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Day 2 at ESX: Looking ahead, on technology, leaders, and sales

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

“Forward thinking.” That the term that Hank Groff, national director of Pittsburgh-based Guardian Protection, used today when I asked him about his impression of the second day of the ESX show, being held here in Nashville.

Groff told me that’s a theme he’s noticing at the show, and said it dovetails nicely with Guardian’s approach to the latest technology.

“We’re really driving our dealers to sell everything cellular and mobile app technology,” he said.

He also said a Texas dealer is the first among Guardian’s dealers to go completely paperless. Every one of the dealer’s approximately 40-50 sales reps has an iPad, which they use to do everything from the presentation in the home to the contract, he said.

His comments got me thinking about other aspects of the show that also were about the industry adapting to the future.

Take this morning, for example. I attended the ESA Eye Opener Breakfast, which honored a group of Security Systems News20 under 40 Class of 2012 professionals.

A panel discussion—led by SSN editor Martha Entwistle and featuring class member Laurie Jackson, VP gaming sales, North American Video; Mike Jagger, CEO and founder of Provident Security and an alumnus of the SSN 20 under 40 Class of 2008; and also Mel Mahler, CEO of ADS Security and a mentor for the class of 2012—talked about such topics as what companies can do to encourage their employees to become future leaders of the industry. You can’t get much more forward-looking than that.

Afterwards, I chatted with Scott Harkins, president of Honeywell Security Products, who attended the breakfast and said he found the panel discussion enlightening.

Harkins said Honeywell was not introducing any new products at this show. Of course, the company just announced earlier this month the release of some very forward-looking technology:  the LYNX Touch 5100, the latest version of the company’s popular self-contained wireless touch-screen security system; and the Wi-Fi version of Tuxedo Touch, a touchscreen security and automation controller with Z-Wave functionality.

Among other activities on Tuesday, I also attended a seminar titled “Achieving RMR from Home & Building Automation,” which focused on how market leaders are creating new RMR models around home automation. The panelists were Patrick Egan, president and founder of the Pennsylvania-based super-regional Select Security, and Greg McLochlin, head of the Honeywell Security Dealer Development Group.

During the discussion, McLochlin expressed a forward-thinking idea about the entrance of telecoms and cablecos into the security market.

“Are they a threat to RMR or an opportunity for RMR?” he asked. “Are they turning over rocks we never thought about turning over anymore?”

He suggested the latter. “They have a different view of the market,” McLochlin said. “They see it as a lifestyle sale as opposed to a life safety sale. We as independent dealers can learn from them."

ADS Security tour a hit at ESX

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

“Very impressive.”

That comment, made by a tour-goer gazing at the hardware at ADS Security’s central station in Nashville, pretty much summed up the sentiment of the rest of the group that visited the facility Tuesday afternoon as part of ESX 2012.

And it wasn’t just the equipment and monitoring capabilities detailed by the tour guides. It was more of what ADS President John Cerasuolo described as “a culture of recognition” at the company that has motivated its employees and translated into better service for its customers.

Cerasuolo greeted the tour group and gave a brief history of ADS, which was established in 1990 and now monitors about 70,000 accounts at its two-story headquarters. Scott Harkins, president of Honeywell Security Products, followed Cerasuolo with a few remarks about ADS and its success, with both men praising the partnership between the companies.

The tour group was then divided to allow for a more efficient look at the site. Stops along the way included a session with SSN “20 under 40” honoree Patrick Ritter, company VP and controller, who detailed improvements like the SedonaOffice daily dashboard that has helped the company keep better track of its accounts and make any necessary adjustments. ADS also provides laptops for all of its technicians, improving service and efficiency in the field, and it has established a Web portal to speed the payment process for customers.

There was also a lot of talk about technology that I won’t detail here, and well-deserved trumpeting of employee training—all 28 full-time operators are certified CSAA Level I and Level II at the Five Diamond central, the tour group was told.

The kudos reflected the culture of recognition that Cerasuolo spoke of, which has translated into a low turnover rate among operators—the average tenure is 7.6 years—and a long list of rewards for performance companywide.

 “I’ve been here four years and I absolutely love it,” one tour guide told me.

What company owner doesn’t want to hear that?

Meet me at MAMU

 - 
Tuesday, June 26, 2012

What the heck is MAMU?

MAMU is a friendly little mobile app competition and meet up at the ESX show.

The Mobile App Meet-Up will take place Wednesday, June 27 from 3:45 - 5:00 PM in Booth 729 on the show floor.

What will happen? Exhibitors will do three-minute demos their mobile and tablet applications and then attendees will vote on which app they think their customers would value and would make them money.

Fun idea, don’t you think?

