For integrators and end users it’s not easy to make the right choice when it comes to monitoring providers. Is bigger better? Can a local station provide better service than a national? Are graded stations superior, or is Grade AI less important than a fast response?

There are fundamentals you want from any monitoring provider – fast response to events, excellent communications, openness to supporting new technology, highly secure communications, reporting, event recording, the ability to get patrols to site fast in the event of an incident and plenty more. But trying to find a balance isn’t easy because some boutique control rooms – especially those that are privately owned by perfectionists and have highly experienced teams – offer excellent service as well.

According to Rob Rosa of Innotec Security, choosing the right monitoring provider is vital for a security integrator.

“The answer to the question of how to choose the right provider revolves around what technology they monitor from an intrusion/duress and video capability, right through to specialised services like duress watches,” Rosa said. “And are they a reputable and proven company that won’t let us down as an integrator, given this reflects on our reputation.”

Finding a balance between parameters like grading, cost competitiveness, and/or a more relationship-based model will definitely come into play.

“When it comes to monitoring for Innotec Security clients we won’t compromise on standards, so a Grade 1A monitoring station is essential but the relationship is not unimportant and our account manager keeps us updated about their strategies, any technology they are implementing and upcoming changes to services. She continually keeps in touch with us to ensure we are happy, and our clients are happy – so yes, a relationship does play an important part as well.”

Are some monitoring stations better than others – are bigger stations better than small?

“The easy answer to the first question there that in our experience, yes, some monitoring stations are better than others,” Rosa explains. “But bigger isn’t always better. Take a few of the comments that I have made and if a smaller control room ticks all the boxes and maybe more, then they are a good fit for you and your clients. Again, I have known of control rooms who were fairly large and when they called, they wouldn’t even ask for a voice code for an activated duress alarm. The reality is, if a control room can’t operate with strict SOPs, then I would steer clear, because this reflects (directly or indirectly) on the integrator using their services.”

What does Rosa think, generally speaking, is the most secure comms path in 2021?

“We have come a long way from the old days,” he says. “The fact that we are all using either NBN-associated comms or wireless devices that use 3, 4 and 5G, is truly telling the story. Redundancy is built in with many wireless solutions using dual SIMS, and if we are talking about the average comms solution, then we would assume this covers the multitude of applications.

“When we start looking at high grade security applications then we start looking at dedicated comms types from basic systems all the way through to mesh, utilising technology with encrypted data comms at edge and hardware. We find most applications use inbuilt comms inhouse through their own IT infrastructure, or we utilise the wireless style box solutions.”

“As for Innotec Security, we tend to use one control room – that’s SMC,” Rosa explains. “They provide a great service, they’re responsive and they actually continually communicate with us via our account manager. Reports are easily attainable, and we can log into a client portal and retrieve much of the information that our clients ask us for.”

According to Lee Chua of bureau monitoring specialist, BENS, end users, installers and integrators looking for the best monitoring providers should seek a comprehensive Secure Web Service providing reports, stats, live feeds, etc, a service that is at arms-length from other services, including installation and response, so as to avoid conflicts of interest.

“When it comes to the benefits of boutique monitoring providers, speaking for BENS we have an active IT department developing services and interfaces to new IP products in the market,” Chua says.

“BENS is also working on a service that will be a web/app portal for all alarm panels. In our opinion, users are becoming averse to proprietary apps and would see the advantage of a universal app for alarm services.”

When it comes key trends in alarm monitoring right now, Chua says it’s video verification – not CCTV or virtual patrols – which he explains are labour intensive. There’s also a trend towards personal duress.

“Video Verification uses AI in cameras and NVRs that is event-driven, so it’s less resource intensive,” he explains. “Something else that’s important to get across for users and integrators is provision of personal duress services.

“BENS has collaborated with MOD-2’s Tagger to provide a personal duress service natively in the BENS AMS (Alarm Management System) where operators can directly connect to persons under duress and have a 2-way, or a many-ways voice communications to all stake holders, including loved ones.”

While Chua says end users and integrators should look for the providers offering the latest technologies, he doesn’t believe AI-powered controls rooms will be one of them.

“AI will not be able to replace human handling of alarm situations, but it can help in some situations,” he explains. “For example, AI in cameras might be able to replace traditional alarm panels in some cases – BENS is currently working on such a system at the moment.”