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Connect America expands in Kansas

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Connect America, a multi-channel PERS and home medical distribution company based here, is growing its market presence in the central U.S. with its recent acquisition of Home Buddy, a Kansas based PERS and medical solution provider with about 4,000 subscribers.

“The goal is to grow that geography into Oklahoma, Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa … to create a large regional base of operations for the business,” Richard Brooks, president of Connect America’s Healthcare Division, told Security Systems News.

Home Buddy has been in business for about 10 years, Brooks said. “It’s one of the largest providers of PERS in Kansas.”

While Home Buddy does not deal with alarm dealers, Connect America does, buying PERS accounts from a network of Alarm Dealers across the country, according to Brooks. “They’re a steady, reliable part of our business,” he said. Home Buddy distributes through “Medicaid-type agencies,” he said.

Discussions of the acquisition between the two companies started in late 2015, he said, and the deal closed in early May. Terms of the deal were not announced.

Connect America intends to keep the Home Buddy name, Brooks said, because its well known in the area and has existing contracts under that name.

Brooks said that his main goal with the company is building its healthcare division. “We grow organically, we have a sales force nationally, and they are locally meeting people to obtain referrals for our medical alerts,” he said.


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

YARMOUTH, Maine—Security dealers have a new security threat to warn homeowners about: Teenagers and adults (yes, grown men and women) taking to the streets, on foot and in their cars, to capture Pokemon creatures with their phones, in and around your neighborhoods, your mailboxes (more on this later), your garages, your backyards—you name it.

If for some reason you have been living under a rock and haven’t heard, Pokemon is making a comeback in a big way, in the form of a location-based augmented reality mobile game, which means players can use the GPS and the camera on their phones to capture, battle and train virtual Pokemon who appear—superimposed—throughout the real world.

And while the smartphone app has become the most downloaded in the United States within three days of its release, stories are flooding in about the many security and privacy concerns the game raises.

Which brings me back to the story of the mailbox. A friend of mine posted on Facebook last night that a car full of teenagers driving around her neighborhood with their smart phones hanging out the car windows managed to crash into her mailbox while playing the game. The teenagers apologized saying, “Sorry, we were trying to catch Pokemon,” as if that was a defendable reason for smashing into her mailbox.

That one Facebook thread alone defines the new security concerns created by this game craze now taking hold. One person posted on that same Facebook thread how she found teenagers in her garage looking in and around her car for Pokemon, while another said he had already found some kids in his backyard hunting for the cute little creatures, and yet another said a teenager, glued to his phone and playing the game, stepped in front of her car.

And security concerns don’t just stop in your neighborhoods and homes, they extend to commercial and private properties. The game is taking people into some dangerous areas. One girl was led by the game into the woods, where she actually found a dead body, while others, lacking proper judgment—obviously—are playing the game in places such as the National Holocaust Centre and Museum, Arlington Cemetery, businesses, and in and around police departments and private properties.

And this doesn’t even include the stories about thieves using the game to lure players to unsafe places where they can rob them and possibly do them harm, as well as the privacy concerns for people who play the game, in terms of their information being shared.

So if your false-alarm rates have been unusually high the past few days, and you’re getting complaints from customers about the high number of notifications they are getting from their security systems, just blame it on Pokemon.

Guards 'n robots

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Guard provider Universal Protection Service announced late last week that it will offer what it's calling robot "Machine as a Service" to its customers. I guess that's a new acronym for the security industry--RMaaS?

It will use robots from Knightscope, based in Mountain View, Calif. RMaaS is available to Universal customers in Northern California now, and they'll be available in Southern California in September. Universal says it will roll out the program nationally in 2017.

Want to check out the robots in person? Universal and Knightscope are hosting a launch party on July 28 in Mountain View that will feature demos and a factory tour. To RSVP, email

I saw a Knightscope robot last spring when I was at Northland Control's Fremont, Calif.-offices. I was talking on my cell phone outside and was mildly startled when I noticed a robot quietly circling the parking lot. It was super stealth and even kind of graceful. Robots have come a long way since Lost in Space. Remember this?

Universal will use Knightscope's K5 and K3 robot models. "Both models offer a physical presence as a strong crime deterrent, real-time video and audio, and a human interface. The K5 model is designed for outdoor applications such as parking lots and campuses, while the K3 is designed for indoor security at such facilities as office towers, warehouses, distribution centers and data centers," according to a Universal news release.

