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Digital door locks have been the growth story of the past decade with the technology evolving quickly and promising greater reliability.
In line with rapidly advancing tech, today’s over-riding trend is towards greater functionality and a more sophisticated look and finish.
But, while more and more customers are seeking the convenience of remote lock operation, few are currently requesting that all of their devices communicate with one another to control everything in their home “ecosystem”.
But it’s just a matter of time, right?
With key players like Google, Apple and Amazon expanding their offerings in the home automation market, in theory it’s easier to achieve the connected home space, once you’ve decoupled devices from incompatible protocols and apps.
But in reality, low uptake suggests the automation revolution has not yet crossed the threshold.
GOING DIGITAL BUT AT WHAT COST?
Comparing the past couple of years, industry veteran Murray Baber of Baber Lock & Key, declares the domestic market “strong, with an emphasis on better materials and design due to more selective consumers”.
Bryce Carter, National Sales Manager – Residential at Allegion, has also observed a pronounced shift in the mindset of consumers in what he describes as a “progressive” market.
“Typically, security has always been front of mind,” he says, “However innovation and design are becoming the most significant factors driving consumer behaviour. Consumers expect our products to provide reliable security, [but] the defining factors are in product innovation, and on-trend designs and finishes.”
In terms of electronic solutions, Bryce considers wireless connectivity and touchscreens as now being mainstream: “Consumers are not only looking to use their phones to access their main entry, but to be able to monitor access remotely as well. Mobile phone culture has also meant everyone is familiar with touchscreens and it’s only natural that these are replacing keys over time.”
Tim Joyce from LSC also reports a shift in the residential sector towards more electronic products that were traditionally the domain of larger commercial projects.
“Products and applications are being developed to take advantage of the solutions that may have been around for some time but were previously only accessible to the larger corporates.
“Things have slowed down in line with the general economy,” he suggests, “however we have seen a stabilisation of this over the last few months. I’m optimistic that we will see a gradual improvement for the rest of this year.”
In the past couple of years, ASSA ABLOY NZ has seen a rapid increase in the demand of digital keyless entry products and, more recently, app-controlled locks, notes Marketing Manager, Ronnie Pocock.
This is in spite of New Zealand’s perceived security requirements being much lower than many other countries. “The biggest change is the market wanting more from the lock, whereby the ‘robust and reliable mechanical lock’ is a given, but it needs to be coupled with a ‘smart wireless digital access solution’,” he says.
Ronnie says the biggest driver is user expectations, and that app technology is fuelling that. “The ability to control access to entry doors and know who has come and gone is one that has quickly gone to many people’s ‘must have app’ checklists.”
Breidi McStay, Marketing Manager at Windsor Brass, is another to observe that technology is quickly transforming the electronic and smart lock market.
“Homeowners are becoming more safety- and security-conscious and in turn are demanding increased security levels to exterior access points of their home for greater peace of mind.
“As everyone’s intelligence with technology is increasing, the demand for the integration of home security with smart home systems is an area in which we are seeing strong growth,” she says.
“The convenience of electronics simplifying the way we access our homes is quickly becoming an expectation in homes, particularly on new-build homes and higher-end renovations. It is also expected that Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capabilities are integrated into electronic locks.”
The frank market assessment of Nick Rutter of GD Rutter is that things feel “slightly flatter” compared with 2018.
“Currently we are very busy with quoting and sending out orders. We are probably doing as many sales but are now quoting at less margin to get those jobs,” he concedes.
In terms of door security, changes in the products that form the backbone of Rutter’s business include “an extension of product offerings (with Iseo and MyOne) into the commercial range of hardware products including panic hardware, hydraulic and electronic door closers, and auto door operators.”
On a brighter note, David Eeles, Miles Nelson’s Sales & Marketing Manager, reports that 2019 is proving “really positive” with strategies implemented a few years ago providing great results, including doubling the size of the company’s door handle sales in the last year.
HOME ENTRY SET TO CHANGE?
There’s general consensus among commentators about the most favoured method of home entry in five years from now, with keyless entry and home automation expected to become the norm in a space that is changing at a rapid rate.
“With the advent of home automation and Cloud-based services,” says LSC’s Tim Joyce, “I believe electronic keys held on mobile devices will be very much in widespread use. These types of keys and devices open up a whole new way of access control for the home.”
Nick Rutter agrees that the more people are happy to use their smartphones for such things as electronic banking, the more people are becoming happy also to use their phones to talk to their electronic locks / cylinders.
“Your phone is becoming the only thing you need to carry,” he says.
Bryce Carter goes a little further. In five years, he expects digital front entrance solutions featuring face recognition will commonly function within a closed home automation circuit, and work in harmony with various products in the home.
But how much closer is the smart home revolution in New Zealand and are companies experiencing genuine demand for smart home platforms?
“Most definitely,” says Bryce. “Many companies produce smart home products with mobile capabilities that work on individual platforms. Schlage Sense is a good example of this and is in high demand. But the uptake of closed home automation systems is still relatively low due to the higher cost of set-up.”
ASSA ABLOY’s Ronnie Pocock confirms the smart home revolution is alive and well: “It’s predicted that in four years’ time, 40% of all New Zealand households will have a built-in home automation system, including a connected home locking device.”
Tim Joyce at LSC too reports consumers exhibiting a better understanding of how a smart home works and hence the products that can be integrated onto the platform.
