The security week that was: 01/29/10

A weekly surveillance of the news shaping your profession


Goodbye, phone lines!

Just a few years ago, the idea of losing landline phone services would have sent shivers up and down the spines of alarm dealers. The technology wasn't ready. VoIP providers at the time were known for spotty service and incompatibility with alarm systems, but consumers were quickly dropping their POTS connections in exchange for taking calls via their cell phones or via Vonage-like services. In fact, even as recently as three years ago, the use of VoIP providers was causing some consumers to find that their telephone-line-based phone systems weren't ready for the future. And today, there hasn't been a move to make VoIP backwards compatible with older alarm systems. As Vonage proclaims on its tech support website: "Vonage does not support the use of a telephone-based monitored alarm system, and recommends against using a telephone based monitored alarm system with Vonage."

And this was what every dealer was afraid of – attrition: "Initially when I tried to cut over my alarm panel (Napco Gemini) to use Vonage w/ ContactID format, it didn't work. I ended up dropping my alarm company and signing up with NextAlarm.com because they advertise a module which allows most panels to connect over the Internet (the ABN: Alarm Broadband Network adapter)." That was what a Vonage-Forum.com member told his peers in January 2007.

Since then we've seen the introduction of IP communicators by almost every alarm system manufacturer. In fact, if I'd venture a guess, I would bet that production of panels designed to communicate over POTS probably are more and more rare on the factory assembly lines every hour.

So, it shouldn't come as a surprise to our industry that AT&T is proposing they stop supporting POTS lines. Yes, you read that right. AT&T -- the company that still comprises 11 of the original Bell companies before that was split by an antitrust lawsuit in the early 1980s and whose name stands for "American Telephone & Telegraph" -- is ready to drop the plain-old-telephone-system.

What should this mean for alarm dealers and customers who use alarm systems? I think you're going to 1) see a substantial increase in sales of these IP alarm communicator add-on devices and 2) see a rip-and-replace effort to get older panels out of homes. Suddenly, with alarm systems connected via broadband connections, the whole vision of video surveillance in the home might finally take off. (The word is that the current offerings have sold at a much lower rate than the big manufacturers expected.) The ability to install new technology and to service existing customers should be a good thing for the alarm industry. I loved the comment in this article about transitioning alarm dealers away from POTS, where a fire and security installing dealer notes that POTS wasn't that great anyway, and always gave him troubles when it came to communications for fire alarm systems. Getting rid of POTS is a "Win-Win", he said.

In other news:
Andrews Int'l acquires A&S Security; Genetec's professional services; Tri-Ed IP training

Andrews International has been on quite the acquisition tour lately. Today the company announced the acquisition of A&S Security; the last big acquisition had been Garda's U.S. and Mexican operations. ... Developing a professional services division seems to be the rule of business for some VMS companies these days. It wasn't that long ago that DVTel started operating such a division; this week Genetec announced its own professional services division -- which is something like in-house design and pre-integration services. ... In the UK, we saw alarm system maker Texecom acquire Klaxon Signals, which makes alarm notification devices. ... Where to hold the 9/11 trials is up to debate; NYC Mayor Bloomberg said the trials could be distruptive (and potentially threatening?) to his city, but there's also the more political issue of holding such trials in civil court. ... Security products distributor Tri-Ed has an IP technology training roadshow scheduled for this winter/spring. ... IQinVision CEO Pete DeAngelis and CMO Paul Bodell concluded their technical look at video compression formats, which was mainly a review of when H.264 is right for surveillance video.