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TechSec Solutions 2017: continuing conversations

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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

One theme that I was happy to see at this year's TechSec Solutions conference, held in Delray Beach, Fla., on Feb. 27 and 28, was that conversations were picked up in- and outside of sessions.

Many topics in the industry impact more than just one sector, vertical or business. Drones, IoT, cybersecurity, biometrics—these technologies have many different applications and their changes and developments have a wide impact.

This year, we wanted to continue the conversation on biometrics after a very interesting "Battle of the Body Parts" at TechSec Solutions 2016. In the end, iris scan technologies proved to have the most potential, for its security as well as its applicability. This year, we brought back reigning champion Blaine Frederick, vice president for product management with EyeLock, to talk more about iris scan technologies’ developments and opportunities with Jeff Kohler, product line and business development director of the newly named Princeton Identity.

Cybersecurity has come up a lot in the industry, and it was definitely brought up a few times during the conference. During the last session of this year's conference, moderator Jay Hauhn, executive director for CSAA, pointed out how he liked that cybersecurity was addressed as it specifically related to each conversation.

The first panel session, "The future of IoT: Taming security's wild west," looked at IoT's current standards and developments. This topic was then picked up and added to by both our panel of "20 under 40" winners from the class of 2017 and the second day's session on the latest trends in monitoring. 

At our "20 under 40" reception I discussed the hot topics with Brian Cote, product manager for Eizo. He made an interesting point about the maneuverability Nightingale Security's Jack Wu showed in his drone demo, comparing the free range of rotation to a more traditional camera's pan, tilt, and zoom capabilities.

Thank you to everyone that came out and participated!

Johnson Controls publishes cybersecurity 'call to action'

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

CORK, Ireland—Johnson Controls released a “call to action” whitepaper on cybersecurity this week in an effort to help the industry to better protect all of the data that is being produced throughout smart buildings today.

“As data becomes more and more prevalent throughout the buildings where we live and work, so does the need to protect that data; it is no longer enough for a building to be smart—it must now be cybersmart,” according to the new whitepaper, “Cybersmart Buildings - Securing Your Investment in Connectivity and Automation” published jointly by Johnson Controls and Booz Allen Hamilton, a management and technology consulting and engineering firm. This whitepaper provides a roadmap for building managers, building owners, contractors and others to act to protect their information.

“Research clearly demonstrates that cybersecurity is a critical need at a critical hour for buildings around the world,” Bill Jackson, president, Johnson Controls Global Products, said in the announcement. “As building technology and data converge, we must be increasingly vigilant.”

This collaboration between two companies, with more than 200 years of combined expertise in their industries, illustrates the progress being made in raising awareness of the need for cybersecure smart buildings, coined “cybersmart buildings” in the white paper.

“Securing smart buildings and building systems more generally, is a shared responsibility requiring focus and commitment from the manufacturer, integrator, and customer,” Jason Rosselot, director of Johnson Controls’ global product security, said in the release. “Just as two industry leading companies were able to collaborate to create this whitepaper, so too can smart building stakeholders partner to follow these recommendations and create cybersmart buildings.”

Jackson added, “Defending against cyber threats today and tomorrow requires the secure design, development and deployment of building automation systems and controls.”

According to the 2016 State of Industrial Control System (ICS) Security Survey by SANS, 67 percent of participants perceived severe or high levels of threat to control systems, up from 43 percent in 2015.

“Smart buildings are now at the forefront of this battle—with tremendous complexity and integration of systems, they represent an increasingly valuable target,” according to the whitepaper. “Connectivity and automation create entry points for cyber attacks with potential safety, continuity, quality and privacy impact. But we can’t let this risk cripple innovation.”

According to the whitepaper authors, cybersecurity can be “a business enabler for smart buildings. When done well, cybersecurity is about insuring your investment and assuring your ability to reap the transformative benefits that connectivity offers,” including working “with the right partners to secure your investments when assessing and deploying smart building systems or retrofits.”

The whitepaper, which can be found here, summarizes key insights to help set an agenda for cybersmart buildings.

