Shifting trends in alarm technology on display at ISC West

Mobile apps, interactive services among the features gaining prominence in the market


The development of alarm system technologies has undergone some significant changes in recent years. What was once a fairly straightforward product – a device that simply communicated a detected intrusion of a property to an alarm monitoring center – can now do everything from controlling an HVAC system to sending text messages that inform users how much energy they've consumed over the past month.

This shift in how people use and interact with their security systems is on display at ISC West in the latest product innovations being offered by manufacturers. Here's a look at some of the prevalent trends at this year's show.

Touchscreen Keypads

What was once viewed as a luxury feature on many alarms, touchscreen keypads are now almost standard on all new residential panels from industry manufacturers. Not only are they more aesthetically pleasing, touchscreens also provide the level of user intuitiveness that many homeowners are now looking for in their security systems.

One of the primary reasons that touchscreens have become more prevalent, according to industry experts, is a dramatic reduction in price.

Leon Langlais, director of product management, residential and small business, at Tyco Security Products, said that the price difference now between a touchscreen and an analog keypad is so minuscule that most people don't mind paying the difference for the nicer, larger touchscreen model.

"Now I can have a seven-inch touchscreen that's only slightly more expensive," he said,.

DSC, a brand of Tyco Security Products, unveiled such a touchscreen for its PowerSeries control panels on Wednesday.

In addition to the price drop, some say another reason for the evolution of touchscreen alarm panels is the prevalence of mobile devices and how people have become accustomed to using touchscreens in their cell phones.

Jeff Thomas, director of product management for 2GIG Technologies, said that bigger touchscreens also allow companies to offer users more features.

"It gives us more real estate to provide more features and make them more intuitive," he said.

Remote Services and Mobile Apps

As alarm systems have become more robust in their capabilities, people want to have ready access and the ability to control the features of their home security systems from their mobile devices.

Jay Kenny, vice president of marketing for Alarm.com, said that mobile access to alarm systems is one of biggest paradigm shifts that his company has experienced. According to Kenny, the company, which is releasing its own iPad app at this year's show, has more than 850,000 subscribers on its interactive plan and that they saw a big change in how customers interacted with their systems in the span of only a year.

During the middle of 2010, Kenny said that 75 percent of Alarm.com customers interacted with their system through the web. However, that number shifted significantly last year, with more people beginning to use their mobile devices.

"We saw a big shift in how they interact with their system and the devices they're using to do it," Kenny said.

Tom Mechler, product marketing manager for Bosch Security Systems, said that mobile applications also hold a lot of promise for the commercial alarm market segment, however, it may take some time before their true potential is realized.

"I think it's one of those things that's going to grow," he explained. "We certainly have plenty of end customers who expect that capability, but it's going to be a while before it is ubiquitous. If deployed correctly, it can be a real advantage."

Mechler added that Bosch, which released its new GV4 Series panel at this year's show, has its own app for the iPhone and iPad that allows users to control numerous panels from a single device.

Video Camera Integration

As the prices of home security cameras have gone down and their image quality has increased, more home and small business owners also want to take advantage of video surveillance.

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