Over the centuries, humans’ knowledge of the “center of the universe” has evolved. While early theories included simplistic models where the Earth was the center with everything orbiting around it, later theories gained more complexity, involving other galaxies and eventually reaching ground-breaking speculations that the universe actually lacks a central point and is expanding in all directions.

Here in the security industry, the role of central stations and the scope of their offerings also has evolved — from the basic function of receiving and dispatching alarms in the industry’s early era to more complex service offerings and operational support today.

Has that evolution kept central stations at the center of industry? Yes — and no.

Central stations’ contact with the customer, new services (especially video-based), along with the clear advantage that monitoring services provide to separate the industry from the competition, do-it-yourself (DIY) and self-monitoring options definitely make central stations a critical piece of the industry.

When SDM interviewed industry professionals, one message came through loudly and clearly from both central stations and dealers alike: central stations are critical, but the customer — not the central station — is the center of the universe.

Because customers are the center of the universe, “central stations are vital to making sure the center of our universe stays the center of our universe,” states Kyle Beller, president, BAT Security Services, Waxahachie, Texas.

As Earl Lanier, manager, En-Touch Alarm Systems Inc., Houston, explains it, central stations provide a valuable function based on the need for structure and a response when monitoring for the safety of a customer or their property. While they aren’t the center of the universe, “they are the culmination of all the efforts that go into providing a service that is structured, timely, and reliable and focused on our customers, the center of our universe,” Lanier explains.

United Central Control Inc. (UCC), San Antonio, chooses to describe central stations as the “gatekeepers of services that flow to the end users,” says Mark Matlock, senior vice president, UCC. “In that regard, they are at the center of service offerings to end users. The ‘alarm universe’ consists of central stations and alarm companies working in concert to bring value in monitoring services to consumers. Each needs the other to be successful,” he explains.

Often, outside of the initial installation, central stations will have more interaction with customers than dealers will. Which is why partnering with the right central station is mission-critical for a company that wants to provide its customers with the best customer service, states Amy Kothari, president and chief executive officer (CEO), Alarm Capital Alliance, Newtown Square, Pa.

“Essentially, all home security companies offer the same products and services. There are different panels, different types of communication (landline, cellular, IP, etc.) and different options ranging from basic security to complete home automation; however, none of these things will ultimately differentiate us from the competition. These are just the things we need to remain competitive. The differentiator will be how we take care of our customers,” Kothari says. Rapid Response Monitoring Services (RRMS), based in Syracuse, N.Y., monitors 142,000 accounts for Alarm Capital Alliance.

“ My central station is handling my entire customer base, so I need them to treat my customers the same way that I do and they have,” says this month’s cover dealer, David Wurmbrand, owner, Total Protection, Anaheim, Calif., when discussing his central station, American Two-Way (ATW), headquartered in North Hollywood, Calif.

Wurmbrand has had ATW monitor his company’s accounts for 18 years.

“A lot of my business is from word of mouth and referrals, and retention is critical to everyone in the industry. I have had many customers for 18 years, and the outstanding service from my central station adds to their loyalty to my company,” Wurmbrand says.

While many services that central stations provide will be critical to individual dealers at one time or another, “overall, high-quality customer service is probably the single most important day-to-day requirement of my dealers,” shares Michael Joseph, vice president, general manager, Mace Central Station, Anaheim, Calif.

National Monitoring Center (NMC), Aliso Viejo, Calif., places a huge emphasis on customer service.

“We don’t think about ourselves as just a monitoring company. We also work hard to provide the customer service alarm dealers need to continue providing customers. After the sale — outside of maintaining a battery every few years or other infrequent contact — we are the face of the dealer, so we have to put a strong effort into customer service,” says Woodie Andrawos, executive vice president and co-founder with Michael Schubert of NMC.

