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by: Daniel Gelinas - Thursday, December 9, 2010

So we're getting ready for our next news wire and preparing to design and lay out our next issue of Security Systems News. That means I gotta be sure all my ducks are in a row...

Plenty of breaking news for the wire on Thursday ... Check!

The top monitoring beat news for my monitoring section ... Check!

A handful of interesting general news stories ... Check!

Special features like How I Use My System and Stats ready to go ... Check!

SSN's hard-hitting NewsPoll for the January issue with lots of chartable data and insightful comments ... Che-- Wait a minute!!!

I got all the data and have some beautiful pie charts now for the January issue and for the premium section of SSN... however, one of the most thorough and insightful comments in the comment section of the poll apparently has no attributed author... It's too bad, too, because someone really put a lot of time into this reposne... Unfortunately, if you don't tell us who you are, we can't and won't reach out to you for more information. Fear not, whoever you are; you're not the only one who commented and didn't leave a name or contact information. In fact, it happens every month. We've been trying to come up with new and exciting ways to remind you to leave your name and contact info, but we're kinda at a loss...

Anyway, here's the posted comment to SSN's last poll...

“During the recession, our employees have had to take on additional responsibilities previously shared by a larger number of employees."

I just gotta say, Amen to that, brother or sister. Seems like we've all had to really step up lately to run more efficiently. Then the nameless commenter goes on, as asked, to elaborate on some of his or her methods for not only attracting and holding onto those quality employees every security exec covets, but also how he or she maintains a paradigmatic work environment.

"1. Appreciation for their efforts is continually communicated individually and to the group. 

2. Employees are aware as to 'who is not pulling their share of the load.'  The need for increased efforts and results are discussed privately with the less productive employees.  If they choose not to improve their job performance, they are replaced.

3. Unnecessary expenses have been reduced or eliminated. It is difficult when employees are asked to sacrifice when they see money 'wasted.'

4. Road blocks are eliminated to make employees' jobs easier.  Management has to be even more aware and involved to make it easier for employees to achieve their goals.

5. Investment in employee training is emphasized.  Not only does this training make the employee more valuable to the company, but it also makes employees feel like they have a future with the company and they are also improving their skills. 

6. Management has to set examples that they are participating in the expense reductions and also putting in the extra effort."

Hear that bailed out financial institution executives...? Anyway, back to the list...

"7. Communication with employees has been increased.  Rumors can be devastating.  Sales, expense reductions and product/business development efforts are communicated.  These communications are two-way communications.  We are looking for employee inputs as to how to best increase sales, reduce expenses, improve our products and processes. 

8. With prospective employees we are honest about the business slow down and explain the efforts we have taken to improve the company and our products.  These changes will continue as the market improves.  We are looking for skilled employees who want to part of an aggressive team oriented company.  Our pitch is that you control your destiny as never before."

That all sounds pretty dang good... Thorough... I just wish I knew who's tight ship I was getting a look at... Please, if this was your comment, let me know so I can put your contact info in file and reach out to you for insight.

 

by: Daniel Gelinas - Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I like to give props where props are due. I got a release from Niscayah recently, and it appears the company's Woburn, Mass.-based central station underwent the vetting and attained Five-Diamond certification from the Central Station Alarm Association.

Good for them! I underwent the training that operators need to go through in order for their organization to get the certification. I have my certificate on my wall and my patch ready to be ironed/sewn on, should this journalism gig not work out and I need to look for gainful employ at a Five Diamond central. ;-)

According to the CSAA, there are about 2,700 central stations in the U.S. and only about 100 of them have gone through the vetting necessary to be certified. It's an elite group.

Niscayah in Woburn, Mass. shows off its Five Diamond plaque.

From the release:

"The Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) has announced that Niscayah, Inc-Woburn, MA has received the prestigious CSAA Five Diamond Certification.

"This Certification testifies that 100% of their central station operators have achieved proficiency and certification by passing the CSAA Central Station On-Line Operator Training Course. These courses cover virtually all phases of central station communications with customers, law enforcement, fire and emergency services communications centers. This critical area of communications is the life-saving link between the residential or business properties and the law enforcement, fire and emergency services in local areas."

