In episode 105 of the IoT For All Podcast, Alarm.com VP of Products Steve Chazin joins us to talk about IoT’s role in the home and commercial security space. Steve shares his insights on the home security industry, how it’s changed as IoT adoption has increased, and how we might see IoT leaving its mark on the industry after COVID-19.
Steve Chazin is a renowned subject matter expert on health and wellness technology. As Vice President of Products for Alarm.com, Steve applies more than two decades of experience designing, building, and selling innovative consumer solutions to define the next-generation offerings for protecting families wherever they are in the world.
Steve’s familiarity with consumer technologies produces thought-evoking interviews about improving the quality of life for families. His eagerness to share personal experiences caring for his father spark instant connections with audiences everywhere. He has been a recurring guest on major network news programs, appeared in the BBC television series “Business Nightmares” and took part in the CNBC documentary “Steve Jobs: Billion Dollar Hippie”. Steve has written and published three books, is quoted by numerous online and printed publications, and is a highly sought-after speaker on topics like connected health, consumer tech and augmented reality.
Interested in connecting with Steve? Reach out to him on Linkedin!
About Alarm.com: Alarm.com is the leading platform for the intelligently connected property. Millions of consumers and businesses depend on Alarm.com’s technology to manage and control their property from anywhere. Our platform integrates with a growing variety of Internet of Things (IoT) devices through our apps and interfaces. Our security, video, access control, intelligent automation, energy management, and wellness solutions are available through our network of thousands of professional service providers in North America and around the globe.
Key Questions and Topics from this Episode:
(00:51) Intro to Steve Chazin
(02:28) Intro to Alarm.com
(03:51) In the security industry, what changes have you seen over the past couple years?
(06:36) What do you think has caused this shift toward DIY security solutions?
(08:28) Can you speak to some of the implementations and use cases your team has seen?
(12:13) Other than on the consumer market, have you seen any use cases in commercial settings?
(13:13) How do you see technology playing a role in distance caregiving, especially during COVID?
(18:07) How do you see the mass collection of data that IoT has enabled being used to benefit users and the population at large?
(22:00) How do you see education playing a role in the adoption of consumer IoT?
(24:06) What advice do you have for companies battling reluctance to adopt new technology in their industry?
– You are listening to the IoT For All Media Network.
– [Ryan] Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of the IoT For All on the IoT For All Media Network. I’m your host, Ryan Chacon, one of the co-creators of IoT For All. Now, before we jump into this episode, please don’t forget to subscribe on your favorite podcast platform or join our newsletter at iotforall.com/newsletter to catch all the newest episodes as soon as they come out. So without further ado, please enjoy this episode of the “IoT For All Podcast.” Welcome Steve to the IoT For All show. Thanks for being here this week.
– [Steve] Thanks, Ryan.
– [Ryan] How are things on your end?
– [Steve] It’s great, it’s a wonderful time.
– [Ryan] Where are you calling from?
– [Steve] I’m calling from Fairfax, Virginia, not too far from our headquarters in Tysons, Virginia.
– [Ryan] Yeah, I’m actually up in Gaithersburg, Maryland. So not too far from where you are.
– [Steve] Sweet, you know the area well?
– [Ryan] Yeah, yeah, for sure. You want to start off by just giving our audience a quick introduction to yourself, some background information, anything relevant or exciting that our audience should know about you before we get started?
– [Steve] Sure. So my name is Steve Chazin, I’m Vice President of products for Alarm.com. I’ve been here for about two and a half years, spent half my career in a lot of early stage startups and the other half in some very large companies like Apple, Salesforce, Symantec, Cisco, and at Alarm.com, I get to look after our business intelligence and partner tools, teams that build sort of the plumbing for our partner network and also look around the corner at new technologies coming down the pike that we should be engaged with and specifically manage a team focused on what we call wellness, which is essentially using security solutions to look after people at a distance.
– [Ryan] Fantastic, and you were a part of Apple way back when, right. And like the nineties with Steve jobs and so forth. I have some notes around that.
