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SecureNet launches cloud-based platform

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A few developments surfaced today out of the SecureNet Technologies camp. The Longwood, Fla.-based company, which provides video monitoring services and interactive home features, announced the launch of the SecureNet platform, a system that gives alarm providers a cloud-based management service.

The system is designed to increase the speed of alarm responses while improving their accuracy by eliminating errors caused by traditional notes-based dispatching systems, the company noted in a news release.

As we continue to see, there are several benefits for central stations who deploy a cloud-based platform. First off, it improves redundancy in the event of outages or natural disasters. It also reduces the man hours required for continual technological upgrades. Interestingly enough, while SecureNet’s platform is clearly moving with the hosted solution wave, it is also offered as a traditional on-site service.

The other piece of news, less of a strictly monitoring nature, is that SecureNet has joined the Z-Wave Alliance, a group of technology companies that design wireless home control products based on the Z-wave wireless communications standard.

SecureNet’s Interactive Gateway Modules, a line of hardware devices that integrate with the with alarm panels, is designed primarily for its adaptability to home management services. The devices use Z-wave technology to control and communicate with interactive video monitoring, access controls, as well as an array of home automation features.

In the coming days I’ll be following up with SecureNet to get a closer view of these latest developments.  

DIY home security goes to the next level at Costco

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

I’ve written before about how telecoms, cablecos and professional security companies, large and small, are now selling their security/home automation products in a retail environment. Those companies include Comcast, Verizon Wireless, Security Options, The Alarm Company and SecureWatch 24. Now add Link Home Security to the list.

Link, which bills itself as “the leader in do-it-yourself (DIY) wireless security systems,” is now offering a DIY home security/energy/video surveillance package through Costco, the national online retailer. It’s a deluxe package with all the desirable home automation features homeowners have been hearing about—and it includes professional monitoring.

Ogden, Utah-based Link describes its Premium Plus Video Package by saying to customers it “puts you in control of your security, home automation and remote video monitoring and gives you the convenience of premium 'advanced interactive' services managed from your smartphone or secure internet login. The cellular, color touch screen panel does not require a phone line and is Z-Wave(R) enabled—allowing you to add security, safety, energy management and camera components to your system at any time.”

Link said it is offering monitoring for $34.99, which “ includes remote video monitoring and recording plus services like fire monitoring and remote accessibility that you won't find anywhere else. Z-Wave operability is no additional cost. … Cellular signal and 2-way voice communication in emergencies is included as part of the service.”

It said other features of the premium service will allow customers “to augment your existing smoke detectors with a 3-in-1 smoke/heat/freeze sensor (included) that is continually monitored by our UL Listed and 5-Diamond rated central station. The door/window and motion sensors come custom-programmed with the locations you specify, such as "Front Door" or "Master Bedroom Window". Our Z-Wave programmable thermostat (included) offers a “Smart Schedule” that utilizes the other components in your system to recognize activity and usage in the home or business and recommend energy saving HVAC schedules. The two Z-Wave LDM Light/Appliance Modules (included) plug into a standard outlet to control lighting and small appliances. Both the thermostat and light/appliance modules are remotely accessible from a smartphone or secure internet connection so lighting and temperature can be adjusted while away. The HD100 Indoor Camera (included) is easy to install and gives you the peace of mind of being able to keep an eye on the activity in your home or office, observe a live feed in case of an alarm event, or review past video footage at your convenience. The HD100 delivers a high resolution video with infrared “night vision” capability.”

This offering clearly shows that DIY is going beyond simple to incorporate the next level of technology.
 

Henry Edmonds presents on PERS valuations

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

As I encounter new theories and projections about PERS valuations, I continue to find a refreshing lack of consensus among the experts. That’s not to say there aren’t areas of agreement. There are. Those watching the market often cite similar determinants of valuation, such as attrition rates, cash flow and the costs of creating new accounts. But experts seldom invest the same metrics with equal importance.     

For example, Barry Epstein, president of Dallas-based Vertex Capital, believes reducing attrition rates to be a critical component of increasing PERS valuations. Conversely, Mark Sandler, a principal with SPP Advisors, downplayed the importance of churn, saying instead that a company’s value hinges more on how efficiently they can redeploy their units.