Alertus partners with AccuWeather

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Mass notification system provider Alertus Technologies recently entered a partnership with AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions, bringing its customers more capabilities when it comes to weather alerts and emergencies.

Alertus, founded in 2002, has included weather alerts in its system and has been developing and automating these alerts. “We wanted to partner with AccuWeather since they really are the leader in that space, and have a lot of additional services that they bring to the table,” Amanda Sassano, Alertus director of commercial sales, said. 

Formerly, the company relied mostly on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data. “[Previously], there was a certain radius outside of a ZIP code, and that area would be notified if there was a tornado watch or warning—they were very basic alerts,” Sassano said. “Now, with the partnership with AccuWeather, we’re able to tap into their resources—or their feeds as well, and leverage if they have severe weather packages—from hurricanes, to snow, to lightning—to their SkyGuard Service.”

AccuWeather’s SkyGuard service provides users with real-time data relevant to their local areas from a meteorologist. This information will be brought directly into Alertus' ThreatWatcher tool.

Alertus has a broad customer base, Sassano said. The company’s most matured market is in higher education, she said, “they’re the early adopters in mass notification. But, we work in verticals like state and local government, healthcare, corporate, manufacturing, … stadiums, sports arenas, aviation, k-12 [and] military.” The company sells its offerings through security integrators as well as directly servicing customers.

What sets Alertus apart from other MNS technologies? “Definitely our approach. We’re very interoperable with all technologies, whether that's existing infrastructure on the emergency asset side—like access control, fire panel integration, cameras—to leveraging existing infrastructure that's not emergency assets, like VOIP phones [and] desktop computers,” Sassano said.

MONI introduces ‘Customer Bill of Rights’

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

DALLAS—Last September, when Monitronics changed its name to MONI Smart Security, it also said it would be pushing its brand toward consumers more. In line with that, MONI started a new initiative: its Customer Bill of Rights.

“Products and price are relatively similar across companies within the industry. The true differentiator, in this industry, can be customer experience,” Jay Autrey, recently promoted chief customer officer at MONI, told Security Systems News. “We want to be disruptive when it comes to the customer experience in the home security industry.”

According to the company, customers have the right to local service, easily moving their system to a new location, understand their contract, voice their opinions, have all issues addressed in one business day and a simple cancellation process.

The company relied on customer feedback, as well as a collaborative effort from dealer support and customer service organizations within MONI, to identify the most important customer rights.

Moni has in the last nine months been instituting more channels for direct customer feedback, Autrey said, and can use that information to gauge whether or not it is upholding the customer’s rights.

The company wants to “make sure that customers fully understand what they can expect from MONI, up to choosing us but obviously [also] well after choosing us.”

Chief customer officer is a newly created role at MONI, and Autrey said that the role shows a commitment to customer service, both internally and externally.

MONI is also looking to improve relations with customers by more frequently contacting them and giving them information on new products and services, Autrey said, which was a request the company heard from customers.

Smart home product sales soaring

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Smart-home product U.S. dollar sales grew 57 percent in 2016 compared with the prior year, according to recent findings from market research firm The NPD Group.

According to the study, security and monitoring products led the category, making up more than 60 percent of dollar share, with smart entry devices, such as smart doorbells, growing 171 percent in dollar sales and 206 percent in unit sales compared with 2015.

The market research firm said awareness levels of smart home devices have fluctuated, but cited the smart doorbell as a category that witnessed growth in both awareness and ownership; ownership of smart doorbells inched up 2 percent while awareness grew 4 percent.

According to IHS Markit, the global market size for video doorbells, which was at $78 million in 2015, is expected to experience a 28 percent CAGR over the next five years, with North America leading the way.

Video doorbells, many times, are a homeowner’s first foray into video surveillance in and around the home.

“Video doorbells are only just beginning to gain traction among residential consumers,” Anna Sliwon, analyst, residential security, IHS Markit, said in the study. “As the market continues its rapid ascension, partnering with video doorbell providers could prove lucrative for home alarm manufacturers and service providers.”

