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Monitronics nabs pair of Stevies

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Highlighted by the marquee acquisition of Security Networks, 2013 was unquestionably a strong year for Monitronics. It appears 2014 is starting the upswing as well.

Monitronics turned in an impressive haul at the latest Stevie Awards, reeling in a pair of Bronze prizes at the eighth awards show for sales and customer service. For the second consecutive year the third-party central station won in the Contact Center of the Year category, according to a news release from the company. The company was also honored in the Front-Line Customer Service Team of the year category.

The awards were presented at a gala banquet at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, the release noted.

On March 11, a pair of Monitronics leaders is slated to speak at the Piper, Jaffray Technology, Media & Telecommunications Conference held in at the Le Parker Meridien in New York.

Bill Fitzgerald, chairman and CEO of Ascent Capital, the holding company that owns Monitronics, and Michael Meyers, CFO of Ascent and Monitronics, will speak at the conference. According to an Ascent Capital news release, management may make “observations regarding the financial performance and outlook of both Ascent and Monitronics.”

In the wake of a big year for Monitronics, this presentation from management could be worth a listen. A live webcast of the presentation will be made available on the Ascent Capital investor relations website.

Digital Watchdog's plans for ISD

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Updated March 5 with interviews with DW's Wade Thomas and Ian Johnston of ISD.

Whenever a big company like Digital Watchdog acquires a start-up like Innovative Security Design (ISD), as happened earlier this week, a common concern is whether the acquired company will be allowed to continue to innovate. Executives from both DW and ISD told Security Systems News, there’s no need to worry.

Most companies want an acquisition to “assimilate into [its] culture, revenue and business model,” Wade Thomas, Digital Watchdog president told me. “We want to let ISD do what they do best and give them runway to grow.”

Digital Watchdog, a privately held manufacturer of video surveillance products, on March 3 announced that it had acquired ISD.

ISD will remain an independent entity within DW, and it will continue to work with OEM partners.

ISD was founded by Ian Johnston, former CTO of IQInvision, in 2012. Here's an interview I did with Johnston when he launched the company. ISD turned some heads at ISC West last year when it introduced its netSeries camera—the first IP camera that uses Microsoft Windows as its base operating systems. Here's an interview I did with Johnston about the netSeries camera last May.

This week, Johnston said that most of ISD’s suitors were established IP camera companies, were he would have to “go in and change their minds and break up their notions of what an IP camera is.”

In some ways, ISD is more of a “design house or solutions factory so-to-speak,” Johnston said. And, DW will let ISD continue that way. “DW has great manufacturing experience and depth that will help us be price competitive,” he added.

It will also allow ISD to “build inventory and be attractive to really large companies that are looking to partner with us on an OEM [basis].”

DW's products include: IP and analog cameras, DVRs, NVRs, software and apps. It has been in business since 1987. In addition to its corporate office in Tampa, Fla., it has an office in Cerritas, Calif. It will keep ISD’s office in Irvine, Calif. Its business is concentrated in North and South America and has about 75 employees in the United States.

DW has engineering and manufacturing facilities in Seoul, Korea. Its products are assembled in the U.S., however.
Thomas declined to release terms of the deal.

Business optimization at ASG

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Aronson Security Group, the Seattle-based systems integrator, is putting more resources into its Business Optimization Center.

The integrator announced this week that Nigel Waterton has been promoted to SVP of Corporate Strategy and Development for ASG. in this new role, Waterton—who was a speaker at TechSec 2014 on the topic of big data—"will guide the value proposition for ASG’s professional services, engineering, implementation, and performance that their management teams fulfill."

In a statement, Phil Aronson, CEO of Aronson Security Group, said: “Our growth demands another layer of leadership to identify and lead existing and future senior leadership. As well, Nigel will be extending and evolving our new Business Optimization Center which is a key foundation to our business model.”

ASG's Business Optimization Center helps security executives create a "Common Operating Picture" for their security program. ASG takes a look at the end user's the current operation to "understand the gaps between the as-is and to-be vision."

