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by: Tess Nacelewicz - Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Vivint prides itself so much on innovation that it has outgrown its new Innovation Center and is building a much larger one, as I wrote recently. Now here’s something else that the Provo, Utah-based home automation/home security company apparently is innovating on: broadband service.

According to Gigacom Research, Jeremy Warren, Vivint VP of innovation, mentioned this week that the company is trialing broadband in Utah, but provided few details.

What is known, Gigacom says, is that Vivint’s wireless broadband service costs $55 for 50 Mbps.

Here’s more from the Gigacom story, which was picked up by CNN Money:
 

[Jeremy Warren] said that Vivint is testing the service in Utah where Vivint is based, and that it uses a mesh networking topology as opposed to a traditional tower-oriented network design that many Wireless ISPs deploy today. He said the company is taking advantage of off-the-shelf radios and using unlicensed and “semi-licensed” spectrum in a variety of ranges including the 5GHz and 2.4Ghz range used for Wi-Fi.

… He believes Vivint can deliver competitive broadband at a relatively low deployment cost. “We have a nationwide field service arm and know how to talk to customers and acquire customers and service them,” Warren said. He argued that customer acquisition costs are a big expense of building out a network, and Vivint can sidestep those costs because it already has a customer acquisition infrastructure thanks to its distributor network.

With cablecos and telecoms getting into home security and automation, Gigacom concludes, “Why shouldn’t a security and home automation provider try its hand at broadband?”

Interesting question!

 

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by: Tess Nacelewicz - Wednesday, January 29, 2014

I recently wrote about ADT’s announcement that it is partnering with Internet security provider McAfee this year to offer customers a plan that not only protects their homes, but their digital devices and data. Now a recent survey on how not protecting your smartphone can impact your security at home highlights just how important such a partnership is.

ADT made the announcement about McAfee at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. Now, this week, ADT and McAfee released the results of the survey on how physical and digital security intersect in today’s world and how important it is for consumers to take steps to protect their online devices.

Their survey found that 39 percent of respondents “use technological devices to control their home security systems and 34 percent use smartphones to do so.”

But the survey of more than 1,000 consumers, which a press release said was commissioned by The Futures Company, indicated that about 51 percent of respondents “reported having their personal security compromised through both physical and online breaches.”

Disturbingly, however, the survey found that “respondents did not seem too concerned with protecting them, and many are comfortable sharing their passwords with others. Two in three smartphone users (67 percent) and tablet users (65 percent) report that they protect their devices with a password, yet nearly half (49 percent) admitted to sharing their password with at least one other person, risking their personal security and all the data found on their device.”

And, the press release said, “since over 33 percent of people use their devices to control to their physical alarm systems, and more than half of them fail to secure their devices with basic protection like private passwords, it seems our need for awareness in security is as great as the need for security itself.”

How will the ADT and McAfee partnership help?

Here’s what the companies had to say:
 

In the initial phase of the security collaboration, ADT will be bundling ADT Pulse, a complete security and automation solution that uses mobile technology, with McAfee LiveSafe, an award-winning data, identity, and digital device protection service. Together, the two services will provide an additional layer of protection for a customer's home or business, accessible through any web-connected smartphone or tablet. The ADT and McAfee partnership will develop a cohesive platform where users can easily protect their digital and physical domains from a single and centralized, easy-to-use portal. Together, ADT Pulse and McAfee LiveSafe service will establish new security standards and best practices that protect homes, properties, data, and personal identities.

"We are constantly seeking ways to increase protection for our customers in an increasingly connected and complex world," said Arthur Orduña, senior vice president and chief innovation officer at ADT. "Partnering with McAfee adds another vital layer of security to our Pulse solution with McAfee LiveSafe service, and opens up innovation opportunities for our platforms and products."

 

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by: Tess Nacelewicz - Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Maybe it’s because Aaron Hernandez was so used to being in front of TV cameras as an NFL star that he came to ignore their existence. Recent stories about the former New England Patriots tight end suggest that he was pretty clueless about how surveillance cameras are virtually everywhere we go nowadays—and are making a record of what we do.

Now it appears that surveillance video links him to not only the murder of a good friend last year, but to a 2012 Boston drive-by shooting in which two men died and a third was wounded.

I’ve blogged here previously about news reports saying that security cameras in Hernandez’ Massachusetts home recorded him with a gun both hours before—and minutes after—his friend Odin Lloyd was shot to death last summer.

Hernandez has been charged with murder in the killing of Lloyd, a 27-year-old Boston semi-professional football player whom Hernandez was angry with. Texts from Lloyd’s phone indicate he was with Hernandez the night before his body, riddled with bullets, was found June 17 in an industrial park about a mile from Hernandez's home, news reports say. The Patriots released Hernandez after he was arrested shortly after the shooting, and he remains in jail.

Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to the 2013 murder charge, but authorities also have been looking into his potential involvement in the 2012 shootings one year earlier.

Fox News reported recently that a newly released search warrant says that Hernandez may have pulled the trigger in the Boston drive-by shootings.

Fox reported that a detective wrote: “There is also probable cause to believe that Aaron Hernandez was operating the suspect vehicle used in the shooting homicides of Daniel Abreu and Safiro Furtado, and may have been the shooter.”

Witnesses told police at the time of the Boston shooting that a silver or gray Toyota 4Runner or Nissan Pathfinder with Rhode Island plates had opened fire on the vehicle that Abreu and Furtado were in that night, Fox said. But police had little to go on until security cameras helped them, according to Fox.

Here’s some of what the Fox report had to say:
 

The first inkling that Hernandez could have been involved in the 2012 killings came after Lloyd’s death. A detective recalled recognizing Hernandez on surveillance footage from a nightclub the victims had visited shortly before they were shot on a highway overpass.”

… Then came Lloyd’s killing … and the possible connection to Hernandez.

Detectives went back to the video surveillance from the club Abreu and Furtado had been visiting and from other cameras in the area.

They located footage of Hernandez parking in a garage down the street from the club at 12:04 a.m. on July 16, 2012, according to the warrant. He was driving a silver 2006 Toyota 4Runner with Rhode Island license plates. The footage showed Hernandez and a man later identified as Bradley outside Cure Lounge a short time later. The two of them entered the club just after Abreu, Furtado and their three friends.

And although Hernandez and Bradley left nearly an hour before Abreu and Furtado, surveillance cameras captured a vehicle believed to be the 4Runner slowly circling the block as the two men and their friends walked to a parking garage to get their car.

The shootings of Abreu, Furtado and the other man were reported less than 15 minutes later several blocks from the club.

 

by: Tess Nacelewicz - Wednesday, January 15, 2014

We wrote this fall about a new smoke/CO detector so smart it can talk to home residents and tell them if there’s a fire or dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. Now Google likes that detector—called Nest Protect—and other products made by California-based Nest Labs so much that it is buying the smoke alarm company for $3.2 billion.

The deal, announced this week, is Google’s second largest acquisition so far, after its 2012 purchase of Motorola, a mobile phone maker, according to news reports.

The Wall Street Journal reported this week that “Nest has the lion’s share of the nascent market for ‘smart’ thermostats and recently began selling smart smoke detectors.”

The WSJ also says, “Analysts and executives see Nest as a beachhead for Google to expand its place in the home.” Nest will retain its brand, according to news sources. It will be interesting to see what it and Google will do in the home automation space with Google's big bucks behind the effort.

Here’s more of what Nest had to say about its new detector back in the fall when it was released:
 

The Nest Protect detector speaks and gives users a vocal “heads up,” telling them what it detects before emitting an alarm. It can be silenced with the wave of a hand and will send messages to integrated mobile devices to ask for new batteries.

“We’ve all experienced the smoke alarm going off while we’re cooking or searched for the source of that incessant low-battery chirp in the middle of the night,” said Tony Fadell, founder and CEO of Nest. Fadell, a former Apple executive, said those annoyances lead people to trust their alarms less, or turn them off to stop the noise.

The company says studies have shown children sleep through beeps, but wake up to the sound of voices, so Nest Protect features a female voice alarm to help wake sleeping children.

Nest Protect senses heat, carbon monoxide and smoke levels as they rise to offer early warnings. The device shows its sensors and batteries are working with a green glow when lights are turned off. Multiple devices in a single home connect, sending alarms throughout the house when problems are detected.

 

by: Tess Nacelewicz - Wednesday, January 8, 2014

ADT announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week that it is partnering with Ford Motor Company in 2014 to enable drivers to do such things as open garage doors or control their thermostats from a car.

The company also is partnering with Internet security provider McAfee this year to offer customers a plan that not only protects their homes but their digital devices and data. Additionally, ADT is partnering with health solutions provider Ideal Life to support its ADT Health platform “with real-time health management services.”

ADT also announced it has added enhancements to ADT Pulse—such as remote garage door control.

The announcements all have one thing in common: expanding ADT’s security reach beyond the customer's home.

“As a pioneer in the home security and automation space, ADT is focused on evolving the security industry by developing new ways for consumers to integrate our products seamlessly into their everyday lives,” said Arthur Orduña, senior vice president and chief innovation officer for ADT, in a prepared statement. ADT, which became an independent company in the fall of 2012 after splitting from Tyco International, had a booth this week at the CES show for the second year in a row.

