Subscribe to

Blogs

NPR program rips industry over false alarms

 - 
Wednesday, April 4, 2012

American Public Media’s “Marketplace” weighed in on false alarms this week, with the featured guest delivering a decidedly unfavorable verdict for the security industry: Alarm customers might be better off relying on a dog.

Program host Kai Ryssdal interviewed Stephen Dubner of Freakonomics.com, who cited a litany of figures and study results that don’t reflect well on alarm companies. Here’s a bit of what Dubner had to say on the show, which aired on National Public Radio:

—“We talked to Simon Hakim, an economist at Temple who’s been studying this issue for a long time. He says that in a given year, U.S. police respond to more than 35 million alarm activations. … Something like 95 percent of them are false alarms and the cost is about $2 billion.”

—“Financial analysts say that industry leader ADT ... has an operating margin of about 25 percent on roughly $3 billion [in] annual revenues. So these false alarms pose what economists call a negative externality. That is, the provider charges you for the service, but then they pass along a big part of their costs to someone else. In this case, the police departments and the taxpayers who support them.”

—“Well, it’s probably a good idea to make the alarm companies more accountable in some fashion, including having them make alarms that don’t fail so often. … As for me, I think I’m just going to ditch my new alarm that seems to go off every five minutes.”

Dubner then referred to his new deterrent—growling can be heard in the background—and told Ryssdal, “Go ahead. Make my dog’s day.”

On the positive side, Dubner quoted Hakim as saying that alarm systems deter burglars to some degree, citing “the sign in the yard and the threat of the alarm and the police.” He also quoted Ron Walters, director of the Security Industry Alarm Coalition, who said false alarms are SIAC’s “No. 1 priority. This is the one issue that we have decided has to be addressed.”

The incidence of user error was briefly mentioned, along with the move toward more video monitoring to verify whether an alarm call is legit. But that was about it for the bouquets, which points to the long-standing need to better educate customers and improve relationships with law enforcement to reduce false dispatches.

It’s either that or the doghouse.  

A Platinum Protection founder goes solar

 - 
Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Chance Allred, one of the founders of Platinum Protection, has come home to Vivint again—in a way.

Platinum, a summer-model sales company based in American Fork, Utah, in February this year abruptly laid off virtually all its employees and shut down its summer sales program. The company, founded in 2006, hasn’t talked publicly about the reasons why, but it appears to be in severe financial distress.

Since then, Vivint, a summer-model giant based in Provo, Utah, has hired about 130 of the unemployed Platinum sales reps, Vivint told me. It’s not clear what percentage of Platinum’s former sales force that represents, but it’s just 4 percent of Vivint’s sales force, that company said.

In addition, Allred in March was hired as VP of sales for Vivint Solar, a sister company of Vivint that offers residential customers the opportunity to purchase power generated by Vivint solar panels on their homes.

That’s kind of interesting because before helping to found Platinum, Allred used to work for APX Alarm, which is what Vivint was called before it rebranded last year to highlight the fact it offers home automation and other services beyond security.

Great finale in Vegas; onward to ESX

 - 
Monday, April 2, 2012

ISC West 2012 is in the books.

As expected, Day Three was a bit quieter than the opening two acts, but there was still plenty of action for those who chose to stay for the duration. Here are a few details from my stops on the final day:

— Don Maden, executive VP for COPS Monitoring, said the company is putting the final cosmetic touches on its new central station in Dallas, with an anticipated opening sometime in May. COPS has also rebranded its COP-A-Link online management tool for dealers as MPower and has added "a whole series of technical improvements to make the customer experience more seamless."

— Uplink VP Michael Gregory provided a rundown of new offerings from his company, including the Uplink 5100 universal broadband alarm communicator. The device is the company's "first broadband solution," enabling a dial-up alarm system to transmit signals and two-way voice over an Internet connection.

— Micro Key Solutions President Victoria Ferro detailed the company's new WebTech app, which gives technicians access to accounts in the field with any Web-enabled device. "It gives techs remote access to tickets, Google directions, signature capture and credit card payments," she said. "It's green, reduces the costs of paper, and provides better customer service by putting information at [techs'] fingertips."

