Subscribe to Monitor This! RSS Feed

Monitor This!

by: Daniel Gelinas - Wednesday, October 20, 2010

CSAA's holding a couple webinars over the next few days. I've attended them in the past and written about them. They've been time well-spent.

The first one is today and is on social media, which many have been discovering is a useful business tool. Today's webinar focuses on Twitter and LinkedIn, both used by yours truly daily for discussions of best practices, story leads, promotion of content, etc., etc.

The last one on social media was very informative and well-attended. I wrote about it here.

If you're interested in attending, you can register here.

Here's some  more info on today's webinar from CSAA:

"Attend the Next CSAA Social Media Webinar on LinkedIn and Twitter for Business 201 Wednesday, October 20, 2010, 3:00pm ET:

Speakers: Brandon Lilly, Bold Technologies and Kristen Plante,

A CSAA Signature Series Webinar:

Gain a deeper knowledge on how to use LinkedIn and Twitter for your business."

The next webinar is next week and follows up on the very first free webinar CSAA conducted. It will again be led by Attrition Busters president Bob Harris. Avid readers of mine will recall the times in the past I've speculated on Bob's potential connection to the A-Team...

I also attended Bob's debut as a webinar moderator for the CSAA. That was a good one, too.

Here's some info on Bob's webinar:

"Attend the Next CSAA Webinar 'From Satisfied to Delighted' Raising the Bar on Customer Loyalty' Tuesday, October 26, 2010, 2:00pm ET:

Speaker: Bob Harris, President Attrition Busters

A CSAA Signature Series Webinar:

From Satisfied to Delighted: Raising the Bar on Customer Loyalty

An energetic and interactive seminar conveying some fundamental tools which will empower employees and managers to raise the bar in terms of perceived “added value” in doing business with your company as opposed to your competitors."

Interested attendees can register here.


by: Daniel Gelinas - Monday, October 18, 2010

I noticed an ACCENT discussion string talking about "POTS trainsmission issues" going on lately and, of course it caught my attention.

The discussion started when Matt Bergeron over at NEXgeneration Central asked if anyone else out there in ACCENT land had been having problems with their POTS service. I spoke with Matt a while back about their sudden and successful growth this past year. Many people chimed in on the POTS transmission string and the discussion began to examin VoIP issues with alarm communicaitons.

Morgan Hertel at Mace CSSS said that he believed that bad POTS transmissions were a sign of the times as service providers attempted to save money which meant routing calls (including alarm signals) through--or at least partly through--VoIP channels.

"The industry in my opinion is not taking this seriously both with  working with carriers to provide a transition plan but also to  start educating the dealer trades with the bad news that what they have been using for the last 25 years is suddenly going to be changing," Hertel said. "I speak with central stations all the time and just about everyone I talk to is going through the same stuff all the time and as an industry we need to have a unified message to the dealers and installers so they can start the transition and training, otherwise if you all think the AMPS sunset was a challenge this is going to melt us down."

Of course, I've done a lot of writing about POTS and VoIP... Actually the last comment is from Stephen Kovacsiss from Bosch security. He wanted to let everyone know about a free VoIP solution Bosch has.

"We have found that many are not aware of the latest update to the Bosch D6600/D6100i receivers in response to VoIP/GSM issues, so we would like to make sure that you know that Bosch has made significant advancements in dealing with VoIP when using Contact ID, 4-1 Express, and 4-2 Express formats.  Using patent pending digital signal processing, Bosch receivers can now interpret signals that would previously have been dismissed because they did not meet the formatting requirements of the communications protocol. This new processing performs additional analysis on alarm signals that allows the receiver to decode signals that have been modified by VoIP or digital phone networks.  Our testing has shown error reductions of up to 76% in known problem sites," Stephen said. "These updates are available at no charge for all users of our D6600 (with D6641 line cards) and D6100i Central Station Receivers in Version 1.35 of our D6200 central station receiver software on the Bosch web site.  Click on the following link to be directed to the download site, or paste it into your browser."

Avid readers of mine will recall I did a story about this a few months back.

I also did a story on a new company out of Sugarland, Texas called ipDatatel that claims to defeat the IP communications problems.

Matt over at NEXgeneration said something that stuck with me as well, since it's something I've been speculating about for a while:

"We need to do all wireless radio solutions and divorce ourselves from the phone carriers totally!!!"

