Vegas-bound—and trend-watching in the central station space

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03/31/2014

ISC West 2014 - Day Three

After spending much of my career in the medium of print, I managed to make my on-camera debut at ISC West 2014, interviewing several folks from the central station side who provided some lively perspectives about the show and the direction of their respective businesses.

First up was Jim McMullen, president and COO of COPS Monitoring, who said the company had around 800 dealers at its annual Dealer Appreciation Bonanza, an event I also happened to attend with several SSN colleagues. He wasn’t lying; Gilley’s was thronged, and there was no shortage of attendees eager to duke it out in the mechanical bull riding competition, a contest for which the event has become well known. The Bonanza has become a marquee event for CO, McMullen said, and has proven to be another way the company goes about forging strong relationships its dealer base.

In my next interview, Josh Garner, CEO of AvantGuard Monitoring, discussed the company’s new monitoring center in the rural community of Rexburg, Idaho. Garner characterized the new facility as a human capital investment, as the company aims to leverage the community’s young and well-educated workforce (Brigham Young University has a campus in the town). We also talked about AvantGuard’s success in the mobile PERS market and the company’s PERS Summit Network, which has an educational component that takes a “granular” approach to equipping dealers with the knowledge they need to run a successful PERS operation.

My final on-camera interview of the day was with Hank Groff, SVP of sales at Dynamark, and Tom Piston, VP of business development. The duo explained the philosophy behind Dynamark’s recently launched partner program and discussed the company’s highly focused, customized approach for ISC West.

I also met briefly this morning, off camera, with Barry Epstein, president of Dallas-based investment firm Vertex Capital. We discussed the late 2013 Security Partners acquisition of Mace Central Station (a deal in which Epstein represented Mace) as well as the PERS valuation market, which remains intriguing (and well worth keeping an eye on) but relatively inactive.  

And that just about does it for ISC West 2014. Keep an eye out for our show roundup, which we’ll include on the newswire next week.  

ISC West 2014 - Day Two

The second day of ISC West had the same frenetic energy and pace as the first—which is maybe fitting for a day that for many began with the Security 5K run. My opening meeting of the day was with I-View Now, who hosted a forum for several attendees. I-View’s Steve Patterson, chief information officer, and Matt Fleming, chief technology officer, highlighted some of the company’s new initiatives, which include the a newly launched cloud analytic, and discussed the company’s push to form additional partnerships with some big name manufacturers. The two also touched on sales strategies for video verification, which can contribute an additional $35-50 in RMR for monitored accounts, according to Patterson.

Patterson noted that demos are a critical component of the sales process for video verification. I-View Now has developed a demo portal that can act as management tool, demonstrating the correlation between video verification demos and successful sales.

I returned to the show floor for my second demo of the day, this one led by Aaron Salma, at Union, N.J.-based Affiliated Monitoring. Salma showcased the e-contract functionality on the company’s new dealer app, which allows technicians to efficiently manage their accounts. Salma said the app can be enormously beneficial for businesses employing a summer sales/door-knocking model.

In the afternoon I made my way up the Venetian Tower where I joined Kevin O’Connor, president of LogicMark, and Troy Bruce, director of sales, to discuss the company’s newly released mobile PERS offering, the SentryPal, as well as its new traditional unit, the Caretaker Sentry. Both emphasized the need for PERS products (and the security industry at large) to remain grounded from a practical standpoint despite rapid technological advancements.

O’Connor believes even a less tested market like mPERS holds considerable promise. That market, he said, may evolve much like the security industry in general, continually adding new functions that central stations and dealers can translate into more RMR.

While the sheer numbers of America’s aging Baby Boomer demographic bode well for anyone in the PERS space, security companies still need to develop a sound strategy for bringing the product to market, managing the expectations of customers and efficiently redeploying their units, they noted. Interestingly enough, both agreed that security companies, if the resources are there, do themselves a favor by creating a separate division for bringing PERS to market.

My afternoon concluded with back-to-back PPVAR panel sessions, the first of which distilled several outside-the-industry perspectives on video verified response. The session, moderated by Steve Walker, VP of Stanley Convergent, president of PPVAR, featured representatives from law enforcement and private insurance.

The next session, moderated by Don Young, CIO of Protection 1, VP Stanley Convergent representatives from the manufacturing side (Scott Harkins, president of Honeywell) and the central station space (Chuck Moeling, executive VP of sales at Interface, and Tony Wilson, president of CMS), together with representatives from the private investment and legal arenas.

