What’s the talk of the town? Voice over IP

Sunday, August 1, 2004

YARMOUTH, Maine - Security companies have faced some major connectivity hurdles in the last 12 months, from government mandated number portability that enabled people to walk away with their home telephone numbers, to the emergence of Internet-based phone services.

How seriously a threat Voice over Internet Protocol technology will pose to the industry is now under debate.

The two major threats to the industry, according to Louis T. Fiore, chairman of the standards committee at Central Station Alarm Association, is that alarm data itself seems incompatible with the format used by VoIP providers and VoIP installations are currently interrupting line seizure capabilities. These are two problems that can easily be fixed, Fiore said.

In June, CSAA distributed a survey to collect information about how individuals and companies within the industry have confronted VoIP.

It was sent “to make the FCC aware that without certain standards, VoIP is detrimental to the alarm industry as it exists,” said Fiore.

Security Systems News also conducted a poll in July, querying subscribers of its weekly SSN Newswire on the subject. Overall, 66 percent said VoIP does not affect their businesses at all.

“So far, VoIP has not impacted us significantly. But we’re anticipating it will,” said Amanda Helmig, director of sales and marketing at Centra-Larm in Manchester, N.H. “We are keeping our dealers posted on how it will impact us.”

According to Brad Smith, general manager, security at Time Warner, there is little difference between a standard phone system and an Internet one.

“I think that there’s a lot of misinformation out there about VoIP,” said Smith.

Some of the more prevalent problems he finds are line seizure and transit contact ID, as well. Line seizure refers to when an alarm takes control over a phone line in order to reach the monitoring company in the event of an emergency. “A lot of alarm companies have not done the job right for line seizure,” he said.

The only consensus at this point is the need for more information on the technology.

“I think the biggest thing is education,” Smith commented. “They don’t understand it,” referring to installers in the field and other members of the alarm community, who are skeptical of the technology.

Rick Ostopowicz, communications manager for the National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association, concurs.

“The industry needs to keep abreast of the new technology. If security companies can work together with cable companies, they can help solve problems before they become larger issues.”