Monitoring Europe: A Survey of the European Alarm Monitoring Market
Having been passionate about alarms and monitoring systems since 1995, Daniel Kaminski knows about new technologies and market interests. Since 1998, he has shared his knowledge, as an editor, with the Polish readers of Zabezpienczenia. As a guest editor of GIT SECURITY, he now presents his research about the main monitoring stations in Europe to the international audience.
Recently I was asked by one of the largest Polish security service providers (in the top 3 nationally) to collect information on the main central monitoring stations in Europe. The company was thinking of changing its monitoring software and was interested in finding out which solutions the major European alarm monitoring companies were using.
This task was quite challenging given that there is very little data available on the European alarm monitoring market compared to the market in the United States, where the data is easily accessible. Therefore, in this article I will present the information I gathered during the interviews I had with the chief executives of the main European monitoring stations and their software and hardware suppliers headquartered in Europe.
In the U.S monitoring services were first offered over 140 years ago. These days there are even a few US monitoring stations that are capable of and are currently tasked with monitoring over a million connections each. There are professional industry associations that provide information on these companies, certify them and then release service providers’ rankings. However, my research has been limited to companies headquartered solely in Europe, mainly due to time zone differences, slower response times and onsite support costs.
In Poland alarm monitoring services were first introduced only 25 years ago, but since then, both the transmission channels and the actual handling and management of alarms have both significantly changed. As a result, today the largest Polish monitoring station handles more than 100,000 connections alone, and the following top two have reached more than 50 thousand monitored connections each.
In Europe, however, the monitoring stations have offered their services for many decades.
The leading monitoring stations have more than 500,000 monitored connections. Such stations typically employ around 200 operators per shift. Nevertheless, there are only few of them. For most monitoring stations, reaching the significant figure of 100,000 connections can be extremely difficult to manage. As a consequence, only around 20 European monitoring stations attain this number. These are located in: Spain, France, UK, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Turkey and…Poland!
The countries with the largest monitoring stations
Sweden is the country where 110 years ago the first European security companies were created. Securitas, Sector Alarm and Verisure are the leaders in Sweden. They also dominate the Norwegian market.
The largest monitoring stations sited in Europe are located in Spain. They belong to two companies: Verisure and Prosegur. ADT is also worth a mention here as another company with the magical number of over 100,000 connections monitored.
The European country with the largest monitoring market is France. There are six monitoring stations each with over 100,000 connections. In this region the leading companies are EPS, Verisure, Prosegur, Delta ADT and Stanley. Interestingly, France is the only country globally that has established a statutory minimum wage for security industry employees.
In my view, the Netherlands provides the most advanced monitoring services. There are three monitoring stations protecting around 100,000 objects. These stations are managed by UTC (SMC), Securitas and Trigion. The Netherlands is one of the four countries in Europe, along with Spain, UK and France, where alarm verification is obligatory to decrease the number of interventions due to false alarms.
The UK is another country with the substantial monitoring stations. Chubb(UTC), ADT(TYCO) and G4S are the main players on domestic market. A British particularity is their preference to stick to well-known and proven solutions. For this reason, the landline telephone is the most widely used transmission channel, therefore GSM only has a minor market share.
International Activity – Linguistically Compatible Regions
It should be pointed out that some of the largest monitoring stations are present in more than one country. Linguistically and historically, we distinguish three major regions:
Scandinavia: Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland
Benelux: The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg
Iberia: Spain and Portugal.
In the Scandinavian countries the biggest players optimize their costs by running the main monitoring station in one country and a backup monitoring station in another. For instance, Sector Alarm has the main station in Norway and a backup station in Sweden. The Stanley Security or Securitas have a similar strategy.
Scandinavian Securitas is the oldest security company in Europe and one of the biggest in the world. It has a presence in almost all the countries of Europe which enables it to provide monitoring services to more than 600,000 connections at a continental level.
It should be noted that Securitas has played a significant role in the history of alarm monitoring in Europe – G4S (former Group4) and Verisure (former Securitas Direct) are both descendants of Securitas.
G4S‘ largest monitoring stations are located in Denmark, Holland, Belgium and in the UK. G4S monitors more than 400,000 sites across Europe. However, in the last few years, the company has withdrawn from some countries, including Sweden, Norway, Finland, Germany and Poland.
