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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.”

by: Leif Kothe - Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Plagued by an astronomical 98 percent false alarm rate for security systems, Akron, Ohio is following the lead of several other major American cities and introducing verified alarm response, according to a report from the Associated Press, and a news release from Sonitrol, an audio verification company.

The policy, adopted in larger cities such as Detroit, Las Vegas and Milwaukee, is simple: If an alarm goes off, a possible crime must be confirmed prior to law enforcement dispatch.

There are several causes of false alarms—outdated systems and installation flaws are among the most common culprits. But whatever the cause, the torrent of towns and cities taking measures to address them suggests that municipalities and police departments have had enough. In addition to being a budgetary drag, false alarms can potentially have dire consequences if they delay police response to more critical calls.

To some, enacting policies designed to confirm crime prior to police dispatch sets the stage for greater cooperation between the industry and law enforcement. But according to the AP report, not everyone is sold on these measures being the best means of ensuring maximum public safety. David Margulies, spokesman for the SIAC, was quoted in the report saying such policies are "basically putting the public in danger." To be sure, there is a fundamental tension between the need for municipalities to save resources by reducing false dispatch and certain ideas about the best policies for responding to alarms. In the coming days, I hope to gather some opinions on both sides of this debate.

I’ll be interested to hear how municipal measures to curb false dispatches through verification policies modify the demands of central station personnel on the ground level. As such policies become more widespread, how will the industry change? Does the future of monitored alarms involve video or audio verification becoming de rigueur?

by: Leif Kothe - Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The informative marathon that was the opening day of TechSec drew to a close with the inaugural SSN NextGen panel discussion, moderated by yours truly, which showcased the perspectives of four honorees from SSN’s latest “20 under 40” class. The discussion revolved around four areas of technology—video verification, cellular networks, mobile apps and interactive services—that the panelists identified as crucial points of focus with respect to the industry’s future.

As I mentioned in the introduction, the panel provided a good snapshot of the industry. There were representatives from the systems integration side and the alarm monitoring space, and we also heard from an IT director at a super-regional. Well versed across the spectrum of topics, the speakers were able to weigh in on industry topics that were even a bit outside the scope of their professions.  

Joe Parisi, senior account executive at Rapid Response Monitoring, led an in-depth discussion on the value proposition of video verified alarms, and how an awareness of that proposition should guide how a company deploys and sells the offering.

The discussion branched next into the related topics of mobile apps and cellular technology. Johnny Cunningham, IT director at ADS Security, reflected on some of the challenges of the industry’s reliance on cellular networks, and Robert Gaulden, VP of sales and marketing at Kratos, discussed the future of NFC technology and clarified some of the demands involved with Kratos’ NFC pilot project at Arizona State University.

Jesse Rivest, territory manager at Affiliated Monitoring, spearheaded the portion of the panel devoted to interactive services. He forecast an expanded array of automated functions entering the mainstream, marked by the continued (and unlimited) development of interconnected applications in the home and beyond that have yet to fully crystallize.

After the session, SSN “20 under 40” recipients were honored at the awards ceremony. Below is a list of those honored at TechSec:

-Jesse Rivest, territory manager, Affiliated Monitoring

-Joe Parisi, senior account executive, Rapid Response Monitoring

-Navin Goel, operations manager, Go Safer Security

-Stephanie Wagner, licensing and compliance manager; field operations training and support

-Ronda Meyer, VP/controller, Per Mar Security

-Robert Gaulden, VP of sales and marketing, Kratos

-Johnny Cunningham, IT director, ADS Security

-Michael Campbell, VP of global sales operations, Diebold

by: Leif Kothe - Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Less than a week remains until TechSec Solutions kicks off in the comparatively balmy climes of Delray Beach, Fla. The location itself will be a welcome respite for those of us coping with the deep freeze to the north, but it’s the quality of the speakers and panelists that stand to be the biggest draw.  

I wanted to use this space to draw attention to a pair of Next Gen Security Series panels slated for the opening day, one of which I’ll be moderating. For the panel, titled “Security integrators’ perspective: The changing landscape of security integration,” I’ll be asking four members of SSN’s latest “20 under 40” class a range of questions focused on new and emerging technologies, all with an eye toward identifying what implications such developments have for the industry as a whole.

The panelists for my session will be Johnny Cunningham, director of information technology at ADS Security; Robert Gaulden, VP of sales & marketing at Kratos; Jesse Rivest, territory manager at Affiliated Monitoring; and Joe Parisi, senior account executive at Rapid Response Monitoring. Considering the range of professional responsibilities, the panel provides a pretty strong snapshot of the industry.

The other Next Gen panel will include “20 under 40” winners from SSN’s sister publication, Security Director News, and that session will be moderated by SDN editor Amy Canfield.

