Monitoring providers add apps, mobile services

April 11, 2013
Perks go beyond traditional signal handling

The fundamentals may remain the same—fielding burglar and fire alarm signals, but the communications technologies continue to morph and the perks to the dealer-integrator market have become critical. For alarm dealers and installers, third party monitoring providers are an extension of their business—and these central stations continue to add value far beyond traditional opening and closing reports.

While the immediate spotlight at ISC West is on some of the events designed to thank their customers being held by firms such as COPS Monitoring (a dealer appreciation evening at Gilley’s including food, bull riding and prizes) and a reception by Affiliated Monitoring in the Venetian, the focus continues to be on the services these and other monitoring companies provide to the installing community so that they can be more successful and add subscribers.

According to David Smith, director of Marketing and Communications for COPS Monitoring, based in Williamstown, N.J., the fundamentals of monitoring haven’t changed—and alarm dealers and their customers continue to rely on fast service and accurate response from trained professionals.

“However, we’ve seen two notable developments recently: how signals are transmitted and what customers are demanding from their systems. Over 80 percent of new systems placed online with us today use some POTS-alternative communications technology such as IP, cellular or radio. Many customers are dropping their POTS lines altogether.”

Smith said the proliferation of smartphones by consumers has created demand for instant information, access and control. “Customers want to control their HVAC, turn lights and other devices on and off, lock and unlock their doors and even watch live video of their premises. In fact, these services are so popular, several of our dealers report that lifestyle services are now their ‘foot in the door,’ and that the alarm system is essentially becoming an ‘add on.’”

Consumers are demanding more and more from their systems. As a result, just about every major panel manufacturer and service provider has served up their own brand of home control and automation app that can be added to just about any new system or retrofitted to many existing panels, Smith added. “These apps do a fantastic job of satisfying consumer demand for more control. However, we realized that all of these apps are missing one thing: What happened during an alarm event? For instance: Was a correct passcode given? Were the authorities dispatched? Is everyone OK? None of the current apps can give consumers these important bits of information.”

“Because we maintain our own software with our staff of in-house programmers, we were able to develop our own brand of mobile access that fills the gap that exists in all other home control apps and we’ve rolling out the subscriber mobile access solution at ISC West called MPower Me.”

With MPower Me, dealers’ customers can log in to view their alarm history and see what happened on an alarm signal so they can make the best decision on how to respond to an alarm situation. “In addition to viewing alarm history, dealers can choose to give their customers the ability to view their account information, passcodes and responding party lists exactly the way they are in our monitoring system, place their account on test, call the central station and request service. Whether a company has one or 10,000 accounts, all of our dealers have the opportunity to have their own mobile access private labeled with their company’s brand, which can increase customer retention, brand awareness and referral business.”

Affiliated delivers tools for success

Affiliated Monitoring, Union, N.J., is also going mobile at ISC West with a new mobile Web app program launched called Affiliated RealStream. This new feature lets technicians view test signals instantly on their mobile device just as in the same way they're received by the monitoring center. “Technicians can quickly get the information they need in the field without having to make a single phone call,” said Daniel Oppenheim, vice president of Affiliated Monitoring. “RealStream is just the latest addition to our constantly improving dealer tools,” he added.

“Increasingly, the way we’ve been successful is to be a partner to our dealers and to help them solve a lot of their needs so they can focus on the customer. RealStream helps them do that. They can get the signals that the central station is receiving on their smartphones so they can see exactly what is happening.”

Oppenheim said other services, such as Web-based managed access control services, are critical for dealers and their end users. “Our hosted Web access control platform is available to their customers 24/7. The end user can fully manage it and it’s a seamless process that the user can access whenever they need to make a change to their access control system. No other wholesale monitoring firm offers this complete level of managed access control,” he said.  

Also at ISC West Affiliated Monitoring is focusing on educating dealers at Affiliated University with 15 seminars throughout the three-day show and including topics that range from legal aspects to insurance to company valuation. Finally, the company continues to offer aggressive pricing strategies to its dealers as part of the 2013 FutureProof program that allow dealers and their customers to move to new technologies and service offerings at super-competitive prices.