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by: Tess Nacelewicz - Wednesday, June 26, 2013

It’s not often that a news story involves a homicide, a home security system and a professional football player, but such has been the case over the past week regarding New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez.

Actually, I should say former tight end, because the Patriots released him today after he was arrested and charged with the murder of Odin Lloyd, a semi-pro football player, according to a report from The New York Times. Police took Hernandez from his North Attleborough, Mass. home this morning in handcuffs, according to the report. Hernandez' home security system has provided crucial evidence in the case, the report said.

Lloyd, a 27-year-old semi-pro football player for the Boston Bandits, was found shot dead June 17, about a mile from the home of Hernandez. Officials have ruled the death a homicide, and The New York Times story says Lloyd was shot five times. News reports say that Hernandez was friends with Lloyd, who reportedly was dating the sister of Hernandez's fiancée.
 

Authorities say home surveillance videos show Hernandez was with Lloyd the night he died, according to The New York Times story. Here's more from that report:

 

Prosecutors said home surveillance videos taken from Hernandez’s house show him in possession of firearms before and after Lloyd was killed, that Hernandez was observed picking Lloyd up at 2:30 a.m. on the night he was killed, that a silver Nissan Altima — the same make of vehicle Hernandez had rented — was seen going to and coming from the site where Lloyd’s body was found and that Hernandez was seen exiting his vehicle with a gun at his home at 3:29 a.m., shortly after authorities say Lloyd had been murdered.
Prosecutors added that .45 caliber shell casings found at the scene matched shell casings found in the rental car after Hernandez turned it in.
“The defendant orchestrated the execution,” an assistant district attorney, Bill McCauley, said. Lloyd, he said, was shot five times.
One of Hernandez’s lawyers, Michael Fee, called the case against him “weak” and “circumstantial.”

 

 

 

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by: Tess Nacelewicz - Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Thermostat control is a home automation feature that can save individual homeowners energy and money. And it stands to reason that the more energy each household saves, the less demand on a community’s electric grid—meaning there are fewer brownouts or blackouts.

Building on that idea, Honeywell is now partnering with cities and towns to help them manage their energy consumption communitywide, home by home. The Morris Township, N.J-based company is providing communities with thermostats they can give their residents to better control energy usage. It seems like a very innovative—and very green—solution.

Here’s more from a recent article in the St. Paul, Minn.-based Pioneer Press newspaper:
 

Honeywell has announced a new Wi-Fi-controlled thermostat that is intended to be distributed by municipalities instead of purchased at retail by consumers in order to better manage energy consumption across a town or city.

South Sioux City, Neb., will be the first community to deploy the new thermostat to help its 13,000 residents manage electricity costs, which are said to have risen steadily there in the past three years.

In the future, other municipalities will recruit residents to reduce energy consumption when demand spikes, a strategy known as automated demand response, or ADR.

As part of this, the residents would receive the $150 Honeywell Total Connect Comfort with ADR thermostat for free so that utilities can link to the home devices and reduce that residence's energy as needed.

Such an approach can help avoid brownouts and blackouts on the hottest days of the year, when power-grid stability is threatened.

Honeywell's thermostat can be controlled with a Total Connect Comfort app, available in versions for Apple iOS and Google Android devices.

 

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by: Tess Nacelewicz - Wednesday, June 12, 2013

North Carolina requires carbon monoxide detectors in homes and apartments, but not in hotels. Now, some tragic deaths in a hotel room in Boone, N.C. make a compelling argument for a CO detector mandate for hotels.

First, an elderly couple died in April in room 225 in the Best Western Plus Blue Ridge Plaza, according to news reports. Then, on Saturday, an 11-year-old boy was found dead in the same room, reports say.

Blood tests show that the April deaths were due to CO poisoning, according to TIME Magazine.

Next to die, on June 8, was the young boy, Jeffrey Lee Williams. “The cause of death was determined to be asphyxia, meaning his lungs couldn’t get enough oxygen,” TIME reported June 9. “Williams, from Rock Hill, S.C., died spontaneously, and his 49-year-old mother was hospitalized in critical condition — circumstances strangely similar to that of Daryl Dean Jenkins, 73, and Shirley Mae Jenkins, 72, from Longview, Wash., who were found dead in the same room on April 16.”

It has not yet been established if CO poisoning caused the boy to die and his mother to become ill, news reports said. But TIME said that an initial test taken the day the boy died “showed a high amount of poisonous gas in the room.” A toxicology analysis is pending, the magazine said.

The report says police didn’t explain why it took two months to get toxicology results on what caused the Jenkins to die. Earlier results, the magazine said,  “could have led to the closing of the hotel long before Williams’ death.”

