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by: Daniel Gelinas - Thursday, January 6, 2011

I have been following Verizon's nudgings around the security industry since I met one of the company's marketing folks at ESX in June. And now that they've unveiled their new Verizon Home Monitoring and Control solution at CES in Vegas, I've got the story on that as well (just take a look at our top story on today's newswire).

In my research on the solution and in my interviews of the key players and industry commentators, I turned to security industry mainstay, George DeMarco who is the chairman of ESX.

George assured me he'd been talking about this kind of thing for quite a while and promised to get back to me as soon as he'd had a chance to do a little looking around of his own. As promised, George got back to me in an email at midnight of Jan. 6, the day CES dawned in Vegas. As luck would have it, I just happened to be going through my work email at the time (George and I are THAT devoted to security!) I've included select portions of George's remarks in my general Verizon story, but I felt that his response--more than just a simple few remarks--constituted a cogent and thought-provoking look at the way the winds are blowing. So compelling was George's response that I've decided to include it in its entirety below. Please enjoy George DeMarco's take on the changing state of the security industry, and what we should all be thinking about.

The electronic security industry has been going through a metamorphosis for some time. This is a result, in my opinion, of the advent of Fortune 500, multi-national and large, well-funded companies over the last ten years. Recently, we had Ascent Media, a content provider for media and entertainment services, entering the security monitoring business in a huge way. Now we have Verizon, with a market cap of $106 billion, announcing their official entrance into the "connected home" arena, offering cameras, motion sensors, smart door and window locks and energy efficient devices.

What we are witnessing is the evolution of the industry, being driven by new players focused on penetrating a very large market opportunity or increasing their customer share. Energy savings and remote access into the home will become a huge driver for homeowners in their buying decisions and Verizon recognizes this value proposition for their customer base. It is fast becoming a race to capture the attention of customers interested in convenience, savings and security, and consequently capturing the recurring revenues associated with these services.

ESX chariman George DeMarco

Technology is allowing suppliers and service providers the ability to deliver more desirable products and services that offer more powerful solutions for end-users. I believe these newest non-traditional players are "thinking on the fringes" of the box and are ready to storm the castle so to speak. The question is can companies, such as Verizon, deliver that personal touch expected by so many end-users. And, of course, from a regulatory aspect, is Verizon prepared to go it alone or will they be partnering with the industry. The industry says past history has proved that these companies have failed miserably; however, past history is no guarantee of future performance. From my viewpoint, I think competition is a good thing ... just don't underestimate your competition.

Think about this ... Verizon has 93 million customers nationwide. This number is extremely compelling as they develop their go-to-market strategy and uncover their execution results. How many of their customers own homes?  How much will it cost them for lead generation? How effective will they be penetrating their own customer base? What is their current bundling strategy? What is the percentage of customers that choose all their available services in a bundled offering?

This is where I offer words of caution ... be careful, be very careful. At some point, they will get it right and many alarm dealers and integrators will simply say what the heck happened. The current business environment offers a great opportunity for long-time industry professionals to reevaluate their game plans and consider writing new play books to effectively compete at a higher level, no matter who your competition is, today or tomorrow.

by: Daniel Gelinas - Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I wrote a story a while back about Baltimore-based AlarmWATCH doing some creative dealer incentives. They brought competing dealers out for a day of tailgating and football. Now this morning I came across another monitoring company setting up some friendly competition with a cool payoff for dealers.

SentryNet's sending dealers on a cruise to Cozumel...

"SentryNet is planning their annual dealer conference in 2011 and has booked cabins and meeting space on the Carnival Elation for their dealers and the few lucky vendors who sign up.  Dealers are earning their tickets to get on-board by doing what they do anyway; putting accounts on-line with the industry’s best independently owned monitoring station.  They receive bonus points for using enhanced services and attending industry meetings, on a state and national level."

That's cool. Sounds like a nice way to encourage dealers to get out and grow their businesses.

"We have been gathering our dealers annually for the past 16 years in different locations to educate, entertain and celebrate. These annual dealer seminars are usually held at fun locations so we can get together for two or three days. We provide CEUs, with a mini trade show in an atmosphere that encourages our dealers to share success stories and network with colleagues. Many dealers have established and maintained friendships over the years at these meetings. It also gives vendors and dealers a chance to network one on one in a relaxed atmosphere that helps build the personal relationships necessary for doing business together. Vendors usually sign up early to get a good space and a chance to be on the agenda for panel discussions or CEU classes," said SentryNet VP of operations Michael Joseph. "The prime locations are our way of thanking our dealers for their business. Past years have included locations at resorts, casino’s, and historic venues; generally in the southeastern US. Last year’s event was held in Clarksdale, Mississippi, 'the birthplace of the blues and home of Morgan Freemen’s Ground Zero Night Club.'"

The ocean-bound dealer conference will include a mixer and mini tradeshow as well as class time for those dealers and employees who need to attain their NTS CEU’s for licensing renewals.

“We believe this will be our best attended and most remembered conference,”  David Avritt, president and owner of SentryNet said in the release. “We stress to our dealers when you work hard, you have to learn to play hard and in the end you will succeed.  This is just one way we can assist them in the process.”