I've been wondering when someone in the industry is going to create a communications backbone owned by the industry--by a communications association, say--that serves the industry reliably like POTS did. Is such an undertaking possible? Or worthwhile?

While they get in on the ACCENT discussion, I also had contact recently with World Wide security, a New York-based full service alarm company with their own central station, Vision Monitoring Services. They had a thing or two to say about POTS transmission problems and VoIP issues as well.

“With copper lines, your voice is your voice," said World Wide operations and technical services manager Christopher Edgar. "With VoIP, your voice is captured, compacted and combined with other data such as alarm signals and runs it across the line.”

This is the same problem the guys from ipDatatel were telling me about.

“One solution for transmission problems associated with alarm signals and VoIP switches are capture boards. The idea is to capture the transmission off the outgoing phone connection of the panel and convert that IP information and send it over the Internet. This is one idea the industry is working towards. If you have VoIP then you probably have Internet service. That makes IP signaling a possibility. The idea is terrific, but in practice it is difficult because every manufacturer uses its own protocols," said Dave Young, VP Vision Monitoring Services." The central station requires that manufacturers’ receiver equipment receive the signal. In traditional alarms it came down to format; as long as the receiver could handle the format, you could receive any manufacturer’s signals. The ideal solution for those products is a standardized transmission that allows a universal receiver to receive that traffic which the industry may or may not be working on. It is mind boggling that manufacturers cannot agree on a transmission protocol to send traffic to be handled by any number of devices—they all want to sell the razors and the blade, but not the razors that can handle any blade.”

Does anyone else have anything to say about IP communications? Problems or solutions? What's next?


by: Daniel Gelinas - Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Mel Mahler

I received a press release today announcing that CSAA past president and ADS Security chairman and CEO Mel Mahler has received the CSAA's Stanley C. Lott award. The award is given out annually to one whose "contributions have been significant over the span of their careers," according to the release.

Mel received the award at the CSAA's annual meeting, which wrapped last week in Marana, Ariz.

I spoke with Mel earlier today about his time as president of the CSAA, what the award means to him and to ADS customers and what the future holds for ADS.

Was this a surprise to you Mel or were you expecting this?

It was a surprise. When I was president of CSAA I awarded the Stan Lott Award twice and there were only three people that knew about it: Myself, CSAA executive director Steve Doyle, and the person that put together the trophy. It was very closely guarded. So, yes, it was a great surprise. It was an even greater surprise in 2005 when I got the Weinstock award from ESA, formerly NBFAA because I'm a former president of CSAA, not ESA. So in 2010 to get the same kind of high honor from CSAA meant the world to me.

What do you think led to you receiving this honor?

Well, I'll tell you, back seven years ago, when I was asked to come in as president of CSAA, I was reluctant, because I didn't have my really excellent team I have in place now, and I knew that job was going to be very time consuming. Four past presidents of CSAA came together in a meeting and told me, 'Mel, you have to do this, it's very important. You bring a different perspective that we need now. That was Ron LaFontaine, Bob Bonifas, John Mayberry and Ralph Sevinor ... I'm glad now I did it, and I would encourage anyone that has that opportunity to step up and do the same thing.

Does this award say anything to your ADS customers?

I think Stan Lott is really the one who brought Five Diamond as a designation to CSAA and today, we now have over a hundred Five Diamond central stations, and we were the number five Five Diamond... So to get this award--which is about more than just Five Diamond--connects us to him. Right now Five Diamond is really the hallmark of the industry.

What's on the horizon for you and for ADS?

I think now that I've got the team together--I've got a great president in John Cerasuolo who is on top of the day-to-day--it really gives me the opportunity to concentrate on acquisitions. As you know we just completed our 15th new location in Jackson, Tennessee. Now we go from Kentucky all the way down to Melbourne, Florida. And it really frees me up to do these acquisitions. I'm also on a number of industry boards--I'm on the board of American Alarm in Arlington, Mass., Lowitt Alarm in Long Island, Gilmore Security in Cleveland, Habitec Security in Toledo. If I didn't have this team here, I wouldn't be able to do these things. I also have a great partner in Bill Hunt in Pittsburgh. He's been with me for 20 years now--since we started--and he allows me the time to do all these things. I see lots of opportunity now for more acquisitions.

