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

 - 
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.

 

Systems Depot gets new president

 - 
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

 - 
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.

Honeywell: New voice programming system saves time for installers

 - 
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.
 

Protection 1 on the block?

 - 
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

 - 
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.

 

 

Security threats to wireless alarms?

 - 
Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Tech publication Wired magazine may not focus too closely on alarm monitoring or residential security, but it does devote a good deal of ink to assessing network security threats, no matter what the context.

Just last month a writer for the magazine, Mat Honan, sketched a funny, dystopian picture of the connected home in revolt, commandeered by morally wayward hackers on some perverse quest for Internet notoriety. Identifiable only by screen names evoking bad 90s cyberpunk films, these lonesome code junkies are intent on doing everything from dousing homes by activating sprinkler systems to invading your privacy in all the imaginable ways in a home well stocked with cameras.

The piece, titled “The Nightmare on Connected Home Street,” is of course meant to be hysterical: The narrator is jarred awake at four a.m. by the pulse of dub step music exploding out of his connected pillow. The vignette ends, a few hours later, with a bare and awesomely memorable paragraph: “The skylights open up. The toaster switches on. I hear the shower kick in from the other room. It’s morning.”

It’s all just a thought experiment, but the piece is entertaining and well worth a read.

Interestingly enough, about a month later, Wired turned its attention to security again, this time focusing on concerns that, surprisingly, have nothing to do with Internet connected devices. This time, the article dealt with security vulnerabilities related to wireless home alarms, which, according to a pair of researchers cited in the article, could be comprised—the alarm being either suppressed (via “jamming”) or made to deliver false signals. The researchers found identical problems with a number of brands.

The issue, according to the report, has to do with radio frequency signals. While the conversation is understandable for a layman, it can seem a bit arcane. In sum, the researchers found that the systems “fail to encrypt or authenticate the signals being sent from sensors to control panels,” according to the report, “making it easy for someone to intercept the data, decipher the commands, and play them back to control panels at will.” Would-be malefactors, the report says, can do this relatively easily.

The researchers cited in the article—Logan Lamb and Silvio Cesare—plan to present their findings at the Black Hat security conference, a computer security conference held in Las Vegas next week. I’m eager to here more about their findings and to see what kind of impact the research could have.  

Security threats to wireless alarms?

 - 
Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Tech publication Wired magazine may not focus too closely on alarm monitoring or residential security, but it does devote a good deal of ink to assessing network security threats, no matter what the context.

Just last month a writer for the magazine, Mat Honan, painted a funny dystopian sketch of the connected home in revolt, commandeered by morally wayward hackers on some perverse quest for Internet notoriety. Identifiable only by screen names evoking bad cyberpunk films from the 90s, these lonesome code junkies are intent on doing everything from dousing homes by activating sprinkler systems to invading your privacy in all the imaginable ways in a home amply stocked with network cameras.

The piece, titled “The Nightmare on Connected Home Street,” is of course meant to be hysterical: The narrator is jarred awake at four a.m. by the blaring pulse of dub step music exploding from his connected pillow. The vignette ends, a few hours later, with a bare and awesomely memorable paragraph: “The skylights open up. The toaster switches on. I hear the shower kick in from the other room. It’s morning.”

It’s all just a thought experiment, but the piece is entertaining and well worth a read.

Interestingly enough, about a month later, Wired turned its attention to security again, this time focusing on concerns that, surprisingly, have nothing to do with Internet connected devices. This time, the article dealt with security vulnerabilities related to wireless home alarms, which, according to a pair of researchers cited in the article, could be comprised—the alarm being either suppressed (via “jamming”) or made to deliver false signals. The researchers found identical problems with a number of brands.

The issue, according to the report, has to do with radio frequency signals. While the conversation is understandable for a layman, it can seem a bit arcane. In sum, the researchers found that the systems “fail to encrypt or authenticate the signals being sent from sensors to control panels,” according to the report, “making it easy for someone to intercept the data, decipher the commands, and play them back to control panels at will.” Would-be malefactors, the report says, can do this relatively easily.

The researchers cited in the article—Logan Lamb and Silvio Cesare—plan to present their findings at the Black Hat security conference, a computer security conference held in Las Vegas next week. I’m eager to here more about their findings and to see what kind of impact the research could have.  

