An emergency and service operation center faces many challenges in today's world. This guide explains which service operations center a modern alarm management platform is suitable for and gives you a guide for deciding for or against an alarm management platform. In this guide, learn what a modern alarm management platform must be able to do and which tool you can use for decision making. Subsequently, we will show you a step-by-step migration of the existing infrastructure into a modern alarm management platform.
Today's challenges for an operation center
Operation centers face a variety of challenges. Analog technology has disappeared, and the benefits of IP technology are changing how services are offered to customers. Let's take a look at the key challenges that need to be assessed individually for each operation center:
Changing customer behavior
Customers are becoming more digital overall. Customers want to define and control their processes with apps on their smartphones. But they also want to be informed more transparently when an alarm or irregularities occur. Customers also demand on-demand services, such as additional protection for vacation absences. Selected and booked with the app, of course. To improve their security operations, they also want to integrate other existing systems. Meanwhile, the number of activations is stagnating because intrusion detection systems are already controlled with apps that allow arming/disarming the system and sending alarms via push messages.
Communication with customers and installers
In most cases, communication with intervention service providers and installers is still done by phone or mail. Accessibility and logistics problems are inevitable in this process and often result in lengthy procedures and poor service quality.
Online sales channels
Today's customers gather information online before making a purchase decision. Therefore, being present on digital communication channels is a crucial success factor. Modern platforms offer such opportunities to pick up a potential customer at this level early to be advised professionally. One example is an intuitive digital questionnaire to help prospects get an idea of possible services.
Stagnating number of subscriptions
Traditional alarm management software is not designed for integration with third-party systems. As a result, it usually takes great effort to offer customers new services, leading to price pressure for "me too" services. Additional pressure to change is exerted by alarm systems that are intelligently controlled with apps. This situation can lead to stagnating subscriptions.
Successful security companies focus on a specific customer segment that they provide with a particular solution. To achieve the best benefit for the segment, they use an intelligent combination of different solutions, e.g., real-time intervention, mobile security, or intelligent monitoring of open spaces.
Good, qualified personnel
Another challenge is to find good, qualified employees and retain them in the long run. There are many reasons for this. Because a control center must operate 24/7, irregular working hours are a stress factor as the many repetitive tasks completed in a control center and, unfortunately, do not promote job attractiveness. In addition, there is a high-stress factor triggered by the large number of false alarms, often caused by misconfigured or incompatible systems.
Manual and repetitive activities
Alarm management today is often performed manually. All core processes such as commissioning and configuring a new subscription, alarm verification, and triggering an intervention are not at all, or only partially, automated. This generates costs that could be avoided.
High false alarm rate
The number of false alarms is up to 95% of all alarms received in an operations center. False alarms occur because alarm devices are not positioned correctly, or alarm systems are misconfigured. False alarms are a well-known problem in the security industry that an operations center faces daily.
The security industry is becoming increasingly heterogeneous. Various systems such as video, access control, intercoms, intrusion detection systems, or fire alarm systems must be integrated into the alarm management system. This requires a variety of interfaces and protocols for receiving and processing alarm messages. The development of interfaces or protocols is demanding and time-consuming. It is common for a new integration to take up to 9 months to be included in the production alarm system. Therefore, management should always carefully consider whether acquiring an additional receiver is worthwhile.
Due to changing customer requirements, the complexity of the overall system is increasing exponentially. In an operations center, several different systems from different manufacturers must be harmonized to provide service to the customer. The high system complexity is particularly noticeable in troubleshooting, as it quickly takes days to find and fix the causes. The basis for the excellent functioning of the systems in the operation of a secure and highly available data center by highly qualified personnel.
Here's a visual representation of today's critical challenges for an emergency call and service dispatch center. If your operations center is also facing some of these challenges, this guide will help you overcome them.
How does a modern alarm management platform work?
Modern platforms are explicitly developed for operation in the cloud. There is a big difference between systems specifically designed to operate in the cloud and those that are not. Migrating a classic system to the cloud without an architectural change usually offers few benefits and is rarely cost-effective. Cloud-native platforms have an architecture tailored to the cloud. In terms of security, availability, scalability, resilience, and cost offer significant advantages to the security industry. The platform operator assumes responsibility for it and handles all operational activities.
A software-as-a-service business model provides essential elements such as new functions, protocols, and interfaces for new systems. Availability is high because a cloud-native architecture can provide multiple redundancies. Data centers are operated by professional service providers who employ thousands of highly skilled people who do nothing but ensure the availability and security of data. The platforms are highly scalable, and operations centers no longer have to worry about the number of connections.
Interactions with customers or installers are managed through digital portals, as the alarm management platform is the single source of truth. Information is readable or changeable on a role-based basis at any time. All processes such as booking, billing, or presentation of the services provided are mapped with the alarm management platform. Technicians have a whole range of valuable tools at their disposal to efficiently connect and maintain the systems.
Marketplace for security systems
Modern platforms come with a marketplace that enables integrations with various third-party systems and presents the functions and benefits to facilitate the selection of suitable methods. Instructions will show you how to successfully connect to the alarm management platform yourself in just a few minutes. Platform operators perform various integrations with third-party systems that make sense for a control center.