– [Steve] Yeah, that’s right. And so I joined Apple when they were at their height and early nineties and I got to ride that very interesting rollercoaster almost till they were out of business in 1997 when Windows had sort of caught up and surpassed anything that was unique about the Mac. And I actually had this invitation from Steve jobs to join him when he came back to help reconstitute some of the stuff that made Apple great. And from 97 to 99, I got to be part of that team that turned things around. Very interesting, exciting times. Yeah, it was great.
– [Ryan] Yeah. I’m sure it’s a great experience. Great stories as well from that time period. So let’s talk a little bit more about Alarm.com. I’d love to just hear in your own words kind of more about what you all do, kind of the focus areas. I know you mentioned the wellness angle, but I know you all do more than that. And just talk about the general role you all play in the IoT space.
– [Steve] Yeah, that’s great Ryan. So, Alarm.com is one of these companies you may never have heard of before, but you probably are using our products today. Most of the large security providers like ADT uses Alarm.com’s platform to deliver their services. So we spun out of a data analysis company called Micro Strategy about 20 years ago. And our claim to fame was we were the first company to put a cell radio in this dodgy old security panels that people had in their homes. And so once you connect your security panel to the internet, there’s some very interesting things that you can do with it, you could basically automate the devices in your home, which is what we tend to do, but also keep an eye on what’s happening in the home even when the system is not armed. And so we’re now one of the largest security providers, we’ve got over 8,000 dealers, we reach 7 million homes in the US and around the world. And it’s a pretty growing business, especially around taking both the security workloads and the home automation workloads and now the health and wellness workloads on our platform.
– [Ryan] So on the security side of things, what have you seen as some of the biggest changes in the industry over the last number of years?
– [Steve] Yeah, that’s a great question. So if you think about security and where it came from, there used to be a professionally installed solution that was put in your house maybe before you moved in and it was wired to sensors, to the door and windows, and you paid for somebody to monitor your service when your system was armed. Over the last 20 years, the Internet of things has evolved where you actually wanna automate the systems that exist in your home. You wanna have a tie to your home energy, your thermostat, your lights, your locks and the advent of video cameras and video doorbells of sort of expanded the opportunity for those types of solutions. So you now see this interesting overlap between the professionally installed home security systems that just work all the time. And there are wired into your home with a bunch of DIY type solutions that allow you to kind of at least get started with automating things that matter to you in your home. And again, Alarm.com embraces all of those from one end to the other. But it’s a very interesting time.
– [Ryan] Yeah, I was curious just to kind of see if you could expand on that a little bit, cause I’m wondering… I know as we’re kind of getting more into the IoT, IoT becoming more and more widely adopted, we are seeing more of those do it yourself and those integrations into other smart home products. Are you seeing any kind of big challenges come through the kind of this new phase of adoption on the IoT side? Because I’d have to guess that some of the more legacy security systems probably are a bit more trustworthy and secure, but that could be absolutely incorrect.
– [Steve] No, that’s a great thing. I mean, we read every day about systems being hacked, DIY cameras and nurseries being hacked. And that is one of the differentiations between, like I said, you need to think about it this way. You either put your trust in a company, kind of like ours that’s all about the security of the things that matter to you or you try to build it on top of consumer technologies where there are different ambitions. If you think about the products that go into your home that you can do yourself, they typically get supported in return for some maybe privacy anxiety. When you ask your smart speaker to turn on the lights, that should be the only thing it knows how to do, but a lot of these systems actually need to know what’s going on in your home just to be able to activate that feature. So you have the professional security systems like ours that kind of are only doing one thing, they’re using your voice just to turn on the light and not share that with advertisers, say for instance.
– [Ryan] So what do you think has been the cause of the the shift towards the more DIY type solutions? Is it has to do with just the hunger for new technology and new options? Is it a price or costing because anytime you think about the security of your home, the last thing you wanna think about is is it potentially being hacked?