Kevin Keohane, director of retail services for Niscayah said in the release that undergoing the Five Diamond process spoke to Niscayah's committment. “Acquiring Five Diamond Certification demonstrates Niscayah’s ongoing commitment to quality service and continuous improvement.  Through investments in technology and our most important resource, our people, Niscayah constantly strives to provide service excellence in taking responsibility for the trust and confidence of our client’s life and safety concerns."

Niscayah offers complete security solutions for customers with high security demands within market segments, such as banking, industry, defense, healthcare and retail.

I'm trying to build up the nerve now to undergo Level II training from CSAA. I actually started it last year, but ran out of gas before I took the final test. Maybe this year after the holidays.

A full list of Five Diamond central stations can be found at CSAA's web site.

 

by: Daniel Gelinas - Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I wrote a story recently about a neat initiative in the mid-Atlantic that aimed to help dealers improve their business, network, and have a little fun besides.

Dealers organized and competed against each other in areas such as adding on services, increasing RMR, and broadening industry knowledge through continuing education. Winners of the competition were feted at a pretty massive and awesome sounding tailgate at Baltimore's Baltimore M&T Bank Stadium for the Baltimore/Miami game on Nov. 7. They even got a visit from the Baltimore Ravens Cheerleaders. Kinda makes me wish I was an AlarmWATCH dealer down in Baltimore rather than a journalist up in Maine (Though I understand the Newspaper Guild is considering brining on a cheer squad...) Oh well.

The Protect-A-Thon was the brainchild of AlarmWATCH's Guy Kline and was brought to fruition by event partners Interlogix and AlarMarx.

It sounded like everyone really had a good time.

In follow up to that story, AlarmWATCH forwarded on some pics and a link to some video of the tailgate and game the winners got to go to.

Below, please check out pics and video of the First Annual Protect-A-Thon. Dealers interested in checking out AlarmWATCH and maybe getting in on the second annual event can visit AlarmWATCH's dealer page.

Incidenteally, Baltimore defeated Miami 26-10.

Here's a pic of Protect-A-Thon engineer Guy and AlarMax's Steve Heier.AlarmWATCH's Guy Kline and AlarMax's Steve Heier

And this is a pretty intense pic of Interlogix's Jim Porter.Interlogix's Jim Porter

This is a picture of the overall winners of the Protect-A-Thon.

Protect-A-Thon winners

Here's a pic of the gameday action between the Baltimore Ravens and the Miami Dolphins.

Baltimore Ravens vs. Miami Dolphins

by: Daniel Gelinas - Monday, November 22, 2010

Got my recent issue of CSAA's Signals, and boy was it chuck-full of news I could use. First, I see CSAA's brought on a replacement for Celia Besore by hiring Monique Silverio as the new director of marketing and communications. Avid readers of my blog (you know who you are, proud millions) will remember Celia left the CSAA in August and moved to a different industry. You'll also recall Celia was the first industry person I spoke with on the recommendation of my predecessor, Leischen Stelter.

Monique comes from a writing/editorial background (in trade papers, no less), so she's all right in my book. She also worked in the security equipment industry, serving as the director of communications for SIA from 1993-1994.

CSAA EVP Steve Doyle praised Monique in her hiring notice. "With her broad background in marketing and communications, non-profit and technical experience, Monique is a very welcome addition to the CSAA staff and family," Doyle said in Signals. "Communicating our message and marketing our programs is key for any association, and Monique's background is a great fit for CSAA."

I left a message for Monique (the first of MANY to come, I'm sure) to see how she was settling in. I'm certain I'll come to rely on Monique just as I relied on Celia for leads, info, connections and knowledge.

I actually just heard back from Monique. I like someone who returns calls promptly. This bodes well. She said she was settling in nicely and that the holidays were the right time to come aboard.

