Westec operators at the ETL and UL certified Des Moines central station.

As a recessed economy forces businesses to take a second and fifth look at their security budgets, companies such as Westec Intelligent Surveillance, headquartered in Coppell, Texas, are taking advantage of new automation and virtual technologies to provide affordable, specialized security solutions in the commercial space and increase their market share.

The Westec name has a long and varied history in the security industry, starting with Westec Home Security in the 1980s. In the late 1990s, the company developed an interest in interactive video, leading to the transition into Westec Interactive in 2003. Then in 2007, with a view to bring comprehensive interactive video solutions to market, Westec Interactive merged with Digital Witness and became Westec Intelligent Surveillance (Westec).

“Because we combine interactive video, two-way audio and access control, that gives us the ability to be virtually in any location in North America in a few seconds,” Kelby Hagar, president of Westec Intelligent Surveillance and founder of Digital Witness, says. “We have the ability to look in, assess and interact. Because we can virtually be there, we can provide a pseudo security guard experience.”

What Westec calls a “virtual guard service” is something that has generated some buzz around the industry in the past few years. As many businesses look to cut ever-increasing expenses, the cost of keeping a security guard on staff can become prohibitive. In certain environments a virtual presence may be enough to deter crime. With monthly fees ranging from $300 to $1,000, Westec customers who regularly spent $4,000 to $5,000 on security guards can see significant savings, while surveillance is extended to 24 hours a day.

Westec has developed “guard” capabilities such as escorting employees on and off secured premises through a combination of surveillance video, phone communication between the employee and a Westec central station operator, and access control. Video and voice are also combined to alert loiterers and others exhibiting disruptive behavior that they are being watched and authorities may be contacted.

One of the advantages for the customer, according to Hagar, is that a virtual guard can resolve conflict without the need to involve store staff or – in 98 percent of cases, Hagar says – police authorities. In cases when police are needed at the scene, such as break-ins, armed assault and thefts, the average response time is eight minutes, which is due to the ability to give law-enforcement specific information about perpetrators, such as how many of them there are and whether they are armed, as well as verify that a crime is in progress, Hagar explains.

Westec’s central monitoring center, located in Des Moines, Iowa, received ETL certification in 2009 and even more recently was certified by UL. “To our knowledge we are the only interactive video-based alarm company listed by both UL and ETL,” Hagar says. “Virtual video is very new. There were no guidelines before we went through that process. Being certified with both UL and ETL will prove we are the leading provider of interactive services in the country.”

Westec also has its proprietary alarm automation software independently classified with UL. Hagar explains that the dual central station certification as well as the software listing not only help set standards for the industry, but also help build customer confidence in the company’s services.

Of Westec’s roughly 13,000 subscribers, 100 percent are commercial customers and belong to one of four vertical markets: retail, specialty retail, restaurants and hospitality. By focusing on businesses with similar security and management needs, Hagar describes, Westec can provide interactive security systems that are truly keyed in to those needs. “If we’re going to dedicate ourselves to service a business, we’re going to know how to do it,” he relates.

This focus is one of the things that allow the company to generate positive word-of-mouth exposure within markets such as jewelry retail, quick-service restaurants and lodging — and bring in new customers without a dedicated advertising budget. According to Hagar, most new leads come from businesses who receive recommendations and log on to the Westec Web site. And a national sales effort that features customized marketing to specific verticals is at the core of Westec’s growth.

In 2009, Westec reported receiving $20 million in growth funding, not an easy feat in this economic climate. Ranked No. 24 on the 2010 edition of the SDM 100, Westec Intelligent Surveillance reported $1.732 recurring monthly revenue on December 31, 2009.

A focused mission, commitment to providing the “highest possible quality product to customers,” and demonstrating potential for steady expansion are what gives the company an edge, Hagar believes. “Our plan is to continue to grow our recurring revenue base and continue to expand leadership in verticals. We’re not going to go acquire companies; we’re growing organically by adding customers.”