Don't Miss The Next Big Thing In VMS
By Jay McCall
This large managed services provider differentiates itself from competitors by integrating video management software (VMS) with alarm systems and physical security services.
It’s a well-established fact within the security industry that 98 percent of alarms are false. The downside of this statistic is that it can easily lull law enforcement into delaying responses to the 2 percent of alarms that are triggered by legitimate intruders/burglars. Interface Security Systems Holdings (Interface), which was ranked as the 7th largest security provider last year in SDM Magazine based on nonresidential installations, knows this statistic well. By integrating VMS with alarm systems and other physical security services, the MSP is turning the false alarm statistic on its head and reducing its customers’ alarm dispatch rate to just 2 percent, saving its customers thousands of dollars on false alarm fees. During my recent interview with Interface Executive Vice President, Chuck Moeling, he described how innovative security services are helping clients in new ways, and by following a few key steps and avoiding common pitfalls, other MSPs can benefit from selling these solutions, too.
Video Verifiable Alarm Systems Are A Must-Have For Your Retail Clients
Traditionally, if a retailer’s alarm system was tripped, the alarm service company would call the local contact to confirm whether the problem is real. If the store contact didn’t respond to the alarm company’s call or couldn’t answer the security question correctly, the alarm company would contact the local police, who would then follow up to further investigate the situation. Because 98 percent of alarms dispatched to police are false, unverified alarms are treated with less urgency by law enforcement, further reducing the opportunity to catch an actual intruder.
If the above scenario turned out to be a true robbery, the police would work with the business owner to try to examine any video footage captured during the time the alarm was triggered in hopes of helping investigators get a positive ID on a suspect. More often than not, poor quality video images or cameras not pointed in the right area offer police very little help.
By integrating IP video cameras with alarm systems and remote video command center services, Interface solves the false-alarm problem described earlier with a solution it calls Video Verification. In this scenario, as soon as the alarm is triggered, a remote intervention specialist is alerted and able to view the live camera footage. Additionally, the specialist can remotely control the retailer’s cameras to find out what event may have set off the alarm. “If an intervention specialist needs to contact police, not only do the police respond more quickly because they know the situation has already been verified, but also the specialist is often able to share very specific details about the suspects and their getaway vehicles, which makes it easier for police to find and apprehend the criminals,” says Moeling.
Reduce Customers’ Security Costs With Virtual Guard Services
Many retailers now use security guards as supplements to video cameras and alarm systems to provide further protection for employees and clients. Interface has found that advances in VMS, such as facial recognition technology and two-way audio communication, can reduce — and sometimes eliminate — the need for security guards. “One retail submarket we’re seeing a growing interest in this offering is jewelry,” says Moeling. “Using our virtual guard solution, customers receive a two-way audio device that allows us to interact directly with the premise when a signal/ event is received. For example, we use this system to perform random or scheduled facility tours and store operations audits, escort employees from the store to their vehicles, and even [perform] voice downs when necessary.” For example, if a jewelry store manager is closing the store at night, the intervention specialist can follow the manager via the security cameras and send an audible security notice if he sees any suspicious activity. “What’s nice about this service is that because of the way it uses remote monitoring technology, we can provide 24/7 intelligent monitoring and response services at a fraction of what a retailer would pay to have a guard on premise for just one shift,” says Moeling.
Chuck Moeling, executive vice president, Interface Security Systems
Interface is also seeing a trend whereby marketing professionals are eager to learn about how video can integrate with other location-based devices, like mobile, to give them meaningful demographic information that helps them tailor their marketing strategies more effectively. “Operations professionals are also using VMS to audit their employees more frequently and cost effectively, and they can use VMS to monitor store processes and other operational functions, too,” he says.
VMS services like those described above now drive a meaningful percentage of Interface’s revenue. The MSP has learned over the years, too, that there are a few key steps to follow and pitfalls to avoid before an MSP can successfully sell these solutions.
Why Don’t We See More Intelligent Video Services?
Over the last few years, Interface has noticed a widening gap between the technology that’s now available and what the experts know about it. “I gave a talk at a physical security event in Las Vegas that included multiple loss prevention experts and law enforcement officials in the audience,” says Moeling. “I was surprised to hear how few alarms are dispatched using a video verifiable alarm system right now.”
