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North Carolina hotel room a CO deathtrap?

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

North Carolina requires carbon monoxide detectors in homes and apartments, but not in hotels. Now, some tragic deaths in a hotel room in Boone, N.C. make a compelling argument for a CO detector mandate for hotels.

First, an elderly couple died in April in room 225 in the Best Western Plus Blue Ridge Plaza, according to news reports. Then, on Saturday, an 11-year-old boy was found dead in the same room, reports say.

Blood tests show that the April deaths were due to CO poisoning, according to TIME Magazine.

Next to die, on June 8, was the young boy, Jeffrey Lee Williams. “The cause of death was determined to be asphyxia, meaning his lungs couldn’t get enough oxygen,” TIME reported June 9. “Williams, from Rock Hill, S.C., died spontaneously, and his 49-year-old mother was hospitalized in critical condition — circumstances strangely similar to that of Daryl Dean Jenkins, 73, and Shirley Mae Jenkins, 72, from Longview, Wash., who were found dead in the same room on April 16.”

It has not yet been established if CO poisoning caused the boy to die and his mother to become ill, news reports said. But TIME said that an initial test taken the day the boy died “showed a high amount of poisonous gas in the room.” A toxicology analysis is pending, the magazine said.

The report says police didn’t explain why it took two months to get toxicology results on what caused the Jenkins to die. Earlier results, the magazine said,  “could have led to the closing of the hotel long before Williams’ death.”

The magazine added, “Room 225 is directly above the room housing a natural gas heater for the hotel’s swimming pool. Documents obtained by the Charlotte Observer show a Watauga County Health Department report indicating deficiencies in the pool.”

According to an NBC report, the independently owned and operated hotel released a statement saying, “The health and safety of guests who stay at our hotel is our No. 1 priority. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of those involved. We are cooperating fully with authorities who are investigating this truly tragic incident.”

According to a new interactive map of CO legislation in the United States developed by System Sensor, North Carolina’s law requiring CO detectors in homes and multi-family dwellings took effect Jan. 1, 2010. System Sensor, based in St. Charles, Ill., makes fire detection and notification devices, including carbon monoxide detectors.

Once IR spins off security division, will others follow?

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Once IR spins off its security division, will others follow? Poking around some investor conference info recently, I came across this tidbit on Seeking Alpha

“Stanley Black & Decker Chairman John Lundgren made an interesting revelation during his chat at the Electrical Products Group Conference yesterday. [The conference took place in late May]. The exec says the company will keep an eye on the spinoff from Ingersoll Rand of its security business to see if a similar move would make sense for SWK with its security business. On strategy: "Because if we are convinced a year or two years from now that we have got a 12x EBITDA business trapped in a 7 or 8x business, we will make it bigger."

Through my Stanley contacts, I asked Brett D. Bontrager, SVP and Group Executive, Stanley Security Solutions, for further comment on Lundgren’s statement. Bontrager declined comment saying that there was nothing more to say beyond what John Lundgren stated.

You may recall that Ingersoll Rand announced in December that it would spin off its security products business.  Here’s my story. The IR security business—which includes brands such as Schlage locks and other electronic and biometric access control products—will be a $2 billion company once it is spun off. The remaining IR business will be a $12 billion business.

Following the IR spinoff announcement, reports, such as this one from Bloomberg, speculated that the new standalone IR security company will present an acquisition target. This report said potential acquirers include Stanley Black & Decker (to add to its security businesses and further diversify from its power tools), Tyco (might be interested in IR’s commercial products but not its resi security products) and UTC. The report also notes that IR, which is headquartered in Swords, Ireland, presents certain tax advantages.

The IR spinoff was prompted by activist shareholder Nelson Peltz, whose Trian Fund Management owns about 7.3 percent of IR stock.

During ISC West, IR announced that Patrick Shannon will serve as senior VP and CFO of the new security spinoff and Barbara Santoro will serve as SVP and general counsel. They will report to the CEO, who has yet to be named.