Todd Shuff, director of operations, NMC, adds, “We don’t have operators or dispatchers. They are customer service representatives (CSRs) to highlight the fact they are customer-service focused. Also, we never evaluate our CSRs on anything based on production — how many alarms they move in an hour, how quickly they get on and off a call, etc. The quality of that call is what means the most to us. Through our CSR Evaluation Program, we have trainers who go through and evaluate calls randomly on a daily basis, give feedback about the quality of calls and the things our CSRs need to say and accomplish in every single call. As an organization we are educating our CSRs all the time and collectively learning from our experiences day in and day out to create untouchable customer service.”

In addition to providing quality monitoring services of all kinds to the end user, there is an understanding of the sales, service and support required for the individual alarm company. NMC’s ultimate goal is to serve both of these customers with seamless quality and reliability, Andrawos says.

Successful partnerships result from a positive customer experience, agrees Jacky Grimm, vice president, Security Solutions and Business Development, Electronic Security, Diebold Inc.  Diebold’s approach earned it the 2011 Central Station Excellence Award. (Read the full profile of Diebold’s central station at www.SDMmag.com/2011-excellence-awards

“This foundation delivers trust and peace of mind to our customers. Diebold touches thousands of customers daily and achieving customer satisfaction is central in all sales calls, installations, billings, service calls, alarm dispatches, appointments, etc.  And our central station plays a key function in the coordination of addressing each of these customer touch points,” says Grimm, one of three finalists in the 2013 CSAA Excellence Central Station Manager of the Year Award. Read more about Grimm’s approach to managing a customer-focused central station on page 66 of this issue.

The central station plays a critical role in connecting the alarm industry to the customers and helping it expand on all points, serving as the alarm industry’s version of gravity, or cosmic glue, in the universe (which is the force responsible for keeping the Earth and all the planets in our solar system in orbit around the Sun, as well as gravitationally binding entire collections of galaxies all while the universe continues to grow).

Similarly, as the alarm industry continues to grow and competition increases, central stations serve a dual role. They keep expanding the services offered to dealers, helping them remain connected to customers, support law enforcement, stay ahead of the competition — but they do it with an unwavering focus on security, the glue that holds the security industry together.

“While we are always looking for innovative new service offerings, we never lose sight of the fact that we are in the life safety business, and we balance our resources accordingly,” shares Lisa Ciappetta, senior director of Marketing and Technology, Protection 1, Chicago.

The Alarm Response Center at Monitronics focuses on traditional burglary/fire/medical monitoring as well.

“Currently, our focus is not on how many types of services we can provide but rather on how well we provide our core mission,” says Darin Anderson, vice president of Monitoring Operations, Monitronics, Dallas. “Our motto is simple: ‘Security is Our Priority,’” he says.

That is the strongest contribution central stations make, according to Keith Jentoft, president of Videofied – RSI Video Technologies, Vadnais Heights, Minn.

Jentoft bluntly states that “lifestyle services have seduced the alarm industry with the promise of incremental recurring monthly revenue (RMR)… but alarm dealers would be better off in the long term providing what they have built the industry on, professionally monitored alarms for protection and greater security.” Read Jentoft’s full argument in “Unmonitored Lifestyle Service: The Trojan Horse?” on page 52.

“Alarm monitored protection is very important to our customers should an emergency occur in their homes or businesses. As a former police officer, I value ADT’s experience working closely with local police officers, paramedics and firefighters in order to provide a level of service that is unmatched in the industry. Our customers depend on the reliability of the ADT brand and consider it paramount in their security purchase decision,” Barry Simmons, president of Safe Streets USA, an ADT Authorized Dealer, told SDM.

The monitoring provided by central stations is irreplaceable — and a key distinguisher from DIY or self-monitoring, says Lela Mullins, vice president of Monitoring Operations, ADS Security, Nashville, Tenn.

“The first major difference is that we continuously monitor equipment from our central station to make sure it is working as it should. If our diagnostics show a device is not in service, we send a technician out to inspect it. The second major difference is the timeliness and accuracy in which an alarm is responded to. Specialized training and real-time interaction in a crisis situation is not replaceable by automated messages when it comes to life safety situations,” Mullins observes.

