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Corporate risk and responsibility

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I had an interesting conversation this morning with a consultant named Dan O’Neill, president and CEO of Applied Risk Management, which has offices in Stoneham, Mass., and in the DC area as well. His specialty is in risk assessment and policy and procedure development. And, he said he works across all verticals but targets airports, colleges and universities, hospitals, power companies and major corporations.

We were talking about the tragedy in Japan and I asked him if any of his clients were thinking anew about how a possible power plant disaster might affect their business, and he said, yes.

This is something our sister publication, Security Director News, wrote about last week. Leischen spoke to Dan Weiss, a partner in McGann Global, and former CEO of Infrastruct, about the tragedy in Japan and business continuity planning in North America.

Dan Weiss said that it's always important for businesses to plan for worst case scenario. O’Neill said he was contacted by a corporate client who asked him to reassess the client’s emergency response plan’s suitability in the event of a nuclear meltdown at nuclear plants.

He said it’s interesting topic to re “Of course we look at the building and the building envelope and what to do with the security systems, O’Neill said. But decisions decisions also need to be made about the company’s corporate responsibility. Who, for example, should a corporation evacuate in an emergency. “They have a responsibility to protect the employees, but those employees also have families and pets and mothers and fathers...”

O’Neill pointed out that the probability of nuclear power plant disaster, along the lines of what’s happening in Japan, and affecting other businesses, is very, very low. It’s not the kind of scenario businesses generally think about, but worse case scenario is clearly important to think about.

Pinnacle at home with charity

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I wrote here in December about Pinnacle Security helping to build homes for residents of Honduras through its new charitable initiative called Pinnacle: Securing Hope. Now the company’s latest project under the initiative has involved helping build a home for people in the company’s own home city of Orem, Utah. 

Pinnacle, one of the leading summer model residential security companies, announced on March 16 the completion of a project in that city in partnership with Habitat for Humanity. Members of Pinnacle's installation department volunteered their time to do the final work on a home that had been built but needed inside finish work before its new owners, a single mother and her two children, could take occupancy, the company said.

The 12 Pinnacle volunteers finished indoor painting, installed appliances and completed trim work in the house, according to the company.

“We found out about the project through Habitat for Humanity of Utah County and were really pleased to have the opportunity to participate," Stuart Dean, VP of corporate communications for Pinnacle Security, said in a statement. “We have enjoyed serving all over the country, but there is something special about being able to help right here in our backyard.”

“Habitat for Humanity depends on volunteers like Pinnacle's team to complete and further our mission,” said Rachel Wyatt, Habitat's volunteer coordinator, in a statement. “We always appreciate companies and individuals that are willing to step-up and get the project ready for a deserving family.”

 

The company said its Securing Hope initiative, announced in fall of 2010, has included building homes and installing solar panels and electricity in Honduras, and becoming the first corporate sponsor for Sustain Haiti, a local NGO focused on rebuilding earthquake ravaged Port-au-Prince with sustainable assistance. Company teams are planning a trip to Haiti this spring to continue rebuilding efforts as well as a trip to Africa to build homes and install electricity, the company said.

 

Calling all women in security

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Monday, March 21, 2011

If you’re a woman who works in the security industry, we probably know each other, or we’ve seen each other.  I’m kidding, of course, but it does seem that way sometimes. There are not a lot of women working in security. I’ve been at industry conferences and—many times—been one of 20, 10, sometimes only two women in the room.

That does seem to be changing. I started working in security in 2005 and each year I interview more women for stories and I see more women at industry events. And, even if the increase is statistically small, I’ve met some very cool, smart and interesting women. JoAnna Sohovich, Lisa Roy, Jamie Haenggi, Sharon Shaw, Aisling MacRunnels, Kerry Egan, Jennifer Hollloway, and Shandon Harbour are just a few who come to mind.

In some ways, the dearth of women is not surprising. As I wrote in a special report “Women in Security” in January 2010, most women don’t grow up dreaming of a glam job in security. It's not a huge industry compared to others, and it's not on many people's radars. Most women who end up here either had parents in the industry, came from law enforcement/military backgrounds, or ended up here accidentally. And all of the women I spoke to for that report had had mentors (the vast majority of whom were men) who guided them in their security careers early on. Those women chose to continue working in the industry because they like the work. There are are challenging, high-paying, important jobs to be had in this line of work.

