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News with Securus' buyers

 - 
Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about Securus and the two companies that acquired its assets.  

Securus, a company focused on GPS tracking and PERS, was divided and sold in two parts in the first quarter of 2015. The PERS side of the business was sold to Freeus, a newly founded sister company to AvantGuard, formed for the purpose of acquiring this part of Securus. BrickHouse Security acquired the GPS business.

I find this interesting lately because BrickHouse yesterday started a Kickstarter to fund the development of mBand—a new mPERS solution designed for independent women. 

The mBand is taking an interesting approach to the mPERS device: making it into a ring, instead of a bracelet or pendant. At the time of writing this, 53 “backers” have supported the idea with $8,900.

Securus has also been on my mind because I was just speaking with Freeus’ GM Brock Winzeler about how the company has done in the year after it’s acquisition of Securus PERS business. The company has more than doubled the customer base since the purchase. You can read more about that here.

Hey Siri ...

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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The other night while activating my new phone, my son overheard me setting up the voice-recognition feature, dutifully repeating the set-up phrase, “Hey Siri,” which prompted sarcastic questions from him like, “Hey Dad, are you sure you know how to do that?” and “You want me to help you set that up?”

And while his ribbing was good-natured, he got me thinking about how his post-Millennial generation is growing up in a world where automation and voice activation—in all aspects of life—are expected and even sought out. And not just for asking where the closest vegan restaurant is or the best recipe for lasagna.

In fact, findings from a recent Home Automation Report from the Connected Intelligence Division of the NPD Group, a market research company, found that nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of smart home product owners used a smartphone to control or monitor their home automation devices. Additionally, 73 percent of smart homeowners already use voice commands, with 61 percent of those consumers expressing an interest in wanting to use voice to control more products in their homes.

With the rise of home automation products and services on the residential side, combined with the ever-increasing need for homeowners to have complete control over their systems, dealers and installers find themselves scrambling to keep up with the current pace of technology.

In my discussions with security dealers leading up to ISC West in Las Vegas next week, voice technology and integration is at the top of most of their must-see lists on the tradeshow floor. They realize that residential consumers today are starting to take a serious look at the capabilities of the connected home, especially if they can control it all with an app and the sound of their voice.

And with new players on the resi side now offering DIY and home-automation options and services sans the need for a security system, dealers today need to move swiftly to compete for the smart home market, while effectively imparting to their customers that the two—home automation and security—should be mutually inclusive.

With smart home technologies changing the way homeowners look at security and home-automation, dealers also need to have a staff that is trained to have the right answers for today’s tech-savvy customer.

If they don’t, there are others who are eager to move in and provide that answer and solution, by way of a security system or otherwise.

 

Eidola, created for integrators to ensure cybersecurity

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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

YARMOUTH, Maine—Have you heard enough about cybersecurity dangers for physical security integrators and manufacturers?

Here’s a new, and perhaps more welcome, angle of the cybersecurity story.

At the Interoperarability Fest on Wednesday night, April 6 at ISC West, you'll be able to see "Eidola." Click here for time and location.

What's Eidola? It's a technical automation and security system lifecycle management platform that’s designed to help integrators and installers secure their installations from the testing and installation stage through the maintenance stage. And it’s also designed to be used to generate RMR for integrators.

Eidola is a new product from IDmachines that “manages the lifecycle of a security solution from a cybersecurity perspective,” Sal D’Agostino, founder and CEO of IDmachines told me. "Eidola checks the make, model, firmware versions and other detailed device information, as well as strength of the device’s connection (authentication) on the network."

D’Agostino is an entrepreneur who has “always been involved in automating things.” He is the former EVP of Core Street and CEO of Computer Recognition Systems, Inc.

D’Agostino said “the complexity of security systems is growing astronomically and there’s a huge skills gap in terms of networking and cybersecurity skills.”  Today’s security systems include “IP-connected devices of all shapes and sizes on the network … you’ve [also] got network gear and stuff on virtual machines,” he said.