The magazine added, “Room 225 is directly above the room housing a natural gas heater for the hotel’s swimming pool. Documents obtained by the Charlotte Observer show a Watauga County Health Department report indicating deficiencies in the pool.”

According to an NBC report, the independently owned and operated hotel released a statement saying, “The health and safety of guests who stay at our hotel is our No. 1 priority. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of those involved. We are cooperating fully with authorities who are investigating this truly tragic incident.”

According to a new interactive map of CO legislation in the United States developed by System Sensor, North Carolina’s law requiring CO detectors in homes and multi-family dwellings took effect Jan. 1, 2010. System Sensor, based in St. Charles, Ill., makes fire detection and notification devices, including carbon monoxide detectors.

by: Tess Nacelewicz - Tuesday, June 4, 2013

I’ve been writing about IntelligentHome, Time Warner Cable’s home security/home automation product, since it launched in a few markets in 2011. Two years later, Time Warner is now announcing that the rollout of IntelligentHome should be complete by this fall.

Here’s what the company had to say in a news release today:
 

Time Warner Cable has announced that it will launch its home management and security system, IntelligentHome, throughout its Ohio and Wisconsin service areas in June, followed by New York City this fall. The upcoming launches will wrap up TWC’s rollout of the new product to all major markets in its service area.

Time Warner amped up the introduction of IntelligentHome this spring, launching it in Maine, Kansas City, Mo., South Carolina and all of North Carolina and also in San Antonio.

Time Warner describes IntelligentHome as “an easy-to-use wireless system that offers professional home security along with flexible features that allow customers to check in on their kids or pets, arm or disarm their security system, turn on a light or set the thermostat the way they like it—all via a smartphone, laptop or in-home touch screen.”

The product is professionally installed by Time Warner employees and also is professionally monitored.

How is the New York-based cableco liking security? I’ll be talking the company’s VP of IntelligentHome to learn more. Keep posted.

 

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by: Tess Nacelewicz - Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Security industry investors Timothy McGinn and David L. Smith are set to be sentenced next month and could face years in prison after being convicted of fraud earlier this year. But whether they’ll be sent to prison or just get probation and how much the Albany, N.Y.-based brokers owe as a result of their fraudulent activities are questions that remain up in the air, according to a recent article from the Time Union, an Albany, N.Y.-based newspaper.

The two men are seeking leniency and having friends and relatives send letters testifying to their good characters, according to the article.

A New York grand jury about one year ago indicted McGinn, 64, and Smith, 68—the founders of an investment firm that conducted dealings in the alarm industry—on a variety of fraud charges.

A federal jury on Feb. 6 convicted the pair of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, securities fraud, and filing false tax returns. The two—who also were the target of a civil suit by the Securities and Exchange Commission claiming they bilked investors of at least $80 million in a Ponzi scheme—are slated to be sentenced on their criminal convictions on June 28. Their possible sentences range from probation to more than a decade in prison, according to the Times Union.

However, McGinn and Smith, formerly partners at the brokerage firm of McGinn, Smith & Co., have filed motions asking a federal judge to overturn their convictions, saying the government’s allegations against them “are based on the complete failure of the government to attempt to comprehend concepts of investment banking and the inner-workings of running a broker-dealer.”

Also, Smith’s attorney, William J. Dreyer of Albany, is asking that the sentencing date be delayed because it’s not clear how much victims are owed. Here’s what the article had to say:
 

Dreyer wrote a letter to [U.S. District Judge David] Hurd saying there is not enough information available from the government or a federal receiver to accurately calculate the losses to victims. He said it will be a "large undertaking" to establish cash flows for each of the trusts and operating companies that were embroiled in the criminal case and also to determine the amount of back taxes owed by David and Lynn Smith, [David Smith's wife].

Also, Smith was acquitted on 14 of the 29 counts he faced, and Dreyer told the judge that makes "a proper calculation of the fraud amount the more challenging."

In addition, Dreyer said the government recently notified him it has pegged the forfeiture amount owed by McGinn and Smith at "four times" the $8 million listed in the indictment.

"No supporting data as to how such a number was reached was provided and this court should find that because the receiver is not in a position to determine a loss amount, there is no possible way that the government could make a logical calculation," Dreyer wrote. "As such, on its face, the government's proposed loss amount is misleading, obscene and further reinforces its complete ignorance of investment banking and accounting standards."

 

Stay posted here for updates on this interesting case.

by: Tess Nacelewicz - Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A life-saving incident in April in Wichita, Kan. underscores the importance of having a monitored fire alarm. It also is a heart-warming story in which an ADT call center operator gets to meet the woman whose life she helped save.