Alarm response is something Troy Deal, president, Central Florida Alarm Services, Orlando, Fla., says his customers “expect.”

“Although self-monitored systems will begin to gain market share, especially for budget-conscious customers, we believe that professionally installed systems will continue to have a place in the market.  In fact, we would prefer to see the high-volume DIY installations only use self monitoring so they don’t negatively impact the services our clients rely on,” Deal says. CMS monitors just under 2,000 accounts for his company. “We don’t market to customers that can’t pay for a system or are only looking for the cheapest service they can find. We market our central station as the best we can provide for our customers or we wouldn’t use them,” Deal adds.

Unmonitored devices are simply noise makers that cannot trigger an action in the event of a real emergency, describes Anita Ostrowski, vice president of Central Station Services, Vector Security, Warrendale, Pa. “Central stations play a vital role in the protection of people, property and belongings through continuous monitoring of alarms and events, and dispatching the appropriate authority through disciplined alarmed management. Properly trained central station operators play a key role in this process.” Ostrowski knows a thing or two about training — and managing — a central station. She was the 2008 CSAA Excellence Central Station Manager of the Year. Read her profile at www.SDMmag.com/2008-excellence-awards.

Provo, Utah-based Vivint’s Steve Dixon, vice president of Operations and Customer Experience, shares that customers don’t often require a lot of convincing on the value of a central station.

“I think most customers realize the importance of a monitoring station and value what they’re paying for. Our two-way “Vivint Live” feature is a big selling point. Customers love knowing that they have two-way communication with a monitoring agent in the event of an emergency. I don’t think our customers think in terms of their monthly fee covering the equipment; it’s the knowledge that someone will quickly respond when they’re needed that they consider to be of the most value.”

Draganchuk Alarm Systems Inc., Ventura, Calif., emphasizes the significance of having protection 24 hours per day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, says Mike Clinton, the company’s sales manager.

“We will discuss current crime statistics, and how a monitored system acts as a deterrent which lowers the risk of theft or injury and helps minimize their liability and exposure. At its most basic, we are selling peace of mind that what they value most is protected,” Clinton says. NMC monitors approximately 5,000 accounts for the company.

Additionally, there’s the voice on the other side of the line when something happens — a luxury that DIY-ers don’t have.

“What many people miss in self-monitoring is the feeling of security that is provided for customers when there is a knowledgeable, caring voice on the phone to assist them at a time of need. Ackerman shows the value of this support by contacting our customers on all alarm signals, even those that are cancelled by the customer. This confirms we are there for them when needed and that their security is our top priority,” says Bob Lamb, call center director, Ackerman Security, Atlanta.

DIY has its risks, observes David Smith, director of Marketing and Communications, COPS Monitoring, Williamstown, N.J.

“There is nothing that a DIY-er can substitute for experience and expertise, which may put them in a dangerous situation. Moreover, because they are ‘doing it themselves,’ when they find themselves in the dangerous situation, they may not be able to summon help when they need it most. Expertise, or an advanced (expert) level of skill and understanding, is achieved through experience. Having expertise affects the speed, fluidity, and accuracy of knowing what to do and then taking the correct course of action in a stressful emergency situation,” Smith says.

John Shocknesse, director of Customer Care, CPI Security, Charlotte, N.C., the 2013 CSAA Central Station of the Year, says the company firmly believes that alarm response is critical to customer safety and in providing peace of mind that is provided when customers know that they have trained operators to assist them during an actual emergency.

“Audio and video verification ensures the correct and fastest response and notification of alarm events as they occur that can’t be guaranteed from DIY efforts. It also increases the chance of perpetrators being identified and apprehended. Today’s requirements for requesting response, enhanced verification, permitting, jurisdiction, etc. require a professional response,” Shocknesse adds.

Read more about CPI’s award-winning approach to central station services in SDM’s exclusive profile starting on page 64.


While new services are a key focus, it is important to note that new services, for most central stations, come after alarm response.