These are the companies participating: Axis Communications; DMP - Digital Monitoring Products; Lutron; Micro Key Solutions; Milestone Systems; Napco Security Technologies; Optex; Paxton Access; and, SedonaOffice.

Tuning up, tuning in for ESX Nashville

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Off and running shortly in Nashville for ESX, which promises to be the biggest and most informative edition in the event's five-year history. The show returns to its roots this year after stops in Pittsburgh and Charlotte, and people are already talking about the ESX Crawl. There will be a lot of business before the pleasure, though, and here are a few highlights:

—The ESA Eye-Opener Breakfast on Tuesday will shine the spotlight on Security System News' "20 under 40" Class of 2012, young professionals who are already making their mark on the industry and likely will continue to do so for many years to come. They'll share stories of how they've gotten to this point in their careers and talk about the people who have helped them get there.

—Later in the day, show attendees who want a backstage look at a CSAA Five Diamond central station will get their chance when ADS Security opens its doors for a tour of its monitoring facility in Nashville. The session is sponsored by Honeywell Security Group.

—Who will head home with the CSAA's Excellence Awards for 2012? Find out at the group's annual breakfast Wednesday morning, with awards for Central Station of the Year, Manager of the Year, Operator of the Year, and Support Person of the Year.

—Learn the latest on the evolution of ASAP to PSAP at a Wednesday morning session featuring Ed Bonifas of the CSAA and Alarm Detection Systems. Vector Security, UCC and Monitronics have taken the reins during the pilot phase of the program, but the CSAA had 75 other companies waiting to adopt ASAP at the beginning of 2012. It's an exciting time for exciting technology that is advancing every day.

That's just a taste of what ESX is serving up this year. There is a long list of seminars at www.esxweb.com, and there will be four days of networking on the show floor. And the Crawl, of course. I'll be doing my best to make the most of it. See you there ...

ESX 2012: Maximize your ROI—by talking to the likes of me!

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Want a tip? One of you best ways to market your company may just well be contacting me.

No, I don’t have an inflated ego. What I’m talking about is good old-fashioned publicity about your company that I and other members of the media can provide—it’s still one of the best content market strategies there is. And you can learn about how to get the most out of media relations by attending a seminar I’m moderating this week at the ESX show in Nashville.

The seminar is called “Maximize Your Media Relations ROI,” and will take place Wed., June 27, from 10:45 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. in room 208. You’ll get lots of tips from our panel of public relations experts: Joseph Mitton, marketing coordinator, Select Security; Beth Welch, public relations manager, Honeywell Fire Systems; and Jay Stuck, chief marketing officer and VP, residential sales, Securewatch24.

We’ll answer such questions as “How do I figure out what is newsworthy about my company?” and “How do I build a media contact list?” Also, you’ll learn the difference between working with broadcast, print and online media.

I hope you’ll attend this session and let us share with you the best ways to publicize your company’s information and expertise. See you in Nashville!

Telcos & Cablecos: Their strategies revealed

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Monday, June 25, 2012

I’m here in Nashville for the fifth annual ESX show and I’m currently prepping for three, count ‘em—three, panel discussions that I’ll be moderating tomorrow. I will show no moderation in moderating on Tuesday.

The panel discussions center on three different topics—careers in security, new technology impacting your business, and the new entrants into the security industry. However, when I did conference calls with the three different groups of panelists, the conversation inevitably touched on how to effectively compete against the AT&Ts and Comcasts of the world.  

The new entrants will, no doubt, be a recurring theme in many of the educational sessions, discussions in the hallways and probably in the watering holes on Broadway in the evenings.

Another theme in my panels and others is the importance of IT know-how in security companies. It’s something security systems integrators have been talking about for many years, but it’s now becoming a crucial skill for the average security company that does residential, small business and light commercial as well.

On a related note, we’ll also be discussing security company’s back office operations and processes during a couple of my panels. Is your office IT infrastructure up to snuff?

Here’s what I’m up to on Tuesday:

9-10:30 a.m. YSP Eye Opener Breakfast in the Renaissance Ballroom: We’ll be honoring the members of Security Systems News’ “20 under 40” Class of 2012 and the Security Industry Mentors. After that, I’ll be moderating a panel discussion about careers in security with Mel Mahler, CEO of ADS, and one of the five Security Industry Mentors; Mike Jagger, CEO of Provident Security, SSN “20 under 40” Class of 2008; Laurie Jackson, VP, gaming sales for NAV.