The next step, is to “establish a roadmap that guides the strategy, execution, measurement and budgeting of the program as it evolves over time,” Waterton said in a statement.

Waterton served in the British military for 16 years before he started working in the security industry in 1996.

Congratulations to Nigel!

Vivint says 2013 banner year for new subscribers

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The number of Vivint's net new subscribers in 2013 was 219,034, the most in the company’s 15-year history, Vivint President Alex Dunn told investors this week at the J.P. Morgan Global High Yield and Leveraged Finance Conference. APX Group Holdings, of which Provo, Utah-based home automation/home security company Vivint is a subsidiary, presented at the conference on Feb. 25.

According to information on the presentation provided by the company, Dunn presented Vivint to investors as a key player in a “large, growing and recession-resistant industry” with a “unique and differentiated sales model,” according to the company.

Vivint estimated its market share in 2013 was on par with Monitronics’—with each having a 3 percent share. Only three companies had a greater share than those two: ADT, with 21 percent; Tyco with 6 percent; and Stanley, with 5 percent, according to Vivint’s estimates.

Dunn said that average RMR per Vivint new subscriber was $58.35, compared to average revenue per subscriber of $53.05.

Direct sales accounted for about 77 percent of new subscribers for the door-knocking company but Vivint's growing inside sales program was responsible for the other 23 percent, the company said.

Dunn also said Vivint’s RMR was $42.2 million and that revenues were up about 10 percent and that attrition was 12.8 percent.

In an APX Group Holdings conference call in November, Dunn reported similar Q3 results and the numbers he discussed Tuesday also trended positive.

The publicly traded Blackstone Group bought Vivint in 2012 in a deal worth more than $2 billion.

In other news, Vivint today named Nike veteran Jeff Lyman as its chief marketing officer. “As CMO, he will lead marketing and communication initiatives that elevate Vivint's brand awareness and drive adoption of its security, home automation, and energy management services,” the company said.

Before his promotion to CMO, Lyman was Vivint's vice president of consumer experience and previous to that had spent about 10 years at Nike.

I’ll be talking more to Jeff next week. Stay posted.

DirectView explores legal marijuana vertical

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Though 18 states had previously legalized marijuana for medical use, it was the pair of initiatives passed in Colorado and Washington that legalized the substance recreationally that seems to have made the security industry more attentive to what kind of possibilities lie ahead in this new and rapidly expanding market.

It’s not difficult to see why. Those operating dispensaries and growing facilities will require security solutions for many of the same reasons an end user at a jewelry store would: They have to protect hundreds if not thousands of lightweight and expensive consumer products. End users will likely pull out all the stops on an integrated solution, relying on motion detectors, sensors, access control, dozens of cameras with status monitoring and, perhaps for larger storage facilities, virtual guard tours. Because the industry is in its nascent stages and still very much evolving, it’s difficult to forecast what the industry will look in even five to ten years from now.

New York-based DirectView Security, a provider of onsite and remote video and audio surveillance solutions and a subsidiary of DirectView Holdings, recently announced in a news release that it’s entered into “early stage discussions with several marijuana industry companies to provide a number of potential video surveillance and access control solutions.”

Though in many states marijuana laws are becoming more lax, the substance remains illegal under federal law. This adds an interesting wrinkle to the current security landscape in connection with this market. Federal pressure on banks has made it extremely difficult for pot dispensaries to get loans. As a result, they’ve had to rely primarily on cash, making them an even bigger target for robbers than they already were.  

It’s been well documented that ADT last year made a policy decision not to sell security systems to businesses engaged in the marijuana industry because it’s still illegal under federal law. It’s conceivable that other companies both large and small will also take that approach. But it will be interesting to see what companies take the reins in the market and to see to what kind of impact it will have on business.

In the news release, Roger Ralston, CEO and chairman of DirectView, expressed a good deal of optimism about doing just that: “Having worked to provide security products and solutions for large hotels and several banks, we have a strong understanding of complex security needs and how to provide the most cost-effective solutions,” he said, adding that he views the new market as “strong growth driver for our business in the coming years.”

