The security week that was: 05/29/09

A weekly surveillance of the news shaping your profession


Why it's the right time for monitoring stations to add video services

Earlier this week, we ran a story in our Security Markets & Systems Newsletter by SIW assistant editor Joel Griffin about how alarm monitoring companies can make the transition to adding video surveillance monitoring. I think this may be one of the more important stories SIW has run this year, because it touches our industry at so many levels.

For the customer, alarm monitoring isn't always enough. Motion sensors get tripped inadvertently. Security departments don't always have the funds these days for on-site guards to respond to potential alarms, and sometimes don't have the funds to roll a patrol guard from a contract services company. Especially over the last two decades, many security departments have realized the overall value of video surveillance as an investigative tool, but often didn't have the staff to do live video monitoring on-site (and studies have shown that prolonged monitoring of a bank of camera monitors numbs officers' ability to spot events). Being able to outsource monitoring means these customers can take advantage of DVRs they have on site; the DVR no longer is a glorified VCR, but it becomes a gateway to proactive responses.

For the dealer, this is a new solution to offer to your customers, whether you have a monitoring station yourself or whether you would refer your customers to a third-part monitoring company which offers video monitoring. As SIW regular columnist Bob Harris of Attrition Busters always reminds us, if you want to retain your customers, you have to offer them real value and service. Unfortunately, for many customers, standard intrusion monitoring has become something of a commodity, but giving them active monitoring to link events triggered by sensors and captured by cameras is real value and real service. All of a sudden, your services are no longer commodities.

For police and law enforcement bodies, the security industry has always been part friend, part foe. We're an industry friend because both alarm companies and police aspire to reduce crime and catch perpetrators. But the regular statistic of 90-plus percent false alarms has always made our industry the kind of friend that police sometimes want to keep at arm's length. As we report regularly on SIW, many cities have been implementing more and more stringent false alarm policies. For some cities, that is in the form of expensive fines. For others, it has been a requirement of enhanced call verification (at least two phone call attempts made to alarm system owner or their representative before calling for police dispatch). For the most stringent, this has meant implementing actual verification before an officer is dispatched – meaning it has to be seen on video camera, by a neighbor, the homeowner/business owner, patrol guard, or some other visual verification of an actual security event. With our industry getting into video monitoring, we can further reduce false alarms, and that, I fully believe, will affect the long-term health of our industry.

But it's not as easy as tapping a DVR in a remote location. Joel's roundtable gets into the real issues faced in this transition from alarm monitoring to video monitoring. His participants speak of the challenge of adding the IT infrastructure needed and, more importantly, finding the right monitoring operators and getting them the right training. Because in the end, the best DVR with 16 ports of HD cameras, H.264 compression, RAID format hard drives, T1 web connections, and the newest video management software aren't worth a thing if you don't have the right people in place. Check out the roundtable on video monitoring services here, and weigh in via the "Comments" section on your own experiences in using or providing remote video monitoring services.

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