Web Monitoring

In central stations these days, it's all about Web monitoring. Vendors are well aware that dealers and integrators are prepared for Web-based monitoring as part of the central station's future. This month, we asked several leading players about Web-based systems, who's currently adopting these methods and where they are going moving forward.

What are some of the critical needs of monitored accounts via the Web?

Harvey Cohen, vice president, Affiliated Central Inc., Sheepshead Bay, N.Y.: The critical needs of Internet monitoring include 24/7 live operators, e-mail and text messaging of alarms and non-alarm activity. Most dealers appreciate our simple mobile applications to drive the alarm/automation system remotely. Internet monitoring needs to allow for a consumer-driven experience where the majority of activity processing is viewed on our Web portal or via the user's mobile device with the support of the central station during emergency conditions.

Mitch Clarke, vice president of Marketing and Business Development, Monitronics, Dallas: We are deciding on the best platform for Web monitoring-the simplest and the most ubiquitous. You don't want to have to support three or four platforms. You have to respect customers' privacy. Newer systems start with arm/disarm functions but they are moving toward home automation, particularly in the area of power consumption. You'll be able to turn the heater up to a particular level at 4 p.m. so the house is warm when you get home and turn it down at 8 a.m. when you are at work.

Mark Matlock, senior vice president, United Central Control, Inc. (UCC) San Antonio: The needs are basically the same with an IP-monitored account as a Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) account: quick response and dealing with competent people. On the security side, the technical ability for the installer is different since network and PC knowledge is required. Today's users desire interaction and connectivity to their security systems via the Internet and through smartphone applications. Manufacturers have really stepped up in this area over the last five years and UCC now offers several interactive platforms to our dealers.

What does the future hold for central station in the area of support of their dealers and subscribers?

Cohen: For both the near- and long-term future, central stations will focus on Internet and GSM transmission technologies as solutions for VoIP. They will have to be prepared to handle all means of communication, including e-mail, text and SMS. They also will want connectivity between monitoring centers and Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) which is being tested by a CSAA company for more accurate dispatching. We expect to add more remote services to dealers and their subscribers for arming, disarming, checking other system statuses and more via a Web portal or mobile device. We will assist dealers in the administration of access control systems and provide increased information exchange (data, video, etc.) between the central station and subscriber to enable the user to control their system and dispatch functions. We see monitoring of integrated systems for problems; code-compliant fire and supervisory alarm signal processing; increased mobile asset and people tracking services; and integration of 3G and 4G transmission technologies as they become available.

Clarke: The big driver for adoption will be how easy a Web-based service is to deploy. It should be an iPhone-type application. It should be intuitive-download the app, click a red button to arm the system, a green button to disarm it. Users should be able to use their phone to check video and history. The software in the central station has to be simple-too many products are over-thought out and over-designed.

Matlock: Education for dealers is critical. Central stations need to be gatekeepers for new technologies to bring to their dealer base.

What are you doing to help subscribers move forward with technology?

Cohen: All of these services put more control in the hands of tech-savvy subscribers to effectively manage their alarm/automation systems.

Clarke: People don't want other people looking into their houses. Web-based monitoring is a product that can be invasive. People like us to be able to unlock their front door but we have to be careful to keep control in the customer's hands. Providers have to determine the things customers want to do themselves and what the customers want the provider to handle for them. We find that monitoring cameras outside the house are fine-inside, not as much.

Matlock: Among other things, we offer CEU training classes. We are looking for the latest technologies to add to our service offerings so dealers can find something that fits their business needs and to offer their customers.

What do you expect the central station of the future to look like?

Cohen: It will look very similar to today's central stations. The key difference will be more sophisticated technology behind the scenes not visible to the dealer or their subscriber. There will remain a critical need for operators and customer service personnel even with the addition of numerous remote control features. An important question to ask: 'What type of training will be provided to central station personnel to support more advanced technology?'

Clarke: The next step will be more video for response verification and providing information to responding authorities. In two years, video in the central station will be the norm. That goes beyond simply noting that a door has been left open for more than five minutes. People will have to pay for it, however. But in five years it will be a must-have service-by then it may not be a premium service but part of the typical bundle.

Matlock: The central station's portfolio of revenue will come from interactive and IP-related services as well as from other video.

Central Stations Services

Affiliated Central: Web monitoring product support services include (but are not limited to): Napco; Bosch; DSC; Honeywell; TelDat; FireLite; Silent Knight; and DMP.

Monitronics: The 2 Gigabit Go-control panel from Monitronics is self-managed through the Web. The consumer has the capability to extend the panel to their PDA rather than have the central station manage it, allowing them to engage with their system.

United Central Control: In the area of IP receivers, UCC support includes DSC; GE; DMP; Bosch; FireLite; Napco; and AlarmNet. Also included-Connect24; Alarm.com; iControl; and uControl. In video, UCC offers Immix video and iConnect video monitoring services, including the iConnect receiver.