In a prepared statement, Ty Richmond, Universal Services of America president, systems and technology, said: "Customers require situational awareness to make informed decisions and autonomous mobile machines and devices provide another level of intelligence to accomplish that task. The partnership with Knightscope enables Universal to take an industry leading role in this new service arena."

Universal security officers will be trained and certified to work with the robots.

William Santana Li, chairman and CEO for Knightscope, said in a statement: "The world is going to change more in the next five years than the last 50 years combined. Knightscope has built one of the most important technologies coming out of Silicon Valley and we are proud to be working in concert with Universal by integrating with existing security programs while providing new revolutionary capabilities to clients."

Universal was in the news in May when it announced a merger agreement with AlliedBarton. The two will form AlliedUniversal in a $4.5 billion deal. The deal is expected to close in Q3.

Nortek acquired

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Melrose Industries Plc, a UK-based investment firm with a penchant for quick turnarounds, announced today that is has acquired Nortek, Inc., a global company with brands including 2GIG, NuTone and Elan. What this means for Nortek Security & Control, which specializes in residential security and home automation products and services, is still unclear.

As I wait to hear back from both Nortek and Melrose for more on the particulars of this deal, the big question is: What kind of impact will this have back here in the U.S., as Nortek is now in 18 million U.S. homes, and has positioned itself with the recent acquisition of Nuiku, a natural language processing company, as a leader in the area of smart home technology.

In a prepared statement, Nortek's president and CEO Michael J. Clarke said, "We are very pleased to have reached the proposed agreement with Melrose Industries, which represents a significant premium for our shareholders, We believe this partnership with Melrose will enhance Nortek's ability to further leverage its industry-leading brands and market positions to continue driving profitable growth. We believe this transaction will be a positive for our employees and customers alike."

From what I can see, Melrose has an excellent track record in investing in and improving businesses before reselling them within a two- to three-year window, and has been able to increase operating margins by five to nine percentage points in all of its historical investments.

Melrose's chief executive, Simon Peckham, said in a prepared statement that although Nortek “serves attractive end markets at good points in their cycle, with strong brands and market positions … there remains solid potential for further improvement under Melrose’s guidance. Our ability to apply our industrial experience and investment expertise, as well as to liberate Nortek from its current capital structure will transform the prospects of the business."

Melrose's chairman Christopher Miller said in a prepared statement that since the firm’s inception it has created and returned more than £2.8 billion ($3.5 billion) of value to its shareholders and he believes that “Nortek presents an excellent opportunity to build substantially on that track record.”

The acquisition will be implemented principally by way of a cash tender offer to Nortek shareholders by Nevada Corp., a wholly owned subsidiary of Melrose. The offer price of $86 per Nortek Share, net, in cash and without interest, values the issued and outstanding shares of Nortek at $1.436 billion with an enterprise value of $2.810 billion.

Check back for more on this developing story, including interviews with Melrose and Nortek management.

Extended, by popular demand, '20 u 40' nominations

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The deadline to nominate an end user or integrator for the "20 under 40" Class of 2016 awards WAS July 1, but we've extended the deadline to Friday, July 15.

Click here to nominate your favorite end user or integrator who is age 40 or younger!

In the past two days I've had three calls from people who want to nominate an integrator or an end user for Security Systems News. Because we're in a good mood here in Maine (70 degrees, sunny, the Yarmouth Clam Festival kicks off next week) we're giving you another chance to nominate yourself or a colleague.

Take a minute and nominate now. And, yes, we've fixed the survey so that you can nominate more than one person.

DICE expands operations team

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

DICE recently announced the latest expansions to its operations team; James Beaty joins DICE in the newly created role of VP of operations and Jen Balash was promoted to director of account management.

The operations team will be focused on maintaining a cohesive environment between different departments of DICE, Beaty told Security Systems News. “Part of what I do is make sure that we’re working together and as efficiently as we can,” he said.

Beaty said one thing he is specifically looking at is improving internal communications between divisions and making sure that division leaders meet on a regular basis. “When we become more efficient, we become more efficient for our customers,” he said.

“As far as operations, Cliff [Dice] had seen a need for someone in a business position to bring together all the entities,” Beaty said. Beaty joined DICE in May, previously working with wholesale central station United Central Control

Beaty said that an important part of the team is Balash’s recent promotion. “By being promoted to director of account management, she has a team now that [is] specifically focused on getting new products to our clients, resolving any issues that they may have.”

