Simplisafe Has Lower False Alarm Rates Than Professional Systems

By: John Honovich, Published on Mar 01, 2017

'Everybody' 'knows' that DIY alarm systems, like Simplisafe, generate more false alarms than traditional, professionally installed ones.

But it is evidently false, as two executives in the know from large central stations explained to IPVM.

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  • ****** ***** ***** ************ features ****** ** ***** systems *** **** *** users ** **** ***** alarms ****** *** ******* station ***** ** ****** them.

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Comments (28)

Why is this? Less detectors? Better kit? 

Or for example could they using a high pir pulse count.:)

I would think that the ability for a user to acknowledge and cancel an alarm via a push notification to a phone would be a very likely reason some of the false alarm rates are so much lower. That coupled with the fact that users that are likely to buy a DIY kit and actually take the time and effort to install it themselves are going to be the users that are more likely to utilize the system properly, thus reducing false alarms as well.

Frankly, it's a bit of waste of everyone's time to even acknowledge such claims.  I sincerely hope you took the time to establish the definition of "false alarm" to begin with?   Certainly user errors / false dispatches are not false alarms.  System did exactly what it was designed to do.

I am not an expert on this system & have little interests in it.  But typical systems similar to these, have you noticed they never brag about how well they detect?  

What I do thank these platforms is, to bring up security awareness to consumers that its about time they get serious about securing their premises.  Now, Its just a choice between the Pro's & the DIY Amateurs   No one needs to worry we are going out of business soon.   Crooks are very creative and tenacious 

I don't think it is a waste of anyone's time to acknowledge that these claims are being made. If they are untrue, then it is an important bit of information for the "pros" to know and to communicate to their potential customers; if they are true, then the industry should make sure to utilize any of the lessons learned from that to try and spread those features into our systems as well. 

 

Just because it was user error or false dispatch doesn't mean that we as an industry can just look at it and say "well our hardware did what we built it to do, nothing to see here." False alarms (from whatever cause, be it equipment failure or user error) still take up resources at the call centers (and raise prices there because of it) and dispatch police (and either fine home/business owners, or risk police being less mindful when responding to alarm systems). Both of those potential impacts have a huge bearing on our industry, so if it is user error or false dispatches that are causing a noticeable percentage, then it is on us as integrator and on the manufacturers to make sure that the equipment takes that into consideration and actively works to minimize them so that alarm dispatches can be taken seriously again. 

These are from two separate central station monitoring companies, and the definition of false alarm they used was whether they would have attempted to dispatch police or not. We in the industry can say "oh, not our problem, user error". But if in fact this DIY system has a lower incidence of user error, then we should probably wonder why, and what we can learn from it.

Related.

The big thing in DIY systems I'm seeing is that a lot of them are mobile phone driven, with the phone the main (or only) interface to the system.

Because of this, you can do things like confirm before dispatch via the app. For example, looking at Dragonfly during testing yesterday, when an event is triggered, you get this:

You can immediately dismiss it or disarm the zone, or dispatch if it's real. So nuisance alarms can be eliminated before they go to the central. If the user doesn't answer? It goes to dispatch automatically.

This seems like the modern evolution of companies calling before dispatch. Does that not routinely happen anymore? That would seemingly eliminate user error (wrong code, lack of training, etc.) as well. 

This seems like the modern evolution of companies calling before dispatch.

Most centrals use verification (calling before dispatching police). SIAC is pushing what they call Enhanced Call Verification (calling two numbers instead of one before dispatching police). Some municipalities mandate ECV, and I believe ECV is mandatory statewide in Florida. 

DMP has an app that pushes notification to the subscriber's smartphone that will allow them to confirm an alarm, including video if they have it. 

I don't know that what effect ECV actually has on false alarm rates. 

If there ist a timeframe between the alarm and the transmission, the burgler has also this time to smash the system from the wall and prevent a later transmission? So it is less secure but mor fals alarm secure?

Its better known as - Training.  DIY can't train themselves.  You can't train on what you don't know.  We have techs that read the manuals last.  Its more human nature

I think that you also have a large demographic that are interested in buying a DIY system...because they are technical enough to feel comfortable with the installation process...which also means that they are more comfortable with the system...thus more understanding of how it works and why. Therefore less likely to accidentally set it off. Plus the modern features of an App based Verification Filter should provide lots of opportunity to cancel the false alarms before they are communicated all the way to the C.S.  Just my hunch.  

I believe people who feel confident enough to DIY a home alarm system also have a better comprehension of electronics and the manuals for many DIY systems provide enough information to install them properly.

Sounds like there are a lot disenfranchised home system dealers with sour dispositions still trying to tell the public that DIY security systems are no good. As mentioned before, most motion sensors are greatly improved over those installed in the past. And the preponderance of phone interfaces now provide the owner with decision making capacity they never had with old systems.

This is why it behooves us to reach out to the older system owners and up sell and upgrade. I do this and it works. I have seen some of the DYI installs and there is no rime or reason for some of these device placements. More education and good customer service can go along way.

This article addresses "false positives".

How does the Simplisafe system do for "false negatives" (not detecting something when it should)?

How do other systems do for "false negatives"?

