01 February 2012

Evolving Video Alarm Technology and Remote Guarding

The security industry is making an effort to build a new level of partnership with Law Enforcement in our coverage area for greater community life/safety. New advances in technology have made enhanced Video Alarm Systems affordable and competitive with non-video systems – enhanced video alarms can now be purchased by residential and small business and are not just solutions for the large industry. These new enhanced video alarm systems are available from many manufacturers in many models providing a variety of features. At the most basic level, however, the alarm and a video clip of what caused the alarm is transmitted to a Monitoring Agent who confirms an intruder is present and then notifies a Law Enforcement dispatcher. While response to all alarm systems has been proven to deter crime and reduce losses, creating a policy that provides higher priority response to enhanced video alarms is a “win” for the entire community:

Law Enforcement:
More arrests
Greater officer safety/situational awareness
Crime patterns stopped
Enhanced citizen confidence in law enforcement
Greater security and life safety
Commercial Industry:
Greater confirmation of alarm activations and acceptance of enhanced alarm technology.

The goal of Priority Response is to work with local law enforcement to maximize the benefit of the new generation of enhanced video alarms. We request that law enforcement review dispatch priority levels and implement policy changes to reflect a higher priority response for alarms with video confirming the presence of an intruder than that assigned to standard alarms. Ideally, each Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) would:
  1. Create a special dispatch code for Enhanced Video Alarms with greater priority than standard alarms such as “Crime in Progress”.
  2. Create an email address that participating Central Stations can email the actual video clips of the intrusion for later review by the dispatcher, if desired.

There are three major technology solutions for video alarms monitored by all the major central stations in the industry. Video alarm systems are now cost competitive with blind alarm systems and have expanded from commercial applications to the residential market. This means that video alarms systems are a realistic and cost-effective option for consumers of all types.

Multiple vendors have created video alarm systems based on three technology platforms:

Wireless enhanced video alarm systems with integrated sensors/cameras.
o EXAMPLE: www.videofied.com
Hybrid systems that combine traditional alarm systems with external CCTV cameras.
Surveillance cameras with pixel-based detection in the cameras that trigger an alarm event and an email of a video clip.

All three technology platforms have proven effective in delivering a video clip confirming what caused the alarm event that can be reviewed by central station operators.

Wireless enhanced video alarm systems with integrated sensors/cameras

Enhanced video alarms are not surveillance systems, but an improved intrusion alarm system. While some surveillance can provide video alarms, surveillance also provides other functionality that goes beyond the scope of video alarms and may impact privacy concerns in residential applications. Enhanced video alarms are consistent with the concept of a burglar alarm. They can operate through the traditional telephone system, IP-phone system or in most cases the cellular network. In the case of Videofied they operate on their own internal battery power and primarily send their signals through the cellular network. This means they can be installed just about anywhere and are portable. You can use them in your home, in your shed, in the woods, on your boat, at a job site or in your office.

This is an "incremental step" in technology doing exactly what intrusion alarms and central stations have always done “To Detect and Notify”. Enhanced video alarm systems go beyond traditional “Detect and Notify” practices, providing visual confirmation of what caused the alarm.

In contrast to expensive surveillance systems, enhanced video alarms are:
NOT to identify an intruder (this may happen but this is secondary)
NOT 24/7 surveillance video (only the clip of the actual incident is transmitted)
NOT to provide "live video feeds" on demand (this may be available on some surveillance systems but often raises privacy concerns in the residential market).
NOT self-monitored by the consumer. This is not a nanny-cam.
ARE monitored by a qualified UL listed Central Station and reviewed by their operators.
Two-Way audio is now optional as is using a telephone line to talk to the panel in permanent installations.

Hybrid systems that combine traditional alarm systems with external CCTV cameras.
In most cases these systems are the lowest cost installations because they are an addition to an existing alarm system. In many cases there is no recording of the video, this is an option. Many users just work with the 10 second motion clips located on a web-based server provided by the manufactures. They look into look-in on their homes and small businesses and keep an eye on their property – anytime and anywhere there’s internet access. Many end-users use their smart phones to review clips of activity after hours or when their away. Even though there is limited recording in many cases, they all can log in live after the alert/clip is received, to see live activity.

Surveillance cameras with pixel-based detection in the cameras that trigger an alarm event and an email of a video clip.
Situational Awareness or knowing what is happening at the site, along with the expected activities and potential dangers. Early warning capability of providing alerts and notification before serious problems occur. The sooner you can identify potential breaches or risks, the stronger your protection will be. Recording all activity and capturing information to identify and prosecute offenders creates a significant deterrent against crime. Responsiveness of law enforcement with preparation and training to respond rapidly and appropriately when a video confirmed alarm occurs is the key to all remote guarding. In my opinion the best main-stream commercial/public affordable solution are VideoIQ’s intelligent video IP cameras and IP encoders. Their instant detection and notification of suspicious behavior, enabling guards to evaluate the situation and dispatch police immediately to prevent crime and keep city streets safe and secure.

Although this technology is more of an investment than the alarm systems video solutions above, for the money they offer superior quality and their patented, award winning adaptive analytics which are 100% self-calibrating and uniquely distinguish people, vehicles and boats from other objects such as: animals and scene movement, to deliver the highest accuracy in all weather and lighting conditions. Some Municipalities are looking at self-monitoring these systems with their own police dispatchers or auxiliary officers to observe some of their own critical infrastructures.

Typical Central Station Monitored Video Alarm Process
  1. Alarm signal is transmitted to a central station.
    1. In addition to receiving the alarm signal, the operator views a video clip associated with the event.
  2. Operator confirms if an intruder is present.
    1. Based on video clip, operator provides a “confirmed” alarm dispatch for law enforcement to act upon.
  3. The Operator can forward the video clip to the PSAP for review.
    1. Typically this is done via email to a specified email address created by the PSAP.
Priority Response – Greater Efficiency for “Free”
Local law enforcement agencies establish their own priority levels for dispatch to accomplish their mission and maximize their available resources. Because enhanced video alarms provide additional information, greater officer safety and improve the likelihood of arrests, they should be given a higher priority dispatch level than standard alarms. Law Enforcement’s formal support of Priority Response will motivate the Security Industry and Consumers to purchase enhanced video alarm systems. Over time the existing installed base will be upgraded and improve community life safety and Law Enforcement efficiency.

In fact, recently the Insurance Loss Control Association (ILCA) and Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) recently had the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) present at their annual meetings. The topic was rebuilding the insurance/alarm partnership. One proposal involves uniting insurers, law enforcement and security companies together at a county level to develop guidelines useful to underwriters for specific markets. Another proposal involved forming a security/insurer work group to analyze loss data for specific applications, such as construction, and create guidelines for minimum requirements needed to summon police response.

The alarm industry is working hard to reach out to insurance industry associations to educate members and solicit support in an attempt to resurrect a partnership that worked well in the past – security companies installed alarms, police made arrests, and insurers reduced losses. Today, Remote Guarding has crossed the chasm and is now being sold by security systems integrators in the mainstream security market. With systems integrators on the hunt for recurring monthly revenue (RMR) streams, remote video guarding has proven to be a lucrative business and an in-demand value-added service to the end-user community. Whether remote video guarding project is an un-manned town pumping station, high-risk residential community or a car dealership, video surveillance systems and voice over IP (VoIP)/Critical Communications over IP (CCoIP), sometimes with integrated access control systems can provide a seamless monitoring solution that gives better evidence and efficiencies for law enforcement and peace of mind for the end-user, who is in need of onsite security at an affordable price.

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