Monitoring Roundtable: Executives See Signals for Success Ahead
Technology advances, customer demand and security contractors’ desire to ramp up RMR are widening the playing field for monitored services.
Leaders from some of the largest wholesale monitoring firms recently assessed the marketplace and lent direction for dealer partners in SSI’s 2023 Annual Monitoring Roundtable. During the session, they responded to a variety of questions and delivered comprehensive insights on the current state of wholesale security monitoring.
Following are highlights from this year’s Annual Monitoring Roundtable, with select subject matter experts addressing technologies, opportunities, challenges, services and more.
Can you detail some of the newer technologies and the monitoring services opportunities they’re presenting?
Jim McMullen, President, COPS Monitoring: Two of the biggest opportunities for dealers are MPERS and professionally monitored video. Perhaps the best part of both the MPERS and monitored video options is that they can be sold to a dealer’s existing customers for additional RMR.
MPERS is still a relatively new market and gives dealers the opportunity to offer security to existing customers that extends beyond their physical premises. Advancements in video and AI technology have created new sources of revenue by giving existing camera systems the ability to be professionally monitored. Plus, monitored video reduces false alarms and improves authority response times by giving them the crucial information they need to allocate their resources.
Michael Zydor, Managing Director, Affiliated Monitoring: Affiliated continues to see a significant shift from conventional, digital dialer and POTS-based systems to Internet and cellular communications.
As the availability and quality of conventional, copper-based POTS lines continues to decrease, we continue to support our partners during this transition through our relationships with all of the major cellular carriers, and by providing an inexpensive dial capture solution to quickly convert legacy panels to LTE-M cellular.
We see this as a positive opportunity for partners to re-engage with their customers and to use the enhanced capabilities offered by new communication technologies to bring new services to their customers while increasing their RMR.
Separately, the continuing growth of video has also had a big impact in the way that Affiliated and other monitoring providers operate. The availability of near ubiquity of analytic-driven video has driven explosive growth and created a new avenue for alarm dealers large and small.
Monitoring these video systems requires a differently trained monitoring specialist who is responsible for much more than a conventional security monitoring operator.
Steve Mayer, Vice President of Operations & Administration, EMERgency24: The demand for new services is focused on faster and improved information. Digital dispatching solutions deliver accurate dispatch information in seconds, but also enable additional information sharing.
To digitally dispatch video to be forwarded to first responders can help expedite an event resolution and save lives, which is why we’re deploying the latest with digital dispatching. In addition, with reduced support and increased costs for POTS lines, a new initiative to move communication to IP, mesh radio and cellular is upon us.
Troy Iverson, SVP Sales & Marketing, AvantGuard Monitoring: Our observed dealer priorities and needs are for innovative new technologies and solutions that address false alarm dispatches, attrition, implementation of AI in monitoring and other modern event response methods, improved account management efficiencies, expanded solutions in IoT and other arenas that drive RMR.
Providing dealers and their customers with the fastest possible emergency response times has to be the highest priority. It is incumbent upon all monitoring service providers to continually find innovative ways, with new technologies and improved processes, to accomplish that goal.
In today’s highly connected world, end users can do so much more than ever via Smart Home apps and devices. They are making it much easier for end users to operate their systems and keep an eye on activity in their homes/facilities remotely. Has the upsurge in the use of these devices impacted or changed the role of monitoring companies and, if so, how?
McMullen: Smart home products are an important evolution to our industry. However, I’m also confident that end users, dealers, and authorities all agree that having a connection to a live, trained operator remains a crucial element to providing life safety.
With the advent of smartphones and smart homes, we’ve learned customers prefer to do everything from their phones rather than receiving phone calls. We’ve adapted to this preference by creating MYALARM.CHAT, which sends an SMS when their alarm goes off.
The message has a link to a secure chat room where they can communicate with their contacts to make more informed decisions about their security and then they can cancel or escalate the alarm right from their phone.
Do you agree that AI video is also making remote monitoring and virtual guarding more cost effective and an attractive proposition, as monitoring firms no longer need a multitude of staff to constantly monitor multiple video streams, allowing them to offer both a customized and far more competitively priced service?
Zydor: Absolutely! The combination of available Cloud analytic solutions and constantly improving analytics at the edge mean that even complex, difficult to monitor situations have now become cost-effective to monitor.
Every reduction in “false” alarm volume reduces the cost and increases the value of monitored video solutions. That being said, security dealers need to recognize the huge value these solutions bring to their customers and should not underprice their offerings just because event volumes are lower.
Dealers should actually use these capabilities to introduce video solutions to more challenging situations where they would not have been cost effective in the past but can now potentially replace a guard or security service.
Mayer: I agree it enables larger volumes of video accounts. The keys are proper framing with onsite cameras and an effective AI to reduce false positives.