“Balancing meeting the dealers’ primary need of perfect monitoring and police dispatch — while also putting time and resources into new services — starts with hiring the right people and implementing correct training programs,” says Jon Adams, central station manager, ATW. “When your staff is able to function at their optimal level and are comfortable in their knowledge of their role and the technology they utilize to fill that role then they will be able to handle the daily needs of alarm response. Having a highly trained staff affords certain members of management the time necessary to research new products or services and develop implementation plans.”

New services must be top-of-mind for central stations and dealers alike to remain relevant.

“Our philosophy is that if you are not moving forward each and every day then you are falling behind,” shares Morgan Hertel, vice president of Operations, RRMS, Syracuse, N.Y. “RRMS has more than 20 people dedicated to IT, tech support and software development working on this kind of new stuff every day. When dealers and installers start to select who their central station partner is, this needs to be one of those decisions and questions of, ‘What are you doing to stay on the leading edge.’”

For ATW, the latest service involves a fully integrated tracking and mobile monitoring solution that the company feels “revolutionizes the industry.” Read “Evolving Solutions: Mobile Monitoring” on page 46 for more about the new service from ATW’s CEO, Christopher Baskin.

Central stations do keep growing — meeting dealers’ demands and end users’ expectations.

“Because we have only done wholesale/third-party monitoring for over 35 years, our large dealer base requires that we accommodate a wide array of monitoring services,” says COPS Monitoring’s Smith. “We monitor traditional digital dial-up monitoring, two-way, video, IP, cellular, radio, etc. If you name it, chances are we have been monitoring it for some time. We continue to help our dealers remain competitive by offering the latest products and services and by adopting the best emerging technology as it becomes available.”

Lanier of En-Touch Alarm Systems Inc., whose accounts are monitored by UCC, finds it hard to say what the “newest service” is, as the industry has been watching technology evolve for the last 10 years in an effort to keep up with the changes in network technology.

“We have been monitoring alarm customers over the Internet since 2003. Developments in the alarm industry are beginning to capitalize on the technology that has been available for networking and communication. The monitoring station has helped us keep abreast of the changes and assisted with testing as needed. We presently offer remote access and low-priority notification through multiple platforms, including automation. These gateway technologies to the home are of the most interest to us,” Lanier shares.

Sean Hamm, owner, Five Alarm Security, Carlsbad, Calif., is also looking at home services. Criticom Monitoring Services (CMS), which offers Honeywell®’s AlarmNet® and Total Connect®, Alarm.com services, DSC’s C24 Interactive and Telguard® Interactive, monitors close to 2,000 accounts for Five Alarm Security.

“Providing basic home automation and interactive alarm service has allowed us to show added value to our subscribers that we could only dream of a couple of years ago. We believe it’s made our subscribers more loyal, and more likely to use their alarm regularly, which will result in lower turnover,” Hamm says.


New services keep dealers relevant and operating at their best. Out of the many new services central stations shared with SDM, video definitely led the way. Just like dealers overwhelming told us the customer is the center of the universe — central stations told SDM video is the new constellation they are focused on.

“Monitor America has seen the future, and it is video services. As a new central station, we had the luxury of designing a 21st Century service-provider facility from the ground up, and the foundation of our services is video in all forms: security touring, concierge services, verifications and alerts, escort services, and customized managed services for both residential and commercial customers. The dealer of today has a great way of generating additional RMR if they look to video services,” says Jay Stuck, chief marketing officer, Monitor America, N.Y.

UCC’s Matlock describes the opportunity in video as “enormous. Adding, video alarm verification is just the tip of the iceberg. As video grows into an accepted and highly desired component of managed security, more customers are asking for monitored video services,” Matlock says. In fact, Matlock notes that enhanced video services are getting better traction for the company than any time in its history. That’s notable growth for a company that monitors over 190,000 accounts.

At the recent ESX show in Nashville, UCC announced a strategic partnership with CheckVideo to offer monitored video services to UCC customer accounts through more than 500 dealers nationwide. 

