The false alarm problem is one of the most serious issues facing the electronic security industry. Remote video for the purpose of video verification is a promising response tool that not only aids security dealers in the fight against crime, but also reduces false alarms while providing an additional source of recurring revenue. Still a significant number of alarm dealers have failed to buy into the technology.
There are three reasons for this: 1) Alarm users lack knowledge of what video verification is and what it can do for them; 2) Alarm users see video verification as merely an additional cost; and 3) Alarm dealers lack the necessary technical skills and a basic understanding of video verification’s many attributes to feel comfortable selling it.
“I think the added cost may be part of the problem, but the biggest obstacle is the dealer’s reluctance to present it to their clients,” says Ray Jones, CEO with Buckeye Protective Service Inc. of Canton, Ohio. “Some dealers are so acclimated toward monitoring that when they get into cameras, some need more education. They need to know what’s out there, what’s available, and how to represent it to their new and existing clients.”
According to Kerry Egan, vice president of business development with Security Partners LLC in Lancaster, Pa., if security dealers don’t understand video verification, they won’t promote it.
“Dealers are usually unaware of the various applications for remote video, nor have they been completely educated on the product. When dealers are apprehensive about a product, it is very hard [for them] to sell it to their customers,” Egan says.
Thus, the only way that this situation will change is if alarm users and dealers are properly educated in the use and implementation of the various remote video systems available.
According to Jones, “Education for the end user, with marketing help for the security dealer, might require more commitment from central stations and equipment manufacturers. Central stations often could do more seminars and provide more information, especially in the area of marketing.”
Video verification could prove very valuable to alarm users for several reasons. Foremost is the reduction of false alarms, which not only could save them money in reduced fines, but may also prevent local authorities from placing them on their ever-growing non-response list.
Alarm users also need it because of its value to the business they own or manage. In the area of residential protection, they could use it to assure the safety and security of their family and property. The best way to get this message to end users is through their own security dealers.
This article will discuss the marketing and implementation of remote video systems, specifically for false alarm reduction, along with a general explanation of the technology to make video verification easier for alarm users to buy and alarm dealers to sell.
Video Can Be Deployed as a Tool to Stem the False Alarm Problem
The use of video verification is inherently important to alarm users who routinely experience false alarms. Not only do false alarms involve expensive fines, but police often risk their lives and those of others along the route to the premises when they respond to an alarm signal.
If such a risk is necessary, why not try to do all we can to assure it’s for a good cause? Video verification can perform this function by helping central station operators (CSOs) distinguish between false and real alarm signals. It can also help these clients reduce or eliminate the false alarm fines commonly levied by municipalities and county governmental entities.
Even more important is the issue of non-response. Because of false alarms, law enforcement agencies are increasingly denying end users the alarm response they believe they are entitled.
The use of video technology-in addition to two-way and listen-in audio-to verify alarm signals is crucial to the survival of the security industry’s lucrative source of recurring revenue. After all, if no one is going to respond to alarm signals, why pay for the monitoring?
3 Types of Video Monitoring Are Event, Post and Streaming
If security dealers do not understand video verification technology, they cannot successfully sell it to new and existing customers.
There are several flavors of remote video now on the market security dealers can use to provide verification of alarm signals for their new and existing clients. They are event-based, post-investigative and always-on video streaming.
With event-based video verification, the video clip is associated with an incident. This enables the operator to see exactly what triggered the alarm, such as a motion detector or door contact. In an event-based system, two or more video images can be transmitted to the monitoring station right after the alarm data is sent.
In an event-based system, two or more video images can be transmitted to the central station right after the alarm data is sent.
“I’m personally a fan of event-driven remote video systems,” says Brenton Scott, executive director of business development with HID Corp. of Irvine, Calif. “I want them to be able to do guard tours, but as a central station operator, when there’s an event, they have to make a decision.”
According to Scott, all of this is designed to keep the information that comes into the central station focused. “It has to be small bits of information and hopefully it does not take up a lot of the operator’s [attention] bandwidth.” Scott was formerly the security manager of LSI Logic in Milpitas, Calif.
The system essentially sends one or more prealarm images witnessed just prior to the event. In addition, one or more postalarm images taken immediately after the event are also sent to the central station.
There’s a second type of remote video on the market where the monitoring operator receives the alarm as usual, but must then dial back to the premises via an on-demand CCTV system. This allows them to sort through on-site cameras to determine what caused the alarm.
The problem with the post-investigative approach, says Scott, is that it’s reactive instead of proactive. This can dampen the chances of the central station experiencing a successful catch, especially when the premises video surveillance system is sizable or the perpetrator is smart enough to hit and run before the monitoring station can respond.
Some professionals believe this approach is not as effective as an event-driven system where the central station can quickly view the pre- and postalarm images before immediately notifying the authorities as to what they saw.
The third method involves the transmission of always-on, streaming video between the premises and the central station where it will be viewed by an attending operator. Most of the time this method involves the use of the Internet where the transmitter is configured with an IP address and the central station operator uses a second terminal to make the connection.
In most cases, an event-driven remote video system will also perform the post-investigative function, but the dealer must carefully evaluate the need before prescribing one or the other as the ultimate solution to a client’s particular application.