The event was a reminder to Moeling that there’s a lot of education needed to make loss prevention experts aware of how these solutions can protect businesses and people from a variety of security threats. And, that’s one reason Interface puts so much emphasis on demonstrating the technology to prospective clients. “Once we’ve established a prospect’s VMS needs, we try to secure one of their facilities where we can demonstrate the product/service and show them the value and ROI they’re expecting,” says Moeling. “We often will dedicate several internal resources to the pilot or proof of concept. Additionally, we believe a critical part of the sales process entails conducting a customer visit to our central command center [CCC]. Few things are more powerful than seeing the VMS services first hand in our monitoring facilities.”
Moeling says this is especially important when the MSP is selling its virtual guard services so that it can persuasively back up its claims that it can replace a prospect’s physical guards. In fact, even before it attempts to schedule a tour of its CCC with these prospects, it makes sure to have a customer endorsement prepared ahead of time.
“Even though retailers can be very competitive with one another, we’ve found that when it comes to loss prevention and security, the rules are very different,” says Moeling. “For example, one jewelry retailer that’s experienced the benefits of one of our security solutions will gladly serve as a reference for another jewelry prospect considering a similar solution because thwarting crime puts otherwise competitors on the same team.”
Don’t Make Connectivity An Afterthought
When it comes to helping retailers and other businesses identify theft and other suspicious behavior, image resolution and clarity are top priorities. It’s not good enough, for example, to show law enforcement officials grainy video footage of a thief wearing a black or blue ball cap and a reddish colored pullover, and escaping in a green or blue vehicle. “Being able to identify a specific colored ball cap, emblems/logos on shirts, scars or tattoos on the person’s face or body, and specific vehicle makes and models is much more useful at helping law enforcement officials catch bad guys,” says Moeling. To achieve this level of detail, Moeling says that VARs and MSPs need to use the latest IP video cameras, but they also need to account for the bandwidth consumption of these devices. “Too often we see the negative ramifications that follow when businesses pair high resolution IP video cameras with inadequate bandwidth,” he says. “The ability to remotely monitor feeds in real time is severely compromised and can completely negate the benefits of coupling intelligent VMS solutions with these high-end cameras. It’s like having an expensive Ferrari and driving it on a dirt road. This is a key reason Interface bundles the broadband along with its VMS. “It enables us to proactively monitor the state of our broadband connection to a VMS and ensure that we don’t have bandwidth issues that could interfere with the effectiveness of the video solution,” notes Moeling.
Before a service provider recommends a specific IP video surveillance system, Interface says that it’s imperative to first understand the wide area networking capabilities available at the client’s location. “Keep in mind, that even if a business is located in a rural area without the latest fiber optic connectivity, it doesn’t mean it can’t use a high-end IP video surveillance system,” says Moeling. In fact, Interface helps its rural clients address this problem in multiple ways. One of the first things it does is to use a 3xLOGIC VMS, which enables realtime compression of the video stream (see sidebar on page 18 to learn more about Interface’s partnership with 3xLOGIC). “In many instances, we’ll configure the video management system to only transmit data over the wide area network if the motion detector alarm is triggered or another exception is reached, such as the temperature in a refrigerator has exceeded 60 degrees.” Interface is also finding 4G cellular wireless networks can serve as viable backhauls for rural clients if video compression is used and the system is properly configured to use the cellular backhaul only when special exceptions or thresholds are met.
Even if your physical security managed services practice doesn’t currently serve more than 100,000 customers as Interface’s does, or maybe you don’t have a network of thousands of certified technicians on call as they do, and maybe you also don’t own two UL (Underwriters Laboratories) Five Diamond CSAA (Central Station Alarm Association) Certified secure operations and monitoring centers, you can still provide many of the same value-added solutions and services Interface does by partnering with other service providers or a value-added distributor. What’s important is that your company serves as the trusted business advisor that brings these solutions and services together and serves as a single point of contact that can shrink customers’ false alarm occurrences by as much as 96 percent — and grow your revenue in the process.