What are the top challenges for your monitoring center and how are you managing them?
Mayer: Despite having incredible longevity in our employee base, hiring and retaining new employees has been a unique challenge since the pandemic. We hire 20% more folks than we actually need.
We have altered our pay structure and continue to provide great company benefits. For our high performing monitoring agents, we offer them the option to work remotely. This is a huge retention tool and a great reward for the operators who meet the UL security requirements and high standards on quality, productivity and attendance.
Employees are not eligible to work remotely until they have worked in our operations for at least six months. Once they are remote, operators are monitored via webcam and operations management has full visibility into what is one a remote employee’s screen and can listen into their calls as well. We also audit employee’s space to ensure UL compliance and security.
Despite the availability of remote workstations, we are adding more capacity in our facilities and moving our Silver Spring [Md.] office to a larger space later this year.
Iverson: An interesting challenge we have noticed in the industry is that dealers are often hesitant to adopt new technologies. Yet those who do reap the benefits in terms of more cost-saving and time-saving efficiencies, improved opportunities for higher RMR, and ultimately, happier, safer customers.
Recognizing this, we actively create and provide content on these topics through our monthly newsletters, our website’s resources page, regular webinars, and weekly social media posts, in an effort to increase awareness around and adoption rates for these valuable technologies and services.
Zydor: The unprecedented strength and growth of the security, alarm, and PERS industries continues to push Affiliated to identify and hire highly talented individuals that allows us to maintain the exemplary level of service our partners have come to expect.
We added our second monitoring facility in Houston in 2017 and are continuing to plan for increased capacity and growth over the coming years. Our growth has exceeded even our most optimistic expectations and as a result our need for monitoring operators, IT engineers, cybersecurity specialists, and support personnel continues to increase.
What measures do your facilities take to assure cybersecurity and privacy of accounts information?
McMullen: We obviously take matters of security seriously, including cybersecurity. However, rather than believing our best efforts made our systems and data more secure, we made the choice to have our systems and procedures independently verified and became SOC 2-certified in 2017.
Our independent SOC 2 report underscores our investments and sets us apart by clearly illustrating that we have the security, systems, and control procedures in place across to reliably safeguard our dealers, subscribers, and their sensitive information. We also proactively have network penetration tests performed on our network quarterly.
Zydor: Affiliated takes cybersecurity and customer privacy very seriously. Today, the potential for and threat posed by cyberattack is as large, if not larger, than the conventional threats to monitoring that we have spent decades preparing for.
We have taken a multipronged approach toward cybersecurity that includes cutting-edge security hardware and software, dedicated security resources whose sold job is to ensure our compliance with best security practices as defined by NIST and others, and the utilization of third-party auditors who hold us to the stringent standards required to pass a SOC II audit.
Mayer: With reduced support and increased costs for POTS lines, a new initiative to move communication to IP, mesh radio and cellular is upon us. EMERgency24 is actively supporting our dealers to find ways to improve panel to central station communication while capturing RMR and reducing subscriber telephony costs.
EMERgency24 is offering Pathway communicators for commercial fire are dramatically reduced rates to help our dealer customers “Just Say No to POTS.”
In what ways do you help contracted security dealers increase RMR?
McMullen: Since COPS is 100% wholesale, our success depends on our dealers’ success. First, we think the best way to help a dealer is by providing the best service possible, so they don’t lose the RMR they’ve already worked hard to earn.
To help with new RMR, our team of programmers’ mission is to integrate our systems with the best emerging technology to ensure our dealers have access to the newest revenue-creating services.
We also invest in training our dealers through webinars, one-on-one training, and by hosting in-person events throughout the country where dealers can spend a day learning about several topics and networking with their peers to learn best practices.
Iverson: We provide dealers with many AG-specific tools that simplify the account management process. Tools to reduce attrition are also needed, and our MLS Reporting Tool helps dealers minimize subscriber turnover and also gain new accounts.
It shows when any subscribers list their property for sale so dealers can proactively contact them before they sell to possibly retain them as a customer in their new home. It also shows when houses have been recently purchased, giving dealers a head start on connecting with the new residents.
Providing third-party integrations for dealers is another need we have identified. AG offers a variety of turnkey integrations with key vendors like Alarm.com, Stages, and many other industry-leading providers of video surveillance, CRMs, billing and additional business management services.
Zydor: In the near future, the senior population of the United States will nearly double to over 70 million people, with 96% of those wanting to remain in their own homes.
Affiliated’s cost-effective PERS equipment and monitoring package allows partners to tap into the fantastic earning potential of this growing senior market. Affiliated can also integrate video into any security installation with support for a broad array of DVRs, NVRs and cameras.
Video monitoring opens up a new avenue of significant recurring revenue for dealers. Each account with advanced interactive video services can generate hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars a month in RMR.
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