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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.

 

 

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.

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

The Great Conversation, East Coast version

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

I’m on my way back to Maine from Chantilly, Va., where I attended most of day 2 of The Great Conversation's inaugural East Coast event.

Sponsored by Aronson Security Group, The Great Conversation brings together end users and selected integrators for discussions, case studies and panel discussions. It takes place annually in March in Seattle, where ASG is based.

The new East Coast event is co-sponsored by Kratos and the Security Executive Council.

Yesterday I attended a talk by Steve Goodman, the technology and communications center director for Brigham Young University. Goodman talked about a massive upgrade of its access control system, and how ASSA ABLOY worked with BYU to come up with a wireless lock solution that BYU could use with its existing 802.11 network and Software House system.

BYU served as its own integrator for the installation, only calling in its outside systems integrator as an advisor. Because it has a very strong IT department, that’s what BYU has always done, Goodman said. BYU will call in an outside integrator when it’s doing an installation that it has no experience with, such as when it upgraded its Software House CCure system to the newest version.

New resi dealer eyes Southern California market for growth

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Monday, October 27, 2014

LONGVIEW, Wash.—Aaron Wenner, the owner of Universal Security and Alarm Inc., which got up and running here in April as an authorized Monitronics dealer, is looking to the Southern California market to expand, primarily because of “its nice, big retirement community.”

“Those door-knocking companies only work four to five months out of the year, but we need to work year round, especially when it gets darker earlier; these (retirees) are home during the day,” he said during an introductory phone call with Security Systems News.

Universal “doesn’t do a whole lot” of door-knocking,” although Wenner did when he worked for Utah-based NorthStar. He got tired of coming in “behind others who had totally ripped off customers,” he said.

The company, which promises “no sneaky fees,” has been doing well since its start-up, he said.

“We have a unique opportunity with Monitronics. We can sell our contracts to them or keep them for ourselves—it’s totally up to us which ones we keep,” he said. So far he has kept 200.

The company offers residential and commercial alarm systems, medical alert buttons and fire monitors to customers in Washington, Oregon and California. The wireless systems also provide remote access.

Hungry hippos: Northland Challenge Day 3

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Day 3 of the Northland Challenge is over and I’m in my tent listening to a discordant chorus of hippos barking and roaring. We’re at a campsite in a wilderness park on the shores of the Ishasha River, which is the narrow divider between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The river is loaded with hippos, which can stay underwater for 20 minutes or more, so if you see 5 or 6, there are likely at least 5 or 6 more underwater.

And they’re not exactly friendly. As one of the guards at our camp told me, “the hippos will collect your visa if you try to cross the river.”

Three armed guards carrying AK47s (vintage, I’m told) patrol the campground perimeter.

They’ve been busy. Earlier tonight a hippo strolled through the campsite coming within 30 feet of the campfire and 27 challengers. Flashlights and guns in hand, the guards escorted the enormous animal past the campfire and us.

Before we headed off to Ishasha most of us enjoyed self-guided safaris through Queen Elizabeth National Park. My partner, Guy, took off very early with Jim in search of lions, while I had a more leisurely start to the day. I had a chance to ride with Edward, a safari veteran, who suggested I open the sunroof and ride on the roof of the Rav4 to get a better view.

Some view: We spotted elephants, warthogs, water buffalos, and lots of antelope. I was a little leery of elephants after Vivian and Tim’s encounter the day before, but we stayed a safe distance from the elephants.

It was George and Eric’s turn with the elephants today. “We made a mistake and really stumbled into the herd,” George said. “So, we sat there and tried not to give them a reason to attack us.” Several minutes later the elephants moved on. It was a vivid reminder, George said, of “the difference between animals in the wild and [animals who are] contained.”

Ishasha is the southern part of Queen Elizabeth National Park. On our way to Ishasha, Edward and I caught up with several other teams who’d stopped by the side of the road for lunch and we joined them (Cesar and Amanda, Andre and Joseph, Jim and Guy) in what was supposed to be a two-hour drive to the campsite.

The landscape of the park is exactly what I pictured Africa to look like, a savanna dotted with green flat-topped trees.

The delays commenced with our arrival at the Ishasha park gate (chatty gate attendant) and followed by a flat tire in the savannah.

Can't find the campsite, and Jim and Edward have a flat tire.

Cesar and Amanda decide to go find the campsite while others fix the flat tire.

Fixing the flat

It wasn’t far away, but it took another two hours before we found our way to the wilderness camp.