A team had been in place at DICE, Beaty said, comprised of operations leaders in different departments. Currently the operations team is, in addition to Beaty and Balash, comprised of Amy Augustin, with DICE’s creative department, Stephen Senk, director of IT operations and Jerry Corrion, director of development.

NAV has new home in Vegas

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

LAS VEGAS—North American Video, a systems integrator that specializes in the casino vertical, has opened a new Western Regional Headquarters in Las Vegas.
The new office has what NAV calls a "Security & Surveillance Center of Excellence," a camera lab where NAV customers can test camera performance. The facility includes a temperature-controlled server lab with software and hardware from major VMS manufacturers. Both the camera lab and the server lab are integrated into training room, which can accommodate up to 50 people. The headquarters is meant to be used for education and technology training for employees as well as customers.

“With our new camera lab, we can configure conditions to emulate a client’s specific gaming floor environment in order to determine how specific camera models will perform in their casino,” Laurie Smock, VP NAV, said in a prepared statement. Smock is a Security Systems News "20 under 40" award winner from the Class of 2012.
Smock said that NAV had outgrown its previous Las Vegas location.
The new facility is located at 731 Pilot Road, Suite H, in Las Vegas. NAV is headquartered in Brick, N.J.

Is the smart home window of opportunity closing for dealers?

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

With more and more consumers adopting smart home technology, and more and more players moving into the smart home space, this is a pivotal time for security dealers, as the window of opportunity to reconnect with customers—and let them know about all of the interactive services they can now provide as part of the overall security package—will only stay open for so long.

In terms of smart home adoption, almost every day a new study comes out showing that Americans are embracing smart home technology. A recent survey of U.S. adults by Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC and CNET finds that 28 percent of Americans own at least one smart home product and almost half of millennials are adopting the technology.

"Smart home technology is catching on because it is changing the way we live in our homes," said Robert Burns, president of Coldwell Banker Mid-America Group. "Not only is it shifting the financial perception of the home, but it's also transforming our emotional connection to our homes. We have entered a transformative era. We believe that in two to three years, homebuyers will expect smart home technology." 

Of the early smart home adopters, the research shows that 45 percent of Americans say that, on average, their smart home technology saves them more than $1,100 a year, while 72 percent say smart home products provide them with peace of mind when it comes to home security, and 81 percent said they would be more likely to buy a home if smart technology was already installed.

But while consumers are showing interest in, and adopting smart home technology, a recent study from research firm Parks Associates shows that less than 30 percent of U.S. broadband households are familiar with where to buy smart home products or services.

“In addressing the low consumer awareness for smart home solutions, all players have ample opportunities to make inroads in this early market,” said Eddie Accomando, research analyst, Parks Associates. “Roughly 40 percent of the U.S. broadband households familiar with smart home products or services learned about them from TV or the Internet. In 2016, we are seeing smart home companies develop more robust TV and Internet consumer marketing strategies to reach the consumers who don’t know where to buy smart home products.”

This is both good and bad news for security dealers, as this uncertainty of where to go for these products creates an opportunity for them to be that provider, as opposed to an MSO or a retailer.

According to Parks’ research, home security providers are not far behind retailers when it comes to being the likely purchase channel for smart home products and services, with 31 percent of broadband households preferring to buy these products from a home security provider, compared with between 35- and 40 percent prefering to buy from retailers, 23 percent from an Internet service provider, and only 12 percent preferring a pay-TV provider.

“To move the smart home from early adopters to the mass market, companies and industry players must address low consumer awareness,” Accomando said.

And this includes dealers, too, who must continue to reach out to their customers. As one dealer said during a session at ESX in Fort Worth earlier this month: “When I hear that one of my customers left us because they didn’t realize that we offer these smart home services, it keeps me up at night.”

Industry reacts to Apple, other possible PERS threats

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

In last week’s Monitoring Matters blog, I discussed the Apple Watch’s new SOS feature, and its similarities and differences between PERS functions. A few security professionals took me up on the opportunity to respond.

Daniel Oppenheim, VP of Affiliated Monitoring, said that the heightened consumer awareness of personal emergency features could grow the market, instead of cannibalize it, and that the demographics are different. “I think the Apple Watch, specifically, is for a more mobile, more active, more tech-savvy person who would not yet be an mPERS or PERS customer.” Affiliated hosted a PERS-focused conference in May.