How does the Simplisafe system do for "false negatives" (not detecting something when it should)?

Craig, that's a good point / question. We don't have enough information to make a claim on that one way or the other.

John - I think one more piece of information that is crucial is needed. Usage rates.

In a prior life I designed, manufactured and sold for a high end European company burg/fire equipment for commercial applications. People who pay good money for a system use it. DIY people, I assert, have the emotion, but not the commitment.

I'd like to see arm/disarm (we used to call these openings/closings) rates for DIY vs professionally sold/installed.

If the DIY are "using" the system at the same rates as professional systems then all the potential reasons for lower rates become valid. My hunch is that the DIY group has a system, but don't actually use them as much. Thus, lower false alarm rates.

But really... where are the statistics for this and how are they measured? 

But really... where are the statistics for this and how are they measured?

The two people commenting on this run central stations, and make their money on pricing / handling such issues, so presumably they know how to calculate these statistics.

What is the skepticism here?

So my skepticism is in the fact that there is no real test environments here. Is it simply being assumed based on what the central stations are receiving in calls. 

What I'm trying to understand is how they came to this statistic.  What was the criteria used?  For example, did they compare 1000 accounts from each comparable group in order to determine the number of false alarms?  If not, then how did they reach this conclusion?  To me it seems the variables are wide to make a solid comparison because there is a number of varying units deployed that could be aged compared to Simplisafe.  I just think the criteria has to be the same or nearly the same in order to make a real determination.

"But really... where are the statistics for this and how are they measured?"

 - "What is the skepticism here?"

Any statistical measurement attempting to discern a 'false negative' would need a comparative entity that uses the same or similar tech (like another camera that uses motion detection).  Think 'shoot out'.  A comparative study of two or more things.

And for the record, the use of 'false negative' to describe a lower-performing device (in comparison to any other device) is troubling to me... it is a bad descriptor imo.

 

Thanks #3... I didn't see your response before but that was exactly what I was trying to say.

This article is certainly contentious amongst the alarm system integrators.  Not being one myself I am wondering if the capability to, via phone, set it to ignore an alarm is the key differentiator.  If that is the case, do all alarm systems not have this capability?  If they do are they just not setup that often due to difficulty?

I cannot begin to count how many times I am at the office when our alarm arms, I set it off, I have head phones on, miss the call and faint beeping from several rooms away.  The folks on the escalation list are called.  They know I am there and tell the agency to stand down.  This would be a nice feature for those of us with company phones to have.

I am not buying this, the police chiefs hate DIY because of the false alarms.

Just looking at the equipment which is not UL listed tells me your going to have false alarms due to the low level of technology that is used. Compared to professional manufacturer's equipment which is designed to UL standards, recognized to provide more secure installations with less false alarms.

A good example is the PIR which doesn't even have a pigmented lens to withstand white light which is a major source of false alarms and a UL requirement.

Should we all stop buying Honeywell and Bosch products and start buying China made DIY to install, I think not.

 

I am not buying this, the police chiefs hate DIY because of the false alarms.

Larry, any chiefs you can put us in touch with?

Any theory about why these 2 executives would say this if it is completely false as you are implying?

Larry - are you the same LT that ran Radionics?

Yes

 

I have spoken with a lot of monitoring station owners, and surprisingly they do not measure their statistics about false alarms. Why? Because they have to call the premises the next day and confirm the outcome - I am not aware of anyone doing this, so the industry accepts the police figures. We started doing this in Dec and the first few data points appear significantly different than the usual number quoted of 98%. I would rather not say, I need more data.  

I believe Cops and Rapid are seeing a difference - what I think though they are measuring is the alarm factor: number of police dispatches compared to the number of accounts in these two classes of accounts. Typically the industry tracks the number of police dispatches compared against the respective number of residential and commercial accounts. typically commercial has more alarms per system than residential. Now there is a 3rd demographic DIY, perhaps this is what they are seeing. There is a great deal of variation between the number of system/100,000 people and number of alarms per system (IMHO) depending on the differences in the regulations in the jurisdictions and the execution on the regulations. 

For example, here are 12 month stats for 3 cities in 3 countries:

Phoenix from 2012 - pop 1.5m

34,691 police dispatches on 147,623 registered systems, n/a false

Calgary for 2016 - pop 1.39m

7,110 police dispatches on 144,966 registered systems, 95.7% false

Metropolitan London for 2013/2014 - pop 13.7m

14,781 police dispatches on 164,105 registered systems, 96.6% false

There are two stories in the above statistics: Why does Calgary have so few police dispatches compared to Phoenix?, and Why so few alarm systems in London,UK? 

 

A system that doesn't work doesn't give any false alarms either... 

I have sen some of these DIY systems installed by the homeowner and it is just scary, wrong position of contacts, motion detectors and such. I make sure that my customer is fully involved with the install of my systems and how they operate. I also push for the interactive use of their phone. The customers that use the phone option, do not have that many false alarms. There is plenty of work out there and we can't do it all. More people are using the internet to buy and obtain instructions for the work they are doing. Some are misleading and some work out ok. We as professionals just need to be there to help when we can and sometimes this works into another job for us. 

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