The Digital Age has brought remarkable changes in the way goods and services are delivered worldwide. Within the alarm industry, this trend has generated a wide range of opportunities as well as many innovative solutions. While traditional fire and burglar alarm services remain at the industry’s core, the new challenges revolve around how these principle services are delivered, and how new ones are best integrated into central stations. As the principal developer of alarm industry standards, UL not only engages with key stakeholders to develop performance-based methods to measure their application, but also to apply innovation to enable faster market access.
Traditionally, changes to central station facilities have undergone the somewhat lengthy process of a formally proposed revision to the existing standard. While the process helps ensure a thoughtful analysis by a wide range of interest groups, it can take many months. UL offers an alternative option: Alarm Certificate Services, an “Outline of Investigation” that supports the rapid pace of industry innovation.
Under this program, UL proceeds with an investigation of a product or service in the absence of a published standard. Certain conditions apply: the product or service is typically not covered by an existing standard; requirements can be selected from related standards and used along with UL’s technical experience to form conditions of compliance; and a new category of service is created as a means of distinguishing the product or service. If the evaluation results in a certification, the Outline of Investigation becomes the basis for the evaluation of subsequent submittals by others, and eventually can become part of a standard.
SUPPORTING AN OUTSOURCING SOLUTION
Some central station companies are choosing to employ a central station host service that may involve hosting automation systems, and even receivers in a remote location. The staff at the host site are actually IT specialists — software providers that have developed automation systems for the alarm industry, for example. An important benefit is that a hosting service can relieve some of the burden from the central station: no need for staff IT experts or incurred costs of routine equipment upgrades. Outsourcing allows the central station to focus its resources on the delivery of services to its customers.
Introduced in early 2015, the Outline of Investigation for Hosted Central Station Services, UL 827A, is designed for companies that will be offering central station hosting services. UL 827A describes how a central station hosting facility should be organized and what standards they should meet in order to provide hosting services. It is entirely focused on support and delivery of services to the specialized needs of the alarm industry, such as the protection of data against loss and access by unauthorized personnel. UL 827A works in conjunction with the existing Standard for Central Station Alarm Services (UL 827), so requirements for the physical plant are very similar to those for UL 827 central stations.
SUPPORTING NEW INDUSTRY SERVICE OFFERINGS ACROSS NORTH AMERICA
Recently, more and more managed video service providers have requested that UL develop a way to recognize their services. While these companies operate in facilities that are similar to central stations, they have specialized needs. In response, an industry task group was formed in 2014 as a way to create relevant requirements that reflected the conditions needed to operate reliably. This group identified facilities’ needs — bandwidth, directional antennas, and the equipment used to receive and store the video data — and described the types of methods for delivery of these services. To provide maximum flexibility to the marketplace rather than prescribing the actions to be taken for the receipt of video images, the actions are based on the written agreement between the monitoring station and the protected property.
In June 2015, UL 827B: an Outline of Investigation of Managed Video Services was released. This category is available for companies that specialize in managed video service or central stations, expanding their service offerings to include managed video services.
A significant and unique feature of this category is that it is a North American offering; qualified companies, based in either the U.S. or Canada, are permitted to monitor and certify managed video services anywhere in North America. At the time of writing, UL is not aware of any other companies offering this type of specialized service in the security monitoring industry.
KEEPING UP WITH CENTRAL STATION INDUSTRY INNOVATIONS
UL responds to industry demand by engaging with Standards Technical Panels (STPs) to update relevant standards, including a major update of the Standard for Central-Station Alarm Services, UL 827, as well as UL 1981, which was significantly revised and released in a third edition on October 31, 2014. This third edition reflects new industry practices around automation systems used in central stations along with current changes in the industry in how it evaluates automation systems being used for alarm systems, including the move toward network utilization, remote access by technicians and virtualization. In mid-2014, the first software receiver was certified by UL to UL 827, and by now, there are others.
UL is supporting the industry by providing additional ways to equip central stations and offering up-to-date options regarding the use of software- or hardware-based machines. This also provides alarm companies with options as to the location of their machines.
Finding Products Covered by Standard Updates and Outline Investigations
UL can help you find certified products as well as manufacturers of those products. Use the Online Certifications Directory to search for UL Category Codes (CCNs) to find products being manufactured under or information about that CCN. Visit www.ul.com/database to get started now.
Some relevant category codes for the alarm services industry include:
• Hosted Central Station Services UUFO
• Managed Video Services MVDO
• Central Station Automation Systems DAXW
• Software Receivers UZSA
UL — Your Partner Now and Into the Future
As the alarm industry continues to grow and change, UL will be here to help. The company’s commitment is to work with customers and industry stakeholders to provide performance-based standards that complement the rapidly changing market; therefore, UL develops standards and updates them as necessary to meet current industry needs, and to help ensure marketplace relevance.