In the NPD study, networked video cameras led as the most commonly found product in smart homes. Nearly one-third of smart homes owned a networked video camera, and demand for multipacks of IP cameras grew 129 percent in dollar sales for the year.

“Network cameras have long been considered the entry point into the smart home, but growing demand for items sold in sets shows that the market is maturing,” Ben Arnold, executive director, industry analyst for The NPD Group, said in a prepared statement. “We fully expect the next two years will see a broadening appeal of smart-home devices and estimate that the category will nearly double in that time.”

Voice command is also becoming more commonplace in smart homes, with nearly half of these homes using voice commands in some manner, and one-quarter using them to control a home-automation device, with Siri being the most commonly used digital assistant, according to NPD.

John Buffone, executive director, industry analyst, NPD Connected Intelligence, said one in five Amazon Echo owners use the device to control another device in their home.

FillQuick expands integrations

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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

EDMONTON, Canada—FillQuick, a CRM company that has worked with MONI, UCC and AvantGuard, will now be integrated with ADT’s API.

FillQuick has “done a fantastic job in developing a customer relationship management tool that will allow our dealers to run their businesses more efficiently and more effectively,” Clay Fearrington, senior director of strategic initiatives, business architecture & dealer development at ADT, told Security Systems News.

“In the past, a dealer would have a CRM, but didn’t have the connection into the ADT systems,” Fearrington continued. “The big benefit here is it’s reducing keystrokes.”

ADT is also working to integrate other CRMs into its API, such as Engarde and SecurityTrax. ADT dealers specifically requested an integration with FillQuick, which led to the companies’ collaboration, Fearrington said.

Since FillQuick’s last wave of announcements in 2016, FillQuick has added several new features to the software, including auto-generating account numbers for installation and connection to central stations, expanded reporting features of its software and uploading features for proposals or images in a range of different formats. “Sales reps, they write proposals and take a picture, and attach it to a lead. So, if they ever come back to that lead, they can take a look at what they offered to that customer,” Paul Shakuri, FillQuick's founder said.

“Another big feature update was notifications for users within the software when statuses change on accounts, such as [when] an account gets installed, an account gets cancelled [or] an account gets paid on,” he said, adding that this now brings this information to salespeople.

Shakuri said that the company has a high rate, close to 95 percent, of converting companies that demo the software into customers. “[A] huge percentage of people who were not joining was because we were not integrated with ADT,” Shakuri said.

The company is currently working on new communication capabilities in the software between a dealer and its sub-dealers. “We’re looking to have it complete within quarter one [2017],” Shakuri said.

What else is on FillQuick’s agenda for 2017? “Our sights are set on integrating with a couple more central stations,” Shakuri said. FillQuick will also focus on data and dealer feedback to further improve the software.

Allied Universal CEO talks latest moves, company's future

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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Allied Universal, a national facility services company and security force with more than 150,000 employees, has acquired the security services portion of Yale Enforcement Services, Inc., a Belleville, Ill.-based company that offers a full range of solutions, including uniformed security professionals, mobile patrol, physical security and life safety. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“What we really liked about Yale is that they do very strong business in the healthcare vertical, and that business is spread throughout multiple regions,” Allied Universal CEO Steve Jones told Security Systems News. “And we feel we have a variety of really good service offerings to offer in that vertical.”

Yale was also looking to provide ancillary services such as electronic security systems and security technology, an area “that we are highly committed to, so we feel those customers will fit very nicely into our organization,” said Jones. “Also, our service offerings that we have will not only enhance the relationship but also be something that the customers are excited about and embrace.”

Yale Enforcement's 1,800-plus employees serve a range of vertical markets including healthcare, manufacturing, industrial, warehouse/distribution, commercial real estate and retail throughout the Central, Midwestern and Southern states.

"Allied Universal sets the industry standard for professionalism and we know our security services clients will be well taken care of," Barbara Yale, president and CEO, Yale Enforcement said in a prepared statement.

On the acquisition front, the company “will continue to be inquisitive in 2017,” said Jones. “We plan on making at least one but hopefully two, sizable acquisitions in the security systems space by the end of the year as well.”