AT&T’s Digital Life starts 2014 with market expansion

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

It hasn’t been a year yet since AT&T in April 2013 launched Digital Life, its home security/home automation product, but the telecom has lost no time in making the professionally monitored, professionally installed service available. As of this Friday, Digital Life will be available in a total of 63 markets around the nation.

The company will launch in four new markets that day: Albany, N.Y.; Dayton, Ohio; Grand Rapids, Mich.; and Wichita, Kan., according to an AT&T news release.

As of Feb. 21, customers in those markets can receive a live demonstration and buy Digital Life in company owned retail stores or make the purchase online. The company has 1,378 retail stores around the nation where the product is available, AT&T said.

The Dallas-based telecom had set a goal when it first launched Digital Life to have the service in 50 markets by the end of 2013, but surpassed that goal this past October.
And AT&T is predicting even more growth for Digital Life in 2014.

Kevin Petersen, president of Digital Life, said in a prepared statement: “This year is going to be exciting for AT&T Digital Life and the connected home industry. We’re going to expand our footprint and add features to the platform while being aggressive in the market to show customers how convenient it is to control your home with our easy-to-use technology.”

Also this year, the release said, “AT&T Digital Life joined the AllSeen Alliance, a nonprofit consortium dedicated to driving the widespread adoption of products, systems and services that support the Internet of Everything with an open, universal development framework supported by a vibrant ecosystem and thriving technical community. The alliance is a broad cross-industry consortium aimed at advancing adoption and innovation in the “Internet of Everything” in homes and industry.”

According to the news release, “AT&T Digital Life makes customers’ lives easier by simplifying the management of their home, offering security, convenience and peace of mind, in a customizable and easy-to-use experience from a smartphones, tablet or computer.”

Packages for Digital Life range from Simple Security, for $29.99 a month plus $149.99 for equipment, to Smart Security, for $39.99 a month plus $249.99 for equipment. Automation packages, such as camera or energy packages, can be added to the Smart Security for an additional monthly cost.

IQ Certification elects new board

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Members of the IQ Certification Program recently elected officers at the organization’s first meeting of 2014. While there’s considerable continuity from years past (several members earned reelection), the board of directors also reflects some changes, highlighted by the appointment of Lynn Comer as chairperson.

Another change was the election of Don Childers, COO of Statesville, N.C.-based Security Central, to the IQ Board. Earlier this week I spoke to Don about some of the key priorities for the certification program moving forward. Childers said that, as with any association, exploring ways to boost membership remains an overarching objective.

“We have to show the value of what we’re doing, then determine how to get the message out en masse so that those in the industry better understand what we’re trying to do,” he said.

One strategy for doing just that, Childers said, is leveraging big-name industry events—he cited ESX as an example—to hold sessions that perform the double-task of educating prospective members while promoting the business value of being IQ Certified. An education chair at ESX, Childers said he would be in favor of including a 60 to 70 minute seminar at the show.  

As far as other goals with the organization, Childers said he may suggest ways to streamline some of the application paperwork for the certification program, making it easier for non-central station members, whose application process tends to be more involved. Besides that, Childers’ near-term aim is to examine IQ Certification membership “from the business owners’ point of view” and to continue “learning the job as I go along.” 

Security Networks of America makes a change

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Friday, February 14, 2014

Security Networks of America has changed its name.

The organization of 36 independent security companies is now "NetOne." Together, the 36 companies serve 775,000 customers throughout the U.S. and Canada. The group "shares best practices and compare performance to ascertain the most effective methods of giving customers what they need—and projecting what they may need in the future." Among other trends, the group "foresee[s] a rapid expansion of the remote interactive services our companies offer."

In an announcement, SNA managing director David Carter said: "The name acknowledges that we function as a network, reflecting the unity of purpose of our member companies —sharing information and expertise to foster best practices and evaluating new technologies, so their customers are provided with a broad range of solutions to meet their expanding security needs and improve business operations.”

