With the issue of false alarms continuing to grab headlines, the security industry still has a ways to go in changing the public's perception that alarm control is under control. However, the good news is that help is on the way with improvements in alarm technology. In speaking with experts on the subject, alarm control panels are making great strides in accurate reporting capabilities and ease of use.
Becoming More User Friendly
What good is a burglar alarm if it is so complicated the user stops bothering to arm it? This, of course, is not all that uncommon and it is a matter that alarm control panel manufacturers are taking into consideration.
Tom Mechler, product marketing manager, Bosch Security Systems, says that the SIA CP-01 standards (see sidebar) are starting to help regulate the way end users interface with their alarm systems. Also, manufacturers are making improvements that go above and beyond the CP-01 standard.
“We have a new control panel that doesn't require pin numbers. It has a token as your primary user interface and it also uses voice instead of confusing displays. It tells you what is going on,” states Mechler, referring to the Bosch Easy Series. “So we're making the panels easier to use and that makes them friendlier to the end user so they are more likely to use their system. It also reduces false alarms because there is less confusion. ”
“With our product we are doing a lot of work in the area of making it easy for the end user to use and understand,” says Mark Hillenburg, product architect, DMP, referring to the XR100 and XR500 Series.
“One of those key areas is the multiple-language support,” he points out. “The panel can communicate in English, French or Spanish, not only based on just how you want to set it up, but based on the user.” A user could be Spanish-speaking only and that person's user profile could be set so that this person only sees Spanish, Hillenburg explains.
“Another area that we have just recently made what we think is a really significant improvement on our control panel is allowing the ability for the end user at the premise to verify the alarm through the alarm panel,” he continues. “You know verification is a huge deal and trying to curb false alarms is a big issue within the industry.”
Hillenburg adds, “We have actually implemented a change in the process to how an end user responds once an alarm is initiated. We give them the opportunity to either cancel or verify that the alarm is real; and we have invented new, unique messages that go from the panel to the central station based on those two separate decisions that the end user will make on whether or not they know that it is a false alarm.”
Hillenburg explains further, “By sending a different signal to the central station, the central station no longer has to waste valuable time calling (or calling twice) to verify an alarm. They will have a user's pin code, so they know who the user is. They will have an overt action taken by that user to specifically say that this alarm has been verified. Then that message will immediately go into the central station. At that point the central station can call and dispatch without having to waste all the time to verify it.”
By now the problems that alarm control panels have experienced due to end users switching from traditional phone service to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) are well documented. Many times users make the transition to VoIP with an eye on phone bill savings, not realizing that their existing alarm system will either become inconsistent or stop working altogether. (Since VoIP digitizes the phone's analog signal, it can change the timing of the signal that your alarm would send to the central station via the phone line, thus messing up your alarm signal that would have worked had VoIP not been involved.)