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Technology & Entrepreneurship

Growth In DIY Home Security Is Big Business

Icontrol's Piper NV Unit
An uninvited guest caught on my Piper NV Unit

A huge market is developing in the world of Do-It-Yourself security. What was once professionally installed and found mostly in upscale housing has gone mainstream with a series of low cost, app-based home surveillance products. And the growth is exploding across the country with Texas consumers as some of the biggest buyers. 

This is the sound of the alarm on a Piper NV unit which I triggered via my phone on a recent Sunday afternoon. I was sitting outside a coffee shop reading the paper when a buzz from my phone let me know the unit had detected motion. When I clicked on the notification the live stream showed me a disheveled man in his 60s going through boxes and night tables in my apartment. I watched him shuffle back and forth a bit before I set off the alarm and called the police.

Systems like this one didn't exist 10 years ago, and the idea of an app-based security camera in an apartment even five years ago would have been cost prohibitive. Now for $200-$300, a plethora of companies are offering cameras that notify your smartphone. And consumers want them.

"Right now I just think it is expanding the market," says Blake Kozak, the principle analyst for IHS; he runs the Smart Home and Security Technology Division. 

"The global market for consumer video and DIY was estimated at about 9.5 million shipments in 2015 and we expect it to increase to 13 million in 2016, so roughly about a 37 percent increase in shipments for these devices," Kozak contiued.

At nearly three quarters of a billion dollar industry isn't a gimmick or flash in the pan, says Kozak--something that one early company in the field had to overcome to get investors.

In 2013, when Ring CEO Jamie Siminoff went on NBC's SharkTank -the reality show where budding entrepreneurs pitch seasoned investors -he walked away empty handed. The sharks just didn't get what he was selling.

Credit NBC's Sharktank

"Certainly I wouldn't call it a finished product. It was an alpha product, and so I think that they almost rightfully so were scared of what we were doing and couldn't really see where we were going," says Siminoff.

But Consumers immediately saw the value of real-time low cost surveillance. In the last 12 months Ring has grown from 200 to 500 employees. The system is sold in 15,000 stores or triple what it was last year and it has hundreds of thousands of customers. It isn't just Ring though, Piper, Canary, Skybell, and others are all selling lots of units. And big companies like Google want in and purchased the camera and smart home company NEST.

"It ends up preventing crime and actually impacting crime. Every other system up until ours was about telling you once something had happened," says Siminoff


"Oh man that's a camera right there."

In this video, two men flee a Dallas area home after realizing they are being videotaped...but wait a little longer and they roar back in their car for another go running up the 

"Hello!? The police are on their way," comes the disembodied voice of the homeowner, scaring off the two men for good. You can speak through many of these cameras in addition to live streaming them from your phone.

When Ring collaborated with an LA neighborhood by giving away a system to 10 percent of residents, the LAPD said they saw a 55 percent decrease in break ins. 

Credit Paul Flahive
Sergeant Daniel Anders takes a call in his Prue Substation office.

Here in San Antonio SAPD Sgt Daniel Anders says they are seeing some crime prevention also. He  describes video from just one of the city's more than 11,000 burglaries

"They recognized the doorbell camera and he is on his phone and saying 'i know i am being recorded can you come pick me up' so we can see first hand that it is impacting crime."

Anders, oversees property crime at SAPD's Northwest he says while not a silver bullet, it is leading to more solved burglaries

"Yes, we do have a higher solvability rate," he says.

Anders says the number of cases where a homeowner has a video like this doubled in the past year in his district. The biggest issue then becomes did the camera get a good look at the person...and does the victim or police know the criminal.

In my case we got both, and the police were able to get our property back.