Ask the Expert: Brad J. Wilson

Issue: What is your opinion of the security industry today, as the year draws to a close?

Solution: As we all know, 2009 was a difficult year for the security industry and many of our customers. The recession has impacted all of us to some extent. It has taught both integrators and end users to find new ways to get more from each security dollar invested. We have become more creative in finding new uses of security equipment that allows the costs to be spread among various departments such as security, operations and human resources.

Issue: What trends do you predict for 2010?

Solution: While we are beginning to see the economy pick up, we would be wise to remember the lessons learned from this recession for many years to come. But even during tough economic times, technology continues to leap forward. There will be new products and trends developing within the security industry in 2010. Here is a look at some favorites.

Managed services. Although the concept of managed services has been with us for several years, there is a new momentum building. Central station operators can now not only manage an end user’s video and access control applications but also use software to provide health checks on cameras, recorders and card readers. This allows for the immediate fixing or replacement of failing or failed equipment before it causes a problem.

Network protection. IT folks are very protective of their network, which now carries much of the security data -- video and access -- that moves from remote locations to a security operating center.

The added uses offer more opportunity for hackers to break into the network. IT is demanding more network security, and equipment manufacturers are responding by building additional safeguards into their products.

Near field communication. NFC is a short-range wireless communication technology that operates on a high frequency to exchange data between devices over a short distance (about 4 inches). It can be used to turn a device, such as a mobile phone, into a contactless ID card or provide ticketing information for airlines or other sources of public transportation.

Card-reading locks. Access control manufacturers have been successful in creating locks that can be read by the access control system. This allows for cylinders of file cabinets, desk drawers and other areas to be accessed by smart cards. It also provides an added layer of protection by allowing only authorized employees access to areas that may contain highly sensitive documents. Keys, which can be easily lost, stolen or copied, are taken out of the system. And by communicating wirelessly with the access server, these new locks provide an audit trail of who opened which cabinets and when.

Power sources. As cameras and card readers continue to be placed in more remote areas, we will see an increase in the use of battery and/or solar-powered equipment.

Video. Video surveillance, which has grown dramatically over the past decade, will continue to be the star of the security industry in 2010. Expect to see new and improved video management systems, increased IP camera deployment and more use of video analytics at the camera. The latter will gain wider market acceptance as prices drop and performance continues to improve.

Reader Question: I am the president of a professional services firm that maintains highly critical documents on behalf of our clients. We’ve had problems (primarily a large number of false alarms) with our current alarm monitoring company and are looking to make a change. If we do, what questions should we ask of a potential new service provider?

Solution: The following questions should help get you started.

Does the monitoring center offer proactive solutions to reduce false alarms?

Your monitoring company should provide proactive monitoring solutions rather than only reactive services. This model provides you with an effective tool to combat false alarms and the associated fines. Confirm that the monitoring center offers Web-based solutions that provide real-time access to alarm, access control and video information.

Additionally, verify that the center offers the ability to create and retrieve detailed, custom reports.

Should I select a local, regional or national monitoring service provider?

It’s important to do some basic research before choosing a central station monitoring company. I suggest asking the Central Station Alarm Association for a list of the UL-listed member companies in your area. Also ask your insurance company for a list of local alarm monitoring companies.

From a technical perspective, the location of the monitoring center has become almost a moot point. Whether you are across the country or down the block, the use of telephone lines, fiber optics and the Internet are reliable transmission sources. However, a local monitoring center often has an established working relationship with the local police and fire departments.

What type of training do monitoring center employees receive?

Far too often, emphasis is placed on a monitoring center’s advanced technology, rather than the human element. Monitoring center operators are tasked with responding to the information provided by the technology; therefore they must be professionally trained and certified. For example, the CSAA provides a certification program not only for the monitoring center itself but for each individual operator. Inquire if the monitoring center is a CSAA Certified Five Diamond Central Station and the operators have received their Level I and II certifications.

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