Subscribe to Monitor This! RSS Feed

Monitor This!

by: Leif Kothe - Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Alarm Relay, a UL-listed alarm monitoring company based in San Diego, became the latest central station to earn Five Diamond Certification from the Central Station Alarm Association, the company recently announced. Fewer than 200 central stations in the country have the certification.

Among the most rigorous requirements for completing the Five Diamond program include the commitment to random inspections by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as FM Global, Underwriters’ Laboratories or InterTek/ETL, and central stations must also comply with quality criteria standards developed by those same organizations.

Five Diamond Certification also testifies that 100 percent of central station operators at a given company have been certified through the CSAA online training course, which covers all phases of central station communications with law enforcement, customers, and fire and emergency centers.

For an operator to achieve certification, they must demonstrate (among other things) proficiency in alarm verification, which helps reduce false dispatches, and in communications with Public Safety Answering Points.

That latter requirement is bound to be vitally important as central stations around the country forge more partnerships with PSAPs, allowing the ASAP to PSAP program to expand. 

by: Leif Kothe - Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Several months after Monitronics acquired Security Networks in a $507 million deal, the company has officially incorporated the more than 200 Security Networks dealer affiliates into the Monitronics dealer program, the company recently announced.

This phase, which will go down as one of the final steps of the integration process, brings the number of Monitronics dealers to about 620, making it one of the largest networks in the country. The company says it will provide monitoring services to more than 1 million customers out of its Dallas-based central station.

Bruce Mungiguerra, Monitronics’ VP of operations, said in the statement that merging businesses is “never easy,” but that “the hard work of many groups across both companies has kept things as organized and efficient as possible.”

Also being brought into the Monitronics fold are 60 field technicians who previously serviced Security Networks accounts across several regions, bolstering the company’s network of field service dealers.

by: Leif Kothe - Monday, March 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.  

----------------------------------------------------------------

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!

by: Leif Kothe - Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Brett Springall, formerly the IT director at Security Central, and one of the key architects of the company’s soon-to-launch total solution, has been named the managing director of the Lake Norman Security Patrol, of which Security Central is one of three divisions. Springall’s promotion marks the first time in the company’s 50-year history that day-to-day management will fall under the responsibility of someone who’s not a member of the Brown family, according to a statement from the company.

Ellen Brown Meihaus and Courtney Brown, the company’s CEO and COO, tend to promote people strategically from within the company, according to the statement. The two will continue to be highly visible at the company, though the release noted that they considered now “the right time” to begin shifting control over to a new managing director.

The Brown family figures to remain pivotal in terms of shaping the company’s direction—not only through the continued involvement of Meihaus and Brown, but also through the leadership of Caroline Brown, a third-generation family member who currently serves as the company's business development manager. Springall and Caroline Brown, the release noted, are the “future of Security Central.”

According to the release, Springall will wear “dual hats” for a short time during the transition, as the company, under the guidance of Meihaus and Brown, seeks a replacement IT director.

by: Leif Kothe - Wednesday, March 19, 2014

For anyone monitoring the progress of the latest push toward a comprehensive verified alarm standard, there’s a pair of consecutive PPVAR panel sessions at ISC West that are can’t-miss in stature.

The first session, moderated by Steve Walker, vice president of Stanley Convergent, kicks off on Thursday, April 3 in Room 502, and is especially noteworthy because it brings several outside-the-industry perspectives into the same forum. Titled “Insurance and Law Enforcement Review Verified Alarms,” the session illustrates the array of stakeholder groups now influencing the conversation of verification. Among the six panelists are Cmdr. Scott Edson, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Dept., and Anthony Canale, vice president of Verisk Crime Analytics.

The second panel, “Video Verification in the Alarm Industry,” is moderated by Donald Young, PPVAR president and chief information officer at Protection 1. The panel roster for this second discussion is designed to showcase a broad array of intra-industry views on the role of video verification in the alarm industry. Keith Jentoft, an industry liaison for PPVAR, said the lineup will feature 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), along with representatives from the private investment and legal arenas.

