Video Monitoring Goes MAINSTREAM
Refinements in cameras and advancements in analytics are driving an explosion in video services.
Video is the darling of the dealer-run or third party central station, and while it’s not new technology by any stretch of the imagination it’s a growing category offering innovative ways to bring sight, sound and detailed visual information and data to security monitoring.
There are many standout trends happening in video monitoring —including guard replacement or augmentation, verified alarms, remote video monitoring, look-ins, video-triggered alarms and surveillance coupled with two-way voice — and its use is increasing steadily. Popularized by the smartphone and the ability to view live and recorded clips, video has gone mainstream. Marketing by utilities and companies with deep advertising pockets has also propelled the technology to a point where most users expect some form of video surveillance for their protected premises.
Being able to see a video clip is great — but the next step is critical: professional monitoring by trained central station operators who take that image and corresponding information and discern whether it’s a crime in progress or an inadvertent alarm.
Seeing is believing. And for the security industry, video monitoring today adds intelligence and accountability to the validity of signals coming into central stations, with local police, Public Service Answering Points (PSAP) and fire often mandating verification of an alarm prior to dispatch.
According to IHS Markit, demand for video surveillance equipment will continue rapid growth in 2018.
The research firm said deep learning, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance and drone detection technologies are just some of the trends affecting the market.
There are other influencing factors, including more sophisticated and easier to deploy software and analytics; integration with other technologies such as facial recognition and access control; the rise of outdoor surveillance with more stable imaging/analytics; and even the emergence of drones to supplement security or provide operations control and accountability.
In addition, with prices dropping while feature sets rise, cameras are now often installed in the majority of security system specifications. Amazon, Google and others coming into the industry with video concierge services and self-installed systems are also raising awareness and increasing market penetration.
Central station monitoring is a fast-paced business and video monitoring makes it even more intense.
Since technology is rapidly changing, it can be an expensive endeavor to keep up. It’s a complicated operation, requiring ongoing training, certification and education of operators and dispatchers and close liaison with the community and law enforcement officials.
STEADY GROWTH, NEW POSSIBILITIES
“Video monitoring is not a casual undertaking,” says Dave Fisher, vice president and general manager of remote video monitoring, Kastle Systems, Falls Church, Va. Kastle Systems, an SDM 2015 Systems Integrator of the Year and Top 100 company, was founded on the principles of providing managed access control services to customers decades ago, at a time when others hadn’t even heard of the concept. Today, the company’s video surveillance as a service and cloud offerings are strong growth sectors.
“There’s a small subset of companies doing video monitoring,” Fisher says. “It’s been a journey to get it right, requiring a whole different set of skills. When you are dealing with video, you are asking the operator to interpret the scene; evaluate the threat; and actuate protocols.”
Kastle Systems has operators dedicated to handling video surveillance monitoring operations, and those who handle other types of alarms.
“We’re seeing an increased appetite for visual verification of events and situational awareness,” Fisher continues. “Witnessing an event in progress and relaying detailed information to law enforcement help elevate and prioritize response.”
In addition to video verification, Fisher says video guarding is increasingly popular, especially as companies realize a direct cost savings from reduced staffing. “Organizations are leveraging video guarding to protect assets. It’s more economical than using a guard and organizations see a payback in a short period of time. It’s also used for guard optimization, another trend. A company may maintain a guard or guard service but through video technology are able to cut down on the number needed.”
Verification continues to be the bread and butter of many dealers’ video operations and to lessen false alarm dispatches. Randall Renfroe, president of Allstate Security Industries Inc., Amarillo, Texas, monitors approximately 16,000 accounts and is expected to have customers in 48 states by the end of 2018.
“With verified response required by many PSAPs, if customers don’t have video monitoring they get left behind,” Renfroe says. “We have seen tremendous growth in video and went from doing $0.5 million to $1.3 million in video over the last couple years. We install and monitor systems for our customers from day one. Customers get video clips and they no longer have to search through video. The response is overwhelming and the police can make an arrest off the detailed information provided,” he says, adding that the company assisted with 67 burglary captures last year.
