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To dig straight into comments around the place that the market has been softening – or at least threatening to stop growing as hectically – how has business been for players in this category in the past 12 months?
Pat Quinn of LSC comments that from his perspective the market has been “continually on the ascendancy.”
Sharing this outlook is ASSA ABLOY’s Luan Howitt, who reports that he is in the same boat as many of his peers in this category and still doing good business from a buoyant construction industry.
Some however report a downward trend in terms of growth.
Security legend Murray Baber at BLK counts himself very lucky to have secured a very large restricted keying project but reports that the “very strong” market conditions of the last few years took a downward turn at the start of this year.
With his ear to the ground, Baber has heard from both hardware retailers and locksmiths across the market that things are getting harder and harder.
Supporting this outlook is Allegion’s Craig Patterson: “The market is getting softer and it’s not growing as fast as it has been previously but we are still seeing significant growth in our business,” he says.
Patterson clarifies that this softening is really only in comparison with the previous year, which delivered “phenomenal growth for Allegion”, particularly around construction in Auckland.
Having said this, Craig Patterson adds that he thinks the market will be more challenging than it has been in the last two years.
“I think we’ve got to a stage where resources are kind of constrained. We know builders are in short demand and the Christchurch rebuild has kind of plateaued.
“So those factors are really beginning to diminish the growth we’ve seen in the past.”
Still, a buoyant, if not booming, market is nonetheless a good thing and I can sum it up by saying players in this category are wary, rather than worried, looking ahead.
ELECTRONIC OPTIONS CONTINUE TO GROW
In terms of the products that are doing well, the balance of interest in and potential from mechanical versus electronic products continues to shift towards the latter.
However as Pat Quinn at LSC puts it: “While there is a lot more emphasis on electronic products, the good old-fashioned mechanical locks are still the backbone of the business.”
Murray Baber has also seen the most growth from his electronic offerings but still guesses that this comes in at around 15% of his sales.
Across the board, players agree that it’s younger, more tech-focused consumers who are taking up the electronic options and usually for an aftermarket purchase rather than being integrated into a new build.
The ability to operate locks remotely via smartphone for letting in tradespeople, Airbnb guests and school age children is seen as the biggest drawcards for this technology so far.
An interesting new product that Murray Baber is excited to bring to the New Zealand market is Cyberlock.
Cyberlock combines the convenience of a mechanical key system with the access permission and tracking capability of an electronic access control system and has been in wide use in Australia for over 15 years in sites like the Sydney Opera house, he says.
Cyberlock is currently being used by the NZ Post Office, says Murray Baber, and he sees good potential for the Cyberlock system here in New Zealand as it doesn’t require a wired connection and can be used on padlocks, power stations or a range of remote locations while still maintaining national control of each key.
Another technology advancement being offered to New Zealand’s security category is the fingerprint technology appearing on new Schlage products.
Fingerprint locks have of course been around for a while but, as Craig Patterson explains, the results with older models were often patchy at best.
With the technology seeing more investment and becoming far more accurate and reliable – thanks in no small part to its widespread use in new smartphones – the new models are definitely a cut above their predecessors.
SMART HOME OR PIPEDREAM?
Craig Patterson is also happy to report that, as electronic locking technology matures, there has been a very welcome consolidation of communication protocols.
“For instance, there were the Zigbee and Z-Wave standards as well as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi,” he says.
“And once upon a time a manufacturer chose one protocol and ran with it. Now we’re seeing multiple protocols being supported and we’re particularly seeing Bluetooth technology emerging as one of the leaders.”
Potentially complicating this issue, however, is the (some say) inevitable advent of the smart home.
While it’s still early days, in the US, big smart home players Amazon, Google and Apple, not to mention a raft of smaller and niche players, are currently fighting it out for control of the home of the future.
Amazon currently leads the game thanks to the widespread adoption of its Alexa AI in US homes through the popular Echo interactive speaker units which can potentially serve as the voice-controlled hub of a wider smart home ecosystem controlling lighting, heating, security and more.
New Zealand has been late to the game with the Australasian versions of Alexa becoming available only in February this year at the same time as the Echo speaker units started being sold in local retailers.
I asked several players what they thought about the emergence of a more broad-based and all-encompassing smart home technology on our shores.
LSC’s Pat Quinn acknowledges that while there is a segment of consumers that will always look for the latest gadget, he feels that many of the current security ecosystems are “much of a muchness.”
“The core of our business has always been hardware. And I think it will be for many years to come because, with the kind of applications a lot of our products are put to, there is no real alternative,” he says.
On the other hand ASSA ABLOY’s Luan Howitt sees the so-called “smart home revolution” as a key driver for this category but admits that New Zealand is a while off getting there, with no New Zealand ASSA ABLOY units currently working with the big three smart home players.
That’s said, he does acknowledge that these platforms will be critical in the future in terms of the user experience.
“That’s why we have to make sure that we’re working with those products. The US is currently driving the charge from an ASSA ABLOY perspective with digital locks that work with Amazon and Apple HomeKit. So that’s certainly something that I see coming for New Zealand at some point in future.”
I point out that while I currently have an Alexa Echo unit in my home, I haven’t been able to connect to any device in my home, except my phone.
Likewise, Luan Howitt admits that while he has the Apple HomeKit app on his phone, he currently has no hardware to connect with.
“In future, there will probably be more of an ecosystem of devices and I’m sure that many manufacturers like us want to be part of that ecosystem but it is probably some way off,” Howitt says.
