Self-monitoring denigrated

Majority of industry calls it a 'false sense of security,' and worse
Thursday, February 1, 2007

YARMOUTH, Maine--A January SSN news poll on self-monitored systems found that while just 38 percent of our readers said they were concerned about the growing popularity of self-monitored home video security systems, 73 percent acknowledged there is a market for self-monitored security systems, and 63 percent worried self-monitored security systems were potentially dangerous to the system owner.
Judging by the comments, these systems are very controversial in the industry: "An unmonitored security system is like having your dog wear a bullet proof vest and a silencing muzzle while being penned in the garage," said Scottie Warner of Alarm Services in Kansas City, Mo. "Why sell something that portrays a false sense of security and leaves the consumer vulnerable to what could be life-threatening events?"
David Smith, vice president of Protection Unlimited, Cordova, Tenn., said, "Security is not a game. It can be the difference between life and death."
Others were confident the use of self-monitored systems would be short-lived. "The time delay in receiving the images of your house burning down while you are skiing or at a sporting event will not help you," said G. Duffy of Spectrum Cable & Alarm Systems.
Not surprisingly, AT&T's new offering was a subject of concern. Martin Carpenter of Carpenter and Sons, in Lincolnton, N.C., said self-monitored video systems are "just a waste of time and money ... all these giveaway-system companies try to do is sell the customer the illusion that he is protected." While Bill Humphries, at Indiana Security Systems, warned, "This is not the first time that AT&T has tried to enter the security market. Their previous product was not a quality piece of equipment and at that time it was actually installed by security professionals."
Joseph Pfefer, president of Jade Alarm in Kansas City, Mo., wondered if the system would open AT&T up to lawsuits "due to a homeowner running home, accosting an intruder ... someone could easily end up being injured or killed due to slow response or non-response."
John Yusza Jr. of Monitor Controls, in Wallingford, Conn., thought, "The responding authority will be most impacted. They will have to deal with the general public on both a technical and administrative level. It lowers the perception of a professional industry to that of a hobby." Nigel Smithers, owner of Watchdog Security in Hemet, Calif., said, "... it's very problematic whether the burglars will be identified or apprehended, even with the clearest of video images. A monitored system at least gives police a chance of catching a burglar at or near the premises."
Barry Brannon, vice president of business development for Marlin Central Monitoring in Kissimmee, Fla., addressed the issue of false alarms. "Residential customers currently cause 98 percent of all false alarms. Can this number potentially increase?"
Many security professionals who participated in our survey spoke to the issue of insurance. "I do not believe this will harm much of our business, if any at all," said Fred J. Sembera, of Sembera Security Systems in Cypress, Texas. "Insurance companies probably will not discount their insurance for self-monitoring."
In his response, Earl Bartlett of Emergency Alarm Response System addressed possible workplace issues. "[In order to watch their homes], people will be stealing time from employers and stealing use of employers' assets for personal use. Does this become the new type of baby/home sitting benefit which companies will offer as a compensation package?"
However, the responses weren't universally dismissive of these systems.
Joseph Hayes, a consultant at SET Independent Consulting, urged, "Don't become the blacksmith of the 21st century. This is the wave of the future. Larger numbers of broadband customers will migrate to video surveillance, especially as video motion detection becomes more cost effective and more police agencies require verification. Change with technology or get left behind."