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Dice: Conference, apps and growth

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Dice released a selection of new products at its most recent annual users group conference, held Nov. 4-6 in Mount Pleasant, Mich., where 30 percent of its client base was present. Approximately 95 percent of those attendees were from North America, according to Carol Enman, senior VP of strategic business development and communications for Dice.

“One of the things we spent a good deal of time talking about was the difference between apps and applications and what they provided the customer,” Enman told Security Systems News. She described the root difference between the two as apps being for phones while applications are web-based.

Enman listed numerous examples of new products, including a system for mobile sales management, designed to allow managers oversee their sales people; a new data entry system that leads users step-by-step through information entry; a scheduling app allowing for customers to be quickly scheduled for service or installation; and a fire inspection app allowing service technicians to inspect fire systems on sites and fill out required forms. 

One of the precipitating factors to this lineup of releases was “that the company’s design and development staff has increased,” according to a prepared statement. Enman estimated an overall growth in the company of at least 30 percent across all departments in the past year and a half.

The main idea behind these products appears to be creating efficiency for monitoring companies. “We have customers with hundreds of thousands of subscribers operating companies with less people in them then some small alarm companies with a few thousand accounts have” Cliff Dice, CEO, said in a prepared statement.

Live from New York, it's ISC East

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

ISC East kicks off this morning here on a beautifully sunny morning in New York City.

Conference sponsor SIA said it expects to “see increased attendance at this year’s event.”

SIA introduced a mobile app (sponsored by Genetec) for this year’s event that’s free to download at www.isceastmobile.com The app has a list of exhibitors and their locations, the educational schedule and other planning features.

In addition to the show floor exhibits and educational sessions, the annual SIA Honors Night will take place tonight at Chelsea Piers. Honeywell’s Gordon Hope will receive the George R. Lippert Memorial Award at that event.  

Check back here for reports about this year’s show.

Some takeaways from Honeywell's Connect2014

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

ORLANDO, Fla.—“The Big Picture” was the focus of Honeywell’s annual event for authorized dealers, Connect2014.

The conference, held here, started Nov. 13, but the glitzy kickoff was on Friday morning with a general session that was quite a production, featuring a live orchestra, big screens, top execs, award winners and more.

Marek Robinson, president of the First Alert Professional and CSS Authorized Dealer programs, told the audience that “The Big Picture” means taking a step back and looking at everything that’s going on in the world and the industry. “How does it impact the industry? What are your resources to deal with it?” Those are the questions dealers should be asking, he said.

People are spending from three to five hours a day on their devices, said Ron Rothman, president of Honeywell Security, and they’re inundated with technology.  Honeywell and others have been waiting for this trend for a long time, but that also means a slew of new entrants are going after a piece of Honeywell’s pie—31 new start-ups just in October, he said.  However, the power of the Honeywell brand and the upcoming investments the company will make in technology, marketing and advertising will prevail, he said.

Alex Ismail, ACS president and CEO, said Honeywell aspires to be the Apple of industrial companies when it comes to customer satisfaction and loyalty. A five-star customer experience was a recurring theme throughout the two-hour session. (More on that later.)

Inder Reddy, president of Honeywell Security Products Americas, reminded dealers that while they need to adapt to the new environment they also need to stay grounded in the fact that they are protecting families, homes and businesses. “Security is still central to the Connected Home and Connected Building,” he said.

Authorized dealer tenure awards were presented, and the general session wrapped up with a moving tribute to the folks who helped saved a little girl’s life—they received the Life Safety award. A 6-year-old boy, a nurse, a Palm Bay, Fla., police officer and the Palm Bay Fire Department all played a crucial role in resuscitating an 8-year-old girl who was found unconscious at the bottom of a swimming pool. She was on stage to present the awards to her heroes.

The second general session of the day featured a boisterous Rudy Wolter, director of the North America Region of Citigroup Security and Investigative Services and a key player in Honeywell’s End Users Group. A “five-star” experience for end users is “partnership, not perfection,” he said.  (More on this later, too.)

