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Monitronics offers benefits to AAA, AARP members

 - 
Wednesday, August 24, 2016

In the past couple of weeks, Monitronics has announced new benefits for active members of AARP and AAA, offering benefits both to members signing up for services with Monitronics as well as members who are current customers.

"These partnerships are set up uniquely utilizing various co-marketing strategies to make their respective member aware of the value and benefits that Monitronics can provide,"  Frank Guido, Monitronics' CMO, told Security Systems News in an email interview.

"These initiatives were started many months ago, but has been a strategic focus to fuel growth opportunities with high quality, well recognized partners," Guido said. "We are targeting channels that are synergistic to our business and the potential partner’s business.  We are selectively targeting similarly partnerships that provide win-win-win opportunities for customers first, our partner and Monitronics.

The company announced its partnership with AAA on Aug. 23, which named Monitronics as “the AAA-branded provider for professionally installed residential security monitoring in the organization's Ohio valley and Mid-Atlantic regions, which covers 11 states, including OH, KY, KS, IN, VA, WV, MD, DE, CT, PA, NJ, plus Washington DC.”

"AAA Alliance is a large regional club for AAA with a member base of over 5.5 [million] members. These members also have excellent attributes and are similar to our base," Guido said.

Brian St. Leger, managing director, discount partnerships and business for AAA Club Alliance, said in a prepared statement, "We are excited to partner with Monitronics to provide a valuable service at an exclusive discounted rate to our members.

"We know our members are active, traveling and out enjoying the world and this will help bring them peace of mind while they're away from their home," St. Leger said in the announcement.

AAA members signing up with the company will get discounts on a specialized AAA package, while members who are already customers will be offered discounts on additional equipment.

AARP members who sign up with Monitronics will receive equipment and free activation “as well as $5 off their monthly monitoring fee,” the company said in an Aug. 11 announcement.  Existing customers who are also AARP members will be offered discounts when they add on equipment in the future.

"AARP has a 38M member base and is highly respected brand. Their member base has many positive attributes and similarities to our customer base," Guido said. "Monitronics felt that it could provide AARP members with the best value proposition and service for security and automation. This was affirmed by AARP in the selection of Monitronics in their extensive RFP process."

How much overlap exists between these organizations' memberships and Monitronics' current customer base? "While there may be some overlap, these organization are vast and provide different avenues to reach new subscribers," Guido said.

Eagle Eye looking out for school safety

 - 
Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Eagle Eye Networks, based in Austin, Texas, announced today that it has awarded $1.25 million in Drako Cloud Security Grants to schools throughout the United States.

Dean Drako, Eagle Eye Networks’ president and CEO, told Security Systems News that with so many deserving applications continuing to come in, he felt it was important to not only increase the grant money available but to also extend the application deadline (originally July 1) to Dec. 1.

“The applications that we received, some of them are heart-wrenching—it was just unreal to hear some of the stories of these schools in or near bad neighborhoods that are isolated and continuously experiencing problems but couldn’t address them because of a lack of funding,” said Drako. “So these grants will allow these schools to put in some basic video surveillance that will really help the school as well as the parents and students. This is one of the ways we can give back.”

A broad range of public and private schools have already been awarded the Drako Grant for a fully functional security camera system—including cloud management and recording, mobile phone remote access applications, cameras, networking equipment to connect IP cameras, and secure gateways to the cloud—at no cost for one year.

These cloud-based systems will not only help to improve school safety, but provide first responders with easier access. With Eagle Eye’s “First Responder Real-time Video Access,” which was announced at ISC West in April, Eagle Eye Security Camera VMS administrators have the option to pre-designate first responders who can receive immediate real-time security camera access during emergency situations; the cameras are shared only when an authorized user activates first responder access.

“Because Eagle Eye is a cloud-based system, we have all of that video up in the cloud and giving access to people can be managed, controlled and highly secure while it also can be done very dynamically,” said Drako. This is key for first responders, for example, who are heading to the site for whatever the situation is, as they can access the video on their smart phone or android device. Police HQ can also have access to the video and tell officers where to go, for example, all in real time, he noted.