THE CART BEFORE THE HORSE?
I suggest to Allegion’s Craig Patterson that it would take the substantial resources of a Fletcher Living or a group home builder to get on board with one or more of these major platforms to create an ecosystem that smart home hubs can fit into.
“That’s kind of the challenge, isn’t it? Is that the cart before the horse? Should the ecosystem come up first and then launch the products that talk to it?
“And at the moment it’s definitely the products that talk to that ecosystem that are launching first,” he says.
“And there are a lot of manufacturers like us, as well as say Philips in lighting, that are bringing out connected devices.
“But I think the actual platform itself is probably not as well supported in this market as it is in markets like the US and that comes down to our population size and the investment they need to put into this market.”
If smart homes are really going to be the norm in future is there stiff competition for manufacturers to align themselves with some of the big players like Amazon and Apple in order to get in on the ground floor?
Craig Patterson explains that over time Allegion has built strong relationships with players like Apple at the top level which have the lock maker in good stead but that competition comes from more than just other security providers in this case.
“These big technology partners are also working with a lot of other complementary products outside of security. So often you have to take your number in the queue and wait,” he says.
Some say that Amazon’s launch of a country-specific operation in Australian last year may speed things along in terms of the spread of this technology.
For now then New Zealand consumers may have to be content with locking the door with their key or their phone rather than their voice.
Italian style from Miles Nelson
Miles Nelson’s new Milano range of Italian styled architectural lever door handles offer quality, style, and functionality.
Available in a satin nickel finish, these lever handles are designed for easy installation and user comfort. Four fixing points, locking handle grub screws and an 8 mm spindle ensure a firm handle action.
Only solid mechanical components have been used for superior performance.
Matching accessories include privacy turns, escutcheons, mortice locks, flush pulls and door stops.
Available with 55 mm round or square back plates, there are six different lever handle designs.
Abus launches gate minder
A new product from the Abus stable is the GateSec gate securing device.
The conventional method of chain and padlock is often cumbersome and fiddly and tends to be ignored, especially if the weather is bad.
Designed to fit a wide range of steel pipe type framed gates and fencing, GateSec’s uncomplicated hinged action allows the user to simply wrap the two halves around the gate uprights and then just snap the padlock in position.
The hardened German steel with its corrosion resistant Eterna patented plating, offers a strong visual deterrent to a would-be intruder.
Carbine sorts your windows
The new Carbine Locking Window Restrictor provides security and child safety at windows and features Carbine’s proven multi-bolt and incorporates a rugged wire PVC covered cable that is very difficult to cut and allows easy fitting to both aluminium and wooden windows.
C4 key locking provides additional assurance and can be keyed to standard C4 house keys. Also available in an aluminium window version and sash window lock variation
Schlage’s got the magic touch
The Schlage family of electronic locks has a new member, the S-6800 Digital Touchpad Lock with fingerprint reader.
Following on from last year’s very popular S-6000 digital touchpad door lock, the S-6800 adds a fingerprint reader that can store up to 100 fingerprints while including the S-6000’s user PIN, card, fob, stick-on patch access, manual override and potential door attack sensor.
Features an IP54 weather resistance rating and is battery operated so no wiring is required to install. Comes with a two-year guarantee.
Miles Nelson turns 90
Celebrating its 90 year anniversary this year, Miles Nelson is one of New Zealand’s most trusted hardware companies and is proudly New Zealand owned and operated.
Founded in 1928, Miles Nelson produced equipment to assist with the war effort before it began manufacturing its traditional hardware range in 1946. Brian Nelson assumed management of the company in 1956 until 1985 when he passed stewardship of the company to his nephew Brenton Lee.
Brenton remains a director of the company alongside Neil Sisam, Managing Director since 2009.
Today, Miles Nelson supplies a mix of imported and locally manufactured architectural hardware and bathroom products from its new custom-built Distribution Centre in Albany, on Auckland’s North Shore.
The Miles Nelson brand continues to offer quality solutions and innovative new products that are in line with current market trends and end user requirements.
Miles Nelson’s long history as a manufacturer, coupled with its in-house technical expertise and proprietary, custom-designed products, mean that every product is designed, manufactured and tested to stringent and exacting standards.
Highlights of the Miles Nelson stable of products include:
Recently, the new S range, of speedily installed door handles launched last year has seen spectacular growth and support from new and retro home builders.
Miles Nelson continues to innovate with a new range of lockable flush bolts and the Milano door handle range.
The use of quality materials, along with a selection of high quality finishes and a suite of styles, makes Miles Nelson the ideal choice for a range of residential and commercial applications.
Miles Nelson’s extensive experience in research and development, manufacturing capabilities and significant industry experience ensure it will continue to design and develop new and innovative products that meet market requirements and international trends.
Nothing beats black
Legge has reintroduced black to its portfolio of finishes.
While there are a number of black finishes emerging in the market from painted, powder coating, electroplating through to PVD, Legge products use solid brass with local electroplating processes to extend the expected life of the product.
The full Legge range is available in black in all lever designs and plate functions.
New Lockwood Nero Collection
The new Lockwood Nero Collection features a selection of popular Lockwood residential and semi-commercial products in an elegant matt black finish.
The collection is constructed using high quality materials to meet the maximum standards in durability, finish and design.
Suited to both residential and commercial applications this range includes mechanical entrance sets, double cylinder deadbolts, large rose element lever sets, cavity sliding doors locks, flush pulls, slide arm door closers and sliding door tracks.