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SIA raises advocacy efforts

 - 
Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Security Industry Association (SIA) announced this week the establishment of a political action committee (PAC) called the SecurityPAC, which was formed to bolster its advocacy efforts to fully engage within the U.S. political process on matters affecting the security industry.

The timing of this announcement couldn’t be better as it comes a week before the SIA GovSummit, a leading public policy forum for the security industry set for June 28-29 on Capitol Hill and at The Liaison Capitol Hill.

“SecurityPAC was established to strengthen the voice of the security industry on Capitol Hill, by enabling SIA members to support candidates for federal office who will champion issues that are important to the industry,” Joseph Hoellerer, SIA Government Relations manager told Security Systems News. “There are hundreds of trade associations in Washington with robust advocacy efforts and SecurityPAC provides SIA with an additional and important tool to advance the policy priorities of its members.”

The newly formed SecurityPAC will raise funds solely from SIA members to support candidates for federal office who champion important industry issues, and will support matters pertaining but not limited to issues such as homeland security, cybersecurity, federal procurement and critical infrastructure protection.

“The establishment of the SecurityPAC follows the core mission of SIA, which is ‘to be a catalyst for success within the global security industry through information, insight and influence,’” SIA CEO Don Erickson said in the announcement. “The Security Industry Association’s political action committee will enable the association to do just that by adding a vital voice to the national dialogue during federal elections. With SecurityPAC, we will support crucial causes for the improved security posture of the entire country.”

Contributions to SecurityPAC are strictly voluntary and in compliance with statutorily defined regulations of the Federal Election Commission. SIA members with user credentials can access the SecurityPAC website at www.siasecuritypac.org. Employees of SIA member companies interested in gaining access to the site should contact Joe Hoellerer at 301-804-4714 or jhoellerer@securityindustry.org.

Daily updates from ESX 2017

 - 
Tuesday, June 13, 2017

I've arrived safely in Nashville, Tenn., for the 10th ESX show. Looking at the educational sessions, I am seeing a lot of engaging topics. Over the next few days, quite a few of the sessions I'm planning on attending will be in the "Maximize Your Monitoring Center" track. I'm particularly interested in the monitoring-focused, three-part leadership boot camp on Friday, presented by Justin Robbins, content director for HDI & ICMI. Be sure to check this blog daily, as I'll be updating it with some key points from the educational sessions as well as some highlights from my trips to the show floor.

Day 1

To start the first day, I attended the OpenXchange Breakfast, featuring a presentation on "The Changing Competitive Landscape." This session brought up a variety of points and perspectives from each of the panelists. The moderator, ESX chairman George De Marco, addressed an interesting topic: whether consumers are more drawn to the connected home or security.

Justin Wong, VP of business development for IFTTT, said there needs to be a defined difference between the two. For example, a consumer may purchase a home camera, not connected to a security system, and believe they have security. The product they have is more for awareness than security, and a security dealer can focus on that messaging.

Andrew Thomas, SkyBell's co-founder and chief revenue officer, said, “The thing that keeps you safe also needs to keep you connected.” Dealers can use connected home as a bridge into offering security.

At another point De Marco asked about the DIY space. Robert C. Martens, futurist and VP of strategy and partnerships for Allegion, said that the space has done well, which attracts new entrants viewing the market as an opportunity.

When De Marco asked about potential use cases for IoT, Scott Harkins, Honeywell’s VP of Honeywell Connected Home, had an interesting take on IoT as an opportunity. He wondered about the potential for more mixing between DIY and professional security, such as through partnerships or professional systems being as easy to install as DIY systems.

Following the breakfast, I went to "Raising the Talent Bar: Your Guide to Finding Qualified Employees," featuring panelists Don Childers, Security Central's COO; Cathy Rempel president of American Security Integrators; and Dee Ann Harn, CEO, RFI Enterprises. Rebecca Bayne, president and consultant for Bayne Consulting and Search Inc., served as the moderator.

I found this topic to be particularly interesting as SSN both heard from a variety of professionals about the challenge of hiring and in our April News Poll readers weighed in on the topic, saying that finding the right people can be a challenge.

The panel addressed some points that I’ve heard before, such as culture being the key to attracting good applicants. Childers in particular had a point that companies need to offer incentives that are different, which might not be more monetary compensation, but could be more time off.

Harn said that a referral system that rewards employees for recruiting new employees has been successful for RFI. "In every different market, it's a different kind of a challenge," she said, but highlighted that companies need to know who their employees are.

Rempel said that her company often looks to hire from within. She noted that in order for that system to work, employees need to know what is expected of them to advance, such as certain skill sets.

I found Bayne had a memorable way of looking at what applicants need to know about a company; they want to know about the CLAMPS: culture, lifestyle, advancement, money, people and stability.

In the opening keynote luncheon, Carey Lohrenz, author and the first female U.S. Navy F-14 tomcat pilot, translated her experiences with adversities into ways that businesses can approach changes. In the Navy, Lohrenz faced a variety of challenges including aspiring to be a pilot when law prohibited females as well as the physical challenges of flying at Mach 2—twice the speed of sound.

