Monitoring Market Ripe For Digital Revolution
by Security Electronics and Networks | @Articles Monitoring | September 9, 2012, 7:00am AEST
YOU don’t have to look too far around the electronic security industry to see that things are in a state of flux, with almost no technology layer untouched by IP solutions and increasingly pervasive networked interfaces.
Yet somehow basic alarm products have escaped the paradigm shift in the market. Sure – alarm systems now have onboard or after market SIM support allowing secure IP monitoring using GPRS but the underlying alarm technology has not altered one iota and that’s not a good thing.
I love the idea of remotely addressable alarm sensors residing on secure networks that operate as edge devices, sensing intrusion, taking snapshots of events, monitoring environmental parameters and self-reporting alarm events. The technology to build know-all sensors certainly exists but the nature of the global domestic alarms market is so drear in terms of creativity, that we still see nothing but one-dimensional technologies.
The basic Normally Closed/Normally Open spring-loaded contact sensors still reign supreme despite their 1960s antiquity, the same-old solid state control modules offer singular functionality. The only change to alarm technology seems to be attempts to tart up user interfaces with silver fascias and blue backlit LCD screens, an improvement that comes at the expense of the plasticization of every other component in a bid to makes sense of the single selling point of an entire industry segment – price.
Yes, yes I agree with you. This is a singular and somewhat negative viewpoint. Alarm systems are robust, reliable and generally, they work well enough. But are they as good as they could possibly be? Are they good enough to become must-have products in the eyes of end users? Do they have feature sets that offer sales people real selling points and distinguishing features that set them apart from the rest of the beige brigade? For the most part, no, they do not.
Sad too, is the thought that the great manufacturers of the alarms industry will greet the dawn of full IP alarm monitoring by pulling out their digital diallers and replacing them with 1 or 2 SIM card bays as if this addition somehow catapults their same-old panels into the 21st century.
With these growing doubts about the future of domestic alarm monitoring in my mind recently, I found myself intrigued by the news that monster telco AT&T launched its new Xanboo home automation and security service in the US this month. AT&T bought Xanboo back in 2010, in the process acquiring a technology that enables home owners to monitor security, energy consumption, and digital media across a slew of all-wireless devices.
Field units supported include fixed and PTZ cameras, moisture sensors, motion sensors, reed-type switches, water level sensors, temperature threshold sensors, thermostats, lights and light dimmers, wireless power controllers, garage door controllers, universal modules, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Consider these capabilities in comparison to a standard domestic alarm panel and ask which solution your clients would prefer to have in their home.
More pointedly still, the Xanboo panel allows consumers to use any Web-enabled device, regardless of wireless carrier, to remotely view and manage their homes. The panel can also connect to AT&T’s wireless data network as a backup to the primary link. There’s no word on third party monitoring but if there’s a profit in it, I would argue AT&T will provide professional monitoring services.
At the time of the Xanboo purchase an AT&T spokesperson said that Xanboo’s monitoring services are a natural extension of the company’s high-speed Internet, video and voice offerings and a good fit for its wireless services. That last is what’s really interesting to me because in a few years that high speed Internet capability will be available to every hungry telco in Australia and it’s a fair bet fibre-to-the-door has the potential to blow our alarm industry wide open.
And it’s not just AT&T that’s in on the act. Verizon is also offering home automation and energy management service over its fibre network partnering with 4Home while cable company Comcast is allied with iControl, a company that sells home energy management products.
What do these sorts of changes mean for the alarms market? Quite a bit, actually. And they don’t just affect manufacturers and monitoring outfits either. You installers are likely to be squarely in the sights of hungry telcos a little further down the track.
I make this observation based on what happened after AT&T bought Xanboo. Immediately it advised all installers and dealers of the technology their contracts were terminated as of the middle of last year and the understanding is that Xanboo installations and services will be sold only at AT&T stores. The company is in the process of hiring employees to support the expansion of the service.
Former owner of Greater Alarm and current ESX chair George De Marco said at the time he was not surprised by AT&T’s decision to abandon its current sales channel strategy for Xanboo.
“This strategic shift by AT&T’s management reflects its goal to deal directly with the consumers and by-pass the existing go-to-market strategy.
De Marco said it was “another data point that confirms the electronic security industry is at a tipping point.” As newer and faster technologies beget newer and faster technologies, “consumers are continually moving on to the next big thing with eagerness,” De Marco said.
“Large, well-capitalized players (Verizon, AT&T, Comcast and Ascent Media) are beginning to enter the market armed with products and services that are app-driven, enabling them to deliver bundled services solutions to consumers,” he said.
Given the thin margins and trudging services our alarm industry is operating on, it’s high time the intrusion market experienced its digital revolution. And if we can’t manage this on our own, someone else is going to manage it for us.