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by: Tess Nacelewicz - Wednesday, April 17, 2013

I wrote previously about Tony Wells, ADT chief marketing and customer officer, posing as an entry-level employee on the CBS reality show “Undercover Boss.”  Wells told me how the experience made him really appreciate ADT’s hard-working employees. But I didn’t know until the show aired on April 12 that the company showed its appreciation to one employee in the form of $35,000.

The employee, a technician named Jesus, has an 18-month-old daughter and he and his fiancée were barely making ends meet. But Jesus showed an outstanding work ethic shown as he helped Wells—in his “Undercover” persona of “James”—learn on the job. So, when Wells revealed who he really was at the end of the show, he also told Jesus that ADT wanted to reward him.

“You told me about your hardships and how hard you were working and we’d like to do something special for your daughter,” Wells said.

He said Jesus would get $10,000 to start an education fund for his daughter, and $25,000 for his family.

Jesus appeared overcome. “It’s too much … thank you,” he told Wells.

The technician used the family money to move into a “dream home,” according to news reports.

Boca Raton-based ADT has 16,000 employees, and it’s not known what salary Jesus earns. But Glassdoor, a salary web site, lists ADT employees' average salary as $44,527, higher than the national average of $41,000, according to the Aol Jobs web site.

by: Tess Nacelewicz - Friday, April 12, 2013

I’ve heard about so many new products and trends in my four days here at ISC West that will provide good background for future stories I’ll be writing. I also wrote yesterday about some dealers who scored $10,000 at the show. Check out that blog if you haven't seen it yet. In addition, here are some highlights from the last day of the event.

I started Friday at an interesting panel presentation by top dealers for Guardian Protection Services. The Warrendale, Pa.-based company was holding its annual authorized dealer convention in Las Vegas in conjunction with the show.

Three of the dealers who spoke excelled in different approaches to selling security: door knocking, telemarketing, and affinity marketing and gave insight on the various strategies.

The fourth dealer has a knack for hanging on to his customers and told his secrets for keeping attrition rates low. Hank Groff, national director of Guardian’s dealer division, commented that while a focus on sales is key, it’s important to remember that, “the ultimate goal is to protect customers and long-term relationships.”

A bit later in the day, I met with Sarah Semerjian, director of marketing for CheckVideo, a provider of cloud-based intelligent video surveillance and alarm verification solutions that is based in Reston, Va.

She said that CheckVideo executive VP Chris Brown participated in a panel discussion at the show on cloud RMR opportunities for integrators, which she said is something the company is focusing on.

CheckVideo has a variety of monitoring, technology and distribution partners and CheckVideo also is working with those partners to provide education about its products in the field, Semerjian said. “We’re really focusing on working with these partners to educate their dealers,” she said.

Also on Friday, I had an interesting talk with Jon Paine, a manager with the Sensor and Surveillance Systems division of manufacturer Moog, about new products the company was touting at the show. One was the EcoKit, a remote solar and wind power generator for surveillance systems. “Although there are other options out there, the blend of a wind turbine with solar is unique,” Paine told me.

He said the green solution is designed, as are all Moog products, for extreme environments and weather solutions, and is ideal for remote surveillance locations where other sources of power are not available or would be too expensive to make accessible. “There’s been a lot of interest at the show in the product,” Paine said.

The company also just released its EXO GeminEye high definition network thermal and HD visible imaging system. He said the blend of the two types of technology “gives 24/7 day and night coverage.”

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by: Tess Nacelewicz - Thursday, April 11, 2013

My second day at ISC West—Wednesday—was the first day the show floor opened. And among other things I learned from my visits to various booths was how to view locks from a new perspective.

For example, at the Kwikset booth, Stanley Black & Decker national account manager Brian Willis told me that as dealers work to convince homeowners to add home automation features to their security systems, “a lock is that transition piece.”  Kwikset is part of the Hardware and Home Improvement Group of Stanley Black & Decker.

The door locks that the California-based manufacturer makes serve as a bridge to home automation. For example, one of the many features of the 2nd Generation SmartCode deadbolt lock with Home Connect technology that Kwikset introduced at the show on Wednesday is its ability to integrate with home security and automation systems.

