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by: Rich Miller - Monday, April 2, 2012

ISC West 2012 is in the books.

As expected, Day Three was a bit quieter than the opening two acts, but there was still plenty of action for those who chose to stay for the duration. Here are a few details from my stops on the final day:

— Don Maden, executive VP for COPS Monitoring, said the company is putting the final cosmetic touches on its new central station in Dallas, with an anticipated opening sometime in May. COPS has also rebranded its COP-A-Link online management tool for dealers as MPower and has added "a whole series of technical improvements to make the customer experience more seamless."

— Uplink VP Michael Gregory provided a rundown of new offerings from his company, including the Uplink 5100 universal broadband alarm communicator. The device is the company's "first broadband solution," enabling a dial-up alarm system to transmit signals and two-way voice over an Internet connection.

— Micro Key Solutions President Victoria Ferro detailed the company's new WebTech app, which gives technicians access to accounts in the field with any Web-enabled device. "It gives techs remote access to tickets, Google directions, signature capture and credit card payments," she said. "It's green, reduces the costs of paper, and provides better customer service by putting information at [techs'] fingertips."

— Wayne Alter, chairman of the board for Dynamark Monitoring, was still meeting-and-greeting during the final two hours of ISC West. Alter, who was joined by Tom Piston, VP of sales and marketing, and Michael Hutcher, VP of product services, said it had been "a great show" for the Hagerstown, Md.-based company.

That sentiment seemed to be echoed across the expanse of the Sands Expo, with many exhibitors predicting better days ahead for the industry as the economy continues to rebound. As the show ended and the booths were broken down, thoughts turned to the next big event on the calendar. For the monitoring industry, that means ESX.

See you in Nashville ...

by: Rich Miller - Friday, March 30, 2012

ISC West kept up a strong head of steam on Day Two.

It started at 7:30 a.m. with the Security 5K to benefit Mission 500, a nonprofit group that aids impoverished children. An impressive turnout of runners raised an equally impressive funding total, according to race organizers, and the group later said it had topped its goal of 500 children sponsored.

Then it was on to the show floor for another day of networking and discussion among the thousands, with no letup from Day One’s brisk pace. Here are a few details from my stops along the way:

— Secure Global Solutions announced a May 1 launch for a new app, Stages Metrix, that will give users tablet access to key central station performance figures.
— Keith Jentoft of Videofied provided an update of the growing alliance between insurers, law enforcement and central stations to increase arrests and reduce false dispatches with the use of video alarms.
— Cliff Dice of Dice Corp. detailed his company’s Matrix software, which brings video into a browser environment and opens the door to continuous RMR for integrators.
— Morgan Hertel, the new VP of operations for Rapid Response, disclosed that the company is planning to build a new central station in the West sometime in the next year.
— Gordon Hope of AlarmNet at Honeywell talked about the move to 4G and the June 1 release of the LYNX Touch 5100 wireless control panel with Wi-Fi communications module, which finds the best signal—2G, 3G or 4G—in the user’s area.

Like Day One, there was obviously much more, but I’ll put it to bed for now and gear up for tomorrow’s finale. See you there …  

 

by: Rich Miller - Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Quite the first day for a first-timer at ISC West, and for a first-timer to Vegas to boot. Now I can understand what all the fuss was about leading up to the show.

Day One started with a “Meet the Editors” session at the SSN booth—No. 27065, stop by if you get a chance—which was followed by a full slate of media gatherings and meet-and-greets. Here were a few:

— I got the lowdown from ASSA ABLOY on what it’s doing to fill the “medium security” gap for access control, or components targeting the void between $200 and $4,000. The company sees a growth market there and is moving to take advantage.

— Bill Hobgood, project director for the Department of Information Technology, Public Safety Team, for the city of Richmond, Va., gave a firsthand account of what ASAP can do for speeding the flow of information between central stations and PSAPs. If you’re still holding on to the phone as the future, Richmond’s experience will change your mind.

— Chris Holbert, CEO of SecuraTrac, told me how the company’s new app, SecuraFone, disables social media sites when in motion—hello, distracted teens—along with immobilizing email and texting. Other features include physical tracking and more importantly, emergency response for seniors. SecuraTrac is teaming with Mace CS to expand along this avenue in the future.

— Bosch acknowledged the hectic pace of the day with a 5 p.m. session that featured a truck giveaway and happy hour refreshments, which turned out to be a real crowd-pleaser. A great way to end a long day on the floor.

My day isn’t done yet—I’m about the step out the door to attend a UCC cocktail party—and Day Two and Day Three await, so I’ll sign off for now. Much more ahead, hopefully with a decent night’s sleep to take it all in. The young and lively door-bangers in the room next door may have something to say about that, though. This is Vegas, after all …    

by: Rich Miller - Monday, March 26, 2012

Morgan Hertel has been named vice president of operations at Rapid Response Monitoring.