Terrry, James K, and Paul put up a tent

Kirsten said this was her favorite night because she hadn’t slept in a tent except in her backyard. She liked the fact that Terry took over as chef of the REI-freeze-dried pasta dinner and that Rob did a backflip off of a picnic table.


Drew, James C. and Eric

“I liked being disconnected. It’s just you and everyone in the group sitting around the campfire,” she said.

The campfire overlooking the Ishasha River.

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

The Northland Challenge: Security, service and globalization

Northland Challenge Day 1&2

Pierre Trapanese's blog

 

Northland Challenge: Days 1 & 2

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Monday October 20, 2014, Kasese, Uganda

I woke up the Saturday, the first day of the Northland Challenge, thinking about Huck Finn. Toyota Rav4s are our modern-day rafts and our Mississippi is the narrow roads and lush terrain of Uganda.

We traveled more than 300 kilometers on Saturday, from Entebbe to Kibale; and another 100-plus kilometers yesterday from Kibale to Kasese. 

Here’s a sampling of events from the first 48 hours: Cesar and Amanda had baboons jump on the top of their vehicle and refuse to jump off; Vivian and Tim’s car was surrounded by angry, stomping, ear flapping elephants—and after the elephants finally, thankfully, left and they were able to get on their way, another angry elephant charged them; Pierre had a close encounter with a chimp during the chimp tracking. My partner, Guy, and I have traveled “the extra mile” but not necessarily on purpose. (We started off the challenge with a multiple-kilometer detour. Then, we refused to believe a local who told us we were way off course, and detoured even farther.)

We’ve also seen emerald green hillside tea farms, banana tree plantations, very rudimentary indoor plumbing in some locations; beautiful, smiling children; women in gorgeous, brightly colored dresses with coordinated sashes and headscarfs; and we've met many kind, helpful locals.

Not your average day in the office.

A key element of the Northland Challenge is that we only learn our destination for the day at dinner the night before. We’re told the destination and given a map of varying degrees of detail. For example, our destination for tonight is a campsite in Ishasha, part of Queen Elizabeth State Park.

The address? “Unnamed road.”

Then there are “challenge points,” things like: take a photo of a hippo or a photo of a landmark. Yesterday one of the challenge points was a photo of yourself at the marker for the equator with a stranger. We’re given a number of options for activities (ie. do a self-guided safari; take a boat ride); some warnings (“this is not a race; don’t feed the lions; if you reach this bridge you’ve gone too far.”) We're encouraged to explore along the way.

How do the challengers react to this unstructured structure of the Challenge?  Echo told me she finds it interesting. During her travels, she said she remembers advice from her mother to think about the worst case scenario—if you can handle that, go for it. If not, it’s time to regroup.

Amanda told me she finds the lack of structure “freeing.” James C. observed that when you don’t have an exact route charted for you and a strict accompanying timeline, you worry less, he said.

Lacking very specific expectations, you’re free to discover, they say.

Mostly it’s just fun.

I’m sitting in the open air dining area of the lodge right now listening to challengers talking about the yesterday’s adventure and planning today’s.

Would you have wanted to experienced the encounter with the elephants? Who saw the black mamba snake? Will there be beer at the campsite?

Look for another blog in two days. No wifi at the campground tonight. In the meantime, check out Pierre’s blog and some great photos at www.northlandchallenge.com

Honeywell’s Connect 2014 on tap

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Honeywell’s Connect 2014 is coming up next month, and I’m happy to say I’ll be in attendance.

Best-selling author and syndicated columnist Jeffrey Gitomer will keynote the event, an annual gathering of independent dealers, which is scheduled for Nov. 13-16 in Orlando. Gitomer is a sales and customer service expert who will speak on his unique approach to driving sales.

More than 60 educational sessions aimed at residential, commercial and enterprise installers are scheduled. I’ve been looking at the list trying to plan a strategy to get to as many as I can.

Honeywell will be showing off its award-wining LYNX Touch 7000 and its High Definition IP Video Kits, and will be giving demos in its Connected Home Room—and that’s something I’m looking forward to as well.

If you’ll be there, let me know so we can meet up!

The Northland Challenge: Security, service and globalization

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

UPDATED: Oct. 17, 2014

Security, service and globalization. This is my last blog post from Maine for a little over a week. Tomorrow I’m boarding a bus, a plane and another plane on the way to Entebbe, Uganda, where I’ll join 27 others in the Northland Challenge—23 employees of Northland Controls and 5 others, like me, who work in the industry in other roles.