The debate surrounding verified alarms is a fascinating one, and that’s due in part to the general complexity of an issue that involves stakeholders from outside the industry, as well as a host of ideas about the role of verified alarms that dovetail as much as they diverge.

I expect these discussions to generate some high-quality dialog that not only zooms into the subtleties and particulars of verified alarms, but also pans out to ask the big, overarching questions about the role of the industry in general. As the industry evolves, what aspects of the alarm industry as we know it will remain in place? What’s bound to change? What qualifies as a verified alarm, and where do legacy systems fit into the discussion?

These questions may not be asked explicitly, but I expect them to permeate the discussion.  

by: Leif Kothe - Wednesday, March 12, 2014

It still seems a bit surprising how many folks in the industry I speak to regularly despite never having met them in person. That’s all about to change in a few weeks. And maybe for some of you, it will change within a few hours of ISC West kicking off.

On Wednesday, April 2, my SSN colleagues and I will be at the ISC West Media Stage from 9:30 – 10 a.m. for a “Meet the Editors” event. It’s a good opportunity for us to meet with readers and sources as well as newcomers wanting to become acquainted with our publication. The media stage is located just outside the entrance to the show floor.

The media stage is also where I’ll be conducting a round of on-camera interviews with those on the central station side on Friday, April 4 between 10 a.m. and noon. Through these interviews I hope to discover what’s piquing the interest of those in the monitoring arena, that is, what they’re finding of value on the show floor or in the educational sessions.

I still have a few slots open, so if you’re with a central station and want to discuss what’s new or in the pipeline at your camp, or just want to share some general impressions about the show, don’t hesitate to shoot me an email at lkothe@securitysystemsnews.com.

Another media-related feature of ISC West 2014 will be the giant Twitter wall, where readers can feel free to contribute their own discoveries and thoughts about the show. The wall will offer a scrolling display of #ISCW14 tweets.

And should you exhibit a pattern of Tweeting especially compelling insights about ISC West, you may find yourself eligible for the MVT Award, which (as you might have guessed) will be given to the most valuable Tweeter.

by: Leif Kothe - Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Highlighted by the marquee acquisition of Security Networks, 2013 was unquestionably a strong year for Monitronics. It appears 2014 is starting the upswing as well.

Monitronics turned in an impressive haul at the latest Stevie Awards, reeling in a pair of Bronze prizes at the eighth awards show for sales and customer service. For the second consecutive year the third-party central station won in the Contact Center of the Year category, according to a news release from the company. The company was also honored in the Front-Line Customer Service Team of the year category.

The awards were presented at a gala banquet at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, the release noted.

On March 11, a pair of Monitronics leaders is slated to speak at the Piper, Jaffray Technology, Media & Telecommunications Conference held in at the Le Parker Meridien in New York.

Bill Fitzgerald, chairman and CEO of Ascent Capital, the holding company that owns Monitronics, and Michael Meyers, CFO of Ascent and Monitronics, will speak at the conference. According to an Ascent Capital news release, management may make “observations regarding the financial performance and outlook of both Ascent and Monitronics.”

In the wake of a big year for Monitronics, this presentation from management could be worth a listen. A live webcast of the presentation will be made available on the Ascent Capital investor relations website.

by: Leif Kothe - Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Though 18 states had previously legalized marijuana for medical use, it was the pair of initiatives passed in Colorado and Washington that legalized the substance recreationally that seems to have made the security industry more attentive to what kind of possibilities lie ahead in this new and rapidly expanding market.

It’s not difficult to see why. Those operating dispensaries and growing facilities will require security solutions for many of the same reasons an end user at a jewelry store would: They have to protect hundreds if not thousands of lightweight and expensive consumer products. End users will likely pull out all the stops on an integrated solution, relying on motion detectors, sensors, access control, dozens of cameras with status monitoring and, perhaps for larger storage facilities, virtual guard tours. Because the industry is in its nascent stages and still very much evolving, it’s difficult to forecast what the industry will look in even five to ten years from now.

New York-based DirectView Security, a provider of onsite and remote video and audio surveillance solutions and a subsidiary of DirectView Holdings, recently announced in a news release that it’s entered into “early stage discussions with several marijuana industry companies to provide a number of potential video surveillance and access control solutions.”