— Wayne Alter, chairman of the board for Dynamark Monitoring, was still meeting-and-greeting during the final two hours of ISC West. Alter, who was joined by Tom Piston, VP of sales and marketing, and Michael Hutcher, VP of product services, said it had been "a great show" for the Hagerstown, Md.-based company.

That sentiment seemed to be echoed across the expanse of the Sands Expo, with many exhibitors predicting better days ahead for the industry as the economy continues to rebound. As the show ended and the booths were broken down, thoughts turned to the next big event on the calendar. For the monitoring industry, that means ESX.

See you in Nashville ...

Onward through the blog: Day Two at ISC West

 - 
Friday, March 30, 2012

ISC West kept up a strong head of steam on Day Two.

It started at 7:30 a.m. with the Security 5K to benefit Mission 500, a nonprofit group that aids impoverished children. An impressive turnout of runners raised an equally impressive funding total, according to race organizers, and the group later said it had topped its goal of 500 children sponsored.

Then it was on to the show floor for another day of networking and discussion among the thousands, with no letup from Day One’s brisk pace. Here are a few details from my stops along the way:

— Secure Global Solutions announced a May 1 launch for a new app, Stages Metrix, that will give users tablet access to key central station performance figures.
— Keith Jentoft of Videofied provided an update of the growing alliance between insurers, law enforcement and central stations to increase arrests and reduce false dispatches with the use of video alarms.
— Cliff Dice of Dice Corp. detailed his company’s Matrix software, which brings video into a browser environment and opens the door to continuous RMR for integrators.
— Morgan Hertel, the new VP of operations for Rapid Response, disclosed that the company is planning to build a new central station in the West sometime in the next year.
— Gordon Hope of AlarmNet at Honeywell talked about the move to 4G and the June 1 release of the LYNX Touch 5100 wireless control panel with Wi-Fi communications module, which finds the best signal—2G, 3G or 4G—in the user’s area.

Like Day One, there was obviously much more, but I’ll put it to bed for now and gear up for tomorrow’s finale. See you there …  

 

Running, walking and talking—Day 2 at ISC West

 - 
Friday, March 30, 2012

Day 2 of ISC West started off with a bang … as in the bang from the starter’s pistol as I ran in the annual Mission 500 Security 5K, the running race that Security Systems News helps sponsor.

Not only does the race do good—this year the more than 500 participants helped raise about $80,000 for needy children in Mexico, India and Tanzania—but it’s a legitimate excuse to take some time to exercise at this busy show. And this year it featured new event, a 2K walk. I heard from several people on the show floor later that they’ve wanted to participate in the race previously but can’t run 3.2 miles. They said a walk would be more doable and said they may participate in that part of the event next year. So, I’m betting that at ISC West 2013 we’ll see even more people joining in this good, healthy—and fun—cause.

Speaking of Mexico, during my visit to the 2GIG booth, Todd Santiago, president of the Carlsbad, Calif.-based home security systems developer told me the company is expanding to Mexico and other Latin American countries this year. “We see international expansion as a huge opportunity,” he said. “We have significant demand for our security offering.”

He said the company, founded about two years ago, also is doing great in North America, with more than 1,100 dealers now.

Among other Day 2 meetings I had were with a couple of fire dealers who impressed me with their innovative ideas.

One was Carter Rierson, founder and president of Best Defense Security & Fire Protection of Waunakee, Wis.
Among things that Rierson and I discussed were his trademark “cellevator,” a cellular solution that enables people in an elevator to summon help in an emergency. Rierson said customers like his solution because it costs half of the traditional solution, which is a phone line voice connection to an elevator.

I also talked to Mark Popkowski of Texas-based Modern System Concepts, a Texas fire and security company. He told me he’s outfitting all the company’s technicians with iPads. He’s also saving time and money by having them do fire inspections with a new inspection app that his company developed. He plans to beta test the new software and then market it to other companies this summer.

He said the app allows companies to “have multiple technicians out in the field on an inspection and they can be doing one part of the inspection and somebody else can be doing the other” but they both produce one report.