One piece of advice she gave was to simultaneously focus on long term goals and do the difficult, short-term work to achieve those.

Lohrenz discussed how certain training techniques were designed to break people down, mentally and physically; she also said that these were instrumental in getting people to overcome a fear of failure and operate at the best possible levels.

She stressed the importance of being fearless in moving ahead. While taking the safe route, someone else can move ahead, she said. “Sometimes not taking a risk can be the biggest risk you can take," Lohrenz said.

On the show floor, I got to catch up with a variety of people. I was pleased to meet Randy Hall, Security Partners’ new president, face-to-face.

Also on the show floor, De Marco announced the winners for this year’s TechVision Challenge. The TechVision Challenge was started ahead of ESX 2015. The contestants were chosen from this year's Innovation Award recipients. DMP’s Secura, Dealer Services, Marketing Support won, with Essence’s Care@Home Active being named the runner-up. 

Day 2

For me, the second day of ESX 2017 began with “Advanced database Management for the Monitoring Center—Unlocking the Power of this Major Asset.” This session had quite a line-up of speakers: Dave Bhattacharjee, vice president of IOT for Stanley Security; Jens Kolind, president and CEO of Innovative Business Software; Sandra Maples, director of IoT product management for Verisk Insurance Solutions; and Mark E. McCall, Security Central’s general manager. The moderator was Mary Jo Lakhal, senior program manager for West Safety Services.

Bhattacharjee opened with a point about different aspects to data coming in, such as the categories of structured and unstructured data. He continued by defining data with three other points: the variety of the data, the volume of it, and the velocity of how fast it can be processed.

Kolind concurred, adding a separate way to look at data: by its size, the type of data, and what it is the company wants to do with it. Kolind also said that visualization and analysis of data has become more important.

Maples also touched on the concept of visualization. She advised audience members to consider third party tools and look at good colors and contrasts for laying out data. Data that will be interpreted and used in a monitoring center needs to be well laid out, she said, because it can mean the difference between correctly using it and making a mistake.

Wholesale monitoring centers have a couple of key uses for data, which McCall touched upon; using it internally as well as sharing it with the company’s customers.

Next, I went to the session “Monitoring Industry Update: Part 1: ASAP to PSAP: Your Electronic Link to Profitability and Part 2: Checklist Working Session for UL 827 and UL 1981,” with TMA’s executive director and CEO Jay Hauhn and UL’s engineering manager Steve Schmit.

As it turned out, the session was reversed, with Schmit presenting first. He examined various aspects to UL standards that affect monitoring centers—UL 827 and UL 1981—how they will change in their next editions and areas where UL sees the most non-compliance issues.

UL 1981, focused on central station automation systems, will now be more focused on software in its new third edition, Schmit said.

Among potential non-compliance issues for UL 872, he listed needing multiple ISPs and MFVNs if possible or where available and needing a trained staff member or contracted service to fix the secondary power solution.

Most requirements for UL 827 new eight edition are effective on Jan. 31, 2018, with redundant site requirements effective May 29, 2020.

Recognizing a wide range of attendees in the session, Hauhn discussed a variety of aspects relevant to The Monitoring Association’s ASAP to PSAP program, such as how it works and its benefits.

The program seeks to improve accuracy and speed of communications between central stations and PSAPs by transmitting alarm information digitally. Among other benefits, Hauhn noted on the time saved per call, about one-and-a-half minutes per call. From the approximately 190k dispatches using ASAP in the last 15 months, the time saved adds up to about 4,748 saved hours, he said.

Giving an update on the program’s progress, Hauhn mentioned getting parts of New York online with the program with help from Doyle Security Systems.

The general session, “Innovate or Else” presented by Dr. Robert Kriegel, best selling author and owner of Kriegel 2 Inc., talked about approaches to business—particularly the difference in a winning attitude and trying not to lose.

Kriegel pointed out that industries are changing. “The digital revolution has changed everything, dramatically changed everything," he said.

He invited the audience to play a game with a person next to them, asking them first to play to win. Attendees had a different strategy when asked to play not to lose, becoming more cautious and taking fewer risks.

Everybody is playing-not-to-lose in one area of their life, Kriegel said, and that is an opportunity for growth. “What's one thing that you could be doing right now that's a play to win strategy?"

Among other advice, Kriegel spoke against the “110 percent” mentality, saying that a passionate and more easy-going 90 percent is better than a stressed 110 percent.

Among the afternoon sessions I was drawn to “Residential Security: Innovation, Competition, and Channel Growth,” with panelists Derrick Dicoi, executive director for Xfinity Home Product Management, Comcast, Tom Few, senior vice president of business development for Vivint, Timothy McKinney, Vice President of ADT Custom Home Services, and moderator Dina Abdelrazik, research analyst for Parks Associates.

Abdelrazik opened with some perspective from Parks Associates’ research, including that the penetration rate for the industry has been steady over the past several years and key triggers to buying a security system are the move to a new house or a break-in experienced in the neighborhood.