by: Daniel Gelinas - Thursday, October 7, 2010

I got an email from Sean O'Keefe of Texana Security today. Sean has been an advocate of RSI's verification solution Videofied for a while. I wrote a special report  a while ago on verification and higher priority response for alarms that are verified. In that story, Sean made a bold statement: O’Keefe said Texana actually has gone so far as to get all their customers to agree to a new Texana policy: police will not be notified of alarms that are not video-verified. “Part of our dealer program is that we deeply subsidize the equipment, so that a dealer can get this stuff now for almost the same price as other equipment,” O’Keefe said. “There really is a difference in police response time ... We had 11 apprehensions in a two-month period—that’s a lot … I tell police I have a technology here that can significantly reduce false alarms, increase apprehension opportunities and creates a safer response environment for responding officers. In 30 years I’ve never received the kind of response from law enforcement that I get with this.”

In his email this morning, Sean passed on a customer testimonial and some Videofied clips showing the solution doing what it was designed to do: verify a potential apprehension opportunity and help lead to an arrest.

From Sean's email:

"I thought you might find the following message and accompanying videos interesting.  There has been a rash of thefts at building supply warehouses during the past couple of years.  I  have been advised by law enforcement that many of these thefts are being carried out by organized crime syndicates.  As you can deduct from the following customer testimonial, we replaced his “standard” video system  (after he had experienced several undetected break-ins) with the Texana Video Verified system and as the videos indicate were able to facilitate the detection  and apprehension of two (not four) intruders."

Regardless of where you stand on the verified vs. non-verified debate (is it okay to trumpet higher police priority for verified alarms? Something I've written about before) you can't argue with results: in this case video verification got results.

Here's the testimonial (from the alarm dealer) Sean references:

"Building Supply Centers/Warehouses have been a frequent target of thieves.  On 10/6/2010 Texana received 'video' intrusion alarms from one of our customers (Roofing Materials Supplier) and transmitted the alarm to Dallas PD.  Dallas PD responded immediately and apprehended four individuals.  Following is an unsolicited testimonial from our customer.  Note the customer indicates he had experienced 5 previous break-ins that were undetected by a conventional CCTV system.  This is yet one more example of the effectiveness of a 'video verified' alarm system coupled with priority response from the police department."

And here's the testimonial from the end user:

"Attached is a video stream from the security system we installed in Dallas last year after the string of burglaries. The new system  last night worked just as advertised and  resulted in 4 people being arrested for theft.  The system has an infrared perimeter cameras that when the infrared is broken sends this 15 second video stream to the security company that monitors it 24/7 and if they determine if the cops need to be contacted. They did and dispatched the police and the cops caught the 4 guys in the act and arrested them."

Again, I don't advocate for either a verified (either by video or by audio) alarm system. I don't have an alarm system myself--neither verified nor traditional.

I DO like hearing what all of you think, however. I think that as consumer electronics get more advanced, end users are going to demand more technology and more personal involvement in monitoring... Look at Total Connect and other smart phone type apps.

I'm actually working on a story right now about a company that's turning smartphones into monitored, mobile two-way audio units for personal security.

I wrote a story back about GPS tacking company Wind Trac in which a couple security executives said monitoring companies would have to start offering mobile, personal tracking services and be ready to embrace more technologically advanced solutions.

From that story:

"Doug Harris is director of public relations at Wind Trac, a provider of real-time GPS-based tracking and monitoring systems for asset tracking, fleet management, child tracking, lone-worker protection, elderly tracking, weapons tracking, medical alert, and personal safety applications. Harris said that such a lack of attention on the part of the traditional security industry to sell and monitor GPS-based tracking and monitoring systems has allowed his company to flourish. 'We’ve taken a very reasonable and a very reasonably-priced approach that most people don’t.' It’s this willingness to 'protect the family, protect them where they go,' to go mobile, that will set Wind Trac apart, said Harris. 'Individuals can save a bundle getting out of the conventional monitoring culture and that’s the secret to our success.'

Mike Simpson, president of Bay City, Mich.-based security software developer Dice Corporation, agreed that the time was right for traditional security companies to expand their reach· 'I think the point is that the technology is becoming more mobile, less costly, more reliable and easier for central stations to be involved in the monitoring part of a solution,' Simpson said. 'I have been saying for a couple of years now that the really smart central stations will become general monitoring centers, if they aren’t that already. This is the result of moving into the monitoring of devices that go beyond traditional security services.'"

