New threat to RMR? Sizing up PhantomLink

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09/05/2012

The headline on the news release is an attention-grabber: “PhantomLink technology pushes alarm monitoring to the cloud, threatens industry.” If that isn’t clear enough, the subhead rephrases it: “Cloud-based technology set to undermine traditional alarm monitoring industry.”

The PR piece from Phantom Data Services proceeds to trumpet the company’s new PhantomLink project, which encourages homeowners to monitor their own security systems for no charge via the Web. The project “leverages existing equipment, requires only a simple retrofit, and is offered for free with no recurring costs.”

“Nearly 80 percent of households in the U.S. have Internet access,” states Adam Peters, founder of PhantomLink.com. “So why are people still paying their hard-earned money to a central station to monitor their alarm? Just connect it to the Internet and monitor it yourself!”

The news release describes PhantomLink as a small, easy-to-install, build-it-yourself device that links an existing security system to the user’s wireless Internet connection. If the device senses an alarm, company servers alert the user with an email or a text message. Circuit schematics, interface specifications and instructions for using the “self-monitored security system solution” are available for free on PhantomLink’s Web page.

“Do-it-yourself alarm installers and electronics hobbyists are encouraged to participate in this project to develop and expand the capabilities of this technology,” the company states.

Visitors to the PhantomLink website will find all of the information mentioned in the news release, but little about the company promoting the device. Phantom Data Services is described only as “a New Mexico limited liability company specializing in website development and data-processing products and services.”

So is this the new age of monitoring? Is it time to mothball the central station and say goodbye to RMR? Will homeowners tired of “simply paying for piece of mind,” as the news release states, now opt for self-service?

Grammatical glitches aside, peace of mind is what many alarm customers are seeking. Millions have shown the willingness to pay a professional for it, even in a down economy. Do-it-yourself security will obviously appeal to some, but free doesn’t mean free of responsibility.

This also isn’t the first time the alarm industry has been down this path, said Morgan Hertel, vice president of operations for Rapid Response.

“This kind of stuff has been around for years,” Hertel told Security Systems News. “In the ’70s, it was tape dialers calling neighbors, work numbers and sometimes police departments. In the ’80s, we moved to pagers—you could get paged on alarms. Now we have email, SMS and IVR.”

While there is always something new coming down the pike, the bottom line remains the same for alarm companies: provide professional service at a competitive price and chances are you’ll stay in business. PhantomLink and other do-it-yourself offerings are unlikely to change that.

“The professional monitoring and installation companies are still here doing their thing,” Hertel said. “What most [customers] come to realize is that the cost of a monitored security system is so affordable these days, and is packed with so many features, that most people who take security seriously don’t ever consider [a DIY] solution.”
 

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