Answering a Cry for Help

A roundtable discussion of emergency phone and communications systems

SS: It is already recognized as highly desirable. In a matter of time, probably a rather short time, it will be considered essential. Integration allows emergency phones to be used in ways not previously considered. A good example is the power of voice over IP (VoIP). Talk-A-Phone currently has equipment that can operate as VoIP systems. By doing this, we can install emergency phones throughout parking decks and lots in numerous locations, and have those units report in to one central security facility that could be monitoring dozens of facilities. The simultaneous labor savings and increasing levels of professionalism that can be provided because of the economies of scale can be very significant. It's a win-win situation. Now that IP cameras are commonly available, other savings can also be seen. These savings will allow even more facilities to be equipped with the equipment and function that owners, operators, and security professionals all know that they need. Without integration, one cannot efficiently manage these resources in a centralized fashion.

ST&D: The homeland security initiative has bolstered product development and increased spending in certain security sectors. Has it had this effect in your market?

CG: The homeland security initiative has indeed bolstered development in the security industry. Specifically in our market segment, we believe it has raised the awareness level of the need for active communication support in any type of applications where 24-hour patron activity occurs. EC: Jeron Electronic Systems has seen a marked increase in purchases by military and governmental agencies primarily for homeland security applications. When I mention government, I mean all levels?city, state and federal?have increased purchasing of communication and security systems. Overall outside of government and military we have also seen a marked increase in purchase activity.

SS: In his address to the nation after the September 11th terrorist attack, the President asked every American to become the eyes and ears of a national campaign to protect this nation. If you see someone doing something suspicious, report it at once. If you see a suspicious package left in a public place, notify the appropriate security authorities right away. If you observe unusual activity of virtually any kind, report it.
But how do you report it? With a cell phone? It may or may not work in underground garages or mass transit stations, or the cell network may be busy. In any event, calling 911 connects you to the police, which may not be the most efficient line of communication. They may not know where you are, and quite possibly you're not exactly sure either. You certainly don't want to stay around after reporting the incident, in case the package or abandoned car really is a security problem.
In those locations equipped with emergency phones, it may well be that the most appropriate call is to the security professional designated by the facility's manager and security director to receive such calls. Using the emergency phone, you get to that party quickly, the phone tells the security professional where the call is coming from and allows you to report what you have seen and leave the area. The professionals can then take over, evaluate the situation, and take appropriate action. If the police or fire departments are required, that is a call that can be made by them after due evaluation. Otherwise these civic resources may well be overtaxed, over-utilized and otherwise spread so thin that they will be unavailable to respond where actually required.

ST&D: What types of emergency phone and communications products exist or are in development to transition the market towards wireless and digital communication? What obstacles will it encounter in this transition?

CG: As our market looks at industry trends toward both wireless and digital types of communication, a key challenge will be to provide the dependability, flexibility and robust system currently supported by hard-wired and analog installations. Is your personal cell phone 100 percent reliable every minute of the day, regardless of your location or your power source? The general expectation of the public for our type of products is a key consideration in the design and development of our future products.

SP: The largest issue facing wireless applications is the perceived lower reliability of wireless signals. Since emergency phones also require the connection of consistent, constant power, it is generally not an obstacle to install land-line phones at the same time as power. The main application at this time for wireless is for remote sites, where it would be cost prohibitive to provide power and/or telephone lines. These sites typically use cellular repeaters combined with solar power and batteries. Emergency phones based on digital and VoIP are in development for enterprise and server applications.