I wonder how long it will be before a company comes up with a way to use a smartphone's camera to send video feed to a central station in connection with a panic button activation? I welcome your thoughts.

by: Daniel Gelinas - Thursday, September 30, 2010

I was going through my Google Alerts today and came across an intersting article from WIRED  about a new patent recently granted to Apple. The patent is for what WIRED argues is THE new use for biometrics: Personalization. WIRED says biometrics has been oversold and doesn't work all that well for security, but may be a perfect fit for personalization.

We've written about Apple and security before.

From the WIRED article:

"The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office last week granted Apple a patent for biometric-sensor handheld devices that recognize a user by the image of his or her hand. In the not-too-distant future, anyone in the house could pick up an iOS device — or a remote control or camera — and have personalized settings queued up just for them."

Okay, I get that. That sounds pretty cool. The article then goes on about how the new patent will "protect" devices... which sounds like security to me...

Then the article claims this new use for biometrics will differ from the over-promised but undelivered use of biometrics in access control.

"It’s a very different use of biometrics than we’ve seen in the movies. Hand and retina scanners have been touted for years as a futuristic gatekeepers to high-security buildings. This is usually a much-embellished version of their real-world use by businesses and government agencies for whom secrecy is a big deal. In the wider world, tiny fingerprint scanners have been built into laptops, but they aren’t widely used for the simple reason that they don’t work reliably enough.

"But while they might be insufficient for security, biometrics might work just fine for personalization. Suppose my family shares a future-generation iPad that supports multiple user profiles and a version of this sensor technology. When my wife or I pick it up, the mail application displays each of our inboxes separately. When our young son picks it up, only games and other approved applications are available. If guests or intruders pick it up, a guest profile would make none of your personal information immediately available to them."

Don't get me wrong, I see the cool factor of all this. I mean, extrapolate this use of biometrics out to the automobile: As soon as my hand touches the sensor in the door handle, the seats and mirrors automatically adjust to me, the sound system automatically sets to my personal music playlists and ear-splitting volume levels... That's pretty cool. But isn't assuring that my 3-year-old son only sees his pre-approved Wiggles videos on the iPad and not my classic horror movie collection a form of access control? Even it it's only access control of movie playlists? and isn't access control security? I would argue that biometric control of personalized settings is still security.

The article aslo mentions that biometrics has been oversold as "futuristic gatekeepers to high-security buildings." I wrote a story a while back about a security company that uses a suite of technologies, including biometrics to secure buildings. That company--FST21--was followed by SSN later in a story about a security integrator who was having luck with the solution.

What do you all think? Is there still room for biometrics in security, or is it all about the iPad from here?



by: Daniel Gelinas - Monday, September 27, 2010

I wrote a story recently about the settlement between Fontana and the local alarm association, the Inland Empire Alarm Association, which ended the two year long legal battle there. I just got off the phone with security industry attorney Les Gold over at Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp. Les was active in the litigation, but was unavailable for comment during the drafting of that story.

He let me know that the revised ordinance passed its second reading and forecasted that the announced settlement would be final on Oct. 22 after the 30-day waiting period was over. Fontana will pay the legal expenses it owes to the IEAA at that time.

Les also said the real positive impact on the industry (since the city settled with the IEAA, the case itself won't actually have any impact as a precident-setting case since it won't be a reported case), is in the assessment of fines.

"The important thing for us was that the old ordinance levied all the fines against the alarm company," Les told me. Such is not the case any more. "It's already having an impact. There were seven cities around the community who were all looking to do the same thing. Now none of them are going to do it because they know they'll loose. I think it will have an impact all over, a tremendous impact all over the country."

How does your municipality run things? Do they charge the alarm companies or the end users? Does your municipality require ECV? Do you do ECV already anyway? Drop by SSN's news poll on the subject and vote today!

by: Daniel Gelinas - Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I wrote a story back in late August about a lawsuit filed against Sonitrol Security by Core-Mark Midcontinent and it's insurers. The long and short of it was that Sonitrol lost and was judged to have been negligent. ADT, which owned Sonitrol Security back when the loss happened refused to comment since it "does not comment on ongoing litigation."