Surveillance cameras called ‘worse than useless’ in Philly

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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

It’s not the kind of press you would expect for video surveillance, especially after all of the positive PR for helping bring down the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing. Only onward and upward, right?

Apparently Philadelphia didn’t get the memo.

Last week, City Controller Alan Butkovitz announced the results of an audit of the police department’s surveillance camera program. The news wasn’t favorable: Only 32 percent of the cameras reviewed were functioning as they should, down from 45 percent found to working properly during a random sampling last year.

“That means that at any given time when crime is occurring around our city, only a third of the cameras are able to capture criminal activity at camera locations,” Butkovitz told the Philadelphia Daily News. He said the system is “worse than useless” because it gives residents a false sense of security.

Butkovitz said the problems included blurry images with pixelated edges and condensation in camera domes, making it difficult or impossible to read license plates and identify crime suspects.

“Suppose that had been the quality of photos in the Boston bombing,” Butkovitz told KYW Newsradio, letting listeners draw their own conclusions.

Mayor Michael Nutter was quick to respond to the assertions, calling Butkovitz’s report inaccurate. Nutter said that by his administration’s count, 85 percent of the 216 police cameras were working as of May 27.

Asked by the Daily News why there was such a wide discrepancy in the figures, Nutter said, “I can’t account for the controller’s inability to count. … We know what cameras work. [Butkovitz] does some kind of sampling. We actually pay attention to all of the cameras.”

Regardless of who’s right, Philly’s spat highlights the benefits for the security industry post-Boston. For cities that don’t have a video surveillance system, the law enforcement benefits of adding one have never been more obvious. For cities that are already onboard, now is the time to make sure the systems are doing what they’re supposed to be doing. That goes for the monitoring side as well.

Kessler and DeMarco: Professional monitoring, strategy bode well for DIRECTV/Lifeshield deal

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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

I had a chance to speak to Jeff Kessler, research analyst for Imperial Capital, and ESX chairman George DeMarco about the satellite television giant DIRECTV getting into security with the purchase of LifeShield.

Below is a summary of those discussion:

This deal is different from the string of cable companies and telecoms that have jumped into the fray over the past couple of years, Kessler said, for a couple of reasons.

First, DIY is built into the DNA of both DIRECTV and LifeSheild, Kessler said. “They understand each others’ way of working,” and that will make the combination more successful.

Second, LifeSheild, and now, DIRECTV, is using CMS, Protection 1’s professional monitoring arm to monitor security customers.

With the exception of AT&T, which is building two monitoring centers, the other cable and telecom players are not using professional monitoring centers.

“This allows DIRECTV to show off its feathers in front of other cable and telecom players,” Kessler said. Those companies are using “generic customer service organizations to do their initial [monitoring] service, [but DIRECTV has a acquired a company] that uses the largest independent monitoring company in the country with five branches.”

He pointed out that CMS has extremely experienced people answering phones who know about intrusion and life safety, including carbon monoxide. The company also has a group of people who are specially trained in health care for calls related to personal emergency response.

All of this is important, he said, because it will improve the customer experience for DIRECTV’s security customers. Going with a professional monitoring company will help convince customers that they can trust DIRECTV as their security provider because customers believe that the “police will be there in five minutes, or a health specialist will stay on the phone for 35 minutes with a customer,” he said.

In general, the public’s perception about cable companies’ service is not good. This is a hurdle for cable companies who enter the security industry. By partnering with CMS that has “proficiency and experience dealing with customer emergencies, whether it’s security or health,[DIRECTV] is in a better position to succeed,” Kessler said.

Kessler said there will likely more deals like this where an outsider like a satellite or cable company will buy a home security provider. In addition, Kessler expect to see more “partnerships as telcos and cable operators realize the value in having a high-quality partner on the service end of the business.

