It’s estimated that mobile security devices (MSDs) have the potential to be a $300 billion industr

Several police vehicles with sirens blaring and blue and red lights flashing chase a new Cadillac down an otherwise quiet Baltimore road. The driver of the Cadillac, unaware the police are in hot pursuit of him, does not pull over. Eventually, the police get the driver to pull over. Guns drawn, officers approach the vehicle ready to apprehend the “unauthorized driver.” An elderly gentleman emerges from the Cadillac scared and confused.

Soon the police realize they’ve responded to a mobile false alarm. The vehicle owner had forgotten to key in his access code before starting the vehicle and driving off. Needless to say, the frightened man has had his mobile security device (MSD) disabled and the police in Baltimore are left with a bad taste for MSDs. That’s a true story that occurred about 1 year ago.

“What’s worse than a false alarm?” rhetorically asks Stan Martin, vice president of industry relations for ADI, Model States Program coordinator, and chairman of the false alarm subcommittee of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Private Sector Liaison Committee (PSLC). “A moving false alarm,” he replies to his own question.

The MSD industry includes devices installed in vehicles, as well as emergency buttons on pagers and cellular telephones. Already, ADT, Ameritech and Protection One monitor MSDs.

A couple of months after the Baltimore incident, the IACP/PSLC caught wind of a request for a quotation for MSDs to be installed on 65,000 U.S. Postal Service vehicles. To cut costs, there was no provision for alarm verification.

“We’ve been so strong about verification,” says Martin. “Not only was the alarm industry scared, but the law enforcement folks had very strong reactions.”

Thus far, the IACP/PSLC has had two meetings with MSD manufacturers and monitoring companies. The IACP/PSLC includes representatives from the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA), the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA), the Security Industry Association (SIA), the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation (AIREF) and the National Sheriffs Association (NSA) as well as prominent law enforcement officials.

The meetings have been eye opening for all parties involved. Another meeting is scheduled to take place at the IACP annual convention in Salt Lake City, Utah, on October 17.

So far, the special conferences have revealed there are no established guidelines or standards for manufacturers, installation companies, monitoring companies, end users or law enforcement agencies to govern MSDs. While there is an implied expectation that police will respond to reports of “unauthorized drivers,” there is concern that police may not have adequate resources to respond. It is expected that sharing law enforcement and alarm company successes and failures regarding alarm systems will help the MSD industry start off where the alarm industry has progressed to today.

MSD Market to Grow Exponentially

Currently, the IACP/PSLC estimates that there are 150,000 MSDs in use. That number is expected to increase to between one million to three million or more by the year 2000. Costs per system installed range from $300 to $1,200, averaging between $600 and $700. Thus, the MSD industry’s market potential within the next couple of years is somewhere between $30 billion and $300 billion. The reason for the wide range in anticipated revenue comes down to the fact that there’s no telling how popular these devices will become; however, several factors point to a flourishing market.

“Low cost and open architecture is scheduled to hit the [mobile security device] market by Jan. 1, 1999, and Motorola is rumored to be bringing out pagers that act as personal security devices,” says Ron Cain, chairman of the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association’s (NBFAA) False Alarm Committee, and owner of Cain Security in Alexandria, Va.

According to a provider of cellular service to the alarm industry, both Ericsson and NOKIA – major cellular phone manufacturers – will be including emergency buttons on their newest models.

“We don’t know how many manufacturers there are out there or how many systems there are, but, if you can get a pager for $100 that will pinpoint your location with the press of a button, there will be tens of thousands sold. The police won’t be able to handle those calls,” says Cain.

There are 17,000 police jurisdictions in the United States, and 15,000 of them have 25 or fewer officers.

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