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New threat to RMR? Sizing up PhantomLink

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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The headline on the news release is an attention-grabber: “PhantomLink technology pushes alarm monitoring to the cloud, threatens industry.” If that isn’t clear enough, the subhead rephrases it: “Cloud-based technology set to undermine traditional alarm monitoring industry.”

The PR piece from Phantom Data Services proceeds to trumpet the company’s new PhantomLink project, which encourages homeowners to monitor their own security systems for no charge via the Web. The project “leverages existing equipment, requires only a simple retrofit, and is offered for free with no recurring costs.”

“Nearly 80 percent of households in the U.S. have Internet access,” states Adam Peters, founder of PhantomLink.com. “So why are people still paying their hard-earned money to a central station to monitor their alarm? Just connect it to the Internet and monitor it yourself!”

The news release describes PhantomLink as a small, easy-to-install, build-it-yourself device that links an existing security system to the user’s wireless Internet connection. If the device senses an alarm, company servers alert the user with an email or a text message. Circuit schematics, interface specifications and instructions for using the “self-monitored security system solution” are available for free on PhantomLink’s Web page.

“Do-it-yourself alarm installers and electronics hobbyists are encouraged to participate in this project to develop and expand the capabilities of this technology,” the company states.

Visitors to the PhantomLink website will find all of the information mentioned in the news release, but little about the company promoting the device. Phantom Data Services is described only as “a New Mexico limited liability company specializing in website development and data-processing products and services.”

So is this the new age of monitoring? Is it time to mothball the central station and say goodbye to RMR? Will homeowners tired of “simply paying for piece of mind,” as the news release states, now opt for self-service?

Grammatical glitches aside, peace of mind is what many alarm customers are seeking. Millions have shown the willingness to pay a professional for it, even in a down economy. Do-it-yourself security will obviously appeal to some, but free doesn’t mean free of responsibility.

This also isn’t the first time the alarm industry has been down this path, said Morgan Hertel, vice president of operations for Rapid Response.

“This kind of stuff has been around for years,” Hertel told Security Systems News. “In the ’70s, it was tape dialers calling neighbors, work numbers and sometimes police departments. In the ’80s, we moved to pagers—you could get paged on alarms. Now we have email, SMS and IVR.”

While there is always something new coming down the pike, the bottom line remains the same for alarm companies: provide professional service at a competitive price and chances are you’ll stay in business. PhantomLink and other do-it-yourself offerings are unlikely to change that.

“The professional monitoring and installation companies are still here doing their thing,” Hertel said. “What most [customers] come to realize is that the cost of a monitored security system is so affordable these days, and is packed with so many features, that most people who take security seriously don’t ever consider [a DIY] solution.”
 

The PSIM potential

Critical infrastructure, regulated environments and big companies concerned about reputation and brand are projected to drive adoption of PSIM
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09/04/2012

YARMOUTH, Maine—If you are a vendor or integrator of PSIM systems, the chances are good that you consider this to be an exciting time in the security industry. And the chances also are excellent that, regardless of your expertise and experience, your views on PSIM market trends will be challenged by others in the field.

Attention shoppers! AT&T goes retail with its new security/home automation services

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

I reported in May that AT&T was entering the security space with summer trials in Dallas and in Atlanta of its home security/home automation services called Digital Life. The telecom also spoke then of its plans to transform that space through such innovations as letting customers try out its new Digital Life offering in its 2,000-plus retail stores around the country.

Now, the first demos of Digital Life are about to begin in AT&T’s first flagship retail store on Chicago’s famous Magnificent Mile, the company announced today.

The 10,000-square foot store will open this Saturday, Sept. 1. AT&T said that among the products and services “also found at AT&T’s more than 2,300 retail stores nationwide, the Michigan Avenue store offers customers a glimpse of the future, including AT&T’s first retail demos of the new AT&T Digital Life home security and automation services and of a connected car that shows how wireless technology can aid driving. … With more than 100 digital screens throughout the space, every aspect of the store is designed to educate customers about future wireless technologies and services.”

According to the company, the demos will be in the “Family Life” area of the store. “Customers can see how the services will enable them to adjust the temperature, raise and lower a window shade, and control their home using AT&T wireless devices,” the company said.

“Our Michigan Avenue store is where customers can immerse themselves in everything AT&T is about and truly explore the technology we have to offer,” said Paul Roth, president of AT&T retail sales and service, in a prepared statement. “AT&T is about delivering innovation that makes a difference in our customers’ daily lives. All of that will be ready for customers to experience at our flagship store.”

