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Chinese fire manufacturer to target U.S. market from new $30m plant in Quebec

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Fire alarm manufacturer Maple Armor is investing nearly $30 million to build a new plant near Montreal, from which it intends to target the U.S. market, the company announced this week.

The full name of the company is Solutions D'alarme Incendie Maple Armor Canada and it’s a division of Beida Jade Bird Universal Fire Alarm, which is a subsidiary of the Chinese company Beida Jade Bird Group. Maple Armor’s plan to build the plant in Saint-Bruno, on Montreal's South Shore, is making big news in Canada because it’s one of the first Chinese companies to invest in manufacturing there, a company news release says.

A Quebec government agency, Investissement Québec, is contributing $4 million to the cost of the $30 million plant—with a $1 million grant and $3 million in interest-free loans, according to The Gazette, a Montreal newspaper.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the plant took place yesterday, Aug. 19, and the plant, which will have 70 employees, is expected to open by the end of 2015, the company said.

According to The Gazette, a Montreal newspaper, the plant “will build components for fire alarms, such as control panels, sprinklers and heat and smoke sensors.”

Interestingly, about 70 percent of its products initially will be shipped to China because of a strong demand for certified alarm products there, according to the company and news reports.

The Gazette said a major reason the company chose to build in Canada is that it “has a certification process that meets stringent international norms for the alarm systems.”

The plant would cost more to build in China because the process for certifying fire alarm systems is complex there, the newspaper said. Also, The Gazette said, by building in Canada, the Chinese company is eligible for NAFTA.

But the company made clear it plans to expand into the U.S. market. The Gazette reported that Maple Armor simply found it easier to build in Canada. Here’s what the newspaper had to say:

“Weimin Cai, president of Beida Jade Bird Universal Fire Alarm Devices, told The Gazette that the company is indeed targeting the U.S. market, but that Quebec offered more of a sure investment perspective.

“We think we can meet the U.S. demand from here,” Cai said. “China’s relations with Canada are very good, but sometimes China-U.S. relations suffer.

“So I think this is a better investment climate.”

In the company’s news release, Zhendong Xu, chairman of Beida Jade Bird Group, said, “We wanted to set up operations in North America to develop a new product line that meets the highest industry standards. Considering the ease of access to new markets and the presence of a highly qualified labor force, we are pleased to pursue our growth here in Quebec.”

I’ll be reporting more on this story. Stay posted.

 

SecurTek offers sky miles

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Having written a report this week about SentryNet’s latest campaign to encourage dealers to add accounts and sell new services (while giving them the chance to earn tickets to a cruise), I came across news of another monitoring company making it a bit easier for dealers to do their jobs.

SecurTek, based in Yorkton, Saskatchewan, is offering customers air miles through a recently unveiled partnership with AIR MILES Reward Program. When customers sign standard monitoring contracts, they can now top-up their loyalty rewards tally to earn miles, according to a company statement.

New customers can earn 50 reward miles upon signing a 36- or 60-month contract, and then can earn an additional 50 reward miles on their contract anniversary date if they remain SecurTek customers.

Whether at events put on at industry tradeshows or through promotional campaigns, central stations go to great lengths not only to make dealers feel appreciated but to ensure they’re equipped with the knowledge they need to thrive in the current climate. It’s no surprise. In a boundary-less, IP-based environment where more and more centrals are looking to vault from regional players into national ones, competition is going to increase. As a result, central stations are going to explore new ways to engage dealers and stand out against competitors.

Idaho AG: Door-knocking company must reform sales tactics

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I’ve written before about how ADT filed not just one, but two lawsuits against Orem, Utah-based Vision Security, accusing the door-knocking company of scamming customers. And I’ve also written about how Vision Security contends it is being unfairly targeted.

Now, a new settlement Vision has reached with the Idaho Office of the Attorney General paints a picture of Vision sales reps engaging in unfair sales practices in that state.

I reached out earlier this week to Vision attorney Sean Brown for that company’s comments on the settlement but I haven’t yet gotten a response.

However, according to the office of Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, Vision reached a settlement with that state after being accused of violating Idaho's Consumer Protection Act.

The settlement requires Vision “to implement significant changes to the way its sales representatives interact with Idaho consumers,” according to a July 18 news release from the AG’s office. Also, consumers who paid extra fees because they were scammed may be entitled to a refund from Vision if they submit a complaint form to the AG’s office by Sept. 8, the release said.

Here’s more of what the AG had to say in the release:

"The purchase of a home-security system is a significant investment and consumers should feel safe knowing that the people selling them are providing truthful and honest information, without hidden fees or misrepresentation," Attorney General Wasden said.

