No more black boxes for ADT

Residential leader looks to emphasize its leading commercial status, IT skills
Tuesday, September 1, 2009

DALLAS—There was no mistaking the message of ADT’s August 24 through 26 media summit. It was a showcase of the company’s systems-integration smarts. And in case you forgot that, the army of ADT executives on hand for the event took every opportunity to issue this reminder: Sure, ADT may be best known as a residential security company, but it’s also the largest commercial security provider in North America. Further, ADT’s IT expertise is an important focus for the company and has been for some time.

“We don’t just sell black boxes anymore,” said Jack Feingold, ADT’s vice president of commercial sales and MC of the Dallas event.

The itinerary for the summit began with a tour of ADT’s new (in the last 18 months) IP Technology Lab and Demo Center. Headed up by Jim Lantrip, regional director of sales and applications support, the lab tests different configurations of security systems.

It’s a small, but busy room with lots of cameras, computer screens and racks of computer equipment. “We can run 10 server-based applications at once,” he said. Lantrip’s team will “mimic an enterprise configuration of a system using different products to see how they work together,” finding out, for example, exactly how much bandwidth will be consumed with a certain configuration under specific conditions.

Down the hall, the IP Technology Demo Room is where ADT customers can compare two different systems side-by-side. “It really allows us to be product-agnostic,” said John Hudson, regional director of national accounts for ADT, “[it] allows ADT to build and customize the right system for each application.” More importantly, both the Lab and Demo Room are places where customers’ internal IT directors can examine proposed projects.

“This is how we make customers comfortable with what we’re going to do with your network,” said Jay Hauhn, ADT VP of technology and industry relations.

Demos can be viewed remotely, and certain strategic partners are allowed to access the demo room from their site and “play with the head end and software,” said Hudson.

In addition, the Dallas IP Technology Center is now used as a training center for all commercial sales personnel, and “the learning done here is shared throughout ADT,” said Hank Monaco, VP commercial marketing for ADT. “It’s shared with technical staff, across the sales organization, and with customers.”

The ADT summit included presentations and panel discussions by ADT commercial customers of various stripes—government, critical infrastructure, and industry—and wound up with a presentation by Hauhn, who discussed how ADT chooses its products and what emerging technologies ADT’s looking at now.

In addition to the testing of the product itself (which is done in a lab in New Jersey, with some testing also done at the IP Technology Lab here) ADT examines things such as the financial stability of the product manufacturer and the company’s ability to provide inventory.

ADT works closely with folks at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is looking at new and emerging technologies that could help power wireless product such as “inductive technology.” Using inductive technology, shutting a door could create a burst of energy that could power a sensor and send an RF signal. 

Among many other technologies, ADT and MIT are also looking at how sensors could be upgraded to tell whether an intrusion alarm was set off by a human. This kind of technology could significantly reduce false alarms. In addition, specific mesh network applications for buildings could similarly reduce false alarms. In this instance, images could be captured by the nodes within the building and sent back to a central station for verification. 

Pressed for a guess on how soon the industry might see these technologies, Hauhn surmised it would be three to five years.