The format for this session was largely around attendee questions, which covered a range of topics including whether lower cost options could canablize a company’s higher RMR base as well as Vivint’s new FlexPay options and its partnership with Best Buy.

Day 3

I spent the morning of ESX 2017’s third day attending the three-part leadership boot camp, presented by Justin Robbins, content director for HDI and ICMI. "Boot camp is not always comfortable, it's not always fun, but it gives you information that you absolutely need to move forward," Robbins said in the first session.

The first part was entitled, “Leadership Fundamentals in the Monitoring Center.” He examined the variety of aspects related to a monitoring center, defining it as a “coordinated system of people, processes, technologies and strategies that provides access to information resources and expertise, through appropriate channels of communication, enabling interactions that create value for the customer and organization.” From there, Robbins defined leadership in a monitoring center as having everything to “handle an accurately forecasted workload, at service level and with quality.”

Among a variety of factors that impact monitoring centers, Robbins took a close look at three driving forces: workload arrival patterns, visible or invisible queues and customer tolerance factors.

In “Resource Planning in the Monitoring Center,” the second part of the leadership boot camp, Robbins focused on the concept of "having the right people, in the right place at the right time."

Here, he outlined steps of the planning and management process, such as choosing service level and response time objectives, collecting data, forecasting workload and calculating base staff.

Robbins stressed the importance of getting this right, adding that there are consequences of having too many or too few staff on at a time. Companies should be looking at workload in short time periods throughout a day, such as half-hour intervals as opposed to the workload over an entire day. Companies can then accommodate by bringing on or taking off employees as workload fluctuates throughout a day.

Another concept Robbins examined in his second session was “shrinkage,” the average amount of time an employ would not be able to work as a result of training, time off or other factors.

In the last portion, “Inspiring Operator Performance in the Monitoring Center,” Robbins looked at various groups of employees, including those that are tuned out, on hold, engaged, overwhelmed or burnt out.

He touched on engagement and satisfaction. These topics are not necessarily linked, he said; A person can be satisfied with all of the compensation and benefits, but they are not engaged, or a person could be engaged, but dissatisfied with their benefits or pay.

Robbins said that people leave bosses more than they leave jobs. He added to this point by illustrating the differences in why a person joins a company and the reasons they might leave.

People generally join a company first for its compensation, second for the job itself, and lastly for who their supervisor would be, he said. However, when they chose to leave, the biggest reason is often the employee's supervisors, followed by the job’s responsibilities, and lastly for the compensation.

Robbins underlined the impact of seemingly simple gestures, like a hand written thank you note when someone does something above and beyond.

ESX 2017 was capped off by the “Public Safety Luncheon: Video Surveillance – Focusing on the Evidence,” where Miles Brissette, principal in the Law Offices of Gill & Brissette, spoke on factors of how video surveillance is used in the courtroom.

I was interested to hear Brissette talk about how the face is generally not focused on, and other factors are used to identify criminals captured on video. He showed a video where a person was recognized on video because of characteristics in their bag that tied them to a crime, not their face.

In another video example, Brissette showed a clip and highlighted that the person committing a crime was identified due to the appearance of their jeans.

Among other pieces of insight, Brissette highlighted the importance of having something colorful in the field of view of a camera, which can be used for color calibration.

It was great to be in Nashville, Tenn. for ESX 2017 and I hope to see another great line up of educational sessions and keynote speakers at ESX 2018, to be held in Nashville, June 19-22, 2018.

ESX 2017 report from Nashville

 - 
Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Day One

Excited to be in Nashville for ESX 2017, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary, returning to where it all started in the music city.

Started Day One moderating a very interesting session “CounterPoint of the Day: DIY Security - Passing Fad or a Real Opportunity?” featuring two great speakers—Megan MacDonald, vice president of marketing, My Alarm Center, headquartered in Newtown Square, Pa., and John Campau, president and CEO of Comtronics, headquartered in Jackson, Mich. 

I want to extend a big thank you to both of them for making my job easy by getting some great conversations and interaction going with the audience.

MacDonald, who was instrumental in launching My Alarm Center’s DIY division LivSecure, started the session by defining DIY.

In the DIY space, she noted, there are two distinctions—professionally monitored and then the systems that are completely DIY, including MIY or monitor-it-yourself.

"Those are the ones you buy on the retail shelf at [big box stores], and it is truly a DIY—you set it up, there is no professional monitoring component, and no integration with a third party provider; it is literally a do-it-yourself,” she explained. “As we refer to DIY in our business, it is a bit of a misnomer, because that is not what we do from a DIY perspective—that is MIY. What I refer to as DIY … is self installed professionally monitored systems, which is a lot of what we are going to talk about today, and that is what we do at LivSecure. So the customer sets the system up themselves but it integrates with our CRM and with our monitoring center just like a professionally installed system does.”