Though in many states marijuana laws are becoming more lax, the substance remains illegal under federal law. This adds an interesting wrinkle to the current security landscape in connection with this market. Federal pressure on banks has made it extremely difficult for pot dispensaries to get loans. As a result, they’ve had to rely primarily on cash, making them an even bigger target for robbers than they already were.  

It’s been well documented that ADT last year made a policy decision not to sell security systems to businesses engaged in the marijuana industry because it’s still illegal under federal law. It’s conceivable that other companies both large and small will also take that approach. But it will be interesting to see what companies take the reins in the market and to see to what kind of impact it will have on business.

In the news release, Roger Ralston, CEO and chairman of DirectView, expressed a good deal of optimism about doing just that: “Having worked to provide security products and solutions for large hotels and several banks, we have a strong understanding of complex security needs and how to provide the most cost-effective solutions,” he said, adding that he views the new market as “strong growth driver for our business in the coming years.”

by: Leif Kothe - Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Members of the IQ Certification Program recently elected officers at the organization’s first meeting of 2014. While there’s considerable continuity from years past (several members earned reelection), the board of directors also reflects some changes, highlighted by the appointment of Lynn Comer as chairperson.

Another change was the election of Don Childers, COO of Statesville, N.C.-based Security Central, to the IQ Board. Earlier this week I spoke to Don about some of the key priorities for the certification program moving forward. Childers said that, as with any association, exploring ways to boost membership remains an overarching objective.

“We have to show the value of what we’re doing, then determine how to get the message out en masse so that those in the industry better understand what we’re trying to do,” he said.

One strategy for doing just that, Childers said, is leveraging big-name industry events—he cited ESX as an example—to hold sessions that perform the double-task of educating prospective members while promoting the business value of being IQ Certified. An education chair at ESX, Childers said he would be in favor of including a 60 to 70 minute seminar at the show.  

As far as other goals with the organization, Childers said he may suggest ways to streamline some of the application paperwork for the certification program, making it easier for non-central station members, whose application process tends to be more involved. Besides that, Childers’ near-term aim is to examine IQ Certification membership “from the business owners’ point of view” and to continue “learning the job as I go along.” 

by: Leif Kothe - Wednesday, February 12, 2014

I reported last week on a bill in Georgia that would expand the number of Georgia contractors licensed to perform low-voltage installations. Yesterday, that piece of legislation (S.B. 294) passed the Georgia Senate by a vote of 53-0. Three senators were not on the floor during the vote.

John Loud, immediate past president of the Georgia Electronic Life Safety & Systems Association, and an opponent of the bill, admitted the outcome in the Senate was disconcerting. But he believes the legislative battle is far from over; he and GELSSA members are now developing a strategy to put the brakes on the bill in the House. “There are seven steps through the House for us to put various stops or blocks to this,” Loud said. “We knew it had been fast-tracked through the Senate, so my original plan was to skip the Senate and get ready for the battle in the House.”

If passed, the bill would permit those licensed as an Electrical Contractor Class II—a high-voltage installation certification—to perform low-voltage contracting, which encompasses fire and security systems, without obtaining the statewide low-voltage license that’s currently required.

Loud says the bill could bring an influx of new contractors into the life safety systems space, and could undo much of the progress GELSSA has made over the past year in promoting legislation that reduces false dispatches. He anticipates that the bill will now be parsed by the Regulated Industries Subcommittee in the Georgia House.

There are two possible compromises that GELSSA would find agreeable, Loud said. One would be to give the additional contractors who would be eligible to install life safety systems a Low-Voltage General (LVG) license rather than a Low-Voltage Unrestricted (LVU). A general license would allow contractors to pull wires but not install, for example, access control or fire safety systems.

The other outcome would be implementing a CEU program and background check that would ensure contractors are qualified to install low-voltage life safety systems.

Loud believes the bill could have implications that extend beyond the borders of Georgia. “It’s vital to get all the folks in Georgia to listen up and understand the impact of this,” he said. “As we all know, what happens in Georgia or Michigan or Pennsylvania can easily be replicated in other states.”

Pages