“Video options such as CheckVideo/video analytics will be the traditional alarm killer in the next 20 to 30 years, if not sooner,” predicts Kyle Beller, president, BAT Security Services, Waxahachie, Texas, a UCC dealer.

Kevin McCarthy, national sales manager, EMERgency24, Des Plaines, Ill., tells SDM, “We believe there is tremendous market potential for dealers to market lower-cost video systems to specific vertical markets, such as construction, warehousing and shipping, to name a few. Related to this is a video guard tour. This allows system owners to have specific areas of their properties remotely viewed by an operator at a set schedule, which eliminates the need for a human guard to be posted and making rounds. Should our operators see anything out of the ordinary, we dispatch the local authorities.”

The industry is being forced to look beyond two-call verification of alarms, Stuck observes. “Central stations should be planning now for video-centric services in response to local ordinances and law enforcement response to alarm pressures,” he advises.

Today’s central stations are also hubs for management information, Stuck continues. “JPEGS, video clips, access control, text and email messaging, automated reporting — all of this information can be provided to security managers and residential customers by central stations. It’s not just about alarm response anymore. It’s news you can use. Management information is the next wave of innovation,” Stuck says.

Innovation from central stations will continue to help dealers — and the industry — to expand and deepen partnerships.

“We view our central station and its role in our business as a trusted partnership. We work together to ensure services offered not only meet but exceed clients’ expectations. Our achievements and failures are measured jointly, for it is a symbiotic relationship, and one cannot be successful without the other,” says Draganchuk Alarm Systems’ General Manager Suzanne Robertson, who calls the company’s central station, NMC, a “valued partner.”

“Certainly for the alarm industry, no other business entity in the alarm industry is so highly integrated and used as the central stations today; they are becoming more and more technology partners for dealers and installers,” Hertel believes. He appropriately adds that central stations’ evolution is “constant and never-ending” — much like the universe.


Evolving Services:  Around-the-Clock Customer Service


SDM asked, “What is the newest service you have implemented in your central station?”

“EMERgency24 (EM24) offers an after-hours answering service to notify alarm dealers when subscribers require immediate attention to their system. This allows for a seamless connection between dealers and their customers after hours. When an end-user calls after hours, there are many times the issue is solved by our staff members so that a technician isn’t needed to make a call or service stop in the middle of the night. It saves dealers time and money, but giving end-users access to a live human being at all times is a proactive way to minimize attrition because there is nothing more annoying to a customer than to be awoken in the middle of the night with non-stop beeping from the alarm system and then having to leave a message on a machine, hoping for a call back. To eliminate this problem, EM24 fields those calls and makes notifications based on the conditions the alarm dealer defines.” — Kevin McCarthy, EMERgency24


Evolving Solutions: Mobile Monitoring


Right when everyone is talking about harnessing the cloud, American Two Way (ATW), North Hollywood, Calif., a wholesale provider of monitoring solutions and interactive solutions, is cutting out the cloud. Yes, you read that correctly. In an effort to eliminate the cloud as a pricey middleman, ATW has developed a complete mobile monitoring solution that can monitor any GPS and mobile personal emergency response systems (MPERS) device without the need for the cloud.

 SDM spoke with ATW CEO Christopher Baskin about the solution and its development.

“At ATW, we really try to look ahead to make sure that we are staying ahead of the curve, understand where the market is going, and develop solutions to allow dealers to be relevant in those markets. We were one of the first companies to design, patent, manufacture and monitor interactive security systems and PERS systems. Today looking out we see huge opportunity in mobile monitoring. That means everything from MPERS to vehicle tracking to protecting children or aging parents to monitoring loan workers wherever they may go — a complete solution,” Baskin says.

“This is incredible technology, says Total Protection’s David Wurmbrand. “The kind of ‘gee wiz’ technology that makes you say ‘Wow.’ The ability to track any vehicle or asset; the capability to provide two-way voice to lone workers or hotel maids or guards; the opportunity for a senior to touch a button anywhere and immediately have the central station know who it is, where they are, what responder should be contacted, and be able to talk to them in two-way voice, all in a matter of seconds is unbelievable,” he shares.