Today I came across a presentation on PERS valuations delivered by Henry Edmonds, president of The Edmonds Group, at the Medical Alert Monitoring Association conference held last week in Orlando. Edmonds’ insights reflect another nuanced interpretation of the market. In the presentation, he boiled PERS valuations down to four key metrics: cash flow; churn (attrition rate); growth rate/new account volume; and creation cost.

Just as vital for maximizing value is the ability of dealers to compile solid data on these metrics, Edmonds noted in one of the slides.

Edmonds developed some pretty in-depth calculations that he believes dealers should be cognizant of. For instance, churn rate metrics should account for total lost RMR on a trailing 12-month or trailing six-month basis. That figure should then be divided by average outstanding RMR. With respect to the cash flow, Edmonds advises dealers to focus on adjusted EBITDA and steady state free cash flow.

Edmonds’ presentation also offered a trove of information about buyers. He noted that buyers will create finance models for target companies, develop key assumptions based on a target company’s past performance and determine a capital structure based on current market conditions.

Edmonds also provided the following aphorism: “Buyers never pay more than they think they have to.”

In the coming weeks I plan to speak with Henry Edmonds himself to get a more in-depth take on PERS valuations and the state of the market in general. Stay tuned.

IHS: More security systems in homes in next four years

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The research group IHS believes—as others have predicted—that the penetration rate of home security systems in North America will rise in the next few years.

That rate has been stuck at 20 percent for the past couple of decades, but many have predicted that the “new entrants” into the industry, cablecos and telecoms, through their advertising and other efforts—will help finally move the needle on that particular statistic. IHS has jumped on that bandwagon in is its newly released report, “The World Maker for Intruder Alarms–2013 Edition.”

In a news release, IHS says that there is “realistic momentum with the growing trend to combine home automation and home security systems, on a single platform.”  

The report says that “the residential sector accounted for 40.7 percent of the $2.7 billion global intruder alarm market in 2012, and is forecast to be one of the fastest-growing verticals with a five-year compound annual growth rate of 5.3 percent from 2012 to 2017.”

In a statement, Adi Pavlovic, analyst for access control, fire and security at IHS “Home-management integration is gaining the most popularity in North America, which will increase the penetration rate of intruder alarm products into the residential sector. Europe also may not be too far behind, as energy-management features are making their way into more homes every year. Deployment in Asia, however, is expected to be the slowest due to its large multifamily-apartment culture and the absence of professional monitoring services.”

The story is different on the commercial side, according to IHS. “While the trend to integration is becoming popular in single-family homes, its progress in the commercial sector continues to be slow.” The research group blames the “lack of unified legislation across each technology platform” for the stagnation it sees in the commercial side, noting that  regions “with more lenient regulations, such as the Middle East, benefit from having the opportunity to integrate multiple systems into a single solution. Such an approach is not only more convenient, but also saves time and lowers costs by working with just one installer.”

IHS advises manufacturers “interested in integrated solutions should continue to focus on the residential market while integration in commercial applications remains sluggish, as the industry as a whole awaits standardization.”

 

Dynamark Convention wrap up

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Friday, October 4, 2013

Over the course of my two days at the Dynamark Convention, I had the good fortune of speaking with several knowledgeable industry veterans, and I’d be remiss not to mention some of them in this space. Whether at the vendor show, educational sessions or during my tour of Dynamark’s central station, I found no shortage of folks with industry expertise.

The vendor show featured a vibrant mix of companies, with virtually every facet of the industry represented, from access control and video surveillance to fire alarms and intrusion detection. There were distributors like ADI, which had a booth, and several attendees from The Systems Depot, including CEO Robert Pinion, who gave me a thorough description of the company’s new call center, a 20,000-square-foot facility with an efficient layout that's rapidly adding new employees. In the spirit of the season, there was some gridiron chat weaved into the industry-specific discussions. As it turns out, Pinion’s son is a punter for the No. 3-ranked Clemson Tigers.

Those very same Clemson Tigers travel north this weekend, heavily favored in their matchup with Syracuse, the alma mater of Tom Piston, vice president of sales & marketing at Dynamark. Piston, along with Lamar Shroyer, IT director at Dynamark, guided me and SSN publisher Tim Purpura on a tour through the central station. Shroyer showed us a veritable wall of servers and systems, which included Bold Technologies’ Manitou automation platform, as well as servers from Israeli-based Tadiran Telecom.