Raymond Dean, former president and founder of PEI and now senior vice president at MSA Systems Integration, spoke on treating customers as a company’s best assets.

“Take care of the customer and they’ll take care of you,” Dean said.

Visit customers regularly when there are no problems and they won’t associate you with negative connotations; don’t send new hires out to a homeowner without a formal introduction from someone they know; show respect, he said.

“Growth makes us complacent, the roots of our success get forgotten,” Dean said. Customers made you a success, don’t drift away from customer service, he added.

Keynoter Jeffrey Gitomer, a best-selling author and sales and customer service professional, gave a humorous and insightful talk to the appreciative crowd. He discussed the need to be adept at social media to boost company reputations and branding, because “the old way of selling doesn’t work anymore. Social media has changed the way you sell and serve forever.” (More on this later, too!)

I also attended three breakout sessions, the first of which was “Communication Strategies—2G, 3G, 4G and Beyond,” Dan Jarnigan of Guardian Systems, Dave Hood of EPS and Alan Buffaloe of Gill Security discussed their approaches to customer upgrades.

Next was a discussion on the Connected Home with Jeremy Bates of Bates Security, Larry Comeaux of Acadiana Security Plus and Rence Coassin of American Total Protection. The panel discussed tailoring “connectedness” to meet customers’ needs, while reminding customers that security comes first.

Honeywell’s Jan McBride presented “The next BIG THING: Emerging Technologies.” It’s not just wearable devices, she said, showcasing a number of other products—“not sure if they’re creepy or cool”— that could impact the industry. Those include Bluetooth-enabled gloves; smart appliances that can text you when, for example, your clothes are finished in the dryer and refrigerators that can track your eating habits; smart doorbells that allow you to “answer the door” via cellphone even when you’re not home; and home robots that can not only read to your children, but can remind you of appointments and take photos of your events so you can be in the pictures.

Eye-tracking technology, gesture recognition (to pull down window blinds, for example) are all here now, McBride said. “These trends will be a driving force in terms of home automation. The impact on our business is whether these things are of real value or are these applications a passing fad?”

On the final day of Connect 2014, Steve Means, district sales manager for Honeywell in Texas, encouraged dealers to leverage Honeywell’s services to grow their businesses. “Connected solutions are what your customers want, and it will be good for your business,” he said during the morning’s general session. From detecting mold to being notified when kids get home from school, along with myriad other applications, it’s the way to go, he said.

Russ Ackerman, district sales director for Vector Security, said his company’s RMR will be up 20 percent this year because of Connected Home. He doesn’t care about competition. “I don’t care what Comcast and AT&T are doing. Competition is for crybabies, sissies and whiners. I don’t want to compete. I want to dominate.” Connected Home will “help get us there,” he said.

New selling techniques are required. Where before Vector would use with its customers a “security evaluation questionnaire,” now it uses a “lifestyle analysis,” Ackerman said. Vector gives prospective customers a test drive of its products rather than “glossy pictures” of those products. It shares a two-way voice demo during the sales presentation.

“We’re closing 83 percent of presentations on the first call,” he said.

Other speakers during the general session drilled down on Connected Building for the commercial sector.

I attended two educational sessions later in the day, one on “Building Your Brand,” the other “Creating a Culture People Love.”

John Schwartz, marketing director for ADS, discussed a number of branding myths—for example, that branding is complicated, expensive and had to be done solely by marketing professionals; advertising vs. branding—advertising is pushing the message out, branding is solidifying that message; and social media’s power, both pro and con—“if someone is mad at you, they can go on every social media outlet and let everyone know.”

Sales people should be involved in branding, with input from customers, Schwartz said. Companies should pick one word they want to be associated with, such as “trust,” and take it from there, he said. Facebook can be used for “sideways selling:” let people know how your company helps the homeless or conducts other community service projects, he said.

At my final Connect2014 educational session, LOUD Security’s John Loud explained how his company, with 57 employees, has built its culture to be engaging and fun. It all starts with company leadership, he said. Events for employees, teamwork and recognition all matter, he said. (Read more about this later, too!)