Here's some of what I wrote back then:

DENVER—Jurors here deliberated over the accumulated facts in an appeal case at the Colorado Court of Appeals and decided in favor of the co-plaintiffs in a nearly decade-long legal battle against Sonitrol Corp. The lawsuit stems from a 2001 fire in which a warehouse owned by co-plaintiff Core-Mark Midcontinent was broken into and burned. The original decision in the lawsuit was that Sonitrol Corp., because of the exculpatory clauses in its contract was only liable for $500 in damages. That decision was appealed, and the result of that appeal, announced on Aug. 18, is that the three co-plaintiffs—insurers Commonwealth Insurance and United States Fire Insurance, and the insured, food distributor Core-Mark Midcontinent—are now owed a total of $18.3 million. Pre-judgment interest of 8 percent per year in Colorado could add millions to that number, according to Cozen O'Connor, attorney for the insurance companies.

The real question now is who will be left footing that rather hefty bill?

Ken Kirschenbaum recently took a brief look at some of the language in the Sonitrol contracts and I thought it was interesting.

Here's some of what Ken had to say:

Where was the waiver of subrogation clause?  This is perhaps the most potent provision in the alarm contract because, as in this case, most cases against alarm companies are brought by insurance companies [incredibly some of the same insurance companies who write alarm errors and omission insurance].  A waiver of subrogation clause will put a stop to the case, but of course the defense attorneys need to raise the clause as a defense.  I could not imagine that the Sonitrol contract didn't have a waiver of subrogation.  Well guess what?  The contract is so poorly written that its hard to tell.  The contract has this provision:

    "Client hereby waives his right of recovery against Dealer for any loss covered by insurance on the premises or its contents to the extent permitted by any policy or by law."

    What the heck does that mean?  Does it sound like "Subscriber hereby waives any right of subrogation any insurance carrier may have against alarm company?"

    How hard was that to say?

Legalese is all Greek to me, but I thought it was interesting anyway. I assumed there must have been something wrong with the contracts that usually protect alarm companies from such cases as these.

By the way, Ken sells contracts for alarm companies... Check him out.

by: Daniel Gelinas - Monday, September 20, 2010

So the news isn't actually all that newsy... The judgment that the city of Fontana, Calif.'s 2008 ordinance was at least in part  unconstitutional was reached by the San Bernardino Superior Court in March 2010. Both sides in this ongoing battle (Fontana and the Inland Empire Alarm Association) appealed that ruling, initially.

However, a settlement has now been reached, according to published reports. (The San Bernardino Sun), and SSN wants to bring you the inside scoop on what this settlement means for the industry.

In a sign that the legal proceedings of the last two years may have taken their toll on everyone and convinced them that working together is much better than litigating at one another, the parties released a joint press release on Sept. 6.

Here's some of that release:

City of Fontana and Alarm Industry Reach Agreement on Alarm Management

Settlement Preserves Both Public Funds and Verified Police Response to Electronic Security Systems

FONTANA, Calif. – Sept. 6, 2010— The City of Fontana and the alarm industry, through the Inland Empire Alarm Association (IEAA), have reached an agreement to resolve their dispute over the City of Fontana’s 2008 alarm ordinance.  The agreement ends on-going litigation and allows both sides to move forward cooperatively to serve and protect the residents and business of Fontana.

The 2008 ordinance provided that the Fontana Police Department would not respond to burglar alarm notification calls from alarm companies unless there was some audio, video, or eyewitness verification that an actual break-in was about to or had occurred. If alarm companies inappropriately notified police of an alarm call without such verification, a fine was imposed on the alarm company. Some of the key provisions of the 2008 ordinance were found to be unconstitutional by the San Bernardino Superior Court in March 2010, while the Court affirmed the validity of other portions.  Both sides had appealed that ruling.

In the spirit of compromise, the parties mutually and amicably agreed to dismiss their appeals and instead agree on terms of a new alarm ordinance to replace the disputed 2008 ordinance.  The new alarm ordinance maintains verified response to burglar alarms while eliminating the provisions of the 2008 ordinance that the alarm industry contended were unlawful. It envisions a continuing cooperative relationship between the Police Department and the alarm companies to adjust the verification requirement for burglar alarms as alarm technology improves so alarm companies can continue to serve their customers and police can continue to improve their level of service to the people of Fontana.  IEAA has agreed that the terms of the settlement adequately satisfy Fontana’s obligations under the Superior Court’s March decision to forgo any refund of the fine money collected by the City of Fontana under the ordinance.

President of IEAA, Morgan Hertel says electronic security companies will also work with law enforcement on appropriate alarm response to reduce false alarms and to help conserve limited police resources.