With video monitoring, sophisticated analytics, high-definition cameras, better video compression and enhanced quality overall is drawing more users to surveillance, says Tom Nakatani, vice president of monitoring technology and product for ADT, Aurora, Colo.
“There’s increased and continual interest in the use of monitored video for both commercial and residential,” Nakatani says. “In commercial, we are looking at what we call the video health check. We monitor the health of the video camera, for example, the placement and if the PTZ is pointed in the correct or incorrect position — like at a wall. We use analytics and advanced services to make sure the customer’s video system is operating properly — bringing that added level of monitoring to the video. The ability to monitor the health of the video system is big. The customer is also looking at analytics more and it’s a hot buzzword but it can be difficult to implement properly. There’s also more tie-in to two-way voice,” he says.
Outdoor video monitoring, a category which has lagged behind because of issues with false alarms and the environment, is now also reaping the benefits of stable cameras, refined analytics and proven software. Mark Matlock, senior vice president of sales, United Central Control (UCC), San Antonio, Texas, is providing traditional video verification, where surveillance is triggered through the intrusion alarm rather than being integrated to a standalone video product, and says growth is slow but sure.
“The analytics we have are good but not as good as they are going to be, and artificial intelligence is also going to have a big impact,” Matlock says. UCC provides design assistance to technicians — to deal with the environment and the learning curve for increasingly sophisticated technology. “Designing a system to catch intruders and deal with the environment takes skill,” he adds. “The learning curve for dealers is about system design. Communicating the value proposition to the customer and designing the systems, those are two huge points. There are so many opportunities, but many dealers don’t feel comfortable yet.”
SERVICES & EVENTS EQUAL SUCCESS
Ken Gresty, business development, General Monitoring Services, Huntington Beach, Calif., says video monitoring as a service benefits dealers by generating additional recurring monthly revenue (RMR) as well as layers additional services, resulting in lower attrition rates.
“The end user is demanding video surveillance,” Gresty says. “By providing video monitoring as a service, the end user is able to have access to clips when alarm events are triggered by the intrusion system and they can look into their homes and business on demand. Whereas there are many changes in the residential market with outsiders coming into the space, we see growth for our dealers in video as service.”
Chris Brown, vice president, central stations, SureView Systems, Tampa, Fla., says video allows dealers to offer a new suite and level of services — entering into what he terms event monitoring.
“For example, we look at how we can affect behavior at the site level with video and prevent shoplifting with video and integrated audio; or ways to use video to help human resources administration and the marketing team; or to provide adjunct protective services that can assist employees with video look-in capabilities. When we are doing a video tour through a store, we can look at procedures, for example, if the back door is propped open. How do we make sure a store in a chain or small entrepreneur can verify their door is closed? With video. Every time we can touch a customer with a service — that’s a way for the dealer to make money and stay stickier with the user.”
Brown says events — even those not video related — can turn into tangible RMR from embedded customer services. “Dealers can provide reports and data and get the user analytical information they can touch so there’s increased value to the service. The real cosmic shift is that people are finally understanding this because the customer is demanding it. Monitoring centers understand the opportunity is much bigger than security,” Brown adds.
Monitoring today allows the security integrator to tailor services to the customer — and yield proactive data that assists the subscriber in the way of business, marketing or operational intelligence.
“There is a need, demand and better opportunity to provide proactive visual monitoring,” says Woodie Andrawos, president and managing director, National Monitoring Center (NMC), a third-party monitoring company with centers in Lake Forest, Calif., and Irving, Texas. In April the company launched a new global monitoring company called Netwatch Group — which includes NMC, Netwatch (Ireland), CalAtlantic (U.S.) and Onwatch Multifire (UK).
“We are deploying Cratos software in the central station that uses analytics to enable us to receive alarm conditions through the cameras and provide for perimeter protection, early detection and crime prevention — stopping crimes before they occur,” Andrawos says. He adds that voice-downs are also used if an alert catches an intruder on camera.
“Demand from subscribers for video is there and they are looking for additional monitoring services,” Andrawos adds. “We have always provided video verification and guard tours and they serve a purpose and have application. What we are bringing together is something that’s above and beyond and a different service. In many cases this would be used to replace a guard, as proactive video monitoring enhances perimeter security.”
