Monitoring Ready as Demand Grows
From the CS side of things, when CSAA set out to create a VV standard in 2004, the monitoring processes were so time-consuming and cumbersome that the costs made VV a niche product affordable to few. But much has changed. For perspective, self-surveillance on smartphones was not yet on the radar and Apple’s first iPhone did not even hit the market until 2007.
The early VV process required the CS operator to manually reach out and access a camera/DVR when an alarm triggered and download the video for review. This often required working with static IP addresses, firewalls and video management systems that were isolated from the CS automation software that ran the business. All of this required specialized operators who were trained to manage video and operate multiple video systems remotely. Technology changed all this.
VV is now done by the typical CS operator. CS automation like MAStermind, Bold, Dice, MicroKey, SIMS and others have integrated VV into their standard alarm processes. In addition, there are third-party solutions like I-View Now that enable any CS to do VV without changing automation software. These CS solutions work with a wide variety of hardware, from IP cameras to specialized camera/sensor devices designed specifically for VV. Just as smartphones and mobile apps impacted and changed the lives of consumers, the CS solutions for VV have made monitoring video alarms simple and inexpensive for the typical alarm dealer.
Self-surveillance and home automation have created a paradigm shift in the alarm business impacting even the most basic alarm offering. A new generation of sales professionals is now convinced that residential and commercial property owners want/need incremental services for their alarm system — and they sell them. VV embraces the incremental RMR concept — but delivers value on the “security side” instead of lifestyle. Home automation and self-surveillance are “lifestyle” features that do nothing to deliver faster police response or greater security. VV, however, is squarely in the core value proposition of the alarm business.
Declining video hardware and monitoring costs mean VV now fits the competitive business model of $99 down and a multiyear contract that finances the hardware/installation. The fact VV now fits the financial model is the reason it is becoming mainstream. Commercial applications have been the first to embrace VV as the costs began to come down. National accounts and retailers have begun to standardize on VV alarm systems for greater security, reduced false alarm fines and insurance against degrading local police response policies.
The newest generations of hardware and monitoring services have finally reached the pricing level necessary to move into the competitive residential market.
Law Enforcement, Insurers Won Over
The alarm business is built upon a partnership with the insurance industry and LE. The insurers encourage their policyholders to install alarm systems to reduce claims and prevent loss. The alarm industry depends upon LE to respond to their alarms and protect their customers in the event of a burglary or intrusion. VV is already strengthening this partnership and creating value for the alarm business.
The insurance industry has taken notice of priority response and what it means to them in terms of reduced losses. In January 2013, Pharmacists Mutual Insurance published the results of a five-year study that linked arrest rates and losses experienced to police response times. This study also noted the negative effects reduced municipal budgets have on alarm response. Other major insurance companies like Hanover, CNA, Allstate and State Farm understand the increased value of VV alarms and are working on updating policies to encourage their policyholders to move to VV. While this is a slow process, the insurance industry has begun to turn the rudder and the ship is in motion.
In the past decade, video technology has fundamentally changed LE with cameras in patrol cars, on highways and even portable cameras worn by officers. LE depends upon video and VV alarms are another step in this direction. While LE understands VV means fewer false alarms, they also know that VV alarms mean more arrests. Officers have always been motivated to “catch the bad guys” and VV helps make this happen.
Alarm response starts at the 911 center or PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point). The 911 call-taker assigns a priority code to the incoming calls, which are then placed in a queue that is handled by the actual 911 dispatcher. Violent crimes typically receive the highest priority followed by “crimes in progress.”
As Chief Steve Dye of Grand Prairie, Texas, explained to the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) committee on Community Policing in a recent presentation, “We see no difference between an eyewitness calling to report a crime and a CS operator calling to report a crime they have seen on video. The fact a video exists of the actual event could mean the CS call could even be considered stronger.”
While continuing police response to traditional burglar alarms, Chief Dye is promoting priority response to encourage his citizens to install VV alarms to help him in the battle against property crime. It is making a difference. Currently, the response time for a VV alarm in Grand Prairie is less than two minutes.
All the technology, business and security factors outlined in this article prove VV has gone mainstream.