Alarm Monitoring Goes Sideways
by Security Electronics and Networks | @Articles Monitoring | July 18, 2012, 7:00am AEST
WE’VE been talking about the divergent paths that are looming for the monitoring industry for a while now and a recent spate of alliances, new applications and technology releases suggests many of the opinions we espoused were on the mark. And it’s about time, too.
I think it’s fair to say that monitoring has been in the doldrums for many years. The dollar-a-day business model combined with one-way dialler technology and telco rebates has been a real killer of innovation for our monitoring industry. Rather than value adding for end users, dialler alarms are set-and-forget recurring revenue devices.
Driven by a lack of sales ability on the part of some installers and a lack of interest on the part of end users we have a situation where some bureau clients are demanding monitoring stations support their basic dialler customers for a weekly fee that can be as low as 20 cents per line. That’s about $100,000 in sales on 10,000 lines over a 52-week period.
The result of this decades-long downward pressure on prices has seen poorer services through reduced staffing levels, a refusal to invest in new technologies by monitoring outfits and ultimately, it means monitoring companies need to start looking for new revenue streams outside their traditional alarm monitoring markets.
And it’s this last factor I want to talk about – not for the purposes of futuristic naval gazing, either but because the change is really beginning to take shape. The first part of the change has been going on for some time now and it’s the push into IP monitoring based on multiple reporting paths.
There is conjecture over the relative merits of these paths – some being more secure and more reliable, and others justifiably considered less secure and more prone to latency and signal attenuation. Rather than bog down in this area all I’m going to say is that multiple reporting paths – let’s say GPRS supported by IP – offer fast 2-way reporting as well as facilitating remote views of alarm events for monitoring stations, internal security teams or even just key holders in the case of smaller sites.
In saying this I have to point out that I’m not enamoured of the self-monitoring model some users preach. Monitoring stations are designed to support alarms 24/7 and they’re not going to miss an alarm event because they’re asleep, in a meeting, sitting in church, flying in an airplane, laying on a beach in Queensland or working out at the gym. Instead what I’m suggesting is that alarm event reports with attached video can be made available online and that end users can conduct their own video guard tours in the event of incidents like door-open-too-long or egress through fire exit alarms, saving patrol responses for the serious stuff like multiple, adjacent movement detector activations, glass break and panic alarms.
But there’s more to it than this, as recent events show. For some years Suretek has combined RemoteGuard with its monitoring solution, allowing the company’s operators to check alarm events in real time over WANs using Mobotix IP cameras. Videofied has also been pecking away at the video verification market. But these are more typical applications, not lateral applications of existing monitoring technology.
Instead consider ANPRonline.Net, a cloud-based video monitoring service that supports number plate recognition for small and medium-sized businesses. Developed in Australia by IP-Surveillance.com.au Pty Ltd, this ANPRonline.Net service is a secure web-based configuration offering control and reporting features for single or multiple sites regardless of their location.
And while this service is the province of a single company, and is self-monitored, it shows what sorts of technologies monitoring stations could provide customers in the future by supporting such services. Important to bear in mind, while organisations with large security teams can handle real time response to automatic numberplate recognition software, smaller companies might choose to outsource this function. Instead, in an alarm event, licence plate numbers from external cameras from the time around the event might be provided to a monitoring station, or the arrival of particular plates might generate an alarm.
IP-Surveillance.com.au’s services are more extensive the just ANPR. Very cleverly, the company recognises that video monitoring can be used to remotely monitoring a wide range of inputs including sound, schedules, motion detectors, light changes, temperature changes, notifications from other systems, opening of gates, doors or windows and any other NO/NC contact.
And in an IP environment IP-Surveillance knows there are many more ways to use monitoring data than there used to be, including SMS, email, VoIP, system log messages, IP Notify message, HTTP commands, input/output relays, VoIP telephone calls and local loud speakers. These far more comprehensive communication alternatives offer the potential to change the nature of monitoring if services can be conceptualised and sold effectively to end users.
“Some bureau clients are demanding monitoring stations support their basic dialler customers for a weekly fee that can be as low as 20 cents per line”
In another interesting recent development IP video provider Axis Communications together VMS provider Salient Systems and storage and server company Hewlett-Packard have announced a Video Surveillance as a Service solution.
Salient adapted and integrated its enterprise VMS solution for Axis’ one-click camera connection to stream video from IP cameras and encoders to remotely housed hosted servers from HP. The Salient VMS has dynamic resolution scaling to serve up video and live feed in a thumbnail view, which allows users or operators to see a lot of feeds very efficiently.
And here’s the interesting bit as explained by Axis’ Scott Dunn.
“Ultimately, we want to deliver solutions to integrators that will drive RMR for them,” Dunn says. “And they can sell this as a service solution very much like the alarm industry has been doing with monitoring services for years.”
This is the key. In the near future we will see smaller organisations go direct from camera to cloud with services that are sold by installers and will almost certainly have the potential to be monitored by specialised monitoring companies for the purposes of video verification and remote guard tours.
Potentially another key remote video monitoring service that could be sold by installers and monitored by control rooms on behalf of small clients is Honeywell’s Maxpro Cloud. While this system is designed to simplify the process for organizations to transition from analogue to digital video by eliminating the need for IT expertise or challenging firewall configurations, it also takes storage hardware offsite, opening it up to be monitored from anywhere.
The system is designed with monitoring capability. MAXPRO Cloud can proactively monitor the performance of a system to ensure uptime and report incidents with cameras. It can notify end users via email if an alarm or event occurs from motion detection; from an input point such as glassbreak, motion sensor, or contacts; or during arming or disarming. End users could then log into any web-connected device and view the video alarms but it’s more feasible that control room operators would take on that 24×7 monitoring duty in real time.
Clearly, then, the time of the cloud is coming. Early adopters are jumping onto Google Drive and the news Amazon has just built a new edge data centre in Sydney to support its AmazonCloudFront service is another sign of the times. Then there’s HP’s $200 million Aurora cloud facility at Eastern Creek, NextDC’s new Melbourne data centre and MacQuarie Telecom’s $A60 million IntellicareCantre2 at North Ryde. When you combine these facilities with the looming NBN you can get a sense of the potential shape of a part of the electronic security industry in the future. The remote storage of video part and potentially, the remote monitoring part.
Talking about the NBN and the demise of the PSTN service comes the news that Honeywell has one million GSM alarm subscribers in the U.S. where POTS is being phased out in the same way it is here. The relevant thing is that GSM and other IP-based monitoring paths have the potential to allow home and business owners to manage aspects of their security system from smartphones, tablets and netbooks, allowing end users to stay connected to their homes from any location.
As I mentioned earlier, such user control should not include self monitoring, but it could include remote alarm activation, checking of alarm status, checking the kids are home from school, as well as activating integrated switches for building management applications like air conditioners and sprinklers even checking the dog’s bowl has water in it using an external IP camera. When you think about it, IP adds layer upon layer of potential.
And finally, while we’re on the topic of the switch from PSTN to wireless, there’s the news from Security Communications Solutions that it has released its new DTU3G/IP monitoring solution which features new dual-SIM technology providing 6 secure paths of communication – Telstra NextG, Optus 3g, Telstra GPRS, Optus GPRS, Ethernet & PSTN. Such multitudinous comms paths offer what in my opinion should be 100 per cent uptime, as well as nudging installers and monitoring companies one step further into the more flexible, more powerful, more profitable world of IP monitoring.