D’Agostino has said before that security integrators should “be deploying security solutions not vulnerabilities.” Eidola helps ensure this, he said.

Eidola can be used to test the configuration of a system’s components, and it also provides “a real live sandbox that can emulate an enterprise network,” D’Agostino said.

After that’s done, Eidola can be used to document IP addresses/MAC addresses and ports, so the integrator can deliver “more than just as-built drawings,” D’Agostino said. The integrator can give an end user a document that outlines the “state of the network." The integrator “get a sign-off by the customer on the documented system delivered that can be used again during the operation and maintenance lifecycle.”

This documentation is useful for the end user and integrator and can help identify problems in the future.  

Because Eidola can be used to check on the health of a security system, it can also be used to capture RMR, he said.

Andrew Lanning, co-founder of integration firm IST, said Eidola will be a very important tool for IT-savvy integrators working in enterprise environments, but its greatest value may be for a security company installer who is not an IT expert.

Those installers are adept at using a multi-meter to test voltage levels. D'Agostino describes Eidola as a "multi-meter for the 21st century." Lanning agrees, saying at its most basic level, Eidola is “really a network multi-meter that can let the installer know that a network is sound,” he said.

The roll out of Eidola is underway. It will be “generally available in the next 30 to 60 days” to a select group of integrators. The roll out will include “training, technical training and business model training on how to sell the product,” D’Agostino said.

The integrator will get an Eidola kit and a licence to resell Eidola as a service. “There are a number of different ways in which the product can be monetized by the integrator,” D’Agostino said.  

The Eidola kit has five components: 1. a high-performance, rugged industrial computer with multiple network connections, serial ports and digital I/O that provides the sandbox for the integrator or user's test environment. "This computer can also be left behind in those cases where longer term or harsh environmental testing requirements exist," D'Agostino said. 2. a portable field device (the 21st century multimeter) that also has network, serial and digital I/O. but on a smaller scale. 3. a set of connectors and cabling for easy installation and testing. 4. a travel case 5.training and documentation
 
D'Agostino said that the first two items "have an ad hoc wireless network that can connect to any Wi-Fi supported device, typically a smartphone or tablet, which provides an easy-to-use, push-button interface for performing the diagnostic, configuration and viewing and sharing the reports."

A broader roll out of the product is planned for later this year.
 

Calling all monitoring companies at ISC West 2016

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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Although it seems hard to believe, ISC West 2016 is fast approaching and now less than two weeks away. I’m currently working on my schedule for show floor meetings and it is filling up pretty quickly.

As I was last year, I’ll be making my way around the show floor and trying to visit with as many monitoring-related companies as I can. If your company has new developments with its monitoring center, or simply wants to tell me about your approach for the rest of 2016, feel free to reach out to me. My direct phone line is 207-846-0600 ext. 254, or you can send me an email at sives@securitysystemsnews.com.

If your company is more residentially focused, you might want to reach out to our new managing editor, Paul Ragusa, at pragusa@securitysystemsnews.com. Or, if your business is commercial or systems integration, email SSN editor Martha Entwistle at mentwistle@securitysystemsnews.com.

Last year was my first ISC West, actually my first security industry trade show—which some called “a baptism by fire.” It was great to meet a lot of companies at one time, and this year I look forward to checking in and seeing the latest with each of you.

One thing I know I’m headed to is the Security 5k on Thursday morning, April 7, benefiting Mission 500 and founded by Security Systems News. Shuttle busses will leave from the Sands Convention Center Taxi Ramp between 6:15 a.m. and  6:45 a.m. Speaking from experience last year, it was great to get off the show floor and the strip for a little be and have some fresh air. Feel free to register here, and keep an eye out for the new SSN team shirts (photo on left). I hope to see plenty of you there!

Smart homes—all is not golden?