After predicting mobile monitoring as the next big recurring monthly revenue (RMR) opportunity for dealers, ATW began looking at how to remove any obstacles for dealers entering the space. One barrier was higher costs due to cloud companies handling some of the monitoring pieces of a mobile solution.

“This was necessary because many monitoring centers for the most part don’t have full PSAP integration, don’t have all the services needed, or don’t have the location of where the signal is — and they have relied on the cloud companies to fill in those gaps in order to monitor that specific device. The problem is that created layers of fees for the individual dealer. It created limits on the products that dealers could sell, and it made it cost-prohibitive to be in mobile monitoring in general,” Baskin describes.

It also limited dealers’ choices, as the cloud companies that emerged required dealers to buy certain products, use the company’s cloud, and follow that company’s procedures.

“So we have developed a complete solution that can monitor any GPS and MPERS device, while allowing dealers to choose virtually any MPERS device or GPS device and connect it directly into our monitoring center — without ever using the cloud.

The solution allows ATW operators to respond to alerts from any mobile device located anywhere in the country. They then communicate over two-way voice to determine the nature of the emergency. If a situation does exist, operators then notify first responders for their location and provide them with details and the location of the emergency. It also allows for subscribers to create geo-fences, and track devices, whether it be a wearable device or vehicle OBD dongle, and works with virtually any GPS or MPERS device on the market.

ATW provides dealers with a portal called mytotaltrack.com. That portal can be placed on their own website, whether they are a dealer or a central station, and from that portal a consumer can log in and track all of their mobile devices simultaneously — whether it is their car, children, or grandparent(s) — all from a single portal.

“Because there are so many pieces to get into mobile monitoring (you need a device, you need a cellular provider, you need monitoring), we let dealers know they can choose their own devices and cellular services or they can choose from a list of turnkey solutions including wholesale products and cellular service from us. The whole goal is to make it very easy for them to get into mobile monitoring. The opportunity for alarm dealers and life safety providers is vast because the alarm dealer can give wrap-around protection to customers beyond just their home or their business, Baskin says.

For more information, visit www.ATWcentral.com.



When someone triggers an MPERS device or even when airbags go off in a car and a response is needed, there are four things that need to instantly happen:

  1. When someone pushes an MPERS device, the signal needs to go live so there is immediate two-way voice.
  2. The exact location of where that person or property (such as an automobile) is — not the longitude and latitude, but the actual address — needs to be available.
  3. Operators need to know who the first responder should be to the address. Unlike a security system where who the responder is if the security alarm goes off can be preloaded, in mobile monitoring the alarm could occur anywhere.
  4. The user profile needs to come up.

Those happen instantaneously in ATW’s new mobile monitoring offering. When centers rely on cloud companies to feed them that data, that is where the layers of fees come in, according to Baskin.“

Often a dealer goes to cloud companies and is charged $10 a month just to get the signal to the monitoring center. By eliminating the cloud, we make it much more cost effective for the dealer,” Baskin explains.


Evolving Services:  Portfolio Management


SDM asked, “What is the newest service you have implemented in your central station?”

“At NMC we view ourselves in strategic partnerships with our dealers. We boldly make the claim that if alarm dealers give us their business, they will grow with NMC,” says Sharon Elder, vice president of Sales, NMC.

The company calls its dealers strategic partners. One new service it has rolled out to help dealers grow is a Portfolio Management service.

Elder describes, “Above and beyond monitoring and customer service, we also make sure that we manage the portfolios of our partners. This includes:

•          Offering a wide range of services to help create ‘sticky,’ long-term customers.

•          Executive summary reports are provided monthly (in addition to other reports for our partners based on their needs). For example,

­–         A Performance Report showing how many accounts they have added and cancelled.

–          An Activity Summary showing information such as accounts with the highest activity, low batteries or trouble signals, etc.