“I am a firm believer in security and video surveillance,” said Drako. “Video is going to become a ubiquitous part of our lives—and security—and I think that that is going to happen primarily in the cloud. Just like email has moved nearly 100 percent to the cloud, video surveillance is going to move almost entirely to the cloud over the next 10-20 years.”

He continued, “There are compelling advantages to cloud-based surveillance systems, and I want schools to experience these advantages as we try to make schools safer.”

 

End of an era, beginning of another

 - 
Wednesday, August 17, 2016

As the new editor of Security Systems News, I am grateful to my predecessor, Martha Entwistle, for all that she has done for the publication. Martha, who had been with SSN for more than a decade, six of those years as editor, raised the newspaper to new heights, while maintaining the high standards SSN has come to be known for.

As we begin a new era here at SSN, it is exciting to take the helm, especially with newly promoted managing editor Spencer Ives helping me to steer the ship during this pivotal time in a quickly evolving and growing security industry. And as we strive to continue and build upon the strong tradition of editorial excellence here at the publication, we are eager hear from you, our readers, on what issues and topics are most important to you.

We also invite you to attend our upcoming second annual Cloud+ conference, which is set for Nov. 29 and 30 in the tech-savvy city of Austin, Texas. You can take a look at our educational program at www.ssncloudplus.com, as well as register for what is shaping up to be an ideal forum to investigate the successes early adopters and innovators are having using cloud technology, which is no longer the future—it is here!

In addition to Cloud+, we here at SSN are also beginning to put together the program for our TechSec Solution’s New Technology Conference, which is Feb. 27-28, 2017, in Delray Beach, Fla. Whether you are a security director, IT professional, integrator, consultant, distributor, manufacturer or other security professional, this two-day event is the gathering place for security thought leaders to discuss the industry’s new and emerging technologies.

And speaking of conferences, I am excited to be attending the ASIS 2016 conference in Orlando, Fla., Sept. 12-15. For those of you who will be there as well, I encourage you to reach out to me to set up a time to meet, or just stop by the SSN booth to say hello!

 

PPVAR seeks volunteers

 - 
Wednesday, August 17, 2016

For the first time, PPVAR is looking to offer online operator training. Yesterday, the partnership put out the call for volunteers that would like to help write modules for this training.

The call was a "great success," with 47 total registrants, individuals had registered for it, PPVAR's immediate past president Steve Walker told SSN in an email interview.

Part of the call covered PPVAR's mission and approach, as well as its overall objective with the training. "The process of finding volunteers for any worthwhile initiative is difficult because qualified people have so many demands on their time," Walker said. "Therefore, we want our volunteers to understand the value of what we are trying to accomplish while also explaining how the process will ensure that we use their time respectfully, efficiently and effectively."

PPVAR has hired a professional training firm to do most of the "leg work," he said. "[O]ur volunteers will provide the creative oversight needed for ensuring a great final product that is creative, accurate, meaningful and effective."

"The ideal volunteers are people with experience in using verification technologies (audio and video) in monitoring centers today—people that can draw on their own experiences to know what works and doesn’t work in the real world. Owners, central station personnel (leaders and trainers) were all represented in the call," Walker said.  

"Our end goal is to develop seven different online training modules that will be useful for central station employees and PSAP employees, alike," Walker said. 

There are seven tracks that PPVAR is focusing on. According to PPVAR, the goal is to have the first module done in the next 30 to 60 days. 

“Crime in Progress Verification Monitoring – Introduction,” which focuses on audio and video verification as compared to other methods of reducing false alarms.

“Design of a Video Verified System,” which covers information on how verified systems are installed, as well as software platforms specifically for video verification.

The “PSAP Communications” module covers communication between operators and PSAPs regarding verification.

“Video Threat Levels and Flowchart” focuses on how operators should execute decision making within the Threat Level Flow Chart, as described in the Video Alarm Verification Best Practices.  

