Alarm Systems Finally Integrating Intelligence
by Security Electronics and Networks | @Articles Monitoring | March 4, 2013, 8:00am AEDT
IP has found the alarms industry at long last and rather than being a dreadful bogeyman heralding the beginning of the end, it actually ushers in a 5-year opportunity for installers to upgrade hundreds of thousands of existing alarm panels and to grow their businesses exponentially as the IP transition turbo-charges sales.
I have much love and respect for the original Australian-made key-drive Solution panels, the ground-breaking Ness 5000s and all the rest of those pioneers of the 1980s and 1990s. They were great systems, reliable and for their time, very capable. But there’s no longer any real excuse for continuing to sell customers what amounts to all-analogue intrusion detection technology. The next generation of systems can and must offer significantly more.
What typical IT-literate users want (and surely that’s most of us these days) is the ability to see their system status, drive some automation and view video surveillance cameras from their smart devices, at the same time as having 24×7 monitoring of alarm events managed by a professional monitoring station. Importantly, the technology to achieve all these things exists right now. It’s just a matter of bringing them together into a single solution.
As regular readers would know, I’ve been talking about AT&T’s Digital Life solution for a while now. And I’m doing this because when the world’s largest telco starts selling networked security and home automation solutions, it’s important to pay serious attention.
If AT&T was the only company heading down this path I think it might be fair to suggest I was just banging away. But last month, there was this. An announcement that Canadian telco giants Bell Aliant and Rogers Communications are going to be offering professionally-installed security/home automation solutions driven by OpenHome management software from respected U.S. tech house, iControl.
According to Paul Dawes, executive VP and general manager for iControl’s Security & Telecommunications Division, Bell Aliant is using the Connect solution from iControl which is based on Z-Wave and Wi-Fi technology. Meanwhile Rogers Communciations will be using the Converge division software which is focused on the cable operators – that’s a ZigBee-based solution.
“iControl is super-excited about partnering with Bell Aliant in the home security/home automation market,” says Dawes. “I think it’s going to be very successful. They’re looking forward to a very aggressive launch and a lot of success.”
There’s no word on Asia Pacific but Dawes said that in addition to Canada, other international home security/home automation markets that iControl is now targeting through alliances with major telcos include Europe and South America.
Not surprisingly, these Bell Aliant and Rogers Communications aren’t just offering simple NO/NC based security systems driving through basic tactile keypads of the type we’ve been using for 20 years. Both are rolling out real-time video monitoring options, control of door locks, thermostats and lighting managed through smart devices and internet-connected computers. And before you scoff about ‘self monitoring’, get this. Both these telcos are also offering simultaneous 24/7 UL-certified monitoring.
According to a Bell Aliant spokeswoman Katherine VanBuskirk NextGen Home Security is Bell Aliant’s first venture into home security, monitoring and control. Bell Aliant said it will be rolling out its offering in all major city centres.
VanBuskirk said Bell Aliant has considered offering home security in the past, “but the emergence of new technologies and next-generation service offerings makes this the right time and a great fit for Bell Aliant.”
Importantly, it’s not just telcos paying attention to the home automation and intrusion alarm space. IP Video pioneer Mobotix has recently announced an alliance with Ingram Micro subsidiary AVAD to supply the security and home automation markets in the U.S. with the complete Mobotix line. And that’s not all. The Germans have intrusion, smoke detection and access control firmly in mind. It’s not going to be just IP video for Mobotix.
At the Mobotix conference in Sydney last month company CSO, Magnus Ekerot, spoke about the integration of alarm sensors and access control functionality into the Mobotix solution, with the system to be managed by its new iOS mobile software.
If some other company talked this way you might think it mere bravura but Mobotix has 160 dedicated installation channels in Australia that know and love its products. Given half a chance to take IP-based alarms and access control systems onto networks in retail, small commercial and quality domestic applications, they’ll do it and do it well.
And that’s just the beginning. Our own alarm manufacturers are not sitting idle. Honeywell’s Tuxedo Touch is a case in point. One of the nice things about Tuxedo Touch is that it frees up automation and CCTV, while leveraging existing Vista alarm panels and making it all manageable locally over Wi-Fi, or anywhere in the world via management app.
Depending on the ingenuity of installers, Tuxedo can operate as an alarm panel keypad, a home automation controller, a surveillance monitor, a video player and a photo frame, as well as an audio message board. The system offers 4 IP-based video surveillance cameras and up to 232 Z-Wave-enabled thermostats, lights, air conditioners, electric locks and automated window shades.
And Risco has now released its Agility 3 solutions, which features wireless video verification and a smartphone application with support from Risco cloud services that allows users to control their alarm system remotely. You get visual verification of events with a Smartphone app, in addition to providing advanced wireless security and safety features.
I don’t think there’s any doubt that we stand on the cusp of significant change in the alarms market and that change will bring major opportunity at multiple levels. We have seen over the past decade that analogue-to-digital transitions offer enterprising manufacturers and installers serious opportunities for growth.
There are also risks. CCTV manufacturers that failed to react to the changing IP Video market found themselves isolated from the new business model and watched helpless as new players grew at 20-30 per cent, year on year on year.
It’s a mistake to think that the power of new IP-based alarm and automation systems won’t leech into the alarm monitoring market. I think it’s inevitable we’ll see a level of self control and self management from new systems but this will not constitute self monitoring of alarm events.
The ability to view the kids arriving home from school, grant access to tradespeople, turn on air conditioning and lights, and turn on an alarm system left unarmed are all excellent examples of user management that security monitoring stations are not in the position to handle for reasons of privacy, among others.
Now is the time for the monitoring industry and for industry associations to sit down and seriously think about the ramifications of the changes that will come. To consider the impact on insurance, licensing and certification levels. And to plan for accommodation. Ignoring the future is a mistake, especially when that future is a golden opportunity.
By John Adams