With the mega-merger in August between Allied Barton and Universal Services of America, 2016 was a very busy and successful year for the combined companies.

“We are now fully integrated, so we are completely rebranded and integrated,” said Jones. “We achieved the goal of doing that is six months and also made three other acquisitions and got some good mid-single digit organic growth, so we are pretty excited about all of that. In 2017, we project that we will end the year in 2017 somewhere between $5.2 - $5.3 billion in revenues and that is without any additional acquisitions.”

Allied Universal also announced a partnership with the Clery Center, a national, non-profit training and policy organization dedicated to creating safer campus communities, to develop video-based training tools for line campus public safety personnel. The roll-call training program for campus public safety and security professionals is scheduled to be released during National Campus Safety Awareness Month in September.

As a leading security services provider to the Higher Education sector, Allied Universal services nearly 200 colleges and universities at over 500 campus locations nationwide.

Big year ahead for biometrics

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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

LOUISVILLE, Colo.—Biometrics are coming of age, and 2017 has the potential to be a big year for the continued adoption of biometric technologies, according to Acuity Market Intelligence, which released its "Ten Top Trends for Biometrics and Digital Identity" for 2017 this week.

"Biometrics and digital identity are often perceived as threats to privacy and security," Maxine Most, Principal of Acuity Market intelligence said in the announcement.. "However, taken together these technologies have the potential to enhance privacy, increase personal data control, and shift power relative to the monetization of consumer data."

No. 2 on the top ten list is iris biometrics, which will have a "breakout year as smartphone availability drives consumer acceptance up and price points down,” according to Acuity.

This is not surprising. During Security Systems News’ Battle of the Biometrics session at last year's TechSec Solutions conference, our panel of expert judges chose iris technology as the top pick over other biometrics, including fingerprint and facial. This year at TechSec, which is Feb. 27-28 in Delray Beach, Fla., the reigning champion from last year's session, Blaine Frederick, VP of product management for Eyelock, returns to continue the conversation with Jeff Kohler, product line and business development director for Princeton Identity, as they look at how lower price points are increasing demand and opening up new applications across many different verticals.

Another interesting finding, and one that does not surprise us here at SSN—the creator of the Cloud+ conference—is the rise of cloud-based biometrics.

According to Most, “2017 will be a tipping point as cloud-based biometrics, secure mobile credentials, and fintech innovation coalesce into consumer-centric solutions offering previously unobtainable levels of accessibility, security, and individual control over PII (Personally Identifiable Information)."

The following is Acuity's ten top trends for biometrics and digital identity:

1. Behavioral biometrics on smartphones, and the associated privacy issues and PII concerns, become mainstream.

2. Iris biometrics "breakout" as smartphone availability drives consumer acceptance up and price points down.

3. Security impact and liability implications of PII via IoT (Internet of Things) begins to influence Enterprise Executives.

4. Cloud biometrics are recognized as critical Infrastructure for global digital payments and commerce platforms.

5. Links between digital identity, smartphones, and mobile and stationary smart devices begin to be monetized.

6. New monetization models for digital identity emerge, shifting power from commercial enterprises to consumers.

7. Secure mobile smartphone credentials drive infrastructure development with migration from tests and pilots to deployments.

8. Many fintech innovators are swallowed by BFSIs thwarting their impact on industry transformation.

9. A handful of fintech standouts, committed to disruption, emerge as potential threats to the status quo.

10. Biometrics and digital identity begin to be understood as forces for social justice, equity, privacy, and accessibility.

Bold releases ManitouNEO

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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.—ManitouNEO, Bold Technology's latest version of its central station automation platform, is commercially available as of today.

Rod Coles, Bold’s CEO, called ManitouNEO “the first major re-architecture of the software. … This is version two.” Bold Technologies released its first version of Manitou in 2003, 14 years ago, and Coles expects this version to hold up just as long. Bold has about 600 customers using Manitou; the upgrade is free for current Manitou customers.

ManitouNEO will be browser-based, and feature a new user interface. “The reason that we’ve chosen a browser-based application means that its portable,” Coles told Security Systems News. The software can now run Windows, Linux, Mac and even on a phone or tablet, he continued. 

