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A guide to the digital transformation of emergency and service operation centers

There is a whole range of challenges that an emergency and service operation center faces in today's world. This guide explains which service operations centers a modern alarm management platform is suitable for and gives you a guide for deciding for or against an alarm management platform.

By reading this guide, you will 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. 

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Today's challenges for an operation center

Operation centers face a variety of challenges. Analog technology has all but disappeared, and the benefits of IP technology are changing the way 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 there is an alarm or irregularities occur. Customers are also demanding 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 be able 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 by 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 at an early stage so that they can then 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 a great deal of effort to offer customers new services, which also leads 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 specific solution. To achieve the best benefit for the respective 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 as much a stress factor as the many repetitive tasks that must be 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 mismatched 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 configured incorrectly. False alarms are a well-known problem in the security industry that an operations center faces on a daily basis.

System integrations

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 the acquisition of an additional receiver is also worthwhile.

System complexity

Due to changing customer requirements, the complexity of the overall system is increasing exponentially. In an operations center, there are often several different systems from different manufacturers that must be harmonized with each other in order 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 good functioning of the systems is the operation of a secure and highly available data center by highly qualified personnel.

Here's a visual representation of what we see as the key challenges of an emergency call and service dispatch center today. If your operations center is also facing some of these challenges, this guide is sure to help you overcome them.

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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 that are 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, they offer significant advantages to the security industry. The operator of the platform assumes responsibility for it and handles all operational activities.

Platform Management

All essential elements such as new functions, protocols, and interfaces for new systems are continuously provided in a software-as-a-service business model. 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.

Communication portals

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 of services, billing or presentation of the services provided are mapped with the alarm management platform. Technicians have a whole range of useful 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 clearly presents the functions and benefits to facilitate the selection of suitable systems. Instructions will show you how to successfully connect to the alarm management platform yourself in just a few minutes. Platform operators take care of a variety of integrations with third-party systems that make sense for a control center.

Automation

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.

Certificates

Alarm management platforms forward alarms 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.

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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 4 fields.

Latent challenges

The control center is aware of the challenges, but they are neither urgently addressed nor prioritized. 

Operational challenges

These challenges are not critical to success but should be addressed by the operational team due to their urgency.

Passive challenges

The control center is aware of the challenges. However, since they are not considered urgent, they are not addressed. 

Active challenges

The challenges were classified as to be overcome on the basis of their importance and urgency. Active challenges can be identified by the fact that work is already underway to resolve some of them.

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Important 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 large investments. The important 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.

Extra tips

Tip 1: Cost comparison

An 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. For security companies with multiple operations centers, the entire infrastructure is built for each control center. Compared to a platform structure, this is a very expensive option.

Tip #1: A cost comparison should always be based on the total cost.

Tip 2: Cloud opponents

There are many people who are cloud opponents for various reasons, some of which are understandable. Nevertheless, we see that the number of cloud proponents is steadily increasing, which is due to the fact that 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 they are powered by cloud providers. 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 a platform.

Tip #3: Try the solution yourself.

Try evalink talos for free for 30 days

Tip 4: Obtain references

Operation centers that already rely on alarm management platforms provide neutral information about the platform itself but also about the cooperation with the platform service provider which is an additional source of information.

Tip #4: Read customer stories.

PLANPROTECT and evalink talos

Protectas and evalink talos

Secontec and evalink talos

Migration approaches

Different migration approaches are recommended depending on the operations center. The easiest way to do this is for a security sector company to set up a new operations center. 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 important to understand what services are offered to a customer segment. The most successful ones focus on one or a few services, such as 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

Based on the challenge matrix, a specific implementation plan can now be developed in cooperation with the platform service provider. Modern platforms have a modular design that can be highly customized to meet the needs of an operations center. Here is an example.

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The figure shows that the alarm management platform is basically 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 existing 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, there are processes that 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.

Takeaways:

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 5 essential points to consider when transforming a service operation center into an alarm management platform:

  • Modern alarm management platforms can help to address and solve the challenges addressed earlier. 
  • 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 the right approach. 
  • There are platform modules that can be used for different scenarios and a migration to control centers can be designed individually and according to the level. 
  • A migration is always a joint approach with the partner.