In terms of professionally installed systems vs. DIY, Campau said, “We are a professional installing alarm company going on 60 years, so DIY is not a threat for us; we embrace this.” He made a good analogy to someone who needs to have their house painted. Some will choose to paint it themselves while some will choose to hire someone to come and paint it for them.

In regard to whether DIY sales impact sales of the professionally installed side of the business, MacDonald noted, “LivSecure is a complement to our existing offerings and as a tool to close more sales, not to replace existing sales that we were already making. It is another option for our sales reps, and we will pay them a multiple of RMR, just like we would do on a professionally installed system.”

MacDonald said it is all about closing the sale—“selling the right product to the right person at the right time.”

“If we get a DIY system in the wrong hands, they will eventually deactivate,” noted Campau. “With DIY in particular, we’ve got a very low churn rate in our business; we are hyper-focused on keeping our customers.”

Both pointed out that by just having a DIY option, it opens the conversation and can lead to that potential DIY customer choosing to have the system professionally installed, which “is just a better sale, because that is a stickier customer,” said Campau, one who is more likely to use and add to the system and less likely to attrite.

“If you are getting into the business or launching this, I would be very firm and specific on what the process is and the requirements are for rolling a truck to a self installed system,” MacDonald said, noting that otherwise you are going to put yourself in a difficult situation of rolling a truck much more than you would like.

Campau said that if a customer has a problem and needs assistance, he will roll a truck, but for a $100 fee and a commitment to an additional year on the traditional two-year monitoring contract that he offers. “You'd rather have that convo before the sale, on the front end; don’t rush to get that sale.”

The discussion also covered RMR potential, which is in the $40 to $45 range, as well as branding, marketing and engaging the customer. Both agreed that the more engaged a customer is with their system, the less likely they will cancel the service and much more likely that they will add more services over time.

Day Two

I started Day Two in the session “Must Know Future Trends of the Industry,” featuring two highly knowledgeable speakers in Speros Venios, VP of channel sales at Interlogix, and Michael Barnes, founding partner of Barnes Associates, an advisory and consulting firm that specializes in providing financing and acquisition related services to the security alarm industry.

Venios, who is responsible for the integration of security and smart home devices in the residential and commercial segments through the distribution, MSO and OEM channels, said that 50 billion objects are projected to be connected to the IoT by 2020.

“Connected homes will be the largest sector for IoT technologies,” he said, noting that by 2019 it is estimated to be a $490 billion market. “According to one survey, more than two-thirds of consumers plan to buy IoT technology for their homes by 2019.”

Despite all the disrupters, such as the cable, telecoms and tech companies in the market right now, “The security channel is well positioned to deliver these solutions,” Venios said, noting that they have an opportunity to be that trusted provider of both security and smart home products and services.

Barnes pointed out that over the past year his focus on operating performance and valuation trends in the industry—how product and technology is affecting the industry—has revealed three big trends: Faster product evolution and shorter lifecycles; a broadening array of capabilities and services; and a changing competitive landscape.

“The number of new products coming out each day is much faster than it was before and those products are expected to have shorter lifecycles … not because they’re not manufactured well, but because they’re going to be replaced with something faster, better or cheaper,” Barnes said. 

The broadening array of capabilities and services is “a wonderful thing for consumers and commercial end users of all types,” he said. “But, of course, it puts strains on those of you who are trying to provide those services—how do you pick which ones to offer, how do you package them and how do you price them?”

With all of the disruptors in the industry right now creating a changing competitive landscape, “Clearly technology is enabling some of these new competitors … that previously wouldn't have been a competitor in the industry,” he said.

Despite some of the challenges presented by the abovementioned trends, “This is a great time to be in the business,” Barnes said, noting that he sees nothing in the data that would tell him otherwise. “We look at, and we track hundreds of alarm companies and we try and track every deal that is going on in the industry, every dollar of capital that is being raised to support the growth for all of you.”

Next, I sat in on a spirited discussion, “CounterPoint of the Day: Cable Service Companies Are Here to Stay - What Impact Are They Having on the Industry?” which was moderated by ESX chairman George De Marco, and led by speakers Daniel Herscovici, Comcast's senior VP and general manager, and John Knox, owner and president of Knox Integrated Systems, who was elected as ESA president in 2012.

De Marco noted that the counterpoint forum is new to ESX this year, with the goal of getting everyone in the session involved in an interactive debate. A cushioned square, which had a microphone inside, was available to pass or throw around to anyone who had a comment or question.

De Marco started the discussion by asking Herscovici why Comcast entered into the security industry and how this has helped or challenged traditional companies.

Herscovici pointed out that Comcast is not only a direct-to-consumer home security solution but through the acquisition of Icontrol, it is also a platform provider.

“We entered the industry mostly because we saw a real opportunity to offer a great experience and leverage our current assets,” he said. “Comcast has 27 million household relationships through our Internet, video and voice products.” Plus, the acceleration of the connected home drove that as well, he said.