According to Wichita’s KAKE TV, the smoke detectors that ADT had installed in the home of city resident Jerry Malone went off around 5 a.m. on April 23 after lightning struck her home. ADT dispatcher Cherry Smith immediately called Malone from the call center in Irving, Texas where she works, but Malone didn’t believe there was a fire in her house, the TV station said.

Here’s how it reported what happened:
 

"I was in complete denial," Malone said. "I heard the smoke alarm, I knew it was malfunctioning. I knew I did not have a fire."

But after telling Smith to hold the line and stepping into the hallway to survey the situation, Malone realized she had a real emergency.

"My house is on fire," Malone screamed into the phone.

"O.K., hang up the phone and I'm going to call 911 right now. I'm going to call the fire department," Smith said back to her calmly.

Firefighters arrived and saved Malone’s home from being a total loss, the station reported. Malone wasn’t hurt and hopes to move back in by July.

 

But there’s another part of the story.

Smith, who has worked for ADT for 12 years, had never met any of the many customers she’s helped. But Malone considered Smith as much of a life saver as the firefighters, so ADT arranged for Smith to travel to Wichita so Malone could thank her in person on May 16.

Here’s what happened, according to the station:

Smith handed Malone a bouquet of flowers and then shared with her an emotional embrace.

"Words can not explain to actually meet the person you talked to and know that you are a part of the team that saved her life," Smith said.

For the firefighters on that life-saving team, Malone helped ADT present the Wichita Fire Department with a check for $5,000. Fire Chief Ron Blackwell says it's money the department can use to buy equipment and buy awards for firefighters.

"(The firefighters) will tell you they were just doing their jobs but it's always nice to be recognized," Blackwell said.

And, the firefighters, the men who installed the ADT security system, and dispatcher Cherry Smith are all recognized as heroes by Jerry Malone.

"When others save you, you've got to be grateful," Malone said. "You've got to say, 'Thank you.' You've got to mean it."

 

by: Tess Nacelewicz - Wednesday, May 15, 2013

NorthStar Alarm Services is recapitalizing with a group of new investors including Goldman Sachs and The Beekman Group, and also has expanded its credit facility to $40 million with Bank of America and Zions Bank, the Orem, Utah-based company announced today. The deal, which was six months in the making, is great for NorthStar and is another indication that Goldman likes the security space.

In a communication to employees, company president Jason Christensen said, “We believe that this is an ideal partnership, with Goldman’s previous success and experience in the alarm industry and Beekman’s proven track record of developing a culture of excellence within its management teams. This partnership will also provide NorthStar with even more capital flexibility to support our projected growth as well as additional industry expertise and resources that will enable the company to continue its path of excellence within this industry. … The future of NorthStar is brighter than ever!”

Founded in 2000, NorthStar provides home security/ home automation services in 18 states across the nation. The company said it has grown by more than 30 percent each year over the past six years and its RMR currently exceeds $1 million.

Goldman’s specialty lending group has indicated in the past it likes the security space. Companies it previously has lent to include ASG Security and Vivint—until the Blackstone group acquired Vivint last year for more than $2 billion.

The Beekman Group is a leading private equity firm dedicated to bringing financial and operational resources to lower middle-market companies.

John Troiano, managing partner at Beekman, said in a statement: “This is an impressive company with a talented management team and a well-defined culture built on the core values of integrity, accountability and service.  We are excited to partner with NorthStar during its next phase of growth and development.”

I’m hoping to learn more about what the new partnership means for NorthStar, Goldman and The Beekman Group. Stay posted!

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by: Tess Nacelewicz - Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Flowers, breakfast in bed … and a security system?

In the past, that third item may not have come to mind as a way to make life easier and more enjoyable for Mom on Mother’s Day, but home automation may be changing that—or so a creative new marketing campaign from Vivint underscores.

A news release from that Provo, Utah-based home automation/home security company just in time for Mother’s Day points out that new home automation features can help make life easier for today’s hard-working moms.

The release is headlined: “Vivint home automation makes the perfect Mother's Day gift for busy moms.”

And this is how it continues:

As Mother's Day approaches, grateful children and husbands everywhere are looking for the perfect gift for Mom. For a busy mother looking for something to simplify her life, a new home automation system from Vivint, the largest home automation provider in North America, is the perfect fit.”

Wherever Mom is—at work, home, the grocery store, or traveling—she can check in at home using her smartphone, laptop, or computer. And whether she's a stay-at-home mom, a working mom, or a combination of both, she can use Vivint to watch live video of what's happening at home, arm or disarm the security system, get text notifications when the kids get home from school, and adjust the thermostat. All Vivint products work remotely with any web-enabled device, so moms on-the-go can always stay connected to their homes and families.