Security threats to wireless alarms?

 - 
Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Tech publication Wired magazine may not focus too closely on alarm monitoring or residential security, but it does devote a good deal of ink to assessing network security threats, no matter what the context.

Just last month a writer for the magazine, Mat Honan, painted a funny dystopian sketch of the connected home in revolt, commandeered by morally wayward hackers on some perverse quest for Internet notoriety. Identifiable only by screen names evoking bad cyberpunk films from the 90s, these lonesome code junkies are intent on doing everything from dousing homes by activating sprinkler systems to invading your privacy in all the imaginable ways in a home amply stocked with network cameras.

The piece, titled “The Nightmare on Connected Home Street,” is of course meant to be hysterical: The narrator is jarred awake at four a.m. by the blaring pulse of dub step music exploding from his connected pillow. The vignette ends, a few hours later, with a bare and awesomely memorable paragraph: “The skylights open up. The toaster switches on. I hear the shower kick in from the other room. It’s morning.”

It’s all just a thought experiment, but the piece is entertaining and well worth a read.

Interestingly enough, about a month later, Wired turned its attention to security again, this time focusing on concerns that, surprisingly, have nothing to do with Internet connected devices. This time, the article dealt with security vulnerabilities related to wireless home alarms, which, according to a pair of researchers cited in the article, could be comprised—the alarm being either suppressed (via “jamming”) or made to deliver false signals. The researchers found identical problems with a number of brands.

The issue, according to the report, has to do with radio frequency signals. While the conversation is understandable for a layman, it can seem a bit arcane. In sum, the researchers found that the systems “fail to encrypt or authenticate the signals being sent from sensors to control panels,” according to the report, “making it easy for someone to intercept the data, decipher the commands, and play them back to control panels at will.” Would-be malefactors, the report says, can do this relatively easily.

The researchers cited in the article—Logan Lamb and Silvio Cesare—plan to present their findings at the Black Hat security conference, a computer security conference held in Las Vegas next week. I’m eager to here more about their findings and to see what kind of impact the research could have.  

Are wireless home systems vulnerable?

 - 
Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Tech publication Wired magazine may not focus too closely on alarm monitoring or residential security, but it does devote a good deal of ink to assessing network security threats, no matter what the context.

Just last month a writer for the magazine, Mat Honan, sketched a funny, dystopian picture of the connected home in revolt, commandeered by wayward hackers on some perverse quest for Internet notoriety. Identifiable only by screen names evoking bad cyberpunk movies, these lonesome code junkies are intent on doing everything from dousing homes with sprinkler systems to invading your privacy through in-home network cameras .

The piece, titled “The Nightmare on Connected Home Street,” is supposed to seem nearly implausible. The narrator is jarred awake at four a.m. by the pulse of dub step music exploding from his connected pillow. The piece ends, a few hours later, with the bare and awesomely memorable paragraph: “The skylights open up. The toaster switches on. I hear the shower kick in from the other room. It’s morning.”

It’s all just a thought experiment, of course, but the piece is thought-provoking and well worth a read.

Interestingly enough, about a month later, Wired turned its attention to security again, this time focusing on vulnerabilities that have nothing to do with IP devices. This time, the article dealt with security concerns related to wireless home alarms, which, according to a pair of researchers cited in the article, could be compromised—the alarms either being suppressed (via “jamming”) or made to deliver false signals. The researchers found identical problems among a number of brands.

The issue apparently has to do with radio frequency signals. While the conversation is understandable enough for a layman, it can drift into the arcane. In sum, the researchers found that the systems “fail to encrypt or authenticate the signals being sent from sensors to control panels," the report said, “making it easy for someone to intercept the data, decipher the commands, and play them back to control panels at will.” Would-be malefactors, the report says, can do this relatively easily.

A vulnerability is a vulnerability, and certainly no security company wants there to be any possibility of a system being hacked. But it should probably be mentioned that while these techniques may come across as elementary to the reading community of Wired Magazine, these methods would probably be, for your run-of-the-mill burglar, well above the norm from a sophistication standpoint.

The researchers cited in the article—Logan Lamb and Silvio Cesare—plan to present their findings at the Black Hat security conference, a computer security conference scheduled next week in Las Vegas. For my part, I’ll be eager to hear more about their findings and to see what kind of impact the research could have.

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