Keith Godsey, Dynamark’s vice president of central station operations, answered a few questions about Dynamark’s training procedures. Training typically lasts two weeks, and operators accrue greater responsibility as they ascend to higher levels of training. Interestingly enough, Godsey noted that 80 percent of their operators have been at the station since the facility opened in 2011—no small feat for a profession typically prone to high turnover.  

To conclude, I wanted to mention a final element of interest about the conference: The presence of companies offering peripheral services that both dealers and central stations are leveraging for value. I spoke with Joseph Narkin, director of business development at Demand, a marketing and business development firm that works with alarm companies, including Dynamark, and whose cold-calling team is comprised of qualified prison inmates (Narkin himself is a former prison inmate who said the company contributed tremendously to his rehabilitation and reintegration in society).

I also spoke with John Latimer, senior account executive at Keller Stonebraker Insurance, based in Hagerstown, Md. The company works with alarm companies, both dealers and central stations, to help transfer and mitigate risk—legal concerns of no small importance to the alarm industry as a whole.

In summary (I fully intended this update to be just that), my first voyage as part of SSN was a valuable and diverse experience, and the folks at Dynamark, and many others with whom I happened to cross paths, were nothing short of welcoming and bright.

Dynamark Convention: day two

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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Embrace new technology. Adapt. Preserve a human connection in sales and seize the opportunities provided by a market that's bound to become more aware of your products and services. Those were some of the words of wisdom offered by Wayne Alter, founder of Dynamark, and Wade Moose, CEO of The Systems Depot and Elk Products, in the keynote speeches at the Dynamark Convention 2013.

A spirit of optimism pervaded the basic message, and both Alter and Moose were engaging speakers, knowledgeable and honest, with a penchant for weaving helpful and often funny personal stories into their advice for dealers. Early into Alter’s keynote, he predicted the penetration rate for the market would see a spike between 5-8 percent in the not-too-distant future. It’s a lofty projection, but one grounded in the likelihood that market awareness stands to rise appreciably in the coming years due to the influx of new players, specifically the cablecos and telecoms, whose advertising clout could prove a boon to the entire industry. This development, together with a gradually recovering economy and a profusion of home management services that boost RMR and curb attrition, might be enough to nudge that stubborn penetration rate in an upward direction. I’ll be keeping a close eye on market reports to see if Alter’s prediction bears itself out. 

Another point of emphasis in both speeches, particularly Alter’s: The industry has come full circle. “It’s new in some ways, and it’s old in others,” Alter told attendees. While the technology and the means of reaching customers have undergone dramatic transformations recently, some of the original principles of salesmanship remain as essential as ever, Alter noted. He mentioned Vivint’s door-knocking summer sales model as an example of this, as well as the DIY monitoring systems, which Alter originally thought would appeal more to hobbyists than general customers.

Another two-part prescription Alter provided to dealers: Expand the number of people in your business and train them well. It’s a tested formula for building an account base, if not always an easy one to enact. This piece of advice again harkens back to the recurring theme of the keynote—the theme of keeping pace with the evolution of the industry while preserving certain core requirements that have always been conducive to growth.  

In a funny anecdote, Alter drove home the point that many of the same sales practices that work best now were the same sales practices that worked best when he started his business in 1975, a time when he had to scour phonebooks for sales leads.  

There’s much more to say about my experience at the Dynamark Convention. But since this space is reserved for a blog rather than a dissertation, I’ll have to save these thoughts for my next post. Tomorrow I'll discuss my inaugural central station visit at Dynamark's Hagerstown, Md.-based facility, along with some other goings-on at the convention. 

Leadership change at Stanley

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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

In the second leadership change at Stanley CSS in 16 months, Marty Schnurr—who was named president of Stanley CSS North America in May 2012—has moved to a new non-security role at Stanley Black & Decker.

Brett Bontrager is acting head of Stanley CSS, along with running Stanley Security Solutions, according to John Nemerofsky, Stanley VP Global Vertical Market Solutions.

Asked about the leadership change, Nemerofsky told me that Bontrager is expected to stay in a dual role for “four to six months” until a new CSS president is named.

Asked details about a search for a new president Nemorofsky said “no search was taking place.”

An internal candidate will be announced within that time frame, he said.  

Schnurr’s reappointment was announced in an internal memo in at the beginning of the September.