An interesting topic raised by the panel dealt with the potential of video verification in the residential security space. Moeling pointed out that there are considerably more barriers to establishing a foothold in the residential market (as opposed to commercial) in North America. One of those barriers, he said, is the “basic nature of American independence” and customers being leery of having “big brother watching.”

Though Harkins believes there is potential for video verification in the residential space, he added the caveat that, from Honeywell’s perspective, bringing the technology to a mainstream market has to be done in a way that keeps such systems affordable to a mass market. 

ISC West 2014 - Day One

Though access control resides a little outside my coverage domain, my first ISC West stop was at Assa Abloy’s booth for a morning press conference. It was an impressive showing from the company, whose president of access and egress hardware group, Martin Huddart, delivered a presentation outlining the company’s past, present and future.

Huddart keyed in specifically on the company’s transition to a new line of “2.0” solutions. The presentation touched on several on several of the company’s newer and more sophisticated solutions: Access credential technology that sends keys “over the air” through smart phones, “futureproof” maglocks that support several different credential strategies (NFC and Bluetooth among them), and the company’s EcoFlex locks.

The latter, according to David Sylvester, president, door security solutions at Assa Abloy, was a major point of attraction for the sustainability officer at Amazon, which plans to use the locks at its new headquarters.

I spoke with Michael Schubert and Woodie Andrawos, president and executive vice president, respectively, of National Monitoring Center, which is fresh off announcing the opening of a new 25,000-square-foot facility in Lake Forest, Calif. Both characterized the facility as a substantial technological upgrade that amply accommodates for future growth. NMC now has two central stations (the other is in Texas), and Schubert said, down the road, the company may explore the possibility of getting another, ideally in a new time zone.

I had the chance to meet early in the day with Gary Shottes, president of AES Corporation, and Candyce Plante, senior director of marketing at AES. We spoke at length about the company’s patented wireless mesh technology, some new developments at AES on the product front (stay tuned for that), and the ramifications of the 2G sunset—an industry inevitability from which a company like AES is well-positioned to prosper. Already seeing gains from clients keen on “futureproofing,” the company could thrive even more when the 3G sunset occurs, according to Shottes.

The 2G sunset proved to be a theme that found its way into some of my afternoon discussions as well, particularly in my conversations with some folks at Uplink, whose software solutions are geared to mitigate some of the adverse effects of network obsolescence.

I also spoke with Telguard’s Shawn Welsh and Pam Benke (VP of business development, director of marketing, respectively) about their launch, today, of their OneRate service plan for their HomeControl platform, which replaces the company’s previous multi-tier pricing structure with a single flat price.

The plan, according to Welsh, goes along way in terms of “demystifying” the sales process for customers, and he believes the simpler, pared down approach will give sales personnel a considerable advantage when trying to sell home automation in conjunction with security products. The service plan also includes a reseller price that allows central station partners to “make margins bundling the service,” Welsh said.

A recent report from ABI Research shed light on the notion that the industry is still in the laboratory phase as far as figuring out the best way to bring home automation to market. There’s still a fair amount of tinkering and experimentation going on, the report noted, and this simplified (and innovative) service plan from Telguard seems indicative of that.

Once again, as I’m wont to do at trade shows and other industry events, I’ve stretched this blog a bit beyond its ideal length, so that’s all for day one. I have a slew of meetings and interviews tomorrow, which I’ll provide updates about during the course of the day.  

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Like thousands on the east coast, I’ll be flying west tomorrow to Las Vegas, where I’ll be spend the following three days at ISC West, trying to gauge what those in the central station arena are finding compelling about the marquee show.  

Judging by conversations I’ve had with members of the industry over the past several weeks, there should be no shortage of new developments at this year’s show. Days after booking my ticket to Vegas I was hearing about new central station automation software, a cloud- and algorithm-based video verification platform, the launch of new mobile apps for dealers and technicians, and manufacturers warming up to mobile PERS.

Basically, I’m expecting an aggressively forward-thinking show, and, since I’ll be updating this blog over the next three days, you’ll be able to see to what extent that presentiment is realized.

I want to encourage readers to take up the opportunity to meet with me and my colleagues—SSN editor Martha Entwistle; SSN managing editor Tess Nacelewicz; and Amy Canfield, managing editor of our end user-focused sister publication, Security Director News—at our “Meet the Editors” event at the show. This is scheduled for Wed., April 2 from 9:30 a.m. to 10 a.m, and will be held at the SSN booth, adjacent to the ISC West Media Stage, which is located directly outside the main entrance doors to the show floor.

I very much look forward to meeting our readers in person, so please feel free to stop by!