George DeMarco, chairman of ESX, and former owner of Greater Alarm said DIRECTV’s strategy is pretty straightforward.

“DIRECTV has 20 million customers. If the current market penetration for electronic security systems is approximately 20-25 percent, then their customer database is a gold mine.”

DeMarco said it’s all about finding new, complementary, recurring revenue streams that “boost their ability to attract a greater share of the customer’s wallet. Offering security and home management systems with interactive service capabilities, especially video, gives DIRECTV an opportunity to overlay additional home services for customers, while growing top-line revenues and increasing bottom -line profits.  
 
“With the advancements in product technologies, cloud-based services, and mobile devices, Multiple System Operators (MSO) and telecoms have been eyeing the electronic security industry of late. That said, I believe DIRECTV and other MSOs are looking for ways to augment their current offerings.” 

DeMarco said the those industries’ subscribers are willing to “cut the cord” from content packages because of the impact of Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon’s Prime Service. “In other words, MSOs can increase new phone and broadband subscribers while losing paid TV subscribers. Consumers have more choices today for content and delivery of broadband services. As a result, MSOs are exploring other sources of revenue for growth opportunities and the electronic security industry seems to be the likely candidate.”

 

Time Warner about to wrap up home security rollout

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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

I’ve been writing about IntelligentHome, Time Warner Cable’s home security/home automation product, since it launched in a few markets in 2011. Two years later, Time Warner is now announcing that the rollout of IntelligentHome should be complete by this fall.

Here’s what the company had to say in a news release today:
 

Time Warner Cable has announced that it will launch its home management and security system, IntelligentHome, throughout its Ohio and Wisconsin service areas in June, followed by New York City this fall. The upcoming launches will wrap up TWC’s rollout of the new product to all major markets in its service area.

Time Warner amped up the introduction of IntelligentHome this spring, launching it in Maine, Kansas City, Mo., South Carolina and all of North Carolina and also in San Antonio.

Time Warner describes IntelligentHome as “an easy-to-use wireless system that offers professional home security along with flexible features that allow customers to check in on their kids or pets, arm or disarm their security system, turn on a light or set the thermostat the way they like it—all via a smartphone, laptop or in-home touch screen.”

The product is professionally installed by Time Warner employees and also is professionally monitored.

How is the New York-based cableco liking security? I’ll be talking the company’s VP of IntelligentHome to learn more. Keep posted.

 

Ty Davis steps away from PERS to start new venture

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

After a three-year stint in PERS, Ty Davis has launched a venture to make the security world a more beautiful place: producing keypad overlays that can be customized to match any home or office.

Davis, an SSN "20 under 40" alumnus, got his start at Southwest Dispatch and then moved on to become VP of monitoring at Life Alert. He still sees a great future for PERS, but he also sees a growing consumer demand for something beyond the standard white keypad—something that dealers can benefit from as well.

"I'm not talking about the big guys, the ADTs and such, but the smaller dealers who need to be able to brand their security systems like anybody else," Davis said. "This kind of gives them a leg up on branding while matching the decor of the customer's home, which has always been a stickler for many mid- to high-end properties accent-wise."

Davis' new company, OWOW Designs, is catering to that niche. It just expanded to a 10,000-square-foot facility in Agoura Hills, Calif., where four full-time employees are producing keypads personalized with everything from family photos to patterns matching the foyer wallpaper.

"It's basically a car wrap—it's the exact same material," he said. "After the customer chooses what they want, you can still add your company name and logo. That way, you make sure you get that recurring revenue if the customer moves on and the next customer comes in, looks around and says, 'I need to call this guy' because it's his name on the keypad. It's the same way it works for the major alarm companies."

Asked about his tenure at Life Alert and PERS in general, Davis had nothing but good things to say.

"It was a wonderful experience," he said. "The move to a strictly PERS environment was an eye-opener. It was great to see another part of the industry and how it is truly a help to the elderly, providing them with additional protection inside the home. It's amazing how many independent dealers as well as major guys are getting into the market."