Alarms can be automatically verified due to intelligent action plans - in case of a real alarm, the right teams can then be informed in real-time with the critical content. Especially text/voice or video analysis functions offer entirely new possibilities for automation.
Alarm management platforms forward alarm when the protection of people or assets is at risk. Certification institutes regularly test critical processes against standards so that control centers can be confident that the platform is running smoothly.
The following certifications are recommended:
- EN50136-1 Alarm transmission
- EN50136-3 Alarm reception
- EN50518 Annex C Control center standard
- ISO 27001 Information Security
Here is an overview of a modern alarm management platform based on the value chain.
Decision support for operation centers
As the person responsible for a control center, it is not easy to decide for or against a cloud-native alarm management platform. The importance/urgency matrix of identified challenges can provide information.
The challenge matrix is divided into four fields.
The control center is aware of the challenges, but they are neither urgently addressed nor prioritized.
These challenges are not critical to success but should be addressed by the operational team due to their urgency.
The control center is aware of the challenges. However, since they are not considered urgent, they are not addressed.
The challenges were classified as overcome based on their importance and urgency. Operational challenges can be identified because work is already underway to resolve some of them.
Essential indicators that indicate choosing alarm management platforms are the number of passive and active challenges. The more such challenges need to be addressed, the more suitable cloud-native platforms are, as quick successes are achieved at high quality without significant investments. The critical and urgent challenges are solved sustainably. This means that a control center is well equipped for the future because changing customer needs can be met.
Tip 1: Cost comparison
Exact cost comparison between on-premises systems and alarm management platforms is not possible, as the total costs of an operations center would have to be compared with the services provided by a platform. In many cases, the total cost is not available. As a rule, operations centers with up to 5,000 connections save costs for innovations and neglect the systems' life cycles. The entire infrastructure is built for security companies with multiple operations centers for each control center. Compared to a platform structure, this is a costly option.
Tip #1: A cost comparison should always be based on the total cost.
Tip 2: Cloud opponents
Many people are cloud opponents for various reasons, some of which are understandable. Nevertheless, the number of cloud proponents is steadily increasing because the advantages over conventional systems massively outweigh the disadvantages. Customers particularly appreciate the greater convenience, better quality, and transparency.
Tip #2: Go with the trend.
Tip 3: Demo access to the platform
Modern alarm management platforms are browser-based. No hardware is needed as cloud providers power them. This means that demo access to the platform can be set up within minutes. This is the best way to get a first non-binding and undisturbed insight into an outlet.
Tip #3: Try the solution yourself.
Tip 4: Obtain references
Operation centers that already rely on alarm management platforms provide neutral information about the platform itself and the cooperation with the platform service provider, which is an additional source of information.
Tip #4: Read customer stories.
Different migration approaches are recommended depending on the operations center. The easiest way is to set up a new operations center for a security sector company. These may be security services or installers who wish to offer the alarm management process to their customers.
Step 1: Analysis of the service
As a first step, it is essential to understand what services are offered to a customer segment. The most successful ones focus on a few benefits: mobile security with video towers, video surveillance of large open spaces, or best-in-class, real-time interventions using audio response.
Step 2: Edit the challenge-matrix
The platform service provider can now develop a specific implementation plan based on the challenging matrix. Modern platforms have a modular design that can be highly customized to meet the needs of an operations center. Here is an example.
The figure shows that the alarm management platform is divided into three modules: alarm reception, alarm management, and alarm dispatcher. The platform can be deployed as a complete ecosystem. The use of individual modules in an existing system landscape is also possible. One possible approach is, for example, to modernize the alarm acceptance system and link the alarms to the current alarm system with the alarm dispatcher.
Depending on the task to be solved, using the alarm management module and integrating the existing alarm receivers may make more sense.
Step 3: Joint implementation
Depending on the implementation plan, it may be necessary to transfer master data. This can usually be done automatically. Alternatively, a PDF scanner can be used to avoid having to enter the data manually. Action plans are recreated with templates to apply automation capabilities. The joint implementation will be built directly into the training courses so that they can work autonomously with the alarm management platform.
Step 4: Optimization during operation
After implementation, some processes still need to be optimized. This will only be determined gradually in ongoing operations. As modern platforms are data-driven, interesting insights are emerging on how to make processes even more efficient.
Step 5: Support from the operator
The platform service provider is expected to provide competent and quick support in case of questions.
The listed challenges of a control center are manifold because customer needs are constantly changing. A rigorous guide helps prioritize challenges and supports the decision-making process. There are five essential points to consider when transforming a service operation center into an alarm management platform:
- Modern alarm management platforms can help address and solve the earlier challenges.
- Control centers focus on their core competencies and leave the operation to the selected partner.
- The challenge matrix is a decision support tool to determine if an alarm management platform is a right approach.
- Platform modules can be used for different scenarios, and a migration to control centers can be designed individually and according to the level.
- Migration is always a joint approach with the partner.