How Affiliated Won the 2020 Monitoring Technology Marvel Award
The monitoring center has developed and implemented full-featured text messaging platforms for its alarm and PERS accounts that are improving response and user convenience.
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For comic book and blockbuster movie fans, the consideration of “marvel” combined with technology most likely brings to mind Tony Stark and his secret identity as the defender Iron Man. For security professionals attuned to the monitoring industry, a similar contemplation might very well call forth thoughts of Affiliated Monitoring.
Long respected for its technological capabilities and first-rate operations, the third-party provider’s elite status was made official after recently being named the 2020 TMA/SSI Monitoring Technology Marvel winner.
Affiliated Monitoring was recognized for its AlertMessage and CareAlert customer notification and engagement platforms.
“These products are just one example of how software continues to become the most important tool in any monitoring provider’s toolbox,” says CEO Daniel Oppenheim. “We realized early on that being able to quickly produce our own software — without relying on contractors or third parties — would be essential to our success as the security space continued to evolve. That’s why we’ve built our own software development and quality assurance teams.”
Daniel Oppenheim is the son of Stanley Oppenheim, who founded Affiliated in 1977 and, in 2015, was inducted into the SSI Industry Hall of Fame.
The elder Oppenheim has long been a high-profile industry figure and contributor to the security and monitoring industries at large. His keen business acumen and commitment to the greater good are powerful virtues now being pushed forward by Affiliated’s second-generation of leadership, which also embraces next-generation technology.
“We are strong believers in the idea that the security industry will be virtually unrecognizable in 10 years,” adds Daniel Oppenheim (note all subsequent Oppenheim mentions will apply to Daniel). “Conventional residential and commercial alarm systems will not only be supplemented, but in some cases replaced, by new products and technologies.”
Today, with headquarters in Union, N.J., and a fully redundant facility in Houston, Affiliated monitors more than a million (residential and commercial) alarm systems, PERS devices and a wide variety of connected IoT devices.
Those include video-based systems, connected car and telematics products, environmental monitoring systems, and lone worker monitoring products. The third-party provider monitors dealer accounts exclusively and so owns none outright.
“Affiliated Monitoring is the leading provider of live agent monitoring services and technology. People and technology are at the heart of what we do,” contends Oppenheim. “From our highly trained monitoring specialists and software engineers to our world-class, fully redundant infrastructure, our Cloud and monitoring services power the growth engines of many of the most innovative and entrepreneurial businesses.”
Affiliated submits its service to the rigorous compliance and accreditation requirements of the security industry’s leading independent organization. In addition to that and belonging to The Monitoring Association, the firm’s other important industry trade group associations include the Security Industry Association (SIA), Electronic Security Association (ESA), National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and Medical Alert Monitoring Association (MAMA).
It’s the AlertMessage and CareAlert text alert and chatting interfaces for which Affiliated can now place a “Marvel” on its mantel. But as this story vividly illustrates, there are many more special abilities that have made Affiliated a superhero to dealers and their end-user customers.
Historically, when a monitoring center received an alarm signal, many phone calls would be placed — to the premises, to members of the contact list and potentially to responding authorities. This is a time-consuming process that, even under the best circumstances, delays the dispatching of help when it is desperately needed.
Today, many people don’t answer the phone. If they see a number they don’t recognize, they just won’t answer, assuming the call to be spam or otherwise unwanted. Frequently, important calls from the monitoring center go unanswered as a result.
“When we do manage to reach a key-holder or contact list member by telephone, we frequently find they are not able to verify the alarm, as they are not at the premises or otherwise not ‘in the loop,’” says Oppenheim. “They will ask us to keep going down the contact list, or will themselves start calling colleagues or family members to try and figure out why there is an alarm.”
The solution? Developed and offered exclusively by Affiliated, AlertMessage (for standard accounts) and CareAlert (for PERS and connected health customers) are two powerful tools that enable the company’s dealer partners to offer instant text message alarm notification (with cancellation/verification capability) and contact list group chat to their end users with no special software or equipment required.
AlertMessage is a Cloud-based system that instantly notifies members of an alarm system contact list when an alarm occurs via a SMS text message. Included is a link to a web-based application that allows the recipient to chat with other members of the contact list. This allows them to cooperatively assess what has occurred and decide on the best course of action.
End users can cancel or verify alarms through AlertMessage. Message recipients can also call or text other members of the contact list directly with a single touch of an in-app button, without even having to know their phone number. As additional alarm signals are received, or first responders are dispatched, the chat is updated in real-time, providing all participants the most current info without delay.
If the alarm is false, any chat member can press the “False Alarm” button. After providing a passcode, dispatch will be canceled and phone call attempts by the monitoring center will cease.
“Deployment of AlertMessage and CareAlert has improved our efficiency, effectiveness and profitability, while improving outcomes for our monitored end users. By significantly decreasing the number of false alarm dispatches and increasing the speed of client notification, these products save us time on the phone, prevent false alarm dispatches and their associated fines, and improve our operator efficiency. At the same time, the end-user experience is vastly improved,” states Oppenheim.
According to Affiliated, customers’ reaction to these new products has been almost universally positive, with at least one dealer citing it as helping reduce attrition. Innovation and proven success, along with the fact it was generated in-house, all added up to highly impress the Marvel judges.
“Our software team has not only helped us to grow by improving the tools we use every day to monitor systems and run our business, but by allowing us to quickly build new solutions to meet the requirements of our dealer partners,” adds Oppenheim.
Look elsewhere in the organization, and it’s evident technology permeates all aspects of Affiliated’s operations.“We believe that Moore’s Law is far from dead — especially in our industry,” says Affiliated Monitoring Managing Director, Sales, Mike Zydor. “Equipment will continue to become more capable and less expensive to manufacture. This means we must be prepared to provide monitoring services for larger numbers and more varieties of sensors and equipment. The promise of 5G and ubiquitous, inexpensive wireless means that very soon, we may find ourselves monitoring motion detectors, door alarms and AI-enhanced analytic cameras, all without an alarm panel to tie them together.”
In addition to live agent monitoring, Affiliated offers the following within its suite of services:
- Stella — a unique customer engagement and notification platform featuring automated messaging, SMS alerts, emails and virtual voice technology. AlertMessage and CareAlert are part of this solutions set.
- PERS/mPERS — as one of the first third-party providers to enter this space, the firm now monitors hundreds of thousands of these systems.
- Lone worker monitoring & response— has leveraged PERS space experience for an offering using many of the same technologies.
- Telematics — provides crash detection and emergency response for many providers serving both commercial and private vehicles.
- Interactive video monitoring & response — made significant investment and is the only third-party U.S. monitoring center certified by UL for video monitoring services, which include live voice-downs, guard tours and even concierge-like services.
- Environmental monitoring — provides full suite of these services for response to detected problems at residential, commercial and industrial facilities.
- Business consulting services — besides turnkey transfer and monitoring migration services, the company offers business intelligence tools to help dealer partners grow.
“We have invested in video-centric automation platform products that allow us to integrate with virtually any video technology in use today,” says Oppenheim. “This flexibility allows us to provide high-quality, price-competitive monitoring for installations as small as a single camera, while still having the bandwidth and capability to handle large, enterprise-scale systems with hundreds of cameras and sensors.”
Among the vertical markets monitored by Affiliated’s interactive services are car dealerships, financial institutions, quick service retail, multitenant residential, public recreation facilities and large-scale manufacturing.
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