Alarm systems market update

If there is one constant theme running throughout the alarm system/intrusion detection market at ISC West this year it's the anticipated departure from plain-old-telephone-service (POTS) lines as the primary means of alarm signal communication. Nearly every manufacturer on the show floor has a panel that uses IP technology, GSM frequency bands or a combination of the two to relay alarm signals to central stations.

Something else that seems to be trending upward in the market is the demand by end users for their alarm systems to do more than just let them know when an intruder has entered onto their property. As one manufacturer put it, some consumers now view their alarm systems as a kind of "home information center" that they can interact with and that will bring them peace of mind. This goes beyond the integration of home automation features into the panel to include features that allow end users to receive messages and actually control their systems via the Internet on their cell phone or another Web-enabled device. A majority of manufacturers say that their dealers are clamoring for more recurring revenue options and this is one of the ways that many of them are handling those requests.

As has been the case for sometime now, the push for complete wireless residential and commercial alarm systems remains a major priority among manufacturers. In addition to the numerous wireless motion sensors and contacts on the market, many vendors now offer wireless panels with built-in antennas that allow end users the flexibility of a total wireless system. Not only does this reduce the unsightliness and challenges of having to run wire at a consumer's home or business, but it also enables dealers to install systems quicker and cheaper.

Having to consider these various market trends, there is certainly no shortage of new solutions at ISC West to help meet these challenges.

One company that's really making it a priority to get out in front of the transition from POTS to GSM or IP-based communications is Honeywell. The manufacturer is featuring a host of products at the show dedicated to providing its dealers with more RMR opportunities. Not only is Honeywell showcasing new customizable touchscreen keypads and newer traditional keypads, but it's also debuting its new wireless LYNX Plus alarm panel.

According to Ralph Maniscalco, Honeywell's director of marketing communications, the LYNX Plus presents a tremendous RMR benefit to dealers. The compact unit features a built-in antenna, voice response and notification of signal strength. Maniscalco says the panel should allow dealers to do more installations for less money.

"The technology is becoming more lifestyle driven," said Maniscalco with regards to alarm systems market.

Another company debuting wireless technology at the show is UTC Fire & Security with the launch of its GE Two-Way Talking Touchscreen. The new panel integrates with HVAC and lighting systems to combine security with home automation.

Kirk MacDowell, residential business leader for the company, says tying home automation functions with security systems to get more "bang for the buck" is what customers are looking for in these tough economic times.

"We see that blend becoming a lot more important to consumers," he said.

In other product news, Bosch Security Systems announced the release of its new GV3 panels at the show. The highly scalable GV3 panels can transmit alarm communication signals over IP, as well as GSM/GPRS cellular networks. The GV3 panels also contain a 50 megahertz processor, which greatly increases the speed at which the device can operate.

According to Tom Mechler, product marketing manager for Bosch, the introduction of the new, more powerful processor means that the GV3 is 2.5 times faster than any other panel that is currently on the market. The new panels are expected to start shipping in June.

Another player in the alarm systems market, Digital Monitoring Products (DMP), is also releasing a new wireless panel at the show. The company's new XTL panel is compact, measuring 3-inches-tall-by-5-inches-wide and it only supports cellular communications.

"We feel cellular is the answer for the future (of alarm communications)," said Melissa Pitfield, director of marketing communications for DMP. Having formed with a background in monitoring, Pitfield said that DMP is focused heavily on providing new recurring revenue opportunities for its dealers and one way its doing this is by offering what it calls "convenience features." These convenience features include such services as being able to control an alarm system remotely or receiving messages when an alert is triggered.

Tyco subsidiary DSC, which made headlines at last year's show with the release of its ALEXOR alarm panel, announced today that it has released new Internet/Intranet communicators for the PowerSeries and ALEXOR panels. The new TL260 and TL265 allow users to combine alarm communications through both Public Switched Telephone Networks (PSTN) and Internet/Intranet connections.

When it comes to preparing for the switch to GSM from POTS, Mike DeMille, director of product management at Tyco Safety Products, says that DSC is well prepared.

"It's in our blood now," DeMille said.

Another company that says its seeing a trend among consumers wanting more than usual out of their security systems is Napco and its senior vice president for sales and marketing Jorge Hevia.

Hevia characterized the way people interact with their alarm systems these days as sort of "touching base" with their homes, which is one reason the company is focused heavily on integrating cameras into alarm systems. Napco is also displaying its new iRemote 64 Pak at the show, which features its Gemini Remote Virtual Keypad.

"Your average, every day alarm system has to do more than it did in the past," Hevia explained.