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by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Connect America, a large provider of PERS products, recently announced two acquisitions through its Healthcare Division; Racine’s Medical Alert, based in LaJunta, Co., and Spirit Homecare’s Medical Alert Division, located near Des Moines, Iowa.

“We acquire…  local providers that really have a regional reach and the opportunity to grow those businesses by cultivating referral sources in the geography where they operate,” Richard Brooks, president of Connect America’s Healthcare Division, told Security Systems News.

By acquiring Racine’s Medical Alert, Connect America’s Healthcare Division expands into Colorado. The company will continue to use it’s Racine’s brand.

Brooks said that the purchase of Spirit Homecare’s Medical Alert Division opens the company’s opportunities in the Des Moines. This division will fold into Connect America’s network in the Des Moines area.

These acquisitions complement the company’s July acquisition of Home Buddy, based in Kansas, Brooks said.

Brooks described the company’s approach to incorporating acquired businesses, “We enhance the sales and marketing operation, we take some of the back office functions and move them to our headquarters, and emphasize a sales effort on a local basis.”

Connect America’s Healthcare Division has finalized four acquisitions in the past 12 months and expects a similar rate for the next year, according to Brooks.

The Healthcare Division grows both organically and through acquisition; 70 percent of the division’s growth comes organically and 30 percent is through acquisitions. The company did not announce the number of subscribers included in the deal.

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Throughout the year one topic has been cropping up: the benefits of switching to a wholesale central station.

Several companies this year have opted to pick a third party monitoring center over continuing to operate their own central; RFI Communications switched to Rapid Response in March, Red Hawk Fire & Security partnered with Affiliated in October and, most recently, Comtronics switched its monitored accounts to NMC.

Some of these companies said that the move allowed them to refocus on the core of their business.

One thing that each of these companies highlighted is new-found flexibility and the ability to focus more heavily on offering new services and technologies to their customers. Specifically, these companies highlighted offerings such as mobile services and video verification with I-View Now.

This has been a pretty hot topic in the industry, it seems. I know if came up at CSAA’s annual meeting in the panel entitled “Owning vs. Contracting – Future Trends for Monitoring Centers.” I’d like to hear your opinions; Is this trend going to continue? Feel free to check out our most recent News Poll to share your views on the business benefits of either third party monitoring centers or operating your own central station. 

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Day Three

Day three kicked off with the third general session. Next, the day's keynote speaker, Dr. Robert Rhom, opened up a discussion on different personalities and how businesses can use a variety of tactics to increase connections and sales.

Rhom lead the group through an exercise to see elements of their own personalities, whether they lean toward outgoing or reserved, task-oriented or people-oriented. Defining different pairings as dominant (outgoing and task oriented), inspiring (outgoing and people oriented), supportive (reserved and people oriented) and lastly the cautious-type (reserved and task oriented).

He then gave advice on how to approach folks with these personalities; dominant people like to see results and like to be their own boss, and supportive people like acceptance and appreciation.

In "Latest Advances in Fire Technology," Steven McCurdy, Honeywell Security and Fire's director of sales, strategic accounts, distributions products group, looked at several issues related to fire installations and where newer technologies fit in. He pointed to several different new state legislations, including New York, which mandated CO detectors in all commercial facilities-not just new buildings, and Illinois, with new and existing K-12 schools.

McCurdy discussed wireless detections and some its key applications, such as with historical buildings, places of worship, and parking garages. "it's been a great solution for this industry," he said.

Another key technology, according to McCurdy, is early detection. "We detect smoke, but what's happened? There's already a fire," he said. Earlier this year the company acquired early detection and fire technologies from Xtralis.

Stan Martin, SIAC's executive director, presented "Maximizing Law Enforcement Relationships," among the final sessions of this year's CONNECT. He looked at the benefits of security companies working with their local law enforcement.

Direct pieces of advice included talking with law enforcement about problem accounts and seeing what can be done about those customers. "Everyone has problem accounts," Martin said. Among first steps, he said, "You should know the alarm coordinator in the cities you operate in."

There are benefits of forming these relationships, Martin said, including notice of pending ordinance changes, "They might even call you and ask for your input."

