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Next Generation 911: The bomb's still ticking

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

 

The U.S. House did the alarm industry no favors Tuesday night.

By passing H.R. 3630, “The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2011,” House members said yes to extending the Social Security payroll tax deduction and sent the contentious bill to the Senate. While you’d be hard-pressed to find a central operator who opposes tax relief or job creation, the bill is laden with a stealth bomb: Next Generation 911, which in its present form would allow emergency calls from alarm systems to be sent directly to PSAPs without verification.

Bypassing centrals is obviously a non-starter for the industry, which has now shifted its lobbying effort to the Senate. That’s where members of the Alarm Industry Communications Committee (AICC) were laboring at week’s end, proposing new language in the bill to safeguard centrals and prevent the inundation of 911 centers with unscreened sensor-generated calls.

Lou Fiore, chairman of the AICC, provided Security Systems News with an update this morning and sounded cautiously optimistic about turning the tide. He said six key senators, including Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., had been receptive to the industry’s concerns.

“They listened very attentively to our proposals,” Fiore said. “They totally understand our issue. Tomorrow we have a conference call with (Democratic Rep. Anna) Eshoo on the House side, who’s on the committee that drafted the original bill.”

That’s important, Fiore said, because when things finally get hashed out in the Senate, a new version of the bill will head back to the House for approval. If lawmakers there didn’t get the industry’s message the first time around, this time “they’ll know what our issues are,” he said.

The timing is a little dicey because of all of the partisan grandstanding, but the smart money says sooner rather than later. “I know these people want to go home for the holidays,” Fiore said. “It’s down to crunch time.”

State gives alarm company nearly $57K to train staff

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Some good job news for a change in this bleak economy: Massachusetts has a new Workforce Training Fund and an Arlington, Mass. alarm company is one of the beneficiaries, according to a recent news report.

The Arlington Patch said American Alarm & Communications will receive $56,805 from the state to train its workers.

Here’s more from the news item:
 

American Alarms is one of 138 Massachusetts companies that will receive more than $11.3 million in grants for workforce training, according to a release from the governor's office. Employers project that these training funds will help produce 1,700 new jobs.

The fiscal year 2012 budget established the Workforce Training Fund as a trust fund, allowing for collection and disbursement of funds as needed by businesses, rather than on an annual appropriation cycle.

In total, the grants announced Monday will support up to two years of training, create about 1,700 new jobs and train a total of 13,000 workers.

A spokesman at American Alarm said the company is receiving the grant under its workforce training portion. American Alarms personnel will be trained in three curricula: customer service, project management and sales.

"This won’t be used to directly hire anybody," the spokesman said. "But it's about making sure the company stays well, providing great service."

 

Stanley CSS names new executive

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Stanley CSS on Dec. 13 named  Robert Branchaud, to lead its Eastern Canada district, which will encompass Stanley’s operations in Canada as well as the former Microtec Security Systems (AlarmCap.) Branchuad was a founder of a security company that he sold to Microtec in 2000.

Stanley acquired Microtec, the fourth largest alarm company in Canada in August. Here’s my report on that deal.  The deal also also included ULC approved and bi-lingual monitoring capabilities.

“The implementation of local, ULC and French speaking monitoring services, solidifies Stanley CSS as a major player in the Canadian security industry,” Branchaud is quoted as saying in a release. “Our advanced technology detects what region a customer is calling from before connecting him or her with an operator.  We are then able to identify the caller’s language and match the caller with an operator who can communicate most efficiently with the customer.  Stanley CSS’ commitment to doing business at a local level and focusing on outstanding service in the five customer touchpoints highlights their understanding and appreciation for the importance of individual service.”

Here’s some more information on Branchaud from the release.

“[He] is well known and highly regarded in the Canadian security industry. With over 30 years of experience in the industry, he founded three security companies, the most recent of which he sold the majority of interest to Microtec Enterprises, Inc. in 2000. Active in the Canadian security industry, Branchaud previously served as President of the Canadian Security Association (CANASA) for the Quebec division, received President’s Awards in 2005 and 2011 for his achievements with CANASA, and was the 2011 recipient of the R.A. Henderson Award in recognition of his exemplary leadership, years of dedication and significant contributions to the Canadian security industry.”