That means the lock can communicate with other wireless products in the home. For instance, Willis said, the lock can be set up so that if a smoke alarm in the house goes off, the door will automatically unlock. As Keith Brandon,Stanley Black & Decker director of residential access solutions, put it, such features “add value to consumers and dealers.”

Not surprisingly, ASSA ABLOY, a Sweden-based door opening solutions company, also was talking locks—a lot of them.

Martin Huddart, executive VP and CEO, said the company has launched 280 new products in the last three years. He said that typically 95 percent of a building’s doors require mechanical locks because they are low-risk entry points and 5 percent of the doors are high risk, so require more expensive access control.

But Huddart said ASSA ABLOY also has solutions for medium-risk entry points and he urged integrators to explore with their customers “matching the right level of technology with the risk.” He estimated about 15 percent of a building’s entry points might require those medium solutions.

Another highlight of my day was learning about a new form of residential security: radar. That’s the latest development from SpotterRF, which makes compact radar systems for military and commercial markets—and now for the residential market. SpotterRF, a company established in 2009 that has offices in Herndon, Va. and Orem, Utah, announced at ISC West that it has installed radar security at a luxury estate.

CEO Logan Harris told me that he can’t reveal much about the client for privacy reasons, but he said he believes the job was the first of more to come in the high-end luxury market. Installed was a 100-acre, 360-degree perimeter security system in just one day that cost about $12,000, he said.

Harris said that radar “gives you the capability of sticking on GPS tracker on someone without their actually knowing anything about it.”

by: Tess Nacelewicz - Thursday, April 11, 2013

2GIG Technologies recently shipped its one-millionth panel and the lucky Utah security dealer who ordered it was awarded $10,000 at the ISC West show on Thursday as a result.

And remember SAFE Security’s ISC West promotion in which it was offering a $10,000 bonus to dealers who signed up for its dealer program by the last day of the show?

Well, the show and the promotion don’t end until tomorrow, but SAFE President and CEO Paul Sargenti told me on Thursday that it looks like 11 dealers have qualified so far.

That’s just one shy of the dozen dealers he was anticipating, he said. And although everything has not been finalized, Sargenti said it appears that “it’s one of our best results for a promotion.”

Sargenti said that for the dealers, the bonus was only part of the draw. “The money offer was nice but they were looking for a program that had stability and longevity,” he said.

SAFE, based in San Ramon, Calif. is one of the nation’s largest full-service security companies and does business in every state but Hawaii and also in Canada, Sargenti said. The company is growing rapidly and just completed a $130 million senior debt refinancing in late February.

At the 2GIG booth on Thursday afternoon, Ben Edstrom, CEO of Jordan, Utah-based Elite Home Security, was delighted to learn a panel he ordered from 2GIG contained a “golden ticket” worth $10,000.

“We’ve been placing some large orders,” he told me. “I guess we placed it at the right time.” The panel was shipped last week, the company said.

Edstrom plans to use the money to take a trip to Hawaii.

Lance Dean, co-founder of Carlsbad, Calif.-based 2GIG, a manufacturer of security and home automation equipment that was established in 2009 and is known for its Go!Control system, surprised Edstrom with the award at a small ceremony Thursday. Dean sounded as thrilled as the $10,000 winner.

“This is a huge milestone for us,” Dean said of the fact that now 2GIG has shipped one million panels. He said he dreamed of such success when the company began but is happy it has happened so quickly.

Nortek, the parent company of Linear, which helped development the 2GIG Go!Control product, recently announced the acquisition of 2GIG for $135 million.

 

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by: Tess Nacelewicz - Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I spent my first morning at ISC West on Tuesday at a rather “unique” forum made up of DMP dealers. The talk there included discussion of the Springfield, Mo.-based manufacturer’s new XR150/350/550 Series access, burglary, and fire panel that the company is showcasing here in Las Vegas.

“We’ve tried to pack as much stuff as we could in this panel,” Rick Britton, DMP CEO and president, told the dealers. He said it’s extremely fast and it’s affordable. “More for less,” he said.