From Delray Beach I’ll be following up with more coverage on the Next Gen panels, while covering several other events in the TechSec program. I’m eager to meet some new folks down at the conference, and eager to hear what those at the vanguard think of the industry’s direction.

by: Leif Kothe - Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Several organizations recently joined PPVAR’s growing membership roster, but two of the new additions are particularly striking. Digital Life, a home management platform from AT&T, is now on board, according to Keith Jentoft, an industry liaison for PPVAR. This comes about seven months after Digital Life earned CSAA Five Diamond certification.

Investment bank Imperial Capital also joined the organization. This is doubtless an interesting development as well, with Imperial being the organization's first member from the private investment side. In a certain sense, an investment bank showing interest in video verified monitoring seems unsurprising, given signs of the technology's more mainstream direction, plus the technology’s ability to drive higher average revenue returns per customer. Additionally, when a private investment bank allies itself with a best-practices organization, it suggests their interest in the value proposition runs fairly deep.

The group also added The Illinois Alarm Association and the Michigan Association of Police Chiefs as members—both organizations the likes of which we've become more accustomed to seeing engage with PPVAR, an organization focused on pooling knowledge from members in both public and private sectors.

As PPVAR forges ahead toward its goal of written standards for video verification, I’ll be keen to see what kind of bearings its new members have on the organization’s direction. Will the addition of Digital Life compel other cablecos and telecoms to join? And with respect to Imperial Capital, I’m curious to see what kind of role they play in promoting PPVAR’s cause. Will their membership generate further interest in video verification from other private investment groups?

The organization is convening in the coming days, Jentoft said. After they do, I hope to get a clearer picture of where the organization is at this stage of the process.

by: Leif Kothe - Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Alarm.com’s new Wellness solution, unveiled recently at CES, may perform some of the same functions as a traditional PERS unit, but the solution has the unmistakable stamp of an Alarm.com offering.

The solution combines mobile notifications and sensors with the company’s home automation platform, a medley of functionalities that make it a unique contribution to the independent living product realm, which is fast becoming a widespread RMR-generating fixture in the industry.

That’s not to say Wellness doesn’t feature some of the typical trappings of more traditional PERS technology. The solution includes panic buttons, for instance. But how the offering differs from traditional PERS units in some ways parallels how Alarm.com initially distinguished itself as a company in the residential security space—through its automation functions. Through a network of sensors, the solution can automatically detect unusual information and send mobile notifications to caregivers.  

Since Wellness is fully integrated with the company’s home automation, energy management and security services, the offering essentially slots in as another component of the broader ecosystem of a connected home. Another neat wrinkle to the offering, and one that maybe shouldn’t be surprising given the overarching design of the solution, is that it enables caregivers to adjust household devices like thermostats remotely.

It’s hard to think of a product perfectly analogous to this elsewhere in the industry, though that doesn’t mean there’s not one, or at least something similar in scope and breadth. In the coming days, once CES is in the rearview mirror, I plan to speak to Alison Slavin, VP of product management at Alarm.com, to find out more about how this product puts a new spin on the PERS space, as well as what the future holds for the company in that market. 

by: Leif Kothe - Tuesday, December 31, 2013

DirectView Security Systems, a division of New York-based DirectView Holdings, is adding a video verification component its offerings to clients, which include both commercial and larger residential customers. As part of the initiative, the company plans to incorporate central station alarm monitoring and remote video surveillance into a comprehensive security solution.

In its initial announcement, DirectView stated it would provide a state-of-the-art UL-Listed facility for these services, but at this this juncture it’s not clear who that third-party partner will be. Security Systems News reached out to DirectView but did not receive a response by press time.

The impetus behind the video verification push, the company noted in the announcement, is multifaceted. As any champion of video verification will tell you, the value proposition lies in the technology’s ability to add the extra layer of security of trained professionals monitoring video footage, while saving clients money by reducing false alarms. In the announcement, the company said the solution will enable clients to also save money by reducing their dependence on on-site staff.

The verification component can also provide added urgency to a legitimate alarm, making dispatches a higher priority for law enforcement.

“We have received numerous inquiries from both current and potential clients about these services as part of a comprehensive and competitively priced security solution,” Roger Ralston, CEO and chairman of DirectView, stated in a press release. He added that the central station initiative is designed to make the company a “one-stop-shop” for comprehensive security solutions.

by: Leif Kothe - Wednesday, December 18, 2013

By way of a partnership with Axis Communications, cloud-based video verification service I-View Now is expanding its hosted video offering to include both cloud-hosted and central station monitored video with the release of its I-View Cloud service.

I-View Now made the announcement today in a news release. “Cloud stored video has matured as a service and product offering and coupling those benefits with central station monitoring is a true game changer,” Larry Folsom, president of I-View Now, stated in the news release.

The pairing of the cloud solution with Axis’ IP cameras offers customers a video monitoring service with the added security of central station backing. The video is streamed to the cloud then supplied to the central station for professional monitoring.