Vellacott out, Kneen in at IndigoVision

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Monday, December 12, 2011

IndigoVision has a new CEO, the company announced this morning. IndigoVision, which is based in Ednburgh, Scotland is a manufacturer of IP video security solutions. The board announced that founder Oiver Vellacott, who founded the company in 1994, has “taken the business to this stage, the time was right for him to hand over the leadership of the company. The Board was keen for Oliver to continue with the business as deputy chairman, but the position was declined." Vellacott is the majority stockholder in the company, reportedly owning “more than 23 percent interest worth almost 5 million Brittish pounds.”

Marcus Kneen, who’s served as CFO since 2003 has been named CEO of the company.  In a prepared statement IndigoVision board chairman Hamish Grossart notes that, Kneen “has been closely involved in IndigoVision’s international expansion and has overseen the recent improvement in trading.” Holly McComb, currently financial controller will take over the CFO role. McComb has been with the company since 2006.

In a prepared statement, Kneen said: "Oliver has been a great mentor over the years and remains the Group's largest shareholder. IndigoVision has fantastic people and its strongest road map of new products for several years, as a result of a sustained high level of investment in engineering. This will help the business to grow, building on in its deal-winning distributed architecture, industry-leading compression and ability to integrate with the elements of a total security system such as access control, perimeter detection, license plate recognition or events from casino slot machines. If you are defending a nation’s critical assets or operating a major casino, these features win deals!"

The company’s stock price dropped sharply and operating profits took a dive in 2011 (its FY ended in July 2011). The company’s annual report says operating profit was 1.19 million Brittish pounds in 2011 compared to 3.05 million Brittish pounds in 2010. Here’s a statement from Vellacott from this year’s annual report: “Difficult trading towards the end of last year resulted in a reduction in operating profits, but the group continuedto grow sales in some markets. We have had a slow start to the current financial year and although sales in the first seven weeks of the current year are approximately in line with last year, order intake is down on the corresponding period last year. Over the last twelve months a great deal of work has been undertaken improving the rate of introduction of new products and we expect that these will start to show through in improved business results.
"

IndigoVision reported that the operating result for the first four months of the current financial year had been excellent.  Profit performance was significantly higher than the corresponding period last year, and materially ahead of the same period in any earlier year.   

The local press in Scotland has considerably more color in their reports of the executive transition. The Business.Scotsman.com reported on Saturday “IndigoVision sacks Vellacott from company he founded.”  The report quotes Vellacott as saying “I was dismissed by the company—I did not leave voluntarily. That is all I wish to say.” While the “Herald Scotsman” reported on Saturday “Chief executive dismissed after rift in boardroom.” The Herald Scotsman had the same quote from Vellacott saying he did not leave voluntarily. Board chairman Grossart is quoted as saying they wanted to offer Vellacott an alternate position at the company, but he refused. I have calls into IndigoVision headquarters in New Jersey and in the U.K., but haven’t heard back yet.

According to their website, IndigoVision has sales and support staff in 24 countries. “We partner with some 300 trained system integrators to provide local installation and service to end users in 84 countries. We provide support from six regional centers, in New Jersey, Sao Paulo, Singapore, Dubai, London and Edinburgh, with training facilities, demo suites and local stocking.”

IndigoVision has four regional sales directors, covering APAC, EMEA, Latin America and North America who will report to Kneen. Kevin Bradley is the director in North America. Bradley took over that role in 2010. Here’s a link to an interview I did with him after his appointment.

Pinnacle keeps on "Securing Hope"

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Friday, December 9, 2011

I first wrote here a year ago about Pinnacle Security establishing its “Securing Hope” charitable initiative and on the various philanthropic efforts the company has made under the initiative since then.

Here’s the latest update from the Orem, Utah-based residential security company, which says that Pinnacle was involved in a weeklong home-building project in Belize:
 

A group of 27 Pinnacle representatives spent one week in November building eco-domes for families in Belize through the nonprofit organization Domes for Belize.

Volunteers, including Pinnacle representatives and their family members, as well as supporters of Domes for Belize, raised funds and participated in the construction of disaster-proof housing for families in Belize. The dome-shaped construction of the homes allows them to withstand natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes …

... Funding for the Domes for Belize project came from a charity run organized by Pinnacle, as well as additional contributions from Pinnacle associates. Pinnacle sponsored its Third Annual Charity Run with events in October and November, raising tens of thousands of dollars for both Domes for Belize and Beyond Borders. Additionally, Pinnacle representatives who desired to build the homes in Belize donated commission from four to five sales to provide additional funding.