“We have so much information from accounts, and we take all that data and transform it into valuable, actionable information for our partners and send it to them in a usable format.

•          Regular dialogue. We want to keep our partners [informed] about the latest and greatest solutions that are available and how they could impact their business and help them grow.

•          Branding. The consumer is branded to the partner and we respect that. We’re finding ways to increase each partners’ branding; for example, pushing customers to the partners’ websites so customers are looking at what upgrades are offered, etc.

“We also help build business by investing in relationships with the agencies dealers work with to open up more account opportunities. In addition to participation in ASAP-to-PSAP from the ground floor, NMC also continues to work with local agencies and public service providers and even liaisons with the local authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) to build strong conditions for dealers to operate in. In southern California, Elder vigorously seeks out and meets with officials and champions positive solutions to any issues. It has earned her the 2013 William N. Moody Award from the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC). The award recognizes alarm industry professionals who take the lead to implement ordinances that incorporate the best practices of alarm management.

See www.SDMmag.com/2013-moody-award for more of Elder’s work.


Evolving Services:  Enhanced Management via eSuite


SDM asked, “What is the newest service you have implemented in your central station?”

The newest service we have implemented is an added feature to our eSuite offering that allows customers with certain burglar alarm panels that are connected via IP to edit panel codes instantaneously and manage access by partition via their online account. — Lisa Ciappetta, Protection 1.


Evolving Services: Better  Dispatch Through ASAP-To-PSAP


SDM asked, “What is the newest service you have implemented in your central station?”

Electronic dispatching to emergency agencies. As a charter member of the “ASAP-to-PSAP program,” Monitronics is on the cutting edge of working with police departments to exchange dispatch information electronically. This is significant in that it now only takes a matter of seconds to convey emergency information to a police department where traditionally it takes 3-4 minutes via telephone. This improves police response time and eliminates the potential for any miscommunication of information between us and the police department. This technology is new and only a handful of public service answering points (PSAPs) have configured their computer systems to communicate with us, but interest is growing. In the near future this will become mainstream and Monitronics is positioned well to transfer this benefit to our customers. — Darin Anderson, Monitronics.


OPINION — Unmonitored Lifestyle Services: The Trojan Horse?


Lifestyle services have seduced the alarm industry with the promise of incremental recurring monthly revenue (RMR) and untapped potential. Hundreds of pages of articles claim these new services will create a “gold rush” for the typical alarm dealer. Do unmonitored services actually make sense for a long-term industry dependent on multi-year contracts for financial value? Could the evangelists promoting unmonitored services be wrong, at least for alarm dealers? Do unmonitored services actually threaten the alarm industry’s basic business model? In other words, perhaps the hype is an empty promise; the harbinger of a new industry with very little to offer the traditional alarm dealer selling protection and security.

There is no argument that “unmonitored services” have already made a financial impact for those on the cutting edge. Vivint was one of the first to embrace the new technologies and recently sold this promise to investors for a couple billion dollars. The pitch was that energy management and other self-monitored lifestyle services would wring an extra $20 to $40 of incremental RMR from a typical burglar alarm account. The hype was everywhere. We, the alarm industry, were unwittingly sitting on an untapped goldmine of unrealized potential. Is it true? New technology has created a new wonderful set of affordable services: no dispute about that. Consumers certainly want these new services, but do they have other, less expensive options than an alarm contract? Frankly, the real question we need to answer is, “Will our clients pay $20 per month for something that they can get for free?” This is the core issue that has been glossed over by the evangelists that will impact the business long-term.

Researching the answer is actually as easy as typing www.amazon.com (bestbuy.com or ebay.com would also work) and doing a few quick searches on the main services in question; smartphone-video, energy management and home automation. Typing “IP camera” into the Amazon search brings up more than 20 pages of all types of cameras at prices starting at less than $60 for a wireless PTZ with illuminators. What is most interesting is that every camera listed either comes with its own app or is compatible with a free app such as “IP Cam Viewer.” The apps on Amazon deliver the same features sold by alarm dealers — for free.