ISCWest Day 2, some notes

 - 
Friday, March 30, 2012

So much to write about Day 2 at ISC West 2012, but here are some notes from the day:

Stanley held a luncheon reception to introduce the new combined leadership of Stanley CSS and Niscayah. The combined company serves 460,000 customers from 80 North American locations. The team includes: Marty Guay, VP-national accounts and market solutions; Mike Bishop VP-field operations; Pete Straka, VP-human resources; Steve Walker, VP ProtectionNet customer service centers; Damon Kanzler, VP-opeartions support; Joe Richards, VP-infomation technology, Felix Gonzales, VP-Strategic Initiatives& business development; Jim Kopplin, VP-field sales & integration leader; Tony Byerly, president North America; Ina Staris, senior legal counsel; John Nemorofsky, VP market solutions; Raymond Radis, VP-national accounts.

--I did a number of video interviews including ones with Jamie Haenggi, chief marketing and customer experience officer for Protection 1, where we talked about Protection 1's focus on national accounts.

--Sharon Shaw, PSA Security director of education filled me in on what's new at PSA-TEC this year for integrators.

--Kristen Simmons, founder of LiveSmart Security, and a veteran marketing executive of several Fortune 500 companies. Kristen will be delivering the keynote address at ESX this year and talking about the customer experience as the "next battleground" for security companies.

--Jay Hauhn, CTO for the newly named Tyco Integrated Security,  talked about what Tyco International's priorities once it splits into three separately companies and Tyco International becomes a pure play security and fire group for the first time.

I did several booth visits, but one of the most interesting was speaking to Yohav Stern, CEO of DVTEL. Stern talked about the company's new "TruWitness" product which turns a smartphone into a camera on your surveillance network. Stern also talked about how DVTel has changed in the past year since he assumed leadership. The  R& D team now has some simple but firm guidelines. Products being innovative is not enough, he said, they need to be reliable, scalable,  end-to-end solutions that are also open.

Trendy in Vegas

 - 
Friday, March 30, 2012

ISC West 2012 is now a wrap, the show having ended a few hours ago. Day 3 proved as thought provoking as the first two.

I started out today talking to Rick Robinson, president of Qualified Commercial Electronics Co. (QCECO), a fire and security company in Phoenix, Ariz. in business for 25 years.

Among the things that Robinson, who said his company is a Silent Knight dealer, talked about with me was trends. One trend he said he sees in the industry is that “the technology is consistently getting better and less expensive. I think the products we have available to us now, and that we’re offering to our customers, are selling themselves so to speak because they’re so good compared to the way things were 10 to 15 years ago.”

Robinson’s words seem to me to sum up very well what I was seeing and hearing this past week in Las Vegas. And the show also seemed reflective of other trends.

A case in point is the home energy management trend. Consumers already are demanding ways to manage their use of energy and that demand is expected to grow phenomenally in the next decade, according to a new study.

It was clear at the show that the security industry is already anticipating that demand with a variety of products that help consumers track their energy usage to save money.

Alarm.com, a Vienna, Va.-based technology provider of interactive security solutions is among those doing that through its new Smart Schedule Activity Patterns. The feature helps homeowners optimize their thermostat settings based on data from their security systems.

Alarm.com at the show was also promoting its new location-based services, called Geo-Services.

One of those services, to be released next month, is an arming reminder alert, said Jay Kenny, Alarm.com’s VP of marketing.

He said the service will make use of a homeowner’s GPS device on their mobile phone to determine if they’ve left a “geofence” around their home without arming their system. “If I leave that fence I can get a notification [that says]‘You forgot something on your system,’” Kenny told me.

He said such services all are part of a larger trend.

“The solution is really starting to be bigger than just security, more the management of these critical things in the home, [such as] energy, locks on the door, and two-way video systems,” Kenny told me. “That connected solution is something we’re seeing consumer interest in, and our dealers who are adopting the approach of selling that type of solution are having a lot of success right now.”

Firsts on the first day of ISC West

 - 
Thursday, March 29, 2012

Today was the first day of ISC West 2012 and I started my day off at a Honeywell breakfast where Scott Harkins, the new president of Honeywell Security Products, talked about a series of “firsts” the company was announcing at the show.

“We’re very excited that this show, the ISC show, is where we’re launching the great technology revolution in the intrusion space,” Harkins said.

