Alarms - Third Leg Or Third Rail

To be certain, alarms are not all we do here, but to me, it is an integral part of the security equation. I view alarms, the actual burglar side of things to be the third leg of the security stool. I have seen for years now that there is very little merger or acquistion that includes that part of the stool. It goes on, year after year relatively untouched by these mega mergers. It goes on, year after year, relatively untouched by integration. Why is it that roughly one third of anyone's security platform gets so little notice or inclusion?


My experience as an integrator was that video and access was one world while alarms were another. That said, quite a number of people do all three but, more often there seems to be a separation between the companies that do video/access and those that do alarms.

My suspicion is that it has do to with:

  • Different customer focus - video/access integrators focus on larger customers who want / willing to pay for those systems. Home / SMB seems to be more alarm centric (historically at least).
  • Different business models - alarm companies seem extremely RMR focus will video/access integrators tend to hunt for big projects.

What do you think? What have you seen?

I know that we have poached clients from other RMR style companies in the past and will likely continue to do so. The outlandish pricing these firms charge for video is just crazy. The only benefit we have seen, and it hardly is one, the alarm center can check your cams for false burglar alarms. But this isn't common or even really needed by most clients. They would rather own the equipment outright and pay once. They hate RMR payments.

That said, we don't do alarms.

I agree with your business model assessment. The residential market is completly different than the business side. In some firms they are a separate entity altogether. It would seem to me that manufacturers could care less about integrating alarm equipment into their platforms, with the exception of Bosch. I don't get that at all.

Until recently with home automation, there was no place for video or access in the home markts. There really is little now either. But on the other side, there is a tremendous market for alarm integration for a business (at least I think so). In my discussions with various manufacturers, there is little to no interest at all. They seem to miss the fact that they are not offering a completely integrated platform.

To be fair, one could argue that the alarms business is going through a renaissance. It's just happening at a dance the incumbents haven't been invited to. :)

Home automation has really kicked things off. The line is already blurred between convenience and security for many platforms. Just a few recent examples:

There are many other examples to list here that we or others have written updates about.

I also believe that integration is coming. Take a look at the fascination the developer community has with IFTTT and you'll see a glimpse of this. Platforms like SmartThings are gaining huge traction among developers, and you're seeing the beginnings of frameworks being agreed on by the larger community.

I agree that intrusion is largely ignored by access and video, partly because the incumbent intrusion companies are getting bypassed by a changing market they've had little participation in. The 'traditional alarms market' is toast. While residential focused now, I see very little that prevents commercial market diversification/focus and success for some of these new 'up & comers'.

The disconnect here: The major force of change in alarms are not the familiar companies/business models of years ago.

I'm going to agree with Brian. Most of the innovation in intrusion is going to the home market. I've been using SmartThings at home for about 6 months, and come version 2 of their hub, if all promises are kept, it's going to be an integrated video/access/intrusion/fire/energy/sound system. They're adding streaming video (currently just snapshots), more lock options (bluetooth instead of just Z-Wave keypad), and real central station monitoring plans. Meanwhile, integrators have had trouble selling even video and access integration for years. It's only a matter of time until savvy small business owners realize they can buy one of these systems, too.

When I was an integrator I personally enjoyed intrusion design. It wasn't our core business, and we didn't sell very many standalone systems because others who sold alarms first and other systems second beat us on margins a lot (though we killed them on monitoring). But we were able to roll it into a lot of integrated systems. When you're already spending tens of thousands on video and access, adding intrusion for a parts cost in the hundreds isn't as difficult to sell.

"It goes on, year after year, relatively untouched by integration. Why is it that roughly one third of anyone's security platform gets so little notice or inclusion?"

Hi Mark,

By this do you mean "relatively untouched by acquisitions/mergers" or are you talking about actual integrations and technical advances in integrations with other products?

Sorry for the delay. I am talking about actual integration with other products. We all have access to vendors websites. Go to the VMS vendor of your choice and they will list all the Access Control vendors they integrate with. Not so much with alarm products.

Once video analytics can deliver credible and reliable alarms, the markets should have more reason to integrate.

That is a true statement Horace, and I agree with you. But that goes to the heart of my question actually. From all outward appearances, there is little to no effort to deliver that credibility. Analytics seems to be focused on integrating big data. Once again, many companies all vying for a scrap of the same market share. There is little in the way of thinking outside the box.

License plate recognition, traffic flow (all kinds) and inventory management is being done by everyone. Analytics companies all trying to split the same piece of pie. There are any number of ways to make SECURITY data useful that are not being addressed. Analytics has been on the market for quite a few years now. When will we get to it? Ever?