Consumers reported to the Attorney General that Vision Security's door-to-door sales representatives misrepresented the terms the company's security system contracts, and that representatives failed to fulfill their promises to "buy-out" consumers' current security system contracts.

Consumers often ended up paying monthly monitoring fees to two companies or paid large termination fees to cancel one of their monitoring agreements. Additionally, Vision Security's door-to-door sales contracts failed to provide consumers with accurate information about the time allowed to cancel contracts.

The settlement requires Vision Security to make several changes to how it does business in Idaho. For example, the company's sales representatives:

*Must wear identification that includes the sales person's name and affiliation with Vision Security.
*Must inform the consumer of his or her three-day right to cancel the agreement.*Must not tell consumers that their current alarm monitoring company went out of business or is affiliated with Vision Security.
*Must not misrepresent the number of security systems Vision Security has installed in the consumer's neighborhood or misrepresent that a consumer's home is located in a high-crime area
 *Must not misrepresent the condition or operability of the consumer's current security system.
 *Must not promise to "buy-out" a consumer's current monitoring agreement.
 

Hmmm…this list reads a lot like some new revisions the Electronic Security Association made to its code of ethics this summer in response to some new sales scams that ADT and other companies have complained door-knocking companies are using.

 

 

Security Electronics completes backyard account purchase

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Security Electronics, a home and business security company based in Muskego, Wis., near Milwaukee, recently purchased the accounts of Milwaukee Dynamic Security, a company headquartered on the north end of the Milwaukee metro area.

In a news release from the Davis Mergers and Acquisitions Group, which assisted Milwaukee Dynamic Security in the transaction, Don Larson, founder of Security Electronics, suggested the backyard account purchase will unite a pair of like-minded companies with similar regional roots.

The companies are also compatible on the technical level.  

“We both are in the same central monitoring facility and use much of the same equipment,” Larson noted in the release.

Jim Veith, owner of Milwaukee Dynamic, will remain with the company during the transition period, after which he plans to retire, the release noted.  

In the coming days I plan to connect with personnel at Security Electronics to discuss the implications of the deal, and how the backyard account purchase fits into the company’s near- and long-term strategies.

BRS Labs to get new CEO, build cloud facility, do IPO

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

BRS Labs has a full plate in the next month--it's working on finding a new CEO, finding a spot to build its own cloud facility, and it's prepping for an IPO.

BRS Labs is a provider of “self-learning behavioral recognition software," which its sells as an enterprise software solution, for monthly lease, or as "software-as-a-service. BRS Labs president John Frazzini recently announced during a Fox Business News interview that the company--(which he said he has a stake in) would be doing an IPO.  In a news release, the company today announced that the search is on for a new CEO who will take charge of the IPO process.

It is also planning to move its headquarters to a new location in Houston and plans to build a cloud storage facility in that location.

The goal is to raise funds to move into more vertical market segments, the company announced today.

I hope to catch up with Frazzini at the ASIS show next month to get an update on these initiatives.

BRS Labs was founded by Ray Davis in 2005 and Davis has served as CEO since that time. He is stepping down as CEO but role will continue as chairman for the immediate future and will head up the search for a new CEO. Davis said in a statement that he will concentrate his search in Houston.

“The company plans to find a Houstonian who understands the value of a public company in this market, and who has previous operational experience leading a company through the process of going public,” according to a company statement.

BRS Labs’ is known for its AISight platform, an “artificial Intelligence-based analytics solution that teaches itself to recognize and alert on suspicious or unexpected behavior within massive volumes of data.”

In a prepared statement, Davis said he’s “always loved building and running companies and have done so for thirty-five years. Based on the growth we have experienced here at BRS Labs, the time is right for us to take the company public, and we need to bring in an individual who has expertise in this area. I will continue to serve in my role as Chairman until that person is comfortably in place and positioned to take BRS Labs to the heights we know it is capable of reaching.”

BRS Labs says it “owns an approximate 60 percent share of the video analytics market.”

It recently expanded into Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) industry for oil and gas as well as other Smart Utility Grids.

Further expansion into other vertical markets is planned. One of the reasons the company plans to go public is “to raise funds to expand into Information Security, Building Management Systems, and other big data applications.”

“Our Artificial Intelligence-based technology has dominated the initial market we applied it to: video analytics,” Davis said in a statement.

“It is now time to take this proven technology and address the other serious safety and security issues facing the world today. …We need to rapidly and simultaneously move into these new vertical markets to explore the many ways in which our technology can be used, while expanding our footprint in existing markets.”

 Davis said that access to public funds “will position us for simultaneous penetration into these markets and allow us to expand the company while producing exponential returns for our investors.”

BRS Labs currently works with third-party cloud providers, but it will provide in-house cloud storage to its customers once it moves to a new location in Houston.

