Video is now the most popular “option” on alarm systems, a fundamental change for the alarm business. Viewing cameras on a smartphone, known as “self-surveillance,” created value for the dealer and became a standard feature for all but the most basic burglar alarms. Now, video verification (VV) is building on the success of self-surveillance by actually delivering the video to the central station (CS) during an alarm event.
This is the next logical step in security, making the video available to the CS so the operator can verify the alarm and improve police response to deliver greater security. Alarm business RMR is built upon alarm system monitoring and VV is the natural progression as it becomes more affordable.
Swept Up in a Technology Revolution
According to the ANSI standard created by the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA), “Video Verification is the use of Captured Video or real-time video in which the video information or recording is aligned with the action that initiated an alarm event to assist in determining the protocol to be followed for the alarm event.” What is important is that the video seen by the operator is associated with the actual alarm event.
That standard defines a clear difference between “video verification” and “remote video investigation” that happens after the alarm is triggered. Instead of viewing a video of what actually caused the alarms, with video investigation the CS operator remotely uses the cameras after the event to attempt to see why there was an alarm. In 2004 when the standard was created, VV was reserved for specialized applications. Equipment was expensive and cumbersome to monitor and this was reflected in elevated monitoring costs. Nearly a decade later, technology has changed and VV is moving to the mainstream.
For years hardware prices made VV a niche product, too expensive and cumbersome for the typical alarm installation. But the same falling camera prices and smartphone technology behind the success of self-surveillance is part of the technological revolution driving VV to mainstream alarms. IP cameras and specialized camera/sensor devices are now well under $100 and easy to install.
The last piece of the puzzle to fall into place was driving down CS monitoring costs. The past couple of years, CSs have developed affordable VV processes that fit the mainstream alarm business model. These CS processes can be applied to a broad range of hardware, from IP cameras equipped with analytics to specialized sensor/cameras designed specifically for VV. Third-party CSs are offering dealers VV for as little as $5 more than what they charge to monitor a traditional alarm. While the total cost of hardware/monitoring depends upon the specific solution, VV has become simple and inexpensive enough to impact the core business of monitored alarms.
Benefits Include Better Security, Value
Contrary to common perception, VV’s value is not primarily as a false alarm reduction solution. From the property owner’s perspective, false alarm reduction is more a side-effect that “reduces a negative” rather than creating value with additional security. Consumers looking to purchase “security” want the best security they can afford and they typically equate this with fast police response in the event of a problem. VV delivers better security and more value to the residential and commercial property owner because it delivers faster police response since law enforcement (LE) prioritizes all incoming calls to the 911 center.
Due to historical issues, traditional alarms typically receive a “Priority 3” response from LE. In contrast, VV alarms typically receive a “Priority 1” response and are treated as “in progress” calls by responding officers. The difference in response times between a 1 and 3 is significant. In Fairfax County, the affluent area around Washington, D.C., a VV alarm receives response more than 12 minutes faster than a traditional alarm. From a property owner’s perspective, a lot can happen in 12 minutes in a commercial burglary or home invasion.
With reductions in municipal budgets affecting many jurisdictions across the United States and Canada, LE has downgraded response to nonverified alarms in an effort to save money. Sometimes this means a “broadcast and file” policy where the alarm is broadcast over the police radio and officers can respond voluntarily if they have nothing more important to do. Sometimes this means police simply refuse to respond to nonverified alarms at all. What is important is that these same financially stressed jurisdictions all continue to respond to VV alarms, and property owners are taking notice.
The benefits of VV extend beyond priority response. A well-publicized court case recently sent shockwaves through the alarm business when an industry icon was forced to pay a multimillion-dollar judgment to a woman who was assaulted after she entered her home. As the lawsuit noted, the alarm system worked. The PIR motion detector triggered at 10 a.m. and the CS attempted to call the owner and, failing to reach the owner, dispatched the police who found nothing amiss. The CS also attempted to contact the owner at work, but was unsuccessful.
Throughout the day, the PIR motion sensor sent in four additional alarms but the CS was unable to reach the owner on these as well. After this rash of alarms, police told the CS they would stop responding unless the keyholder met them at the home. That evening, when the owner returned home after work, she was assaulted by an intruder who had been inside her home throughout the day, detected by the PIRs.
This horrific incident simply would not have happened if the CS had been able to see the intruder that triggered the alarms. The police would have responded differently knowing for certain that there was someone inside the premises. VV means greater security because the CS operator becomes a remote eyewitness to the alarm event.
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Keith Jentoft ·
Verified Response ·
Video Verification ·