Attila the Hub and the Future of Alarm Monitoring:

Clearfix
JohnA's picture
Hubs can be scary...
Hubs can be scary...

When you look at the hydra-headed beast alarm monitoring has become it’s difficult to see a clear path forward, regardless of whether you’re an installer or a monitoring provider. But at times like these, the facts you need to focus on are the operational demands of end users. 

DURING the week I was speaking with engineers at a famous intrusion detection company who pointed out that alongside their networkable security and automation controllers they would soon be releasing a home automation hub of the type that immediately made me worry the traditional alarms market is going to tear itself apart. This company’s not the only one playing in the hub-type home automation market – everyone seems to be getting in. 

On the drive home, a somewhat gloomy fragment of my brain started wondering how long it would be before home automation hubs start appearing on the shelves of a JB Hi-Fi or a Bunnings. It’s an indubitable fact someone said to me recently, that if installers keep demanding security systems so simple to commission Granny May can install them, sooner or later she’s going to try. 

Adding to questions about future directions, it’s fair to say no one outside the company is fully across Telstra SNP’s long-term intentions for the alarm monitoring market, though the addition of Joanna Burke as head of sales suggests an expectation of considerable expansion. Whatever Telstra SNP does it’s going to have a networking flavour – if that weren’t going to be the case, we’d have seen some dramatic announcement already – there are plenty of capable solid-state wireless controllers in the market capable of giving the Big T a dependable security and automation platform – DSC, Bosch, Honeywell, Risco – take your pick. 

We heard the team from SCSI explain their ideas about the future of the monitoring market in the Interview last month and this month comes the news Bosch and Suretek have teamed up to get the Solution panel range onto Suretek’s fully managed private network. It’s an interesting development in no small part because Bosch and Suretek both play the long game. It’s also not a hub-play. The BMC-3G communicator now connects dependable Solution 2000 and 3000 solid state controllers using dual SIM 3G, IP and voice pathways. The use of 2 separate carriers conforms neatly with Australian Standard AS2201.5 2008. 

So, what’s it to be? Will we see much-loved controllers like Bosch Solution and many others give way to a slew of hub-type home automation systems? Or will solid state controllers, with their low current draw and never-ending lifespans leap-frog onto private high security networks in a way that placates cyber security fears and guarantees glitch-free performance? Personally, I think it’s going to be both but it doesn’t really matter. That’s because the most important things about alarm monitoring are not going to change any time soon, if ever at all. 

Installers need simplicity and relentless reliability. End users need measures of the same. They want systems that do alarm and that don’t false alarm. And customers whose risk profile demands professional monitoring services are not going to switch out to self-monitoring for no good reason. As a commercial expense, single-site alarm systems are cheap to install and very cheap to monitor. If your site has hundreds of thousands to tens of millions of dollars’ worth of stock and equipment laying around, professional security solutions are a no-brainer. 

Of course, residential end users increasingly want solutions that can be addressed via mobile devices but their dislike of installing network cameras in family living spaces clearly attests to the fact they don’t believe their domestic networks are secure. No wonder. Most security installers don’t know how to secure a network facing security controller or device. Would you install a networked security camera in your living space? Not likely. But on a secure private network, a secure private cloud? That’s likely to be a different matter altogether - and commercial users seeking video verification and remote management are no less likely to require some measure of cyber security when it comes to protecting comms. 

And there’s the rub. Because if thoughtful homeowners and commercial operators want their security systems reporting across off-piste communications networks, the pressure to go all-in on home automation hubs is off. Does that mean hubs aren’t going to be a force to be reckoned with? No again. Almost every installer, manufacturer and monitoring provider is kicking hubs around, attracted by device agnosticism but without a market vehicle to really drive the business forward. Smart hubs are best when they’re orbited by dozens of Z-Wave devices and constellations of Z-Wave devices cost pots and pots of money – much more than the pittance many homes and businesses are prepared to outlay on a security solution. 

So, what’s the future? It’s what the end user decides it is. Reliable solid state with hard wired sensors (no battery changes ever, we can all sign up for that!), managed by a few keypads and pendants; or remotely managed home automation jigged up so far it would make your eyes water. In the middle, we’ll see the expansion of something familiar. Solid state controllers that offer all the benefits of remote management and a smidge of automation - the best of the old and the best of the new. ♦