“More than half of our customers have never had home security before, so it is not that we are out there converting or doing a bunch of takeovers—a lot of our acquisition is new to the category, new to home security,” he said. “Awareness of what the possibilities are with the connected home security product on a broad scale and the awareness that we generate through our reach, through our consumers, kind of lifts all boats, and makes your conversations easier when you are selling.”

Knox said that he hasn’t personally seen any affect. “I don’t think that I have lost any customers to the cable companies,” he said. “I think it is more like what he [Herscovici] says: They are bringing more people into the market that weren’t in the market before.”

He continued, “Since I have been in the business, every five years someone has been putting me out of business. We have been living that our whole lives and we are still here. And if they don’t do a good job of supporting the customer, we are going to benefit off of that.”

Battle for the smart home continues

 - 
Wednesday, June 7, 2017

With the invasion of the telecom companies into the smart home space, security dealers have been faced with new challenges and battles as they try to compete for new business created by this new era of smart home connectivity and automation.

Whereas in the past when customers would turn to their security provider first to ask about smart home products, a new report from research firm Parks Associates shows that there has been a shift in homeowners’ purchase behaviors. Among current smart homeowners, 26 percent purchased their device from a retailer such as Home Depot, Walmart, or Sears, followed closely in second by security dealers, with approximately 20 percent purchasing these products through them.

Homeowners now have “more options, increased personalization, and enhanced value across the full spectrum of IoT experiences,” Dina Abdelrazik, research analyst, Parks Associates, said in the announcement of Parks’ annual report, Global Connected Living Outlook 2017: Building on the IoT. “Following early disruptions, many players are now rising to the challenge to create competitive solutions that better accommodate the needs of the connected consumer.”

Although the big retailers are getting a bigger portion of the pie, they are also raising awareness and educating the public, which is creating additional opportunities for dealers to be the channel through which smart home owners purchase all of these interconnected devices, many of which work in tandem with security systems and services.

For example, additional Parks’ research, which was unveiled at the firm’s 21st-annual CONNECTIONS Conference in May, shows that two-thirds of smart homeowners and shoppers want crossover applications that integrate with their home entertainment devices.

“Key crossover use cases include safety and security alerts popping up on a smart TV and video from networked cameras shared across the connected screens in the home,” Elizabeth Parks, senior vice president, Parks Associates, said in the press release. “In both cases, two-thirds of smart home owners and shoppers find these features appealing.”

Security dealers can also provide homeowners with a better level of interoperability and network security and stability, as Parks found that as more products are purchased standalone and then brought into a connected home, the risk of fragmented consumer IoT experiences increases.

“As consumers become more connected, their digital lives in many ways become more complicated, and solving this potentially fragmented consumer experience, addressing privacy concerns, and crossing traditionally separate boundaries will be the dominant challenges for companies in 2017 and 2018,” Abdelrazik noted.

Security dealers can and should be the ones to solve this problem, and from my conversations with dealers, many already are doing this, providing security as well as support, guidance and options to be that smart home provider as well.

Private equity firm to acquire GreatCall

 - 
Wednesday, June 7, 2017

GTCR, a private equity firm based here, today announced that it has entered a definitive agreement to acquire GreatCall Inc, a large provider of PERS and cellular devices to seniors.

GTCR has some roots in the security space: GTCR bought Protection 1 in 2010 for $828 million, then sold the company to Apollo Management Group in 2015.

GreatCall has more than 800,000 subscribers across its cellular phone and PERS device business. The company operates its main monitoring center in Carlsbad, Calif., with a secondary facility in Reno, Nev.

“Everything they do, I think we would characterize as PERS—they deliver it a bunch of different ways. Some of it is cell phone based and comes with a cellular service as well. Some of it is traditional mobile PERS, pendant based.” David Donnini, managing director for GTCR, told Security Systems News. “There’s access to an operator in everything they offer.”

“We focus on recurring revenue service businesses, by and large—whether they’re B2B, B2C. A lot of them are technology enabled. We do a fair bit of healthcare investing as well, [along with] some technology, media and telecom. This investment hits on a lot of what we do across our firm,” Donnini said.

It was GTCR’s experience with security alarm monitoring that led the firm to GreatCall, Donnini said.

“Our goal is to continue to work with the company to continue to grow it. They have a business plan around entering more [of] the commercial side of the industry as well, providing the service to health care insurers, health care facilities, operators and so forth who can benefit from it as well,” Donnini said. “In our model, M&A is always an opportunity as well. I think there’s strategic businesses in this space that we’ll hope to acquire.”

What stood out to GTCR about GreatCall? “I think the thing that leapt out to us about GreatCall is efficiency, some of the best performance metrics and return on investment—as well as growth—in the industry,” Donnini said.

GTCR has thought of the PERS space as an interesting area for investment opportunity over the past five to 10 years, according to Donnini.

“We are excited to partner with GTCR as we continue to provide seniors with exceptional services that provide peace of mind and extend independent living,” David Inns, GreatCall’s CEO, said in a prepared statement. “GTCR brings significant resources and experience in building industry-leading companies, and we believe they will be a valuable resource in the long-term expansion of our business.”