– [Steve] Yeah, Ryan, I think the real sort of innovation in the space in the last 15 years has been the smartphone. And so when you can put an app on your phone and carry it around in your pocket and kind of be your own monitoring service that has what’s made it possible for people to feel they’re in charge of their Internet of things. The challenge with that is now you have a separate app for all those things. You have an app for your thermostat, you have an app for your lights, you have an app for your cameras. You have an app for your television. What’s kind of amazing, the thing I didn’t even know Alarm.com did when I joined, is we have one app to rule all of them. So all the things I just described are managed through a single solution. So then you could integrate those things and automate across that. So for instance, I have Alarm.com sensor in my car that knows when I leave my geo-fence. It also knows I haven’t armed my home system and it gives me the chance to do that. So it’s kind of keeping watchful eyes on me. If these apps were separate and they are, in most cases, they would never even know that the other exist. So that’s one of the benefits of having it all in one platform. And frankly, one of the more interesting different points of differentiation. I used to manage my home with 25 separate apps, and now I have one.
– [Ryan] Very interesting, I don’t know how you use 25 total apps let alone have a 25 for my home and little nuts. Let’s talk a little bit more about kind of some use cases or implementations of the technology you all are doing. Is there, I know you kind of span a number of different spaces, wellness, smart home and so forth. Is there one area that in particular, I guess you’d wanna elaborate a little bit more on as far as some use cases that are out there that may be interesting for our audience to hear or kind of learn about, just to kind of showcase what it all is that you’ll do?
– [Steve] Yeah, sure. I think the more interesting ones are around the video cameras I’ll give you kind of two examples of that. The first one is the video doorbell. The video doorbell came about maybe 6-7 years ago, and it was never really thought of as part of a security system. It was this system that allowed you to know what was going on outside your home, and maybe have a conversation with somebody who’s ringing your doorbell so that you can scare them away, if you don’t want to answer your doorbell, but at least you had some awareness. Over time, those things have become a challenge for people to install. Putting a doorbell in your front door has all kinds of interesting electrical challenges, which your typical DIY person runs into after they try to install it. So that’s one very interesting new vector. Now, if you think about what people really want is they wanna know that a package has arrived or they wanna know that there’s a person at the door and they might wanna know that even if that person doesn’t press the doorbell. So you’ve seen, at least in our case, Alarm.com extend our video analytics to the doorbell so that we can recognize a person from a package or an animal or a vehicle to give you this sort of perimeter security awareness through a very clever device that’s attached to your front door bell. And then recent recently in COVID, we noticed that many Amazon and other delivery people didn’t wanna press the button, ’cause they didn’t want another point of contact in this interesting world. So we invented some technology and we actually just shipped a door mat to just a standard door mat with a sign on it that says, “Please stand here.” And if you stand in the box on the door mat it rings the doorbell for you, because we recognize that you’re there. So it’s sort of a zero contact doorbell experience that you could add to your system pretty simply. So that’s one cool new use case. The other one is, and this was a surprising one for us. About a year ago, we launched internal camera. We called WellCAM, which was designed not to be a security system like for your own home, but designed to extend your security system to your mom’s or grandma’s himself. So the idea with this camera was you got it from your dealer, you set it up on behalf of your mom or dad or someone who’s not with you. And then you send it to them, they plugged it in and now it would give you this sort of awareness or understanding of what’s happening in your loved one’s home, that you may never have had any kind of data from. And so that one has been very interesting in the COVID world where people just wanna know that they can contact the loved ones. And more importantly, the loved ones when they need you could contact you. So the WellCAM actually has a little call out button built in it. So without an app, without a phone, without a landline, if somebody needs you, they can just press the button and it uses our app to manage that communication plan.
– [Ryan] Yeah, that was my next question. Kind of from a feature standpoint, how that works but that makes a lot of sense. Is there any applications for that outside of just individuals and their loved ones like maybe more connected to hospitals and that kind of setting?
