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Curbing central station turnover

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Earlier today, a participant in the Central Station Alarm Association listserv broached the topic of turnover in central stations. The author discussed several themes relevant to this topic, including the potentially negative impact on the bottom line, the strain on the training department, and the relationship between turnover and a central station’s culture.

The redeeming point from the post was the author’s statement that supervisors, rather than accepting a lack of continuity as inevitable, should instead take steps to better understand why people are leaving, and resolve to change the culture before more operators are out the door.

It’s a highly sensible approach to addressing the problem. But in the monitoring world, it’s easier said than done.

Steve Doyle, vice president and CEO of the Central Station Alarm Association, said turnover is a “perennial problem” for central stations, particularly when it comes to operator jobs, which are entry-level, often require late (or very early) “graveyard” shifts, and are seldom viewed as long-term career jobs.

Monitoring, of course, is not the only industry to encounter this problem. Traditional call centers, Doyle said, have an even higher rate of turnover. But while the issue may be native to the industry, there are steps central station managers can take to mitigate it.

Doyle said educational programs are a good idea. They can help operators “get a wider perspective of what they do, and how they relate to the authorities who have jurisdiction.” Recognition is another means of decreasing turnover, he said. CSAA, in particular, has been at the vanguard in terms of recognizing central station operators, particularly through its CSAA Excellence Award for Operator of the Year, which was recently presented for the eighth year running. But individual central stations can also present their own intra-company award.

Certifications and awards have become a source of pride and credibility for many central stations, not to mention a form of public outreach, Doyle said.

“If you go around to central stations and see certifications on the wall, what they’re saying to the public is that we didn’t just put somebody in the chair here,” he said. “We taught them the right way to do things.”

The takeaway from my conversation with Doyle was that even a problem as persistent as central station turnover can, to some extent, be curtailed. 

Activist Ackman eyeing ADT?

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Is the activist hedge fund chief William Ackman planning to buy a significant stake in ADT? There’s been some speculations that that’s the case, and as a result ADT’s stock price was way up yesterday. It rose 5.2 percent, its largest gain in months.

Ackman runs $12 billion Pershing Square Capital Management. According to a Bloomberg report, Ackman is raising money over the next 10 days to buy a stake in an unnamed “large-capitalization, investment-grade U.S. corporation that principally operates in one business.”

That information is from a letter that Bloomberg said Ackman sent to investors. He also said the stock trades at a lower multiple than its closest competitor and described the business as “simple, predictable, and free-cash-flow-generative, and enjoys high barriers to entry, high customer switching costs and substantial pricing power.”

The new fund will be capped at $1 billion and will invest alongside the New York-based firm’s main hedge funds, Bloomberg reported. Pershing will invest about 15 percent its $12 billion worth of capital in the same stock, “meaning the total investment could approach $3 billion. The firm, which already has a position in the stock, plans to buy more than 5 percent of the company and will talk to the board and management to bring about change.”

I’d like to hear some speculation about what kind of change Ackman might have in mind. I called Sarah Cohn at ADT, who said that the company does not “comment on market rumors or speculation.”

And this is all speculation, of course. Shares of FedEx were way up yesterday too, as some investors were betting that Ackman is looking at FedEx and not ADT.

Will keep you posted.

More news about IR spinoff; new president named

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

IR announced in December that it would spin off its security division, and earlier this month announced that the spin off would be called Allegion, On Monday announced that David Petratis will serve as CEO, president and chairman of it security spinoff, Allegion.

Petratis, who will start his new job on Aug. 5, will join Allegion from Quanex Building Products, where he is currently CEO, president and chairman. Quanex, based in Houston, is a manufacturer of building products.

IR CEO Michael Lamach called Petratis an “accomplished leader in the manufacturing and marketing of code-compliant, high-value products that are specified by architects and engineers, and used by commercial and residential builders,” in a prepared statement.

Previously, Petratis was COO and CEO of Schneider Electric North America from 2003-2008, where he “grew its North American operations by more than $2 billion, doubled its revenue and completed several successful acquisitions.”  From 1994 to 2003, he was president of MGE UPS Systems Americas.