Martin gave several examples of how companies can interface and communicate with its law enforcement, including inviting chiefs and council members to events in the alarm industry, or congratulating new promotions in the force.

 

It was great being at CONNECT this year, there were a lot of interesting conversations going on, both in the breakout sessions as well as in networking events. Hope to see you all next year!

Day Two

The second day kicked off with a general session. Marek Robinson, Honeywell Security & Fire’s VP of sales, intrusion, addressed this year’s theme, “Your Voice. Your Network. Your Future.” The dealer’s voice comes into the conference in the form of feedback on past CONNECT shows. As a result, he said, “We went about our breakout sessions in a completely different fashion.” This year, the educational sessions are 60 percent more dealer-lead. Dealers also said they would like to see more networking options, and the “network” comes in with a special networking reception organized for later in the day. 

Robinson added that the future is looking bright. Business models are changing, he said, giving examples like Uber, a very large transportation company which owns no cars, and Airbnb, an icon in the accommodations industry, though it doesn’t own any real estate. 

Todd Reif, president, Honeywell Fire Safety Americas, got on stage to talk a bit about the company’s approach to the IoT. Rief said that the company is looking to take a new approach, including more third party integrations, "We are moving from a closed stance ... to a more open stance."

Inder Reddy, president, Honeywell security products Americas, discussed several things, including Honeywell’s focus in 2016 on creating aesthetically pleasing systems and the new Lyric Gateway panel. The Gateway is really quick to install, he said, which leaves technicians with more time to engage with the user and walk through the new system. “A more engaged user is a more sticky user,” Reddy said.

Robinson included more voices from the dealer by bringing onstage Scott Hightower, president and CEO of Verified Security, to talk a bit about the benefits of the dealer network and Security Solutions’ Jamie Vos to discuss the future for the industry. Vos identified video technologies as a trend, adding that “video needs to be interactive” in order to beat lowest cost options that can be bought online.

Following the general session, I attended “Essential Components Of A Great Branding Strategy in the Digital Age,” presented by Tammy Beil, chief growth officer for marketing firm TABiel. Beil started the session by listing top recognized brands across thee world, including Google, McDonalds, Ford and Nike. Marketing and branding is a conscious effort, she said, "this is not something that happens haphazardly, there's a reason that you know these companies."

Branding, according to Beil, is a valuable asset to the company, and provides a return on the investment put into it. "If you do marketing right and you do your branding right, it will pay you back in spades," she said. “It will boost your immediate sales."

Beil advocated using social networks to push out marketing. One attendee in the branding question asked about how to best utilize LinkedIn. Beil advised interacting, engaging and joining groups on the site, as well as using it for a personal resource and to recruit. "Use it as a tool to leverage what you need."

“DIY- It's for Real” was among the next round of breakout sessions. Quentin Gunther, dealer development manager for Honeywell, opened the session. He began by addressing ecommerce, how prevalent it is, and how some companies may be able to operate an online store while maintaining their current model—though, it isn’t necessarily for every company.

Greg Judge, director of sales for Comtronics, spoke next on the methods Comtronics used in setting up a DIY offering. Comtronics operates 12 Verizon dealerships, apart from its security business, and sells a boxed DIY kit from those store, “This fit our model and we went with it.” Honeywell helped with the design of the box, he said, making it something that really shows what the product was designed for.

Part of the company’s go-to-market strategy involves setting up live demos in stores, complete with elements from the home. “They can see the lock move, they can see the lamps turn on and off,” Judge said.

Michael Morton, vice president of sales and marketing at EMC Security, discussed his experiences with DIY, which includes selling 200 systems since the company rolled out the offering this summer. "We do limit it, because we offer support. It's one of the big selling points for our services," Morton said. “If you can't quite get there, we have [techs] that are ready to go."

Morton said the company struggled with one point, "Do we really trust our customer to do this on their own? ... This is life safety." As a result, EMC does not offer DIY fire products or glass-break sensors.

During the second general session, David Kaiserman, president of Lennar Ventures—a company that focuses on building new homes that come equipped with smart home technologies, shared his view on connected home. "Homes today are remarkably analog,” he said. “But, the rest of the world around us have changed in ways that you can't really explain.”