1:45-3 p.m. Technology Trends Impacting your Business in Room 204.  We’ll be talking about mobile apps, managed services and what you need to do internally to ensure that your business is ready to offer these services. On the panel: Wells Sampson, CEO of American Alarm; David Carter, managing director of Security Networks of America; Lou Fiore, chairman of the Alarm Industry Communications Committee

4:45-6 p.m. The New Competitive Landscape: Telcos, Cable Companies and Beyond in Room 204. We’ll talk about the new entrants’ strategies and timelines to scale their business. What do you need to know to compete? On the panel: Joe Nuccio, CEO of ASG; John Loud, president of LOUD Security; and, Tom Kerber of Parks Associates.

Showdown at the cableco corral? ESX has ammo

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The big, bad cable giants and telecoms are riding into town, aiming to steal your horses and accounts and whatever else they can toss a lasso around. Everyone knew the day was coming, but now that it’s here, are you prepared to hold your ground? Do you really have what it takes to compete, or will you forever be at the mercy of the black hats?

Rest assured there’s hope, and you can tap into it at ESX. A number of sessions are planned to help alarm companies deal with this new landscape by staying technologically savvy and by offering what has long been seen as the silver bullet for the industry: superior customer service.

At the ESA Industry Luncheon and Annual Meeting on June 28, Kristen Simmons, managing partner at Lightswitch and former VP of marketing for Mazda North America, will share her expertise about what it takes to earn customers and turn them into advocates for your business. Simmons led Mazda’s “Zoom Zoom” ad campaign and also founded LiveSmart Security, a boutique provider of home security services.

“Over the next five to 10 years, one factor will become ever more critical to the success of manufacturers, security integrators and monitoring companies alike: the customer experience,” Simmons said in an ESX news release. “New technology and integrated approaches have enabled a far more captivating experience for security customers than the traditional ‘detect and respond’ model. Leveraging these capabilities will be an enormous catalyst for customer loyalty, RMR growth and bottom-line profitability.”

On the technology side, at least a dozen sessions are planned at ESX to help attendees take on the telecoms and cablecos. A recent addition to the schedule features Patrick Egan, owner of Lancaster, Pa.-based Security Partners, who will host a series of interviews with industry leaders on how alarm companies can compete with the big boys entering the market. Egan will talk with each executive for about 15 minutes, then open the floor for a 15-minute Q&A.

The sessions are scheduled to run from 1:30 to 6:30 p.m. on June 27 at the Security Partners booth (No. 725) at the Nashville Convention Center. Seating is first come, first served. Executives on board so far include Kirk MacDowell from GE, Lance Dean from 2GIG, Gordon Hope from Honeywell, and Jay Kenny from Alarm.com.

“With all the buzz in the marketplace, we think this is going to generate a lot of interest,” said Joseph Mitton, marketing coordinator for Security Partners.

To check out the full list of ESX seminars, go to www.esxweb.com. See you in Nashville …

Vivint gets millions more in financing, surpasses RMR milestone

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Ever since rebranding last year, Vivint has seemed to do nothing but grow. The latest sign of that is the announcement yesterday from the residential security and home automation provider that it has surpassed a $30 million milestone in RMR, putting it among the top three largest security companies in the nation.

Also, the Provo, Utah-based summer-model company said, it has added another $50 million to its financing, bringing its total senior debt financing to $812 million.

That refinancing comes on the heels of a $72 million financing boost the company announced just over three months ago. It then had $762 million in total financing.

I’ve reached out to Vivint officials to learn more about these developments. In the meantime, here’s what they had to say in a news release:
 

“Surpassing the $30 Million RMR benchmark is quite an accomplishment and is a testament to our loyal customers and employees,” said Alex Dunn, Vivint’s chief operating officer. “We look forward to growing our customer base with continued product innovation and a corporate focus on customer service.”

… Chris Black, Vivint’s chief financial officer, commented, “We continue to enjoy a very strong relationship with our lenders and are pleased to have added an additional $50 Million to our existing facility, increasing the bank deal to over $800 Million. The increase will be used to support organic growth of the business and continued expansion of our customer base.”

“I am very proud of the accomplishments that Vivint has been able to achieve,” added Todd Pedersen, Vivint’s chief executive officer. “None of this would have been possible without the support of our customers who trust us to protect what is most important in their lives, and the talented team we’ve assembled who are passionate about creating exceptional customer experiences every day.”

Vivint is not without its critics, however. A recent television news report from South Carolina cites a homeowner and CPI Security Systems, a North Carolina-based security monitoring company, in saying that Vivint used deceptive sales tactics to steal customers from CPI.

However, the TV report says Vivint issued a statement saying: "Vivint does not condone aggressive or misleading sales tactics. To ensure the highest level of customer service, Vivint conducts a recorded telephonic survey where the customer is asked to confirm their understanding of the terms of their agreement and that Vivint is not affiliated with any other company."