The transaction is expected to close in the third quarter of 2017. “The existing owners of GreatCall decided to sell a few months ago. So, the discussions have been ongoing for a couple of months now, we’ve been evaluating the company and working on a transaction which we agreed to [in early June],” Donnini said.

Jefferies LLC served as financial advisor and Kirkland & Ellis LLP served as legal advisor to GTCR. J.P. Morgan Securities LLC served as financial advisor and DLA Piper served as legal advisor to GreatCall.

Allied Universal acquires in Florida

 - 
Wednesday, May 31, 2017

CONSHOHOCKEN, Pa. and SANTA ANA, Calif.—Allied Universal continues to diversify with the acquisition of ALERT Protective Services, a residential community security firm based in Sarasota, Fla.

“This is a company that does most of the high-end residential communities in South Florida,” Allied Universal CEO Steve Jones told Security Systems News. “Not only are they providing the security guard services but they do it differently where they use technology to help augment that, which is what we have been pushing toward and striving toward with our business.”

With a portfolio that consists of 95 percent residential condominiums and communities, ALERT Protective Services owns the homeowners association and residential lifestyle communities’ security space in Southwest and Southeast Florida. Founded in 2005, the company has more than $10 million in revenue and 430 employees, most of which will be joining Allied Universal.

“We are excited to join Allied Universal,” Jeff Haidet, CEO of ALERT Protective Services, said in the announcement. “Both companies embrace combining the use of state-of-the-art technology with manpower to provide an optimal solution to our customers. We also share the same passion and commitment to be the employer of choice for security professionals and provider of choice for security users.”

Similarly to Allied Universal, ALERT Protective Services offers integrated security systems and uniformed security professionals to work in tandem with a complete security program at community gatehouses, concierge desks, or security command centers. Some of these solutions include remote video monitoring, access control and an electronic patrol-reporting program that enables security professionals to report threats in real time and alert authorities if back up is needed.

“This was an opportunity for us to not only expand our footprint in Florida, but to really get a springboard on providing those security officer services along with remote video monitoring and the use of technology for ingress and egress around the community, which is where we want to focus on,” said Jones. “We are excited that we can leverage the technology applications that we feel are changing and enhancing the industry.”

Moving forward, Jones said the company still has a few more acquisitions up its sleeve.

“We’ve got a pretty robust pipeline of deals that we are looking at—some in the technology space and some in the traditional manguarding space—and we hope to announce a few more before the year is over that will help us to diversify our company and bring more value to our clients.”

With headquarters in Santa Ana, Calif., and Conshohocken, Pa., Allied Universal has more than 150,000 employees across North America.

Tech use rising among older Americans

 - 
Wednesday, May 31, 2017

I’ve been hearing a lot about PERS and mPERS lately. Specifically, I’ve been interested to hear views on how older PERS users feel about technology.

When discussing Essence’s Care@Home Active offering, which uses a Bluetooth connection to a smartphone, company head of marketing Rafi Zauer said, “The obvious question is: How many seniors have smartphones now-a-days? There’s ample evidence … [smartphone use] is going to become almost ubiquitous over the next few years with seniors for several reasons.”

Zauer continued, “The availability of old phones, or non-smartphones is depleting. … Plus, the baby boomers in the next few years are becoming seniors themselves, and we know baby boomers use smartphones almost across the board.”

Following that conversation, as well as others, I was interested to come across a new report from Pew Research Center, titled “Tech Adoption Climbs Among Older Adults,” which looks at older Americans and their stance on technology.

The report’s authors, Monica Anderson, Pew Research Center research associate, and Andrew Perrin, research assistant, had some interesting figures about the way older generations could view technology.

The report reads: “recent Pew Research Center surveys find that seniors are also moving towards more digitally connected lives. Around four-in-ten (42%) adults ages 65 and older now report owning smartphones, up from just 18% in 2013. Internet use and home broadband adoption among this group have also risen substantially. Today, 67% of seniors use the Internet—a 55-percentage-point increase in just under two decades. And for the first time, half of older Americans now have broadband at home.”

The report also mentions higher tech adoption in some areas among seniors that are younger, between ages 65 and 69. “Seniors ages 65 to 69 are about twice as likely as those ages 80 and older to say they ever go online (82% vs. 44%) or have broadband at home (66% vs. 28%), and they are roughly four times as likely to say they own smartphones (59% vs. 17%),” it read.

Though, the report also notes, that some seniors chose to “remain largely disconnected.” Anderson and Perrin write, “One-third of adults ages 65 and older say they never use the internet, and roughly half (49%) say they do not have home broadband services. Meanwhile, even with their recent gains, the proportion of seniors who say they own smartphones is 42 percentage points lower than those ages 18 to 64.”

I’ll be curious to find out if increased technological familiarity among seniors will change the way PERS devices are designed in the years to come. 

