New verification services broaden the scope of monitoring

Many of the products coming on the market today
Wednesday, October 1, 2003

give alarm owners a chance to track and verify non-critical alarms

With false alarm prevention as the basis, along with the opportunity to take advantage of all that telecommunications technology has to offer, new verification options are entering the monitoring arena.

While none are designed to eliminate the need for existing central station services, many of the products coming on the market today give alarm owners a chance to track and even verify many non-critical alarms.

Rather than sending non-essential alarms directly to a central station, these new systems route information via Internet, phone, pager or other telecommunications device to the end-user for their input.

Enhancing verification

Pam Layton, president and founder of TriGuard, Needham, Mass., developed a wireless security system - the panels of which are manufactured by DSC - that allows residential users to be notified of an alarm by TriGuard, most often on their cell phones. A second notification will go to a secondary verifier, such as a neighbor, before it is routed to the central station.

The advantage is not only a reduction in false alarms but also improved efficiency for the central station, Layton said. Monitoring companies make fewer verification calls, thus saving on personnel.

What it doesn’t do, Layton stressed, is take the central station out of the equation. Only in rare cases, she said, have users chosen not to have alarm monitoring as part of the service. “And that is in places where the police don’t respond to alarms,” she explained.

Tony Wilson, owner of CMS Computerized Monitoring Services, Longwood, Fla., said he will add TriGuard’s service in the next couple of months along with a similar platform from

He said TriGuard will be making the initial verification “and the only thing we get is the signal that we need.”

Wilson isn’t concerned that products such as TriGuard will eliminate the need for central station monitoring. “There will always be a need for emergency signals for burg, fire and medical,” he said. “This is just a more efficient process when it’s all said and done.”

Commercial vs. residential

Another central station operator, Jim Osborne, president of American Response Center, Euclid, Ohio, said only a handful of his customers want to get involved with the monitoring process via electronic notification. “They just want the alarm dispatched,” he said.

He said commercial users of alarms are most likely to be interested in getting cellphone or other kinds of alarm notifications, especially for maintenance-type operations such as problems with freezers or boilers.

The system, which Wilson is offering, was introduced to the public in July after a three-and-half year development period. President Steve Trundle said is meant to be more than just an alarm monitoring system.

Via an extra chip in GE-based wireless panels, Trundle said customers can monitor not only alarm activity but also all kinds of in-home events that are sensor-related. This could range from the delivery of mail to outside motion detection to the opening of items such as a liquor or gun cabinet.

Intrusion alarms are sent to participating central stations, although the information is also passed along as it happens to the customer, Trundle said. Non-event notifications are received by, then routed to the end user via their preferred method, which is usually email, he said.

Not opting out

Trundle, like Layton, said only a few customers so far have opted to not have central stations involved. In one case, he said, the system is used by an auto dealer that has its own private security firm. “But the majority of our (users) are wanting central station notification.”

Trundle acknowledged he was concerned, during the development phase, whether central stations would view his service as competition or complementary. But advantages such as more up-to-date contact lists that are maintained by and passed along to the central stations, have been well-received.

The WebAlert service, developed by A&E Security and Electronic Solutions, an alarm company that sells the web service to Security Associates International, provides email notification of alarms and other activity related to the security system, noted Dee Kopczynski, head of staff for the McMinnville, Ore.-based company.

The notifications don’t bypass the central station, but do provide clients with event information they can use to help reduce false alarms, she said. A&E, which doesn’t operate a central station but instead uses Security Associates International’s outlets, can also monitor the activity at its offices.

Kopczynski said about one-third of SAI enrollees are using WebAlert, which was designed by A&E’s Mike Elsberry. She said the WebAlert system “is much cleaner” than typical notification services because it better defines the event and how to deal with.

For enterprise system users, GE Interlogix recently tied in the routing of intrusion alarms to its Picture Perfect access control system. Although positioned as a way to save central station monitoring fees, Senior Product Manager Zev Freidus said most users of this product are Fortune 100 to 1000 companies that already do their own monitoring for access control.

“This allows them to route the intrusion alarms into Picture Perfect,” he said, which is a video-based access control system.

Freidus said false alarms were a focus of this development, especially with companies that have multiple branches or sites.

Intrusion alarms can now be verified by video at a central monitoring area, he said. And if a central station is involved, he said, calls that wouldn’t have been able to be phone-verified before - because a branch was closed - can now be verified by the person manning the video screen.