When a Chicago couple initiated their OnStar tracking system to alert of a recent ambush shooting, the case for global positioning systems (GPS) captured the public's attention. When the shooter was captured, the spotlight shined brightly on the value of satellite and wireless tracking.
While OnStar is not specifically a security application, it's the wave of the future. GPS is used in this way for crash notification, duress, etc. but it can also be another tool in an integrator's arsenal of recurring monthly revenue (RMR) allowing users to deploy it as a management tool to track vehicles and personnel and their mobile activities while on the clock. On the home front, it can protect against vehicle theft or the wayward teenage driver on the lam.
Much of the activity and interest in cellular for security and the migration to radio signaling for primary alarm and now fire signal transmission is tied to the demise of landlines in the home, cell-only homes and the move to broadband such as VoIP.
Commercial fire cellular as primary
Cellular for dedicated burglar alarm transmission and especially UL-listed fire signaling has been elusive, but not untouchable.
"Dealers are increasingly adding cellular communication paths between panels and the central station," said Mark NeSmith, DMP's vice president of Sales. (DMP, Springfield, Mo., announced that its 436G Digital Cellular Communicator achieved a UL Standard 864 listing and the product could be deployed as a standalone communicator for primary commercial fire alarm signaling installations.)
"The 463G was already being used as a back-up cellular link," NeSmith continued. "With this new UL listing, dealers can now make our digital cellular communicator the primary path without a backup."
He added that wireless is a simpler installation and provides dealers with new recurring revenue from monthly cellular service charges.
Security integrators continue the exodus from landlines to the GSM digital cellular radio network. Global Satellite for Mobile Communication (GSM) is one of the world's most widely used cellular networks. Alarm radios that communicate via GSM typically use General Packet Radio Service to transmit signals, according to AlarmNet General Manager Gordon Hope, Melville, N.Y.
Gordon advised central station companies and systems integrators to proactively approach customers and "get in front of the issue"-the demise of hardwired phone lines and the unreliability of VoIP as well as the dangers of cut phone lines. He said companies have to position their offerings as lifestyle and remote services and discuss the changing landscape with customers.
"Let them [customers] know that radio is independent of any other technology and it gives them the freedom to make changes. Once they invest in radio, they've made an investment in new technology and now the integrator can offer messaging and control and remote services," Hope said.
The future is now
"Dealers want to future-proof their businesses and certainly this is also being driven by the sunset of analog cellular and now POTS lines," commented Michael Gregory, vice president and general manager, Uplink, Addison, Texas.
"It's become clear that to try to put a signal on broadband might not be the best way to go as far as reliability," he said. "Cellular has its advantages; one is that the line can't be cut." Uplink has a cellular offering for both the residential and commercial market and also a GPS device called u-TRAQ that allows dealers and integrators the ability to offer a cost-effective and easy-to-install tracking solution to their customers (see related story on these pages).
More than security
GPS is a management tool, continued Gregory. "You know where technicians are, their travel time, and who is closest to the next dispatch location. There are so many things GPS tracking can do to help customers manage their business more effectively and it's become more than just for the vehicle; it's also smaller and less expensive and easier to install. It costs less than $200 to the end-user and in the residential market can be used to locate or monitor teen drivers as keep tabs on elderly drivers."
Gregory added that on the cellular side, the trend is a move to 'universal' equipment. "Most of the new devices have a universal application that allows it to connect to any type of alarm system. Same is true on the other end; central stations don't need special receivers."
This month at the ESX Show, Telular(r) Corp., Atlanta, was set to launch and kick off the Telguard Advantage Program (TAP), a new dealer program to help systems integrators get their share of this growing market. It features an extremely low-minimum purchase at its most basic level (there are four diffent levels) and targets the smaller and mid-sized integrator who might not normally have the resources to learn how to position this offering, according to Shawn Welsh, vice president of Marketing and Business Development.
"When a customer is wirelessly protected, it's really a higher level of security than over a landline and we need to raise awareness of this to the consumer so that they know they have something special with cellular technology. VoIP is designed to compress voice signals, but it's not very good at compressing modem tones and that's the tone that comes out of the alarm panel. So just plugging into VoIP is opening the system up for the potential for lost signals. VoIP is not reliable for alarm systems. The instability of VoIP for alarm transmission and the need to have a robust path for communication will drive customers to cellular," Welsh said. He added that cellular products for a basic primary monitoring with no landline adds about $10 to RMR to the dealer.