So I was excited to learn recently about a new group that’s being formed: the Women’s Security Council, which is designed to be “a network of successful professionals empowering women to realize their potential as industry leaders.” For starters, they’ll be offering online and on-site networking programs, educational discussions and Webinars, and special events.

The group is having its grand debut at ISC West this year. Sound good?You can sign up for updates here.  You can also email for more information directly at info@wscouncil.com Soon you’ll be able to become a member online, as well as at WSC events. Membership is $50 annually for regular membership and $75 annually for charter (founding) membership. The group will have membership forms at networking receptions, and will take checks on site or bill later.

 Remember to put these two events on your ISC West calendar:

1.WSC at ISC Kick-Off Networking Reception, April 5 at the V Bar in the Venetian Hotel, 6-8 p.m. RSVP to rhianna@wscouncil.com. (The group is still looking for sponsors for this event)

2. ISC West educational session on April 7 1-2 p.m. “The Woman’s Handbook to Professional Success in the Security Industry”

See you there!

 

Appealing to a wider demographic through multilingual products

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Monday, March 21, 2011

I got a release this morning letting me know that Honeywell had announced the release of its new Spanish language version of the LYNX Plus keypad.

I’ve written before about security industry entities broadening their demographic reach through expanding into languages other than English.

Good for Honeywell. Not everyone speaks English. As one who speaks English, has studied French, Russian and Spanish and knows a few words in Greek, I have to say I applaud any company that embraces a multilingual outlook to widen the accomodated demographic.

I’ve also written about the LYNX Plus before. It won a Maximum Impact Award from ESX last year. The new Spanish version is a combination control panel, keypad, siren, dialer, two-way voice system and speakerphone that has an internal GSM radio that lets dealers offer RMR-generating services like Total Connect.

Total Connect, of course, is the mobile aspect so many end users today are looking for, according to many with whom I’ve recently spoken.

The LYNX Plus can communicate using standard phone lines, IP transmission and GSM. Such versatility is something I’ve written about before, as well. With POTS lines disappearing and the Federal Government mandating a sunset of the PSTN, wireless solutions are a big thing these days.

Of course, I still think the security industry should design, implement and completely control its own communications path in order to truly overcome the uncertainty that comes with having to rely on another, non-security company’s technology to function.

 

Vivint vibrant

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Friday, March 18, 2011

The Utah-based summer-model giant that recently changed its name stands out in its home state for generating revenue and growing at a rapid pace, according to the Utah Valley Business Quarterly.

Vivint, formerly APX Alarm, which rebranded Feb. 1 as a way to highlight its big push beyond home security into home automation, announced this week that it had garnered top spots in the magazine’s “third annual UV50 rankings of Utah Valley’s leading companies. The company ranked No. 2 among Utah County companies for revenue performance and No. 11 for its rate of growth.”

According to a Vivint press release, the magazine’s 2011 30 fastest-growing companies ranking was compiled by the magazine’s editorial team based on companies’ percentage revenue growth over a three-year period from fiscal year 2008 through 2010. The magazine’s top 10 revenue companies ranking was based on 2010 revenues.

“The UV50 honors the economic engines of Utah Valley — and Vivint is no exception,” Briana Stewart, the magazine’s managing editor stated in the release. “In addition to ranking high on our top revenue list, the stalwart Provo company graces our fastest-growing category, which is no easy feat considering their impressive revenue. BusinessQ offers a big congratulations to Vivint. We look forward to seeing them on the UV50 for years to come.”

“In the midst of a sustained economic downturn, we are pleased to achieve the dual honors of being among Utah County’s leading revenue companies and the fastest-growing companies,” said Todd Pedersen, Vivint CEO.

Vivint operates throughout the United States and Canada and has more than 5,000 employees and services about 500,000 customers.

 

Mace getting closer to pure play

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Friday, March 18, 2011

Mace Security International took another step toward becoming a pure-play security company when it announced this week the sale of its Lubbock, Texas carwash.

The car wash sold for $1.7 million and the company netted $300,000 in cash after “paying off a mortgage for $670,000,  a 50 percent payment of $675,000 towards the $1.35 million promissory note with Merlin Partners LP and closing costs,” according to a press release.

This leaves two car washes of the 51 car that Mace originally owned.

Of the two that are left, one is “under an agreement of sale and an additional car wash under lease,” according to a press release.

I spoke to Mace CEO Dennis Raefield this fall, and he said that the company would be shedding all of its security assets early in 2011.

