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Midwest Alarm expands into Nebraska

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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa—Midwest Alarm Services, a provider of life safety systems based here, has acquired Electric Specialties Company of Omaha, Neb., a company that also specializes in life safety systems, including service, inspection and monitoring services to more than 350 customers.

The terms of the deal between the two companies were not disclosed.

Established in 1950, Midwest Alarm Services became part of Per Mar Security Services through an acquisition in 1998, which allowed the then small company an opportunity for growth, including the opening of an office in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and an office to service the Quad Cities, which stretched Midwest Alarm Services territory into eastern Iowa and western Illinois.

Doug Richard, president of Midwest Alarm Services, said that he is “very excited” to expand the company’s footprint now into Nebraska, and looks forward “to growing with the great team that is already in place” there.

Herk Campbell, who will be joining the Midwest Alarm Services team along with his employees, founded Electric Specialties Company in 1983. The company is a Notifier dealer, and provides life safety systems and services including card access systems, fire alarm systems, fire extinguishers/hoods, fire inspections, master clock systems, monitoring, nurse call systems, system design/layout and video surveillance.

Campbell said that Midwest Alarm is the “perfect fit” for his company.

Note: Check back for more on this story, including an interview with Midwest Alarm Services president Doug Richard.

Industry alarmed about overtime pay rule

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently submitted revisions to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) that would raise the salary threshold for earning overtime pay. Presently, only those employees making less than $455.00 per week are eligible for overtime compensation. The DOL’s new rule increases this eligibility minimum to any employee making less than $913.00, an increase that many in the security industry and on Capitol Hill feel will put a financial strain on businesses, which are supposed to comply by DOL’s implementation date of Dec. 31, 2016.

ESA has actively spoken out against DOL’s overtime rule, and ESA president Marshall Marinace said that ESA “objects strenuously” to the legislation, as it “will have a real consequence on employees not anticipated by the DOL.”

ESA supports efforts of Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who recently introduced joint resolutions to block implementation of the Overtime Rule. Senate Joint Resolution 34 was introduced on June 7, 2016, and was referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. In addition to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as a cosponsor, the resolution has already attracted over 43 senators to support its passage. The House version, House Joint Resolution 95, has been referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce with 22 House members as cosponsors.

“Our nation’s overtime rules need to be modernized, but the Department of Labor’s extreme and partisan approach will lead to damaging consequences that the American people simply cannot afford,” Rep. Foxx said. “This resolution will protect workers, students, small business owners, and vulnerable individuals from a rule that will do more harm than good.”

SSN would like to hear what you, our readers, think of the overtime rule, including the possible impact it could have on your businesses.

Note: SSN continues to report on this story. Please check back for an interview with ESA government relations director John Chwat.

A voice on the PERS market

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

HOBOKEN, N.J.—Voice activation has been an interesting topic that I’ve seen coming up more frequently when I hear about PERS—most recently when I spoke with Ritch Haselden, VP of sales at Essence Group, this week about Essence’s upcoming products, and what it takes to include voice activation. 

One of the things he highlighted in the company’s product roadmap is Essence’s VPD, and Haselden told me a lot about what went in to setting up voice capabilities in the company's VPD—standing for Voice Panic Detector. "The VPDwill be available for purchase this summer and is expected in the next few weeks," Haselden said.

“What that’ll allow somebody to do is be able to activate a pendant by saying a particular phrase of a particular series of words,” he said. The product is always listening for a particular phrase, he said, and when it hears that phrase it would act like a button press on the PERS unit.

Haselden said that, further on down the road, Essence could use voice activation to open up two-way dialogue with the central station.

The company has been testing the phrase “Call 911,” Haselden said. The process of picking a phrase to test was intensive, he said, making sure that it wasn’t common enough to be said in everyday conversation or on the television, but still easy to remember.

Testing involved a large variety of different people, saying the test phrase, “Call 911,” in a variety of pitches. “We’ve been testing in all kinds of different scenarios to make sure that we’re really getting down to a really quality product that provides a low rate of false alarms,” he said.

Essence would consider customized phrases for different companies if they requested such, Hasleden said, “Our process internally is we would at least test that phrase, but we’re definitely going to provide a lot of feedback and information on: Is that a phrase that (A) people can remember, (B) that people can actually articulate well, and (C) does the technology differentiate the words well enough so that it provides a solid response.” 

ItsPayd partners with Rapid Response

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

ItsPayd.com, a company that makes an application to help dealers collect past due payments, recently added Rapid Response Monitoring as its first Affiliate Partner Program member, a program that specifically applies to companies with a central station.