Vivint rebranded from APX Alarm Security Solutions in February 2011 to better reflect its expansion beyond security into home automation services.

IMS on whole-building trend, benefits of being 'super-integrator'

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Monday, June 18, 2012

IMS released a report this morning about the whole-building trend.

The research group says that 25 percent of installed building automation systems in the Americas and EMEA were integrated with lighting control systems in 2011, and predicts that number will increase to 35 percent by 2016.

It's an opportunity for security systems integrators, but only if your company has a "robust understanding of multiple system types and strong IT networking knowledge," according to a prepared statement from IMS's Will Rhodes. IMS says what it's dubbed "super-integrators" have that capability, while "traditional integrators "often have a good understanding of one buidling system, but may lack wider IT knowledge."

Rhodes is quoted as saying that observers believe "traditional integrators are starting to lose business to 'super integrators' when a building owner or managment cmopany wants to integrate across building systems."

The overlap between security integration and building automation is a trend that Honeywell Security Products president Scott Harkins talked about at the HIS Forum (HIS dealers are Honeywell's high-end integrator partners) which took place in May in Chicago. "We hear every day about building management companies that want to get into this space," he warned about 80 integrators who attended the event.

I emailed Rhodes this morning to get a sense of how IMS is defining super integrators. "We would classify a ‘super integrator’ as a company that can integrate across multiple building systems. They can integrate building automation and physical security or security and lighting or multiples of the above," he told me in an email.

So, major integrators like JCI and Siemens clearly have the scale to do this kind of work. What about mid-sized or smaller companies? Rhodes pointed to Advantech as a good example of a super integrator. He also said that Tridium’s integrators of many sizes fall into the same category. They use Tridium's Niagara framework to integrate across many building system types.

First day at NFPA: SimplexGrinnell and Tyco split; Siemens guarantees no false alarms; and social media ROI

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

How the Tyco International split this fall will benefit SimplexGrinnell; Siemens’ no-false-alarm guarantee; and how to maximize your ROI using social media are among things I learned about at my first day here at the annual NFPA Conference & Expo, being held in Las Vegas this week.

I started Tuesday morning at a pre-show reception where SimplexGrinnell president Bob Chauvin talked about Tyco International’s pending split into three publicly traded companies Oct. 1. The new companies will be ADT North America residential security business, Tyco Fire and Security, and Flow Control.

SimplexGrinnell, a Tyco International company, will be part of Tyco Fire and Security, “a global, mostly commercially-focused fire and security company,” Chauvin said.

“I think for us and for the life safety industry it means some very positive things,” Chauvin said. “What one is that we’ll be the only pure-play company that is singularly focused on the commercial fire and security business globally. Many play there, but I like to call it the privilege-of-focus opportunity: We have the opportunity to uniquely focus just in the life safety and security business.”

Secondly, he said, “SimplexGrinnell will be a significant part of this new company,” which he said is expected to do about $10 billion in sales, have almost 70,000 employees in about 1,200 locations and serve about 100 countries.”

Chauvin said he was excited and predicted that “our business will thrive with the change.”

SimplexGrinnell also was touting its eservices platform at the show, which it described as an “advanced suite of integrated web-based technologies can provide more value to customers through improved efficiency, added productivity, and lower life-cycle costs.”

Over at the Siemens booth, that company was promoting its long history of innovative technologies and its no-false-alarm guarantee.

Ron Ouimette, a Siemens product manager, said Siemens believes it is “the only company in the industry that offers a no-false-alarm guarantee. If trucks are rolling and there’s no fire, we pay.”

Company officials said the company has had that policy since 1997 because Siemens is so confident in the quality of its products.

Among the products the company is promoting at the show is its new ASAtechnology. ASA stands for Advanced Signal Analysis and its fire and fire and carbon monoxide detectors use “state-of-the-art forward/backward light scattering technology,” the company said.

The detectors also have two thermal and two optical sensors. All those features, combined with a built-in algorithm that allows for detection profiles that can be easily tailored for spaces as diverse as an office and an industrial warehouse give them very fast, reliable detection capabilities, the company said.

I also attended an educational seminar titled “Taking Your Social Media Presence to the Next Level.” It featured Lauren Backstrom, NFPA social media manager, and Michael Hazell, division manager, Web, for NFPA.

Among the surprising things I learned is that baby boomers aren’t as social media averse as we’re often made out to be. Backstrom said that while 89 percent of the members of Gen Y use social networking, and 79 percent of Gen X use social networking, baby boomers aren’t too far behind at 72 percent.

In fact, Backstrom said that boomers are “the fastest growing adopters of social media at this point.”

That’s something to think about when figuring out what customer bases you want to reach through social media.

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