One issue that Kaiserman identified is when a salesperson complicates things by trying to sell a consumer on a system that they were ready to get, and then cause concern in the customer. “They don't have to worry about the complexity, they just get to experience the lifestyle,” he said.

Alice DeBiasio, vice president, general manager cloud services for Honeywell Security and Fire then got on stage to discuss some of Honeywell’s latest offerings. She highlighted the company’s integrations with Sky Bell and the August smart lock, as well as new push notifications, geofencing reminders to arm the system and a partnership with I-View Now.

The company is also doing new work with buildings, according to Brian Casey, Honeywell general manager of SMB solutions. There are more and enhanced video offerings, including with Honeywell’s Performance and Equip series cameras. "In the area of video, we are back in the game," Casey said.

This CONNECT’s first keynote speaker was motivational speaker and New York Times bestselling author Grant Cardone.

Cardone energetically covered many topics to selling, including the positives to disruption—that it brings change—and importance of using social media as a free form of promotion.

He approached the idea that business say they don't have time to utilize social media. To make a point, he used Snapchat to take a video, which he uploaded to Twitter in minutes, while on stage speaking.

My last educational session of the day was “25 Concrete Ways to Make Your Business Better Today,” presented by Affiliated Monitoring’s president Stanley Oppenheim. "We're going to do things here that you're going to take care of on Monday,” Oppenheim said.

The quality of trucks was one item he brought up. "You never roll a truck that has a dent in it," said Oppenheim. “It is no longer a truck, it is a rolling billboard. ... A dirty truck is inexcusable."

Another piece of advice was to always recruit, including with wait staff at restaurants and salespeople that call the office—anyone that gives a great impression. "Your best employees will come from non traditional sources," he said.

At the networking reception, created following feedback Honeywell received on the CONNECT event, I got the chance to meet several members of the Security One team, including SSN “20 under 40” winner, Chris Neumann. Corey Robertson, Security ONE director of marketing, said that things have been well following the company’s acquisition of Homematix.

It was also great hearing from dealers including Stuart Lowe, vice president – key/national accounts for Lifeline Security and Fire, and Isaac Walton, security sales and management, Advanced Electric & Alarm Systems, about the benefits they saw in the Gateway panel, such as with apartment buildings or people who would use their phone for most of their security functions.

Finally, today was Veterans Day and it was great to see speakers voice their support for those who have served in the military, as well as their families. 

Day One

I made it down to Florida safely from Maine, arriving this afternoon.

The first session I attended was "What Behavioral Insight REALLY Can Do for You," presented by Carletta Clyatt, senior vice president of the Omnia Group. Clyatt took an interesting look into workplace dynamics by discussing recognizable work styles and behaviors in both leaders and employees. For example, she advised the attendees to consider how a leader who is very routine-focused could best work with an employee who prefers a varied workplace, with new challenges.

Additionally Clyatt discussed how different types of people can be motivated by different things. As an example, she said that her sales people—typically having an assertive personality—are motivated by individual goals, while her service employees—less assertive and more group focused—responded better team-rewards.

“Merging a Diverse Workforce,” the second session I attended, also approached the workplace and its variety of different employees. Jamie Vos, general manager for Security Solutions, looked at five different generations (traditionalists, baby boomers, gen Xers, millennials, and Gen Z—or, ‘gamers’) and their unique motivating factors.

Each generation is looking for a different environment, culture, set of rewards and benefits, according to Vos. Baby boomers might want more control in their position, while millennials tend to value more time off. Traditionalists might want flexible work hours, while gen Xers would like rewards like gift cards—not a bonus to be put toward bills.

Vos highlighted the need to look at a company’s culture as well as its environment. “You need to discover what your culture is,” he said. “You need to put it into words.” This means exploring why the company exists, how its employees behave, what it is the company does, and how it plans to succeed.

Also today, Honeywell announced the new Lyric Gateway—a simplified panel that can allow dealers to pursue new markets, such as renters, condo and second homeowners, and those who frequently move. The panel offers a simple design, sporting a keypad without a touchscreen display, doesn’t need to be wall mounted and comes with a desk stand.