Just more than a week ago, at Affiliated Monitoring’s Security Summit ’13, I had the privilege of meeting Larry Folsom after hearing him speak as a panelist about sales strategies for video verification offerings, which continue to move on a trajectory toward broader, more mainstream adoption.

One of the overarching points Folsom emphasized in that panel was the importance of determining and then targeting a specific market for which a given video verification service or platform is best suited. He’s practicing what he preaches. Judging by the company’s statements, the I-View Cloud seems ideal for small businesses with low camera count sites, especially franchises with multiple locations (the release points specifically to gas stations, convenience stores and retail outlets). As with any cloud offering, the advantages are obvious: less reliance on less reliable forms of local storage for video clips.

In the coming days I plan to follow up in greater depth on some other RMR sources within the I-View Now cloud offering, including VSaaS, guard tours and video alarm verification from one installation.

by: Leif Kothe - Wednesday, December 11, 2013

AT&T has officially launched its mobile PERS unit, called the EverThere, a small wearable unit manufactured by Numera Libris. The device automatically detects falls, has two-way emergency calling, and will deliver both enterprise and direct-to-consumer solutions.

Chris Penrose, SVP, AT&T, emerging devices, shed some light on AT&T's plans for channeling the product to market. “In terms of end-users, unlike traditional PERS, which target individuals in their 80s, this mobile solution would offer true independence and freedom for the healthy aging population as well as those living with chronic conditions.”

For me, AT&T’s announcement has a touch of synchronicity.  For something of a niche offering, mPERS has come up quite a bit over the past two weeks, the topic surfacing in conversations with Josh Garner, CEO of AvantGuard Monitoring, and Kristin Hebert, dealer relations at Acadian Monitoring Services, who both said their companies have made strides with the fledgling offering. Though traditional units still comprise about 90 percent of their PERS account bases, the gains do represent some modest traction for a market that was essentially a non-starter some three or four years ago.

Unlike the market for traditional PERS, which consensus says is poised to explode, mPERS tends to have a few more skeptics. A common critique I hear about mPERS is that if you’re pitching the product to a healthy, ambulatory, active senior demographic, that very same demographic, by virtue of being healthy, ambulatory and active, will see no reason to pay for the unit. Another position I encounter is that cell phones, in all their ubiquity, have all but usurped the value of mPERS units.

This second point is worthy of consideration, but as AT&T’s device illustrates, the automated response provided by certain mPERS units or even professionally monitored mobile apps offers some differentiation.

As always, time will tell whether mPERS adoption will be buoyed along with traditional PERS, as the latter makes its projected rise in the market. As these markets become more valuable, I’ll be interested to see how some of the central stations fare as competition proliferates, both in the industry and outside of it.

by: Leif Kothe - Friday, December 6, 2013

The big news emanating out of Affiliated Monitoring’s Security Summit ’13 was (as expected) the roll out of InView, the company’s new video monitoring platform. Compatible with a host of DVR and NVR manufacturers, the suite signals Affiliated's entrance into video verified alarms.

In his welcome speech, Affiliated president Stanley Oppenheim told dealers they can expect to provide services in the coming years that they may not even be thinking about now. And, based on vice president Daniel Oppenheim's keynote, InView may be the platform that tries to bear that philosophy out. The suite is designed to continuously add new functionalities, Oppenheim said, and though he couldn’t disclose all that was in the pipeline, it’s safe to say he expects the offering to be a powerful generator of RMR.

Befitting the introduction of InView, the morning session consisted of a sales strategy panel with Larry Folsom, president of American Video and Security and CEO of I-View Now, and Deanna Blair of Videofied, who describes herself as a “video verification evangelista.” The panel was moderated by Mike Zydor, managing director at Affiliated.

In the discussion, Folsom talked about the positive correlation between sales and demos with video verified alarms. Demos are a crucial step in selling verificatio technology, he said, because there’s no better way to demonstrate its unique value to subscribers. Both Blair and Folsom also stressed the importance of honing in on a specific market, and leading instead of finishing with video verification when pursuing a sale.

After an InView demonstration led by Affiliated’s Aaron Salma and Larry Weintraub, we were led by Ashley Owens, Affiliated territory manager for the south, on a tour of the central station. This proved to be a major highlight of the summit. The place is sleek, and it’s hard to imagine that just a few years ago the venue was a furniture warehouse. The main space for operators and dealer relations personnel is spacious, and still has ample room to accommodate personnel growth in the future. The interior of the facility underwent a wholesale revision. I was told by Jesse Rivest, regional sales manager at Affiliated, that the mezzanine overlooking the much of the central's interior did not even exist when Affiliated bought the facility.

The tour concluded with us given access to a room housing two enormous, bright yellow Caterpillar generators which, should the need arise, allow the facility to run without external power assistance for 24 days straight.

This blog is beginning to stretch the limits of its medium, so I’ll plan to follow up with more highlights from the show in a future post or in the summit roundup. 

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