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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.
 

Milestone IPO? Other MIPS news

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

I’m in Orlando for the Milestone Integration Platform Symposium (MIPS), the VMS provider’s annual partner conference.

One of the first topic addressed: Will Milestone be doing an IPO anytime soon? You see, an UK-based publication here reported as much.

Milestone CEO Lars Thinggaard said going public is something Milestone may do and it “will be great if it ever happens,” but that the company “had not decided to do that.”  He declined further comment on the topic.

Founded in 1998, Milestone is based in Copenhagen, Denmark. It reported 2012 revenues of  $55.3 million 19.5 percent over 2011), EBITDA of $9 million (up 16 percent), and net income of $2.2 million (up $23 percent).  In 2012 the company invested $9.6 million in R&D. In 2012 it had 350 employees, Thinggaard said yesterday Milestone now employs 400.

In his opening address to the crowd—which numbers about 350 and includes integrators, manufacturer partners and folks from Milestone—Thinggaard talked about the forecasted growth for IP video surveillance and how Milestone is set up to take advantage of growth opportunities. He reviewed the company’s organizational set up—which was changed last year to include: the Professional Business Unit for lower complexity systems; the Corporate Business Unit for highly complex systems; and the Incubator Business Unit, which is based in Silicon Valley.

Thinggaard said IP video is in its third stage of growth right now. The first stage was the move from analog to digital, the second was video integration and the third is “video enabling. ... the business optimization processes that video is enabling.”  He cited, as an example, the medical school at St. Andrews University in Scotland, which is using a Milestone system as the basis for a new learning technology system called MedVu. It's a video capture system that the students use to “record, delete, share, bookmark and present video evidence of key practical medical experience in the areas of clinical and communications skills. …MedVu is also being used by the school’s post graduate researchers to gather and analyze evidence.”

Eric Fullerton, Milestone chief sales and marketing officer, said that video is becoming “mission critical.”  Video “adds value to the bottom line, it can be a significant profit generator, companies cannot live without their video working,” he said.

Further, he said that Milestone’s ability to bring multiple manufacturers together “is adding more value to end users than one company [one of those manufacturers] can do alone.”
Some companies try to “get vertical” or proprietary, he said. “We try to maintain horizontalization … to partner with the best of class.” It may be easier to partner with just one vendor, but then “you lock yourself into [proprietary] jail.”

Cheolkyo Kim, president and CEO of Samsung Techwin, gave a talk and then spoke to reporters afterwards. He said that Samsung Techwin believes it can be the number one IP camera globally by 2016, (the company is currently between number three and four.)

Bernhard Shuster, EVP Bosch Security Systems, also spoke to the group about how Bosch is making a radical change from closed to open products.

MIPs featured three panel discussions, all worthwhile: one with camera manufacturers, one with access control providers, and the best of all—and I am not being facetious here—was a panel discussion among five storage providers. Ken Mills of EMC; Duke Duong of HP; Dave Taylor of IBM; Dick Cecchini of Seneca; and, Scott Sereboff  of Veracity

Storage? Yup. All eyes were on the stage during this storage discussion.

It was lively from the first question: Why should the integrators in the audience really care about storage?

What you store is the most important piece of security, said Veracity’s Scott Seraboff.  Duke Duong of HP said “it’s all about protecting your data … [the actual storage] is just one component.”  Taylor said, the real value of your system is “when your first event occurs [and it needs to have been properly stored]."

There was  a lot of disagreement about the value of RAID storage.

There was one uncharacteristic point of agreement during the discussion when Dave Taylor, of IBM, was asked about the cloud. He said that, for some applications the network infrastructure necessary to move video to the cloud is prohibitively expensive. For some, cloud is not going to be the right option. A “hybrid capability is where we see cloud going in the future.” None of the other speakers disagreed. 

Taylor, by the way, said earlier in the discussion that your storage provider should also provide you with their home phone number.

