Monitoring everything

‘The Internet of Things’ brings opportunities for non-traditional monitoring
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Monday, August 4, 2014

“The Internet of Things,” the ever-increasing number of devices that are connected to the Internet, may represent a new frontier in monitoring. As the number of connected products rises, so do the revenue and service opportunities for security dealers to monitor those devices.

To fully take advantage of these opportunities, however, mindsets must change, according to executives from third-party central monitoring stations who spoke to Security Systems News for this story.

“I think the traditional monitoring central station is going the way of the POTS line,” said Don Childers, Security Central COO. In the future, “we will cease to be a central station and be more like a data center,” he said. That data will include video and other information from sensors, Childers explained. In the future, central stations will do a variety of analytics on that data and provide information back to its customers.

To stay relevant, central stations need to be paying attention to the Internet of Things trend and thinking about what kinds of services it needs to offer its dealers and customers. “If you’re not looking at [your central station] as a data center, you’ll be lost,” Childers predicted.

Just how big is the Internet of Things phenomenon?

Quoting Gartner Research, Childers said that by 2020, somewhere in the neighborhood of 56 billion devices—26 billion wired devices and 30 billion wireless devices—will be connected to the Internet.

“And if we count Z-Wave and ZigBee as wireless, the numbers could go even higher,” he said.

And what about the market opportunity associated with those connected devices?

“On Jan 7 … in a keynote presentation at the International Consumer Electronics Show, Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers said that the Internet of Everything—connected products ranging from cars to household goods—could be a $19 trillion opportunity in the next six years,” said Childers.
 
Daniel Oppenheim, VP of Affiliated Monitoring noted that “anything and everything that can report back and share information about itself—whether it’s a car or a refrigerator … can report data and information … and our [central station] computer systems can identify and evaluate issues.” The same way it does with intrusion alarms, central stations, in concert with dealers and their customers, can set parameters for the kinds of information a central station operator pays attention to and set protocol for how that operator will respond to certain information and alerts, he said.

“Alarm dealers  [will have] more and different systems and sensors that they can install and generate RMR from … and we can monitor [those systems and devices] for them,” Oppenheim said.

Morgan Hertel, VP Operations for Rapid Response Monitoring Services, has no doubt that the Internet of Things will have a great effect on central stations, but he said the industry needs to determine what kinds of new monitoring services make the most sense for central stations, dealers and end users, he said.

Hertel pointed out that the technology exists to monitor all kinds of data about refrigerators, for example.  “But we have to figure out what our business model is,” he said. “It might be that we don’t want to monitor when we are out of milk, but we do want to monitor when the temperature in the refrigerator gets warm.”

Currently Rapid Response does a lot of network monitoring. “That’s been going on for a long time and it’s starting to really grow to be more commonplace,” he said. That kind of monitoring is crucial to business end users. However, he notes, that is not the kind of service an average alarm dealer is likely to offer. It’s more the sophisticated integrators such as Convergint, who are providing broadband, telephone service and more. “They have become a master dealer [who] provides so many services,” Hertel said.

Many alarm companies are doing other kinds of non-traditional monitoring. Rapid dealers do a lot of environmental monitoring (such as temperature, flooding) in a number of different applications, such as manufacturing facilities.

Affiliated’s Oppenheim cited its InView video platform as an example of a new monitoring service. Affiliated’s operators use InView to view a video clip when an alarm is triggered. A video clip of the event can be sent to the end user via email or text, and the events/clips are stored on Affiliated’s servers.

The opportunity is not limited to newly installed devices, Oppenheim pointed out. “The idea is that you return to your existing customers [on the residential and commercial side] and offer enhanced services, often without that much work or any added work,” he said.

With mobile PERS and environmental monitoring (temperature, flooding, humidity), you no longer need the traditional control panel … it’s just a sensor that communicates over Wi-Fi or Ethernet and can report back to us,” Oppenheim said.

Kristin Hebert, dealer and vendor relations for Acadian Monitoring Services, said video monitoring is “our fastest growing business line. We have doubled our [video monitoring] every year for the past three yeas and we anticipate it will continue to grow in the next couple of years.

Using Sureview’s Immix platform, which integrates with about 300 different devices, Acadian helps its dealers monitor a number of different devices.

Asked about unique applications, Hebert cited the monitoring of a shrimp plant in Louisiana, where cameras watch temperature gauges in various locations around the facility.

Another third-party central, Dynamark, does environmental monitoring for a chicken farm.

Both applications monitor for slight changes in temperature that if not monitored exactly could result in major revenue loss for the agribusiness customers.

Trey Alter, president and CEO of Dynamark, said his company is doing a lot business in video verification; wellness or activity monitoring (such as sensors that determine if an elderly parent has gotten up and moved around or taken medicine); and GPS monitoring applications.

Alter noted that an important part of the evolution of central station monitoring is the increasing ubiquity of the smartphone. “When something bad happens, and we call [a customer] or they call us, the most powerful device is the smartphone,” Alter said.

He expects the interaction of customers and dealers with central stations will continue to evolve with more use of texting.

Alter said it’s incumbent upon manufacturers of residential security products “to innovate the way we communicate with and manage our homes” rather than the bells and whistles of alarm panels. He and others also talked about the need for central stations to invest and update their education efforts internally and for dealers.

Security Central’s Childers said the task at hand is determining which monitoring services and technologies are the most pertinent to dealers and customers. Time will tell, but in the meantime, monitoring stations need to promote IT education for their employees and look for new hires with IT skills, he said.

“[The Internet of Things] Is it huge? You betcha. Is it bigger than security? Probably,” Childers said.  For central stations to thrive in the future, thinking outside the box will not be enough, Childers said.  “We need to throw the box away.”