In addition to its headquarters in Houston, BRS Labs has offices in Washington, DC, London, Sao Paulo, and Barcelona.

 

Honeywell: New voice programming system saves time for installers

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

It should only take about four minutes for installers to program and activate AlarmNet communicators with Honeywell’s new Interactive Voice Response system. And it’s available 24/7.

That’s what Donna Namorato, channel manager for Honeywell Security Products Americas, announced today in a post at Honeywell’s The Security Channel Blog.

Here’s more of what she had to say: “Honeywell Security Technical Support is now providing an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system for you to use to program and activate new AlarmNet communicators. The automated, voice-prompt service enables faster, more effective programming and activation of AlarmNet communicators, saving you valuable time and letting you move on to the next installation sooner.”

“With the new system,” she added, “the average usage time is only four minutes since there is no more waiting for a live operator to complete the programming process.”

Namorato said the IVR lets installers “activate a SIM, check SIM activation status and program a device for registration to an AlarmNet account.”

Honeywell describes its AlarmNet network as “a family of communications services designed specifically for the security industry.”

For more information on the IVR and how to access it, check out Namorato’s blog post.
 

Systems Depot gets new president

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Distribution news this week: The Systems Depot has hired Scott Hay as president.

Scott is out of the office this week, but I expect to interview him next week. Hay comes to The Systems Depot from Protection 1, where he was operations manager for North and South Carolina. He's been in the industry for 20 years and has also worked at Iverify as director of installation. He was also the  founder and owner of Custom Automation and Security in Dallas, N.C.

In a prepared statement, Hay said that The Systems Depot is building a “National Technical Sales Center in Hickory for hundreds of associates and outfitting it with the latest in technical hardware, training tools, work stations; all designed for employee productivity and comfort.”

“The National Sales Center will be reaching out to more than 15,000 companies in the US,” the report said.

“When these in-house advancements are coupled with the broad product assortment currently provided to dealers and integrators nationally, and with our Depot Express same-day delivery, we are positioning ourselves for strong and sustained growth,” Hay said.

I look forward to getting more information about specific growth projections and plans from Hay when I speak to him next week.
 
Founded in 1996, in Winter Park, Fla., The System Depot moved here in 2000 after a series of mergers. It has locations in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, West Virginia and California.

Dynamark, Videofied form partnership

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Dynamark's adoption of Videofied is a further sign the company’s monitoring aspect, more than three years into its renaissance, is continuing to cement its presence in the central station space.  

The company is offering dealers video verification alarms through Videofied’s platform, allowing them to purchase and install the service through Dynamark’s product division, or add the platform to existing installations. The latter alternative will be welcome news to dealers, who have the opportunity to upgrade existing customers drawn to video verification.

In a news release, Dynamark president and CEO Trey Alter said both the product and the monitoring are available to the dealer through the same program. “This makes tech support and sales support virtually seamless, and that makes life easier and more profitable for our dealers,” Alter said in a prepared statement.

Dynamark Monitoring, launched in 2011, last year acquired Dayton, Ohio-based Security Services Center, which brought 40 alarm companies scattered across Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky into its dealer network.

Later in 2013, the company also launched its partner program, a newly created unit led by Hank Groff, SVP of sales, designed to propel the company from a regional to a national player.

In the coming days I plan to get the skinny on the company’s new video verification effort, and to hear what else might be in store for the resurgent Hagerstown, Md.-based central.

Protection 1 on the block?

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Home security giant Protection 1 is up for sale for more than $1.5 billion, according to a Reuters news report this week.

GTCR, the private equity firm that bought Protection 1 in 2010 for $828 million has asked Morgan Stanley to help in the sales effort, the news service reported Aug. 4.

I’ve reached out to Romeoville, Illinois-based Protection 1 for comment on the report, which Reuters ascribed to unidentified sources.

Protection 1 is one of the largest full-service business and home security companies in the United States. As of the end of 2013, it had 1.5 million customers and $28 million in RMR, an increase of nearly 8 percent over the previous year, according to published reports. Revenues exceeded $429 million.

By contrast, home automation/home security company Vivint—which was acquired by The Blackstone Group in 2012 for more than $2 billion—ended 2013 with more than $42 million in RMR, an increase of 23 percent over the previous year. Provo, Utah-based Vivint, which has more than 800,000 customers, had in excess of $500 million in revenues in 2013, according to published information.

Stay posted. I'll be updating this story as I get more information.

 

Speco woos integrators with IP savvy

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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Speco Technologies, a video surveillance manufacturer based in New York, may be best known for its analog solutions, but it is well into IP-based technology these days.

