Over the past year, remote monitoring saw tremendous growth as the capabilities that it enables, such as instant e-mail and video notification, gained popularity among users. And while electronic security has been around for decades, its real value is yet to be realized, as it moves more into lifestyle, convenience, connectivity and detection-and best of all-more recurring monthly revenue (RMR).
"There's a fundamental change occurring in the industry that's affecting the central station, putting an emphasis on the role of new services," said Gordon Hope, AlarmNet general manager, Melville, N.Y. Hope, who is also president of the Security Industry Association, said the dramatically changing communications landscape-the loss of hundreds of thousands of traditional telephone lines each month and the move to cellular and VoIP only homes-is a driving force.
"The entire connection scheme is changing," Hope said. "It's the epicenter. Installers and central station companies want to know: 'how do I protect my recurring revenue?'"
Hope said the number of services offered by the central station needs to grow and there's keen interest on portable connectivity-to iPhones, Blackberries, PDAs and other mobile devices. Yet he confirmed that the installing community has to be proactive and become a communications consultant in addition to a life safety expert.
"We have had many discussions with central stations and tell them that as they are going through this upheaval we strongly suggest they get with these customers," he continued. "We remind them that they are life safety experts, the ones connected to them. They rely on them for emergency services; if they are going to maintain that role and credibility they have to proactively reach out to them and get in front of all this change."
Hope said AlarmNet has seen many successes among central stations and installing dealers who become proactive and do this outreach, and remote monitoring and notification is one feature more than 90 percent of customers are asking for. "With remote monitoring via TotalConnect(r) to the iPhone or the Blackberry, for example, all kinds of high-end sensors can be part of the equation, including temperature sensors, carbon monoxide devices, outside motion detectors and more," Hope added.
In fact, being able to get non-security information from the alarm system is the new trend and end-users aren't even fully aware of all the emerging capabilities, according to AJ Gomez, president of Global Security & Communications Inc., Vancouver, Wash. "There is still an education process going on. Videotape versus DVRs was a big revolution that's come and gone. Now, the new thing is getting more information about your premises and facility. Whether an end-user invests in the product offering or not, they see what it can do."
Sensors hold the key
As far as the next step for remote monitoring, "I think we'll continue to broaden the types of things that can be detected," explained Alison Slavin, vice president of Product Management, Alarm.com, Vienna, Va. "Our infrastructure supports real-time alerting through e-mail and text messaging so it's really just a matter of adding sensors so that more events can be detected-and those can be intrusion events or environmental events. Anything that has a status is something that can be reported through the system in real-time and sent to the customer."
Alarm.com offers users the capability of accessing such added features as thermostat control and monitoring, locks and lighting control, directly from their handheld cell phone or PDA via the company's Web site.
And now, increasingly, customers want to be able to get a visual, like live video or even a saved video clip, on their preferred device.