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Home automation company goes public

 - 
Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Home automation provider Control4 had a successful IPO on Friday Aug. 2. The company offered 4,000,000 shares of its common stock for $16 per share. The shares began trading on the NASDAQ market.

The share price quickly climbed to $20.70 in what Business Insider called a “stellar IPO. … That gives the 10-year-old, Salt Lake City, Utah, company a valuation of about $446 million. Not bad considering it had 2012 revenues of $109.5 million and posted a loss from operations every year since 2008.”

The stock closed at $21.06 on Tuesday, Aug. 6.

One winner in the deal, Business Insider pointed out, is Cisco, which made an undisclosed $20 million investment in the company in 2011.

Business insider says that Cisco “also signed on to sell a Cisco-branded version of its products and to help Control4 develop new products. … Control4 is part of Cisco's big vision of a brand new tech market called the Internet of Things (although Cisco prefers the term the Internet of Everything). IoT refers to putting all the inanimate objects in your home, office and city on the Internet and making them interactive."

And speaking of the Internet of Things, we had a great panel discussion at TechSec last year about that touched on that topic, and we’ll be doing more on it this year. We’re putting the program together right now. Look for details around ASIS time.

 

New Matrix CEO expanding company presence

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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Access control provider Matrix Systems, which in May appointed Holly Tsourides as its new CEO, opened a new sales and marketing office north of Boston in the city of Lowell, Mass. It will serve at the company base for marketing and other strategic initiatives to drive sales, new technology partnerships and customized service options. Matrix has hired two employees to staff the Lowell office, and plans to hire more.

Matrix Systems is headquartered in Miamisburg, Ohio.

In a prepared statement, Tsourides said the new location has "strategic advantages" as the company seeks technology partnerships and recruits talent.  “Suppliers located in the Boston area include some of the industry's best, and we look forward to working alongside them – and with them – to further boost our immediate and long-term business strategies," she said in a statement.
 
In the past several months the company has been focused on "continuing to innovate its products and services."  In June, it "deployed Lean education and methodologies as part of an overall goal to foster a culture of continuous improvement."  It is also adding new "features and functionalities to its Frontier access control software platform and seeking new partnerships to boost the value of its open-standards approach to security. "
 

The value of an IP address

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Monday, August 5, 2013

As promised in my last blog, I’m going to touch on another service discussed in Ken Kirschenbaum’s new technology seminar, held last Friday, that could offer some significant benefits to monitoring companies.

The company, called Keep Your IP, is an IP forwarding service that allows dealers to retain their IP addresses, giving companies the ability to move from one central station to another without sacrificing the value they’ve built within their organization. Davin Roos, president of Keep Your IP, discussed several benefits of maintaining IP continuity. The crucial word? Control.

If, for instance, a dealer wants to partition some accounts, or even sell the entire organization, the fact of selling to a company that uses a different central station can devalue the sale, Roos explained. Having your own IP address (and, by extension, your own server) can help companies avoid incurring costs that result from the man hours required to make necessary changes. Roos added that the company is working with some of the major central stations to bundle packages that feature the service to dealers.

Some additional benefits for dealers include having the luxury to move central stations if a current one is under-performing, greater RMR consistency (especially during times of economic crisis), and the freedom to make changes after a central station switches their Internet service provider. 

Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is here: Notes from the webinar

 - 
Thursday, August 1, 2013

Earlier today I listened in on a technology webinar, hosted by Ken Kirschenbaum, an industry attorney, that featured several voices both in the industry and in intersecting fields. Many of the speakers are at the forefront of technological innovation as it pertains to the central station space, so naturally the discussion dealt primarily with how to stay competitive by leveraging new technology that can improve retention and carve out new sources of RMR.

A recurring theme of the talk, unsurprisingly, was the emergence of the cableco and telecom giants, and what the competitive implications are with respect to their entry.

In 10-minute intervals, panelists presented commentary on a range of products and services. Some were pretty compelling, not only from a novelty standpoint, but also because many of the products seem like they could have some allure for monitoring companies and their distributors.

One of the more non-traditional services was presented by John Hoffe, president and CEO of Linked24, a product suite with several applications for mobile devices. Designed for dealers, the service features a GPS locator which, depending on the mobile device, can report an updated location of a loved one every three minutes. But that may actually be the company’s least buzzworthy product.

Another offering from Linked24 is its “Safe Text” service, which monitors incoming and outgoing messages for anything untoward, such as “inappropriate language and acronyms,” according to the website. If it detects any one of more than 750 pre-selected words, the text is uploaded to a customer portal for review. It’s a helicopter parent’s dream, and, brave new world though it is, it’s tough to imagine this product won’t find a home somewhere. But we’ll have to wait and see if that home will be among the dealer networks of wholesale monitoring companies.  