When Securitas Direct (Verisure) was established in1988, it first handled alarms from small sites (individual customers, small business and SOHO). In 2006 the company went public and in 2008 was recapitalized by the EQT investment fund. Since then, the company has been implementing aggressive marketing strategies to gain as much of the monitoring services market share as possible all over Europe. Verisure is also responsible for the design and manufacture of its own proprietary wireless alarm system. The strategy was so successful that today it is the most prolific monitoring company with more than 2 million monitored customers/clients in 14 countries.
ADT is also worth mentioning as it has been dealing with monitoring services since the invention of the telegraph! Worldwide, it handles around 9 million connections, mostly in the US. Although, ADT withdrew from Eastern Europe a few years ago, it is still one of the key players in Europe.
Prosegur is yet another European leader. Recently, it has been focusing more on Spanish-speaking markets, and not surprisingly showed the greatest activity in Spain and Latin America. However, that did not stop it from expanding in other European countries, e.g. 2 years ago Prosegur studied the Polish market by engaging in trade talks with top Polish companies.
UTC Fire &Security is the company with the fastest territorial growth. Most people associate it with the technical security market, however, Chubb, one of its subsidiaries, is strengthening its position as one of the leaders on the monitoring services market.
It is often very difficult to gather information on this subject comprehensively, due to different countries having different UTC companies providing services for them. For example in the UK, it is Custodian yet in the Netherlands it is SMC. I should also mention that MasterMind – the software used by a vast majority of monitoring stations – is a UTC product.
Our list of top European players comes to a close with Stanly Security. Although many associate it only with tools, for numerous years it has been leading globally in providing healthcare and security services. In Poland, Stanley Security is still virtually unknown but in Europe it monitors over 400,000 facilities.
Monitoring Software Used by the Largest European Monitoring Stations
One of the pieces of software existing since the very beginning of the computer age is MasterMind MAS (now owned by UTC). It has retained the largest part of the market share and is currently chosen by the majority of the world‘s largest monitoring stations. In the past it was not particularly popular in Europe due to the lack of local support. Everything changed when MasterMind launched a European Development Centre. Moreover, it started to collaborate with the Dutch company ENAI, known for its own monitoring software, to support the sales on the Old Continent.
Global companies, such as ADT or Securitas, have agreed with UTC on setting MasterMind as the standard for monitoring stations in all countries. These companies also have their own in house departments providing technical support for the software. MasterMind is also used by Prosegur and Stanley Security. Naturally, Chubb and SMC, belonging to UCT, work on this software as well. Subsequently, MasterMind is the most commonly used software by the largest monitoring stations in Europe.
IBS is the second most widely used software. It has two divisions: the American (SBN) caters to very large monitoring stations and the European (Interview) is directed to Scandinavian monitoring stations such as Securitas, ISS, Falck or SectorAlarm. Indeed, the largest European monitoring company Verisure uses SBN software from IBS. For this reason, the American IBS has opened a branch office in Spain to be able to assist Verisure in Europe.
Below we can see different software used by the main European stations:
- SentinelPlus by Monitor – extremely popular in the UK. It is utilized by the monitoring departments within both ADT and G4S.
- Safecon from Danish Alcensoft – for over 25 years Alcensoft have been producing unique software specifically for monitoring stations in Scandinavia. Within G4S it also seems to be reasonably popular.
- M1 and F1 from the French company ESI. Both are present in French, Spanish and Italian monitoring stations.
- A-tracq from Comon. Mostly focused on the Turkish monitoring market.
- Sims2 from SIMS. Old DOS version but popular because of low memory requirements.
The European alarm monitoring market is divided. In Western Europe, where the history of providing these services is a long one, the market is relatively stable. Alarm monitoring is developed the most in France, UK, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland.
In Eastern Europe, however, monitoring services appeared only after the collapse of communism in 1989. Nowadays, a rapid growth can be seen in the Baltic countries, the Czech Republic, Romania and Bulgaria.
Poland is the largest market in the region with about 800,000 monitored objects. In Poland, the monitoring stations are more similar to the European model than the U.S one. Moreover, monitoring services appeared only 20 years ago and thus certain development stages have been omitted (eg. telephone lines to the GSM network) but also there is still a lot to be done (e.g. further market consolidation, services outsourcing or introduction of value-added services).
To end, I hope that those who wanted to learn something more about the largest monitoring stations in Europe will find this article useful. I also sincerely hope that through articles like this we will all be able to extend our knowledge, connections and relationships with our colleagues in the European area who, like me, wish, share and exchange their experiences in this fascinating market sector.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the many friends and colleagues from the many different companies across Europe who helped me to collect and compile this information.