Here in Florida, I got the chance to talk about the new system with George Janelis, Honeywell’s senior channel manager for builder and connected home markets. The simplified format allows the unit to be hooked up either with the customer’s WiFi or Ethernet and plug into the wall for power, which increases dealers’ profitability by decreasing the time needed for the install, he said.

Janelis told me that the system is mobile-centric, and can work with users’ connected home devices- it also uses voice notifications from the panel to transmit alarm information easily to the user. “We’re getting a huge amount of positive feedback from [our dealers],” he said.

Pre-conference

Early Thursday morning I’ll be headed down to Hollywood, Fla., for Honeywell’s 2016 CONNECT conference.

Looking over the schedule of sessions, it looks like there will be some interesting conversations about DIY offerings—including Honeywell’s DragonFly offering—as well as on hiring a business culture.

If you’re headed down there, feel free to email me or introduce yourself if you see me around. My email is Sives@securitysystemsnews.com.

I’ll be updating this blog periodically, highlighting some of the people I meet and key conversations as well as interesting educational sessions—hope to see some of you down there! Check back for more details.

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by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Electronic Security Association recently announced that Dr. Joseph Kuhns, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of North Carolina, will be the keynote speaker for the 2017 ESA Leadership Summit, to be held Feb. 12 through Feb. 15 in Tampa, Fla.

“Dr. Kuhns brings extensive experience and knowledge from the world of criminology that will provide attendees with helpful data that can be applied to how they approach the market and work with their customers,” Merlin Guilbeau, CEO of the Electronic Security Association, told Security Systems News in an email interview.

Kuhns will present the general session, entitled “Burglary Victim Adaptations & What Security Businesses Should Know,” on Monday, February 13 at 12:45 p.m.

Security businesses will be given statistics and information that they will be able to use when training employees, marketing their businesses and advising customers on the best methods to secure their premises,” Guilbeau said. “Attendees will also be able to understand the change of mindset post-burglary to better serve the segment of the market that has experienced a break in.”

In ESA’s announcement, Dr. Kuhns said, “Residential burglary victims should know that their chances of being victimized again, following a successful burglary, are frequently high. Therefore, improving their home safety and security, in multiple ways, is highly recommended.”

There will be new features at the upcoming summit, according to Guilbeau, such as a new app for the event’s schedule, details, sponsor information and for communication between attendees. “We are also introducing an attendee engagement tool, so that the audience can interact live with speakers at the Summit,” he said.

“Education and networking are the two key components of the Summit’s program, and we fully expect that this topic and the findings shared by Dr. Kuhns will provide attendees with a lot to discuss with one another during all of the social events,” Guilbeau said.

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, October 19, 2016

COPS Monitoring recently announced that it was able to achieve a 12.4 second average response time during Hurricane Matthew—quicker than the company’s 13.9 second average for priority response in the past 12 months. COPS gave credit to its team for the achievement.

“Achieving a 13.9 second response time is difficult enough. When a situation like severe weather causes alarm traffic to increase 20 to 30 percent, it’s not uncommon for many central stations to have response times that are much higher; sometimes minutes, rather than seconds,” David Smith, COPS’ VP of marketing & business development, told Security Systems News via email. “So, the fact that we were able to reduce an already fast response time by more than 10 percent for five straight days despite a significant increase in alarm traffic is truly a remarkable feat.”

 “The 12.4 second response time was for all priority alarms nationwide; including the alarms in the areas that were affected,” Smith continued. “Luckily, the eye of the storm stayed off the coast and we only experienced a lot of rain and wind from the outer storm bands.”

COPS had a disaster preparedness plan in place, including having its Boca Raton, Fla., monitoring center built to stand up to a hurricane. “The extensive planning is what gave us the flexibility to allow us to reduce our staff in Florida so they could focus on their own homes and families. Because all the hard work had already been done, planning for Hurricane Matthew involved over-staffing our other central stations to compensate.  We have a great team at COPS and there is never a shortage of volunteers – including from our Florida central station.”

