The role of the central station is under attack. Think about the manufacturers of such technology as eight-track players or slide rules. Both made a great product that consumers loved until the day new technology—CDs and electronic calculators—left their entire industry on the bypass of industrial life.
Monitoring stations must stay current with technology to survive in today's competitive business climate. Central stations need to understand market opportunity available to them. And while a majority of them do and are using software platforms and other capabilities that enhance their ability to monitor customer safety, some are still hanging onto their old-school roots and not giving in to change.
"Getting past the current decade will be a challenge," explained Hank Goldberg, vice president, Secure Global Solutions (SGS), Irvine, Calif. "We are in the very early stage of the 'next generation' and there are few companies rising to the challenge. People are yelling, 'the sky is falling' because they are losing their digital dialer. That's not news. It's been going on for 10 or 15 years as the phone companies are moving further out and less can be done with the dialer."
Having spent the last 40 years in the central station software business, Goldberg knows about slow change and lack thereof. But he confirmed that there are clear changes in service delivery in the current phase of the industry. "As market technology starts to change, the more interesting changes will be new and creative services," Goldberg continued. "Face it, the fundamental technology is becoming obsolete," he stated.
However, as far as today's customers are concerned, Lindsay Grauling, vice president of Operations, Vivint, Provo, Utah, would disagree. "Central stations are what our customers want," she stated. "Today's customer wants the premises to be safe and sound." She argued for today's central station in their ability to serve clients with professional services. "With a central station we provide around-the-clock protection. Our customers have peace of mind with our monitoring, knowing we can dispatch immediately in case of an emergency," Grauling continued.
Simon Morgan director of Technology, SureView Systems, Tampa, Fla., agreed that change is coming but he sees a long life for the central station. "The central station remains the first line of defense," said Morgan. He confirmed that new solutions will allow a company to offer the same services and better solutions with half the manpower. DVRs, audio and video will be tied to a central platform in the control station or private command center.
"The advent of mobile tools lets the central station engage the customer in a way that they never could before via real-time alerts and video cameras to look at their site," he confirmed.
So what do customers crave? "Video, video, video," said Matthew Riccoboni, director of Marketing, OzVision, Melville, N.Y. "Customers desire the ability to see their assets and/or employees live and on historic video. Providing the customer with the ability to look in with LiveView from any device (iPhone, iPad, Droid, and Blackberry) at any time without having to manage complex systems and installations is in high demand. Central stations that provide video alarm verification services complete the value-added package." He confirmed that among the key services users want are video alarm verification, continuous off-site video recording and LiveView from any device.
Change happens; it's here in the industry
There is no question that technology has changed with the advent of virtualization and self-service. And with that shift, more people are whispering what they won't question out-loud: Why do we need central stations when customers can provide the service for themselves via their smartphones?
The driving forces include communications but equally important is the consumer, who is the one driving the marketplace. "How does the user want to receive product and service?" asked Goldberg. He confirmed that he is certain the Apps will come, "Software is a response to the need of the visionaries—people creating new consumables and salable product."