hire and pay people for their voice data to train their AI? I mean, “free” saves the companies money, but to the extent of people’s private conversations and information being recorded and used without permission?  

So, what can be done? Defeating the purpose of Alexa would be to mute its microphone or unplug it, but, in my opinion, if I was going to have a private conversation, that would be better than putting my personal business out there. Another option would be to delete Alexa voice recordings, but Amazon warns

  • “If you delete voice recordings, it could degrade your experience when using the device.” 
  • “Deleting voice recordings does not delete your Alexa Messages.” 
  • “You may be able to review and play back voice recordings as the deletion request is being processed.” 

(I wonder what a “degraded Alexa experience” entails and I also wonder how long it takes to process a deletion request, as during this time voice data can be used.)

For me personally, I will stick with the “old-fashioned” way of living to preserve and protect my privacy—physically stand up, walk over to the window and close/open the blinds by hand; set alarms manually on my smartphone or built-in timer on my microwave; and even use the remote to turn the TV off and on, change channels and control the volume. 

By the way, don’t forget to listen to your own Alexa archive here or in the Alexa app: Settings > Alexa Account > Alexa Privacy. What all does Alexa have on you? 

 

Americans’ trust issues, or lack thereof, with IoT devices and other security-related issues

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Wednesday, May 1, 2019

The last blog I wrote, “What your connected smart home IoT devices are really doing,” highlighted the fact that there are no security standards for IoT manufacturers to follow when creating networked devices. This should cause concern or at least pause for people using such devices, especially in their homes. But, just how aware are consumers about potential risks and do people actually trust the devices they use every day? 

ASecureLife conducted a survey of 300 Americans nationwide to determine how much participants trust the technology they use regularly in their homes as well as people’s biggest concerns related to smart home technology, home security and online privacy. The survey found:

1. A quarter of Americans are NOT concerned with being monitored online by criminals. This nonchalant attitude resulted in 23 percent of American households having someone victimized by cybercriminals in 2018, according to GALLUP

Additionally, in 2017, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center received more than 300,000 complaints, totaling more than $1.4 billion in monetary losses for victims. 

2. Americans are more concerned about being monitored online by the government than by businesses.

3. Two-thirds of Americans believe their smart devices are recording them. While it’s time consuming, and to be honest, boring, thoroughly read a company’s terms and conditions so you know what personal information that company is collecting from you, and how they’re using it.

Tip: Adjust the settings on your smart equipment to maximize your privacy. For example, turn off Amazon Echo’s “Drop In” setting to prevent the it from automatically syncing and conversing with other Echo devices. 

4. About one in five parents would let Alexa entertain their kids while they’re away. WOW! Parents are actually trusting their children’s safety and security to the virtual world!? (We’ll be discussing this later on in this blog post! Read on!) 

5. Seventy-five (75) percent of Americans believe smart homes can be easily hacked, but 33 percent have and use some type of smart home technology. This indicates that consumers are indeed buying these gadgets. In fact, a joint-consumer survey conducted by Coldwell Banker Real Estate and CNET found 47 percent of Millennials, aged 18 to 34 years, have and use smart home products. 

6. Women are typically more concerned with home security than financial security, and the opposite is true for men. Participants were asked if they fear a home invasion more than identity theft: 53 percent of women participants said “yes,” compared to 44 percent of men.

Participants were also asked which of the following they would rather do: stop locking your doors or change all your passwords to “1234.” Men’s responses were split evenly, while 59 percent of women preferred to change their passwords to this all-to-common numerical sequence. 

7. Americans aged 55 and older are more protective of their financial security than their home security; the opposite is true for younger people. Participants over age 54 were asked if they feared home invasion more than identity theft to which 70 percent answered “no.” However, participants under age 34 were more likely to fear home invasion. 

While all the findings were eye-opening, for me personally, the one that haunted me pretty deeply was the one about Alexa “babysitting” kids. It’s one thing for parents to allow their children to use Alexa under their supervision, but to allow minors to access Alexa while they are away can be extremely dangerous, in my opinion and based on the news we see every day concerning criminals hacking into security systems, devices recording home-based conversations, apps giving away data to advertisers, and the list goes on and on. 

Question for you parents out there: Would you allow your children to access Alexa when you aren’t at home? Why or why not? 

 

What your connected smart home IoT devices are really doing

 - 
Wednesday, April 24, 2019

As more and more people connect IoT devices to their homes, making them smarter, living machines, the more fodder hackers have to breach systems and gain access to consumers’ personal identifiable information, or even gain entrance into their humble abodes. The fact is, no security standards exist for IoT manufactures to follow when creating networked devices. 

Lawmakers and states are stepping up, looking at ways to help protect consumers.

Industry talk of late about protecting owners of IoT devices have circled around the Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2019 which would require the National Institute of Standards and Technology to develop new recommendations for device makers to follow. Even some states have created specific rules for IoT device creators to follow, such as California, that will require devices to be shipped with unique passwords or force users to set or reset passwords when setting up a device as of January 1, 2020.

But, are laws really the answer to this seemingly never-ending debacle? Shouldn’t the security industry come together as a whole to offer protection to consumers, their data and their homes? After all, we are in the business of protecting people while offering comfort and ease of living. I think a more proactive approach is in order, where device manufacturers step up to protect consumer data as well as empowering consumers to protect themselves.

A group of computer scientists from Princeton University and the University of California, Berkeley created a tool called Princeton IoT Inspector, an open-source desktop application that passively monitors smart home networks, showing potential security and/or privacy issues. It identifies all IoT devices on a smart home network, shows when these devices communicate/exchange data with an external server, and determines which servers these devices contacted and if those communications are secure. According to the IoT Inspector website, the goal is to answer three questions:

  1. Who do your devices talk to?
  2. What information is gathered?
  3. Are the devices hacked?

Sounds great, right? Well, there are two cautions to be noted when using this tool. First, device names are included in the data sent, so that data will be accessible by Princeton. The app asks users to consent to this the first time the app is used. (Tip: Make sure your devices don’t include your name or any other personal identifiable information. If they do, rename them.)

Second, the research team is using a specific technique the “bad guys” typically use called ARP spoofing, a type of attack where a malicious actor sends false Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) messages over a local area network. Personally, I think it’s creative and smart to use the same techniques to beat the bad guys at their own games, turning malicious acts into something good. Just be sure you trust Princeton should you decide to use this tool. 

Currently, Princeton IoT Inspector is only available on macOS, but there is a waitlist for Windows, which will be released next month, and Linux to be released the week of April 24th, 2019.

 

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