In the announcement, Jim McMullen, president and COO of COPS Monitoring, said that the company was planning to reduce the staff in the Boca Raton monitoring center to “just a few essential technical support members. … However, after ensuring their families were safe, several dispatchers committed to working through the storm to help protect our dealers and their subscribers,” McMullen said in a prepared statement.

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, October 5, 2016

CALHOUN, Ga.—Owen Security Solutions, based here, announced today that it has acquired Tight Security Systems.

Justin Owen, company president, told Security Systems News that the company will continue to grow by acquisitions in the future. “Financially speaking, it just makes too much sense to not go down that road.” The company isn’t looking to complete any before December, he added.

The 600 account addition brings Owen Security's total customer base over the 5000 account mark. Owen said that the company started 2016 with about 3000 accounts.  

This is the third acquisition, both this year and in the company's history, for Owen. The company acquired the accounts of Davis Security Services in September, and Medley Systems in July. 

Scott Bishop, the owner of Tight Security, will join Owen Security to help the transition.  “He’s staying on with us as a hybrid position, [responsible for] business development, service technician, technician trainer,” Owen said.

“Extends our footprint a little bit, geographically speaking. But, for the most part, we’re already overlapping that area with plenty of customers,” Owen said.

Tight Security’s business, based out of Ellijay, Ga., was about 95 percent residential, Owen estimated, with some small retail accounts. Owen Security is about 60 percent residential.

Owen Security and Tight Security are both in small communities, Owen pointed out. “We feel like it's a good culture fit, and we can work with his customers really well,” he said.

Owen Security currently has about 30 employees, but is looking to add on between three and five more before the end of the year, Owen said. 

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, September 28, 2016

BOCA RATON, Fla.—ADT has joined PPVAR, the Partnership for Priority Verified Alarm Response, according to an announcement on Monday.

“As a full industry member, ADT is entitled to participate in the ongoing development of best practices between the alarm industry and law enforcement on many different levels,” Larry Folsom, president of PPVAR told Security Systems News in an email interview. “As members, PPVAR stakeholders are moving beyond the ‘wait and see’ of alarm verification evolution, and instead are part of the conversation that is shaping the future.”

Adding ADT assists the organization with its message. “Every voice that joins this conversation helps advance the PPVAR mission of promoting and prioritizing verified alarm response, but gaining the voice of ADT is particularly important,” Folsom said. “This is a company that represents millions of monitoring subscribers across almost every police jurisdiction in the land.”

ADT has a lot to offer in terms of relationships, ideas, time, and resources, Folsom added.

“ADT strongly believes in the process and the values of PPVAR and its members,” Don Young, chief information officer at ADT, said in a prepared statement. “The emergence of high-quality video and intrusion detection technology, and the resulting rise in efficiency of central monitoring practices, has been undeniable in the effectiveness of alarm verification for protecting the public and law enforcement alike.”

Folsom said that ADT has already become involved in the organization. “ADT has hit the ground running and has already expressed interest in helping with the refinement of our best practices and the development of operator training,” according to Folsom.

In mid-August, PPVAR put out a call for volunteers to aid the organization in forming online operator training related to alarm verification. “The first course module is expected to be completed before the end of the year,” Folsom said. “We expect the ADT team of professionals to participate and contribute to the development of each of these additional course modules along the way.”

PPVAR, established in 2012, currently has almost 80 member companies, according to Folsom. “In the long-term, the addition of ADT further stabilizes the organization and ensures its health and vitality well into the future,” he said. 

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, September 21, 2016

HAGERSTOWN, Md.—Dynamark announced in late September a new funding program for its alarm dealers, allowing dealers to get loans for their accounts.

Hank Groff, senior VP of sales and business development for Dynamark, told Security Systems News that the funding program is a new approach for the company. “It really is fulfilling a demand by security companies across the country of providing a financial solution for them to continue to be independent and working with a central station that provides them financial solutions,” he said.

The program will have two options, Groff explained. The first is its Account Loan Program, where a dealer will get a loan for each account they bring online. The second is the Credit Line Program, allowing dealers access to a line of credit.