That information, courtesy of a new posting on his LinkedIn profile, greeted me today as I packed up my laptop and headed out the door to ISC West. It marks a quick turnaround for Hertel, who just two weeks ago stepped down as vice president and general manager for Mace CS.

In a March 12 news release from Mace Security International, the company said Hertel’s departure was “for personal reasons” and that he would be “working closely with Mace CS in a consulting role over the next several months.” Hertel took over as director of operations at the company’s wholesale central station in Anaheim, Calif., shortly after the CSSS acquisition in 2009.

As for what lies ahead at Rapid, the 30-year industry veteran states on LinkedIn that he’s working on “several high-level projects and initiatives. … At Rapid Response I have many resources, some of which include a complete software development team, a huge IT and technical staff and one of the most educated and talented operations and finance groups consisting of almost 400 staff members.”

Hertel will be a panelist at ISC West at an educational session titled “NFPA 72: Are You Ready for the Changes?” If I can’t catch up with him before I get on the plane, hopefully I’ll get a chance to do so at the show. It will be interesting to see how his expertise comes into play at Rapid.  

by: Rich Miller - Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Calling all alarm companies …

Are you robocalling into the void in an attempt to land new business, or to sell new products and services to existing customers? There are new rules that will soon affect you.

Under provisions of an order adopted Feb. 15 by the Federal Communications Commission, express written consent will be required from consumers before a company can place a marketing robocall to a residential or wireless number. The FCC also will require telemarketers to provide an automated “opt out” mechanism during each robocall, and it is sunsetting an important exemption for businesses placing such calls.

The bottom line for the alarm industry is that companies using robocalls to market products and services will no longer be able to do so under the “established business relationship” exception, according to Lou Fiore, chairman of the Alarm Industry Communications Committee. Instead, companies will have to obtain prior customer approval.

The good news for alarm companies is that the AICC petitioned regulators to protect certain industry uses of robocalling, and Fiore said the FCC adopted final rules that did just that.

“Alarm companies that use robocalls to try to reach customers to verify an alarm [after initial attempts by a live operator] should be able to continue such practice because it would appear to qualify as a call made for emergency purposes, and not a call made for a commercial purpose,” Fiore wrote in an online AICC missive. Calls to verify service appointments and to collect debt also will not require prior consent.

Implementation of the new rules is pending publication of approval by the Office of Management and Budget in the Federal Register. The exact time frame for that is uncertain, but it will happen. To determine the extent that it will affect the industry, the AICC is asking companies that use robocalling for marketing purposes to contact Fiore at ltfiore@aol.com by Friday, March 23.

And those political robocalls that we all know and love? They’ll still be allowed. Only seven months till November …

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by: Rich Miller - Monday, March 12, 2012

Morgan Hertel, VP and general manager of Mace CS, has stepped down for personal reasons, Mace Security International announced today. A replacement wasn’t named, but a Mace news release said Hertel “will be working closely with Mace CS in a consulting role over the next several months.”

Hertel, who was named director of operations at Mace shortly after the CSSS acquisition in 2009, could not be reached for comment. “Our clients remain in the very capable hands of the Mace CS professionals who have a high degree of technical expertise and training for the positions they hold,” he said in the company’s statement.

Hertel is a well-known figure in the monitoring world, with more than 30 years of experience and active service on many industry committees. He was a panelist for a discussion on cloud security at the recent TechSec conference in Delray Beach, Fla., and is scheduled to speak at ISC West at a session titled “NFPA 72: Are You Ready for the Changes?”

As for professional changes for Hertel, I hope to learn more soon.

 

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by: Rich Miller - Wednesday, March 7, 2012

How did the wholesale monitoring industry hold up in 2011? Michael Barnes knows.

Barnes, founding partner of Barnes Associates, a consulting and advisory firm specializing in the security alarm industry, recently completed a joint survey with Security Systems News that involved the biggest players in the industry. It was the second year that Barnes has conducted the survey with SSN, and it provided some interesting insights.

Without completely tipping Barnes’ hand, let’s just say that the industry grew. I had a chance to find out more about it this week in conversations with two leaders of the monitoring world, Russ MacDonnell of Rapid Response and Don Maden of COPS Monitoring. They both confirmed what the Barnes/SSN survey found, and that bodes well for the industry.

I’ll have more about the survey soon, both on the SSN website and in the April issue.

CSAA webinars: The Central Station Alarm Association has two sessions on tap that promise to be of interest to members and nonmembers alike.