FLIR appoints new president and CEO

 - 
Wednesday, May 24, 2017

FLIR Systems Inc. announced yesterday that James J. Cannon has been appointed president and CEO, effective June 19, 2017. Cannon will succeed Andy Teich, whose retirement after 33 years of service was previously announced on February 14.

"The opportunity to join this outstanding leadership team and serve alongside over 3,000 talented FLIR employees worldwide as the company's next CEO is a great honor," Cannon said in a prepared statement. "The FLIR brand is synonymous with continuous innovation and delivering value to customers around the world. From my own personal experience having relied on FLIR technology as a combat veteran, I've seen firsthand the powerful, life-saving impact the company's portfolio of solutions can have for our customers.”

Cannon served in the U.S. Army for 10 years as an infantryman and armor officer in a wide variety of assignments around the world, including Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in Iraq.

Prior to joining FLIR, Cannon served for more than 16 years in a variety of senior leadership positions at Stanley Black & Decker Inc., most recently as president of Stanley Security North America & Emerging Markets, FLIR noted.

“As President of Stanley Security North America & Emerging Markets, Mr. Cannon held direct P&L responsibilities across five business units, managed over 5,000 employees, and oversaw the operations of numerous manufacturing plants and distribution centers. In this role, he successfully developed and executed a strategic plan that reduced complexity and cost while driving continued and sustained improvement,” the announcement read.

Prior to his role as president of Stanley Security North America & Emerging Markets, Cannon was president of the Stanley’s Industrial & Automotive Repair business unit, first in North America and subsequently in Europe and Latin America, before then serving as president of Stanley Oil & Gas.

"We are delighted to appoint a chief executive of Jim's caliber," Earl R. Lewis, chairman of the FLIR board of directors, said in a prepared statement. "Jim's proven track record of achieving strong results in both business and the military make him uniquely well qualified to serve as FLIR's next CEO.”

Cannon serves on the board of directors of Lydall, Inc. and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration/Marketing from the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga. Cannon will be based out of the company's Wilsonville, Ore., headquarters.

Axis' Steve Surfaro to chair SIA's new Public Safety Working Group

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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Security Industry Association (SIA) recently announced its establishment of the SIA Public Safety Working Group, which will be chaired by Steve Surfaro, industry liaison, Axis Communications.

“This working group has been in the works for quite some time,” Surfaro told Security Systems News. “SIA began working on public safety through some work with the Homeland Security Science and Technology group, and it was thought that one of the best ways to really serve the security industry and public safety industry was to come up with a very agile and focused working group.”

According to SIA CEO Don Erickson, the goal with standing up the SIA Public Safety Working Group is to develop recommendations to improve the safety, security, and sustainability of cities and communities using technology, as well as provide advocacy of public policies in support of the group’s mission.

"As new and developing technologies undergo trial and testing or enter the field in use by public safety agencies, it is critical that the security industry maintain its voice in the appropriate adoption and deployment of these technologies," Erickson said in the announcement. "SIA members are uniquely qualified to provide council alongside active practitioners in police, fire, emergency medical services and other disciplines to maintain the safety and security of our cities and communities."

Erickson is excited to have Surfaro as the inaugural chairperson for the SIA Public Safety Working Group. “His connections throughout the security industry are exemplified by his achievements, for example, as chair of the Security Applied Sciences Council for ASIS International," he said.

The working group will involve a number of different key entities within the security and public safety spaces, including practitioners, solution providers, systems integrators and specialty manufacturers.

“The most important thing to realize is the PSWG is going to have equal representation across all interested parties, by both practitioners and solution providers, especially SIA members,” said Surfaro. “The mission is to provide guidance through education and publications, including special education sessions and events at ISC West and ISC East, for example, as well as a centralized repository of subject matter experts who have already had success overcoming public safety security challenges.”

In addition to looking at emerging technologies, such as autonomous systems and unmanned vehicles, the working group is creating a Tactical Solutions Handbook, a working document that will be the working group’s “first deliverable,” said Surfaro.

“A while ago with Homeland Security Science and Technology we had some great success together with SIA in publishing a Video Quality handbook,” he explained. “But now things are not just about video—they are about access control, acoustic sensing and signal detection, thermal imaging, screening techniques, body worn cameras, license plate technology, explosives detection—to name just a few.”

He continued, “Everything that we are going to put into this handbook is going to be equally used by both public safety and corporations with high risk, which will be able to get guidance for hardening their facilities as well.”

The working group should have four- to five chapters of the handbook ready by the fall, said Surfaro. “Each chapter will have a structure where a SME leads each chapter, and then has contributors,” he explained. “And then each of the contributors for the other chapters are going to be reviewers on the chapters they did not write, which will add to the collaborative nature of the handbook.”

Surfaro said the handbook will benefit greatly from having so many different perspectives. “We need to be agile enough to be able to work with multiple practitioner groups and leverage the SIA membership, which is very far-reaching with a lot of solution providers, and they will have a tremendous opportunity to contribute to the working group and to this handbook.”