– [Steve] Yeah, yeah, that was one of the things that surprised us? So we had a very interesting dealer in Kentucky who was frantically trying to solve a problem that was happening in the emergency rooms in that area. In the hospital system, they didn’t have enough PPE or physicians or nurses to go manage all of the cases that were coming in. So they installed a raft of these WellCAM in this pop-up ER, so that they could have the physicians look in on the patient, talk to them, see them, see the vitals on the crash cart and manage that remotely pretty effectively. And then they can move them where they needed it versus have to risk a changing gallons and masks and gloves and give more people more coverage. So it was very rewarding to see them innovate in that space.
– [Ryan] Interesting, okay. That’s great. So let me ask you kind of more high level here. How do you kind of see just technology in general or obviously technology connected to the IoT space enabling kind of more of that distance caregiving during something like COVID. I mean, this is probably something that can expand obviously past COVID, but we focused on COVID for a second. How do you see IoT technologies enabling the ability to provide care for not just loved ones, but also for patients with that distance kind of in play?
– [Steve] Yeah, so, I mean, if you think about what Alarm.com has done for 20 years, we have managed a very secure system to get signals out of a home or business. And then our backend looks for triggers, looks for things that are not normal to sort of tap the next person in the supply chain or food chain or response chain on the shoulder and get them to respond. So if your system is armed and we detect motion and there shouldn’t be any, we contact the monitoring center and they contact the police. If we detect somebody has fallen and they’ve got a medical pendant around their neck and the panel, the tech side is a medical alert, we contact the emergency response. So if you think about that as sort of our forte, we also have a system that’s constantly looking over your shoulder, even if you’re not arming your system for what we call unexpected activity. So if we detect a window opens at a strange hour, when you never opened that window at that hour, we’ll push you a notification or maybe even a caregiver a notification that you might be in duress, like that doesn’t right. Maybe you need to check in on those person. So that exists today. So imagine that being extended to a whole bunch of other IoT services. I mentioned the cameras that may detect motion at strange hours, may detect a person or a face it doesn’t recognize or it may detect the latent health condition that you might not even be aware of yourself. One example, for instance, in our wellness product is, if you set this up properly we can detect trips to a restroom. You have a motion sensor over that door or contact on the door. We might notice over time that dad has had more frequent trips to the bathroom. Well, that might be a pending urinary tract infection. And so instead of waiting for him to end up in the ER, you now have oversight, if you will, of what’s happening before it becomes a problem, lets you intervene. So all those things allow us to confidence to extend that to other use cases that we haven’t rolled out yet that gives us these ways to manage COVID and post-COVID world.
– [Ryan] Yeah, so speaking of the more of the post COVID side of things, how do you kind of, I guess expand on what we’re just talking about and see the adoption of IoT technologies, helping people in the health space, more so related to, let’s say just to caregiving for family members or paying attention to kind of the loved ones in our life after this pandemic that we’ve gone through, like what kind of changes or new use cases do you see being kind of more of a focus now that we’ve kind of experienced this pandemic as a group of people?
– [Steve] Yeah, I think there’s two, I think there’s this separation and the sort of almost forced separation. We’ve watched and witnessed these heartbreaking examples of family members who can’t even be with a loved one when they’re sick. They can’t even say goodbye in some cases or you’ve seen people like not being able to get into nursing communities because they’re the most at risk. So we see IoT technologies solve that problem by putting devices in mechanisms as we discussed like WellCAM that give you that connection and maintain that connection even if you can’t physically be present. So that’s the first thing. The second one is really waiting until somebody comes back with a positive test is maybe a little bit too late. We can start to look at trends and changes using the same sensors we have in homes to maybe get out in front of that. It’s not that hard for us to extend a thermometer into our system. So if we start to see a temperature spike that may be an indicator early while you’re still safe at home, that you might need to navigate that test versus wait until it’s not a problem. We’re also looking at technologies that allow us to get information off of other devices that you might already be carrying; fitness trackers, Apple watches, iPhones, Android phones, things that you’re already carrying, you don’t even kind of consider them security devices, but they’re absolutely good leading indicators of some potential health changes people. So those are all the things that we see coming down the pike.