More on the MIPS storage smackdown later, but the crowd did seem to appreciate a theme that Veracity’s Sereboff spoke to more than once: that storage has too many bells and whistles, what systems integrators want is storage that’s simple, easy and safe. 

Ohio city enacts alarm verification

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Plagued by an astronomical 98 percent false alarm rate for security systems, Akron, Ohio is following the lead of several other major American cities and introducing verified alarm response, according to a report from the Associated Press, and a news release from Sonitrol, an audio verification company.

The policy, adopted in larger cities such as Detroit, Las Vegas and Milwaukee, is simple: If an alarm goes off, a possible crime must be confirmed prior to law enforcement dispatch.

There are several causes of false alarms—outdated systems and installation flaws are among the most common culprits. But whatever the cause, the torrent of towns and cities taking measures to address them suggests that municipalities and police departments have had enough. In addition to being a budgetary drag, false alarms can potentially have dire consequences if they delay police response to more critical calls.

To some, enacting policies designed to confirm crime prior to police dispatch sets the stage for greater cooperation between the industry and law enforcement. But according to the AP report, not everyone is sold on these measures being the best means of ensuring maximum public safety. David Margulies, spokesman for the SIAC, was quoted in the report saying such policies are "basically putting the public in danger." To be sure, there is a fundamental tension between the need for municipalities to save resources by reducing false dispatch and certain ideas about the best policies for responding to alarms. In the coming days, I hope to gather some opinions on both sides of this debate.

I’ll be interested to hear how municipal measures to curb false dispatches through verification policies modify the demands of central station personnel on the ground level. As such policies become more widespread, how will the industry change? Does the future of monitored alarms involve video or audio verification becoming de rigueur?

Vivint becoming a broadband provider?

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Vivint prides itself so much on innovation that it has outgrown its new Innovation Center and is building a much larger one, as I wrote recently. Now here’s something else that the Provo, Utah-based home automation/home security company apparently is innovating on: broadband service.

According to Gigacom Research, Jeremy Warren, Vivint VP of innovation, mentioned this week that the company is trialing broadband in Utah, but provided few details.

What is known, Gigacom says, is that Vivint’s wireless broadband service costs $55 for 50 Mbps.

Here’s more from the Gigacom story, which was picked up by CNN Money:
 

[Jeremy Warren] said that Vivint is testing the service in Utah where Vivint is based, and that it uses a mesh networking topology as opposed to a traditional tower-oriented network design that many Wireless ISPs deploy today. He said the company is taking advantage of off-the-shelf radios and using unlicensed and “semi-licensed” spectrum in a variety of ranges including the 5GHz and 2.4Ghz range used for Wi-Fi.

… He believes Vivint can deliver competitive broadband at a relatively low deployment cost. “We have a nationwide field service arm and know how to talk to customers and acquire customers and service them,” Warren said. He argued that customer acquisition costs are a big expense of building out a network, and Vivint can sidestep those costs because it already has a customer acquisition infrastructure thanks to its distributor network.

With cablecos and telecoms getting into home security and automation, Gigacom concludes, “Why shouldn’t a security and home automation provider try its hand at broadband?”

Interesting question!

 

Reflections on the SSN NextGen panel

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The informative marathon that was the opening day of TechSec drew to a close with the inaugural SSN NextGen panel discussion, moderated by yours truly, which showcased the perspectives of four honorees from SSN’s latest “20 under 40” class. The discussion revolved around four areas of technology—video verification, cellular networks, mobile apps and interactive services—that the panelists identified as crucial points of focus with respect to the industry’s future.

As I mentioned in the introduction, the panel provided a good snapshot of the industry. There were representatives from the systems integration side and the alarm monitoring space, and we also heard from an IT director at a super-regional. Well versed across the spectrum of topics, the speakers were able to weigh in on industry topics that were even a bit outside the scope of their professions.  

Joe Parisi, senior account executive at Rapid Response Monitoring, led an in-depth discussion on the value proposition of video verified alarms, and how an awareness of that proposition should guide how a company deploys and sells the offering.