“With more choice of products coming onto the market, we are seeing an increase in uptake of these products along with more in-depth questions being asked,” he says.
But Nick Rutter and David Eeles are less convinced, the latter feeling that the smart home revolution hasn’t yet taken hold, “even though everything that I read would suggest otherwise”.
“It’s been coming for years but nothing has really changed. Maybe the baby-boomers who own the houses aren’t that au fait with the technology and/or don’t want it and the millennials capable of using it can’t afford the houses?
“With house prices so high now, maybe the extra $5-10k needed for an automated system blows the budget? I’m sure [the revolution] will come one day, though.”
WHICH FINISHES ARE ON-TREND?
Retailers will tell you that colour popularity can run full-circle, that black is the new white, and that certain colours and finishes have enduring appeal. But how do the suppliers see demand?
Breidi McStay at Windsor Brass comments: “Over the past 18 months to two years, hardware has followed a similar trend to tapware and other kitchen and bathroom accessories, with the increased popularity of matt black, however this has now started to plateau with the introduction of gunmetal finishes.
“For the higher-end market, we’ve seen a clear increase in the living and hand finishes on hardware, that age gracefully over time.
“And there has been a general colour shift towards the more natural and matt finishes giving a warmer, more lustrous feel.
“These finishes complement materials such as rustic steel, schist, timber and concrete, as well as structural components, including exposed beams and visible fixings.”
At LSC, Tim Joyce believes retailer/end-user demand continues to revolve around three colour groups – brass, chrome and black – with Ronnie Pocock at ASSA ABLOY agreeing that black doorsets have made a “popularity resurgence” and that brass finishes are “back on-trend”.
At GD Rutter, “the most favoured finish sitting at about 80% of our demand is either brushed stainless or satin nickel plated,” says Nick Rutter, although “Other finishes like black and graphite are showing some interest, with odd finishes – like polished brass and antique brass – still being required for replacement situations.”
At Miles Nelson, David Eeles singles out satin graphite as the latest trend in finish options, although black as a hardware option is still “moving through well”.
To complement the black and satin graphite handle finishes, Miles Nelson has designed a full range of complementary window fittings and door stops.
“The growth in satin graphite and black door handle sales is largely driven through showhome representation and applications,” he explains.
“It would be unusual these days to see handles applied to a show home that aren’t on-trend. A basic statistic is that 70% of the products used in a show home end up in a purchased house.”
Staying with David Eeles and Miles Nelson, it’s clear that entrance doors continue to be a home’s show piece with two key trends in the category.
The first, as already established here, is automation with various electronic options now being used for access control.
The other is not new, says David, but more home owners are looking to create a visual statement by using pull handle options in stainless steel, satin graphite or copper.
In high-end applications, he says mechanical efficiency is still paramount but there has always been an emphasis on aesthetics, hence the emergence of a trend towards new finishes, streamlining and even hardware concealment by which the impact of the hardware on the door is minimised.
In this high end of the market, Miles Nelson has noticed a slight trend back towards traditional timber joinery, and to this end has recently launched a proprietary range of new window fittings.
Now check out some of the latest security, window & door products scattered around these pages.
Steep learning curve for support staff
With the increased uptake of electronic systems, hardware suppliers are responding to the greater demands on technical staff to assist their customer base, with several recently employing support staff and most investing heavily in training.
“We have experienced a steep learning curve with electronic systems,” says Nick Rutter, “which has meant staff having to attend overseas training at our suppliers’ factories and showrooms, as well as some Skype training.”
“The key element,” insists Bryce Carter, “is ensuring that critical information is easily accessible to our retailers, and that staff are confident discussing the features and benefits of such products. Electronic systems are loaded with technology, however they are designed to be seamless from installation to operation.”
While he acknowledges that Miles Nelson doesn’t yet have an electronic offer, David Eeles says he is aware that such product offerings have motivated suppliers to ensure they provide very clear information on both their packaging and websites. “It has also meant that training at all levels – internal and external – is more important.”
Ease of installation is also becoming a focus, he suggests, “as suppliers look to speed up the installation process by providing more pre-assembled products where possible, better installation instructions, and installation that requires fewer components and less input from the contractor”.
Timber window fittings
Stylish Miles Nelson Quad window fittings suit timber windows with or without weather seals. The durable, electro-plated finish complements Miles Nelson door handle finishes and features a neat, concealed fixing. Available in matt black, satin chrome, brass and satin graphite finishes.
Schlage Medio and Form
The new Medio and Form door handle ranges feature QuickFixT technology that revolutionises the fixing mechanism, resulting in faster door hardware installation as well as labour cost savings.
Schlage Medio Series also features electroplated finishes in Matt Black and Aged Brushed Copper to provide a longer-lasting finish compared with powder-coated applications.
The Libra Smart electronic cylinder by ISEO eliminates the need for an expensive power source to be installed to an existing building or home, as is necessary with many traditional electric locks.
Libra Smart can be operated via a free smartphone app ( iOS, Android and Windows) and the phone communicates with the cylinder via Bluetooth and does not require a cellular signal to work.
Libra Smart also provides an audit trial and is able to remember the last thousand entries/exits which can then be viewed on your phone and is IP66 weather-proof rated for use on external doors.
The cylinders are available in three lengths (70, 80 and 90mm) and can either be used on new doors or retrofitted into existing doors that already have a mechanical Euro cylinder. Also available in the popular oval cylinder profile.