"Families were able to move into the homes as soon as they were finished which just takes a few days," said Scott Warner, a regional vice president for Pinnacle Security. "It was an amazing experience to build safe homes and create an immediate positive impact for these families. Our entire group was so pleased to be a part of it."

In addition to building dome homes, the Pinnacle volunteers painted a local school and donated boxes of groceries to nearby families. The team completed one dome home and began construction on two others. Warner plans to return to Belize next year to build multiple homes for several families in Belize.

 

Infinova to acquire March Networks for $88.2m cash

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Friday, December 9, 2011

In a deal that will speed March Networks' plan to expand into the Asian market, and create what Infinova says is one “10 largest global players in the video surveillance industry,” of IP video provider Infinova announced this morning that it will acquire IP video provider March Networks in a cash deal.

Infinova will pay $4.9 ($5.00 Canadian) per share. The total value of the sale will be about $88.2 million (or about $90m Canadian).

Infinova, which has its U.S. headquarters in Monmouth Junction, N.J. went public in Dec. 2010 on the Shenzhen exchange and raised $300 m. During an interview at that time, Infinova CEO Jeffrey Liu told me the funds will be used to expand R&D, marketing and sales and acquisitions:  “We’re hiring on all fronts; we’re in hiring mode,” Liu said during that interview. “But we’re not going to use the $300 million just for that, we’ll be looking for acquisitions that will help us get more market share quickly.”

What kind of acquisitions? “We’ve just started looking,” Liu said at the time. However, he said, another small manufacturer would be likely.

March Networks will continue to operate independently from its headquarters in Ottawa, and will retain its name and other brands.

I spoke to March Networks CEO Peter Strom and CMO Net Payne at ASIS in September. The two talked about how their new product introductions (an enterprise DVR, a 5 megapixel and a 3 megapixel camera, as well as new SearchLight applications such as skimming-detection features) are optimized for March’s focus verticals: banking and retail.

Strom noted that March Networks has grown from a $6 million to a $100 million company over the course of eight years ...  and counts the top 50 banks in the world among its global customers with many banking and retail customers standardizing on March Networks globally. Payne said the company is becoming more “channel centric” and said the new products announced at the show are easier to use, install and are reliable, “so you don’t have to roll a truck regularly.” March Networks raised $45 m when it went public in June of 2005.

According to Reuters, "March Networks also announced its quarterly financial results. For the second-quarter, the company reported a loss of C$2.3 million, or 13 Canadian cents per share, compared with earnings of C$1.2 million, or 7 Canadian cents per share, a year ago."

The deal is subject to shareholder and regulatory approval. I’ll have more on the story on next week’s newswire after I speak with Stphen Cannellos of Infinova and Peter Strom at March Networks.

Partisan bluster and the threat to centrals

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Friday, December 9, 2011

How could the alarm industry have gotten caught up in the partisan bickering over extending the Social Security payroll tax cut? It’s a long story, but here’s the quick pitch:

A bill proposed in February by Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y.—the Broadband for First Responders Act of 2011— contained provisions that threatened the alarm industry, namely an FCC auction of bands of spectrum used by centrals. The revenue would help offset the reallocation of the “D-Block” of spectrum in the 700 MHz range for a public safety broadband network, a byproduct of the communication problems experienced during the Sept. 11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina.

Auctioning spectrum used by centrals would be hugely problematic for the industry on many fronts, a fact not lost on the Alarm Industry Communications Committee. The AICC, working with police and fire protection groups from around the nation, has been lobbying the FCC about the potential problems, and surprise—apparently the frequency provisions have been dropped from the latest version of the bill. There are other messy details, of course, but you don’t need to hear about how sausage is made, at least not from me.

So this is good news, right? Well, I just got off the phone with Lou Fiore, chairman of the AICC, and it seems that another beast has raised its head: Next Generation 911. This addition to the House bill would allow alarm signals to be sent directly to PSAPs, including signals from PERS devices. The alarm industry currently screens these calls, 99 percent of which don’t require the dispatch of emergency services, according to Fiore. Removing third-party monitoring would have an obvious consequence, he said: “It would bring 911 centers to their knees.”