The discussion branched next into the related topics of mobile apps and cellular technology. Johnny Cunningham, IT director at ADS Security, reflected on some of the challenges of the industry’s reliance on cellular networks, and Robert Gaulden, VP of sales and marketing at Kratos, discussed the future of NFC technology and clarified some of the demands involved with Kratos’ NFC pilot project at Arizona State University.

Jesse Rivest, territory manager at Affiliated Monitoring, spearheaded the portion of the panel devoted to interactive services. He forecast an expanded array of automated functions entering the mainstream, marked by the continued (and unlimited) development of interconnected applications in the home and beyond that have yet to fully crystallize.

After the session, SSN “20 under 40” recipients were honored at the awards ceremony. Below is a list of those honored at TechSec:

-Jesse Rivest, territory manager, Affiliated Monitoring

-Joe Parisi, senior account executive, Rapid Response Monitoring

-Navin Goel, operations manager, Go Safer Security

-Stephanie Wagner, licensing and compliance manager; field operations training and support

-Ronda Meyer, VP/controller, Per Mar Security

-Robert Gaulden, VP of sales and marketing, Kratos

-Johnny Cunningham, IT director, ADS Security

-Michael Campbell, VP of global sales operations, Diebold

ADT, McAfee: Home security intersects with smartphone security

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

I recently wrote about ADT’s announcement that it is partnering with Internet security provider McAfee this year to offer customers a plan that not only protects their homes, but their digital devices and data. Now a recent survey on how not protecting your smartphone can impact your security at home highlights just how important such a partnership is.

ADT made the announcement about McAfee at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. Now, this week, ADT and McAfee released the results of the survey on how physical and digital security intersect in today’s world and how important it is for consumers to take steps to protect their online devices.

Their survey found that 39 percent of respondents “use technological devices to control their home security systems and 34 percent use smartphones to do so.”

But the survey of more than 1,000 consumers, which a press release said was commissioned by The Futures Company, indicated that about 51 percent of respondents “reported having their personal security compromised through both physical and online breaches.”

Disturbingly, however, the survey found that “respondents did not seem too concerned with protecting them, and many are comfortable sharing their passwords with others. Two in three smartphone users (67 percent) and tablet users (65 percent) report that they protect their devices with a password, yet nearly half (49 percent) admitted to sharing their password with at least one other person, risking their personal security and all the data found on their device.”

And, the press release said, “since over 33 percent of people use their devices to control to their physical alarm systems, and more than half of them fail to secure their devices with basic protection like private passwords, it seems our need for awareness in security is as great as the need for security itself.”

How will the ADT and McAfee partnership help?

Here’s what the companies had to say:
 

In the initial phase of the security collaboration, ADT will be bundling ADT Pulse, a complete security and automation solution that uses mobile technology, with McAfee LiveSafe, an award-winning data, identity, and digital device protection service. Together, the two services will provide an additional layer of protection for a customer's home or business, accessible through any web-connected smartphone or tablet. The ADT and McAfee partnership will develop a cohesive platform where users can easily protect their digital and physical domains from a single and centralized, easy-to-use portal. Together, ADT Pulse and McAfee LiveSafe service will establish new security standards and best practices that protect homes, properties, data, and personal identities.

"We are constantly seeking ways to increase protection for our customers in an increasingly connected and complex world," said Arthur Orduña, senior vice president and chief innovation officer at ADT. "Partnering with McAfee adds another vital layer of security to our Pulse solution with McAfee LiveSafe service, and opens up innovation opportunities for our platforms and products."

 

TechSec panels showcase perspectives of young leaders

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Less than a week remains until TechSec Solutions kicks off in the comparatively balmy climes of Delray Beach, Fla. The location itself will be a welcome respite for those of us coping with the deep freeze to the north, but it’s the quality of the speakers and panelists that stand to be the biggest draw.  