On Monday, Allegion also revealed its new logo.

Allegion will share IR’s headquarters in Swords, Ireland, but its operations will be based in Carmel, Ind.

Allegion, a $2 billion company, will have 7,600 employees in 35 countries including 20 production and distribution facilities.

Senate Immigration Bill: On to the House

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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Fifteen days after the Senate passed S. 744—the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act—the House Republican caucus will hold a meeting to discuss immigration, just as the House prepares to tackle its own legislation, should it follow through on Speaker John Boehner’s plans to scrap the Senate bill. The meeting, which will be private, is slated for Wednesday, July 10. 

The Senate bill, which passed 68-32 on June 27, would earmark about $46 million to bolstering security on America's southern border over the next decade. The border security portion of the bill includes some large-scale provisions, most notably the installation of monitoring technology along the southern flank, the construction of an additional 700 miles of new—and higher—fencing, and a substantial increase in the number of Border Patrol agents.  

Also included in the sprawling piece of legislation—it’s nearly 2,000 pages in length—is a measure that would require foreign workers to carry biometrically verifiable ID cards, which include a photo and a fingerprint.

Last week I spoke to Marcus Dunn, director of government relations for the Security Industry Association, who said he was encouraged by this inclusion, and optimistic that even if the House does its own immigration bill, biometrics would remain part of the equation. 

In our conversation, Dunn made a strong point regarding technology-based measures included in mammoth—and often polarizing—pieces of legislation like the Senate Immigration bill. Such measures, he said, have the advantage of being less emotionally charged than, say, debates about paths to citizenship, employment implications and wages. So, should the House take its time crafting piecemeal immigration reform, it’s not unrealistic to imagine a technological solution preceding a policy one.

Testament to the relative emotional neutrality of some of the security measures can be found in the amendment package, proposed a day before the bill passed, by a pair of Republican Senators: Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and John Hoeven, R-N.D. Many of the aforementioned provisions were contained in their eleventh hour proposal, and several commentators have credited the amendment as a key reason the bill gained enough bipartisan support to pass. It doesn't seem like a stretch to say that the security portion of the bill was crucial in allowing the Senate to function as it's supposed to: like a political "cooling saucer," a chamber where cooler heads prevail and compromise can be struck. In an era defined by deep ideological fissures in Washington, these things cannot be taken for granted.

With political pressure mounting to get some kind of legislation passed, the meeting scheduled for Wednesday bears close watching. Will Speaker Boehner backtrack on his statements about the House doing its own legislation, or stand firm? Will the Senate bill be jettisoned, or does it have more support in the House than many think? For my part, I'll be looking for what lawmakers have to say about that $46 billion figure. Stay tuned...

AISG goes after energy vertical

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Monday, July 8, 2013

American Integrated Security Group, a mid-sized integrator with big plans for growth, is at a tradeshow this week called Intersolar North America showing off its remote monitoring services and other tech it has to offer the energy and solar industries.

The show starts today and runs through Thursday at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.

Founded by Honeywell vet Levy Acs in 2007, IASG did about $18 m in revenues last year and Acs told me in March that he had $27 million in the pipeline for this 2013. His goal is to grow the business to a $50- to $100 million business. Here’s a story I wrote about the company in March.

In that interview, Acs talked about the solar power market being a major vertical focus for AISG. The company is also working to break into a different energy vertical—nuclear power plants. Specifically, AISG aims to protect nuclear facilities that are owned by those same solar energy companies.

A company statement noted that solar facilities are “typically located in isolated geographic areas with little or no ambient light sources, solar farms are highly vulnerable to vandalism, theft and terrorism.” IASG already does a fair amount of work with solar power companies. The company statement said it “secures 2 out of every 3 MW of power generated through solar in North America.”

In a prepared statement, Acs said: "The security solutions we design for utility scale solar sites [IP video/intrusion systems with remote video monitoring] provide a high level of security and allow users to gather both operational and critical security data, customize how data is received, and make informed decisions based on the information gathered from these systems.”