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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

While the “smart home” may be a vision of the future—with the rise in interest and demand for these technologies and services continuing unabated—all is not golden in this quickly emerging world of interconnectedness. Potential concerns include cost, ease of set-up and self-service, and support services.
 
Following data released in December by Argus Insights that shows growth in consumer demand for connected home devices slowing in 2015, findings from a recent survey reveal the specific challenges consumers are facing.

SSN reported on a June 2015 study from Argus, “Connected Home or Ho-Hum?” that showed a similar downward trend for smart home services, although many in the industry disputed the report, and many leading smart home companies are showing increases for 2015 in the adoption rate for their smart home interactive services.

As the industry continues to show interest in, and adopt the myriad new smart home services now available—controlling everything from your lights and heat to tracking your sleep patterns and even when your toast is done—there still may be some growing pains for this quickly emerging market.

To gain a better understanding of these challenges and explore possible solutions, Support.com, a provider of cloud-based software and services, surveyed more than 3,000 U.S. consumers in an effort to look at drivers and barriers of smart home usage and consumer behavior for both smart homeowners and potential buyers.

While nearly a quarter of respondents (23 percent) indicated that they have a smart home system installed in their home, the survey found key areas (cost, ease of set-up and self service, and support services) that may be causing some challenges or obstacles for existing and potential new consumers.

Despite the enhanced value to a home, the survey found that the perceived cost of smart home systems is a deterrent for many consumers, with 42 percent saying that price was their greatest frustration when purchasing, installing and maintaining their smart home systems.

The complexity of installing and configuring smart home systems is also frustrating users and causing hesitation in potential buyers. The survey found that 31 percent of smart home owners struggle with the complexity of setup, configuration and ongoing support for their devices, while 18 percent of smart home owners said their biggest frustration is when all of the devices don’t properly communicate and work together, and 43 percent of potential smart home buyers are concerned about the complexity of installing and configuring smart home devices and systems.

According to the survey, of current smart home owners, 61 percent want to fix issues on their own and become frustrated if they can’t, and 57 percent installed, connected and set-up all the devices and services themselves to save money on installation. Of potential buyers, 39 percent would rather install, connect and set-up all the devices and services on their own and save the money, and 22 percent would not buy a smart home system because they perceive it would be too complicated to install and set up on their own.

So while these findings are showing some hesitation as consumers try to make sense of the potential this new world of interconnectedness has, they also point to the need for security dealers and installers to connect more with their customers—and potential new customers—to bridge that gap between their interest in these new smart home technologies and their fear of taking the leap into this cool new world of interactive services.

By addressing these concerns up front, and adding some more transparency to the overall process, companies and installers may find that this initial resistance to smart home technology and services gives way to understanding and wider acceptance and adoption.

 

MIT, Cambridge Public Schools talk security in education

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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

On Tuesday, I moderated a discussion in Cambridge, Mass. with MIT security director Tom Komola; Cambridge Public Schools security director John Silva; Brad Baker, president of Quincy, Mass.-based integration firm FTG Security; and two technology providers, Jumbi Edelbehram of Oncam Grandeye; and Jacob Hauzen of Genetec. The event is designed to create a dialogue about the risks that today's educational facilities face and how those risks can be mitigated. We had a few introductory slides to start the event including the one below, which really illustrated the importance of these kinds of discussions. 

The map above shows locations of school shootings in the United States in the past year. The red tags are shootings with multiple fatalities; the yellow tags are shooting with one or no fatalities.  One year.

We had a great discussion about the challenges of securing a world class university like MIT and how that task is similar in some ways and very different in others to securing a large, diverse urban school system like the Cambridge Public Schools. Komola and Silva both talked about the importance of collaboration with different department and entities inside and outside of their schools.

In addition to working with school administration and staff, Silva's team works closely several local- and state public health and safety departments to coordinate the best security program for 14 different schools. The team also works closely with the city council and school committee. Technology is relatively new in his security program. Four years ago, Silva didn't have any cameras in the schools. Today, he has more than a hundred cameras, mostly thanks to government grants, and more camera and access control are planned. His challenges, like most public school districts, include resources, both financial and in terms of staff. He also has to keep parents and the community informed about how the security measures benefit students and staff. 

