Alarm Monitoring: Divergence is the Future?

Clearfix
JohnA's picture
Alarm monitoring forming layers of scattered cloud
Alarm monitoring forming layers of scattered cloud

THERE’S something about the state of alarm, automation and monitoring technology that suggests a splintering of paths to market in the alarm monitoring industry. And ISC West in Las Vegas last month highlighted a number of key trends likely to play a part in our future. There certainly are opportunities - mostly for those with clear goals - because overall, things look a little messy. 

PERHAPS the key fundamental at work here is that as alarm systems become residents of the IP world and installers become thoroughly imbued with networked ecosystems, reporting paths become multifarious, integrations more ubiquitous. Very cool things become possible and they don’t need to managed in the old ways. An idea of alarm and access control systems as input/output boards supported by redundant networks and clever software comes ever more clearly into view. 

Something else that’s noticeable is there are more players in the alarms and access control space – including traditional providers from other parts of the market and newcomers with oddball names unveiling curious solutions that incorporate IP cameras, alarm inputs and those vaunted cloud reporting capabilities. We’ve discussed before whether or not such systems are likely to make real headway in the security market – they’re a double-edged sword in that they broaden market perceptions while driving down prices. They can also lower the expectations of users who think very low quality kit is the real deal.   

Frankly, it’s hard to see quirky newcomers doing more than influencing the main game. What these companies are achieving, far more than leeching market share, is pressing less thoughtful incumbent players into unlikely new shapes as they strive to meet what they perceive to be the ‘new demands of the market’. But are these unsupported lateral solutions actually market demands? It’s very hard to say. At times I think some providers in the intrusion and automation sector are playing a game of technological musical chairs with themselves. There certainly is change but not everyone is quite onto the fact it’s change in the way a real service model is provided to real customers by real suppliers. You can see who is winning at this game and they are winning with a vertical business model that supports distributors, installers, monitoring providers – and their customers. 

Smart home technology was another thing there was plenty of at ISC West – it really is ubiquitous now and few are the alarm panels that don’t offer some sort of automation capability, as well as the ability to be managed remotely by users. Of note, Alarm.com was at ISC West for the first time, reflecting cloud’s increasing weight in the market. Products like Skybell, Alarm.com’s 8-input video recorder (this last is noteworthy in many ways), Honeywell’s AlarmNet 360, DragonFly DIY video verification - from Videofied no less – came in for attention.

Cloud certainly was building at ISC West and it leaves ample room for monitoring companies to support traditional solutions and play guardian angel with cloud-based CCTV and access control solutions. Sometimes I think the potential for monitoring stations to grow into much greater involvement with remote networked solutions on behalf of their clients is overlooked. In applications where the monitoring station can remotely take on the role formerly undertaken by staff on the ground, existing alarm monitoring client lists become a rich vein of gold to be mined with proven networked solutions and bulletproof infrastructure. 

There are many layers of cloud. Perhaps we’ve been writing about cloud so long at SEN it seems old hat but cloud continues to feel like an area the market hasn’t got its head around. Cloud access control, cloud alarms, cloud video surveillance. That stuff is all there and it works, given quality networks. Seeing cloud access control from Schneider was neat – we’ve got a fondness for Kantech Hattrix here at SEN and think there’s a definite market for quality cloud-based access control solutions done properly. When it comes to cloud, an interesting solution was the Umbo SmartDome, a camera that exists entirely in the cloud in terms of addressability and setup. Frankly, it’s a reinvention of the wheel but the default connection path/storage is the clever thing. Will this shift lead to a breakthrough in other parts of the market? Optical performance is the key. 

The nature of VisionHub from Qognify (formerly Nice Systems) was instructive. This is how Qognify describes its web-based VMS: “An open platform that leverages video as the main sensor in the control room, while uniquely integrating 3rd party access control systems (ACS) using a dedicated module, which comes with ready-made integrations. VisionHub provides 2-way integrations with other third-party security systems and sensors such as fire and intrusion detection enabling a unified, map-centric operating picture that provides situational awareness and efficiency.” (All this is taking place in the cloud, mind you).  

You could argue a solution like VisionHub would be installed for a single user but the capabilities and flexibilities are enormous and the lateral nature of the system highlights the lateral character of IP-based solutions. This leads us back to the earlier observation that the inherent open-ness of IP systems is splintering the market by - dare I say it - using the internet as a comms bus for integration, as well as a path for communication. Even when you spend a considerable part of the day thinking about such things, it can be hard to get your head around the idea of the internet as a universal circulatory system for all data comms. But there it is.♦