The one-day DMP forum was an owners forum, the second year DMP has held such an event. David Peebles, DMP VP of training and quality, said, “We think the idea is unique”—having DMP executives sit down and discuss ideas with the owners of top DMP dealer companies.

Included in the forum was a presentation by Stanley Oppenheim of New York-based DGA Security Systems, who spoke about how his company weathered Hurricane Sandy. Alan Kruglak of Maryland-based Genesis Security, a security/life safety provider, gave a talk on service contracts and how they can be even more lucrative then monitoring contracts.

In the afternoon, I talked with System Sensor’s director of communications, David George, about the company’s new i4 Series Combination CO/Smoke Detector and Integration Module that it’s launching here at the show.

“The i4 Series is the first low-voltage, system-connected, combination smoke and carbon monoxide detection solution on the market,” according to a company news release. The i4 can be integrated into conventional security and fire panels.

I wrote last spring about a new intelligent combined fire/co detector from Gamewell-FCI by Honeywell. That addressable detector is ideal for large facilities such as hotels, dormitories, apartment buildings, hospitals and nursing homes.

The System Sensor conventional combination CO/smoke solution is the answer for smaller spaces, such as businesses and residences, George told me.

On Tuesday evening, I headed to an event put on by FLIR Systems, an Oregon-based manufacturer of thermal imaging infrared cameras. It makes products that are used in commercial and military applications, but also ones used by consumers, such as hand-held thermal imaging cameras that can be used by recreational boaters or hunters.

Thermal cameras detect images through the heat they emit so can operate in total darkness. The FLIR event was held at the Bali Hai Golf Course, and with the aid of such an infrared device, we could clearly see FLIR employees chasing golf balls on the golf course, even though it was pitch dark out.

And now, with FLIR’s acquisition last year of Lorex Technology, a Toronto-based video surveillance provider, it aims to provide thermal imaging cameras to the home market.

Lorex sells enterprise-grade video products sold through the security channel under the brand name Digimerge; Lorex itself sells video products sold through retail outlets for small businesses and homeowners. The company has hundreds of thousands of customers.

FLIR President Andy Teich said the company’s aim is to offer a low-resolution thermal imaging camera that is affordable to the average homeowner. The cost eventually could perhaps be as low as about $200, said Bill Klink, FLIR VP of business development.

Teich said FLIR’s goal is have infrared technology be “ultimately ubiquitous” in the way that GPS technology is. GPS, he said, answers the question, “Where am I?” and “thermal imaging will tell you what’s out there.

by: Tess Nacelewicz - Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Two recent developments from home automation/home security giant Vivint caught my eye. One is a new feature for homeowners called Vivint Live, which the company said links customers directly to a monitoring professional and helps reduce false alarms. The other is that Alex Dunn, who just recently became president of Vivint, is also now interim CEO for Vivint Solar.

Provo, Utah-based Vivint announced today that with Vivint Live, its customers can now use their touchscreen panels to communicate directly with a monitoring professional in the event of an alarm.

Here’s what the company had to say:
 

When an alarm is triggered, the signal is sent to Vivint's award-winning monitoring center, which is staffed 24 hours a day throughout the year. Upon receiving the alarm, a Vivint in-house monitoring professional speaks to the customer through the touchscreen panel. Acting as a first responder, the agent assesses the situation, confirms an emergency with the customer, and dispatches emergency personnel accordingly. With Vivint Live, homeowners have the personal, immediate response they need to work through any emergency situation and receive necessary care. …

… Vivint Live's quick response also allows Vivint to decrease the number of false alarms. Vivint monitoring professionals connect directly with the customer and then dispatch emergency personnel only during a legitimate emergency or when the customer cannot be reached.

In other news, the company also announced yesterday that Tanguy Serra has stepped down as CEO of Vivint Solar and that Dunn is now interim CEO. Serra said in a statement that it’s time for him to step away from day-to-day operations but that he still will be involved as an advisor to the company.

Vivint Solar, a company that Vivint created in 2011, is one of the fastest-growing residential solar power provider in the North America.

Dunn said in a statement: “Tanguy has helped us build an amazing business, and we are grateful for all of his hard work and dedication. Vivint Solar is what it is today because of his leadership. We are committed to expanding upon the foundation that he has built, and believe our solar solution to be a critical component to helping our customers save money and gain energy independence.”