In a prepared statement, Raefied said: “This sale reduces our already low debt levels even more and continues our strategic focus towards the security industry."

Industry makes united stand in Illinois

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Recent steps in Illinois to combat a legislative proposal to give public fire districts a monopoly over fire alarm monitoring are a good example of what the industry can do when it unites around an issue.

Opponents of the legislation, led by the Illinois Electronic Security Association, over the past week said they dissuaded one legislator to drop her co-sponsorship of the bill and also held a rally yesterday in the state capital that drew close to 100 participants, who then lobbied legislators personally against the bill.

“Today was a very good step forward for the industry,” Kevin Lehan, executive director of IESA, told me yesterday after IESA’s Legislative Day rally and lobbying effort in Springfield.

IESA wasted no time mobilizing after HB 1301, entitled the “Fire District Antitrust Exemption,” was formally introduced in the General Assembly on Feb. 8.

Lehan has described the bill as “an overstepping of government. This is a cash grab and nothing more.” It would allow public fire districts to mandate that all customers in the district use the district’s monitoring business, and the customers would pay their monitoring fees to the district.

Actions IESA took included urging members to call their legislators, and it also lined up other business groups, such as the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, to come out in opposition to the measure.

That helped when the IESA learned last week that the bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. Donald Moffitt, had just gained a Democratic chief co-sponsor, Rep. Lisa Dugan.

“We were feeling pretty good about ourselves,” Lehan told me about IESA’s initial efforts to get the bill killed.

But then, he told me, “Last week on the 10th of March, another representative, Lisa Dugan, put her name on as a co-sponsor so we found out very shortly after … and Rep. Dugan is a IBEW [International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers] member and she also is also a [former] Chamber of Commerce president in her area … The Illinois Chamber of Commerce is opposed to 1301 and she had a lot of IBEW members contact her as well.”

As a consequence, Lehan told me, on this past Monday, March 14, “the earliest possible time that she could distance herself, she removed her name as a sponsor.”

I couldn’t reach Dugan for comment this morning, but a spokeswoman for her said the legislator’s name appearing on the bill was a clerical error because Dugan had not intended to support it.

So, is the legislation dead? “We do believe it will just languish in the form of 1301, and die in committee,” Lehan told me.

However, he cautioned, this legislative session doesn’t end until May 31 and there are other bills dealing with fire protection districts to which some legislator might attach the same language as found in HB 1301.

“Until they hit the gavel and close this session anything can happen in Springfield,” Lehan said. “So we’ll remain every vigilant to a handful of bills that do impact the fire protection district.”

 

UTC inspires with relief effort

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

One can feel helpless watching the horrific events in Japan unfold: earthquake, tsunami, and now the threat of nuclear meltdown. But I also feel inspired seeing the world community taking action and reaching out to help. Now count United Technologies Corp., parent company of UTC Fire & Security, among that group.

UTC this week contributed $1 million to support humanitarian relief efforts in Japan, according to a business newswire.

UTC, based in Hartford, Conn., also will match 100 percent of employee contributions to Red Cross relief efforts, to a maximum of $500,000, PR Newswire said.

 “Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by this terrible disaster,” UTC chairman & chief executive officer Louis Chenevert said in a statement. “United Technologies has been in Japan for more than 100 years, and we are deeply committed to our employees and partnerships there.  We are thankful that all UTC employees are safe and want to offer this support to those affected by this tragedy.”

United Technologies is a diversified company providing high technology products and services to the global aerospace and building industries. Among UTC’s products are UTC Fire & Security detection and response systems.

 

One central station's dealer incentives include a chance to win a new Camaro!

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I was contacted recently by Armstrong's GM Dan Small about some new initiatives they're taking up in the Great White North to help out their dealers and treat them right.

"Armstrong’s Communication Ltd. is adding some new services for our dealers, as well as having a major yearlong contest," Dan told me in an email. I called  him up and we talked for a bit.

Armstrong's is a Canadian central staiton with offices in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, and Moncton and Coal Creek, New Brunswick. They monitor accounts in every province of Canada. I wrote about them a few years back when they started their FAST dealer financing program.

So what's new with Dan Small et al?

"It has been a wild couple of years.  Growth has been great and we have been working very hard," Dan told me. "We're promoting products and services to all our dealers." Small told me they were promoting discounted products and services from provider partners to their dealers--everything from software and hardware to insurance. "We're not doing any buying or anything, but we're telling product and service providers, 'If you'll give us a bulk discount, we'll promote your product to our dealers as a promotion. It'll get on our website, it'll get out to our dealers, we'll do a mailer.' We're just trying to say, 'Here's another reason, another advantage to using Armstrong's.'"