“Building a Partnership with Insurers,” scheduled for 1 to 2 p.m. March 14, will focus on how insurers are resurrecting the insurance/alarm industry/law enforcement triad for lower losses and greater profits. “Social Media in the Central Station,” set for April 18 from 1 to 2 p.m., will examine the benefits and hazards of Facebook and Twitter in the monitoring workplace.

For more information on either webinar, contact Stephanie Morgan at smorgan@csaaintl.org or call 703-242-4670, Ext. 15.

by: Rich Miller - Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Make it three out of four for Monitronics.

The Dallas-based alarm monitoring firm was recently named Frost & Sullivan’s North American Company of the Year for 2011, adding to similar awards the company won in 2008 and 2010.

Frost & Sullivan praised Monitronics for maximizing value to clients by expanding its customer service operations and streamlining internal processes, resulting in record-low attrition for the year. The market researchers also cited the company’s “concerted efforts” to expand its dealer network, a point that wasn’t lost on Bruce Mungiguerra, VP of sales and dealer development for Monitronics.

“The biggest part for us, for our company and our dealers, is the way our program is modeled as a 100 percent dealer environment,” he told Security Systems News. “All of our business comes through our dealer network, and we really promote a high level of branding for our dealers to promote themselves and be their own local company.”

Mungiguerra said the award gives Monitronics’ dealers a big boost when it comes to marketing their services.

“Being able to have been recognized as the North American alarm provider of the year now for three years, it really helps give credibility to the dealers,” he said. “They can use those logos and that information on their branding to show what a great central station we are. … At the end of the day, our bread and butter is the ability to provide great monitoring services to retain our customers for a long time.”

Tweets for SIAC: Social media and the Security Industry Alarm Coalition? It might not sound like a match made in heaven, but SIAC sees the value of Tweets and blogs and is taking advantage of the new tools. Since launching its initiative a year ago, the group has attracted more than 100 followers on Twitter and 40 to 50 blog readers a week.

“While we have overcome many challenges, our industry continues to face significant issues in many communities,” said Stan Martin, SIAC’s executive director. “Social media helps us keep industry leaders informed on key issues in real time so that we can engage law enforcement and elected officials early in the decision-making process.”

SIAC’s weekly blog can be found at www.siacinc.wordpress.com, with Tweets at @SIACINC.

“It’s a long-term growth process to get more people involved in improving alarm management practices across the country,” said Dave Simon, SIAC’s communications director. “The first step is sending relevant, consistent information, and we believe these tools are effectively serving that purpose.”

by: Rich Miller - Wednesday, February 22, 2012

At more than 100 pages, the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012—H.R. 3630, the so-called "payroll tax" bill that passed Congress last week—is a daunting read for just about anyone outside the Capitol. There's a lot in it that doesn't pertain to tax relief or job creation, including items of great interest to the alarm industry, and now it is law.

A lot was changed during the months-long process of getting the bill through the partisan morass, but one item of concern to the alarm industry survived intact: language defining "Next Generation 911 services" and the possibility of unverified PERS calls going directly to PSAPs. Despite the efforts of Alarm Industry Communications Committee, which worked with the National Emergency Number Association on revisions to the language, H.R. 3630 passed without the requested changes as the bill accelerated through a congressional conference committee.

There is a silver lining, though. The AICC was told by congressmen that the NG 911 provision would only authorize a limited number of demonstration projects, and that it did not authorize the Federal Communications Commission to permit automated unverified calls to go directly to PSAPs.

I'll have more details soon, along with a look at the proposed auction of frequency spectrum that could affect the monitoring industry.

by: Rich Miller - Wednesday, February 15, 2012

“Guards, gates and guns.”

That was the standard for the security industry 20 years ago, as cited by Edward Levy, VP and global head of security for Thomson Reuters, during his keynote address at last week’s TechSec conference in Delray Beach, Fla. But while technology has clearly raised the bar since then, allowing many companies to reduce the number of boots on the ground, a contradictory fact remains: The age of the guard is not over.

To prove the point, look no further than the streets of New York, where SecureWatch24 has announced plans to move aggressively into guard services. The company was recently awarded a contract to supply unarmed guards at an Ivy League alumni club in Manhattan, and it intends to continue to push into this segment with its own training program.

“We’re moving into the guard sector in a big way,” said Jay Stuck, VP of sales and chief marketing officer for SW24, which specializes in property surveillance and video monitoring. “We think it’s pretty compatible with the technology initiatives we have going right now. Our view is that the two can work hand in hand. … At the end of the day, you’re still going to need guys in navy blazers.”

While Stuck sees a bright future for the guard segment, what does the rest of the industry think? You can weigh at rmiller@securitysystemsnews.com.

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