"It's only been a couple weeks now. We're working on some new webinars and we're wrapping up things for the year. It's a good time of the year to come on board because It's pretty quiet," Monique told me. "We're just ending a fantastic Fall Operations Management Seminar that had record attendance, so that's exciting. I just want to keep going and try and build on that success for next year get my feet wet and get to know the players."

Welcome, Monique!

Also from the current signals: ESX is all set for Charlotte, N.C. (I did not vote for Charlotte, but what're you going to do? I have it on authority from some native Charlotte-ians that there are plenty of really good restaurants there, so that's nice...) I've submitted my name for moderating a panel at this year's event, so keep your eyes open for more info on that.

For more information about ESX 2011, visit www.ESX.com. For more information on ESX exhibiting and sponsorship opportunities, contact Shannon Murphy at 508-618-4224 or smurphy@ae-ventures.com.

Signals also reported that this past year's CSAA Fall Operations Seminar in Anaheim, Calif. (hosted by Mace CSSS) had the largest attendance yet. I attended the Fall Ops Seminar in 2009 in Peabody, Mass., just a couple months after I started here at SSN. Signals has a nice contributed piece by State Farm Insurance superintendent of Central Station Monitoring Services Joe Miskulin. I've covered Joe's activities with CSAA before.

I found the sense of camaraderie at the 2009 seminar was palpable. Great news that attendance was up. Here's a place for those in the monitoring biz to learn from their peers and get in some valuable networking time.

Finally, CSAA's recent edition of Signals reports that the next Annual Meeting will be held in Venice, Italy at the Molino Stucky Hilton... This past year's meeting was in Marana, Ariz., reportedly at the behest of CSAA members who felt the usual exotic locales (1999=Maui, Hawaii; 2000=Monte Carlo; 2002=Cancun, Mexico; 2003=Lana’i, Hawaii, etc., etc...) were too opulent during a down economy... I guess things are looking up! Maybe I'll finally be able to go to this one... We'll see.

by: Daniel Gelinas - Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Okay, so it's not really the limelight, so to speak, but it is mainstream, and therefore pop! At least, it's a more pop context than the one in which I'm used to seeing false alarms and verification discussed (that would be Security Systems News' False Alarm Ordinance Watch column).

I've noticed something strange over the last few days... I've seen sizable stories in the mainstream media about false alarms, false alarm ordinances,  enhanced call verification and video verification.

These are stories aimed at end users that are talking about false alarm rates and ordinances in place as well as the different technologies available to alarm companies to combat false alarms. The mainstream media is talking with alarm company execs and industry experts. Makes me wonder if Security Systems News was on to something when we asked the association guys, "Should there be an appointed representative that speaks for the industry to the public?"

These are stories that quote industry guys from FARA and SIAC. These are news spots that highlight verification technologies (Hey, there's Corey Boggs, operations manager at Richmond Alarm Company, on NBC! (I interviewed Corey's uncle, RAC president Wayne Boggs recently when RAC expanded it's operations.) Corey's teaching end users all about Videofied, by the way... There's a new end user coming, one that's not afraid of technology, one that wants contact with a technologically advanced system and wants to help catch bad guys.), and educate average consumers about what's out there and available to them (And that's Safeguard Security's Travis Moss telling ordinary average viewers of ABC about verification technology.). And here's a story about a solution that's bringing live video feeds from local surveillance cameras into police cruisers (thanks for the tweet @SonitrolPacific!).

"It's nice to be on the cutting edge and to be known as people who are working with police departments," Corey told me on the phone. "What's weird for me is that my competition in Richmond really doesn't have a relationship with the police department--we dispatch them all day long, but the police departments have never been a group that we've done really well with, I don't think. We have all these false alarms and so they view us in a certain way. We've been able to address that and break down a few of those barriers in town. It's been fun." Corey and the gang over at RAC can be found at their site.

The fact that these news pieces were intended for end users, appeared in end user focused, mainstream media got me thinking once I got over that weird feeling... You know the one I mean... like when you were a kid and you'd see your Math teacher at the movies and you'd be like, "What are you doing here?  You're not a person... You can't be outside of school, going to see Robocop just like me."... Or maybe it's just me... Maybe you never saw Robocop ... or took math--I don't know your life.

