Where is video monitoring now?

Representatives from four monitoring centers provide insight on the video monitoring market
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Wednesday, July 25, 2018

YARMOUTH, Maine—Video monitoring, including proactive video monitoring, guard tours, video verification and even MIY among consumers, is on the rise, according to six wholesale monitoring professionals interviewed by Security Systems News.

“The subscriber is demanding more video monitoring options and we are continuing to invest in our video monitoring capabilities,” Woodie Andrawos, president of NMC, told SSN in an email interview. “NMC has been a big proponent of video monitoring on behalf of our dealers nationwide. To date, most of it has been video verification associated with either intrusion alarms and guard tours.”

NMC recently merged with other monitoring companies around the globe—Netwatch, based in Ireland, CalAtlantic in the United States, and Onwatch Multifire in the United Kingdom—to create Netwatch Group. The combined company announced a focus on proactive video monitoring capabilities.

Niall Kelly, CTO of Netwatch Group, told SSN via email, “We see proactive video monitoring as the future of our industry. The models of video verification and video clip monitoring are good, and have served us and our dealers well, but with the technology available now with really intelligent video analytic software enabled to make decisions about scenes and situations at the subscribers’ premises, we see that this type of ‘before the event’ monitoring makes sense to the subscriber, preventing crimes from happening rather than trying to verify that an incident has happened.”

Jim McMullen, president and COO of Lydia Security Monitoring, the company that includes the COPS Monitoring and UCC brands, is also noticing the rise in video monitoring. “We’re also seeing more and more enquiries coming in from dealers, whereby the dealers actually then do go out there and sell the video services,” he told SSN. “We are getting more business out of video now than we have any time in the past five years.”

Daniel Oppenheim, executive vice president for Affiliated Monitoring, said, “We are seeing a consistent increase in demand, and we are offering services in a few different ways,” including traditional video verification, as well as interactive video services, such as virtual guard, and virtual concierge offerings.

Peter Brass, dealer support technical manager for CMS, told SSN that video is a small portion of CMS’ business. “Our hope is that the industry’s renewed focus on video verification will help to increase our dealers awareness and desire to enter the lucrative video market,” said Brass.

Several factors, ranging from user perception to advancements in the technology, have helped the increased use of video monitoring, according to those interviewed by SSN.

Oppenheim credits the rise to factors such as comfort and increased broadband. “Real, true penetration of smart phone adoption and people’s increasing comfort levels with remote accessing of video cameras in their own homes has given customers an appreciation of video’s value in a commercial context,” he said. “The ubiquity of high speed internet access has made it practical to offer interactive video.”

Anthony Iannone, director at Affiliated Monitoring, commented that video equipment has changed within the market in recent years. “The equipment itself has become less expensive and easier to obtain,” he said. “It’s meant that integrators large and small now can both get into this business.”

Iannone continued, “Also, video analytics have come a long way in the last couple of years. In the past you were limited by what you could do by the technology. …Now that video analytics have become less expensive and more powerful, savvy dealers can use them to address problems that would have been otherwise difficult, expensive or impossible.”

McMullen also said that video monitoring tech has improved, as has manufacturer education. “The quality is much clearer, much sharper, under—particularly—low light situations. I think that the traditional installers out there have been becoming more educated. The video companies are doing a much better job in educating the installers [on] how to put the cameras in to ensure under almost all conditions you’re going to get a decent picture coming back to the central,” he said.

“The thing I was most concerned about before would be bandwidth coming into the various offices, that we would have enough bandwidth to sustain the video. With the way that video works today, and technology, it’s not really too much of a big deal,” said McMullen.

Another change in recent years is that more information is coming in from a subscriber’s site, meaning there’s more information to be processed, Kelly observed. “For example, with video clip monitoring, or video verification, we really only had one alarm from an event; now with the modern megapixel HD cameras, and multifunctional video analytics generating huge amounts of data, its critical that our software systems can filter out all the unnecessary events, and present operators with the real data to enable them to make a decision.”