More information on SentryNet’s 2011 Dealer Conference can be found at SentryNet's site.

 

by: Daniel Gelinas - Tuesday, December 21, 2010

So, I've been doing a lot of writing about Monitronics, lately. I wrote about two recognitions they got from market research company Frost & Sullivan in the last couple weeks. And then on Friday, the announcement came out that they had been acquired by holding company Ascent Media for $1.2 billion. That's a lot of cash... And a lot of due diligence looking into a company that, according to Ascent CEO William Fitzgerald, "has grown revenues and EBITDA organically for 16 consecutive years." Nice work guys.

I first started writing about the possibility Monitronics would soon sell back in August and at the time, Jennifer Holloway predicted the company's sale before the end of the year. Spot on, Jennifer. Spot on.

Now just today, I received a press release that Monitronics has been pitching in on the charity front. That's another favorite blog topic of mine: taking a look at what security companies are doing to help those in need.

Deion Sanders’ nonprofit, PTA (Prime Time Association) hosted its annual Christmas party in Fort Worth to deliver donated gifts to 7,000 children and their families on Saturday, Dec. 18. Monitronics was represented by Lakesha Moore, and Travis Prater. During the event, needy children were provided with toys and clothing.

From the Monitronics release:

"We are less than a week away from Christmas, but Santa came early for many children on the 'nice list' Saturday. Monitronics and Deion Sanders’ nonprofit, PTA (Prime Time Association) joined forces, once again, to deliver smiles to local children."

Good work guys. Again, from the release:

"'PTA believes that one of the most lasting experiences in childhood is Christmas—each and every child deserves to have that experience,' said Sanders. “With the help of companies like Monitronics, we are able to reach more and more local children every year.'”

Prime Time Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded by Deion Sanders in 2008. Their mission is to serve communities by reaching and teaching youth through sports and education. They promote positive self images and invest in the mental, spiritual, physical, financial, and overall well­being to build stronger kids by reinforcing education.

by: Daniel Gelinas - Thursday, December 16, 2010

So I was scouring my inbox this morning and came across a Google Alert that claimed to link to the most annoying alarm in the world... Obviously, I had to check it out.

The alarm project is from the U.K.'s Alarm Monitoring Company and consists of a home alarm rigged together with a gaggle of vuvuzelas... you know those annoying airhorn thingies Europeans like using at soccer games?

I have to admit it's pretty dang funny... and effective... When I played the YouTube video, half my office evecuated.

I really like the dry erase board in the video. Reminds me of my first day here at SSN when former editor Sam Pfeifle broke out a bevy of dry erase markers, sat me down in the conference room and illustrated the security industry for me and all the different spokes and verticals in all it's wacky, interconnected glory... I still don't really understand the whole picture, but I'm getting closer every day.

Hurray for innovative new alarms. And hurry for companies that put a little humor into something they obviously love doing--protecting lives and property. I've blogged about security videos before. It's a fun way to bring some light into the industry. I also blogged a while back about, Nasuni, a cloud storage company that was putting a little humor into it's industry through video. I tried to embed the video below, but our new CMS wouldn't let me. Well, click on the link to the vid on YouTube above. Enjoy! With your computer turned way, way up!

by: Daniel Gelinas - Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I got a press release from Iverify today. A select group of Iverify employees and family members are coming together to help out a good cause.

From the release:

"Team Iverify, the cycling team sponsored by Iverify.US Inc, the Charlotte NC based video monitoring company,  is pleased to announce it has delivered a donation in the amount of $31,250.00 to the Pan Mass Challenge.  The donation will support   cancer research at the Dana Faber Cancer Center and help support the costs of families with children being treated for cancer.

"The Pan Mass Challenge is the oldest extreme fund raising event in the country. Over 5000 bicycle riders cycle 192 miles in two days starting in the Western Massachusetts town of Sturbridge and ending on the tip of Cape Cod in Provincetown. This year the PMC riders raised and donated $33 Million to the Dana Faber Cancer Institute."

That's pretty cool, I have to say. Security Systems News started the Security 5K--a 5k road race that raises money for Mission 500--at ISC West and expects the race to be even bigger this year than last.

It's nice to see security companies pulling together and helping out those in need. I've done some writing about such initiatives before.

Again from the Iverify release:

"In their fourth year Team Iverify and its riders, Beckie and John Beaupre, Kristan and Will Ash, Eric and Kim Kohler and Iverify CEO Mike May and his wife Tricia, trained for several months in anticipation of the ride.

I interviewed Mike May recently for a story I did after Mike selflessly intervened in an altercation to save the life of a stabbing victim. Pretty intense stuff.

“We are very proud to be able to join thousands of other riders and great organizations like the Jimmy Fund and the Boston Red Sox Foundation in support of the research funding for the defeat this terrible disease," Mike said in the release. "Nothing touches us more and inspires us to make that long ride than the smile on the face of our 17 year old Pedal Partner, Jennat Mustafa, a survivor of Non Hodgkins Lymphoma. We would like to thank the hundreds of folks who worked with us and donated to Team Iverify. You make the difference and deliver the results for our team.”

Good luck in the race guys!

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.

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