 

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by: Tess Nacelewicz - Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Vivint has been in the news a lot since it was acquired late last year by the Blackstone Group for more than $2 billion. But the latest scoop is actually about the CEO of the Provo, Utah-based company, Todd Pedersen. He’s about to buy a golf course in nearby Orem and turn it into a housing development where he and others will live, according to the Daily Herald, a Provo-based newspaper.

But Pedersen also will give 20 acres of the property back to the city for recreation, the report says.

The paper says the Cascade Golf Center has been in business 45 years but has announced this year will be its last because it’s being sold to Pedersen for a residential development. The paper quotes Keven Stratton, Jr., who runs the family-owned golf course, as saying the economic downturn and competition from new golf courses have made business difficult.

Here’s more from the newspaper's March 21 story:
 

Todd Pedersen acknowledged Wednesday that he is in a business arrangement with the Strattons on the sale of the lease and is going through due process and will eventually come to the city council for approval. Pedersen's proposal would give him land to develop low-density homes -- approximately 12 to 15, with his being one -- but he would return to the city approximately 20 acres of land worth $7 million in fully developed parkland, sports fields, with infrastructure, parking, bathrooms and more.

"My wife and I have lived in the valley and we want to do something that most residents can enjoy," Pedersen said. "I want to make sure for the city management that the best uses will be made for the most citizens."

Pedersen knows many golfers in the community will be unhappy losing Cascade and he understands how they feel.

If Pedersen's proposal is carried through it will bring approximately $300,000 in property tax revenues to the city. He said that more than replaces the $450 a year the city receives through the Strattons' lease. Because the property is zoned R1-12 the plan Pedersen is proposing complies with the zone.

Cascade Golf Center opened in May 1968 after the city agreed to lease property to the Strattons until 2060. A second-generation owner, Stratton purchased the golf course in 1989 from his father and other partners. The construction and operation of the course has been privately financed. …

… The 53 acres owned jointly with Orem City along with the majority of the 67 acres of privately owned land that make up Cascade Golf Center are being sold. That includes the miniature golf course, the driving range, the small orchard east of the range, the Valley Course or lower nine and the back nine.

While the price of the property and the lease's selling price have not been disclosed, it is no secret that Orem and other developers see this as prime property, possibly worth as much as $200,000 an acre.

 

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by: Tess Nacelewicz - Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I’ve been writing here about the sunny outlook for The ADT Corp. stock since the newly independent company began publicly trading last fall after spinning off from Tyco International. But don’t just take my word for it—apparently 10 billionaires also think ADT is a good investment.

Gurufocus.com, a web site that's oriented toward value investing, noted this week that 10 billionaire investors have all recently invested in Boca Raton, Fla.-based ADT.

Here’s more from what Gurufocus had to say:

ADT got the attention of Investor Gurus Julian Robertson, John Burbank, Dodge & Cox, George Soros, Jean-Marie Eveillard, John Keeley, Mario Gabelli, Steven Cohen, James Barrow, and Paul Tudor Jones--all bought ADT shares for the first time on Dec. 31, 2012, at $48 per share, with a change from average of 14%. Current share price is $49.43. Top buyer Dodge & Cox bought 6,810,838 ADT shares, followed by Jean-Marie Eveillard who bought 1,526,071 shares. At the low-end, Guru Paul Tudor Jones bought new holdings of 10,000 ADT shares. See detailed Guru Trade info here.

A leading provider of electronic security, detection, and monitoring for home and business, ADT features interactive and automated products and services for active people with increasingly mobile lifestyles. The Florida company employs approximately 16,000 people at 200 locations, and serves six million customers. This week ADT announced that its Board of Directors had declared a quarterly cash dividend of $0.125 per share of common stock, to be paid on May 15, 2013 to stockholders of record as of the close of business on April 24, 2013.

… GuruFocus performed a thorough financial and performance checkup on ADT and found only one warning sign. The ADT price of $49.43 is close to its one-year high of $49.46.