Will security investors McGinn and Smith do time?

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Security industry investors Timothy McGinn and David L. Smith are set to be sentenced next month and could face years in prison after being convicted of fraud earlier this year. But whether they’ll be sent to prison or just get probation and how much the Albany, N.Y.-based brokers owe as a result of their fraudulent activities are questions that remain up in the air, according to a recent article from the Time Union, an Albany, N.Y.-based newspaper.

The two men are seeking leniency and having friends and relatives send letters testifying to their good characters, according to the article.

A New York grand jury about one year ago indicted McGinn, 64, and Smith, 68—the founders of an investment firm that conducted dealings in the alarm industry—on a variety of fraud charges.

A federal jury on Feb. 6 convicted the pair of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, securities fraud, and filing false tax returns. The two—who also were the target of a civil suit by the Securities and Exchange Commission claiming they bilked investors of at least $80 million in a Ponzi scheme—are slated to be sentenced on their criminal convictions on June 28. Their possible sentences range from probation to more than a decade in prison, according to the Times Union.

However, McGinn and Smith, formerly partners at the brokerage firm of McGinn, Smith & Co., have filed motions asking a federal judge to overturn their convictions, saying the government’s allegations against them “are based on the complete failure of the government to attempt to comprehend concepts of investment banking and the inner-workings of running a broker-dealer.”

Also, Smith’s attorney, William J. Dreyer of Albany, is asking that the sentencing date be delayed because it’s not clear how much victims are owed. Here’s what the article had to say:
 

Dreyer wrote a letter to [U.S. District Judge David] Hurd saying there is not enough information available from the government or a federal receiver to accurately calculate the losses to victims. He said it will be a "large undertaking" to establish cash flows for each of the trusts and operating companies that were embroiled in the criminal case and also to determine the amount of back taxes owed by David and Lynn Smith, [David Smith's wife].

Also, Smith was acquitted on 14 of the 29 counts he faced, and Dreyer told the judge that makes "a proper calculation of the fraud amount the more challenging."

In addition, Dreyer said the government recently notified him it has pegged the forfeiture amount owed by McGinn and Smith at "four times" the $8 million listed in the indictment.

"No supporting data as to how such a number was reached was provided and this court should find that because the receiver is not in a position to determine a loss amount, there is no possible way that the government could make a logical calculation," Dreyer wrote. "As such, on its face, the government's proposed loss amount is misleading, obscene and further reinforces its complete ignorance of investment banking and accounting standards."

 

Stay posted here for updates on this interesting case.

Kratos has new SVP

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Don EricksonAt the PSATEC conference earlier this month, SIA CEO Don Erickson was talking about government opportunities for independent integrators large and small. The contracts and jobs are out there, Erickson said.

One of PSA Security’s largest integrators, Kratos Public Safety and Security Solutions’ Public Safety & Security division has created a new SVP position to go after the “growing DoD/DHS market.”

James Cotter, who has been with Kratos since 2007, has been promoted to senior vice president of the Government Solutions Sector.

In his new role, he’s charged with working with Kratos leadership “researching, identifying and ultimately captur[ing] those opportunities.”

Ben Goodwin, president of Kratos’ PSS division called Cotter an “idea fit for this position.”

New venture takes MJ Vance wherever she is needed

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The last time SSN caught up with Mary Jo Vance, she was exploring opportunities in security consulting after a stint with 1 Time Inc. in Nevada and the Central American nation of Belize. Now the CSAA’s 2007 Manager of the Year has launched a venture that combines her love of travel with her dedication to the industry: plugging in as a temporary central station manager whenever and wherever she is needed.

“It’s a new concept and I truly believe there is a market for it,” Vance said last week from her home base outside of St. Louis. “When I came up with the idea, I asked myself what makes me happy and what am I good at. … I used to fly many years ago for British Caledonian, which is now British Airways, and I was always ready to pick up and go. And what’s my passion? The security industry. So what’s tying me down now? Nothing.”

