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Autodialers: Innovative And Inexpensive?

Sep 05, 2013

"The way of the pioneer is always rough"

-Harvey S. Firestone, founder of Firestone Tire and Rubber

The medical industry (specific to pharmacies and blood banks) has typically stayed at the forefront of technological innovations, particularly as they apply to automation, data capture and quality control. That said, these technologies may be revolutionary and quite remarkable at the time of purchase, but as time pushes against the pioneers of such technology, newer vendors with cost-effective solutions can rise above the once-unprecedented brilliance.

Autodialer technology is one interesting example to explore against the above hypothesis, and sure enough, autodialers were once a game-breaking innovation that simplified notifications and alerting for environmental changes. It's tough to put a hard estimate on their history, but as an example, RACO (a veteran vendor) touts their autodialers as being "respected and trusted since 1985". 

One of RACO's featured products is the "Guard-It", a distant cousin of a lockbox with field programmable settings. From their blog...

  • Upon alarm detection, the system calls a list of up to eight phone numbers. Respondents are given the station’s identity and specific alarm condition by a prerecorded voice message.
  • In addition to standard office phones, the alarm sequence can also call pagers, cell phones or voice mail. Respondents can press a button on the phone’s keypad to acknowledge the alarm and listen to background sounds at the site through a built-in microphone.
  • Users can call from any remote phone for status updates. Additionally, the system’s operating status is displayed on the front panel, while surge protection and noise suppression are standard.

guard it

The Old Cat's Pajamas

With their descriptions, it's pretty clear that the product has very basic functionality, a very simple purchase, and in the context of 2013, is a very simplistic system. We'll disregard the notion that temperature sensors must be purchased separately (basic 4-20ma input), and let's focus on the "bang for the buck". We're talking about basic monitoring, phone call alerts (for power and temperature), and no visible online portal for historical data access or reporting functionality. The system can likely be connected to a BMS or larger automation system, but out of the box, is quite simplistic when compared with some of the newer innovations in the sensor/monitoring technology sector. That said, where does the pricing fall for this type of unit, and how does the cost compare with other devices that have enhanced capabilities (reporting, online dashboard, etc)? The answer is a bit shocking, and truthfully Guard-It seems to be out of its own league.

Guard-It MSRP (does not include sensors): $895

Yikes! We're talking about a basic autodialer here and nearly $900 for the unit without sensors? This might've been a bargain many years ago, but there are a number of products readily available that can provide similar features at a more reasonable price point. These products are typically outfitted with:

1. Provide the same basic functionality of phone alerts, along with text messages and e-mail alert types

2. A usable temperature/humidity sensor, for a 'turnkey' type approach.

3. A web-based online reporting dashboard, with reporting, compliance features, corrective action notation, and simple user access. Thresholds and settings can be adjusted anywhere with internet connection, as opposed to "on-site programming and configuration".

Typical cost of such alternative systems: $300-$400* (may include a monthly monitoring fee at approximately $10-$20/month)

While the price/features comparison outlines a clear winner, RACO is only one point of reference, so we'll avoid labeling the entire autodialer market as "overpriced and outdated". But for this example, a self-professed pioneer appears to be drastically overpricing their technology, which in and of itself, can hardly be called innovative in 2013. They might've been a premier pioneer in the autodialer industry, but it's safe to say that the path will only get more rough with the newer, less expensive, and more robust products that are readily available today.

For more information on Temperature@lert products and Sensor Cloud, please contact us at 866-524-3540

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