He cited a series of products and technologies that he said are “firsts for us and first for our industry” include 2G/3G/4G radio, “one module that can do all three,” switching to whichever has the strongest signal. “We’re the only manufacturer in the industry with that,” Harkins said.

Among other innovations, Harkins said Honeywell’s Wi-Fi enabled system is “clearly a first,” and also said the company is the first to have an IP video system “that’s literally three clicks to get up and running.”

Honeywell wasn’t the only company talking about “firsts” today.

I stopped by the Cooper Notification booth, where Ted Milburn, vice president, marketing, and Jacquiline Townshend, marketing channel leader told me about that company was having a soft launch at the show of its Exceder LED, which Milburn described as “the first to replace the traditional strobe with an LED.”

They said the device is energy efficient, having a lower current draw than a traditional notification device, and is easier and less costly to install and has a smaller profile.

The device, which Townshend said would be available in May, is priced the same as a traditional one. “We think if the function is the same, the price should be the same,” Milburn said.

Over at the Fire-Lite by Honeywell booth, customers were acting like a product that the company introduced about four years ago was brand new this year.

While I was there a steady stream of people were showing up to learn more about Fire-Lite’s IPGSM-DP Commercial Fire Communicator, which is used to upgrade a fire system from reporting to the central station by phone lines to one that uses an IP or GSM cellular path.

The product saves end users money by letting them get rid of their telephone lines, and dealers can use that fact as a selling point to generate more business for themselves, the company says.

Beth Welch, public relations manager for Honeywell Fire Systems, told me interest in the IPGSM has suddenly taken off. “We’re just now seeing the real, true adoption of this. It’s a landslide,” she said. “Dealers are using this to get their foot in the door with new accounts.”

She said there are a variety of reasons why the product has taken off now, but believes one is just that AHJ’s are seeing how well it works and so are endorsing it.

I also talked today to Alex Dunn, COO of Provo, Utah-based home security/home automation giant Vivint. Vivint has to be the first security company to start a new company to sell solar panels to residential customers. Vivint Solar was created almost a year ago.

Although the two companies are separate, I asked Dunn if there was any sales crossover. He said there was and will continue to be.

“I think you’ll see in the future more integration from a sales perspective, even from a technology perspective, when the control panel integrates with the solar panels, Dunn said.

Among other people I met on the show floor today was Don Moore, president of Redondo Beach, Calif.-based Moore Protection, who stopped by the Security Systems News’ booth for our “meet the editors” event. Moore’s security company is the first to create its own “Security Oscar”: At the time of the Academy Awards each year it gives out the Morpheus Award to a film that best depicts the use of security. This year “Tower Heist” was the winner.

It was great to meet Don in person and while chatting, he told me another interesting fact about his company. It turns out that the graphics for the company’s lawn sign were designed some years ago by George Lois, an advertising wizard who is known as “The Original Mad Man,” a real-life version of Don Draper on the AMC television series.

Now, that’s got to be a first!

 

Interface buys Westec and other stuff I learned at ISC West on Day 1

 - 
Thursday, March 29, 2012

Big news from yesterday was the acquisition of Westec by Interface Security Systems. The story is on our front page or click here . You can also see my video interview with Jeff Frye of Interface Security Systems about the Westec deal on our front page or by clicking here.

Winning the procrastination award for latest to announce a press conference at ISCWest  2012 is BRS Labs. I got the announcement a little after midnight--8 hours notice!

It's not a strategy I'd recommend, but there was a good crowd in the press room at 9 a.m. today. John Frazzini, president of BRSLabs, showed several examples of how the software "learns" how a certain venue should look day and night and then goes into alert when there’s an anomaly. The first example was subway tunnel. The alert went off when a regular automobile tried to follow the subway into the subway tunnel.

BRS Labs, just received its umbrella patent, and some of its wins are part of the public record, including a $2 million deal with the San Francisco.

Frazzini believes the future is bright for behavioral analytics. He said that IMS predicts that behavioral analytics will be a $2.1  billion addressable market by 2015. On the other hand, traditional video analytics have been a $57 billion market through  2010,  and is expectd to grow to $108 million market by 2015. Frazzini called that growth "immaterial and irrelevant" and said a behavioral analytics is causing a “real disruption in the marketplace.”