– [Ryan] Okay, so all those different use cases in the technologies out there, especially the solutions you all have deployed, there’s a lot more data accessible to individuals and people now and companies more than probably ever have been before. How do you see that mass collection of data either on the individual level or on the company level kind of being used as a benefit for, I guess the good of, whether it’s the health care industry, whether it’s the individual kind of security side of things, how do you see that new access to data playing a large role in the benefit of people?
– [Steve] Yeah, I think there’s a couple angles though. The first one, there’s the concern that comes with all this data being collected all the time, right? Like we’ve never lived in a world where more data has been collected and now we see that it really is important who’s protecting that on your behalf. Again, almost every week, we hear a story about our data being breached by some hacker. Well, the stuff happening in your home has the stuff happening to your loved ones. Their health state, that’s probably more important maybe than a password that you can change. So we take that very seriously and that’s one of the lines of demarcation that we see coming where consumers and businesses are going to wanna trust companies that have a main set interest in protecting your data and are in that business to begin with. And the way I think about it here, it’s like Alarm.com has whole businesses to keep what you care about, who you care about safe, and that includes your data. So I think you’ll start to see a more concerned about, well, who can view this and who can’t. And that’s one reason why I think you’ll see professional solutions and DIY solutions. Another way to say that is enterprise versus consumer solutions sort of stack up separately. So that’s one piece. The second one is who else can make a difference by accessing that data? Today, most of these systems are single threaded. There’s one provider who has access to all of it and they can make a decision on your behalf. But we see this world where you almost wanna crowd source other family members to sort of intervene when they can on your behalf. A good example is my father. He was living in the same home that I grew up in, he lived there for 50 years and we didn’t really have an idea. My siblings and I didn’t have an idea how things were going. He would tell us one thing, but we had no way to confirm that. So I asked him if I could put a WellCAM in his house and of course he asked why, and I said, “Dad, look if I could be here every day, I would, but I can’t. So this is the next best thing. This is an act of love. I care about you enough to wanna watch over you.” And he agreed. And within a couple of days, I configured it. So my sister and my two brothers could also share in the data coming from that. And these were sort of video clips being recorded at times when we didn’t expect to see activity, it wasn’t a live video. It was just saved video. And my brother noticed after a week of this that my dad hadn’t changed his clothes, in maybe four days, which was a piece of information none of us knew, or I don’t know if we’d ever glean it. And because of that, that allowed us to have a conversation with him, which made us understand that he was afraid to walk up the stairs and take a shower. And that piece of information helped us have a another conversation, which then led to him moving to a place where he is now much, much happier, more confident, more secure living a better life. So those are the kinds of things like you want to deal with with that kind of data. You almost wanna make it so that the family has access to it, whereas before it was sort of locked behind some firewalls.
– [Ryan] That makes total sense. Okay, perfect. One of the last question I wanna ask you just generally from everything that you’ve been learning and kind of seeing in the market, how do you kind of see the educational element playing into the adoption of IoT solutions on more of the consumer side of things? Because a lot of these solutions you’re talking about, oftentimes have… There’s some level of education understanding the value, the security, the implementation of it and just a general benefit for the end user. So I feel like there’s a lot of educating that has to go on to see kind of larger scale adoption, which is one of the reasons why IoT For All was just generally created. So I’m curious how you’ve been able to work along those lines of educating people on what it is you not only do you bring to market, but then the value and the benefit of what you’re offering and to market as a whole.
– [Steve] Yeah, that’s a great question. So Ryan, we’re more of a B2B2C provider, the other brands that have a relationship with the consumers, they tend to do that. So if you look at some of our bigger dealers, like CPI Security South of here, they run television ads, they sponsor events, they’re on radio. And they’re essentially describing a world where if you’re worried about your safety or the safety of someone you care about, or now the health and wellness, they have opportunities to help put your mind at ease. And especially in the COVID world, that is crucial. People are looking for solutions that help them have that peace of mind. And then what we do, sort of more indirectly, is we will run ads on websites and we will sponsor events like the nationals. And we will try to get the end consumer to get excited enough about it to call one of their dealers.
