Last summer, we were already a few months into a pandemic-induced lockdown. Businesses everywhere were closing their doors, employees were working from home, and, luckily, most security professionals were considered to be ‘essential.’
For many in the security monitoring industry, business seemed to be going well. The ultimate question on everyone’s mind, though, was just how long all of this would last. Luckily, after more than a year of this ‘new normal,’ the video monitoring market in particular seems to be doing better than ever.
“The pandemic accelerated the adoption of video monitoring in many new vertical markets,” says Jeremy White, founder of Pro-Vigil, San Antonio, Texas. “Shelter-in-place mandates meant security personnel could no longer be onsite to protect organizations from crime. Simultaneously, as the economy trended downward throughout 2020, companies were forced to cut costs. Video monitoring emerged as an optimal solution to both problems, as it helps organizations affordably secure sites, even when they’re unoccupied. Ultimately, it’s an effective way to reduce expenses without sacrificing security. Video monitoring truly provided the peace of mind that business owners were looking for when the world suddenly changed overnight, and they didn’t have a lot of time to react.”
This search for peace of mind was a massive driver in adoption over the past year, says Sean Foley, senior vice president of national accounts at Interface Security Systems, Earth City, Mo.
“Over the past year monitoring is more important because arguably the world is more dangerous than it was pre-COVID-19, and we have seen upticks in violent crime, burglaries in certain areas and the turmoil the George Floyd [killing] caused in certain cities,” he explains. “Video monitoring to assist in those situations has become more important than ever and more exciting due to advances in the technology. We’ve been fortunate enough to experiment, test and implement a lot of these new features powered by machine learning and AI, and that’s really been driving things.”
Michael Zydor, managing director of Affiliated Monitoring, Union, N.J., agrees that the advancement of analytics has helped the market. “Much as in years past, monitored video continues to grow, especially in the high-end commercial and enterprise spaces. Analytics continue to become more capable, and cloud-based analytic alternatives have become both more numerous and less expensive. Overall, opportunities to provide meaningful monitoring for video applications will continue to increase as adoption grows in tandem.”
And the convenience of being able to monitor vacant buildings remotely via video in the past year cannot be forgotten.
“Because there were many environments where people could no longer be, there became a need to use video technology to secure, monitor, supervise or manage certain aspects of those environments,” says Chris Brown, CEO of Immix, Tampa, Fla.
The many benefits of video monitoring are quickly revealing themselves to both dealers and end users.
“A comprehensive security solution with video monitoring allows you to provide early detection before a crime happens,” says John Milliron, vice president of CHeKT Professional Video Monitoring, Shreveport, La. “With these types of solutions, police response to an intruder can occur before the property is damaged. This level of service is the value consumers are anticipating from today’s professional security companies. By selling solutions that include video monitoring, you will sell more comprehensive, profitable systems, while simultaneously increasing your recurring revenue.”
As technology improves, the challenges dealers and integrators face with video monitoring are changing.
“Thankfully the challenge is not so much getting to a location and having your tech show up at this point,” Foley says. “What we’re running into is concerns with prospective customers around things like privacy, work security and their broadband capability. They want this big 8 MP camera system for their bank branch, and they’re not always processing the fact that that video stream requires a pipe the size of the Lincoln Tunnel for a good remote user experience. For that experience to be a rich and valuable one, you have got to have a solid connection to that premise, and not everyone does.”
The Interface team has found themselves not only working on the traditional side of video monitoring, but also sometimes upgrading customers’ network infrastructures and improving their broadband service.
Another challenge is becoming experienced and knowledgeable about these emerging technologies.
“A successful monitored video solution requires a level of sophistication and experience with video systems and analytics that is far from universal,” Zydor says. “Even integrators that have installed thousands of NVRs and IP cameras occasionally find it difficult to properly design and implement systems that support interactive or analytic-driven video monitoring.”
Training is also an issue for those working at central stations, says Sean Forrest, CEO of Alarm Connections, West Chester, Pa.
“For dealers with their own monitoring centers, staffing and training are very different for video monitoring,” he explains. “Handle times are much longer for video monitoring than they are for standard intrusion or fire alarm monitoring, and the range of outcomes in video monitoring requires an added level of training.”
Forrest also points to product selection as an obstacle. “Dealers are challenged with selecting the right solutions and products due to the sheer volume of choices in the market, then integrating those selections into a security system that works consistently for the customer.”
While there still may be some challenges to overcome, White doesn’t believe these obstacles will slow down adoption.
“Video monitoring is still a relatively new solution compared to other services like manned guarding and burglar alarms,” White says. “There is still a great deal of education involved when presenting video monitoring solutions. That said, video monitoring adoption and growth is outpacing many of the alternatives with a bright future ahead.”
Endless Opportunities With Managed Services
The greatest part about offering video monitoring? The RMR, according to those already benefitting.
“We are firm believers that proactive video monitoring will continue to be an industry disruptor and provide our dealers with a whole new revenue stream where they can easily increase their RMR while providing more innovative services to their customers,” says Woodie Andrawos, president of the National Monitoring Center, Lake Forest, Calif.
Managed services and the RMR they provide proved especially vital during the pandemic.
“There was a general comfort level the industry attained with relying on remote and managed video services that was not as widespread before,” Brown says. “Much like with employers warming to the idea of employees working from home and the cost and logistical advantages that helped create in some instances, the same can be said with the industry embracing and trusting in remote managed services.”
And for those who aren’t already taking advantage of this opportunity, it’s relatively easy to start offering video monitoring as a service, according to White.
“Video monitoring fits very nicely into the dealer/channel environment, and the structure is very similar to the burglar/fire monitoring model,” White says. “The RMR is higher per contract and it’s a great way for security dealers to increase their RMR base. Video monitoring is also a service that most dealers would be able to present to their existing customers.”
Foley says that video monitoring should be core to any security business at this point. “The dealer community must for their own survival leverage value added video surveillance capabilities to build recurring revenue streams. That is key — that’s where the margins are. … Managed services are where dealers are going to succeed. That is their value-add opportunity. You can only get so far from a profitability standpoint installing things at a store. It’s about the managed services that you add to that equation where you really build value in your business and provide value to the customer.”
The benefits of managed video monitoring services are seemingly endless.
“Video is a great way to add services, increase RMR and build customer engagement that is critical to customer retention,” Forrest says. “Video innovation has enabled residential systems to be more useful and provides a high level of return on investment in commercial uses with the reduction of guarding labor, loss reduction and improved employee and customer safety.”
Get Ready for the Boom
While many experienced a surge in video monitoring sales over the past year, an even greater boost to the market is predicted for the near future.
“We actually anticipate a bump in growth as things begin to return to normal and end users find themselves with a need to protect their businesses and property from a much busier and increasingly complex world,” Zydor says.
Now, the only question is whether the supply can keep up with the demand.
“From a business standpoint, I think the security industry at large is going to see probably one of the biggest demand shocks we’ve ever experienced,” Foley predicts. “There’s simply no way [it won’t], with thousands and thousands of retail locations reopening and people going back to work even in phased steps. The economy reopening is going to blow the doors off the industry from a demand standpoint. I’m more concerned right now about getting equipment and having enough people to install it in the second half of this year than about sales.”
The key, he says, is to plan ahead — likely much further than you’re used to. “There are some supply chain challenges right now; it’s a real thing. The just-in-time structure of 2019 and early 2020 where you didn’t need to stockpile inventory [is past]. You have to be a lot more conscious and aggressive from an inventory standpoint. Better planning is really key, because if you need that big project to roll, you might have a tough time getting everything right.”