Here’s more from ADT on the new PULSE enhancements, which will be available this spring:
 

ADT PulseVoice App: ADT Pulse Voice app offers the hands-free convenience of using voice commands to control nearly all areas of the home in the Pulse ecosystem, including lights, thermostats, door locks, small appliances and security systems. ADT Pulse Voice also responds to user’s vocal commands and provides auditory feedback on system status and confirmation of actions.
ADT Pulse Wireless Platform: The ADT Pulse Wireless Platform features an innovative and sleek design with an intuitive, touch-friendly user interface. The wireless control panel securely and safely manages all ADT Pulse controlled devices such as lights, thermostats, locks, and small appliances. Created with the user in mind, the ADT Pulse Wireless Platform is designed to deliver a non-invasive and seamless installation experience for homeowners, reducing installation time by half and avoiding any in-wall wiring.
ADT Pulse Remote Garage Door Control: To help ensure security and control at all access points of the home, ADT Pulse will feature remote garage door controls by incorporating leading technology developed by Linear LLC. This new feature will enable users to secure and control their garage door via the ADT Pulse smartphone app from around the corner or around the world.
Canopy App: Building on the trusted expertise of ADT home security services, the Canopy mobile application for iOS and Android provides users added personal protection and networking while on the go. Canopy enables users to identify the whereabouts of and communicate with friends and family members in a designated virtual circle. Additionally, the integrated ADT Chaperone feature provides a direct line to trusted ADT monitoring centers anytime and anywhere. ADT Chaperone is a subscription-based feature within the Canopy app that provides added protection and peace of mind in situations such as entering a dark parking garage or walking alone across campus at night.

 

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by: Tess Nacelewicz - Monday, December 30, 2013

I wrote back in November about how Brendon Merkley, the COO of Vivint Solar, had left to work for SolarCity, Vivint Solar’s larger competitor.

Now, Vivint Solar—an affiliate of home automation/home security provider Vivint—is suing Merkley for breach of contract.

In the lawsuit, filed Dec. 4 in U.S. District Court in Utah, Vivint Solar said it is bringing the case to prevent Merkley “from violating his contractual non-competition, non-disclosure, and customer/vendor non-solicitation covenants by going to work for Solar City.” Vivint also wants to stop him from disclosing trade secrets and soliciting Vivint Solar’s employees to go and work for SolarCity, the lawsuit says.

Vivint Solar is seeking to have the court restrain Merkley from working for Solar City for the time period his non-competition covenants apply. Vivint Solar also is asking for damages.

However, in another twist, Merkley and Solar City, which is based in in San Mateo, Calif., are suing Vivint Solar in California state court, saying non-competition covenants Merkley signed with Vivint Solar are unenforceable under California law, according to Vivint Solar’s lawsuit.

Vivint Solar, based in Provo, Utah, was established in 2011 and quickly has become the nation’s second-largest provider of residential solar systems, employing the successfull door-knocking sales techniques of Vivint. However, Solar City, founded in 2006, is the largest home solar provider.

Merkley was one of the original executives of Vivint Solar and a board member, so had an in-depth knowledge of the company, according to the lawsuit. He was “the face and voice of Vivint Solar” with the public and at community events and industry functions, before starting his new job at Solar City on Dec. 1, the lawsuit says.

Merkley tried to recruit a Vivint Solar VP to join him at SolarCity before he left Vivint Solar, but the VP refused, the lawsuit says.

Merkley was not the first Vivint Solar executive to bail for SolarCity. Former Vivint Solar CEO Tanguy Serra also joined SolarCity last spring.

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by: Tess Nacelewicz - Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Many security companies produce holiday ads featuring their products. But Honeywell took an innovative approach in promoting security this season—actually commissioning a Nashville band, Telecommunicators, to create an original song, “You’re My Heart,” and using it in a music video that highlights the features of Tuxedo Touch.

The resulting video tugs at the heart while showing the ways Tuxedo Touch can enhance a family’s home life.

And Angela Remmert, media specialist at Honeywell Security, told me the music video carries benefits for dealers too.

“The song is free to download for dealers and consumers. It also gives dealers an opportunity to use the video on their web sites and social media channels as a holiday message, in case they didn’t have the resources to create their own,” she said.

David Gottlieb, Honeywell Security’s global marketing communications leader, summed up the holiday initiative in a recent blog post on Honeywell's The Security Channel blog by saying it shows “what our industry does is woven into … daily life.” Well said—and happy holidays!
 

by: Tess Nacelewicz - Wednesday, December 11, 2013

ADT officials weren’t available for comment when I wrote recently about an industry’s analyst’s report on how ADT had “culled” about 100 low-performing companies in order to improve its dealer program over the past year.

But in an ADT investor call last Friday, Alan Ferber, president of ADT’s residential business unit, confirmed much of what the analyst, Jeff Kessler, Imperial Capital’s managing director of institutional research, had said. Ferber also outlined ways ADT is working to “stabilize” that channel.

