GPS ‘a different animal’ for central stations

Experts say mobile devices bring new challenges that require new approaches
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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

YARMOUTH, Maine—What’s worse than a false alarm? A moving false alarm, according to panelists at a recent ESX webinar, who cited a growing challenge for monitoring companies as they move deeper into the world of GPS and mobile PERS devices.

The May 23 webinar, “Diagnosing and Solving Central Station Problems,” featured Morgan Hertel, VP of operations for Rapid Response Monitoring. Also participating were George De Marco, ESX chairman, and Bob Bishop, business development engineer at Bold Technologies.

Hertel said the 50-minute session was designed to “wet the whistle” of viewers for a more extensive discussion at the ESX show (which takes place June 25-29 in Nashville, Tenn.) about central station problems in the age of digital technology. He then outlined three topics that would be covered in detail June 27 in Nashville: problems with browsers and ways to resolve them; common receiver problems; and difficulties handling networks.

Discussion in the question-and-answer segment that followed quickly turned to issues involving GPS. De Marco said the technology is ushering in a new era for security.

“I believe we’re changing the way we approach the traditional security perimeter, where we’ve been focused on the perimeter of a residential or business property,” he said. “Now it’s more going mobile and protecting people and assets [through GPS].”

The growing use of GPS-enabled devices, including PERS, means that monitoring companies must change the way they think and act, Bishop said. While technology allows a central station to pinpoint someone’s location, the situation becomes more complicated when trying to determine the right responder to call.

“What we’re looking at here is not only being able to manage that GPS traffic coming in, but ensuring that we’re actually contacting the proper authority that has jurisdiction over that pinpointed location to get the help out there to the people who need it,” he said.

Hertel echoed Bishop’s concerns, adding that a monitoring company has to go beyond relaying coordinates to the proper PSAP.

“Now you have to tell a responder that you have a person that looks kind of like this, and the last time we had a location on them they were heading inside the mall, and they pressed the panic button or a medical button and now what?” he said.

Hertel said that GPS changes the dynamic of what central stations have traditionally done, which is dispatching to a physical location.

“Now we’re dispatching to an actual physical location, but we’re looking for a person, not a building,” he said. “It’s a different animal.”

The variables that come with GPS inherently raise the chances of false alarms and dispatches, but the industry will have to adapt, De Marco said.

“That’s going to be the challenge in the future for everybody operating in this environment,” he said.