INGRAM MICRO

In another unscheduled—at least in my book—press conference, I heard Ingram Micro’s Brian Wiser talking about that company's renewed push into the physical security business.

Wiser said the Ingram Micro physical security business has doubled in the past year.  He said Ingram Micro considers physical security a “strategic high growth focus [area, and said the company intents to]  dedicate disproportionate resources to this business unit.” Integrators should not be afraid of making the leap into IP systems, he said. “Ingram can help them make the leap—to enable them to do it themselves [or if they need help with a particular project] we can connect you with someone who can do that for you in a non-competitive fashion.”

Wiser said that Ingram Micro—which had 20,000 square feet of show floor space, 30 partner vendors and 450 VARS—intends to enter the industry in a big way—to "dive in and dive deeply," he said.

JOHNSON CONTROLS

I had a great meeting with Tammee Thompson who is the new VP and GM global fire and security for Johnson Controls. Her appointment was announced last week, but she’s been in place for about 5 months.  

This is the first time the global fire and security unit has been organized into a global PL. Thompson has spent the past four months traveling around visiting teams in the field, understanding the capabilities the groups have and need to grow the business. The goal, she said, is to the become the integrator of choice.

In North America, JC has 80 branch offices that offer security and fire as well as services and HVAC. “That will help us on a regional basis to offer entire portfolios to customers,” she said.
AT ISC West, Thompson's team is looking at technologies, not devices. JCI has an access control platform that integrates with 17 VMS providers. At this show Thompson's team is  nvestigating complimentary platforms such as PSIM and Identity Management.

WSC

At 12: 45 I moderated a Women’s Security Council meeting with three very cool and accomplished women: Kelly Bond, senior vice president of sales & marketing for Alarm Capital Alliance; Renae Leary, ADT Global Accounts Senior Director; and, Juliette Gustavsson, Milestone Systems Head of Corporate Marketing. Lots of tips, tactics and resources for career advancement. I’ll have a full story on this next week.

S2

I stopped by S2 and spoke to John Moss about what’s new there. He’s particularly excited about forensic capabilities of his new products enabled because of the tight integration between the access control and video.  More on this and other show floor stuff later.

I'm late getting to the show floor. The Security 5K was great this morning. Lots of people, great weather. Come to the reception on the show floor at 4:30 this afternoon.

Did you see the story about ADT commercial changing it's name that I posted on Tuesday? Gonna get some more info on that today from Jay Hauhn. Much more to report from Day 1 and Day 2 later today. Stay tuned.

 

Taking it all in at ISC West

 - 
Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Quite the first day for a first-timer at ISC West, and for a first-timer to Vegas to boot. Now I can understand what all the fuss was about leading up to the show.

Day One started with a “Meet the Editors” session at the SSN booth—No. 27065, stop by if you get a chance—which was followed by a full slate of media gatherings and meet-and-greets. Here were a few:

— I got the lowdown from ASSA ABLOY on what it’s doing to fill the “medium security” gap for access control, or components targeting the void between $200 and $4,000. The company sees a growth market there and is moving to take advantage.

— Bill Hobgood, project director for the Department of Information Technology, Public Safety Team, for the city of Richmond, Va., gave a firsthand account of what ASAP can do for speeding the flow of information between central stations and PSAPs. If you’re still holding on to the phone as the future, Richmond’s experience will change your mind.

— Chris Holbert, CEO of SecuraTrac, told me how the company’s new app, SecuraFone, disables social media sites when in motion—hello, distracted teens—along with immobilizing email and texting. Other features include physical tracking and more importantly, emergency response for seniors. SecuraTrac is teaming with Mace CS to expand along this avenue in the future.

— Bosch acknowledged the hectic pace of the day with a 5 p.m. session that featured a truck giveaway and happy hour refreshments, which turned out to be a real crowd-pleaser. A great way to end a long day on the floor.

My day isn’t done yet—I’m about the step out the door to attend a UCC cocktail party—and Day Two and Day Three await, so I’ll sign off for now. Much more ahead, hopefully with a decent night’s sleep to take it all in. The young and lively door-bangers in the room next door may have something to say about that, though. This is Vegas, after all …    

Pages