Commercial Security Is Finding Its Way Home

Technology and Standards are Migrating to Foster Residential Security

The Security Dealer magazine "Timeline," and its panel of experts explored this question in its January 2003 issue, and the consensus is that the introduction of the tape dialer was the singular event that precipitated this transformation. The dialer opened up a wider range of establishments to security systems and economical central station monitoring. The ensuing recurring monitoring revenue stream from monthly monitoring fees attracted the interest of security installers and can be credited with adding to the existence of alarm dealers who specialize in only residential security.

Bringing Safety From The Workplace
Every day, the news carries a new story about an attack, home invasion or abduction, frequently occurring in residences. It's only logical that if you take measures to protect yourself, your assets and your employees at work that you apply the same thinking to protecting your family and possessions at home as well.

For this reason, technology formerly used only for commercial applications is also finding its way into the residential security market. Lowered mortgage rates have allowed people to afford more house with more amenities. Homes are bigger and homeowners' appetites for technology has grown. They are asking for electronic access control, for example, to secure and limit access to certain rooms within the home.

New security technologies offer more and better solutions than ever before. Alarm vendors are adding features to their systems that allow for extra layers of security. For example, dealers can now offer their customers systems that will e-mail, phone or page parents every time their kid walks through the front door. At a slightly higher charge, you can install a camera that sends an image, confirming to the parents it is, in fact, their kid.

There are many more opportunities now to really expand the home security business. Many dealers says it is catching on because their clients are telling their friends and they in turn want to know more about the technology.

The alarm industry is also promoting upgraded residential systems. Take a page from what some of the leaders are telling perspective residential clients.

When you visit the Honeywell website, for example, viewers are informed:
"Safeguarding your home means more than dead-bolt locks and fire extinguishers. It's about adding the technology inside your home to monitor the safety and security of your loved ones?even when you're not around.

"Depending on your neighborhood and lifestyle, achieving a sense of safety and control for you and your family might entail:

  • Early detection of freezing water lines, flooding or gas leaks to help minimize damage and danger.

  • Automatic lighting that helps illuminate your way when you arrive home at night, or that gives your house a lived-in look while you're away.

  • Video surveillance that helps you see who's outside before you open the door or helps you keep an eye on kids in the backyard pool.

  • Latchkey monitoring notifies you that a child has arrived home.

  • Advanced wiring systems that help you keep pace with the latest in voice, video, data and security technology.

  • More protection for critical areas in your home, such as your home office, your medicine cabinet or a liquor cabinet."

"You want more than a security system?you want a total solution that helps your family feel safe." That is the message at Vector Security.

The Vector Security Residential section website also states, "Our security consultants help work with you to design a system that provides unrestricted use of your home, yet a high degree of protection. Because no two homeowners share the same exact needs, we help you understand the products and services that will meet your needs, and then recommend a level of protection to accommodate both your concerns and your budget.

"What we won't do is try to sell you a pre-designed, ?cookie-cutter' package. Instead, Vector Security designs and installs a system that addresses your concerns as a homeowner and meets your budget.

"Once you have this information, Vector will create an easy-to-use, affordable, versatile and reliable system, backed by Vector's state-of-theart monitoring capabilities.

"The home of the future?is available today with Vector's Future- Ready wiring. Technology is changing the way we live, work, communicate ? even the way we watch television. Telecommunications have never before played such a central role in our homes and lives. From simple intercoms to studio-quality home entertainment systems?and from PC-based home networks to high-speed Internet connections and futuristic telephone services?Vector can help you create a home environment that meets the promise of tomorrow's technologies as well as your demands for quality and reliability today.

"Vector's Future-Ready Wiring network replaces your home's ordinary phone lines and television cables with everything you need to meet your family's security, entertainment and communications needs as they grow and change. Home automation, whole-house centralized vacuum systems, theater- quality audio and video systems, advanced home office wiring; technologies once considered too eccentric or too expensive are now becoming a realistic option for forward- thinking homeowners. And Vector delivers the experience and expertise, plus the widest selection of quality products, to create the home that best meets your lifestyle. Certain geographic and building restrictions apply.