Complete with a ‘70s Fever Costume Party and the Awards Gala, Connect2014 put on a big event in keeping with its “Big Picture” theme.

Dynamark enhances its partner program

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

In every industry, and security is certainly no exception, everyone needs something to make them stand out from the crowd. One company in particular I’ve noticed as making that effort is Dynamark Security Centers, located in Hagerstown, Md., with their Partner Program. Today, Dynamark launched a new website for their Partner Program, providing an online portal specifically for their dealers and those interested in the program and stressing the difference between opening a partnership and participating in a dealer program.  

“Dynamark does not limit the growth potential of our partners; and we like to place emphasis on the word partner. We do not compete with our partners. We can only succeed if we have a long-term relationship with our partners, so we believe in transparency and choices,” said Hank Groff, senior VP of sales & business development for Dynamark, in a prepared statement.

“This website will help Dynamark better communicate with both current partners and dealers who are looking to know more about Dynamark,” said Tom Piston, VP of business development, in a prepared statement.

This is a program open to independent alarm dealers across the country, but it appears to be a program trying to offer something different and unique to the people Dynamark works with, having a concern for their individual growth as independent companies.

Which generation is big on smart home technology?

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

MADISON, N.J—Question: Who is most willing to spend money on smart home technology?

Answer: The Millennials, those consumers born between 1982 and 2000. That’s according to a recent survey conducted by ERA Real Estate and HGTV.

Overall, 2,437 consumers participated in the survey this past August.

Forty-six percent of the respondents said they believe it is important that their current home or the next home they buy be equipped with smart home technology; 51 percent said they would consider installing such technology to make their house have a higher resale value.

Millennials were 10 times more likely than Gen Xers, those born after post-WWII Baby Boomers, to make the smart home investment, the survey showed.

"While still a growing trend, smart home enhancements have the potential to increase savings, safety and resale value," Charlie Young, president and CEO of ERA Real Estate, said in a prepared statement. "As we have seen through this survey and (through) our one-on-one interactions with buyers and sellers, a smart home is one that is well-positioned for the future and aligns with a growing reliance on mobile technology."

Mobile technology and control are rising to the top, particularly with Millennials, the survey found. Seven in 10 Millennials believe it is important that smart home technology integrates with their smartphones.

Five in 10 survey respondents reported having a security system in their current home. Demonstrating consumers' practical preferences, the most commonly found technologies were those that could help homeowners save money, including automated climate control, energy management, remote home monitoring and lighting control systems, the survey said.

For more findings from the survey, go here.

Razberi gets $3m, new board members, CTO

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Razberi Technologies, which was reinvented three years ago by Tom Galvin, today announced that it received a $3m investment from a new investor, LiveOak Venture Partners of Austin, Texas.

I had a chance to speak to Galvin about the deal. “We launched the company exactly three years ago, in November 2011. We’ve been growing nicely through word of mouth but we got to the point where, to sustain growth, we needed outside capital,” he said.

The funds will be used “to invest in sales, marketing and branding awareness to fully leverage what we’ve built here in our product line and to invest in R&D. We want to continue to evolve and to develop the product line,” Galvin said.

Razberi’s flagship product is its ServerSwitch, which combines “the functions of a network video recorder and ethernet smark switch into a single compact appliance.”  These appliances, “go where IT doesn’t go because of cost or form factor,” Galvin said. Currently in development are a “ruggedized line for outdoor applications. There’s a growing energy business in the U.S., with oil and natural gas and windmills and they all need video surveillance,” he said.  

Galvin also announced that Ken Boyda has joined Razberi as non-executive chairman of its board of directors.

Boyda built Interlogi company, which he sold to GE Security and was subsequently sold to UTC. Galvin and Boyda worked together at GE before Boyda retired. Boyda has stayed active in the industry, Galvin said, serving on the board of VideoIQ before its acquisition by Avigilon. He also currently serves on the board of PSIM provider VidSys.