Mobile’s the word at annual DICE conference

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08/29/2012

BAY CITY, Mich.—Participants set the agenda at DICE Corp.’s annual Users Group Conference, so the topics can shift to reflect what is actually happening in the field. And a lot of the buzz at this year’s event focused on what everyone in the industry has been talking about lately: adapting to keep up with the Web.

Pro 1: ‘We’re excited to be part of the home automation space’

Company’s new P1 Life solution integrates security and home automation
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08/29/2012

ROMEOVILLE, Ill.—Protection 1 announced this week that it has launched a new integrated home security/home automation service called P1 Life.

All eyes on Iris: Will DIY hurt RMR?

Lowe’s new offering will generate interest, SSN readers say, but many question its long-term viability
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08/29/2012

YARMOUTH, Maine—Is it a home security “game changer” whose time has come, a marketing annoyance that will confuse consumers, or a false-alarm nightmare waiting to happen?

Security Service Company acquires Pennsylvania neighbor

Deal with Four Star Electronic Security brings $17,000 in RMR
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08/29/2012

FLEETWOOD, Pa.—Security Service Company, based here, has acquired Four Star Electronic Security, a longtime provider of alarm monitoring, service and installation based in nearby Hamburg.

Sonitrol of Evansville launches video company

Action Security has suite of video verification products and services
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08/29/2012

EVANSVILLE, Ind.—After “dabbling” with different video verification products and services and seeing that grow into a profitable initiative, Sonitrol franchise owner Ken Krapf this month launched a new integration company called Action Security.

VES-Afternoon tea and sushi

 - 
Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Four years ago, fire manufacturer VES was acquired by Kentec Electronics, a U.K.-based manufacturer of fire panels. At the time, an executive at VES (formerly Viking Electronic Services) said that “joining with Kentec brings us the international experience we didn’t have previously.” The official cited India, Saudi Arabia, Dubai and other Arab countries as the markets the company would move into.

Now, it looks like VES’ international experience may get even broader as its parent company, Kentec, is acquired by a Tokyo-based fire manufacturer.

According to a recent news report, Hochiki Corporation Japan has entered into an agreement to acquire Kentec’s stock as of Oct. 1. Then, the report said, Kentec will become part of the Hochiki Group of Companies.

The Aug. 23 release said that “Kentec Electronics will continue to be run by its current management team as a separate unit within Hochiki Corporation Japan and will continue to use existing suppliers and support all of its customers including the current sensor partners.”

And it said that its American subsidiary, VES, “will be amalgamated with Hochiki America Corporation and continue to operate from its east coast base in the United States.”

The release said that Hochiki was established in 1918 as Japan’s first fire alarm manufacturer. The report called Hochiki “a leading manufacturer of fire detection products with an expanding presence across the world.”

Kentec was founded in 1985. Together with VES, it “produces and supplies a range of control panels for fire detection, extinguishing media release, water and smoke detection and sprinkler control,” the report said.

The report said that Kentec “believes this is an opportunity to benefit both parties and to further develop its business and allow access to new World wide markets.”

How specifically will VES benefit? I’ve reached out to the company, and hope to find out.

Texas twist: N.Y. city outsourcing to collect alarm fines

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Long Island, N.Y., city frustrated by unpaid false-alarm fines is taking a familiar corporate path to change its fortunes: It’s outsourcing the collection work.

Long Beach Police Commissioner Michael Tangney told CBS News that the city of 35,000 is the first on Long Island to hire an outside company to go door-to-door collecting the fines.

“I’m proud that we are innovative and the first ones doing this,” Tangney said. “And I think many municipalities will follow suit.”

The City Council on Aug. 7 voted to hire Texas-based PMAM Corp. to collect the fines, which start at $100 and rise to $700 for chronic offenders. The company will receive 24 percent of all revenues collected.

While the work went to a firm with stateside headquarters instead of one based in Mumbai, many city residents have voiced their displeasure about the outsourcing and have questioned why the city can’t do the job itself.

“I think it shows how desperate the community is for collecting revenue, and turning it over to a collection agency is a little ridiculous,” business owner Steve Felix told CBS.

City Manager Jack Schnirman defended the move, saying the city doesn’t have the resources to collect the money.

“Like many other municipalities across the nation, this is the form we’re choosing to move forward and go out and collect the fines,” he told the Long Beach Patch, adding that outsourcing is “a lot more cost-effective.”

Apparently lost in the discussion is what could be done to reduce the 1,100 false alarms that city police respond to annually, which would mitigate the fines and the need for the collection work.

Maybe a SIAC session is in order.
 

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