The application uses text messages and emails to notify customers of past due balances and gives them a link to either send a one-time payment toward that balance or set up a payment plan, depending on their contract.

The idea behind ItsPayd is to help companies with collecting past due payments, but in a more friendly way that preserves the customer relationship and ultimately reduce attrition. “We can actually have the greatest impact on improving customer experience at the least likely moment, and that’s at the past due space,” Ken Green, company CEO, told Security Systems News.

“We’ve got one of our customers, who’s a [security] dealer—they’ve reduced attrition by 40 percent,” Green said. “We’ve recovered over 50 percent for them within the first 30 days.” The company benefited even more by maintaining the relationship and keeping these customers on, he said.

ItsPayd.com does about 90 percent of its work with security companies, mostly security dealers and monitoring centers.

Rapid dealers receive discounts on ItsPayd’s monthly subscription fee, through Rapid being a part of the Affiliate Partner Program. The Affiliate Partner Program specifically applies to third party monitoring centers and full-service companies with central stations.  ItsPayd is currently looking to get more members in the program, according to Green.

ItsPayd is currently working on an integration platform with MKS, to be completed around the end of the summer, Green said. 

ItsPayd was founded last year and went to beta with its product in August 205. The company went live with its offering in January 2016.

Avigilon makes some changes to its $240m facility

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

VANCOUVER, British Columbia—Video surveillance and access control provider Avigilon on July 18 filed documents to amend its existing $240 million multi-tranche senior secured syndicated credit facility. Security Systems News has previously reported on this credit facility. Originally closed on April 7, 2015, the facility's maturity date has been extended from April 7, 2018 to April 7, 2019.

I spoke to Avigilon's Darren Seed about the deal. Among the changes is one item which ups the price of a "permitted acquisition" from $30 million in the old deal, to $40 million in the new deal. Is Avigilon poised to buy a start-up for $31 million?

Seed said one shouldn't read anything into the small changes in the deal. He characterized this amendment and others as simple housekeeping. The extension was made at a very nice rate, he said, it made good business sense for Avigilon to take advantage of the terms offered. 

Avigilon designs, develops, and manufactures video analytics, network video management software and hardware, surveillance cameras, and access control solutions.

ADT gets into the Ring

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

ADT announced earlier this week that the Ring video doorbell is now available for its customers nationwide. While the Ring has made some noise in the smart doorbell category, there are many options to choose from when it comes to this first-line-of-defense product for homeowners.

Others who have had success with doorbell cameras include Vivint, Skybell and August, to name just a few.

As more and more consumers begin to embrace smart home products like the video doorbell, dealers are adding these devices to their security and home-automation offerings, and partnering and integrating with others to provide a complete home automation and security package.

For example, ADT customers can incorporate the Ring video doorbell as part of their ADT Pulse smart home security system and lock their door, turn on their lights, and activate their ADT security system directly within the Ring app, all while seeing who is at the door.

Similarly, Vivint’s Doorbell Camera, which won a 2016 Innovation Award from the Business Intelligence Group earlier this year, works with its smart home platform, so homeowners can engage in two-way conversations with visitors on their doorsteps from their mobile devices, while simultaneously using Vivint’s smart home technology to remotely unlock the front door, open the garage door, disarm their security system, for example.

On the supplier side, SkyBell, which was nominated for a CES Innovations Design and Engineering Award, has integrated with Nest, Amazon Echo, Honeywell, Alarm.com, Monitronics, Kwikset, Icontrol Networks and IFTTT, all in an effort to allow complete control of a homeowner’s security and smart home system.

And the August Doorbell Cam is part of the August Smart Home Access System, so all of the August Home products, along with its app, work together. August is also integrating with other companies, such as Honeywell, which recently integrated the August Smart Lock with its Total Connect 2.0 Remote Services platform.

For many homeowners, the video doorbell is their first-foray into smart home technology, and it is helping to drive the continued growth of other security cameras and smart home devices and apps. 

In fact, new research that came out this week from Parks Associates estimates that nearly 24 percent of U.S. broadband households will have an IP camera by 2020, while more than 50 percent will have a smart home controller and 26 percent will have a home security system.

What this study and others like it are finding is interest in products like the video doorbell is driving consumer interest in security, which can only benefit security dealers moving forward.

 

 

Connect America expands in Kansas

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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.

Pokemon—NO!

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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

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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 info@universalpro.com.

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.

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

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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.

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