Boyda introduced Galvin to LiveOak Ventures.

“Razberi [which is based in Carrollton, Texas] is LiveOak’s first investment in North Texas. There’s a start-up market here that’s underserved by financial [backers], and LiveOak saw us a real opportunity,” Galvin said.

Jiri Modry, whom Galvin called “one of the pioneers,” has also joined Razberi’s board. “He developed the first DVR for security and sold it to Interlogix [which was sold to GE.] … The GE DVR line at the time was based on Yiri’s technology. It’s great to have his expertise on the board as well,” Galvin said.

Ben Scott and Krishna Srivivasan, both of LiveOak Venture Partners, also joined the board.

Razberi also hired Rich Anderson as its CTO. “He’s a key hire for us. He served in different executive capacities at GE and Casi Rusco back in the day,” Galvin said.

Comunale discusses Tri-Ed post-acquisition

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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Tri-Ed will continue to be the brand name for the security division of Anixter following the recently completed acquisition of Tri-Ed by Anixter.

That seems like a smart move, and also probably not a huge surprise to those who have followed this deal.

The company also announced that Pat Comunale will serve as president of global security solutions for Tri-Ed. James Rothstein will serve as SVP of global marketing and Dirk Foreman, who headed up sales to high-end integrators for Anixter previously, will continue in basically the same role for Tri-Ed. His new title is Global/National Integrator Sales. Rothstein and Foreman will report to Comunale.

I caught up with Pat Comunale yesterday, who said he’s more invigorated today about the possibilities for Tri-Ed than he was 10 years ago when the distribution company was launched.

“The opportunity is much larger than building a brick-and-mortar business,” he said. The new Tri-Ed is a “real value-added distribution platform. The services we can provide using the Anixter lab, the capabilities, infrastructure and support we can offer for large customers inside and outside of security … it's a very powerful solution.”

Anixter now has more products to offer its customers and Tri-Ed can now get into the higher-end IP-products [and projects]. “We’re approximately a $2 billion security business globally, which is unparalleled in our industry,” Comunale said.

Tri-Ed has 65 locations and it is opening up four offices within the month in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; Baltimore; St. Louis and in northern New Jersey, Comunale said.

Previously, Anixter only had physical sales offices for its security operation. It did not have not have branch distribution offices. “Now their customers can come to any Tri-Ed office for pick up,” Comunale said.

The security division headquarters, previously located in Glenview, Illl., will be based here.  Comunale said all of the back office functions of Tri-Ed and Anixter have been integrated. The last piece is getting both sales teams on one platform, Comunale said, which he expects will be accomplished in 9 months.

Comunale said his largest challenge is communication “keeping everyone informed of what’s happening. “We have a standard biweekly phone call [which everyone is invited to join] where we give a status update within the business.” In the future, Comunale plans to include some vendors and customers in those calls.

Protection 1 shines up its HALO

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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Protection 1, responding to consumer demand to combine home security, home automation and energy efficiency, has added central alarm operator video alarm verification and other features to its HALO home automation platform.

Using a mobile app, residential users can control and manage interactive security, video monitoring and energy management solutions along with other connected devices. It’s powered by Alarm.com’s cloud-based software platform.

To reduce energy costs, sensor information learns a home’s activity patterns and creates “Smart Schedules” for efficient energy management, Protection 1 said in a prepared statement. That includes adjusting the thermostat to save energy when the customer is not at home and turns the heat back up when the customer is on the way home.

Customers also have the option of integrating solar energy into the system.

Introduction and CSAA's rescheduled meeting

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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

To formally introduce myself, my name is Spencer Ives and I’m the new associate editor here at SSN. I’ll primarily be covering the central station monitoring beat. I’m brand new to the security industry and am looking forward to getting to know you. I'm excited about writing about new developments in your businesses, the evolution of monitoring technology and general trends in the monitoring world. 