“The first option is best utilized for someone who is either a start up, and doesn't have the reoccurring monthly revenue, or who has been a long-time security dealer, selling their paper through a funding program,” Groff said.

Dynamark is partnering with two financial institutions to provide the funding, Groff said.

Alongside this option, the company will also continue to buy accounts directly from dealers, it said in the announcement.

The option to sell accounts to Dynamark benefits dealers in the program, according to Groff. “The benefit is, if down the road they ever choose to sell any of these accounts, because they’re already with us … they can present the portfolio to us or any percentage [of their portfolio], we can look at it—we already know that it’s being monitored with us—and we can make an easy transaction.”

Before joining the program, dealers can get a consultation from one of Dynamark’s regional managers, without any commitment, the company said.

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, September 14, 2016

ARLINGTON, Mass.—American Alarm and Communications recently acquired Electralarm Security Systems, adding on 500 accounts. The deal brings American Alarm to about 25,000 accounts total, Lou Sampson, the company's CFO, told Security Systems News

"We were in discussions for about three or four months earlier in 2016. The discussions began when Paul D’Amato Sr. [Electralarm's founder] reached out to us (through his broker)," Sampson said via email. "Paul had known of American Alarm for years, and our family, and he knew of our business reputation and our commitment to quality service, which was very important for him."

Electralarm's account base was pretty evenly divided between residential and commercial, Sampson said, but "slightly weighted towards residential." American Alarm's account base also has a slight lean toward residential in terms of number of accounts, he said. "But in terms of scale of systems, our commercial portfolio is larger, and it is growing significantly."

Paul "Chip" D'Amato, Electralarm's lead technician, will join American alarm in a similar capacity, American Alarm said. 

Integrating Electralarm's account base into American's has been "seamless," according to Sampson. "One of the most important parts of the successful transition has been Chip D’Amato’s efforts. He hasn’t missed a beat. He’s still working with the Electralarm customers, to help with the transition," Sampson added. 

The deal is the 27th acquisition American Alarm has completed, Sampson pointed out, and most of those purchases have been in the past 12 to 15 years. "We are always prepared to work with other companies and respond quickly when opportunities arise," he said.

Electralarm was based in Abington, Mass., approximately 20 miles south of Boston. The company handled its own monitoring, which will now be done through American Alarm's UL-listed, CSAA Five Diamond central station. 

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, September 7, 2016

At CSAA's upcoming annual meeting—to be held on Marco Island, Fla., Oct. 22 through 26—there will be a panel devoted to cybersecurity, which the association announced more about this week.

I spoke with Jay Hauhn, CSAA’s executive director, recently about the meeting as well as other focuses for the association.

Hauhn said that the annual meeting's cybersecurity panel was going to approach the subject in a new way, looking to focus on what companies should do about cybersecurity.

“We are not going to repeat what has been done ad-nauseum and have someone stand at the front of the room and scare everyone about cyber threats,” Hauhn told SSN. “We are going to focus on something actionable.  We are having experts talk about how to put a cyber protection program together.”

The panel, entitled “Cyber Security is a Business Risk (Not Just an IT Risk),” will include Justin Bailey, AvantGuard’s COO, Todd Neilson, president for Secuvant Security, Sascha Kylau, VP of central station solutions and service at Onetel, and Steve Butkovich, CPI Security Systems’ chief technology officer.

CSAA is going to be looking at cloud based central station automation platforms in a similar way at the meeting, Hauhn said. The panel will not only approach the features of the cloud, but what businesses’ cost savings could be and how they can get started with a cloud based platform. 

Currently, the association has an early bird rate for the meeting, which ends this Friday, Sept. 9.

CSAA is also keeping an eye on other emerging technological issues. Hauhn mentioned that the industry is changing, and standards are needed for newer technologies; CSAA recently put out the call for SMEs to assist with new technology standards.

“Monitoring life safety events in the traditional central station model remains our core business. That will not change. However, new innovative applications and services are being offered by our members. Best practices need to be created, that outline the actions monitoring centers take in this expanding environment,” said Hauhn.

“For example, when a service that monitors an asset in motion requires a dispatch of police or EMS, we have to be able to accommodate the asset traversing municipalities,” he said.   

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