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False Alarm Crackdowns: Why Professional Security Monitoring is Here to Stay

Despite a rash of new DIY security and home automation systems, people still pay for professional monitoring if for no other reason than a crackdown in alarm response.


Parks Associates: Percentage of households with professionally monitored security systems holds steady. CLICK TO ENLARGE
Julie Jacobson · March 9, 2015

DIY-installed and -monitored security and home automation system are on the rise, but the trend doesn’t seem to be hurting professional security dealers and monitoring companies.

Self-monitoring doesn’t grant the full capabilities of a system, says David Avritt of the central monitoring station SentryNet.

Even when surveillance cameras supply live video, “What do we do with the information we’re getting?” he asks. “What if you’re on a plane and the alarm goes off? You can’t see video then.”

Furthermore, individual homeowners don’t hold sway with emergency service providers, particularly if they’re out of town and they have little more than a text message from the security system.

“How are you going to call the police? What kind of service do you think you’ll get if you’re across the country?” he asks. “They know the monitoring company. They’re going to respond.”

Certain jurisdictions in North America are cracking down on private alarm calls. In Canada, Toronto police are considering not responding to such calls, arguing that the overwhelming number of alarm calls are resource-draining false alerts, according to the Toronto Star. In 2012, just 300 of the 20,000 private alarm calls fielded by Toronto emergency services turned out to be legitimate.

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Elsewhere, jurisdictions are requiring video verification or witness verification before dispatching emergency personnel, dramatically reducing wasted resources.

Security industry analyst Jeff Kessler of Imperial Capital cites places like Salt Lake City, where police responses to alarms went from 10,500 in 1998, to 323 last year, shifting responsibility to private security to vet alarms. The result? Improved response times.

In Milwaukee, Wis., police responded to 27,000 burglar alarms in 2003, the year before it implemented verified response. In 2012, the number was 617, according to Kessler.

“There are yet additional reasons why we believe that the leading life-safety (security, fire and personal emergency response) companies will continue to expand subscriber growth at a 5% to 6% CAGR through 2020,” he says, “despite the entry of many new competitors for home services dollars, including telecom and cable companies, and many ‘cool’ do-it-yourself (DIY) systems, as well as both Google and Apple.”

Indeed,the household penetration of professionally monitored security systems has hovered in the 20% range, despite all of these new offerings, according to Parks Associations (chart).
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JULIE JACOBSON
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  About the Author

Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson Email Julie at julie.jacobson@emeraldexpo.com

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