Well, I got that same feeling seeing someone from RAC on NBC, and seeing Ron Walters quoted in a regular newspaper.

Anyway, I started thinking about how today's end user is different from the end user of yesterday. I think end users today want to know more,  be involved in more, understand more about everything that touches their lives. If there's an ordinance in place to control false alarms and penalize those who perpetrate them, they want to know where false alarms come from and what they can do to fight them. If they have a piece of technology (their security system, for example) as part of their lives, they want to not only understand how to turn it on, but interface with it and have as much control over it as possible. In fact, I've been hearing as much from industry luminaries like Monitronics' Mitch Clarke and American Alarm's John Tanner (pick up the October, 2010 and December 2010 issues of Security Systems News, respectively, for a look at SSN's feature "How I Use My Panel").

It makes me think more than ever that video and audio will be increasingly more common as time goes on. As technology improves and pricepoints come down. End users are going to start demanding it--especially if they're learning about it on their nightly newscasts.

It seems to me great opportunity lies in coupling different systems together, including security (along with two-way audio and video), home management, environmental controls, lifestyle stuff AV entertainment libraries, shopping lists, calendars, bill paying, etc., etc., and managing said systems through a mobile platform.

It's certainly time to embrace technology and bring everyone and every tool onboard to help fight false alarms.

by: Daniel Gelinas - Thursday, November 11, 2010

I got an email from Mission 500 recently. They're looking for 2011 “Humanitarian Award” nominations. I've written about Mission 500 and the charitable efforts of the industry before.

According to the Mission 500 release, the purpose of the Mission 500 Humanitarian Award is "to honor individuals in the security industry who make important contributions to those in need. The 2010 recipient, Mr. Alan Forman exemplified this through his involvement with numerous charitable organizations, as well as serving on the advisory boards of both Gift of Life International and Mission 500, and as the New York Metro Chapter President for the American Technion Society."

So if you know someone who's been walking the charitable walk and talking the charitable security talk, nows the time to give up some props. You can submit nominees to George Fletcher at pr@mission500.org, or by calling 305-321-3193.

The email also talks about ways you can get involved in helping others. One such way is by participating in the Security 5K, conceived by and cosponsored by United Publications, publisher of Security Systems News and Security Director News.

We've written about the Security 5K a number of times. You can learn more about the race and sign up to run or simply to donate here.

From the Mission 500 release:

"Mission 500 is also hosting its second 5K charity run at ISC West on April 7th, 2011.  The Security 5K/Mission 500 Charity Run is the first charity-driven event at an ISC Expo, conceived to engage corporate sponsors as well as individuals within the security industry.  Runners can register for the race on-site at the Mission 500 booth at ISC West, or online at www.firstgiving.com/mission500.  A nominal entry fee of $30.00 will go directly to the charity.

"The Security 5K / Mission 500 Race at the 2011 ISC West Expo in Las Vegas is a joint collaboration between United Publications, publishers of Security Systems News and Security Director News; Reed Exhibitions/ISC Expos; and Mission 500.  Charter sponsors are Alarm.com, Altronix Corporation, AXIS Communications, Deister Electronics, HID, LRG Marketing Communications, Pelco (by Schneider Electric) and Safety Technology International, Inc."

Though not mentioned in Mission 500's release, Panasonic, Honeywell and Bolide are also co-sponsors of the race.

We hope to see you at the starting line in Las Vegas!

by: Daniel Gelinas - Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I got an email from SIAC today concerning a pretty cool update to their site.

SIAC has been updating a lot lately, getting more heavily into social networking and taking the opportunity to update their website give some props to the peeps who've supported the associaiton in the past. There's a section on their new site dedicated to lauding those who've contributed to SIAC's running.

I wrote earlier in the year about SIAC's appeal for contributions. Those guys DO work pretty tirelessly with municipalities on behalf of the industry. They're always there trying to bridge the gap when municipalities and the industry threaten to clash.