In the grand tradition of lawmaking, the Next Generation 911 provision is now tied in with the legislation to extend the Social Security payroll tax cut—again, think sausage—on which Democrats and Republicans have not exactly been seeing eye to eye. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has vowed that lawmakers will not go home for Christmas until the deal is done, so that means the AICC’s work isn’t done. There likely will be more developments next week, and probably more down the line on other measures that could undercut centrals. “It’s like weeds popping up in the garden,” Fiore said. “You have to keep looking.”

Stay tuned …

 

In your face, telecoms!

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I’ve been writing a lot recently about telecoms—Comcast, Verizon, Time Warner Cable, Frontier Communications and AT&T—entering the security space.

The industry experts I’ve talked to about their new competitors have all been polite, saying that basically, the telecoms don’t have the security expertise or the reputation for good service that security companies have earned with their customers.

So I had to smile at the more in-your-face way that a consumer expressed that same idea in a recent Los Angeles Times article. Here’s what it said:

“Consumers reacted with derision when the Consumer Reports website the Consumerist published a piece on Comcast's entry into the business.

"Yes Mr. Smith, we got a report that your burglar alarm is going off, we are dispatching a security officer to your home and you can expect him on Monday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.," one commenter wrote.”

The article also points to the reasons why those big companies are so interested in security/home automation.

It’s not just that there’s so much money to be made in the space, the article said, but because “the cable industry is facing myriad challenges to its core businesses. The weak economy has led many consumers to cancel their pay-television service, while others are switching to competing video-delivery options, such as satellite operators, telephone companies and the online services Netflix Inc. and Hulu.”

ASAP, PSAP, PSIM, SIAC …

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

At first it just looked like a big bowl of alphabet soup, but as the “new guy” at Security Systems News, I’m starting to get my head around it. In the first few weeks at my post I’ve had a chance to hear from some of the organizational leaders in the industry—Ed Bonifas, Stan Martin, Bob Bean—as well as many others who have helped me get my feet wet. There’s long list of folks who I haven’t talked with, though, and a long list of companies that I’d like to know more about, so I have some work to do.

This blog is part of that process, and it would be great to hear from those in the know if I don’t dial you up first. Any industry developments, large or small, count me in: rmiller@securitysystemsnews.com, or 207-846-0600, Ext. 254. I look forward to getting to know everyone.

On the email front: There was a real gem circulating among CSAA members recently about Hedy Lamarr, the Hollywood siren and screen legend. It turns out she was also quite the inventor, co-patenting spread spectrum radio, a technology that would eventually lead to today’s cellphones, Wi-Fi and GPS. And did I mention her torpedo guidance system for the U.S. Navy?

L.A. Times writer Adam Tschorn said it would be like crediting Farrah Fawcett for developing Google’s proprietary search algorithm. But truth is stranger than fiction. Richard Rhodes chronicles Lamarr’s little-known work in his new book, “Hedy’s Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World.”

And that’s Hedy, not Hedley, “Blazing Saddles” fans …

 

Liguori ready to take helm at Security-Net

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Security-Net, a group of independent integrators that work together as a “global provider of integration services”, formally announced that Joe Liguori will take over the role of president of Security-Net’s board of directors in January.

Ligouri , who is also EVP of Access Control Technologies, in Clinton, N.J., will serve a two-year term and takes over for outgoing president Tom Asp. Asp is also president and CEO of  VTI Security in Burnsville, Minn.

I spoke to Joe Ligouri just before ISC West last March.

During that interview, he told me about how Security-Net’s companies had been working on a plan to take on national accounts, and about their efforts to coordinate from a sales, technical and fulfillment perspective.

The group, which acts as a single national integrator, has obtained national account status with some major vendors.

It has also created internal working groups called “Tech-Net” and “Sales-Net” that align technical and sales know-how.

Tech-Net is made up of head engineers and integration specialists from each company, and “regularly shares design solutions, troubleshooting tips, and technology updates,” Liguori told me during that interview.  Sales-Net includes senior security consultants and integration specialists from each company, who are aligned to develop national sales.

Security-Net has been in existence since 1992, but Ligouri told me the initial impetus behind the national sales effort was a request,  a couple years ago, from a  customer to do a multi-million dollar project. Ligouri and five other Security-Net companies were working on that project as of last March.

It sounds like a smart organization to me—I’ll be interested to see what kinds of traction they’ll get on national accounts as this effort matures.

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