2GIG's co-founder has new gig and hot new first product

Lance Dean’s new venture, Encore Controls, has already sold 200,000 of its new smoke alarm detector
 - 
Wednesday, June 4, 2014

GRAPEVINE, Texas—Sales of a new device that can affordably turn existing home smoke detectors into monitored smart smoke detectors have surpassed 200,000 units in just a few months and more orders are pouring in, according to the manufacturer, Encore Controls, a startup co-founded by Lance Dean.  

“It has taken off a lot,” Dean, co-founder of 2GIG and now new home security/home automation player Encore, told Security Systems News about The Firefighter. That new smoke detector takeover device is Encore’s first product, and it began shipping early this year. “We have the Who’s Who of the [security] business using this product.”

According to Dean and Veronica Dean, VP of operations for Encore, which is based here, those companies include Monitronics, ASG Security, Guardian Protection Services, CPI Security Systems, Vivint, and Vision Security.

“Another large dealer program is evaluating it now,” Veronica Dean told SSN on June 3. “We’re selling out. It’s a hot product.”

“This is the most affordable way to add whole household fire monitoring,” Lance Dean said.

Bill Rose, COO of ASG, agrees. “It’s very ingenious, and you wonder why it took until 2014 for someone to come up with that,” he said.

Rose, whose order for The Firefighter was the first to be shipped, said, “It truly to me is a game-changer in the industry, that we can offer something at such an affordable cost that brings so much value to a customer.”

Lance Dean co-founded Encore last year, and the company just started taking orders for The Firefighter in December. Encore is a separate company unrelated to 2GIG, which Nortek, parent company of Linear, bought in 2013 for $135 million. Dean said he remains EVP of sales for 2GIG by Linear, but was given the right to start Encore during the buyout.

Mike Lamb, of Ecolink Intelligent Technology in Carlsbad, Calif., is the other Encore co-founder. Veronica Dean said the product was engineered and is manufactured in that location, “and Lance came up with the concept and is selling it.”

She described The Firefighter, which is FCC, IC, and ETL listed, as a “listening device.”

According to the company, the small device “has a patent-pending audio discriminator with a special algorithm that listens to the unique sounds and cadence of all UL smoke detectors.” The Firefighter uses that technology “to monitor the existing UL smoke detectors within the home. When an alarm is detected, a wireless signal is sent to the control panel, which in turn contacts the central monitoring station,” the company says on its website.

Lance Dean said he came up with the idea because “dealers have been asking over the years: ‘Why can’t we monitor the existing smoke detectors in the home?’”

Rose explained, “The challenge is that most homes today have 110-volt interconnected smoke detectors” that present a monitoring problem.

A home typically has multiple such hardwired smoke detectors placed in various locations—such as the kitchen, hallways, and bedrooms—that are required by code. The detectors are interconnected, so if a fire alarm goes off in say, the kitchen, all the alarms will sound.

More than 33 million homes have such interconnected smoke detectors, according to Encore. But Rose said such detectors are not designed to be monitored and aren’t compatible with security panels.

Lacking fire monitoring, Lance Dean said, even interconnected smoke detectors aren’t able to alert homeowners who are away from home or on vacation about a fire. “So your sounders are going off in your home, but your home is burning down,” he said.

However, Rose said, dealers have found that offering fire monitoring to a security customer is cost prohibitive for the customer. That’s because it would mean placing new smoke detectors that do have the capacity to be monitored right next to each of the home’s existing hardwired smoke detectors. With detectors costing roughly $100 each, and many homes having multiple detectors, that solution is redundant and costly, Rose said. “So the customer is not going to spend another $1,000 to install seven [or more] smoke detectors,” he said. “The customer would say, ‘I already have smoke detectors.’”

Now, however, The Firefighter solves that problem, he said. You can put just one of the small devices—which Veronica Dean said costs “almost less than half the price of a smoke detector”—next to just one of the smoke detectors.

If a fire occurs anywhere in the home and a smoke detector sounds, The Firefighter can hear it—because all the detectors are interconnected—and send a wireless signal to the security panel, which alerts the central station.

Lance Dean said the Firefighter could also be used for individual smoke detectors that aren’t interconnected but in that case, the device would need to be placed next to each one and it would only provide spot monitoring protection of that location, not the entire home.

Are there RMR opportunities with The Firefighter? That’s up to the dealers, Lance Dean said. “Some dealers are basically giving the firefighter away and charging a few dollars more for RMR,” he said.

Rose said, “Probably if you talked to 10 companies you would probably have 10 different ideas of how you could go about marketing this.”

He sees it as an additional selling feature. “What we see is a unique opportunity in that most customers, what they’re calling you for is from a security standpoint, and you’re able to offer to them [fire monitoring,] something that’s well beyond what they expected to receive and at a cost that really removes the barriers.”

Veronica Dean said The Firefighter currently is compatible with 2GIG and Honeywell panels as well as Interlogix panels. “We’re working on one that’s compatible with other platforms—so this thing has taken off like a freight train. It’s huge,” she added.

Lance Dean said Encore plans to add another feature to The Firefighter in the near future so it can also alert the security panel about carbon monoxide detectors going off. “It will not only listen to the fire sound but the CO sound,” he said.

Also, Encore will be offering more products, for not just life safety but also home control. “We’re planning to introduce some very exciting products,” he said. “We have one in the works now.” He declined to release details at this point.

Veronica Dean said Lance was able to come up with The Firefighter because he’s an industry veteran, “and no matter what role he’s ever been in, he’s always stayed on the front line with his people, his dealers, and has been listening to them and hearing what they need, and he’s figuring out ways to fill those needs.”