Northland Controls is a global systems integration company that I’ve written about many times. Here’s a link to their home page. And here’s a blog I wrote a while ago about successful systems integrators. Scroll down to find the part about Northland.

So what’s the Northland Challenge?

On first inspection it looks like an extreme team-building exercise. The group is broken up into teams of two. Every morning each team will be given a destination and a (paper) map, and some “challenge points”—places or points of interest—to locate during the day. Over the course of a week we’ll caravan across Southern Uganda and into Rwanda.

So, there’s definitely a team-building odyssey element to the Challenge, but at its core, the Northland Challenge is really an exercise in how to thrive as a worker and a business in today’s global economy.

Globalization is not something that’s just happening, it’s here, says Northland CEO Pierre Trapanese. If you want to be really good at doing business today, you need to take the time to understand other people’s points of view, their history, their cultures, and their infrastructure (understanding building codes and power requirements is particularly important in security.)

In essence, to go global, you need to understand the local.  

The Challenge, Trapanese says, is about “breaking down stereotypes, overcoming our fears of the unknown, and getting out of our shells to work with locals to find our way from one end of their country to the other without the use of technology.”

This year’s trip to Uganda and Rwanda is the third Northland challenge. In 2010, the group “raced across India in Tuk Tuks,” and in 2012 the challenge involved 4x4s and the Caucuses Mountains.

This year, the challenge has another, very important component: service.

“We are challenging ourselves to go a step further, to leave behind for the people we encounter an opportunity to accelerate their economic development and to thrive as individuals and as a community,” Trapanese said.

Specifically, Northland Controls is raising money to bring electricity to a part of Rwanda that has none. Working with San Francisco-based Firelight Foundation and a local installer in Rwanda, Northland is funding the installation of solar panels for 25 homes, a community center and a school.

Importantly, the solar panel project is designed to be a self-sustaining enterprise that will continue to bring electricity, jobs, and opportunity to the community.

This is the way it will work: A local provider will install the solar panels in 25 homes that currently used kerosene for power. Those families will pay the local solar provider a monthly fee equal to what they would have paid monthly for kerosene. After a certain period of time, the local provider will be able to install more panels in more homes, continuing to build an account base and recurring monthly revenue. It’s very similar to the alarm monitoring business model actually.

I’ll have more details about the solar panel projects in the next couple of days. But here’s some important information for you now.
Northland employees have raised about $35,000 and Northland has provided $10,000. You can help by donating any amount to the cause.

Here’s a link to the fund raising site .

More from the road tomorrow.

ADT responds to congressman's suggestion

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Last week, I wrote a lot about the battle for small business staring ADT and TycoIS, former sister companies that are now competing for a piece of the lucrative small business pie.

Following the Sept. 29 expiration of their non-compete, both companies used last week's ASIS show as a platform to announce their plans. There's a story in this week's newswire with details of TycoIS's plan. Here's a link to that.

Also getting in the act last week, was GOP Congressman John Mica from Florida. During a Congressional hearing about the breach of the White House perimeter, Rep. Mica told (now former) Secret Service Director Julia Pierson about his home security system and suggested that the White House consider installing an ADT system. He even had an ADT sign handy. Check out the video.

Jeez, ADT executives must have been bumming about that.

You have to hand it to ADT for their response: simple, respectful and with lots and lots of information about ADT's capabiliities: Here's the statement ADT released on Sept. 30.

"ADT Responds to Congressional Hearing on Secret Service
BOCA RATON, Fla.--ADT responds to Congressman John Mica’s comments about the use of services like ADT at The White House: ADT has been protecting homes for more than 140 years, and we are honored to be mentioned as an option to secure the most famous residence in America. With that said, we have the utmost respect for the security staff that works diligently every day to protect the President and our Nation.
About ADT
The ADT Corporation (NYSE: ADT) is the leading provider of electronic security, interactive home and business automation and monitoring services for residences and small businesses in the United States and Canada. ADT's broad and pioneering set of products and services, including ADT Pulse® interactive home and business solutions, and home health services, meet a range of customer needs for today’s active and increasingly mobile lifestyles. Headquartered in Boca Raton, Florida, ADT helps provide peace of mind to nearly seven million customers, and it employs approximately 17,000 people at 200 locations. More information is available at www.adt.com."

 

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