The cost for upgrading a traditional central station so it is video enabled will vary in accordance with the initial number of clients it will accommodate. A general ballpark figure ranges from $10,000 to $15,000. When you consider that video verification can earn a central station almost as much or even more than traditional monitoring, that initial investment should not take long to recoup.
IT Know-How Is a Must When Using Remote Video for Alarm Verification
Years ago, technicians only had to contend with a simple POTS (plain old telephone system) connection when they used slow- or fast-scan video systems. This is not true anymore because today’s remote video systems are capable of sending images over networks, such as ISDN, cable and DSL.
This is not the only reason why security dealers need to understand IT technology. More and more, the video systems they work with are IT-based, as they connect directly to a local or wide area networks (LANs or WANs). The latter is especially true of larger corporations that have several plants or offices throughout the United States or beyond.
In this case, instead of coaxial cable strung from one end of the building to the other, the camera system is itself the LAN. In such instances, the dealer will use Cat-5, -5e or -6 cabling, which require special tools and good, working knowledge of telecommunications standards.
Typically, there will be an IT person on staff for the dealer to work with. Although they will probably handle most of the IT issues on the client side, the dealer will be required to handle the networking issues on the alarm system side. This includes the IP addressing of individual cameras with regard to DVRs and the central station, and the remote video management systems that tie into them from afar.
Fluency in CCTV Basics Is as Vital as Familiarity With Technology, IT
Although knowing remote video technology and IT are important, the overall success of this type of installation still hinges on a basic knowledge of CCTV systems. Security dealers must be able to specify the right camera, lens and housing for a given situation.
Those who specialize in central station services know how important basic skills are in the installation and effective use of a remote video system that is used for alarm verification. Here, camera placement and lighting are critical; this is where practical experience comes into play.
“From a central station perspective, the obstacles we have encountered are camera placement and lighting. Proper camera and lens selection are also essential when installing a camera in a 100-percent effective location, but identifying these ‘optimal’ locations is highly subjective,” says Pamela J. Petrow, executive vice president of Vector Security Inc. of Pittsburgh.
Sometimes it’s a matter of installing the right camera equipment in the right application in such a manner that those who work and visit do not feel utterly intimidated. And yet, cameras must be visible in order to discourage would-be shoplifters and so-called slip-and-fall victims who use fraudulent accidents for financial gain.
“Most times, the slightest nuances in equipment selection make all the difference in the world. For example, camera designs, housings and placement need to be discreet enough to be unobtrusive to the shopper; not only for the purpose of promoting effective surveillance, but also to make shoppers feel more at ease knowing that the camera may be in range,” says Jim Rao, director of video technologies for Vector Security.
This is key in office complexes and in retail establishments where cameras are commonplace.
Verification Scratches Surface of Cavalcade of Remote Video Uses
Video verification is a compelling use of remote video capability, but security dealers will likely have to tap into other uses of the technology to make it a primary component of their businesses.
“[While remote video for alarm verification] will remain a catalyst for sales, users need to recognize additional benefits before it becomes a mainstay. That will take time, but internal capabilities and the attitudes of an ever-growing number of techfriendly consumers will likely drive this, too,” says Petrow.
Security dealers that become successful at selling remote video will usually tell you they sell applications and benefits. The other aspect associated with successful sales is the dealer’s ability to overcome any objections the prospective client may have.
“I encourage dealers to probe, probe, probe until they find all the potential applications they can, such as reducing workers’ compensation insurance claims,” says Egan. “[Other applications include] relaying accurate, real-time information to an agency during a robbery and reducing the amount of product lost due to employee theft. The list goes on and on, and all you have to do is be creative.”
On-demand remote video, for example, is ideal for retail storeowners who would like to look in on their stores when they are away. It’s a fact that a manager or owner cannot be there 24/7, so remote video allows them to go in and view operations anytime from anyplace.
Another use for remote video in retail involves a store’s liability with regard to the aforementioned slip-and fall incidents. Everyone knows there are unscrupulous people out there who specialize in looking for profitable opportunities that prey upon the unsuspecting. Many retail stores, such as grocery concerns, install video primarily for this reason as growing liability concerns are surpassing shrink.
Using on-demand remote video, security dealers can provide guard touring; two-way interactive monitoring, which is a growing segment of video security; industrial processes, where cameras often overlook conveyor lines as well as manufacturing processing areas; and retail marketing.
Another potential use is fire alarm verification. In a high-rise situation, for example, it is extremely helpful when security personnel are able to verify the presence of smoke in hallways where a fire alarm signal has occurred.
Not only is this helpful for responding firefighters, but the last thing security wants to do is cause a panic when none is required.
Another application is the use of pre- and post-event images to parent’s E-mail boxes when their latchkey children arrive home from school. It also can be used in the same manner to document access control and other types of facility events so select managers, as well as security personnel, know when a particular employee has entered.
When combined with video motion, a remote video system can also be used to alert management and security personnel that someone has entered a limited-access area outside a facility without setting off the bells and sirens.
For more information about remote video applications, see “Broadening Your CCTV Business Beyond Security” on page 54 of the August 2005 issue of Security Sales & Integration.