Another goal with the handbook is to provide a guide for matching the different types of emerging threats today with an appropriate tactical solution. “So it will be a nice use-case method where the security industry will learn more about what is happening in public safety and public safety will learn about how many of the solutions that they need to defend against these emerging threats already exist,” said Surfaro.

Since the announcement, SIA and Surfaro have already gotten a great response from those interested in contributing. “In the past week alone, there are many who have reached out to SIA and myself pledging interest in the working group,” said Surfaro. “And it has been a wide variety of folks—systems integrators, solution providers, as well as those who are involved in law enforcement and fire. Working within a consensus-driven environment is vitally important with a group like this.”

Bright future for security in the cloud

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

As reverberations from last week’s ransomware attack continue to be felt throughout the world and the security industry, the answer to how we can minimize the impact that these types of attacks can have on a company may be found in the cloud. For example, WannaCry ransomware, as it is called, preyed on Microsoft computers that failed to update the latest security patch that was issued in March, an oversight that an IT savvy company operating in the cloud would not fall victim to.

The good news continues to pour in on increased adoption of cloud-based services, including a new report from Intel Security, titled Building Trust in a Cloudy Sky: The State of Cloud Adoption and Security, which finds that cloud services are now a regular component of IT operations, and are utilized by more than 90 percent of organizations around the world.

Many are working under a “cloud first” philosophy, only choosing to deploy an internal service if there is no suitable cloud variant available, and as a result, IT architectures are rapidly shifting to a hybrid private/public cloud model, with those surveyed expecting 80 percent of their IT budget to be cloud-based within an average of 15 months, according to the report.

For the report, Intel Security surveyed more than 2,000 IT professionals in September 2016 to produce this annual review of the state of cloud adoption, representing a broad set of industries, countries, and organization sizes. In the face of a continuing shortage of skilled security personnel, the impact of this scarcity on cloud adoption was a priority for this year’s report.

“Cloud first. Two simple words, but the approach is now well and truly ensconced into the architecture of many organizations across the world,” Raj Samani, chief technology officer, EMEA, Intel Security, said in the report. “Our initial assumption when designing the survey, that there was a gap between intent and implementation and that the transformation to cloud would take several years, was proven inaccurate. The desire to migrate quickly towards cloud computing appears to be on the agenda for most organizations.”

In the forward to the report, Jim Reavis, CEO, Cloud Security Alliance, said, “This report clearly resonates with the anecdotal information I have received in my travels representing the Cloud Security Alliance this past year. Cloud computing is maturing and broad-based adoption is occurring.”

Overall, the study found that cloud services are widely used in some form, with 93 percent of organizations utilizing software-, infrastructure-, or platform-as-a-service offerings. Cloud architectures also changed significantly, from predominantly private-only in 2015 to increased adoption of public cloud resulting in a predominantly hybrid private/public infrastructure in 2016. Also, the average number of cloud services in use in an organization dropped from 43 in 2015 to 29 in 2016, indicating potential consolidation of cloud providers or solutions.

Interestingly, almost half (49 percent) of the professionals surveyed stated that they had slowed their cloud adoption due to a lack of cybersecurity skills.

The trust and perception of public cloud services continues to improve year-over-year, the report said, and most organizations view cloud services as or more secure than private clouds, and much more likely to deliver lower costs of ownership and overall data visibility. Those who trust public clouds now outnumber those who distrust public clouds by more than 2:1. Overall, 62 percent of organizations reported storing personal customer information in public clouds.

“Improved trust and perception, as well as increased understanding of the risks by senior management, is encouraging more organizations to store sensitive data in the public cloud,” the report found.

Virtualization of private data center architectures is progressing, and on average, 52 percent of an organization’s data center servers are virtualized, and most expect to have the conversion to a fully software-defined data center completed within 2 years, according to the findings.

Because businesses are trusting cloud services with a wide range of applications and data, much of it sensitive or business critical, the report stated that this movement of sensitive data to the public cloud may attract cybercriminals.

“Security vendors are delivering tools to address fundamental security concerns, such as protecting data in transit, managing user access, and setting consistent policies across multiple services,” the report concluded. “Attackers will look for the easiest targets, regardless of where they are located. Integrated or unified security solutions are a strong defense against these threats, giving security operations visibility across all of the services the organization is using and what data sets are permitted to traverse them."

The report noted that organizations should ensure that they are using authentication best practices, such as distinct passwords, multi-factor authentication, and even biometrics where available.

“Despite the majority belief that Shadow IT is putting the organization at risk, security technologies such as data loss prevention (DLP), encryption, and cloud access security brokers (CASBs) remain underutilized,” according to the findings. “Integrating these tools with an existing security system increases visibility, enables discovery of shadow services, and provides options for automatic protection of sensitive data at rest and in motion throughout any type of environment. Consider adopting a Cloud First strategy to encourage adoption of cloud services to reduce costs and increase flexibility, and put security operations in a proactive position instead of a reactive one.”

The bottom line: The cost and resource savings of cloud services are real, and the wide variety of offerings makes it possible to choose the best fit for the organization, according to the report.

Click here for the full report.

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