Dan also said Armstrong's is coming up with some other creative dealer incentives, as well.

"Technologically, we're all about the same. And that really has leveled the playing field. So you need to be a little more creative these days in saying, 'This is why you should use me," Dan said. "So we're doing a contest as well. We did one 10 years ago that was really succseful in which we gave away a van. This isn't really designed to help switch new dealers over to us--if it does, that's great--but what's it's designed to do is to get our dealers who maybe have a few drifter accounts left spread out at other centrals. And the dealer just never gets around to reprogramming those accounts. This contest has been motivating them to transfer all their accounts over. For every account they bring over, they get one ballot toward the car."

The car Dan's talking about is brand new Chevy Camaro. They've been running the contest since November 1. Avid readers of this blog will recall the security industry hijinks that ensued when SSN associate publisher Gregg Shapiro and I traveled down to Dallas last summer for a security roadtrip during which we found ourselves in a bitchin' Camaro, pictured below.

 

I wrote about some other creative dealer incentives a while ago as well when I covered AlarmWATCH's NFL-themed dealer contest.

Dan also talked a little bit about how the industry had been changing.

"Our industry has had to change our mind set," Dan said. "Years ago, it was: 'Let’s keep all the information to ourselves.' Now it’s: 'How fast can we get the info out?'"

True enought, Dan. I've been talking with a lot of security industry folks lately who are beginning to realize that they had better adapt to changing technology and changing end users quickly or find themselves scrathing their heads, wondering where their businesses have gone.

Pivot3 gets kudos in WSJ ranking

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Serverless storage company Pivot3 has been selected by the Wall Street as a “top venture backed company” in the newpaper’s “Next Big Thing” ranking.

Pivot ranked 37th out of 5,740 companies that were considered.

To be eligible for the ranking, a company must have raised an equity round in the past three years and have a valuation of $1 billion or less. 

The company’s ranking “is determined through analysis of the track record of the company’s founders and management, and investors on its board. It also evaluates the amount of capital raised in the last three years and the percentage change in a company's valuation in the last year. Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones VentureWire reporters and editors also provide perspective and expertise,” according to the WSJ press release.

According to a release, Pivot3 raised more than $78 million in venture capital since its founding in 2003.

Last month, Lee Caswell, Pivot3 co-founder and chief marketing officer, told me that the company (which doesn’t publicly release its financials) doubled its revenue for the fourth year in a row. “IMS [Research] says we’re now number one of the IP SAN products for the surveillance industry ... And IMS predicts IP SANs will be the fastest growing segment of the storage market for video security, growing at 97 percent year over year,” he said.

I spoke to Lee Caswell yesterday and will have more in a story later, but he told me that Pivot3 completed the process with the WSJ about a month ago, and that Pivot3 is the only video surveillance company on the list. The recognition obviously “gives the company a big boost in the visibility,” he said.

“It has a real impact for us,” he said. “The readers of the Wall Street Journal have not been our customers to date, and yet, the technology has applications to those customers who are looking at next-generation [uses of the technology] like virtual desktops ... which apply across all verticals like financial services and K-12.”

The barrier to entry for having something that’s “unique and disruptive in the storage area is very, very high,” he said. And if you can do something different, “it’s extremely valuable.”

For the most part, the investors have been “siloed, in that some understand storage and some understand servers.”

Storage, he said is a $20 billion business and the server market is a $25 billion business. “If you put then together and [can pull value from both sides, that’s something that interests investors.]”

Last month I reported on a new deal Pivot3 has with Dell where Dell hardware will be combined with Pivot3’s software and branded under Pivot3.

From the release: “Venture capitalists are always looking for companies with a new idea that will prove powerful enough to explode into the marketplace,” said Alan Murray, deputy managing editor of The Wall Street Journal. “The Next Big Thing highlights companies that we believe are worth watching and have a chance to make waves in their industry.”

And in a prepared statement, Bob Fernander, Pivot3 CEO said the “recognition demonstrates the market potential of Pivot3’s scale-out application platform innovation, which is poised to reverse the 20-year trend of separating servers and storage,” said “Virtualization creates the unique opportunity to re-join server and storage resources in a single scale-out platform to simplify virtual deployments while saving power, cost and rack space.”

Here's the release.

 

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