One Touch Alarm
Self-install with professional monitoring
- By Bart Didden
- Nov 01, 2015
The residential alarm market is growing and becoming more
complex. According to several studies, growth is now focused
on “self-installed” products that piggyback on the popularity
of smart phones and the tech-savvy millennials that use these
devices for everything from banking to prepared food delivery. While the
growth may be self-installed hardware, different approaches to monitoring
services is where things become complex. After installing some products,
consumers use them for free on their smart phone, effectively killing the
recurring monthly revenue model that built the alarm industry.
But, that is not the only approach and the potential services differ greatly
in features, cost and effectiveness. The strongest approach links “self-install
hardware” with “professional monitoring services” and police response. This approach delivers the greatest value to the consumer and reinforces the Recurring
Monthly Revenue (RMR) model. DIY is the next “big thing” in the
alarm industry, but how can it work for the typical dealer?
The self-install market is booming because it targets a new demographic
that isn’t considering a professionally installed alarm system. These are the
millennials buying different flavors of IP cameras and other products on
Amazon, Home Depot or Best Buy, to monitor things themselves. These
consumers want some kind of security but once they start down this selfmonitored
path, they have no relationship with an alarm dealer and they
will predictably never buy a professionally installed system. This is the industry’s
target group to expand penetration beyond the 20 percent ceiling
where it has been stuck for decades.
In fact, the main issue for dealers is not really self-install so much as the
self-monitoring. If these new consumers will actually pay for professional
monitoring, the business model still works. The fact that consumers buy the
hardware “up front” simplifies the business model. Dealers need far less,
if any working capital if customers purchase the hardware outright. The
monthly charge to the user doesn’t need to finance the costs for hardware/
installation or sales people.
There is, however, an enormous problem for the typical alarm dealer—a
barrier to entry. The costs and skill set needed to create the self-install infrastructure
is beyond the reach of smaller and medium-sized dealers which
make up the bulk of the alarm industry. Basic DIY infrastructure includes
smart phone apps, consumer websites, eCommerce platforms, logistics and
fulfillment as well as solutions for remote tech support. All this means that
self-install has been the business of the “big guys” in the alarm business like
ADT (who recently announced their own DIY system they created with the
Korean electronics giant LG). In addition, the booming market has caught
the attention of the new players outside the alarm industry like Google,
Apple, and a host of start-ups. All these companies have the deep pockets or
financial backing to create the necessary infrastructure needed to play the
self-install game. This leaves the average dealer standing on the sidelines
unable to participate in the growing revolution, until now.
USA Central has created a unique “business in a box” that provides
a small dealer and even an individual installer the ability to create a DIY
business with their wireless DragonFly video security system. The program
- A consumer-facing website with the dealer’s logo that explains the product
and gives an overview of the services offered.
- An eCommerce platform with the dealer’s logo where consumers buy
products and services.
- The DragonFly smart phone app to install and operate the system.
All the dealer or integrator has to do is promote the website and they
receive a monthly check from USA Central as before unreachable alarm
company customers install the equipment. The hardware is purchased by
Consumers online and drop shipped to their door by the manufacturer—
the dealer never has to touch it. The new customer installs it and their account
is on-boarded to USA’s central station. USA collects the money and
the dealer receives a check each month for their accounts.
USA’s system is designed to deliver faster police response—something
missing in the mass market solutions found in Best Buy and Amazon. What
makes this system so effective is its ability to detect an intruder—inside or
outside before they break in—and take a 10 second video clip, send it to a
user’s cell phone where they can determine if the event is threatening, and
link it with professional monitoring. If the user decides they do not require
police response, they simply dismiss the signal.
However, if there is an actual intruder the user can have the police “dispatched”
with one button on their cell phone, sending an alarm signal together
with the video clip to USA’s UL Listed Central Station. The central
station operator reviews this emergency alarm signal and the actual video
clip and immediately notifies local law enforcement as a virtual eyewitness.
Law enforcement gives this type of alarm a higher priority and faster response
because it’s treated as a crime-in-progress.
The wireless DragonFly is professional grade hardware. It is fully supervised
and informs the user in the event of a power outage, if the internet
connection is cut or the batteries run low. With the optional cell back-up,
even if an intruder cuts the phone lines or the power fails, the user and the
central station can still be alerted. The customer is also alerted to attempts
to move or tamper with the sensors. For maximum coverage consumers
can install up to 25 five indoor and/or outdoor wireless cameras on one system.
Operating for years on battery power, freedom from unsightly power
cords and cables, is crucial to a simple and effective self-install system.
The consumer needs to be able to place the cameras where they will be
most effective, not where there is a power outlet. This is even more crucial
when pushing protection outdoors. Both the indoor and outdoor Dragon-
Fly cameras have built-in illuminators and can see in total darkness and users
can remotely view the cameras from their smart phone for a visual status
of what is happening. System users can combine their outdoor cameras
with other users to create a “virtual neighborhood watch system” that alerts
neighbors, family and trusted friends to unwanted activity—this trusted
group can receive outdoor alerts of suspicious activity and to work together
as a team to protect their neighborhood. While DragonFly was originally
conceived as a residential product, with nearly 1000 feet outdoor range the
possibilities with the cell enhanced hub expands uses to construction sites
and hundreds of other applications formally difficult for traditional alarm
Professional monitoring and police response remain the biggest most
important expectation of a security system. Instead of police response, selfmonitoring
is only remote surveillance with a fatal flaw. Dialing 911 from a
cell phone only alerts law enforcement of the location of the cell phone, not
the local jurisdiction responsible to respond to their residence.
How many consumers know the area code and phone number of the
specific police station responsible to respond to their home? In contrast,
with USA’s DragonFly, the consumer touches one button on a cell phone,
and professional operators immediately handle the emergency by dispatching
the police to the consumer’s home for action. Police response has been
the foundation of the alarm industry because consumers believed central
stations would send police when they were needed.
This foundation of the RMR model can still exist with self-install. USA’s
program actually delivers a stronger response because each alarm is video
verified, treated like a crime in progress—and the dealer makes money every
month without building their own infrastructure.
This article originally appeared in the November 2015 issue of Security Today.