Stay tuned for an interview I did with Acs for ssnTVnews at ISC West, where he talks about the expansion, expected to be “all organic growth—no acquisitions.” I’ll be posting the video this week.

 

 

Vivint gets new CIO

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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Vivint has a new chief information officer, Todd Thompson, who hails from the hotel and airline industries, the company announced today.

Another home security giant also just hired a new CIO. The ADT Corp., based in Boca Raton, Fla., recently tapped Kathleen McLean, a former telecom exec, as CIO.

But while the position of CIO is a newly created one for ADT, that’s not the case with Provo, Utah-based Vivint. The Vivint CIO job that Thompson is stepping into was formerly held by JT Hwang, who will become chief technology officer, focusing on the development and integration of the company's products and platform, the company said in a news release.

Thompson will be responsible for companywide information technology functions, Vivint said.

Vivint President Alex Dunn said in a prepared statement, “Supporting our culture of innovation with advanced technology and effective processes has always been a priority, and Todd's experience in IT leadership will be a huge asset to our business.”

One thing both ADT’s McLean and Vivint’s Thompson have in common is that each comes from outside the security industry.

According to the Vivint news release, Thompson most recently "was CIO for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, where he led the team that implemented the industry's first new-age reservation system, drove initiatives to enhance revenue and the guest experience, and streamlined the IT function." Prior to Starwood, the company said, Thompson was CIO for JetBlue Airways and before that led consulting practices for SBI.Razorfish and Arthur Andersen Business Consulting.

“Vivint presents a lot of exciting advantages from a technological perspective,” Thompson said in a statement. “As a company, we have the opportunity to do things that have never been done before, and we want to do the same thing with information technology. We, in IT, are committed to continuously helping reimagine our business so it's more effective than anything else out there as we contribute to the company's future success.”

Thompson holds a BS in computer science and an MBA from Brigham Young University.
 

Greetings!

 - 
Tuesday, July 2, 2013

For my “Monitor This!” debut, I’d like to use this space to introduce myself, now that I’ve completed my switch to associate editor at Security Systems News.

My name is Leif Kothe, and I’ve covered the security industry since September 2012, when I joined SSN as web editor. In that capacity, I covered—and learned about—most facets of the security industry, while also writing for other trade journals at United Publications, not all of them security-related. The position was as edifying as it was unfocused. As associate editor, I welcome the opportunity to zoom in on the central station side of things. And I am equally eager to cover the legislative topics of most relevance to the industry.

My wish is to make the transition as seamless as possible. In the interest of continuity, you'll find that we’ve kept many things the same. The blog has retained its title, it occupies the same spot on the homepage, and it will still cover topics germane to central station alarm monitoring.

With that said, I encourage those in the monitoring space not to hesitate to reach out to me, whether to offer news leads, or to simply introduce yourselves. In my brief time covering security, I’ve found the industry nothing but welcoming, and I look forward to exploring the industry further and hearing your stories in the process.

New CEO at IQInvision; Tsourides adds to team

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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A couple personnel moves caught my eye recently—at video company IQinVision, and at access control provider Matrix Systems.

Today, IQinVision announced that it's board has appointed Charles Chestnutt president and CEO. Chestnutt has served as interim CEO since January 2012.
 
“I am grateful for this vote of confidence in the direction that our company is heading. IQinVision will continue on its current growth path designing and manufacturing the high-quality products that we are known for by our thousands of customers around the world,” Chestnutt said in a prepared statement.
 
Charles Chestnutt has been with IQinVision since 2002.

And, last week, Matrix Systems, which recently named Holly Tsourides CEO, appointed  Kirk Newell to the newly created role of Demand Generation Manager, where he will "oversee outbound and inbound marketing activities, and strategically plan for new growth opportunities to better support the sales team."  Newell reports to Tsourides.
“This role is the first of several planned hires in Matrix's aggressive growth strategy. Whether clients are considering upgrade options, trying to stay current on future trends or learning how to maximize their current Frontier solution, Matrix is developing a comprehensive toolkit of innovations and personnel to help them succeed every step of the way,"  Tsourides said in a prepared statement.

