Centrals poised for next phase in the usage of GPS

Tuesday, April 1, 2003

Generating interest from the dealer community for new ideas has often been an issue, and players in the emerging Global Positioning Systems’ market say gaining support for this new twist on security isn’t any different.

Ray Menard, senior vice president-development/ technology division at Criticom International, Minneapolis, said with “tens of thousands of dealers in the industry, there’s quite a wide gamut of what’s represented in those dealers.”

Some, he noted, “can take a new product (such as GPS) and do well. Others have a formula for their companies and adhere to it.”

Criticom is launching a major consumer initiative in the coming months, Menard said, which will be sold through stores such as Best Buy and Circuit City.

But selling GPS-related services, Menard conceded, “isn’t for every dealer.” Installing a GPS integrated alarm system for a car is very different than putting in an alarm panel in a home, he noted.

Currently, Menard said, about 10 percent of Criticom’s monitoring accounts are GPS related. He predicted that figure nationwide, however, is much smaller, at less than one percent.

Although the percentage is small now, Cliff Dice, chief executive officer of Dice Corp., Essexville, Mich., predicted GPS monitoring will represent a significant portion of business down the road. “As I look forward five years,” Dice said, “GPS monitoring will be twice the size of the alarm business.”

Dice said about 150,000 accounts are using his software now, up from 100,000 at this time last year. The majority of business, he added, comes from asset tracking as well as vehicle and freight monitoring.

Dice likened GPS to digital dialers found in alarm panels. The digital dialer, he said, took years to take hold, but now represents a major segment within the security industry. The same, he said, will be true for GPS.

Dice said monitoring companies, such as Criticom, that have added GPS services to their portfolio are ahead of the game and “will be sitting in a leading position” when the industry takes off.

With products coming out regularly, dealers have both the opportunity and the challenge to market something new. SecureFleet Fleet Management Services’ Dave Dimattina said the addition of a new, private vehicle-oriented system from his company presents such a challenge for dealers.

“Some dealers will only sell burglar alarms, while others want to be more innovative and creative,” Dimattina said. In some cases, he added, dealers are using telemarketing, email marketing and trade shows to generate business.

“We’ve seen movement from dealers who have been on the fence,” Dimattina said. “They’ve gone from being on the fence to getting started.”

Keeping products both dealer and customer friendly helps with the business-building efforts, Dimattina added. “We’re constantly changing the software to make it more user friendly,” he said. “We learned from the alarm industry, that if the customer isn’t educated upfront, it will be a problem down the road.”

Lawrence Harper, president of Greater Alarm’s remote video and GPS monitoring division, Irvine, Calif., said he predicts an “extremely rosy outlook” for GPS product usage and monitoring.

“Because it’s such a terrific technology and use of the military satellite system is free to the public, you’ll see more and more of it,” he said of GPS-related services.

Even the privacy issues related to GPS and video monitoring are falling away, Harper said. “As crime rises here, people are willing to give up a little privacy to be safe. I think individuals are less and less concerned about Big Brother and more concerned about their safety.”