Pioneer Rosenfeld, father of RMR

Saturday, August 1, 2009

ROSELLE, N.J. and BROOKLYN, N.Y.--Len Rosenfeld founded Amcest, the first nationwide, contract central station in the United States, in 1976 and in so doing, shaped the security industry as it is known today. Over the course of an almost-40-year career, which ended when he died in May at 76, Rosenfeld made many contributions to the security industry, including innovations in dialers, innovations in the use of WATTS lines for alarm signal communication over any distance, innovations in signal back-up systems, the development of enhanced call verification as SOP, and the development of the PERS industry.

Almost certainly, however, his most important achievement was the creation of a business model that ran on RMR rather than on one-time equipment sales.

According to Rosenfeld’s son, Fred, who is Amcest’s vice president, his father was a visionary. “Now, whenever I say ‘my dad,’ of course there’s a bias … But he created the definition of a contract central station that does not compete with its dealers for retail business,” Rosenfeld said. “Len Rosenfeld pioneered the alarm monitoring industry as we now know it.”

Len Rosenfeld’s initial connection to the alarm industry was in the early 1970s when he manufactured cassette sub-assemblies for Ademco. Those components were used to fashion the Ademco 612 tape-dialer, then the prevailing alarm communication technology. While working for Ademco, Rosenfeld produced a product called ADAM, one of the first slave digital dialers in the security marketplace, and was, therefore, one of a handful of forward-thinking individuals who ushered in the digital revolution.

“There was a severe impediment to his plan to market these devices as only a very few security enterprises had the economic and technical wherewithal to monitor this new technology on a 24/7/365 basis,” Rosenfeld said. “That is why he, with two partners, formed Amcest - to enable independent alarm dealers to offer monitoring service to their clients.”

According to Metropolitan Burglar and Fire Alarm Association executive director Alan Glasser, Rosenfeld’s ADAM clashed with an entrenched base of tape dialers and an established and accepted business model in which security dealers made their money off of equipment sales and installs. This clash led to Rosenfeld’s great innovation.

“He knew how to run a business and if he knew it was right, he would pursue it until he made it happen,” Glasser said. “When Lenny first tried to sell me on the concept of a contract monitoring central station, the first words out of my mouth were, ‘Why should I pay for something that I can give my customers for free? If a plumber puts a toilet in my house, I don’t pay a nickel every time I flush it.’ And that was the thought process of a typical alarm installer back in the days when they could buy a tape dialer. And he said, ‘Well, you can make money every month.’ This was a new concept.”

Glasser said Rosenfeld’s accomplishments could not be overstated. “To talk about Lenny and his innovations in the industry, the first thing I can say is that many of us wouldn’t be in business today if Amcest hadn’t created the contract monitoring business,” Glasser said. “It took some doing to convince the alarm dealer that they could make money, and I think that’s what sold it … Guys like me - of course, now I live for recurring revenue - but guys like me, we were happy if we sold a tape dialer. So this was a whole new business model - make monthly revenue.”

Len Rosenfeld passed away exactly a week shy of his 77th birthday, on May 18, 2009. Rosenfeld is survived by his wife Roslyn, and his children Fred, Andrea and Sheila, as well as nine grandchildren.