Schnurr replaced Tony Byerly as president of CSS. Although he had worked with Stanley for 16 years, Schnurr had not worked in the physical security industry before being named president of Stanley CSS. He was president of Stanely Hydraulic Tools at the time of that appointment.

 

Honeywell’s Cote pans government shutdown

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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

News reports lead with stories about how the U.S. government shutdown this week is sabotaging people’s vacation plans at national parks. But Honeywell Chairman and CEO David Cote is concerned about how a long shutdown could have even greater negative repercussions on businesses and our economy.

According to an article this week from MoneyNews, Cote is among a number of CEOs of major corporations to worry the shutdown could harm the economic rebound both at home and abroad.

Here’s some of what Cote had to say, according to that article:
 

“Everyone will get more conservative and pull back on hiring and investing,” Cote, who served on Obama’s bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Trish Regan.

Even if the budget fight is resolved, lawmakers would immediately move to the next dispute over raising the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling.

It also would be a “horrible idea” to block a boost in the federal debt ceiling, as some lawmakers vow to do, Cote said. “When you hear people starting to think that maybe we should default or not raise the debt ceiling and we will play chicken with it, are you actually serious?”

Of course, Honeywell is a huge, diversified company. But if the fears of Cote—recently named “CEO of the Year”—come true and we go back into recession again, smaller security companies also could be impacted in a negative way.

Let’s hope this all gets resolved soon.

 

 

Off to Maryland: Dynamark Convention 2013

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The bite of chilly weather hasn't yet snapped southern Maine, but that doesn't mean I don't welcome the opportunity to go 500 miles south for 48 hours, where stronger vestiges of summer remain. Tomorrow morning I'm off to Maryland with Tim Purpura, SSN's publisher, to attend the Dynamark Convention 2013 in Hagerstown, Md.

The event kicks off in earnest with a vendor show tomorrow evening, which will showcase products from a slew of manufacturers, with an emphasis on new and emerging technology trends. Day two opens with a joint presentation by Dynamark founder Wayne Alter and Wade Moose, owner of The Systems Depot, followed by workshops tailored to dealers, technicians, installers and sales personnel.

My Hagerstown stay will conclude with my inaugural central station tour of Dynamark’s facility, which opened in 2011. I eagerly await this phase of the trip, not only because it’s my personal debut in a central station, but because the descriptions I’ve heard of Dynamark’s facility tend to be peppered with superlatives.

I plan to be active on Twitter during the vendor show and workshop sessions (https://twitter.com/SSN_Leif), and I’ll also be updating my blog over the course of the next two days as events unfold, distilling the sights and sounds and key takeaways from the speakers.

For those attending, I look forward to meeting you there.

Is the 2G sunset causing outages?

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Friday, September 27, 2013

AT&T’s 2012 announcement that it would phase out 2G service left most in the alarm industry, well, unfazed. With wireless technology, such changes come with the territory. Moreover, it’s not the alarm industry but the mobile phone industry that dictates network “sunsets.” As Lou Fiore, Chairman of the Alarm Industry Communications Commission, put it in a recent conversation: “As long as you go cellular, there is no endgame here.”

A few months after the initial announcement, AT&T attached a deadline (Jan 1, 2017) to its 2G sunset. Since that time, the AICC has established a regular line of communication with AT&T, which sends a representative to attend the organization’s quarterly meetings.

AT&T informed AICC that, while interim changes would take place in advance of the 2G sunset, the changes would not affect the alarm industry. AICC members, Fiore said, were “skeptical.”

“We tried to impress upon [AT&T] the fact that our control sets hang on the wall, and if you change the operating parameters of that network, it may not work anymore,” Fiore said. “You can’t ask the homeowner to move the unit around to see if it works.”

Fiore, who is in the process of gathering information regarding possible outages for units tied to AT&T’s 2G network, said that in given locations, customers might still get 2G coverage but that there’s a chance it “won’t be as deep as it was before.”

Fortunately, there are some steps alarm companies can take to mitigate outages. Companies can switch to AT&T's 3G or 4G network by choosing matching hardware from a cellular alarm communicator, or to one of AT&T's competitors (the 3G and 4G networks of Verizon and Sprint are an option, Fiore said). Certain companies may be able to go with a wired network, but this is highly contingent upon business model, Fiore noted.

Still three years from the deadline, AT&T’s 2G sunset promises to be a story with several more chapters. I’ll be watching closely to see what kind of ripple effects it has on the industry.

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