Central station automation software is becoming more sophisticated, often adding functionality similar to what has been pioneered in other industries. For example, scripting capability built into new central station software prompts operators to ask the right questions in much the same way that “wizard” functionality helps people use other types of software. And the phone systems that work with some central station software are gaining automated dial-out capability akin to what people are growing increasingly accustomed to from their local school district or pharmacy.
Automation software also is enabling new types of monitoring such as interactive automotive monitoring. Other advances involve electronic connection to public safety answering points (PSAPs), how data is reported and depicted and more.
The following summaries describe recent advances in central station automation software from some of the primary automation platform providers, including DICE, Micro Key, SGS, Bold Technologies, and AlarmSoft.
DICE Aims to Enhance Efficiency
The phone system built into central station automation software from Bay City, Mich.-based DICE Corp. has gained some new capabilities aimed at enhancing central station efficiency. One key customer was able to avoid hiring extra central station operators and increase efficiency by 33 percent, observes DICE founder, Cliff Dice.
One new DICE capability is to use the phone system itself to place lower-priority routine calls such as those informing customers of a low battery. Other new capabilities are on the inbound side. When a customer calls in, the system asks why the customer is calling and automatically pulls up relevant information and displays it on the central station operator’s screen. The operator already has the information at the time he or she begins to speak with the customer.
“If you’re calling about service, it would pop up your past service history,” Dice explains. “If you’re calling about bill payment, it brings up your bill.”
When a company is running ads directing people to call for more information, but calls can’t be answered immediately, any caller who hangs up can be called back using functionality also built into the DICE product. The person returning the call then can explain that the company has to handle emergency calls first.
The close ratio on those calls is excellent because customers are impressed that the central station called them back, Dice observes.
Micro Key Gets Set for ASAP-to-PSAP Connection
Kissimmee, Fla.-based Micro Key Solutions is overhauling its central station operator guided response interface, explains Micro Key President Victoria Ferro. Ferro likens the move to what Apple did recently when it upgraded its iOS mobile operating system to iOS 7.
“We’re doing a similar graphic user interface update to enhance the end user experience,” Ferro explains.
Among the updates are enhanced automated action plans, which walk central station operators through what to do when a specific type of signal is received. Micro Key also is adding enhanced mobile applications and enhancing dealer billing for contract central stations.
In 2014 the company also expects to have its first electronic interface to a public safety answering point (PSAP) as part of the automated secure alarm protocol (ASAP)-to-PSAP initiative. That initiative is focused on reducing the time required to dispatch responders in the event of an emergency by electronically delivering critical account information to the PSAP through a secure interface.
SGS: A Map Is Worth a Thousand Words
Another central station software provider that has enhanced the scripts that operators follow when handling calls is Irvine, Calif.-based Secure Global Solutions (SGS).
Some customers have seen training time for new central station operators decrease from eight days to two days as a result of enhancements to the central station software that SGS sells under the brand name “stages,” notes Thom Meyer, vice president of research and development for SGS.
The action plans that the central station programs into the software can be easily customized with software modules, Meyer explains. “You might have a module that says ‘Call homeowner.’ You can drop it in any of your action plans.”
SGS also recently added the ability to visualize data on a map — a capability that can simplify a range of tasks that a central station might need to handle. For example, a company might request a map showing all accounts assigned to the Houston police department to determine which ones are incorrectly assigned. “If you have half a dozen points plotted that aren’t in Houston, those are obvious errors,” Meyer observes. “It’s more effective to show data than to list it.”
Bold Technologies Enables New Services
Security companies can offer new services to their customers as the result of capabilities that have been added to central station automation software from Bold Technologies of Colorado Springs, Colo.
For example, the company’s BoldSOS app runs on smartphones, signaling to the central station if a customer is in an accident and the airbags in the car have deployed. Included in the signal is the user’s location, which is determined using global positioning capability.
“If the phone is still intact, it opens an audio channel to the central station using two-way voice integration,” explains Rode Coles, chief executive officer of Bold Technologies.
Customers also can use the same app when they walk through a parking lot. “If you fall, an accelerometer in the phone causes it to trigger an alarm,” Coles describes.
Other services are enabled through Bold’s Universal Connector that allows Bold’s Manitou central station software to receive what Coles calls “non-standard type signaling equipment.”
For example, he says if a device wants to send text, the Universal Connector can be configured to take a text message in and “now that text message is an alarm and can send information to Manitou.” He notes that some customers are sending audio and video to the central station using this method.
Bold also offers security companies the ability to provide social media monitoring to their customers, which automatically alerts the central station if a negative comment is made or if a certain threshold is reached. If this occurs, the operator responds by following instructions previously set up by the customer.
Bold’s new SnapReporter product simplifies the way reports are created, according to Coles. The company also has added a media gateway that enables its phone system to automatically dial out to handle lower-priority calls. And a central station in Arizona is now connected electronically to a PSAP using Bold’s central station software.
AlarmSoft’s New Platform for Alarm Monitoring
AlarmSoft, Virginia Beach, Va., announced a new software platform, Central Works PRO, which integrates the features and functionality of the company’s Central Works 2000 software platform into a new GUI interface.
A point-and-click process was developed to help operators process alarm signals and information faster than ever before. Data relevant to the current alarm condition is readily displayed so that a simple glance at the screen gives an operator all necessary information to make a dispatching decision. Multiple dispatches to the same location, or for the same event, are brought to the operator’s attention before a false dispatch can be made.
To eliminate time-consuming data entry, re-entry, or cumbersome data conversion routines for Central Works 2000 users, the program was specifically designed and developed to use the same file handling and data structure routines that the existing DOS product, which the company calls “nearly bullet proof,” has used for the last 35 years.
“With the Central Works PRO, you can run a completely automated monitoring service requiring no 24-hour personnel, a fully manned central station using multiple PCs and operators, or anywhere in between,” concluded the software company. ?
Editor’s Note: This article was adapted from an original feature, “Central Station Software is Smarter Than Ever,” which was published in SDM, November 2013 issue, written by Joan Egebretson.