Opportunities and Challenges for Home Security

Opportunities and Challenges for Home Security

Your home will be getting smarter and able to do more for you

Opportunities and Challenges for Home SecurityWhere is home security headed?” A better question is, “Where can’t it go?” ABI research recently predicted that in the next five years, smart home services will grow 37 percent in the United States. New automation solutions are opening all kinds of new possibilities for customers who are looking to integrate convenience and security.

As always, competition is the best indicator of growth. The entire market has shifted with the entry of telecom giants like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast, which is expected to finalize its merger with Time Warner Cable later this year.

Rapidly growing technology brings both opportunities and challenges to our industry that dealers are digesting now and will be down the road as home automation creates remote lifestyle options that simplify a customer’s daily schedule.

Electronic Dispatch

The Central Station Alarm Association’s ASAP (Automated Secure Alarm Protocol) program is a national program in which police departments and monitoring centers exchange dispatch information electronically to reduce average dispatch time to a matter of seconds. ASAP has a serious automated premise: cooperation among central stations and law enforcement to get assistance to individuals more quickly during emergencies. It’s currently available in select areas: Houston, Texas; Richmond, York County and James City County, Va.; Washington, D.C. and Tempe, Ariz.

“Electronic dispatching has been a dream of mine since getting into the monitoring business,” said Darin Anderson, vice president of monitoring operations at Monitronics, an ASAP charter member. “I have always seen the potential to utilize technology in this way, but it was not a reality when I left the alarm business in 2010.

“When I came to Monitronics in 2012, I happened to land in a central station that was participating in ASAP, and it rekindled my belief in its potential.”

If enough of the country’s 6,000 PSAP’s (Public Safety Answering Points) team up with the hundreds of operational monitoring centers, ASAP could become an industry game-changer. This program dramatically speeds up emergency response and eliminates human error in transferring information between operators. Everyone wins—alarm companies, emergency agencies and customers.

Video Monitoring and Apps

Remote video and image surveillance has generally seen less market penetration than other interactive service features. With the cost of IP cameras dropping, it’s becoming more cost-effective for customers and an even greater upsell opportunity for dealers.

New viewing options are available for customers with cameras in and around their home. Touchscreen devices enable homeowners to view video directly from their panel. If the camera’s pointing at their front door, they can see who knocked/unlocked their door right from the screen.

New technology is benefiting dealers in everyday operations. Dealer programs, like Monitronics’, have created exclusive mobile applications for their dealers in the field.

Their eContract app allows salespeople to quickly complete an electronic version of each contract in the customer’s home from an iPad or Android tablet. It saves dealers money and presents contracts to customers in a digital format that corresponds with their interactive products.

LOCATE, currently being piloted by their program, gathers vital information about customers in a given area: names, household incomes, and whether they own or rent. It syncs with Google Maps to provide accurate, up-to-date addresses and directions. Salespeople can address customers by name and build an instant rapport at the door.

Other public apps can also make life easier for dealers:

iTeleport acts as a traveling PC, allowing control of an office desktop computer from a tablet or smartphone.

BatchGeo creates a simple map that plots all customers or prospects via Google Maps. Dealers can pop in to visit old customers while they’re in the neighborhood, see how service is going and ask for referrals. All it takes is uploading a client, like CSV list, onto the app’s website, and then setting parameters and rules.

Google Voice is a convenient traveling tool that routes all calls from a dealer’s office or cellphone to a single, unique Google Voice number. A free, local phone number can be created to distribute to customers that will route to an out-of-state number, which creates a local feel with customers who might normally ignore an out-of-state phone call.

The 2G Sunset

Now, a challenge. One byproduct of evolving technology is it eventually gets outdated. The inevitable 2G technology phase-out affects all kinds of service, but this is critical information for customers who rely on their alarm to protect them via active communication to a central station.

AT&T and other wireless carriers have started the 2G sunset in certain areas of the U.S. Current customers’ cellular radios or panels must be replaced to ensure their alarm monitoring service continues without interuption.

The challenge for security companies is staying aware of fading cell towers, informing their customers of the impending changes and making updates in an efficient manner. All of that requires understanding the costs for repair work and contacting customers about the change to their equipment.

This article originally appeared in the July 2014 issue of Security Today.


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