Remote Video: The View Looks Very Good From Here

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then how much are real-time or archived images viewable anytime from anywhere in the world worth? The promise and emerging reality of remote video has begun answering that question for the electronic security industry.

Although many are just as enthusiastic about remote video and are incorporating it into their businesses, there remains a large faction of dealers/ integrators/central station owners who are either taking a wait-and-see approach or dismissing it entirely.

It’s easy to understand lingering skepticism as this market was promoted prematurely a few years back, when the technology was still in its infancy. Unsecured, low-resolution images erratically transmitted at low frame rates were a tough sell.

However, quantum leaps in digital technology, compression methods and transmission – along with dramatic drops in the cost of equipment – have all but eliminated those detractions. Now that the technology has come of age, the major challenge – aside from adequate training – becomes creating a profitable business paradigm.

Alarm verification, off-site management, remote guard tours, residential look-in services and a host of other uses, limited only by the imagination, figure to soon add up to a wealth of opportunities for security practitioners. As a bonus, these services represent a means for the entire industry to better itself by minimizing false alarms and engage in crime prevention rather than merely deterrence.

Seemingly No Limit to the Managerial Possibilities

Alexandria, Va.-headquartered Sonitrol Corp. has recently added remote video to the audio detection services the company staked its reputation on more than 30 years ago. It is targeting new as well as existing customers for these services.

The firm, which has assisted police in the apprehension of more than 147,000 intruders, now offers customers alarm verification via remote digital video and remote management capabilities. The latter allows business managers to monitor and supervise multiple remote locations using an application installed on a computer or laptop.

Sonitrol Security Systems of Toronto, one of Sonitrol’s 170 franchisees spanning the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, began deploying remote video seven years ago. Today, the operation has more than 75 accounts, mostly commercial, with an average of four cameras per site and a maximum of 16.

According to General Manager Ed Bodbyl, monetarily, the difference between localized CCTV and remote video is insignificant.

Many Advantages in the Mid-Level Commercial Sector

Originally founded as a Sonitrol franchise in 1970, Protection Service Industries (PSI) in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., began operations in the 1980s. Presently, the company sells, installs, maintains and monitors intrusion, fire, CCTV and access control systems for 75,000 residential and commercial customers through eight field locations in California, Arizona and New Mexico.

In general, PSI rents or leases its remote video systems to a clientele consisting primarily of mid-market to high-end commercial and institutional businesses. This strategy helps PSI improve its RMR stream, while producing a high ROI for its customers through reductions in theft/vandalism, guards, false alarms and management time traditionally devoted to dealing with those issues.

PSI is expending considerable time and energy brainstorming and developing many other possible applications as well. These range from helping retailers by counting the foot traffic at a given merchandise display to managing traffic incidents through cameras mounted within or on mobile assets, such as trucks.

Remote Video Could Solve the Verified Response Issue

Westec InterActive of Irvine, Calif., a subsidiary of SECOM Co., touts itself as the first national company to provide interactive security via two-way audio and video communication. The company primarily serves the small retail market, such as fast-food restaurants and jewelry stores.

Westec uses technology to create a remote window for its crisis management personnel to virtually enter a location and intervene when criminal activity or civil disturbances occur. The system also helps law enforcement identify potential perpetrators and reduce the number of false alarms.

According to Upp, remote video can be a very lucrative proposition for a dealer. However, larger dealers must make sure they have sufficient start-up funds and enough volume to support the investment required in a monitoring center and the associated training. Smaller dealers may want to partner with someone already in the business.

Broadband Opens Up New Channels for Security Services

Founded in June 1999, privately owned Security Broadband has an approach and model that is radically different from the preceding companies.

The Austin, Texas-headquartered company utilizes the existing broadband capabilities deployed by cable operators to deliver monitored home security services featuring two-way audio and real-time video, in addition to the traditional sensors and detectors.

Sarasota, Fla., and Las Vegas are the markets currently being served by Security Broadband; the latter is especially well suited for video verification due to its nonresponse policy for alarms.

For an installation fee of $299 and a one-year monitoring contract at $34.95 per month, the company provides an indoor security camera with built-in motion detector; two intercom stations; two wireless window/door sensors; a keypad and a security gateway; window and yard signs; and a siren. Lots of add-ons are available, up to four cameras at $119 to $179 apiece.

The security gateway is the heart of the system. Manufactured by March Networks of Ottawa, the device receives an analog feed, digitizes and compresses it, and stores it on an internal 10GB hard drive. In the event of an alarm activation, it transmits the images to Security Broadband’s central monitoring station.

The product, which also handles the audio component, allows Security Broadband to continuously monitor the integrity of the line.

Provide Better Results and Reduce Number of Guards Deployed

Greater Alarm, headquartered in Irvine, Calif., got into the remote video side of the business by acquiring a company in 1999 that had been specializing in it since 1992. Now known as Greater Alarm Irvine South Remote Video and GPS Tracking, the unit has found a profitable niche in serving computer component manufacturing plants.

Operators at the company’s central monitoring station use the facility’s video and two-way voice capabilities to respond to anything outside the realm of standard operating procedures. The company also provides remote guard tours and helps prevent theft by monitoring the unloading/ loading of shipments.

The company typically installs 60 cameras, usually Pelco Spectra Domes, per plant and charges around $500-$600 per month for the monitoring. At no extra charge, software is provided that allows authorized customer personnel to look in through the cameras from any properly configured computer or PDA.

The company tested the waters with several other types of customers before settling on its current clientele. A lot of smaller, retail customers proved to be more trouble than they were worth as they tended to summon the central station for things as trivial as “being lonely.” Harper laments that although banks are the best application for remote video, the market is a nut he has been unable to crack.

According to Harper, technology and its cost have progressed to the point where they now enable, rather than inhibit, dealers from entering the market.

Earn Up to $8K on the Installation Plus $500 RMR

Founded in 1978, Irvine, Calif.-based National Alarm Computer Center (NACC), which was acquired by Tyco Int’l Ltd. in 20

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