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Monitoring: Changes Keep Coming

FOR Australian alarm installers and monitoring stations there’s been a long hot summer of rebates linked to the PSTN network that over the next couple of years is going to come increasingly unstitched. This next period is one that will challenge the ingenuity and business capabilities of many companies. 
Last issue I talked about AT&T’s security and home automation play, a business model that entirely excludes third party installers and monitoring stations and gives home owners a level of automation and integration our industry does not afford them. 
It’s impossible to imagine that the United States is the only place on the planet this sorts of bundled telco services are going to be implemented. There’s no doubt in my mind that such services will find their way to Australia – furthermore, that such services are already being planned by vigorous IP-based service providers. 
But there’s more to consider – and again this applies to manufacturers as well as to installers. Currently alarm systems depend on proprietary wireless communications protocols or hardwiring to communicate to centrally located remote alarm panels. But what if sensor devices were edge devices in a real sense? Such sensors would offer the advantage of distributed intelligence, remote addressability, remote monitoring from multiple locations, including monitoring by mobile devices. 
Without getting into the value or risks of self-monitoring, I can’t imagine a future in which monitoring does not begin to sprawl, with small start-ups and large telco providers competing with traditional monitoring companies for a slice of an increasingly sophisticated user market. 
Tomorrow’s homeowners are going to be tech-hungry Generation Ys and Generation Zs (the so-called Internet Generation or iGeneration) and it’s impossible to pretend that these groups of people will not expect intuition from their networked electronic solutions. There is no chance whatever they will be hoodwinked into buying dumb technologies. 
The thing is, of course, that this observation is scarcely revolutionary. There are companies in the security space setting up clever ambush positions and lying in wait for our changing market. It’s my opinion that some of these companies are templates for what the alarm and alarm monitoring market will look like in the future. 
Who are they? Let’s start with Monitronics International in the U.S., which is accepting WiFi for IP alarm communications as part of what it says is a push towards simplifying installations and cutting service costs for end users. 
Monitronics plays on the fact its domestic market has a 60 per cent penetration of broadband and according to the company’s Bruce Mungiguerra this fact should benefit users. 
“It should reduce the overall cost of service because IP communication is a lot less than cellular communication, and the cost of the IP wireless connection is a lot less than a cellular radio,” he said recently.
“It makes life a whole lot easier for the technicians in the field,” Mungiguerra said. 
Monitronics’ product is the Honeywell LYNX Touch 5100 from Honeywell, the security industry’s first system to provide Wi-Fi alarm communications. It was introduced at ISC West in March and released marketwide in June.
And Mungiguerra said the Touch 5100 and other Wi-Fi-enabled systems could help break down the reluctance of many alarm companies to embrace IP.
“I think a big piece of why they haven’t wanted to tie into IP in the past was having to run that CAT5 wire,” he said.
While there are also dealers hesitant to adopt Wi-Fi because of router issues, Mungiguerra said the concerns are unfounded if the correct 
procedures are followed.
“Part of it is they’ve been afraid that if they tie into a customer’s router and the Internet goes down, now it’s seen as the installer’s fault and they’d be getting a lot of unnecessary support calls,” he said. 
“As long as they put in a separate router, they’re in great shape. If they try to connect it to the customer’s router, then that may cause some additional challenges.”
Pushing into the same area, this time in the UK, is VDT Direct, a new cloud-based alarm monitoring solutions, called WebEye CMS, which controls the RSI Videofied system. 
Far from being some shoot-from-the-hip solution, WebEye CMS was developed in partnership with the University of Leicester and is designed to distribute alarm communications and data to any internet connected PC, laptop, netbook, tablet or smartphone. 
WebEye delivers alarm notifications directly to a smart phone with an audible siren and/or visual alert within minutes of activations. This groundbreaking application will also be available for both Blackberry and Windows Phone in the near future. 
The aim of WebEye is to enhance the provision of security services in a wide range of sectors including property management, utilities, local government and facilities management – it’s no domestic toy. 
“WebEye CMS is quick and easy to deploy as well as being extremely cost effective to run,” says Clive Mason, managing director at VDT Direct. 
“Costing from just £5 a month, it enables users to monitor remote sites and receive video alarms on the move from any location around the clock, deliver a faster, more efficient response to alarm activations and reduce the incidence of wasted time through the rapid identification of false alarms.”
Alerts can be automatically sent to an unlimited number of users with SMS text messages used as backup should an alarm call not be responded to within a set time. Through a dedicated website, users can access information about activations to see if an intrusion, tamper, panic or duress button alarm has occurred. Video footage can also be viewed to decide the most appropriate course of action to take. Being cloud-based, there is unlimited bandwidth allowing multiple users to simultaneously view video footage without causing bandwidth issues.
The WebEye CMS interface enbles users to initiate responses to notifications direct from their mobile device. This can include setting off a siren and using the talkback function to issue warnings to intruders. The system is fully auditable and provides a detailed history of every event including date and time, alerts sent to recipients, responses from users, system status messages and other logging information.
For monitoring stations groaning about user-monitoring – there’s more to this. In a very real sense this sort of intuitive powerful capability represents the future of their own dedicated services. There’s no reason monitoring stations should not incorporate such functionality into their own systems, sending alerts and images to patrol teams, sharing data and images with end users.
“WebEye is an innovative new cloud-based security solution that enables organisations to set up their own alarm receiving centre (ARC) in around 30 minutes,” says Mason. 
“It can also be used in conjunction with traditional ARCs for shared monitoring to ensure that agreed service levels are being met and that the highest levels of protection are delivered.”


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