Entering “electronic thermostat” into the Amazon search field was also interesting and brought up some awesome touchscreen thermostats; one from Nest is particularly striking. With Nest, a consumerized thermostat complete with a free smartphone app — the lifestyle service is offered for free. Energy management is certainly evolving, but will it deliver the long-term incremental RMR promised by companies such as Vivint?

What about the coming revolution in Z-Wave devices and home automation that we have heard about? Unfortunately, Amazon is full of examples of the same market forces here, as well. Belkin, a brand of consumer products, lists a Z-Wave outlet switch and mobile app for $47. The home automation market has migrated to the hardware store and RMR opportunities are evolving into free apps as companies look for an edge in promoting their own product lines.

The entire marketplace is evolving towards free apps and free self-monitored services — the opposite of what is being promised by security evangelists promising $20 per month. Instead of being seduced by the king with no clothes, alarm dealers would be better off in the long term providing what they have built the industry on, professionally monitored alarms for protection and greater security. — Contributed by Keith Jentoft, president of Videofied - RSI Video Technologies, Vadnais Heights, Minn.


Customer Service, Please!


SDM asked dealers, “Accurately dispatching alarms is, beyond a doubt, the most critical service a central station provides. After that, the service providing the most value for my company and customers is:”*


Giving my customers high-quality customer service when they call. 28 votes


Offering new managed services (video, access, etc.) 4 votes


Helping technicians troubleshoot signal transmission issues when setting up accounts. 3 votes


Pushing notifications to customers, such as notifications for signals such as low battery and trouble, service calls, etc. 1 votes


Providing back office support (database improvements, reports, e-mail/fax alerts, answering billing questions, etc.) 0 votes


A resounding majority of dealers stressed that the customer service central stations provide their accounts is the most valuable service for their company.

*Poll taken online at www.SDMmag.com and via interviews for the article.


Evolving Services:  Unleashing Mobility


SDM asked, “What is the newest service you have implemented in your central station?”

There is always something new every month but in the last year we are very excited about the entire concept of mobility. This ranges from monitoring mobile assets, which could be people, vehicles or other high value assets. But in addition to monitoring assets and people there is a push to cut the cord on remote alarm management. So for us this is a new suite of mobile smartphone apps that allow you to manage all your accounts but also get phone messages and other memos from the central station. In addition to that we have rolled out a new tech center with Nuance natural language speech recognition where you can put systems on test and get test results back all with a simple phone call. — Morgan Hertel, Rapid Response Monitoring Services


Evolving Services:  Video Verification


SDM asked, “What is the newest service you have implemented in your central station?”

We have recently implemented video verification on key accounts and the number of installs is growing every day. Every time an alarm is triggered, there is the possibility that a potential crime is in progress. Combining video with incident notification helps provide a clearer picture of the security event. Our operators can detect and verify if there is human activity on site and share this information with first responders. As a result, response resources are “prioritized” and costly false alarm fees are greatly reduced. Video verification combined with priority dispatch benefits the entire community with better protection for customers, more accurate information for law officers responding to potentially dangerous situations, and fewer losses and reduced payouts for insurers. — Rick Raper, central station manager, Alarm Detection Systems Inc., Aurora, Ill.


Evolving Services:  Managed Access Control


SDM asked, “What is the newest service you have implemented in your central station?”

Quick Response offers a completely flexible access control solution, QuickBuildingSolutions. We are currently partnered with Keyscan, a premier provider of access control in the industry. QuickBuildingSolutions offers independent dealers the flexibility to offer their customers a range of managed access control options, from simple data hosting all the way to a completely managed service, without a significant capital investment. All of this is hosted in Quick Response’s secure data center. — Jeff Cohen, owner, Quick Response, Cleveland.



 Read the full details of the partnership referenced on page 58 online in the article “UCC & CheckVideo Partner to Offer Extensive Menu of Monitored Video Services.”