 

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by: Tess Nacelewicz - Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I wrote recently about two Canadian giants, cable company Rogers Communications and telecommunications company Bell Aliant, planning to offer home security/home automation for the first time in Atlantic Canada this spring. And now Rogers has announced it’s expanding the service in its Ontario footprint.

Rogers launched its Smart Home Monitoring in its cable footprint in Ontario in August 2011. And today, Toronto-based Rogers announced it is now expanding its offering to Ontario’s “Golden Horseshoe.” That’s a region of southern Ontario that includes Greater Toronto and is quite densely populated, with about 26 percent of Canada’s population calling the region home, according to Internet sources.

Rogers said its service now will be available to residents of the Golden Horseshoe, which includes Oakville, Lincoln, West Lincoln, Grimsby, Hamilton and the Greater Hamilton area, Burlington, Niagara Falls, Thorold, Pelham, Niagara-on-the-Lake, St. Catharines, Wainfleet, Welland, Fort Erie and Port Colborne.

Roger’s offering, like Bell Aliant’s NextGen Home Security, is professionally installed and monitored. Both offering are powered by California-based iControl’s OpenHome software platform.

“We're thrilled to now offer Rogers Smart Home Monitoring to residents of the Golden Horseshoe," Ian Pattinson, VP and general manager, Rogers Smart Home Monitoring, said in a prepared statement. “Since we launched a year and a half ago, our customers continue to discover new system features that keep their homes and families secure while helping them better manage their daily lives for ultimate peace of mind.”

The company said that customers’ alarms are monitored by the Rogers Central Monitoring Station, “a 24/7, real-time monitoring service provided by certified security experts with over twenty years of experience in security, monitoring and emergency services.”

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by: Tess Nacelewicz - Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Early termination fees are pretty much standard in the security industry but now The ADT Corp. is facing a lawsuit over them, I’ve learned.

Earlier this week two law firms announced the filing of a class action lawsuit in federal court in California on behalf of ADT Home Monitoring Services customers regarding early termination fees, also termed early cancellation fees.

The law offices of Bursor & Fisher and of Jana Eisinger contend in a news release that the fees are illegal and the “lynchpin of ADT's ‘never let them go’ strategy.”

The attorneys are urging consumers who believe they were wronged to contact them.

Here’s more from the March 4 release:
 

The proposed class consists of two groups of consumers: (1) all current or former consumer subscribers of ADT who have been charged an early termination fee or are subject to being charged an early termination fee (also called an Early Termination Fee or Early Cancellation Fee, collectively "ETF", and comprising the "ETF class"); and (2) all current or former consumer subscribers of ADT whose rates were increased or are subject to increase by ADT without prior notice while in the initial contract period or during subsequent contractual extensions.

This class action is intended to redress ADT's wrongful practice of imposing early termination fees, the lynchpin of ADT's "never let them go" strategy. Early termination fees are unlawful penalties used simply as an anti-competitive device and do not compensate ADT for any true costs of breach. These penalties, which are unilaterally imposed by ADT - even when ADT fails to perform the services promised - also violate the consumer protection statutes of California and Illinois and similar laws nationwide.

The early termination penalty is extracted under circumstances which cannot be justified, when ADT has failed to perform the very services that form the basis of ADT's obligation. The penalty is also extracted from customers who contracted with ADT to simply monitor a system that was previously installed, requiring no equipment to be installed and resulting in a windfall to ADT upon termination. By charging the early termination fee ADT gets paid for years of monitoring without doing any monitoring to earn those fees.

In addition, Plaintiffs seek redress for ADT's pattern of unilaterally increasing alarm monitoring fees while consumers are under contract for lesser fees. These increases are implemented without adequate prior notice and without providing the appropriate and required disclosures necessary to ensure that customers consent to these increases in advance. ADT relies on small boilerplate text neither signed nor highlighted for customers to claim its "right" to unilaterally increase fees.

I contacted ADT and Sarah Cohn, ADT director of media relations, who responded that the company has a policy of not commenting on pending litigation. She noted however, that “termination fees are common in the industry when a company absorbs the upfront cost of the installation.”

I’ve also reached out to the lawyers involved to find out why they’re targeting ADT. Stay posted!

 

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