That’s not all. There’s also an “Emergency Shake” product that allows a customer in dire straits to open a Linked24 application then shake or drop their phone, whereupon a camera is engaged to shoot a 10-second video clip. The administrator of the account is then automatically notified.

Some of these offerings may come across as a bit intense from a personal privacy position, but there’s no question some have the potential to thwart an unforeseen problem, particularly the phone shake feature. And, with the mobile surge in full swing, it’s not unrealistic to imagine dealers giving strong consideration to products of this ilk to help boost their RMR.

It dawned on me just now that I’ve alluded to one speaker thus far, despite the fact there were several more who offered insight and product commentary that were more than worthy of mention. In my next blog or two, I’ll be sure to highlight the most resonant points offered by some of the other knowledgeable panelists. Stay tuned...

Life in prison for McGinn, Smith?

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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Security industry investors Timothy McGinn and David L. Smith are set to be sentenced next week and could spend the rest of their lives in prison after being convicted of fraud, conspiracy and tax evasion earlier this year.

That’s the sentence prosecutors want a judge to impose on the pair—formerly partners at the Albany, N.Y.-based brokerage firm of McGinn, Smith & Co., which conducted dealings in the alarm industry—when they appear in court on Aug. 7, according to the Time Union, an Albany-based newspaper. Life in prison is warranted because the pair caused at least 250 victims to lose more than $30 million, prosecutors say.

However, McGinn, 64, and Smith, 68, are seeking leniency and having friends and relatives send letters testifying to their good characters, according to news reports.

Here’s more from the recent Times Union article:
 

In a sentencing memorandum filed Wednesday, assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth C. Coombe said the maximum term of imprisonment is warranted by factors that include more than $30 million in losses to at least 250 victims. She said the defendants' argument that their misdeeds were caused by a collapsing financial market "misses the mark."

"After persuading investors to part with their money, defendants used it as if it were their own. Not only did they secretly skim large percentages of investor funds to line their own pockets, but they did their very best to make sure that the investments would keep coming in by using new investor money to pay old investors," Coombe wrote in a 13-page memorandum addressed to U.S. District Judge David N. Hurd.

The government also filed a motion seeking $30.2 million in forfeiture penalties from McGinn and Smith, whose bank accounts and assets were frozen three years ago under court orders. It's unclear that they have the assets to pay the proposed penalty.

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 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.

However, McGinn and Smith, formerly partners at the brokerage firm of McGinn, Smith & Co., filed motions asking a federal judge to overturn their convictions, saying the government’s claims were “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.”

It will be interesting to see what the judge decides in this case. Stay posted.

 

Contract chat: exculpatory and limitation of liability clauses

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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A few weeks ago, in response to a Georgia appellate court decision upholding a verdict against Monitronics in a multi-million dollar case, Ken Kirschenbaum, an industry attorney, posed a simple question on his email newsletter to subscribers: "Why should an alarm contract be drafted so that judges find so much confusion?" 

It's a fair question. There was little consensus among the appellate court judges, and some of the judges who concurred with the original verdict cited different reasons for doing so. While the case is not yet settled (it may yet move to a higher court), the implication seems to be that the exculpatory and limitation of liability provisions in the contract were not established in a manner that could provide adequate protection.

This is an issue that stands to remain relevant for central station alarm monitoring companies everywhere. The case, too, is a big enough deal that Kirschenbaum himself updated some of his standard form contracts to make the protective provisions more enforceable, and account for some of the worst case scenarios which surfaced in the Veasley v. Monitronics case.

From Kirschenbaum’s newsletter:

“Why did I make the changes even though the Monitronics case is likely to be appealed and hopefully reversed? Because the same issues raised in Monitronics have been and will continue to be addressed in courts all over the country. Courts are looking for ways to impose duties on the alarm companies and avoid contract enforcement.”

Part of what makes the Monitronics case so legally murky, and even intimidating from a contractual standpoint, is that the end result, as Kirschenbaum points out, was personal injury. What’s more, the injury was caused by service rather than equipment negligence, the court determined.

Kirschenbaum’s piece is worth a read in its entirety because it discusses the sheer breadth of considerations that have to be made when designing a contract with clear and enforceable protections. You can subscribe to his newsletter here.

PSIM providers raises $15.6 million

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Monday, July 29, 2013

PSIM provider VIDSys announced last week that it’s raised $15.65 million in one equity financing.

The investment was lead by NewSpring Capital. Previous investors Atlanta Equity, Flybridge Capital Partners, JVax Investment Group and Motorola Solutions Venture Capital also participated in the round.

