Mobile security moving to the forefront?

Extending central station monitoring beyond the home
 - 
Thursday, March 17, 2011

LOS ANGELES—The idea of mobile security has been around for a while, but according to some security industry observers, the proliferation of smartphone use and technology may signal the real advent of the mobile security market.

ESX chair George De Marco said he’s been looking at a number of companies lately to determine where the developing space stands in terms of standards and protocols.

“There are lots of folks that are in this space. When I talk to centrals about this, they’re telling me companies have already approached them. More and more people are thinking about this developing market,” De Marco said. “I think the security industry needs to ask itself how can they add to the bundled services they’re offering. This kind of thing will help them to move beyond that traditional perimeter that they protect now.”

Soteria Systems last year released a mobile panic button solution called Forsse, monitored by AvantGuard and in 2009, Wind Trac, a provider of real-time GPS-based tracking and monitoring systems for asset tracking, went so far as to say traditional security companies were ‘missing the boat’ by not protecting individuals rather than addresses.

At this year’s ISC West, a new company, MobileTREC, a provider of next generation 911 (NG911) technology, will be telling people about its mobile phone-based SafeKidZone and SafeTREC solutions, which central stations can offer to dealers for white labeling. They describe the product as extending an end user’s central station monitoring beyond the walls of a monitored premises.

“MobileTREC provides a cell phone-based personal security network that, at the press of a button, simultaneously alerts and mobilizes a select group of friends and family when a subscriber is in trouble,” said MobileTREC chief visionary officer Henry Siegel, who will represent MobileTREC at ISC West. The conference bridge between the end user and his or her security network is facilitated by a central station operator, who assesses the situation and if necessary “sends an alert directly to the nearest emergency services dispatcher in seconds, with complete subscriber information, photos, precise GPS location, etcetera.”

Are there quirks to monitoring panic signals from an end user’s mobile phone? Anaheim, Calif.-based Mace CSSS is currently vetting the MobileTREC solutions.

“You’re starting to see the emergence of a number of solutions coming out at the app level. What this allows us to do is say, ‘What do we do to appeal to everyone?’” said Mace CSSS vice president and GM Morgan Hertel. “With the MobileTREC application, when you bring the central station online, the operator knows immediately who you are, where you are, what you look like, what you drive, who your family contacts are. And that operator knows what agency is appropriate to your location to get you the quickest help.”

Why would end users pay for this kind of monitored solution when they could just call 911 directly?

“As you may well know, for two decades mobile phone users would call 911 only to reach a California Highway Patrol dispatcher—at least in California—who would then request the caller's location, then attempt to patch the caller into the proper police department,” Siegel said. “Obviously, this has been a highly fallible system for many reasons—abduction, or a traveler who is unfamiliar with their local surroundings—These people would be challenged to provide accurate, timely or reliable information.”

The MobileTREC solutions work with both smartphones and traditional mobile phones and address a 2010 call to action from the FCC. After the Virginia Tech shootings—during which students allegedly attempted unsuccessfully to send text messages to 911—the FCC called for companies to begin developing and implementing NG911 technologies, which would incorporate text messaging, video and other multimedia into 911 calling. Companies like MobileTREC and NICE listened and began R&D efforts.

MobileTrec CEO Don Ferguson said the company is positioned to help bring mobile security to the mainstream.

“Every single cell phone out there has a different camera and a different version of an operating system, so we’re kind of in beta,” Ferguson said, addressing the MobileTREC solutions’ ability to deliver live video via mobile phone camera to the central station. “Also, PSAPs are heavily regulated, so we’ve made sure we could deliver to the PSAP. There were no standards at all for delivering a true mobile solution for personal safety to 911, so we’re working with public safety organizations on pioneering these standards to govern mobile delivery of data to the PSAP for NG911.”

In addition to working with MobileTREC on possible standards and protocols for this kind of mobile, monitored solution, De Marco said he is also currently looking at other mobile security solutions from companies like RUOK (pronounced “are you okay”).

“The functionality of this stuff is, ‘Where are you and do you need help?’” De Marco said. “The concerns going forward are going to be reliability, ability to monetize the service, and how easily the new technology can be integrated into the automation platform at the central station.”