“With ManitouNEO, we can use exactly the same application for dealers as well as central station staff. It’s just permissions based,” Coles said. This makes Bold’s maintenance and dealer support easier, according to Coles.

ManitouNEO is starting out with options for both a new user interface and Manitou’s existing interface. This allows companies and their employees to learn the new interface at their own pace, according to Coles. “We’ve done a lot of work to allow them to have both [user interfaces available], and they can gradually move from one to another.”

Many of NEO’s new features are also available in the previous Windows interface. Previously, Bold had offerings in separate interfaces, such as its GPS-focused BoldTrack. “Now we’ve been able to pull that and other things all into one user interface. It just brings a lot of different parts of our products together,” he said.

Bold, in addition to the new interface, has enhanced its action patterns, which give users specific instructions and information on alarm handling. These action patterns now include more conditional items, Coles noted.

Bold’s cloud-based automation platform, Manitou Cloud Services, will be upgraded to ManitouNEO as well. “This application will work within a central station, just like our existing platform does. But, of course, it’s a natural fit for the cloud,” Coles said. This upgrade should take place in the next few months, he said.

“NEO itself will improve the upgrade process,” according to Coles. “Because it is web-based application, then all we have to do is literally update the server and then all of the work stations are effectively upgraded.”

A new feature coming soon to NEO is a communications center that will allow operators multiple avenues to connect with alarm users at the same time, such as text messaging capabilities while also being on the phone.

Training new employees could become easier, as people are generally familiar with browser-based applications, according to Coles.

Connected products driving smart home growth

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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The vision of the truly intelligent home where your security system and all of its connected smart home devices, from Siri to your stove, can be controlled by your smart phone, is starting to become a reality.

This leap in technology is good news for the industry, and good news for dealers, who are finding that this brave new world of connected devices is fueling interest in security systems, especially from customers who want to know how the two can work harmoniously together. And this is making for “stickier” or more loyal customers.

Following Parks Associates’ research that came out of the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month showing approximately 26 percent of U.S. broadband households today now own a smart home device—up from 19 percent at the end of 2015—several more studies on the growth of the smart home have popped up.

For example, a new report out this week from Zion Market Research, titled “Smart Home Market: Global Industry Perspective, Comprehensive Analysis, and Forecast, 2016-2022,” finds that the global smart home market—valued at around $24.10 billion in 2016—is expected to reach approximately $53.45 billion in 2022, growing at a CAGR of slightly above 14.5 percent between 2017 and 2022.

“The advanced technology has enabled various devices to be connected and controlled by one device and this technology is used by smart homes. Homeowners are enjoying more convenience and comfort from basic security monitoring and customized access to window coverings, appliances, lighting, irrigation, entertainment systems and many others," according to Zion. "Prominent drivers of smart home adoption are energy efficiency, home security, entertainment, convenience/productivity, remote health monitoring and connectivity.”

Speaking of connected home appliances, the U.S. market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 39.47 percent during the period from 2016-2020, according to another study released this week, this one by Wiseguyreports.com.

“Connected home appliance companies are focusing on the untapped consumer segments to boost market revenue,” according to the study. “The market is expected to witness rapid growth in the forecast period due to the increased awareness of connected devices.”

Just when you thought that there couldn’t be another report on connected home devices, there is even one on the global smart home shade market, which is also set to grow rapidly in the coming years. According to Technavio, the global smart shade devices market is expected to grow at a CAGR of close to 90 percent during the forecast period from 2017-2021. The study considers revenue generated from the business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) of smart shade devices to individual customers in the global market to calculate the market size.

Region wise, North America leads the market, holding a share of almost 50 percent in the market (2016 figures).

“The region is currently witnessing an increased adoption of smart homes and related devices, owing to the benefits associated with their use,” according to Technavio. “Additionally, consumers are increasingly adopting window-covering products that can be controlled automatically or by the intervention of electronic remote control equipped with wireless technology or by smartphones and tablets. These factors are impacting the high penetration rates of smart shades in the market segment.”

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