Getting Creative

Getting Creative

Dealers and installers should broaden their portfolios

"In 400 feet, your destination will be on the right.”

For most people, these words sum up the world of Global Positioning Systems (GPS): providing automated navigation to get from point A to point B. From systems installed in cars to increasingly common apps on smart devices, GPS has helped eliminate the pile of receipts and napkins that once contained human-scribbled directions.

While it has eliminated a lot of hassles for the everyday consumer, it also has added an element of creativity for those charged with designing customized security systems. That, in turn, is helping security professionals such as dealers and installers broaden their businesses and portfolios by tapping into a multitude of hidden benefits for their customers.

Consider the following scenario offered by Joe Agreste, general manager of South Bay Communications & Security in Chesapeake, Va. A couple goes through a messy divorce, and one party is instructed by a judge not to get within a certain number of feet of the other. A traditional home security system might help the other party feel more secure in his/her house; Agreste, though, wonders if a technology like geo-fencing could one day also be applicable for this situation since it has the ability to set digital boundaries around a location, and then send notifications if those boundaries have been crossed.

Obviously, several logistical and legal hurdles must be cleared before something like geo-fencing can successfully be applied to this specific scenario. Still, the mere fact this type of technology has dealers thinking outside the box illustrates just how impactful GPS can be for the industry. One such technology, Honeywell’s Total Connect Tracking Services, was launched in Fall 2014.

Many of these types of possibilities enabled by technology like Total Connect Tracking Services are yet to be created; in the meantime, though, there are some basic-yet-innovative uses for this technology that are currently drawing interest from security professionals. According to recent results from a Honeywell dealer survey, for example, dealers are significantly interested in exploring GPS as an expanded offering. Out of a scale of five ranging from “None” to “Very High,” 82 percent of dealers ranked their interest in vehicle tracking and 60 percent of dealers ranked their interest in asset tracking as “High” or “Very High.”

“Vehicle tracking is a home-run offering,” Agreste said. “It provides tremendous opportunity in going after new and broadened markets.”

Getting from Point A to point B … and Beyond

Sophisticated security GPS systems aren’t much different than the simple apps installed on so many mobile devices. They’re small, sleek, and affordable, involving a tracking device that blends in with its background. Many sync with Google’s Google Maps app for intuitive use, and tracking independent objects is possible from just about anywhere.

Vehicle trackers don’t need to be charged and they plug directly into a car, truck or service van’s on-board diagnostic system port (called OBD II), which are required on most vehicles sold in the U.S. since 1996. Other non-OBD II vehicles (such as boats, jet skis, ATVs, RVs, motorcycles or construction equipment) can use asset trackers. Even for assets that aren’t powered, such as shipping containers, machinery, generators or outdoor inventory, most companies offer asset trackers with extended battery.

Don’t mistake its simple design for simplistic features, though. Both vehicle and asset trackers provide on-demand, 24/7 travel information including location, speed, and history. Many services allow users to track multiple vehicles and assets at any given time, as well as access several months’ worth of historical data. In-line with consumer trends, users receive real-time notifications via text message or email when a vehicle or asset has moved, exceeded speed limits or traveled outside of a geo-fenced area, such as a school, home, field of work or company building.

With regards to automation potential, Honeywell’s Total Connect offers the unique ability to integrate GPS tracking services into a user’s full security and automation system. This allows the home or business owner to control security, video and energy management, and GPS from one platform. In the future, features from GPS security may be able to automatically trigger certain actions for the home. For example, a user could set a geo-fence three miles from their house and once they approach, their thermostat turns on. Without any manual effort and regardless of what time it is, their home is heated before they walk in the door.

Vehicle Security on the Move

GPS vehicle security has attracted high interest in the eyes of dealers for many reasons. First, it provides peace-of-mind for families. Vehicle tracking devices allow parents to monitor their teen drivers as needed, softening the inevitable anxiety that comes with allowing kids more responsibilities and freedom as they approach adulthood. Thanks to GPS services, parents no longer have to constantly fret about the whereabouts of their adolescent son or daughter.

Vehicle tracking also benefits the elderly. GPS systems allow consumers to keep tabs on their parent or spouse who may, for example, have a physical or mental handicap limiting their ability to get around town. This can be especially impactful for the millions of Americans who struggle with a form of Dementia, and their families who in turn struggle with managing the onset challenges of care-giving. When a loved one goes missing, tracking services can help locate them and expedite rescue.

Secondly, GPS offers a range of features that are attractive to businesses. Vehicle tracking gives managers access to where their assets are at any given time. If something goes wrong—a vehicle breaks down, gets lost or stolen, or wanders astray—GPS sends a notification so a manager can take appropriate action in getting things back on track. Within a short period of time, an administrator may notice patterns, such as average time-of-arrival, traffic trends, or a certain drivers’ habits. This data leads to more accurate planning and projecting, as well as better employee management.

“Vehicle tracking provides enormous value especially for corporate entities and municipalities,” said Tracy Combs, general manager at First Alarm Security Systems. “Any manager knows the hassles involved in checking up on employees’ whereabouts and having to deter stray action. GPS vehicle tracker makes that task easier by solving for accountability.”

Part of what makes these features so attractive is their affordability and smooth deployment process. Many businesses are accustomed to paying $40 per month for traditional fleet management services that send formal reports days after an event takes place. GPS vehicle tracking is an alternative that truly does offer more for less. A user can receive the valuable upgrade of accessible real-time notifications and customizable technology at a more affordable cost.

A Future Untracked

South Bay Alarms’s Agreste said he believes the potential for GPS isn’t anywhere close to being tapped.

“The design of this product is in the eye of the beholder,” said Agreste. “I use it myself to alert me if I happen to go over the speed limit. It really doesn’t matter to me whether we’re selling to a home, corporate, or industrial environment— it doesn’t change the fact that vehicle security tracking is versatile with many options and many opportunities.”

In other words, GPS security allows for creativity. Users often think of objects being tracked by GPS as moving, but they can also be standing still. For example, a dealership like South Bay Alarms could apply GPS security to local shipyards to further enhance existing systems such as outdoor motion detectors and cameras. This could be a cost-effective way to offer a more-complete monitoring solution.

“I have a hunch there are more benefits and applications than we can possibly know right now,” Agreste said.

Until then, GPS security clearly offers enough innovative functionality to keep users tracking.

This article originally appeared in the issue of .

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