How Monitoring Has Revolutionized Our Lives

Monitoring — whether for alarms, credit or Amazon deliveries — helps avoid surprises. Are you utilizing it for you service?

Monthly fees for security system monitoring are the main driver of company value in this industry. And the average monthly fee for alarm monitoring has been rising at a healthy clip in the last few years. But, why?

More Monitoring = More Control

The traditional perimeter security system monitored the entry points and interior of a home or business — doors and windows, with motion detectors and smokes to detect interior movement and fire. But as technology has improved, we humans want more. We want to monitor deliveries to our door with a doorbell camera, to monitor for water in our basement. We want to monitor our heat, light and locks, so we can manage those things and save money. Monitoring gives us a feeling of more control, and we all like control.

Monitoring is a Megatrend

Security system monitoring has become more comprehensive, which is good for the industry. Beyond our business, though, it seems that monitoring has become a megatrend.

Amazon tells us when our packages should arrive, then sends us delivery status updates that amount to package monitoring. I get alerts when more than $10 has been charged to my credit card. Similarly the card companies send fraud alerts when non-typical charges occur. With all the data breaches happening, the credit score monitoring business has become a very large and growing industry.

Personal devices help us keep tabs on our health, reporting on blood pressure, heart rate, blood sugar, activity levels, and much more. A biker can use a GPS unit to see where he/she has been, and can map out and monitor new trips.

Alarm Monitoring for Mission-Critical Systems

Just as security system monitoring helps subscribers stay safe, in the IT world, monitoring is critical for Cloud systems of all kinds. Cloud-based business software systems can consist of multiple server “farms”, and each server’s metrics are monitored. If CPU and/or RAM levels exceed certain limits, the user is alerted. The same is true for disk storage. In a Cloud system, dozens of processes are running to both support the system, and help it run efficiently.

Without constant monitoring, these Cloud systems could easily develop bottlenecks and reach stress points or even failure levels. Likewise, firewalls and various software tools can greatly reduce the risk of security breaches.

Self-Managed Systems

When something goes wrong, or beyond parameters, in a monitored system, traditionally a human has received the alert and then takes an action to correct things. In the security industry, that meant calling police or fire department, contacting those on the call list, etc. With the increasing sophistication built into security systems, and the desire to avoid false alarms, the industry has shifted more responsibility to the owner of the system.

In general, this is good. If you get an alert, and a video on your app shows that your kid coming home from school is what tripped the monitored system, lots of hassles are avoided. DIY has a place, but there’s no substitute for professional monitoring. The two actually complement one another, so nuisance/non-critical alerts are handled by the system owner but the small number of critical alerts are managed by the pros – like they should be.

No Surprises

Monitoring, whether alarm monitoring or credit monitoring or Amazon delivery monitoring, helps avoid surprises. This improves customer satisfaction, and creates a sense of control. I like using Amazon more because Amazon helps me know exactly where things stand with my last order.

Business software providers help their dealers manage their customers and daily service appointments. Dealers can use texting and emailing to keep their subscribers informed, e.g. “This is Joe from ABC Security. I’ll be there in about 45 minutes to fix your security system.”

Mobile apps make this notification easy, and pushes current “statuses” back to the desktop software. There, the admin team can see that the tech has clocked in for the appointment, completed and closed the service ticket, billed and collected the charges, and moved on to the next appointment. The customer is happier with these regular updates, and so is the administrative team. The software and app effectively serve as monitoring tools.

The Promise of AI

Much is being written — across most industries — about the promise of artificial intelligence (AI). Today, human intervention is often the only option for dealing with monitoring alerts or events. Calling the police or the neighbors due to an alarm monitoring event is part of the service. But at some point, plugging in AI could offer both lower costs and higher quality — less room for human error.

We are all a little nervous about letting “Hal” take over, and we should be. Trucks or cars driven by humans give us that feeling of control — even though humans can be tired, distracted and possibly impaired. In the long run, AI will likely win out by offering better outcomes for a lower cost. Even then, humans will need to be the ones setting up the parameters and options available for AI software and devices. So take heart … we’re not obsolete yet.


Scott MacDougal is the founder and CEO of Cornerstone Billing Solutions, a provider of alarm billing and payment services.

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