The Best Home Alarm Systems – Who Makes the Best Equipment?

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Alarm companies do not make alarm equipment. Even ADT, the largest alarm company in North America (if not the world) does not manufacture the systems it sells – ADT buys the equipment, primarily from Honeywell. In the alarm industry, the company that sells you the equipment and takes care of the monitoring of your alarm system is known as an alarm “dealer” – and there are roughly 13,000 alarm dealers in the US alone. My prior post on “Who’s who in the Alarm Industry” explains the dealer universe in detail. When it comes to who actually makes the equipment that is installed in your home, it’s a very different list.

When I first joined the alarm industry in the 1980’s, the alarm equipment companies were anything but household names. Here are a few examples – and these were actually the largest alarm manufacturers:

Now flash forward to 2011, and here’s what happened to the ownership of these same companies:

That’s right: the multi-billion-dollar, multi-national “big boys” joined the alarm industry. But there are some interesting stories that go along with each of these manufacturers.

  • ITI (Interactive Technologies, Inc.) was acquired by Interlogix, which was in turn purchased by GE Security. Now United Technologies has purchased GE Security, and changed the name back to… Interlogix! But they are still allowed to use the GE Security name, and the equipment is better than ever. See below on recent defections from Honeywell to GE Security.
  • Ademco was acquired by Pittway, a public company, which in turn was acquired by Honeywell. As mentioned above, ADT uses primarily Honeywell equipment, even though ADT’s parent (Tyco) purchased DSC, the next company on my manufacturers list. Go figure! Honeywell is hurting a bit lately, since some very large alarm companies have moved away from Honeywell – to more current technology, primarily GE Security.
  • When DSC was acquired by Tyco, the alarm industry suspected that ADT would start to use more DSC equipment: it only makes sense, since ADT and DSC are both owned by Tyco. But it never happened. ADT is still pretty much a Honeywell house. DSC makes a smaller line of equipment, which is one of the reasons for ADT choosing a different source.
  • Radionics was considered the most advanced and reliable equipment in the late 1980’s, with most of the top 10 companies using it or seriously considering it. After changing hands a few times, the company lost its luster and its leadership role – and was eventually acquired by Bosch, the European technology giant. It’s still very good equipment.
  • Detection Systems was another great company that was known as much for its motion sensors as for its control panels (if not better known). Detection Systems and Radionics had flirted with merging for years, and then, ironically, they were both acquired by the same company – Bosch.

There are other, smaller equipment manufacturers that have been around for decades: DMP, Napco, and Visonic are good examples. Each company’s technology has its advantages and adherents, and many alarm companies stay with the same equipment for years – until there is a compelling reason to change.

Of all the alarm equipment companies, GE Security (Interlogix) is generally rated the best. One reason is that the wireless technology that GE acquired years ago has always been considered the most reliable equipment platform in the alarm industry. GE also had the wisdom to partner early with Alarm.com for safer integrated cellular monitoring and smarter interactive services – and the other equipment makers are still playing catch-up on those fronts. GE also meets all the various testing standards for ease of use and false alarm reduction: UL, CP01, SIA, and more. They also put a 24-hour backup battery in every system, while the competition defaults to a cheaper 4-hour battery.

And what about FrontPoint? We have used only GE Security equipment with Alarm.com cellular and interactive services since our inception. In fact, we are the only alarm company in the US with 100% cellular monitoring and Alarm.com technology in every system we have sold. For these and other reasons, FrontPoint is ranked #1 when it comes to wireless, interactive home security – and we plan to keep it that way.

Comments (11)

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  1. Mitch

    What are the +/1 of a DMP system? The security company pushing it points to its ability to send text messages to cell phones for system status, two-way communication between base station and sensors, and user friendly aspects. Another company is pushing an ELK MT 50 board with GE/ICI sensors. Both are priced about the same. Your thoughts on the right solution?