SIAC executive director Stan Martin summed up the newly-added contributors page in the SIAC email:

“One of the main reasons we added our list of contributors is to give them the recognition and thanks they deserve for keeping SIAC funded and enabling us to help improve alarm management practices.  It’s only through their help that we can do the good work we do for other companies in our industry,” Martin said in the release.

Drop by SIAC's site and contribute or just get a look at those who have and thank them for supporting one of the industry's advocates.

by: Daniel Gelinas - Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Going through my email this morning, I noticed a little further discussion of video at Ken Kirschenbaum's newsletter. I've done a lot of writing about video. Specifically, I've written a lot about verification and companies like G4S, Westec, Stealth Monitoring and Viewpoint CRM who go beyond simple verification. A reader named John asked a simple question:

"Hi Ken,

Whom do you recommend for off site video storage and monitoring, including live look-ins?

John"

To which Ken responded, "I invited central stations to respond to the inquiry.  Here are the responses I received:"

I found the responses interesting and informative.

First was a reply from U.S.A. Central Station Alarm's Bart Didden. I've blogged about Bart's take on video verification and manufacturers and alarm companies that tout priority police response before. Here, though, Bart just talks about video in general:

"Ken,

    First my position, then the answer to your question.

    Video has gotten so much buzz for the last couple of years, that in my opinion many companies have been financially damaged trying to live up to the hype of video."

I've actually blogged about this before--the overselling, over-hyping of what video can do and the underplaying of it's limitations. We DO live in a world where Hollywood tells us we can recognize people and license plates from an orbitting satellite and make out the name of a perp's girlfriend in his tatoo from a conveniece store's CCTV footage... How much of that is true and how much science fiction? Regardless of the answer, Average Joe End User believes it can be done 'cuz he saw it on a mediocre (at best) episode of "CSI: Miami."

Bart continues:

"Dollar for dollar video has been the worse security investment ever to date because there are high expectations created by TV shows, manufacturers and the public at large because everyone expects HDTV quality and that the on-site recorders are always working. These expectations could not be farther from the truth especially when coupled with the inability to create recurring revenue streams for service."

I can't vouch for the veracity of that statement, since I don't know how much y'all have invested in failed attempts at video. It seems to me, however that there are companies out there offering video as a component of what they do, as well as making successful video services their entire business model. And I'm pretty sure RMR has been and will continue to be a part of that.

"Yesterday’s alarm company would have been better served if they followed the advice of industry pundits who said flood the neighborhood with door hangers while you were installing a system for the neighbor, concentrate on your business, stay focused on what you do best and communicate with your customers by making them lead generators."

Bart seems to be saying don't try new stuff... The problem is that end users tell YOU, their employees (wlhen you install a system for them), what they want. Especially in today's world where end users are more and more tech-oriented.

Bart DOES give some props to video, however.

    "But I do believe that there is hope for video in the near future.

    Here is my recipe for successful video sales into the traditional, service oriented alarm company.

    Smaller camera systems generate sales leads not just for the camera but an alarm system as well and vice versa.

    Health monitoring (system health, i.e. that its still alive) is essential! Otherwise your next call from your customer is going to be that the equipment failed when the customer needed it. This is just a no win situation because you failed to meet the customers expectations. This must also include the all of the system components, starting from the camera itself, all the way back including any recorder. Any loss of function has to leave the premise otherwise it is still useless.

    Tie the video into a monitoring protocol for enhanced alarm verification. This way it seems like you need both to 'get it all.'"

Here, I like Bart's direction. Use video intelligently--as part of a larger system. Tie everything together. It seems like he's saying be educated, be smart, communicate with the end user and provide a real service. I think that's probably sound advice. And though he doesn't come right out and say it, it's there: Be honest. If there are limitations to what the system you're selling can do, tell your end user. Be honest about the limitations and honest about how video can supplement more traditional solutions. Sounds like a good policy. USA does offer video programs for dealers, and interested parties can contact them.

Now the input on video didn't end with Bart. Steve Tapper over at OzVision also chimed in. I'm actually working on a story about OzVision and Sonitrol teaming up for Sonovision right now. Look for that story later this week.