Newell previously served as VP, Sales and Marketing at ALACAD, one of the nation’s largest Autodesk value-added resellers.

Homicide, home security and pro football

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

It’s not often that a news story involves a homicide, a home security system and a professional football player, but such has been the case over the past week regarding New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez.

Actually, I should say former tight end, because the Patriots released him today after he was arrested and charged with the murder of Odin Lloyd, a semi-pro football player, according to a report from The New York Times. Police took Hernandez from his North Attleborough, Mass. home this morning in handcuffs, according to the report. Hernandez' home security system has provided crucial evidence in the case, the report said.

Lloyd, a 27-year-old semi-pro football player for the Boston Bandits, was found shot dead June 17, about a mile from the home of Hernandez. Officials have ruled the death a homicide, and The New York Times story says Lloyd was shot five times. News reports say that Hernandez was friends with Lloyd, who reportedly was dating the sister of Hernandez's fiancée.
 

Authorities say home surveillance videos show Hernandez was with Lloyd the night he died, according to The New York Times story. Here's more from that report:

 

Prosecutors said home surveillance videos taken from Hernandez’s house show him in possession of firearms before and after Lloyd was killed, that Hernandez was observed picking Lloyd up at 2:30 a.m. on the night he was killed, that a silver Nissan Altima — the same make of vehicle Hernandez had rented — was seen going to and coming from the site where Lloyd’s body was found and that Hernandez was seen exiting his vehicle with a gun at his home at 3:29 a.m., shortly after authorities say Lloyd had been murdered.
Prosecutors added that .45 caliber shell casings found at the scene matched shell casings found in the rental car after Hernandez turned it in.
“The defendant orchestrated the execution,” an assistant district attorney, Bill McCauley, said. Lloyd, he said, was shot five times.
One of Hernandez’s lawyers, Michael Fee, called the case against him “weak” and “circumstantial.”

 

 

 

Remote doormen: No jacket required for RMR, but mind your data

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Does anyone remember Carlton, the heard-but-never-seen doorman from the forgettable ’70s sitcom “Rhoda”? Little did anyone realize it, but the character was destined to become a model for RMR more than 30 years later: a remote gatekeeper providing access without the need for actual flesh and blood at the doorway.

Carlton and his real-life colleagues have increasingly given way to remote doorman service, with access granted after audio and video review by a central station operator. Depending on the technology that has been installed, the operator can also escort a person through the building after allowing entry. It’s typically safer and cheaper than a 24/7 doorman, and it negates the need for mindless chitchat.

The problem lies in the recording of the encounter, or more specifically what can happen to the data after the encounter. A security company generating RMR from a remote doorman needs to know what regulations are in place to govern the surveillance and what can happen if they don’t meet the letter of the law.

Industry attorney Ken Kirschenbaum took on the topic in a recent online missive that serves as an effective primer for anyone looking to dip into this stream of revenue. Here’s a bit of what he had to say:

The service necessarily has to be concerned with state video and audio laws. Video laws vary; some are rooted in voyeurism laws and others refer to using another’s picture for commercial gain. Audio laws are more similar and are either one-party consent or all-party consent. 

“As with any video or audio system or services, you run the risk of misuse. You also can’t escape the likelihood that other non-consenting people may be in the range of the equipment. For example, while escorting the mailman or the pizza delivery guy in the building, the operator may pick up video or audio of a tenant or others in the corridors or lobby. While the mailman may understand that he is talking with an operator who can see him on video, others [who] may be picked up and recorded are not so advised, and in any event have not consented.

“The real problem is not in the listening or recording, but in the improper use of the data. If data is not disclosed to anyone, then no one is the wiser. It's when the data [becomes] public or it is used for an improper purpose—such as blackmail—that you need to be concerned with violation of the video and audio laws and the consequences that flow from such improper conduct.

For more information on the audio and video laws that could affect your company, click here.

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