The first notable item that has cropped up under my watch has been the 2014 CSAA Annual Meeting being cancelled due to a hurricane in Bermuda. However, bouncing back, the CSAA has found a new time and place for the event: It will now be held on Wednesday, Dec. 3, at The Crystal City Marriott, 1999 Jefferson Davis Highway, Arlington, Va.

Elizabeth Lasko, VP of marketing and communications for CSAA International told me, “The difficulty was that we had two-and-a-half days of solid information sessions. Those can’t be rescheduled. ...We can’t get all 25 to commit to a second two-and-half day segment of time.” While, it may be scaled down, the meeting will go on. The CSAA Board of Directors Meeting will take place from 12:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., and the General Membership Meeting from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The "Monitoring Matters" blog is meant to be a forum for discussion. Please feel free to comment, and if you have news tips, suggestions for stories or if you simply want to introduce yourself, feel free to call me at 207-846-0600, ext. 254, or email me at sives@securitysystemsnews.com.

 

 

Rains in Africa: Northland Challenge Day 4

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Our collective alarm clock this morning felt like a sonic boom. It was just thunder, but it had to be directly overhead because it shook all of the challengers awake at about 5:45 a.m. Next came the downpour. As we all scrambled to pack our bags and take down our tents, a silly 80s song is running through my mind.

Then I realized I was actually hearing “Africa.”  Seems Joseph had hooked up a makeshift sound system in his Rav4.

The only challenger who missed part of “the rains of Africa” that morning was Paul, whom Kirsten found sleeping in their car.  Paul claims that it was not fear of the hippos nor rain that drove him out of his tent and into the car. No way. He was afraid of the snoring that was coming from nearby tents, he said.

Caffeine deprived and coated in dirt, I’m ready for day four. Guy and I leave with a convoy that included Pierre, Sebastian, Hartmut, Edward, Jim, Shad and Terry.  

Our destination today: Ruhengheri, Rwanda.

Driving the back roads of Uganda, you get a close-up view of how Ugandans spend their days.

Jim said he was struck by “the incredibly hard work that goes on as people try to lead their lives here. …They’re pushing bicycles with huge bunches of bananas [or other goods] up hills,” he said.

Jim said he was not expecting to see all of the small tea farms on the hillsides. “I don’t know how they walk on those hills, never mind work on them,” he said.

Indeed, we saw men, women and children toting all manner of produce, livestock, clothing and water vessels on their heads. I saw a few people carrying bricks made from the red Ugandan soil.
 

We saw people driving motorbikes strapped down with a dead pig, kids carrying 25-foot timbers, and we saw a group of people carrying someone in a homemade stretcher down a hill in the dark. The nearest big town was more than an hour away by car.
 
Guy observed that in many cases, especially in the more urban areas, what the Ugandans carry, appears to be their livelihood, their portable business.   
 
We drove through the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, which is one of the only habitats for gorillas in the world. It was a hilly drive with long vistas, and we stopped a lot to take photos.

Lunch break at the entrance ot Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

The border crossing from Uganda to Rwanda is not an orderly affair. You have to sort out where to begin, determine who needs to look at your passport and the various papers that you need to fill out. If you’re not driving the car, you must walk around the border gate to a building where you emigrate from Uganda at one window and immigrate to Rwanda at the next.
The process involved some standard questions about destination and purpose, which we all got through in a couple minutes. Edward, the last of our group to immigrate to Rwanda, received an extra lengthy interrogation.

The border guards had apparently had it up to here with the Northland Challenge vehicles by the time Vivian and Tim crossed as Vivian had an even longer interrogation than Edward.

Things looked up once we actually crossed into Rwanda. The main roads are quite nice, straight and lined with eucalyptus trees.  

The hotel is not far from the border and from my room I can see some of the Virunga Mountain volcanoes. The large one on the right extends into three countries, Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The volcano on the far left is called “Sabyinyo” which means “old man's teeth”

Tomorrow, we’re off to bring light to the Janja school.

For more information about the Northland Challenge, check out these links:

The Northland Challenge: Security, service and globalization

Northland Challenge Day 1&2

Northland Challenge Day 3

Pierre Trapanese's blog

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