So it sounds like both sides are giving a little and everyone's allowed to walk away with a little dignity. I actualy began writing a story about this turn of events last week, when I picked up the story in the San Bernardino Sun. That story should move on our wire soon, once our legal sources have a chance to look at the larger legal ramifications for the security industry.

Even though the two sides have come to an agreement and are working together, there have been compromises.

The new alarm ordinance maintains the verified response requirement, which the Fontana Police Department believes reduces incidents of false dispatch of police. It continues to provide for fines against alarm companies for requesting police dispatch without first verifying an actual emergency exists and will also impose fines on alarm companies for misrepresenting that verification took place.

I've been blogging a lot about verification lately. I think it's going to continue to be a pretty heavy topic going forward.

CAA past president and law enforcement liaison for SIAC Jon Sargent said other state alarm associations may begin combing through their ordinances. “It’s a pretty remarkable thing to have in writing that the ordinance here was unconstitutional and violated due process,” Sargent said. “I would think this is going to shake up everything.”

Sargent also said that the actual amount of money the city has spent on the legal battle with the Inland Empire Alarm Association is actually much more than this most recent settlement. “We’ve been through two lawsuits with them. We started back in August of 2007. That was after they put a very restrictive verified response police in place. So far they’ve had to pay more than $357,000 in lawyers’ fees to the association. That doesn’t include their own legal expenses. The first lawsuit in 2008, they paid over $184,000. And now there’s the $173,000,” Sargent said

Stay tuned to SSN for continuing coverage of this story, including interviews with representatives from SIAC, the IEAA and attorneys from Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp, the law firm that's been working with the industry in this matter.

by: Daniel Gelinas - Tuesday, September 14, 2010

scratch I was going through my email this morning and came across my email newsletter from Ken Kirschenbaum. Today’s edition follows the theme of enhanced call verification and verification, in general. I found this edition particularly interesting because of a missive from Bart Didden over at U.S.A. Central Station Alarm Corp.

I’ve blogged about some of what Bart’s had to say in Ken’s forum before. Today Bart’s talking about verified alarms, in general and about Videofied, specifically. I’ve written a lot about both. The thrust of Bart’s address is that it’s perhaps self-defeating to market video (or audio, I assume) verified intrusion detection systems as eliciting a higher priority response from police than a normal intrusion detection system.

Here’s Bart’s entry on verified alarms:


I am happy as anyone else for the success of Videofied and yes we monitor that platform in our office. But I am concerned about the message that your e-mail distributes and the unintended consequence for the 30 million systems that have been installed and are in service in which the vast majority is doing what they were designed to do, detect the actions of an unknown person or persons.

My direct issue with the message and content is that I believe that Mr. Jentoft is saying that those 30 million systems are sub-standard or in Lee Jones (another way left of center self proclaimed industry professional who pontificates) words, frauds.

While I believe that we should embrace new technology, we can not place ourselves in such a position that we devalue the more traditional technology that was just installed. We should not allow a new class of customer to be created to receive a higher level of response service from municipal authorities as a sales tool when a properly designed and installed system without video is just if not more effective for the purpose at hand, detection.

Members of the industry and your list SHOULD NOT endorse or perpetuate this marketing scheme all at the detriment of the system they installed yesterday or last year that was not a Videofied system.

Bart’s letter is in response to an earlier posting from Keith:


This just came out in the magazine of the National Sheriffs Assn. I don’t think that law enforcement has ever endorsed an alarm product before, at least not officially.

I thought it might interest you,

In any case, I enjoy your morning reports.

Thank you for your support.

I see Bart’s point. And I see Keith’s point. The problem, though, is that the police generally ARE, in fact giving higher priority to an alarm that’s verified. Not just by Videofied, though. Most of the law enforcement officials to whom I’ve spoken on the topic admit that they’re in the business of apprehending criminals, so if an alarm signal comes in that assures there’s suspicious activity complete with a perp onsite, then the alarm is not just an alarm, it becomes a crime in progress, and police will respond with higher priority.

Bart is certainly not the only industry exec I’ve spoken with who questions the wisdom of marketing a verified system as better than a traditional system. When I was down in Dallas putting my recent market trends piece on verified alarms together, Mitch Clarke over at Monitronics, Ty Davis, formerly with Southwest Dispatch, and Stefan Rayner, Grant Graham and David Steinbrunner with NMC all expressed concern about devaluing the traditional intrusion system. I understand where they’re all coming from. I feel like this is a debate we’ve seen before and will see a lot of in the future.