Silva's program may be just getting started in terms of technology, but it's highly organized and many-layered, and far ahead of most public school systems of comparable size in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. 

In comparison to a K-12 public school, MIT has many resources, financial and otherwise. However, Komola points out that his security program has scaled very quickly. Seven years ago he had a couple hundred cameras. Today, he has more than 1,800. Komola stands out among security directors that I've talked to in the past in that he said he has a "great relationship with the MIT IT department." The two departments collaborate daily and support each other in getting tech projects planned and implemented. Moreover, Komola said it's been that way since they started the security technology program years ago. Perhaps the key to that working relationship is that both security and IT report the same executive (the highest ranking non-academic exec at MIT) and they're expected to work together.

Komola told a funny story about MIT students hacking an access control system. Fortunately, the students then showed him where the weakness in the system existed, so he could correct it. 

FTG's Brad Baker talked about how integrators know that the success of projects ride on IT and security working together effectively. Early on in meeting with customers, he "takes the temperature" of the customer's IT deparment to see "how they feel about physical security." He's fortunate, he said, that FTG's sister company, FTG Technnologies, is a telecom solution provider. This is something that makes an end user's IT folks comfortable.

What's on the Komola and Silva's technology wish lists?  Komola said he wants analytics and smart cameras. "I'm looking for technology that does the work, that's foolproof." Silva is also interested in smart tech, but he also needs "the budget to cover it."

Asked about where technology is going, Oncam's Edulbehram talked about the growing importance of analytic alerts for access control and video. Mobility--being able to access security system information from your phone or other device--is equally important. It's critical, he said, to have "mobile apps across the board for security systems." He also said that cloud technology is the wave of the future.

Genetec's Jarrod Fullerton echoed that sentiment. Big data, from video and other sensors, needs to be processed, and "the only place that can analyze all that data is a big private data center or the public cloud."

The event also included some cool technology demos from Oncam Grandeye and Genetec. Oncam makes 360-degree cameras. The cameras take a photo-in-the-round that looks like a normal fisheye shot, but the cool thing is seeing different elements of the photo "dewarped", straightened out so it looks like a normal photo.

Tuesday's event was the first of three OnCampus Security Symposiums. Two more events are planned: one in Chicago and one in San Jose, Calif.

 

 

Rapid Response plans new building

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Local news source Syracuse.com recently reported that Rapid Response Monitoring is looking to expand its presence further in Syracuse with plans submitted for a new three-story building. The company is currently working on a 35,000 square-foot expansion of its headquarters, to be unveiled this spring.

Security Systems News has reported on Rapid's rapid growth previously. Here's a story about the expansion of the headquarters.

The report said, “The state has agreed to provide a $1 million grant through Gov. Andrew Cuomo's regional economic development council initiative to assist with the building's construction. According to Rapid Response, the 41,000-square-foot building will cost an estimated $8 million to build and approximately 50 jobs will be created.”

Contacted by Security Systems News, Rapid Response declined to comment on the project at this time.

The building will be mixed-use, according to Syracuse.com, with offices and residential space. “The plans filed with the city Planning Commission show offices and a restaurant on the first floor, offices on the second floor, and offices and three apartments on the third floor. Rapid Response would occupy a portion of the building,” Syracuse.com reported.

The new building will be about a two-minute walk from the company’s current headquarters. Rapid acquired the space in 2014, the report said.

Meeting at ISC West

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

With ISC West 2016 right around corner, my calendar for appointments is starting to fill up fast! As this is my first show as managing editor of Security Systems News, I am excited to connect with as many industry folks as I can, and learn as much as possible about the residential side of the business, which is my primary focus. To that end, I encourage you to reach out to me in the coming week to set up a time to visit your booth, or to meet and talk about the industry.