The “Design of an Audio Verified System” track will cover the installation of an audio verified system, as well as software platforms specifically for audio verification.

“Audio Threat Levels and Flowchart” looks at how operators should execute decision making within the Threat Level Flow Chart, as described in the Video Alarm Verification Best Practices.  

The final module, “Verification and Insurance Impacts,” is designed to make insurance agents able to better advise clients on options available in mitigating costs related to crime.

Tunstall offers no-cost temperature monitoring

 - 
Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Tunstall Americas announced its new Vi+ personal emergency response system earlier in the month, with an integral sensor for ambient temperature. Yesterday, the company announced that extreme temperature monitoring will be provided free of charge to its subscribers.

“Record breaking heat across the United States this summer prompted Tunstall Americas to offer Temperature Extremes monitoring free of charge to subscribers of their home based medical alert service,” the company said in the release.

“Environmental changes indicate that the frequency and severity of heat waves will continue. We are pleased that we are in a position to offer this potentially lifesaving benefit to our current and future subscribers of our Vi Medical Alert System at no additional cost,” Casey Pittock, president and CEO of Tunstall Americas, said in a prepared statement.

The system will look for temperatures either above 89 degrees Fahrenheit or below 50 degrees, at which point the subscriber or caregiver will be notified.

Extreme temperatures specifically concern many of the typical PERS users. “Tunstall’s core base of subscribers, the elderly, individuals with chronic conditions, and other at risk populations have been reported to be the most vulnerable to extreme heat related illness,” the company said.

Tunstall Americas operates its own monitoring centers in New York and Rhode Island. 

Need for cybersecurity soaring

 - 
Wednesday, August 10, 2016

If you aren’t that worried about cybersecurity and the threat of a ransomware attack, you should be.

According to a new report, “State of Ransomware,” which was sponsored by Malwarebytes and conducted by Osterman Research, nearly 40 percent of businesses have experienced a ransomware attack in the last year. Of these victims, more than a third lost revenue and 20 percent had to stop business completely.

And that doesn't even include the companies that aren't reporting being attacked. According to FBI Section Chief Philip Celestini, who was a featured speaker at ESX 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas, 80 percent of companies that have been attacked by ransomware “are not reporting it to law enforcement,” he said. The FBI is reaching out to the industry, Celestini said, for its help in spreading the word of the importance of cybersecurity and working with law enforcement to minimize loss.

According to the FBI, ransomware attacks went from causing $25 million in losses to $200 million in just the last year in the U.S., as well as an astonishing $2 trillion in cyber crime losses worldwide.

According to Nathan Scott, senior security researcher at Malwarebytes and a ransomware expert, over the last four years, “ransomware has evolved into one of the biggest cybersecurity threats in the world, with instances of ransomware in exploit kits increasing 259 percent in the last five months alone. Until now, very few studies have examined the current prevalence and ramifications of actual ransomware incidents in the enterprise.”

Some other key U.S. findings from the study include:
- Security attacks with ransomware are increasing: Nearly 80 percent of U.S. companies have suffered a cyber attack in the last year and more than half experienced a ransomware incident. US organizations are the most attacked among the countries surveyed.
 - Email is the top vector for spreading ransomware: More than half of the U.S. attacks originated with email.
- Upper management and C-Level executives are at a higher risk: 68.4 percent of U.S. respondents noted ransomware attacks impacted mid-level managers or higher, while 25 percent of incidents attacked senior executives and the C-Suite.
- Cybercriminals held high-value data for ransom: Nearly 80 percent of the U.S. organizations breached had high-value data held for ransom.
- Attacks are impacting more than initial endpoints: More than 40 percent of ransomware attacks in all four countries were successful in impacting more than a single endpoint, with nearly 10 percent of the attacks affecting more than one-quarter of the endpoints in the business.
- Current enterprise security measures are weak against ransomware: Almost half of ransomware incidents in the U.S. occurred on a corporate desktop within the enterprise security environment.
- Ransomware remediation takes hours: 44 percent of attacks on U.S. companies forced IT staff to work more than nine hours to remediate the incident. Globally, the figure is 63 percent of incidents that took more than nine hours to remediate.
 