And for the integrator, cellular has to be easy to install and not time consuming.
"We are looking to take the companies who want to make that leap. TAP is about making it so that through training and support we can help them offer cellular. The smaller integrators are the guys who are getting hit the hardest, so we are preparing them for the future."
Terry Day, operations manager for Powell Protection Systems in Carrollton, Texas, said the company began using the Telguard system several years ago. Powell said the company liked the reliability and low-entry cost to the unit as well as its ability to send full data signals to the central monitoring station.
"We've had a lot of interest in cellular lately; it's really picked up," he continued. "A lot of people don't have landlines anymore and the husband and wife are cell phone only. People want to save money and they are cutting back on phone lines in residential." Day said the radio has been extremely reliable and the only minor problem he experienced was quickly fixed by changing out an antenna because of poor reception. "But the fact that we can send full data, that's how we are differentiating ourselves from the competition."
Ricky Jackson, owner and president of A&R Security in Kingwood, Texas, is using Honeywell's GSM radio as primary and backup signaling to cell-only and VoIP customers. "If they have no landlines or VoIP, we tell our customers that it's the only way to go," he said. "We help them understand the importance of cellular signaling. A lot of people think it has to do with their personal cell phone and we have to educate them on the technology." Jackson said he likes the two-way voice over GSM and said the sound quality is better than landlines. "Now I'm prepared for any installation and there's nothing I can't do for the customer, especially where they have VoIP only or no landlines and I had to pass at business in the past. I can maximize my RMR with the service and it makes for a 'stickier' customer. The more remote capabilities the customers have, the more they want," he said.
VALUE ADD TO CELLULAR
Everyone can benefit from cellular alarm communicators as part of their security system. Here's why:
1. Reliable: Cellular is the most reliable form of security because it cannot be cut by either savvy intruders or inclement weather.
2. Cost-effective: Your customers can finally disconnect their traditional phone line, eliminate a recurring monthly bill and still have a dedicated cellular security system that's ready 24/7 in case of an emergency.
3. Secure: As the cell-only household trend continues to grow, cellular technology is an ideal, robust security solution which can be installed without the expense of requiring a landline.
4. Dependable: For households that use VoIP, which can be unreliable for alarm transmission, cellular communicators operate independent of the Internet connection and continue to function during those inevitable Internet service outages. - Source: Telular(r) Corp.
GETTING WITH GPS
Alarm Security & Contracting Inc., Corpus Christi, Texas, was a beta tester of the new u-TRAQ(tm) by Uplink GPS device and as soon as the new product was released and marketable the company began purchasing and selling the units, according to Kennard Hibbetts, general manager. Here's what Hibbetts had to say about Alarm Security & Contracting's use of GPS systems.
"I really don't think it's a question of emerging applications. It's more of everyone becoming knowledgeable of GPS and its availability to the general public. So many clients come in with a problem and that results in us discussing the GPS units to solve their problem. GPS has been around now for awhile and for vehicle use I think it was first really recognized with the OnStar product. But OnStar is limited to the end-user calling a number to locate their vehicle and with the u-TRAQ a person can be at their office or home and as long as they have broadband Internet service they can locate their vehicle on the computer."
"The u-TRAQ is a very simple to install system. There are two models of u-TRAQ, one is as easy to install as plugging it into the On Board Data terminal below the dash of most all vehicles manufactured after 1996. The second model is a hardwired system (fairly easy to install) of vehicles manufactured before 1996. Commonly the vehicles manufactured before 1996 do not have the On Board Data terminals. We have sold a number of units for all kinds of applications. Big pumping septic tank trucks, parents tracking the whereabouts of their children (driving age), routing vehicles and delivery vehicles, others who want to locate their vehicles if stolen, corporate offices who want to track outside sales persons and technicians, concrete delivery trucks, law enforcement vehicles, boats and the list goes on and on."
"Any product that you sell for a monthly fee adds to the revenue stream. Our goal is to make a little bit per month from a whole lot of sales as opposed to making a lot from one sale. This has proven to make a difference in our bottom line successfully. Our RMR has increased dramatically since starting with GPS."