According to Seeking Alpha, which published a transcript of the Dec. 6 investor call, Ferber said:

So in 2013, we began to optimize our dealer channel to focus more resources on those that are [indiscernible] to evolving with ADT's overall direction and the trend towards automation. And while we're eliminating about 100 dealers, which obviously impacted overall net adds, our focus on the right dealers has resulted in the quality of the customers that come through that channel to remain high and actually have been improving. ARPU is about 10% above our average ARPU and growing about 5% over the past year and the creation multiple has actually come down even though there's been an increase in SAC. But we do remain focused on strengthening and continue to optimize this dealer channel to drive growth over time.

… In addition, channel growth was impacted by some changes among our largest dealers. We purchased 1, 1 had some cash flow issues that impacted their ability to increase adds and 1 left ADT for a competitive program. I'm very pleased, however, to report that, that dealer has now returned to the ADT family once he experienced the negative impact on his business of not having the powerful ADT brand behind him. So it's reconfirmed our dealer value proposition with that dealer and with many other dealers as well.

But more importantly, we're taking a number of actions to stabilize this channel. We are investing in enhanced funding to help drive further Pulse adoption, particularly higher end Pulse, where that higher level of automation has a very significant retention benefit as well. And increased funding will also enable some incremental sales and marketing activities by our dealers and also the recruitment of new high-quality dealers that are positioned to further drive automation.

… We're also investing in staffing and support to ensure success. We've added resources to provide better support for planning and performance management, and we've enhanced training and other tools to get new and existing dealers more productive, particularly with our new services. And while we certainly expect some noise in the next couple of quarters, we do believe these actions are establishing a very strong foundation for growth over time.

 

 

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by: Tess Nacelewicz - Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Security companies often use as a selling point the fact that insurance companies give discounts to homeowners who have a security system. But ADT announced this week that it is leveraging that insurance company relationship in a new way: by partnering with State Farm to give that leading insurer’s customers special deals on Pulse. And the customers who get Pulse can also end up with a discount on their State Farm home insurance.

Seems like a pretty smart way to get customers to sign up for a smart home solution—and one that benefits both of these big companies.

Here’s more from ADT’s Dec. 3 release:
 

ADT today announced it is teaming up with State Farm to help its customers better manage and control their homes. ADT will provide special offers on its ADT Pulse home security and automation solution to State Farm customers, who may also qualify for home insurance discounts. The special offer also includes a free in-home security consultation, 24/7 professional monitoring by trained ADT security specialists and custom installation with a six-month money-back guarantee.

… “The average insurance claim for a home burglary or fire can cost thousands of dollars,” said Don Boerema, chief corporate development officer at ADT. “Through home automation capabilities and enhanced security features, ADT Pulse is the ideal solution to help State Farm customers connect to their families and homes to mitigate loss.”

“As the leading provider of homeowners insurance in North America, State Farm has a keen interest in helping customers prevent loss,” said Jack Weekes, operations vice president at State Farm. “By teaming up with ADT and other home control and monitoring providers, we are helping customers protect their family and property in today’s high tech world.”

The deal caught the attention of Insurance & Technology magazine, a business trade publication for insurers, which says in an article that it's "the latest sign that the smart device revolution is poised to shake up the insurance industry." The article wonders if insurers can "find the right tone and offering to capitalize" on the new trend. I'm wondering what other security companies will team up with insurers to better promote their security products.

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by: Tess Nacelewicz - Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The ADT Corp. reported yesterday that it was buying back 10.24 million of the shares of its third-largest shareholder, Corvex Management. Keith Meister, the hedge fund’s founder, who had been on ADT’s board since late 2012, also announced his resignation as director.

ADT’s stock price plunged early yesterday morning shortly after the news and while it recovered somewhat, was still down .59 percent this afternoon.

Meister said in a prepared statement, “We initially invested in ADT because of its leading market position and its potential for creating long-term shareholder value. The board and management have achieved admirable results over the past year.”

Now, Corvex will have less than 1 million shares in ADT, The Wall Street Journal reported. The WSJ said ADT bought Corvex’s shares at $44.01 each, so Corvex got a return of about 20 percent on its investment.

What does it all mean? A WSJ report yesterday sheds some light:
 

Within weeks of ADT's debut as a public company in October 2012, Corvex began pushing the company to buy back 30 percent of its stock with borrowed money. The hedge fund at that time said the stock was worth at least $61.

Corvex criticized ADT's conservative approach to debt, calling the company's capital structure "indefensible" during a presentation that accompanied Corvex's disclosure of a 5 percent stake in ADT at the time.

ADT's board has followed much of Corvex's strategy, including financing stock purchases with debt. The company recently announced that it will accelerate the purchase of $400 million of stock under an agreement with J.P. Morgan Chase. Once the purchase of the Corvex shares is completed, the Boca Raton, Fla., company will have spent $2.4 billion to retire about 20 percent of its stock.

 

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