– [Ryan] Interesting. And how do you, I guess, what advice do you have for companies out there that are kind of in a similar boat, whether they’re going B2B2C or just B2C, as far as kind of battling with any hesitation when it comes to the adoption of a new technology, similar to what you are offering or just anything kind of connected to the IoT space is always a hesitation for certain generations of people to adopt this type of technology? And I’m curious, just what advice you have to companies can be thinking about as they’re going to market and engaging with their audience, and they run into that kind of pushback or hesitation from consumers. Most of the time, it’s kind of bigger and so I’m just not understanding the technology, understanding what really is happening with the device, but in the same breath, there’s also some valid concerns on the security side that people have regarding bringing those types of devices into their home to pay attention or watching themselves or their loved ones or members of the family.
– [Steve] Yeah, that’s a good question. Ryan, I think that the best way to think about this is if you’re kind of a startup and starting with the new IoT solution and you’re trying to come to market in the midst of other much bigger products that are more well-known, you almost have to declare a villain and describe why you’re better and what problem you solve. If you can’t do that, it’s gonna be a tough slot. On the other hand, if you’re trying to reach consumers directly, that’s also very hard. And the highway is littered with a bunch of IoT products that tried to go direct to consumer for whatever reason, were unable to make it. So I would suggest they kind of partner up with folks like us who are already in that business, have a big channel, have that trusted brand and have sort of built a reputation around the security, both of the home and of the data, which is again a challenge right now for a lot of those smaller IoT products to get started.
– [Ryan] Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Well, Steve, this has been fantastic. I appreciate these insights. We don’t often get to talk directly to those behind the products that are out there in the market. So this has been very helpful, very informative for me as well. So I really appreciate your time. And I wanted to kind of wrap up here by just seeing if there’s anything on the news front, or kind of on the horizon that we as an audience should be looking out for coming out of Alarm.com or just connected to what you all are doing, that maybe you personally are excited about seeing?
– [Steve] Yeah, Ryan, first of all, thank you for taking the time. And I appreciate having the opportunity to talk to your audience. I would say on the news front, I would just generally watch this space. There’s a lot of very interesting activities that have happened over the last of months with new types of sensors and new types of networks to enable neighborhoods to kind of come together and use their wifi and Bluetooth devices to create a more of a network effect. You’re gonna see us plugged into some of that. There’s a consortium that is happening in the space to make it much easier to have these IoT devices connect to each other without having even a hub, which has been one of the requirements for a lot of these products. And you’re gonna see us and be involved in all those standards. And then last, I think the concept of using devices people already carrying as an extension to their security solution in their home automation solution, that’s going to be a very interesting new frontier, because it allows the folks that like to play at the edge with DIY to connect to the more professional solutions that already exist out there, like your home security.
– [Ryan] Okay, fantastic. And if anybody listening has questions or wants to learn more about what it is that you all are doing, or kind of find a dealer that they can connect with to kind of explore some of these devices we’ve talked about, what’s the best way to do that?
– [Steve] It’s in the name, Alarm.com.
– [Ryan] Simple enough. Well, Steve, again, I really appreciate your time. It’s been fantastic. Thanks again. We’ll make sure we link all this up for our audience to take advantage of, and hope to have you back sometime next year, maybe to explore more on what’s going on in the space and chat a little bit further.
– [Steve] I look forward to that. Thank you, Ryan.
– [Ryan] Thank you. Hello everyone, thanks again for joining us this week on the IoT For All Podcast. I hope you enjoyed this episode and if you did, please leave us a rating or review and be sure to subscribe to our podcast on whichever platform you’re listening to us on. Also, if you have a guest you’d like to see on the show, please drop us a note at [email protected] and we’ll do everything we can to get them as a featured guest. Other than that, thanks again for listening, and we’ll see you next time.