Vance, better known in the industry as MJ, said the “have manager, will travel” concept will appeal to companies that need an experienced hand to fill in at vacation time, to help groom a new monitoring supervisor, or to handle more pressing concerns.

“I just got a call last night from a prospective client who said he had a central station manager who had some personal problems and just up and left,” she said. “Although that’s not the best way to exit, it does happen, so what do you do? Who fills in until a seasoned manager is hired? That’s where my services come in.”

Vance’s experience includes eight years at CenterPoint Technologies, where she was vice president of operations and business development. She also has served as the president of ESA of Missouri, president of the St. Louis Alarm Association, and treasurer of the Missouri Burglar and Fire Alarm Association. She received the Presidential Award from the Fire Marshals’ Association of Missouri in 2010.

Vance said she keeps the identities of her clients confidential and that her services aren’t limited to the United States. “I have passport, will travel. It’s current,” she said with a laugh. To find out more, drop her an email at mjvancemj@hotmail.com.

Post tornado, ASG employees tout 2GIG severe weather alert

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Yesterday afternoon I spoke to some Oklahoma-based employees of super-regional security company ASG Security. Thankfully, all employees and employee families are safe, according to Bob Ryan and Ralph Masino of ASG, but many were witnesses to the destruction that occurred May 20.

All touted ASG Connect, ASG’s interactive home security panel which it OEMs from 2GIG. ASG provides the “Severe Weather Alert”  service (powered by Alarm.com) to its Oklahoma customers free of charge, Ryan told me.

Bobby Walker, sales manager in ASG’s Oklahoma City office, lives in Moore. On Monday afternoon, he saw that the storm was bearing down and went to retrieve his son from school, which is located two miles away from the Plaza Towers Elementary School where several children died in the tornado.

“When I got there, they said they were not checking any more students out and we needed to take cover,” Walker said. “I found the room my son was in and we were told to take cover. … It was the scariest moment of my life. I was lying on top of my son and it sounded like canon balls were hitting the side of the building. Thuds, huge thuds and [sounds like] a jet engine firing up outside the building.”

The tornado passed in a matter of minutes, but when Walker and his son went outside, “it looked like a bomb dropped, houses were obliterated, every telephone pole was down. It was mass chaos,” he said.

Walker had two more children to retrieve. The road was impassable for cars and Walker’s car was totaled anyway, so he and his son walked the five miles to the school his other children attend.

There was no cell coverage and in neighborhoods along the way, “it was rubble propped up by more rubble.”

He feared the worst, but as he and his son got closer to the other school, there was less and less destruction. All of his children were fine, and his house, a few miles away was not seriously damaged.  (Walker took the photos in this blog on his iPhone during his walk home.)

Walker and Joshua Jones, ASG VP and GM Oklahoma region, both said the 2GIG Severe Weather Alert was key to alerting many residents about the tornado.

Jones said his system alerted his wife to turn on the television. “She was home, but she wasn’t watching TV,” he said. Once she saw the severity of the storm, she called Jones and told him to retrieve their children from school.

“If you live in Oklahoma and you don’t have 2GIG with Severe Weather Alert, you need to rethink it,” Walker said.

“So many storms happen in the middle of the night, you never get the warning our 2GIG panel gives us. … it saves lives just like fire protection,” Walker said.

ASG has nearly 6,000 “2GIG protected customers in Oklahoma” and more than 2,000, 2Gig/ADC systems installed in the Oklahoma City/Moore, area, all of whom received a critical server weather alert on their 2Gig system,   according to Bob Ryan.

For more tornado coverage, see “Oklahoma integrator High Tech Tronics rides out storm”, Tornado spares CSG Office in Oklahoma City, and “Experts: Schools can prepare successfully for disasters like tornadoes”

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