When I Say Security Tech, Proptech Says…What?

Lee Odess
Lee Odess serves as chair of SIA’s Proptech Advisory Board.

Here is my thesis: 

The security industry is way off on what it thinks the proptech value creation story is. It has changed dramatically in the past three years, and we need to reset how we collectively position our industry. 

We believe we are telling a complete and compelling value story around safety and it is “good enough.” But are we, and is it? 

In speaking to many commercial and multifamily real estate owners, operators and developers, the collective answer is that most of our industry is not. Instead, the security industry tells a narrow, tedious and too-technical story. As one of the top three developers in North America recently told me, “The industry needs to wake up and understand my business better. We expect more out of our technology, and few in the security industry go beyond the technical specifications of the hardware they sell.” 

It would behoove us to use the best practices of how we talk and work with K-12, airports and the hospitality industry when we approach the proptech community. 

Quick question: When was the last time you attended an event (virtual or in person) centered on proptech? How about speaking directly to a real estate developer? 

Some in our industry are doing this well and are seeing success. But if we zoomed out and looked at the majority of the industry versus the minority, we would see two macro trends taking form that should be alarm bells for us all in the industry: 

  1. There is a clear separation of some in our industry leading and seeing exponential growth in the proptech vertical.
  2. There is a value arbitrage moment benefiting external or new companies to the security industry, and we should not allow the oxygen in the room to be sucked out. 

Why are both of these trends happening? It is a nuanced conversation, but I will summarize it like this: The majority of the mainstream commercial and multifamily real estate industry is hearing an old iterative security story that, in return, is slowly degrading our value proposition, frustrating the customer and is allowing new or external companies to fill the gap. 

Even when we have new and exciting advancements in technology and opportunities to share additional value, we wrap it up in an old technical story built off yesterday’s value creation stories of high security and hope for different results (e.g., mobile).

The missed opportunity on our end creates an arbitrage opportunity for someone else. But it is not all doom and gloom. The security industry’s opportunity is still here, so let’s collectively do something about it! (Spoiler: SIA’s Proptech Advisory Board).

So what should we do about it?

  1. Get active, and make it a focus. Get educated on the proptech industry, and get involved.
  2. Lead the storytelling of our industry with thought leadership, agreed-upon nomenclatures and definitions that represent a forward-looking image and a celebration of our past. (External and new entrants to security do not have a long story about safety and security. We do. Use it.) 
  3. Partner, but do it beyond a technical integration. Look for the business integrations that create exponential value propositions for all stakeholders. There is no reason to go at this alone. Look inside and outside the traditional industry…maybe even what has historically been a competitor. 

Let’s start easy. Join and get active with the SIA Proptech Advisory Board. We are dedicated to bridging the two communities. Also, let’s rally behind the hashtag #securetech and start telling the story in person and on social media about how we bring value to the proptech industry.

It is our opportunity.