The Security Week That Was: 10/05/07

A weekly surveillance of news shaping your profession


Freed from Security

In mid-September, I was at the ISC East security tradeshow in New York, and among the things I was able to see at the booths was an interface that Honeywell's Security and Custom Electronics division had created. The interface allowed text messaging and online access to control the security system, and even had an interface whereby image stills from connected surveillance cameras could be sent to the cell phone.

Over at iControl Networks, they were showcasing a somewhat similar offering; again the main draw is that customers get remote access to their security system. Then this week, I happen to notice that the homepage of Protection One is touting the company's new e-Secure solution for alarm system owners. In summary, it gives them access over the web for full system control, and allows SMS text message control of some parts of the system. Notifications can be set which don't contact the central station, but which alert the user directly via their email or cellular phone.

What these (and more) companies in the alarm business are realizing is that your customers are turning into people who do real-time, self-monitoring. They want to see their financial account balance right now to see if that payment posted, not in 30 days when they get their statement. They check in for flights online, not at the flight desk. They show cute photos of their nieces instantly over their cell phones, rather than in their photo album before holiday dinner. Likewise, when it comes to the security system, these same people want it to do more, and they are probably willing to pay for the technology costs to add some extra sensors that are important to them (maybe a camera on the front door, or a moisture sensor in the basement), but they also want to take over the monitoring to some extent.

Don't be worried that this move towards self-monitoring under-cutting your central station; I fully believe that when the system goes into alarm mode, they want a professional response from a central station like the one you run. However, when it comes to other things that sensors and alarm systems can detect, like when their child arrives home from school, or when the temperature in the house drops below an acceptable level, they want to be directly involved in the process, because, after all, they are the ones who have to call the HVAC service company, and they are the ones who needs to call their child and ask them how their day at school went.

If you follow this trend in the commercial security side of our industry, as was evidenced at the ASIS show last week, it's mirrored in the number of video surveillance management systems that allow for remote access of video. In fact, I'd bet that if you were buying a video surveillance management system today, and the vendor told you that you'd have to be at the command center to see the video, you'd immediately tell them, "Thanks, but remote access is a pre-requisite." And, I should also note that each time I ask an end-user about their favorite feature of their surveillance system, they almost always tell me that it's the ability to log-in from home or from the road to see their facility and know that everything is still OK.

About a decade ago, the sharp increase in adoption of mobile computers and cell phones started freeing people from their desks. Now it's time we free them from the control panels and command stations of their security and surveillance systems.

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