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Mitch – Great question. More and more alarm companies and alarm manufacturers are jumping into the interactive services arena, since it represents the future of alarm security – especially when you can add video services and home automation, all on the same platform. And when it comes to interactive services and home automation, the recognized leader is Alarm.com, our technology partner. We’re not the only company that offers Alarm.com services, but we’ve been doing it longer than most, and specializing in these interactive features to the point that we have the best reviews you can find when it comes to wireless home security. DMP is a well established alarm equipment manufacturer, but they are late to the game with these services, and do not offer as comprehensive a suite of functions. Elk is another good company – but again, you really want the best. I suggest you check out Alarm.com – and FrontPoint – and read all the reviews you can find. The choice is clear if you look at customer satisfaction over several years, across the US and Canada. Thanks for your question.

  2. Gman

    Not GE. lol

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Thanks, Gman, for your comment. As you may know, the GE Security division was purchased a couple of years ago by United Technologies (UTC): the same company that make Otis elevators, Carrier air conditioners, Sikorsky helicopters, and Pratt & Whitney jet engines. In other words, a global, multi-billion dollar corporation at the forefront of technology. We have already seen significant R&D expenditures in new products and features. UTC also purchased the rights to use the GE Security name for a number of years, so people (including FrontPoint) still use the GE brand, but UTC is driving the bus now. And that bus is definitely going in the right direction! The GE equipment has taken considerable market share from Honeywell, the other big player, primarily because GE leads on the integration of advanced interactive alarm services for remote control and notification, home video services, and even smart home control of lights, locks, and thermostats using mobile apps. You cannot even get all this from Honeywell today. So, as far as the “real” manufacturers of alarm equipment go, I’d be interested to hear who it is you prefer – and specifically why.

      Thanks again.

  3. Lalit

    Which one to have it Bosch or honeywell for residential security including door & motion?

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Thanks, Lalit, for your question. The market has spoken pretty loudly about which manufacturers’ products are preferred – and in this case, the market is the horde of alarm dealers who decide what equipment to sell, install, and service. In this industry, consumers (meaning homeowners) generally do not choose a product: they chose a company to install, monitor, and support that product. So, it’s up to the individual alarm companies (also known as alarm dealers) to pick the products they think will best meet the needs of the end users. Increasingly we are seeing dealers turn from Honeywell to other products – and here I am talking about some pretty large dealers, companies in the top 10 or 20 nationally in terms of size. For the most part, all these systems work, and even work in pretty similar fashion: one of the biggest challenges for Honeywell has been the fact that it’s interactive services, which they insisted on creating themselves, does not measure up to platforms like Alarm.com, the original (and generally considered the best) of the interactive platforms. We use Alarm.com here at FrontPoint, and feel it offers the best features and the best support – and they keep making it better. So, our money is still on Interlogix/UTC/GE Security, which the equipment we use in conjunction with the Alarm.com interactive services. Bosch is actually not even in the top 3 these days – though it is still perfectly fine to use. Thanks again.

  4. Frank

    Tons of great information. Thank you. Has any of this changed since this article was written?

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Frank – thanks for your question. The landscape looks pretty much as it did. Each of the alarm equipment manufacturers continues to release incremental benefits and features to their existing lines, but no major breakthroughs as yet. We are still bullish on GE Security, which is now owned by United Technologies, as they are working on a very significant development in the next generation platform – and once that is released, we are confident it will take some time before the other companies catch up. We also like the GE Security products becasue of their seamless integration with Alarm.com, the best of all the interactive platforms. Thanks again!

  5. Peter Gram

    I think the big boys know how to outsource and brand their product… Anyway, thanks for writing. It was an interesting read. :)

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Peter – Thanks for your comment. You are correct about outsourcing and branding – although Honeywell is currently losing share to GE/Interlogix (actually owned by United Technologies). One of the main reasons is that Honeywell has traditionally kept development in-house, as opposed to partnering with third parties when it makes sense. A great example is the GE-Alarm.com relationship to provide interactive monitoring services, when compared to Honeywell’s Total Connect. Honeywell insisted on building their own interactive services platform (Total Connect), which took longer to develop, and was not as robust. It has just never caught up with Alarm.com, and in my opinion never will. There have been several high-profile large scale alarm dealer defections from Honeywell to GE/Interlogix – and a significant factor in the decision is the perceived gap in advanced interactive services. Glad you found the post interesting, and thanks again for your comment.

  6. Alan

    These are my absolute favorite type of posts Peter! Every time I learn something new. Thank you!

    And being the industry pro you are, it makes the posts that much more interesting.

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