Video comprises a very small portion of the business for Lydia Security Monitoring, less than 1 percent, McMullen estimated. “The majority of our business … is residential,” he added. “Video still hasn’t caught on in a material way in the residential market place for [services] like video verification.”

As companies like Nest and Ring have entered the market over the past few years, video cameras are being installed in more homes, but sometimes these aren’t quite designed for video monitoring applications.

Much of the time when a homeowner installs video with their security system, they are the ones to look in on the house through that camera, McMullen said. Some residential users might have privacy concerns about letting outside persons, such as a central station, view the camera feeds. “I think that in the future, that as algorithms further develop, some of the issues that homeowners are concerned about with having a central station look in on them … will be mitigated,” he said.

According to Brass, the MIY side of the residential market can turn into more profitable business. “A customer who self-monitors finds it difficult to stay connected 24 hours a day, that’s where CMS comes in, we receive an alarm and have the added ability to view the event that caused the alarm. It definitely reduces false alarm dispatches and associated fines.”

Whether in homes or businesses, one common use for video monitoring is alarm verification.

“We are seeing an increase in verified dispatch so video monitoring is on the rise. Also, with many manufacturers offering video verification to the customer where they can monitor their own video, we are seeing more requests to back them up,” Brass said.

“We use I-View Now Video verification. I-View Now allows CMS to train our operators on one platform and as new DVR’s, NVR’s and IP cameras are added to the platform there is no need to retrain our operators,” said Brass. “This is a huge advantage for us and the end users we serve.”

McMullen also lauded I-View Now and its use of the cloud. “It has taken a lot of the stress and load off of us and it makes a lot of sense.”

Brass said: “The video cloud services have made it much easier to add new video without having to retrain operators on different video platforms and portals.”

NMC similarly utilizes the SureView platform. “The biggest challenge for a central station is to keep up with, and being able to handle, as many as possible of the various DVRs and NVRs and IP cameras out there. To that end, we rely on SureView to integrate the various platforms,” Andrawos said.

Training is essential in video monitoring, Andrawos noted, “especially for proactive video monitoring where we have to train our agents to be Intervention Specialists. There is a separate skill level required and essentially a more advanced training in order to be able to handle the different situations and scenes that can come up.”

What have been some of the challenges for the video monitoring market? Professionals pointed to cybersecurity and intergrations. “Of course from time to time, we have to tell a dealer that we cannot monitor certain equipment as we will not do stand-alone platforms for many reasons, chief among those is the threat of cyberattacks through open network ports,” Andrawos said.

Iannone said that sometimes integration challenges don’t come from newer technologies but instead from older ones. “From time to time we have dealers that are taking over existing systems that may have been in place for years or even a decade. And sometimes those older technologies actually present a bigger hurdle from an integration standpoint than the new, modern technologies,” he said.

Gaining video business takes a lot of initiative from the dealer’s side, Oppenheim noted. “To do it right and to do it profitably requires a certain amount of focus from a dealer. It requires a dealer to have certain discipline within their company.”

He continued, “True interactive video monitoring has really tremendous recurring revenue opportunities for a dealer, but the initial set up of an account requires a lot of coordination between the customer, the dealer and Affiliated. So, there has to be an investment there and a commitment from the dealer.”

Some of the factors that caused the video monitoring market to grow stand to continue in the future, according to some, with expanded offerings and opportunities on the horizon.

Lower costs, better analytics, increasing quality, and even more ubiquitous broadband will keep driving video adoption, according to Iannone. “Ultimately, we’re probably going to be doing a lot of the things that we’re doing now, but we’ll be doing them in more diverse situations and doing them for even more verticals and types of customers. We do a lot of wide-area monitoring now, but that is limited by having ready access to broadband. With 5G and less expensive equipment, maybe we’ll find ourselves monitoring national parks, or very rural or very difficult to access locations.”

Brass shared a similar idea: “As the technology gets better and with analytics we will see an increase in video monitoring services.”

Looking down the road, Kelly predicted that “more artificial intelligence will take the ‘grunt work’ out of handling high alarm volumes,” and operators will be free to handle other matters. SSN