He pointed to Amazon, and its Echo product, as another possible entrant. “In its current iteration, the Amazon Echo is not competition, but it is a harbinger of things to come, which is the realization that consumer products now have the ability to replicate or even improve on the current technology offerings of our industry.”

Oppenheim said that neither are large concerns, but something the industry should keep an eye on. “I don’t view either [Amazon Echo’s virtual assistant] Alexa or the Apple Watch as a near-term threat to the PERS industry—I think it’s something that we need to be focused on.”

Brock Winzeler, GM of mPERS manufacturer Freeus, didn’t see much threat in the announced Apple SOS feature. “I don’t think the impact would be significant,” he said. “The reason is: It is very, very difficult to replace the services that we offer. … Our devices call a monitoring center that is specifically built to handle PERS phone calls and PERS emergencies.” 

Oppenheim shared a similar sentiment on the value of a monitoring center. “That crucial decision making process, by which an operator can have a conversation and identify whether or not help is needed—and stay on the line with the customer as help is on its way, for those that do need it—I do not see that being replaced by technology.”

Speaking more generally on voice interaction, Oppenheim said that the technology could become more prevalent in the future. “It seems complex now, but in a short period of time, the concept of voice interaction with a virtual assistant will become commonplace.”

Winzeler also said there is a technology barrier for the traditional PERS demographics. “I think you’ll have a really tough time getting the senior demographic to adopt this type of technology. I think it’s just a little more challenging.”

Rich Darling, CEO of Instant Care, an OEM PERS manufacturer, also said that PERS and Apple Watch feature differ due to their target users' abilities. “It is our belief that the Apple watch is a fantastic device for the tech savvy user. However, as a … PERS OEM we have found that the most successful products targeting the PERS market are designed to require very little from the user, and perform as required when the need arises.”

Smart home wars heating up

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Just as we have seen with the smart phone revolution, the battle for the smart home looks like it will be just as hotly contested, as there is no denying that consumers today are embracing the smart home concept. 

Studies are popping up weekly confirming that demand is increasing for smart home products and services as homeowners learn more about smart home and home automation technology available today.

The latest research, from market research firm Berg Insight out of Gothenburg, Sweden, shows that North America is leading the global smart home market with 12.7 million smart homes in 2015, a 56 percent year-on-year growth. According to the research, the strong market growth is expected to last for years to come, driving the number of smart homes in North America to 46.2 million by 2020, which corresponds to 35 percent of all households.

The study found that the most successful products in the smart home market include smart thermostats, security systems, smart lighting, network cameras, and multi-room audio systems.

“There is no doubt that regular consumers in the future will own and operate a wide range of connected objects in their homes, from connected home appliances and luminaires to thermostats and security devices,” said Johan Svanberg, senior analyst, Berg Insight. “Attractive use cases, interoperable devices, and well-implemented user interfaces are needed in order to accelerate the market.”

Although Amazon Echo’s Alexa is leading the smart home charge right now, Apple is making a serious play with its announcement at its Worldwide Developers Conference last week of its new app called Home, which will be a hub on the iPhone for all the connected devices in the home. The app is the logical next step for Apple’s HomeKit platform, and both work with Siri, who is getting some improvements and upgrades as well.

Apple also announced that it is working with homebuilders—Brookfield Residential, Lennar and KB Home—to build homes later this year that come with built-in Apple HomeKit infrastructure.

Other major players in this battle for the voice-driven smart home include Microsoft with its Cortana voice platform, and Google Home’s Assistant, which was announced in May. Rumors abound that both Microsoft and Google, like Apple, are gearing up for a serious play for a piece of the smart home market. 

Apple’s brand equity with consumers, though, shouldn’t be ignored, as it is not a big leap to think that consumers would be willing to take the plunge into the smart home market with Apple, a company they know will be able to provide a complete, somewhat air-tight system from the ground up, so to speak.

One negative for Apple is its seemingly late entry into the smart home space, where many early adopters are already using many smart home products that will not work with Apple’s HomeKit platform, which requires using a special encryption chip. Some HomeKit-certified products are currently available from companies like Honeywell, August and Phillips Hue, and Apple said that there are close to 100 more compatible products coming this year.

Stay tuned, because things are starting to get interesting in the smart home space.