The problem, though is that it’s not about Videofied or Sonitrol vs. traditional intrusion detection, it’s about a verified crime in progress vs. something may or may not be going on… If I can tell a police officer that I just saw someone break a window at the neighbor’s house and climb through, said officer is going to react more quickly and with higher priority than if a motion detector went off and we have no idea what set it off.

Mike Jagger over at Provident Security sends his security officers to every alarm he gets at his central station. That’s how Provident verifies its alarms.

I’ve also discussed police response to alarms before. The truth is that police are not required to respond to alarms. It’s a courtesy they pay to a private business. Their job is not to bring value to what a security company sells, it’s to uphold the law, apprehend bad guys and deter lawbreaking in the future.

I’m curious to hear what you, my readers, think? Is there a way to promote the benefits of a verified system without devaluing a non-verified, traditional system? Should all systems incorporate some kind of verification? Chime in and let me know your thoughts.

by: Daniel Gelinas - Tuesday, September 7, 2010

What scary things will the future bring to security?

What scary things will the future bring to security?

It seems like all I’ve been blogging about lately are the scary goings-on in the worlds of the Telcos, GSM and POTS (hence my sort of out there titular reference to the scary things (”Lions, Tigers and Bears! Oh my!”) Dorothy (in my sorta wacky metaphor, that’s you, faithful security industry readers) may or may not encounter on her way down the yellow brick road to Oz (that’s the unknown immediate future on the way to the sunny, eventual happily-ever-after that we all somehow believe in (perhaps naively)).

I wrote most recently about a lengthy GSM sunset discussion going on over at the Alarm Monitoring Group at Linked in. Before that I was speculating about Verizon. Just today, I received a comment on my colleague Martha’s recent telco-centered story on the latest telco partnerships.

The email was an unabridged version of a comment from Reliance Alarm Co.’s Lou Arellano, III. Lou, not surprisingly had a beef with SSN’s 500 character limit on story comments. Firstly, thanks Lou for sticking it out and getting your comments through via email. We appreciate your readership and attention.

Here’s what Lou had to say:

Telcos have been drooling over alarm service RMR for all of my 30 years in the business.

In the late 1980s (The “Old”) AT&T marketed a wireless system that it subsequently abandoned in the early 90’s. AT&T handed off the remainder of the 11-year statutory required repair support to a California company and left the market place altogether.

Bell of PA/Bell Atlantic entered the market in the ’80’s with an alarm transport system called REACT, which was designed to be UL compliant using a polling terminal at the head end and a Subscriber Terminal Unit (”STU”) at the subscriber premises. The signal was superimposed on a POTS line in similar manner to the current DSL, although the polls and data were audible bursts. The supervision shifted to a subaudible tone when the subscriber’s phone was off-hook. Had REACT been sufficiently reliable it might well have succeeded, but it only served to demonstrate and bring into sunshine the fact that the PSTN, even back then, was hardly up 24/7 although IMO was a lot more reliable than it is today. Unfortunately REACT itself, apart from the normal PSTN, had its own unique set of problems resulting more frequent and annoying outages than the problematic and costly copper leased lines it was supposed to replace. It created a lot of service calls and constant worry for us. (Déjà vu). REACT was phased out after a relatively short life cycle, partly due to the advent of cellular solutions.

Fortunately, these entries were focused on the manufacturing and transport modes, leaving the difficult and labor-intensive system design, sales, installation, monitoring and repair service to us.

There is little reason to think they will forget these lessons unless they can fully automate the central station process and make the system so reliable and so easy to deploy that a dedicated army of technicians and support people won’t be necessary; or the profits justify an extensive infrastructure, as observed with cellular phone service.

They should also be concerned about their existing transport revenues being yanked out or lost through attrition by angry alarm companies shifting to suppliers and technology that are not their direct competitors. (For example, I refuse to buy fuel oil from a fuel company that now sells alarms.)

Perhaps someone from the central station business will share their perspective with us?

An interesting contribution to the discussion, Lou. The thing to remember, and I feel you address this well, is that just because they’ve tried and failed before does not mean they will fail again. Telcos have changed and grown vis-a-vis power, influence and financing. The next try at security may very well see a telco “make the system so reliable and so easy to deploy that a dedicated army of technicians and support people won’t be necessary.” One never knows.

So how about it, central station readers? Do any of you have a perspective on all this you’d care to share?