 

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by: Tess Nacelewicz - Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Voters in Washington State and Colorado last fall legalized the recreational use of marijuana—and created a new demand for security, with pot warehouses and stores in those states anxious to protect their valuable stash. However, according to a report from CNNMoney this week, the fact that pot sales are still illegal under federal law is creating some security hassles.

Not only is ADT refusing to provide security services to such businesses, citing federal law, but other security companies that do want to partake are finding it hard to get loans from banks, which are experiencing federal pressure, the report said.

That comes amidst a growing demand for security from pot dispensaries and warehouses, the report said. It said they’re targets because a pound of marijuana sells for $2,000 wholesale and—with pot sales illegal under federal law—business owners prefer transactions in cash.

“A robber who swipes the jars on display alone could make away with $20,000 of product, plus whatever stacks of bills are behind the counter,” the report said. As a consequence, it said, “a typical store has more than a dozen cameras, motion detectors, infrared sensors and flood lights. Some even line the ceilings with tripwire to avoid rooftop burglars sawing their way in.”

However, CNNMoney added, “some store owners who use ADT, the nation's largest security provider, say the company has dropped them in recent months.

Sarah Cohn, ADT director of media relations, told me, "ADT has made a policy decision not to sell security services to businesses engaged in the marijuana industry because it is still illegal under federal law."
 
But other security companies are stoked about protecting newly legitimate pot businesses, the report said. “The security needs create an opportunity for startups like Canna Security, a Colorado company currently expanding to Washington,” CNNMoney said.

Canna Security’s founder, Daniel Williams, told CNNMoney that footage from video security cameras shows that robbers targeting pot growers and stores sometimes rely on far-out methods.

He said footage included video of teenagers ramming an Audi through the door of a pot warehouse and a “cat burglar” who cut a hole in a warehouse roof to rappel down to the green loot. The robbers were foiled in both cases.

CNNMoney said the security demand is so great that Williams’ “employees are working 12-hour shifts every day, installing cameras and alarm systems across both states.”

His only problem is that his bank recently denied him a credit line to finance his company’s growth, even though it accepted his cash deposits, the report said.

“It gets frustrating when I get a whole new channel of business and funding isn't there to adjust to it,” Williams told CNNMoney.

 

by: Tess Nacelewicz - Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I’ve been writing about a new trend in the industry: selling home security in a retail environment. And now communications giant Comcast is one of the latest to embrace retail, opening a new store in Albuquerque, N.M. designed to let customers experience its Xfinity Home automation/home security product firsthand.

Philadelphia-based Comcast on April 20 held a grand opening of its new Xfinity Customer Center, the company said. It invited elected officials and community leaders to tour the facility, and Comcast gave a $2,500 donation to the Boys & Girls Club of Central New Mexico.

Comcast said the 2,500 square-foot center, which is open seven days a week, “is designed entirely around the needs of customers and provides consumers with an opportunity to explore, learn about, and interact directly with the latest Xfinity products and services.”

Here’s more on what Comcast had to say about the center:
 

Featuring fully interactive touchscreen displays; the environment enables customers to learn about products and indulge in the complete Xfinity Experience. The center also exhibits a 3D viewing experience, and comfortable seating areas. Customers can try out Comcast's Xfinity Home security system, the Xfinity TV app and popular apps on an iPad. Customers also can experience Xfinity TV, test drive Xfinity Internet's speeds and learn more about Comcast Business Class products and services at Kiosks throughout the center.

In addition, customers will receive personalized service from trained and knowledgeable Sales Consultants and more time-saving offerings, including a self-service kiosk for quick bill pay and a new queuing system that allows customers to explore and be entertained instead of waiting in line for service.

Comcast was a leader in the trend of among telecoms and cablecos entering the security market, launching its Xfinity Home Security product in June 2010. The company renamed the service last year as just Xfinity Home to reflect the fact that it includes many home automation features in addition to home security. The product has been rolled out in major markets across the nation.

Comcast is now part of a retail trend being embraced by both large and small companies selling security.

Telecom giant AT&T has told me that selling Digital Life, its home security/home automation product, in its retail stores is a key part of its sales strategy. Also, retail giant Lowe’s recently announced it is selling its Iris product not only its own stores but in Verizon Wireless stores.

And I just wrote recently about a small, traditional security company, Madison, Miss.-based The Alarm Company, finding its new retail location a roaring business success.

I’ll be talking to Comcast to learn more about its new store.

 

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