Is it Catching On?

Is video being used effectively in the central station? What about residential video/central station alarm reporting usage?

Every “new” technology in the security industry has had a slow adoption curve. Surely there are early adopters, but great penetration takes some time. The digital communicator took 10 years to get traction and has now taken over. Video should see the same growth.
First, however, it needs a reason for existence. Currently there are two viable reasons or applications: business management and video verification.
Video verification is increasing due to the fact that a greater number of municipalities are adopting a “no police response” policy for alarms. This is a technical solution, even though the alarm industry has done a marvelous job of reducing false dispatches on its own through several non-technical techniques. Nonetheless, with the penetration of alarm systems seeing explosive growth, it has forced certain municipalities to downgrade their response to central station dispatch calls to a non-response mode.

The answer is to rely on video. If a video picture of a burglary, robbery or holdup in progress can be seen and perhaps even relayed to responding authorities, the dispatch will have the same weight as a citizen calling 911 and reporting the incident.

Much has been made of the quality of the picture and the placement of cameras. The video pictures need not be used as evidence after an apprehension (although that would be useful). They can be used merely to indicate the presence of a human on site. Audio can be used as a means of eliciting a passcode or password. Video “stills” as one or more of a series of pictures is all that is really required. Certainly streaming video is also a possibility, especially when broadband is available. But more often than not, the same POTS telephone line used for the transmission of the alarm signal itself will be used for the video information as well.
In order for greater acceptance, you need to give the customer perceived values for the addition of video. In a commercial system, video can be used as a business management tool. For example, a store owner can look into his store any time, day or night, to see if the business is running well.
In a residential system, video can be used as a “lifestyle” tool. This might include remote monitoring of latch-key children, checking on the nanny or workers in the home, etc.

Naturally, privacy is a huge issue. But with video coupled to audio verification, video can be used in “public spaces” or in the home such as hallways and in the kitchen. Whatever the case, video has a place in the future of alarm response.

Louis T. Fiore is a consultant from Sparta, NJ. He is Past President of CSAA (1997-1999) and President of L.T. Fiore, Inc. His practice includes the use of wireless and the Internet for alarm monitoring, as well as regulatory issues for security systems in general. He also serves as Chairman of Central Station Alarm Association’s (CSAA) Alarm Industry Communications Committee (AICC) and Standards Committee. He is the current chairman of the SIA’s Security Industry Standards Council (SISC) and a long-time member of the Supervising Station Committee of NFPA 72. Send your questions to [email protected].