I know from my past experiences at key industry trade shows, that events such as ISC West provide an invaluable setting to meet face-to-face with people that we have developed relationships with over the years, or are just meeting for the first time after numerous conversations on the phone and email correspondences that, oftentimes, serve as our first informal introductions. But, as many of you know, it is vitally important in today’s ever-changing industry to take advantage of every opportunity to meet with peers and other industry professionals in this type of forum.

In addition to the valuable ‘schmoozing’ that goes on, I am eager to see first-hand how new technology, products and services are helping to shape and transform the industry, as well as meet with manufacturers and vendors who work closely with our readers—the security dealers and installers—to help them provide their customers with the best security and services as possible.

In addition to setting up appointments for the show floor, SSN editors, including me, will be doing short video interviews on the SSN stage outside the exhibit hall, as we have in past years. These video interviews provide a unique glimpse into the ISC West show experience from the attendees’ perspective, and I encourage you to reach out to me if you have something new and unique that you would like to talk about or share.

See you in Vegas!

Email me at: pragusa@securitysystemsnews.com.

 

Cybersecurity, the big theme of ISC West 2016?

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

When we did an educational session at TechSec 2014 about the possibility of security systems falling victim to an APT (advanced persistent threat), cybersecurity wasn't something we heard about every day at Security Systems News. Here's a link to a story about that educational session.

Times have changed. As we do advance ISC West show reporting this year, cybersecurity is cropping up over and over again.

A standard story we do each year is about the biggest booths at ISC West. Here's a link to the story, which is in our newswire today. Spencer spoke to three of the largest exhibitors for the story. Asked what they'll be talking about in Vegas, two of those exhibitors, Hikvision and Axis, are leading with their cybersecurity efforts. The third, Hanwha Techwin (formerly Samsung Techwin), is focused on its new name first, which makes sense. However, Hanwha's Tom Cook said cybersecurity was an important topic of discussion at the manufacturer's recent dealer meeting and said it's a topic the company will be talking more about.

We've continued to talk about cybersecurity at TechSec in 2015 and 2016.  This year we had Rodney Thayer at TechSec and at Cloud+ talking about cyber, both sessions were highly rated by attendees. Thayer is an excellent presenter—super knowledgeable and amusing too. He's leading an educational session at ISC West called "Cybersecurity: Three steps to counter external attacks on physical security systems" on Thursday, April 7,  from 3:30 - 4:15 in Casanova 603. My guess is that it will be a worthwhile session to attend.

Security Systems News has been on this story for more than two years, and we'll continue to keep you informed. If you hear of any particularly impressive or interesting cybersecurity efforts or stories, please let me know. I can be reached at mentwistle@securitysystemsnews.com

ESX 2016 sessions look at key topics for central stations

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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

ESX recently announced its educational tracks for its 2016 show; Run Your Company, Grow Your Business, Maximize Your Central Station, and Rethink the Future. At the end of 2015, I wrote about the biggest trends of the year for monitoring, and I see quite a few of those topics coming up in the Maximize Your Central Station track at this year’s ESX.

ASAP to PSAP had a big year last year, with the announced involvement of big names like ADT, Vivint and Stanley. On June 9, ESX has a session on the program, called “ASAP to PSAP - The Game Changer for the Central Station.”

Cloud came up quite bit last year too, with IBS, Dice, and Bold Technologies each announcing a cloud-based central station platform. The session   “The benefits and limitations of cloud storage in a central station environment,” and, “How UL-827 will impact you and what will be required to secure your technical configurations.”

Other topics sound new and intriguing. Lela Panagides, founder and CEO of Leap Into Leadership, will present a two-part session on “The Art of De-stressing Your Central Station.” The first part will address “How to Know When Your Team Needs a Chill Pill,” and the second will seek to give attendees “The Healthy Workplace Toolkit.”

The complete list of sessions in this track, as well as the others, is available on ESX’s website, www.esxweb.com.

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