Security Roundtable: Assuring Alarm Panels Are All Set for 3G Sunset
Lost for some amid the COVID-19 lockdowns is the looming shutdown of 3G cellular networks. Without upgrades this will cripple security and fire/life-safety systems. A half-dozen solution providers discuss the challenge, outlook and remedies.
What other advice and tips do you have for dealers and their customers to experience the best outcome?
Hillenburg: They should use as much automation and software power as is possible for their company. Systemize the upgrades. Standardize on a single technology so their techs become pros at the upgrades. The process comes down to messaging. They need to create a professional, consistent message as this situation should not be a problem creator for the consumer. This is not the only technology refresh happening in the world. My advice is to keep it simple, and track things closely to see what is working and what is not.
Mayne: Plan ahead where possible, and if you have systems in the field that need to be upgraded, carry two to three months of product inventory to offset the chance of distributors and manufacturers running out of parts. If you haven’t already, put together an upgrade plan that will enable you to update every system you have in the field. This may take some prioritizing of current accounts over the opportunity to add new accounts.
Also look for opportunities to add value along with the upgrade. Offer substantial discounts on new, add-on devices like doorbell cameras, smart devices, new touchscreen interfaces, etc. If you’ve got a customer that’s not benefiting from the convenience of interactive services, be sure to inform them of the simplicity of interactive services and mobile app control.
Real-time notifications of what’s going on at home or being able to see and interact with people at your doorstep are value-adding features for many of today’s consumers. Be careful not to simply upgrade the system with something that adds no perceived value for the end user.
McLerran: Consumers buy differently today vs. 10-15 years ago. For many it’s all about choice. They want to feel they have control over their services and what they pay. Look at how cellular companies have evolved. The security industry can no longer afford to charge $50/month for three years and not expect the customer to question it when they “never arm the system.” Try a model that starts low and builds as services are added and continue to add value over time.
Many consumers are ready for a new device every three to six months. If you aren’t staying in contact they’ll buy it from their favorite retailer, and it’s unlikely to integrate with your system let alone add value in the service you provide. Those dealers deploying ongoing nurture campaigns to encourage usage and product/service expansion/diversification are winning every day.
What upgrade and panel communications solutions does your company offer?
Sheffey: Since our entry into the cellular communication market, we have worked to bring innovation to the category. Specifically fire, where we were the first to create the universal radio that could be powered directly from the panel, which reduced installation time, labor cost and the installation of a dedicated AC circuit. We didn’t stop there, we continued to innovate adding many feature benefits that are geared toward improving the installation process. These innovations coupled with Napco quality and reliability have proven invaluable to our StarLink dealers.
Brody: For the commercial security and fire markets, Telguard has an LTE network upgrade board for the TG-7 Series 3G devices in the field, allowing for an easy, affordable upgrade. The integrator does not have to remove the existing installed enclosure or power supply, and the system maintains the site’s UL certifications. Telguard is offering instant discounts on residential and commercial cellular communicators at participating distributors to help integrators manage the migration costs.
Maher: What’s important to take away from cellular sunsets is that they will continue as no cellular technology is immortal. We believe the best option is a security system that has a swappable cellular module that doesn’t become technologically inapt with each sunset. Resideo recently launched its Advanced Modular Communicator that offers a seamless upgrade ready for future cellular communications technology. Resideo’s ProSeries platform includes that same swappable radio. Systems connected over the Internet only or dual path cellular/Internet are another option, with the advantage of using Internet when the cellular sunsets and as backup communication paths to each other.
Hillenburg: At DMP we saw that one of the most difficult parts of the puzzle was getting the end user scheduled for an upgrade — communicating to them and getting a time set up. So we made a feature in the Virtual Keypad App to message the appropriate users requiring an upgrade.
It provides the customer with messaging the dealer wants and allows them to schedule an upgrade right in the app. The dealer can limit and select the times and number of appointments based on a defined schedule. This has been a very popular way for upgrades to be scheduled, cutting out much of the back-and-forth to make the process smooth.
Mayne: Alula is easing the burden of upgrade costs with a $99 credit for each BAT-Connect used to replace a legacy/sunsetting communicator. The credit offsets the monthly cost of alarm signal forwarding and interactive services. Our universal alarm panel communicator works with most panels, including those from Napco, Honeywell, DSC and Interlogix.
BAT-Connect enables extending the life of an existing system with 5G-ready, CAT-M1/LTE-M technology and native Ethernet and WiFi communication, and allows for the addition of Z-Wave devices, automation capabilities, cameras and controlling legacy alarm systems remotely via our interactive mobile app.
If it’s time to swap out the whole system, Alula’s Connect+ is a wireless, smart alarm panel that comes in a variety of configurations and is also eligible for the $99 credit. There’s even a Connect+ kit designed for system takeovers. This panel comes equipped and ready for IP communication over an Ethernet port and works with a number of legacy wireless alarm panels.
McLerran: The IQ Panel 2 Plus is the perfect upgrade for any 3G account. It has all the modern features your customer expects including the ability to easily control security, life safety, lights, locks, thermostats, garage openers, indoor/outdoor cameras and video doorbells, all with remote interactive support provided by Alarm.com.
Features like touchless disarming using Bluetooth are not just popular but more sanitary, and appeal to every customer. Inside there are seven different wireless radios, one of which is dedicated to security devices already installed in a customer’s home, meaning you don’t need a translator to “take over” existing sensors. Swapping out a panel couldn’t be faster and easier. We are also offering up to $110 in rebates.
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