HELPING DEALERS NAVIGATE
Giving dealers tools for success by being able to leverage additional video services is a growing trend by third-party central stations. EMERgency 24, Des Plaines, Ill., has developed an affordable, software-based service for subscribers called the Video Filtered Response program. Video Filtered Response works when a motion detector trips and collects a video clip, which is sent directly to the end user. They review the clip and request dispatch or dismiss the alarm. The central monitoring facility only looks at the signals/clips that are requested for dispatch, so the service comes to the dealer at a nominal cost.
“This gives the dealer the opportunity to offer additional video to more customers and locations,” says Kevin Lehan, Wisconsin branch manager. “Everybody wants control from their smartphone. It gives the user the discretion to request dispatch or dismiss the alarm. This is just another option that allows more people to get video at a lower cost. It allows them into the video monitoring arena at a much lower rate because the user is taking on the responsibility for the alarm.”
Caroline Brown, executive vice president of Security Central, Statesville, N.C., says the use of video by dealers has been increasing steadily. “Video monitoring is really taking off. The dealer is eager to learn.
Solutions are easier to integrate with a security system and customers are more educated and seeing the benefits of using video with their alarm system.”
Security Central is keeping pace with growing demand and preparing for the future. “We are building out a space dedicated to video monitoring and preparing operators for video guarding and related services,” she says.
ANALYTICS SET THE PACE
For Allied Universal, Richardson, Texas, video is core to monitoring operations, says Eric Hinderliter, director of operations. “Video analytics allow us to take video monitoring to a whole new level. Before, a live view was an attempt at being proactive, but human beings are not programmed to be in front of a monitor and just stare. We are deploying smart analytics at the edge or with a bridge appliance or encoder and creating smart alerts. We also use cameras and video monitoring for virtual patrols. A few years ago video motion detection was a great step forward but it only works so well. Now, video analytics are critical and core to our monitoring services and focused to the user and their needs.”
Hinderliter says the industry can expect technology to become more advanced with greater edge processing and information gathering capabilities. “The proliferation of 4K cameras, higher resolutions, multi-sensor devices and analytics will continue to advance to become more effective. Facial recognition is getting closer to deployment in specific controlled applications and analytics can better classify objects, such as weapons.”
SETTING SIGHTS ON THE FUTURE
Steven Paley, president and CEO, Rapid Security Solutions, LLC, Sarasota, Fla., has been entrenched in interactive video monitoring and interactive video guard services — using surveillance as a primary alarm function and to monitor sensitive areas or handle functions otherwise requiring a person.
Camera analytics determine if the intelligence gathered is actionable and if so sends an alarm to the monitoring center for investigation. Interactive Video Guard Services are a security guard replacement.
“Video monitoring provides peace of mind to our clients in a cost-effective way using technology that would otherwise require a human being,” Paley says. “We are looking at how we can use video monitoring to become better business partners with our clients and provide operational intelligence for retail and other businesses — reporting on remote operations or checking in on other areas of the facility for compliance, for example.”
In the near future, Brad Gordon, CEO of Viewpoint Monitoring, Lowell, Mass., sees all cameras deploying analytic software. “Cameras are getting smarter and eventually there will be drone support for customers. Drone technology isn’t where we need it right now and it’s not robust enough, but there’s definitely a use.”
Gordon says the company’s video monitoring business has doubled in size over the last five years. The company designs and engineers all camera systems but works with channel partners on the installation and shares RMR with the dealer. “Not all camera equipment is up to the task of remote monitoring and not all analytics are created equal,” he advises.
According to Gordon, the future will also see more companies like Viewpoint Monitoring doing business auditing services, machine-to machine processing and Internet of Things monitoring for industrial process operations. “A lot of the future is going to be dictated by the end user who understands what video monitoring can do. When they can utilize it to their fullest their monitoring partner will be part of the management team, and not just the security team.”
For additional information on professional monitoring visit SDM’s website where you will find the following article:
“Look Before You Leap Into Video Monitoring”