Are concerns over IP reliability overblown?

NextAlarm/VoIPAlarm's second patent addresses issues
Thursday, July 8, 2010

OJAI, Calif.—NextAlarm’s dealer arm, VoIPAlarm, is touting a patent issued in May that covers the company’s method of transmitting alarm signals and two-way voice over IP. The company’s patented process is reliable, according to VoIPAlarm CTO Bryan Field-Elliot, and the service is ready for dealers to begin transferring their accounts to broadband.

But isn’t broadband unreliable when it comes to alarm signals? Some argue complaints about unreliability are perhaps overblown, and consumers’ fears founded in confusion over the technology.

“Quite simply what we’ve done is broken the cycle of continually selling expensive equipment and monitoring contract upgrades and said you can keep your existing equipment no matter how old it is—it can be 10 years old, 15 years old—add this adapter for around a hundred bucks and you can keep your monitoring company,” Field-Elliot said. “You don’t have to switch to us. We’ll monitor it over broadband and then retransmit all those alarm signals to the alarm monitoring company you already have.”

Field-Elliot said NextAlarm began R&D-ing a solution to the VoIP problem around 2005 when they started getting a lot of “failure to communicate” errors as their monitored customers switched to VoIP companies like Vonage for phone service. “There are several different ways for an alarm system to communicate over broadband. The most obvious is that if you have a brand new panel that speaks broadband natively, then that’s a no-brainer. What we’ve built with VoIPAlarm is what we believe is the most cost-effective way to retrofit the tens of millions of panels that are out there to work flawlessly over broadband. It’s not the only way, but we believe it’s the best as well as the cheapest way,” Field-Elliot said. “What we developed was an adapter along with a backend infrastructure that the adapter communicates with so that we can continue to monitor their system over broadband. And it doesn’t matter if they have VoIP or not. All it really does is switch their alarm system from POTS to broadband. And it very neatly solves the voice-over-IP problem since their alarm systems no longer have to communicate over their VoIP line.”

According to a NextAlarm release, the new patent—NextAlarm’s second—covers their method of converting two-way voice for communication over VoIP. VoIPAlarm allows any alarm company or monitoring station to receive legacy alarm panel or PERS device signals over IP. Other features offered by VoIPAlarm include electronic notifications of alarm events, NextView IP video cameras, and a branded customer portal allowing end users to take full advantage of the technology.

But what about bandwidth issues and ISP outages one hears about?

“The legitimate concern is, ‘What if my Internet connection goes down? It seems like every few weeks, my Internet goes down for a half-hour,’” Field-Elliot said. “Our head-end is in constant contact with all of our customers’ adapters and we know within two or three minutes when and if a connection goes down and we can notify the central station, the dealer or the customer within minutes … That kind of real-time supervision is not possible with POTS, where the polling norm is once every 24 hours.”