COPS Monitoring packs backpacks with Mission 500

 - 
Wednesday, August 3, 2016

It’s been great to see more companies becoming involved with charity work with Mission 500. Coming up next week, on Aug. 10, is an event held in partnership between COPS Monitoring and Mission 500 to benefit schools and the surrounding communities nearby the monitoring center’s office in Boca Raton, Fla. 

Mission 500, COPS, as well as security software company Segware and the Latin American Security Association, are putting together backpacks for students of Crosspointe Elementary School. These would include including supplies like scissors, crayons, pens, pencils, erasers, and rulers.

“We are so proud to once again be partnering with COPS and Mission 500,” Crosspointe Elementary School’s principal Annmarie Dilbert said in a prepared statement. “They are filling a huge need for our students and their families by providing a backpack full of school supplies to every Crosspointe Elementary student.”

“It is important to help fill the immediate need of providing children with the school supplies that will give them the ability to start the school year off right,” Jim McMullen, president & COO of COPS Monitoring, said in the announcment.

“We also hope to positively affect our community in a lasting way by offering stable employment and benefits,” McMullen said. The backpacks will each include a note from COPS on employment opportunities at the company’s Boca Raton office.

COPS Monitoring held a similar event in September 2015, packing 700 backpacks for a Title 1 school in Boynton Beach Fla.

Also in recent news with Mission 500, the organization will be working this weekend with Monitronics to put on a charitable 5k.

I look forward to hearing about more companies using this model of partnering with Mission 500 and their local communities.

Cloud+ educational program announced

 - 
Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Check out the lineup of speakers and educational sessions for this year's Cloud+ Here's a link to the program, and it's also copied and pasted below.

We are super excited about bringing Cloud+ to the hippest tech hub in the country, Austin, Texas on Nov. 29 and 30.

We'll be announcing more speakers, including a swell outside-of-the-security-industry keynote speaker, in the next week. We're just crossing some final Ts and dotting the last Is on that.

You can get yourself registered by clicking here.

Keynote

Stay tuned!

The cloud chasm

Moving from a traditional security system to a cloud-based security system often still requires a hurdle. Why did this corporate end user decide to go with a cloud-based system in his nine-story facility even though three systems integrators advised going with a traditional system? In this session, an end user, manufacturer and consultant discuss how to get across the cloud chasm and the benefits of doing so.

Mark Scaparro, SVP Sales, BluBØX
Ray Bernard, President and Principal Consultant, Ray Bernard Consulting Services
Moderated by Martha Entwistle, editor, Security Systems News

How national integrators approach cloud

Three leading national integrators talk about how their companies are approaching cloud. What’s their strategy? What are they focusing on?

John Hudson, TycoIS, Regional Director, West Region
Jeremy Brecher, SVP Technology and Chief Information Officer, Securitas Electronic Security
Joe Young, Director, Cloud Monitoring Services, G4S Secure Integration
Moderated by Martha Entwistle, editor, Security Systems News

Finance in the cloud

An update on the M&A report that John Mack gave at Cloud+ 2015, followed by a targeted Q&A.

John Mack, Executive Vice President and Co-Head of Investment Banking and Head of Mergers and Acquisitions, Imperial Capital
Moderated by Martha Entwistle, editor, Security Systems News

Bandwidth: The elephant in the cloud

As the former Chief Security Officer for Amazon, Ed Bacco knows what it's like to be sitting in the end user's chair. This unique Cloud+ session will ignite the fireworks in a role-play approach, with Bacco playing an end user who wants to move to the cloud, but is having trouble getting around the inherent limitations. A group of experts—data center executive; VMS provider; fiber/cable service provider (the elephant); and a security integrator—join Bacco to attempt to solve the challenge.