Today, Speco counts 25 of the largest and most sophisticated independent integrators in the U.S as its valued resellers, with Protection 1 as one of its marquee customers.

These are relationships the Speco management team has actively pursued. And, their pursuit of integrators has just begun, they say. The company’s sales, engineering, marketing, training and management are eager to talk about what they’re doing daily to increase the number of security systems integrators who turn to Speco for easy to use, innovative IP-based video technology.

I visited Speco this week, got a look at their headquarters in Amityville, the manufacturing and training operation and had a chance to hear Speco executives talk about their strategy.  

In business since the early 1960s. Speco is a privately held business owned by the Keller family. The company went private on Sept. 10, 2001, the day before the horrific events of September 11, 2001.  

Todd Keller, Speco president and owner, said the business employs about 100 people. In 2008 it broke $100 million in revenue, today it’s “headed back to about $85 million” in 2014 revenue. The company is selling more products, but prices for many products have come down.

All of its products are assembled here at its headquarters in New York and most everything is engineered here or “outsourced in America.” Keller and other management believe that being family-owned gives Speco an advantage over corporations. "We have the flexibility to pursue ideas, to engineer, innnovate, design," TJ Dickson, VP sales and marketing said, adding that Speco constantly tests and evaluates, and re-evalutates its products. It does the same with competitors' products, he said.

It has a warehouse in Amityville and a new warehouse in Reno, Nevada which it opened in April. This new warehouse houses $3 million in inventory and enables Speco to get products to distributors in the west much more quickly and inexpensively.

Corporations use "voice of the customer" Dickson said. "They hear the customer, but I'm not sure they listen to the customer." Because Speco is not a giant corporation, it is able to implement changes quickly, he said.

Speco is well known for some signature products: two way audio; Digital Deterrent; inventing (Keller says) the bullet camera; its wall-mounted DVR. It's also known for private labeling its products for customers large and small. Keller said he'd much rather have an installer's name on a product than Speco's name, saying that if they sell more "Speco wins."

Speco is also well known for its "Intensifier" technology, which several years ago made it possible for analog cameras to "see" in the dark and low light conditions. This September Speco is planning an "all out blitz" to launch its Intensifier technology built into HD IP cameras, according to Peter Botelho, EVP and GM at Speco Technologies.

"It will be a very aggressive launch aimed at a target group of integrators," he said. Botelho said Speco has taken its time and "worked to get it right." Some competitors have similar technology, he said, "but it doesn't perform like ours and when you add [Speco's lower] price point, this is a potential big win for us in IP," he said.

Speco also last week released its SecureGuard Plus, a VMS that "provides access to multiple DVRs, NVRs and IP cameras for remote viewing, playback and other functions." It does not have licensing fees. Botelho said that SecureGuard Plus is "all American programming, American processing, and an All-American idea" that was developed with input from the SecureGuard User Group, which consists of 15 to 20 integrators.  He called SecureGuard Plus "a VMS with some serious plans to take it way beyond [the traditional] VMS." Future versions of this software will "have special features and integrate with some things that we believe others haven't thought of."

Where's Speco heading in terms of software engineering? Developing software that "runs all peripheral devices and does something with the all the data that's collected," Botelho said. "We are well positioned to move into that space," he said. Why? "More than anything we have a management team that has the ability to understand what's really happening at the installer level. ... and that comes from listening," Botelho said.

Speco "listens" in many ways. Its Tech Support department takes between 300 and 500 calls per day. At the end of every month, Speco takes the top 10 issues its Tech Support department has dealt with, assesses those issues, solves them with other department input if necessary and "turns them into a positive," Keller said.

It does the same thing with the products themselves. Speco has a 2 percent rate of return and defective rate of less than a half a percent. All of the returned products are assessed as well. If, for example, a number of products have been returned because they've been damaged by a lightening strike, this may not be a defect, but this is good information for Speco engineers to have as they design a newer version of the product, Keller explained. 

Speco also "listens" to its customers during training sessions. It has invested significantly in bringing its dealers to its headquarters for training. This year it has done more than 100 trainings so far in 2014. It has had 10 different distributors, dozens of independent integrators and all of Protection 1's national account managers to its headquarters this year.

Trainings held at the headquarters are the most effective, Dickson said, because Speco has a chance to talk about the company as well as the products.

Botelho said he also sees the trainings as "built-in focus groups" where engineering, marketing or sales people can learn what Speco customers are looking for.

However, it's important, Dickson said, to be able to execute on what you learn from customers. He said Speco can do this and cited a recent example of an integrator who wanted a special feature on its wall-mounted DVRs, a button that would flash and alerting a local store manager to push the button to download video. "We had it done, designed and the software written within a week. They were blown away," Dickson said.

 

 

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