I have a call into VIDSys and hope to speak to someone tomorrow about what the company plans to do with the new funds.

NewSpring Capital, is based in Radnor, Pa. It invested through its technology and business services growth equity fund, NewSpring Growth Capital. Marc R. Lederman, NewSpring general partner, has now joined the VidSys board of directors.

VIDSys' PR folks said that CEO Michael P. Jackson wasn't available for a call. They provided me with this prepared statement: “VidSys will use these funds to help grow and scale the company on a global basis beyond our existing footprint. ... We will also invest in further development of our core software ... for our public sector and enterprise clients.”

Management shake-up at AlarmForce

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Last year, AlarmForce Industries, a Toronto-based super-regional, announced that its board of directors was looking at selling the company. Now the board says the company won’t be sold but grown instead, and has “terminated” AlarmForce’s longtime President and CEO Joel Matlin.

Alarm Force announced in a news release Tuesday that it had “terminated the employment" of Matlin but said that he will “continue to serve as a director of the company.” Matlin holds a stake in the company of about 8 percent, according to news reports.

Company CFO Anthony Pizzonia is now interim president and CEO, the release said. A search is underway to find a permanent successor to Matlin.

Earlier this month, the company announced that its board had completed its strategic review begun last August and will now focus on growing the company.

Here’s more of what it had to say in a July 3 news release:
 

During the past eleven months, a special committee of the Board of Directors of the Company (the "Board") comprised of the independent directors of AlarmForce (the "Special Committee") explored and considered available opportunities for the Company, including a possible sale of the Company. The Special Committee has concluded that the strategic review process did not result in a transaction adequately reflecting the Company's value. As such, the Board has decided to conclude the formal process and dissolve the Special Committee. The Company will now move forward with a focus on the Company's growth.

AlarmForce provides security alarm monitoring, personal emergency response monitoring, video surveillance and related services to residential and commercial subscribers throughout Canada and in some locations in the United States. The company says it is a leading provider of two-way voice alarm systems in Canada.

 

iControl woos app developers

 - 
Wednesday, July 24, 2013

This week, iControl Networks, the software platform used by ADT’s Pulse, and a number of cable companies, including Comcast's Xfinity Home, Time Warner Cable's IntelligentHome and Rogers Smart Home Monitoring, announced that it’s launching an Android App Partner Program, called the “FastTrack App Partner Program.”

It’s an initiative that will “allows Android apps to be easily and quickly certified compatible with touch screens that support the iControl Converge deployment solution, which powers leading home solutions,” iControl said.

In a prepared statement, Jason Domangue, iControl's VP of ecosystem development, said that program opens a new distribution channel for app developers. "FastTrack makes it easy and seamless for app developers to team with leading cable service providers for in-home distribution, and increases comfort and convenience for consumers by providing unique, innovative apps tailored for the smart home."

IControl announced the first five members of the partner program: Life360, which provides location and communication for families; MapQuest, which provides maps and traffic information; News Republic, which provides customizable global news alerts; TuneIn, which provides online radio and music streaming, and the Weather Channel, which provides detailed forecasts and future radar.

An app developers kit is available on the company’s website. “Certified applications will live in iControl's marketplace and become accessible to millions of consumers around the globe,” the company said.

Securadyne steps up

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

After the May 20 F5 tornado ripped through Moore, Okla., we ran several stories about how the security industry was affected by the storm. Since, then, I've heard from others in the industry about their experiences.

Securadyne Systems, an independent integrator based in Dallas, which has a branch office in Oklahoma City, has helped out with the recovery efforts in Moore.

Following is an excerpt of a report that Securadyne's Abe Romero sent along to me.

On June 19 Securadyne Systems had 18 volunteers from branches in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Dallas working on the recovery effort in Moore. The photo below shows some of those volunteers.

One of Securadyne Systems’ own employees was directly affected by the storm. Tracy Simon, an enterprise account executive in the Oklahoma City branch, spearheaded the effort to work with the Help Moore Rebuild disaster relief organization. Simon’s home was damaged during the tornado and her daughter’s middle school was completely destroyed.

At the relief organization’s headquarters, the team was briefed on the types of jobs available throughout the Moore area. The Securadyne team helped clean-up a huge debris field scattered with the remains of homes destroyed in the nearby neighborhoods.

After the work was done, the group toured the areas of damage. “The most touching and challenging part of the visit was the stop at the Plaza Elementary school makeshift memorial. Plaza Elementary took the brunt of the tornado’s fury on that fateful day and a number of children and teachers lost their lives. The day of volunteering reinforced the importance of giving back to our communities, which is a central component of our company’s core values,” according a company statement.  The photo below shows the memorial.

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