Here's what Steve had to say about video:

"Hi Ken,

    If you are interested from a manufacturer perspective, I am happy to offer incite on what OzVision offers regarding off site Video Storage, as well as the many RMR services the central stations can provide to their clients such as:

- Continuous 24/7 recording on all cameras to be stored up to 1 year via the customized GUI for an OEM (and can be downloaded to your local PC)

- Video Motion Detection events stored and accessible via the customized GUI for an OEM (and can be downloaded to your local PC)

- Alarm Video Verification that the video will go to the off site server first, then instantly to the monitoring station, then onto the operator workstation which integrates with their particular automation software platform."

We here at SSN have done some writing about the ongoing evolution of video, including improved resolution quality, improved scalability through IP systems, dropping pricepoints, and improved analytics, all of which will continue to bring video into the mainstream.

What're your thoughts on video? I'd love to hear from you.

by: Daniel Gelinas - Wednesday, October 20, 2010

New Vector president and CEO Pam PetrowI just got the release from Vector, which last week lost its long-time and much loved and lauded president John Murphy. Vector announced Oct. 19 that its board had appointed Pam Petrow, former EVP and COO of the company as the new president and CEO.

A release from Vector states that Murphy selected Petrow before his death and that her taking over is part of a carefully laid plan for the direction of one of the largest full-service alarm companies in the U.S. “The current appointment is the culmination of a carefully thought out succession plan for Vector Security,” the release reads. “Petrow will now be in charge of moving the company forward on the successful path which Mr. Murphy began when he became President and COO of Vector Security, Inc. in 1991.”

I have calls out to Vector to try and track Pam down and get some commentary from her on her plans for helming Vector into the future.

Congratulations to Pam.

I first met Pam at the 2008 CSAA Fall Operations Management Seminar in beautiful Peabody, Mass. (I used to live next door in Salem). I was immediately impressed with Pam's passion, pressence, professionalism and poise. I spoke with Pam again on various occasions in relation to her various roles at CSAA and Vector and in working out a computer-aided-dispatch protocol that has since become a new national standard. Pam won an award for her tremendous efforts on that project.

I'm looking forward to speeking with Pam again and getting some input from her on her new role.

by: Daniel Gelinas - Wednesday, October 20, 2010

CSAA's holding a couple webinars over the next few days. I've attended them in the past and written about them. They've been time well-spent.

The first one is today and is on social media, which many have been discovering is a useful business tool. Today's webinar focuses on Twitter and LinkedIn, both used by yours truly daily for discussions of best practices, story leads, promotion of content, etc., etc.

The last one on social media was very informative and well-attended. I wrote about it here.

If you're interested in attending, you can register here.

Here's some  more info on today's webinar from CSAA:

"Attend the Next CSAA Social Media Webinar on LinkedIn and Twitter for Business 201 Wednesday, October 20, 2010, 3:00pm ET:

Speakers: Brandon Lilly, Bold Technologies and Kristen Plante, Alarm.com

A CSAA Signature Series Webinar:

Gain a deeper knowledge on how to use LinkedIn and Twitter for your business."

The next webinar is next week and follows up on the very first free webinar CSAA conducted. It will again be led by Attrition Busters president Bob Harris. Avid readers of mine will recall the times in the past I've speculated on Bob's potential connection to the A-Team...

I also attended Bob's debut as a webinar moderator for the CSAA. That was a good one, too.

Here's some info on Bob's webinar:

"Attend the Next CSAA Webinar 'From Satisfied to Delighted' Raising the Bar on Customer Loyalty' Tuesday, October 26, 2010, 2:00pm ET:

Speaker: Bob Harris, President Attrition Busters

A CSAA Signature Series Webinar:

From Satisfied to Delighted: Raising the Bar on Customer Loyalty

An energetic and interactive seminar conveying some fundamental tools which will empower employees and managers to raise the bar in terms of perceived “added value” in doing business with your company as opposed to your competitors."

Interested attendees can register here.

 

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