The name change is also an acknowledgment that times have changed since the group was founded way back in 1988. In a prepared statement SNA chairman Scott Elkins, CEO of UAS in Philadelphia said: "Customers want to control facilities and systems remotely, and they want to be able to use the operational insights they gain from these systems to manage their companies more efficiently and effectively."

Verizon getting out of home security?

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

It was big news in 2011 when Verizon got into home security/home automation with the launch of its Home Monitoring and Control service, which did not have a professional monitoring component. Now there’s an even bigger buzz because it has now apparently discontinued the $9.99 per month DIY product.

Verizon this past October stopped accepting new orders for the product, although it is continuing to let existing FiOS subscribers continue with it, according to the FierceCable website.

I haven’t heard back from Verizon yet, but I have some questions. Does this mean that Verizon is getting out of home security and home automation?

Or perhaps it’s just dropping home security and will offer a new stand-alone home automation product? There’s some precedent for that. I reported last year that Comcast last year was offering Xfinity Home Control, a home management package for customers who don’t want security but do want home automation. That offering is distinct from Xfinity Home Secure, a product that has professional monitoring.

It’s not clear what Verizon’s latest move portends but FierceCable did report this:

“Verizon officials suggested that the telco may introduce a new home automation product, but wouldn't say if the company is considering adopting a wireless-based approach similar to AT&T Digital Life.”

I’ll continue to follow on this story. Stay posted.
 

HID reportedly paid $60m for Lumidigm

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Updated 2/13/14

Identity solution provider HID this week made its second purchase in a month, buying fingerprint biometric provider Lumidigm.
In January,  HID announced that it had purchased IdenTrust, a provider of digital identities.

The Albuquerque Journal is reporting that HID paid more than $60 million for the biometric company. Through a spokesperson HID said that because this is a "private transaction" the company would not comment on the purchase price.

I was not able to speak to Jeff Kessler at Imperial Capital about the deal. (Imperial advised Lumidigm,) but I did get a look at a research brief Kessler published on Feb. 12, where he said this deal "continues to put distance between Assa Abloy’s HID Division and the competition in the way of interoperable, identity solutions for government and enterprise users."

Here's more from Kessler's brief:

In our opinion, Assa Abloy has made a concerted effort to become the undisputed leader in higher technology access control and identification solutions for not just enterprises and institutions, but for Government as well—the latter is an area in which it did not have a lot of traction until 2011. However, a series of acquisitions have turned the company into the leader in this segment from a revenue perspective. This is unlike Safran (which purchased L-1 in 2010), which is primarily involved in registration and border identification. The challenge remains for Assa Abloy and HID to integrate these acquired technologies and companies carefully, to let some of the more creative sectors provide both competitive advantage to Assa Abloy, yet still remain the leading providers of software and identity solutions to other companies in the industry as well.

Founded in 2001 and based in Albuquerque, N.M., Lumidigm has 33 employees. Its 2014 sales are expected to be $25 million, and the deal is expected to be accretive to earnings per share, according to HID parent company ASSA ABLOY.

Common problems with fingerprint biometrics include that fact that the technology will not work in harsh environments or when peoples’ fingers are dirty. In addition, some peoples’ fingerprints are simply not detectable. Lumidigm’s technology overcomes these problems, HID said, with its patented “multispectral imaging technology [that] uses multiple light spectrums and advanced polarization techniques to extract unique fingerprint characteristics from both the surface and subsurface of the skin.” The technology is also highly effective in detecting “imposter or ‘spoof’ fingerprints,” according to HID.  

Lumidigm’s products are used in verticals such as banking, healthcare, entertainment, and government services. HID is also interested in Lumidigm’s “premier global customer base,” HID CEO Denis Hebert said in a prepared statement.  

The opportunity for HID, according to a statement from Bob Harbour, executive chairman of Lumidigm is: “to apply multispectral imaging capabilities to credential acquisition and authentication, gesture recognition, and other image-based process control systems, making multi-factor authentication on a single, integrated device a reality.”

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