How Video-Enabled Alarms Can Lead to More Apprehensions

In a recent discussion on SSI‘s LinkedIn page, users asked about the latest technologies and trends in the security industry today. As luck would have it, in the “Video Continues to Enhance Its Security Image,” feature in the January 2011 issue, SSI asked roughly a dozen top technology providers about the latest and greatest video surveillance technologies industry professionals can expect in 2011.

SSI chatted with West Bear Lake, Minn.-based RSI-Videofied President Keith Jentoft, who explained how video alarm verification technology can help minimize false police dispatches. Introduced commercially in the United States in 2005, this technology has seen a considerable price point drop in the past 18 months, making it more applicable to residential and commercial/industrial customers. Here, Jentoft discusses how video alarm verification can be a great opportunity for dealers in 2011 to not only reduce false alarms, but increase their recurring monthly revenue (RMR).

Can you explain Videofied’s video alarm verification technology?

Keith Jentoft: We offer a device called a MotionViewer. It’s the same size as a passive infrared [PIR] motion sensor, and there is a motion sensor and a camera with illuminators for night vision, all combined into that one device.

When the system is armed, the PIR performs like a normal system, but when an intruder trips it, the PIR is the switch for the camera, which then takes a 10-second video clip of what caused the alarm. The alarm and video clip are sent to the central station over the cell network, so the monitoring person can see why there was an alarm and dispatch differently.

As we head into 2011, what is the latest in video alarm verification technology?

Jentoft: Cordless, wireless video alarms — I’ll call them standalone video alarm systems, or even standalone video intrusion alarms — are becoming increasingly valuable because law enforcement is giving higher priority response to alarms that are verified. They are treating them like a crime in progress. These systems are inexpensive, and they compete with a standard system. For roughly the same money, consumers can buy better police response.

These video alarm systems are now competitive price-wise to blind systems. What would you rather have — a system that controls your thermostat? There are two very different directions that the alarm industry is going. [Some alarm companies] are looking at a security panel as a delivery platform service to manage lighting, thermostats, etc. So that’s one way to get more RMR. We’re looking at security panels as something that delivers police response; our investment is getting the police there faster. So, if you’re a consumer, you have two choices. You can get a security system that does a better job with your thermostat or you can get a faster [police response]. It’s up to you.

What are the challenges that alarm video verification faces?

Jentoft: We’re an industry of inertia, and people [continue to] do the same thing because they’ve always done it. When it comes to innovation, security is not typically innovative. There haven’t been a lot of new entrants to the field, so I think inertia would be the biggest issue.

We see that the challenge is showing the dealers that they can make more money if they deliver better security. Customers will pay more for a system that gives them faster police [response]. If they didn’t care about that, they’d buy a system that didn’t have any monitoring; they would just put a siren up.

Our industry is based on monitoring revenue. The only reason you want it monitored is so they can call the cops. If you give your monitoring company a tool so they can call the cops as an eyewitness, that’s better. It’s that simple.

How are you planning to persuade dealers to want to use this technology?

Jentoft: We’ve been working with the police themselves. The sheriffs have only ever endorsed one security system in the entire history of the security industry, and that’s us because we [help] make more arrests. By working with the local law enforcement and the public safety answering point [PSAP], we’ve had the PSAP dispatch centers actually create a new code in their computer-aided dispatch software. They have a prioritizing system in the PSAP, where they are actually giving video alarms a higher priority response code than a standard alarm, treating it like a crime in progress. When dealers see that, and they see that as a policy, then they can make more money with it.

What advice would you give to installing security integrators about this technology? How can they sell it to their customers?

Jentoft: I would look at upselling verification to your existing customers. We have an upgrade kit that you can provide both video and a cell upgrades to an existing system. As people are getting rid of their phone lines, the dealers are having attrition issues because by getting rid of phone lines, the system doesn’t work. Now, [customers] can upgrade their systems to video with cell backup using the cell network. So the $20 or $25 that they would have been paying to their phones, that can subsidize the entire system.

Privacy concerns are a major issue with many customers today. How does Videofied address these concerns?

Jentoft: Because the camera is not on unless there is an alarm, so there is no peeking from the central station. This is far different from a nanny cam concept because a nanny cam is always filming. [With this technology] all customers need is the code to get the images. We’re a wireless system that’s never filming unless there is an alarm. There are no privacy issues.

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