I wanted to use this space to draw attention to a pair of Next Gen Security Series panels slated for the opening day, one of which I’ll be moderating. For the panel, titled “Security integrators’ perspective: The changing landscape of security integration,” I’ll be asking four members of SSN’s latest “20 under 40” class a range of questions focused on new and emerging technologies, all with an eye toward identifying what implications such developments have for the industry as a whole.

The panelists for my session will be Johnny Cunningham, director of information technology at ADS Security; Robert Gaulden, VP of sales & marketing at Kratos; Jesse Rivest, territory manager at Affiliated Monitoring; and Joe Parisi, senior account executive at Rapid Response Monitoring. Considering the range of professional responsibilities, the panel provides a pretty strong snapshot of the industry.

The other Next Gen panel will include “20 under 40” winners from SSN’s sister publication, Security Director News, and that session will be moderated by SDN editor Amy Canfield.

From Delray Beach I’ll be following up with more coverage on the Next Gen panels, while covering several other events in the TechSec program. I’m eager to meet some new folks down at the conference, and eager to hear what those at the vanguard think of the industry’s direction.

Surveillance video could tie ex-NFL star Hernandez to other murders

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Maybe it’s because Aaron Hernandez was so used to being in front of TV cameras as an NFL star that he came to ignore their existence. Recent stories about the former New England Patriots tight end suggest that he was pretty clueless about how surveillance cameras are virtually everywhere we go nowadays—and are making a record of what we do.

Now it appears that surveillance video links him to not only the murder of a good friend last year, but to a 2012 Boston drive-by shooting in which two men died and a third was wounded.

I’ve blogged here previously about news reports saying that security cameras in Hernandez’ Massachusetts home recorded him with a gun both hours before—and minutes after—his friend Odin Lloyd was shot to death last summer.

Hernandez has been charged with murder in the killing of Lloyd, a 27-year-old Boston semi-professional football player whom Hernandez was angry with. Texts from Lloyd’s phone indicate he was with Hernandez the night before his body, riddled with bullets, was found June 17 in an industrial park about a mile from Hernandez's home, news reports say. The Patriots released Hernandez after he was arrested shortly after the shooting, and he remains in jail.

Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to the 2013 murder charge, but authorities also have been looking into his potential involvement in the 2012 shootings one year earlier.

Fox News reported recently that a newly released search warrant says that Hernandez may have pulled the trigger in the Boston drive-by shootings.

Fox reported that a detective wrote: “There is also probable cause to believe that Aaron Hernandez was operating the suspect vehicle used in the shooting homicides of Daniel Abreu and Safiro Furtado, and may have been the shooter.”

Witnesses told police at the time of the Boston shooting that a silver or gray Toyota 4Runner or Nissan Pathfinder with Rhode Island plates had opened fire on the vehicle that Abreu and Furtado were in that night, Fox said. But police had little to go on until security cameras helped them, according to Fox.

Here’s some of what the Fox report had to say:
 

The first inkling that Hernandez could have been involved in the 2012 killings came after Lloyd’s death. A detective recalled recognizing Hernandez on surveillance footage from a nightclub the victims had visited shortly before they were shot on a highway overpass.”

… Then came Lloyd’s killing … and the possible connection to Hernandez.

Detectives went back to the video surveillance from the club Abreu and Furtado had been visiting and from other cameras in the area.

They located footage of Hernandez parking in a garage down the street from the club at 12:04 a.m. on July 16, 2012, according to the warrant. He was driving a silver 2006 Toyota 4Runner with Rhode Island license plates. The footage showed Hernandez and a man later identified as Bradley outside Cure Lounge a short time later. The two of them entered the club just after Abreu, Furtado and their three friends.

And although Hernandez and Bradley left nearly an hour before Abreu and Furtado, surveillance cameras captured a vehicle believed to be the 4Runner slowly circling the block as the two men and their friends walked to a parking garage to get their car.

The shootings of Abreu, Furtado and the other man were reported less than 15 minutes later several blocks from the club.

