Burglar alarms have come a long way, from the days when they were literally a concoction of bells and whistles monitored by the local police department, to today’s high-tech intrusion alarm systems which are monitored by private firms. The number of such firms monitoring alarms grew over much of the last century until the 1980s when the field began to consolidate as the bigger companies started gobbling up the smaller ones.
The landscape of third party central monitoring stations continues to change today as advancements in technology and communications infrastructure make it possible for a single station to monitor alarms all across the country. It is another reason the number of central stations has gone down as the number of alarms being installed continues to go up. It is not necessary to have a central station in every town (or even in every state) in order to monitor alarms there.
Of course, just because a single central station can monitor accounts across the country does not mean central stations rely on one system. Many central stations have fully redundant counterparts. In the event that one of them were to go down in a disaster, the calls could be seamlessly routed through the other. In fact, some dealers won’t consider a central station if it doesn’t have a redundant back-up. Tom Mertz, Springville Security, explains, “If a central station… is not redundant in the event of a catastrophic failure (hurricanes, snowstorms, system upgrades etc.), they are not in the running in my book regardless of what other services they offer.”
While central stations are becoming smaller in number, their capabilities are rapidly expanding and they are offering more services than ever before. A current challenge for them is to meet the ever-changing demands of a dynamic market.
“Technology by far is the biggest change and challenge to this side of the business,” says Mark Ramsey, COO, Crime Alert. “Areas such as web services, VoIP and web video monitoring are just a few examples to bring vast changes to the industry.”
Computer networks are changing everything and with millions of homes and businesses switching from Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) to Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP), central stations have had to adjust accordingly. Many services provided by central stations, and made available for dealer integrators to offer your residential and commercial customers, are experiencing a lot of growth. Internet monitoring, medical monitoring, and video alarm verification are among the most popular. Take a look…
“VoIP telephone service at the premises is now driving the change to monitoring using IP-enabled panels or IP modules on existing panels,” says Brett Springall, IT director, Security Central. He adds that IP panels are one of the items in which the central station has had to make a significant investment.
“Internet monitoring has definitely become more popular over the past few years as more and more individuals move away from the traditional POTS service,” says Kevin McCarthy, national sales manager, EMERgency 24. “Because of this transition, we now offer our dealers several different options in Internet monitoring. The ‘always on’ connection that is provided with Internet monitoring allows our dealers to use this technology for high security applications and eliminates the need for a daily auto-test.”
Personal Emergency Response System (PERS) is usually what is meant in regard to a central station’s medical monitoring services. Typically it would be used by an elderly person who is at higher risk of being stricken by illness or injury alone in their home, unable to call for help. With a PERS, a person has an emergency button on them at all times. When they need help, they push the button which sends a radio signal to a panel connected to their phone line which in turn alerts the central station. The central station can then call the house and establish a two-way voice connection that allows them to talk and listen to the person in need. The central station also has that person’s medical history and hospital of choice, allowing them to make an informed decision regarding medical help.
“With 36.8 million adults now over the age of 65, two-way voice and medical alert monitoring accounts are on a steady rise,” says McCarthy. “Adult children who care for their elderly parents may see this as a safeguard for those who are not yet ready for full- time care.”