  • Whole-house telecommunications wiring.

  • Closed Circuit Television.

  • Central vacuum systems.

  • Home theater wiring for video sources such as cable and satellite TV.

  • Advanced audio systems.

  • Home automation systems and computerized reports."

Historically, commercial security equipment was expensive but now costs are lower. Manufacturing is streamlined, and the circuitry is compact, improving performance while reducing expense. Locks, video, alarms, integration, communications are all examples of the technology migrating. They can be identified an all the areas of electronic and physical security.

Setting Standards to Live By
The equipment used by security dealers in the home continues to improve in quality and sophistication. Standards to which companies design and manufacture security products are being closely adhered to. Products might vary with respect to aesthetics and feature set but performance of security products is good regardless of the market it is designed for.

Security distribution also plays an important role in maintaining these high standards, by its response to its customers. A bad product doesn't remain on the shelves very long before the distributor will pull it and promptly advise the manufacturer that the problem needs their immediate attention. This is a supply-and demand- based system of checks and balances that alarm dealers rely on.

Where residential security differed from commercial security, as well as from life safety, fire systems, and electrical wiring, was that it was a price-driven market. Also, few, if any, codes or standards were in place to guide the dealer and protect the end user.

Add to that the creation of direct and mass marketing channels for security. Now, with the Internet, security dealers can obtain security hardware online. Thanks to mass marketing techniques, the homeowner can be lured into a system on the basis of cost rather than features, with little or no control over the quality of the installation or the qualifications of those installing it.

The trade associations such as the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA), the Security Industry Association (SIA) and Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) are moving to confront the problems by lobbying for licensing, standards and with it quality control "IQ" programs. The problems are associated with underdesigned systems; ones installed by underqualified installers; and others being used by untrained end users. What was once a rather lucrative market seems to have bottomed out over the last six years but the outlook is more promising than it has been. "Non-Response Legislation? from municipalities and law enforcement trying to protect themselves against the rising costs of false alarms is another never ending uphill battle, however.

Now another group, the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), is setting out to tackle some of these issues. The NFPA is a consensus driven code writing organization. It the source for many standards and codes which are used to guide other technologies. The NEC National Electrical Code), for instance, is the single most important standard for electricians.

The NFPA Life Safety Code and NFPA 72 are very familiar to dealers and serve as the bible for designers and installers of access control, fire and related systems. Municipalities and their AHJs (Authorities Having Jurisdiction), as well as insurers, use these documents as the basis for inspections and qualifying buildings and systems. These codes take the mystery out of specifying things such as fire alarms by offering recommendations for occupancies and applications, and providing a glossary of terms so that there is little ambiguity when interpreting specifications and performance.

NFPA has created and posted drafts for two new standards for the security industry:

  • NFPA 730. The Electronic Premises Security Guide. It describes construction, protection, and occupancy features and practices, intended to reduce security vulnerabilities to life and of property. The guide also addresses other considerations that are essential to protection of occupants from crime security systems and their components. The purpose is to define the means of signal initiation, transmission, notification, and annunciation; the levels of performance; and the reliability of electronic security systems. Although 731 establishes minimum required levels of performance, extent of redundancy, and quality of installation, it does not establish the only methods by which these requirements are to be achieved.

Security Dealer Technical Editor Tim O'Leary is a 30-year veteran in the security industry and a 10-year contributor to the magazine. O'Leary's background encompasses having been a security consultant since 1986 and an independent security company owner/operator, in addition to his research and evaluation of new technologies and products introduced to the physical and electronic security fields. He is a member of the VBFAA (Virginia Burglar and Fire Alarm Association); certified for Electronic Security Technician and Sales by the VADCJS (Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services); and has served as a judge for the SIA New Product Showcase. Send your integration questions to