 

A different approach to PSIM

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

So, I was getting an update from Rob Hile, who is the new director of strategic accounts for SureView Systems, about his plans to drive business for the software provider. His plan is an interesting new take on the sometimes touchy topic of PSIM.

SureView, which has been around for 14 years, is fairly well known for its Immix software platform in the central station world, but Hile's goal is to expand Immix's horizons way beyond the central station world.

In the past two or three years the company "made a few tweaks" and the result is a "mid-market, situational awareness/PSIM solution ... that's cost effective, lighter, faster and cheaper [than other PSIM solutions]," he said. "It's cloud-based and it's dot.net, so it's super easy to install and you don't need to be a rocket scientist to operate it."

While high-end PSIM solutions allow an operator to "fly through buildings using a joy stick ... do you really want your guards in your SOC who are making $8 to $9 an hour flying through your building looking at graphics?" he asked. "No," he told me, answering his own question. What you want is a system that will allow the operator to handle an emergency quickly and efficiently and with the software, backed up by standard operating procedures, he said.

Well, in some applications, ports for example, you might want a joy stick-enabled PSIM and other bells and whistles, but Hile is betting that the majority of applications that could use this solution fall into the middle-market category.  Those include "cities and municipalities, higher education, Fortune 500 companies with multiple locations across the country that are doing acquisitions, pharmaceutical companies, retail, banking."

"The central station software has integrations built to 450 devices and about 65 manufacturers. We've got those done and the list is growing. ... and the licensing model is that you buy it and you can put in on as many servers and workstations as you want and we're not going to gouge you for that."

As he develops SureView's channel strategy, Hile will be working with large and mid-sized integrators--several of whom he's worked with or competed with previously. As an example, he'll be working with one large integrator's sales force (which numbers in the hundreds) educating them about SureView and helping them close deals when the time comes.

That sales force will be a "force multiplier" for SureView, Hile said. "If you're looking for a joy stick to fly through buildings, this is not the solution, but if you really want a user-friendly, cost effective solution to solve your challenge. I've got it. ... This is going to change the way PSIM makers go to market," he said.

Time will tell of course, but companies like SureView, that seek to change the PSIM model certainly bear watching.

 

 

 

 

Google gets into home automation with $3.2 billion buy of smoke alarm company

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

We wrote this fall about a new smoke/CO detector so smart it can talk to home residents and tell them if there’s a fire or dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. Now Google likes that detector—called Nest Protect—and other products made by California-based Nest Labs so much that it is buying the smoke alarm company for $3.2 billion.

The deal, announced this week, is Google’s second largest acquisition so far, after its 2012 purchase of Motorola, a mobile phone maker, according to news reports.

The Wall Street Journal reported this week that “Nest has the lion’s share of the nascent market for ‘smart’ thermostats and recently began selling smart smoke detectors.”

The WSJ also says, “Analysts and executives see Nest as a beachhead for Google to expand its place in the home.” Nest will retain its brand, according to news sources. It will be interesting to see what it and Google will do in the home automation space with Google's big bucks behind the effort.

Here’s more of what Nest had to say about its new detector back in the fall when it was released:
 

The Nest Protect detector speaks and gives users a vocal “heads up,” telling them what it detects before emitting an alarm. It can be silenced with the wave of a hand and will send messages to integrated mobile devices to ask for new batteries.

“We’ve all experienced the smoke alarm going off while we’re cooking or searched for the source of that incessant low-battery chirp in the middle of the night,” said Tony Fadell, founder and CEO of Nest. Fadell, a former Apple executive, said those annoyances lead people to trust their alarms less, or turn them off to stop the noise.

The company says studies have shown children sleep through beeps, but wake up to the sound of voices, so Nest Protect features a female voice alarm to help wake sleeping children.

Nest Protect senses heat, carbon monoxide and smoke levels as they rise to offer early warnings. The device shows its sensors and batteries are working with a green glow when lights are turned off. Multiple devices in a single home connect, sending alarms throughout the house when problems are detected.

 

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