END USER: Ed Bacco, Chief Security Officer, Aronson Security Group
DATA CENTER: Dean Drako, CEO, Eagle Eye Networks
INTEGRATOR: Scott Schmidt, Vice President of Technology, Aronson Security Group
VMS PROVIDER: Reinier Tuinzing, Strategic Alliances Manager, Americas, Milestone

Central stations in the cloud

What are the benefits of taking your central station business to the cloud? Leading systems integrator, Jeffrey Nunberg, CEO of Integrated Security Systems in Miami, moderates a discussion where he will be asking the hard questions that all integrators want answered: How is it done? What are the options? Which integrators will benefit the most from moving monitoring to the cloud? What kind of the front-end investment is required and what kind of ROI should integrators and end users expect?

Cliff Dice, CEO, DICE Corp.
Rodney Thayer, Consultant, Smithee, Spelvin, Agnew & Plinge
Moderated by Jeffrey Nunberg, CEO, Integrated Security Systems

Cloud add-ons

You don't need a complete cloud-based security system to take advantage of some of the benefits offered by the cloud. This session will examine options such as video analytics, health monitoring and data analytics.

Cloud and mobility

Description coming soon!

Moderated by John Szczygiel, EVP and COO, Brivo Systems

Midwest Alarm expands into Nebraska

 - 
Wednesday, August 3, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa—Midwest Alarm Services, a provider of life safety systems based here, has acquired Electric Specialties Company of Omaha, Neb., a company that also specializes in life safety systems, including service, inspection and monitoring services to more than 350 customers.

The terms of the deal between the two companies were not disclosed.

Established in 1950, Midwest Alarm Services became part of Per Mar Security Services through an acquisition in 1998, which allowed the then small company an opportunity for growth, including the opening of an office in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and an office to service the Quad Cities, which stretched Midwest Alarm Services territory into eastern Iowa and western Illinois.

Doug Richard, president of Midwest Alarm Services, said that he is “very excited” to expand the company’s footprint now into Nebraska, and looks forward “to growing with the great team that is already in place” there.

Herk Campbell, who will be joining the Midwest Alarm Services team along with his employees, founded Electric Specialties Company in 1983. The company is a Notifier dealer, and provides life safety systems and services including card access systems, fire alarm systems, fire extinguishers/hoods, fire inspections, master clock systems, monitoring, nurse call systems, system design/layout and video surveillance.

Campbell said that Midwest Alarm is the “perfect fit” for his company.

Note: Check back for more on this story, including an interview with Midwest Alarm Services president Doug Richard.

A voice on the PERS market

 - 
Wednesday, July 27, 2016

HOBOKEN, N.J.—Voice activation has been an interesting topic that I’ve seen coming up more frequently when I hear about PERS—most recently when I spoke with Ritch Haselden, VP of sales at Essence Group, this week about Essence’s upcoming products, and what it takes to include voice activation. 

One of the things he highlighted in the company’s product roadmap is Essence’s VPD, and Haselden told me a lot about what went in to setting up voice capabilities in the company's VPD—standing for Voice Panic Detector. "The VPDwill be available for purchase this summer and is expected in the next few weeks," Haselden said.

“What that’ll allow somebody to do is be able to activate a pendant by saying a particular phrase of a particular series of words,” he said. The product is always listening for a particular phrase, he said, and when it hears that phrase it would act like a button press on the PERS unit.

Haselden said that, further on down the road, Essence could use voice activation to open up two-way dialogue with the central station.

The company has been testing the phrase “Call 911,” Haselden said. The process of picking a phrase to test was intensive, he said, making sure that it wasn’t common enough to be said in everyday conversation or on the television, but still easy to remember.

Testing involved a large variety of different people, saying the test phrase, “Call 911,” in a variety of pitches. “We’ve been testing in all kinds of different scenarios to make sure that we’re really getting down to a really quality product that provides a low rate of false alarms,” he said.

Essence would consider customized phrases for different companies if they requested such, Hasleden said, “Our process internally is we would at least test that phrase, but we’re definitely going to provide a lot of feedback and information on: Is that a phrase that (A) people can remember, (B) that people can actually articulate well, and (C) does the technology differentiate the words well enough so that it provides a solid response.” 

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