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'Exploring new dimensions' at FAP convention

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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Veterans Day, the floods in Thailand and the "cookie ladies" were all part of the conversation at the opening session Friday at Honeywell's First Alert Professional Convention 2011 that I attended in Scottsdale, Ariz. Nov. 10-12.

Friday was Veterans Day and JoAnna Sohovich, Honeywell Security & Communications president, started the general session off by thanking those who have served this country in the armed services. Later in the program, Sohovich, a graduate of the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. who served as a naval officer, also was personally recognized for her service.

Sohovich, who also is president of the First Alert Professional program, referred back to her speech of last year, in which she talked about how to access "the Nevers," a whole segment of consumers who may not be interested in burglar alarms but do want other home automation features for their homes. "They value lifestyle more than safety and security," she said of those potential customers.

And Sohovich also spoke of one of Honeywell’s latest products: the new 6280i Tuxedo Touch touchscreen, which the company describes as "a device that allows homeowners to manage safety as well as energy costs by controlling window shades, locks, lighting, thermostats and security." Sohovich said the Tuxedo Touch, which has easy-to-use features such as large icons, would be launched very soon.

The theme of this year's convention was "Exploring New Dimensions," but Scott Harkins, president of Honeywell Systems Group, said that while introducing the latest technology, Honeywell is focused on "bringing simple back."

He said, "I like to talk about big sexy systems, but the small systems are really what drives our industry." Honeywell’s goal, he said, is to "create solutions that are easy to sell, design, install and service."

He also warned about the consequences for the industry of the floods in Thailand, where the world’s hard drives are manufactured. He said the disaster there would lead to a shortage and increased prices. But he assured dealers that Honeywell is monitoring the situation and "we’re looking for other solutions and looking for hard drives everywhere."

Harkins also mentioned the "cookie ladies" at the Products & Services Showcase on Thursday night—attractive young women who were literally walking dessert trays. They stood in the middle of round, wheeled dessert carts heaped with cookies, which rolled as they walked.

Harkins joked that the ladies proved so popular that Honeywell sales staff from now on would be required to make their pitches in the middle of such carts.

The "cookie ladies" also won a mention from Dan Clark, keynote speaker at the event. Clark, an internationally recognized motivational speaker who overcame a paralyzing football injury, joked that when he walked into the hall where the technology showcase was held, "my first impression was of a walking table."

But he said that he was impressed that even though the show featured technology, the primary "focus was still about people."

And of course the First Alert convention always includes lots of educational sessions.

On Friday, I attended one called "Good to Great! Prepare for Company Growth!" The speaker was John Jennings, president of Safeguard Security of Arizona, who talked about taking his company though economic hard times.

Among highlights of the packed double session was Jennings challenging business owners to "confront the brutal fact"” about their companies' weaknesses and to address them, even if meant firing employees who were had been there a long time but were impeding company growth. Jennings joked that his seminar is dubbed "the widow maker" because it can inspire attendees to go back and clean house.

But Jennings also urged business leaders to listen to and empower the staff they value down to the lowest-paid member. "Good decisions require the infusion of an honest confrontation of the brutal facts," he said. "Create a culture where people have an opportunity to be heard and the truth to be heard."

On the last day of the convention, Saturday, I attended a session on how dealers can get the most out of the First Alert's Dealer Development Group. There was testimony from company owners throughout the conference about how much the DDG had helped their businesses.

One key assist is networking. At the seminar, for example, one company owner asked for help integrating his billing with accounting software. Several company owners raised their hands to tell him they had successfully done that at their companies and Patrick Egan, president of Lancaster, Pa.-based Select Security, promised to sit down with the owner after the session and share information.

‘Cookie ladies’ sweeten products showcase

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Friday, November 11, 2011

The first night at Honeywell’s First Alert Professional annual convention is traditionally an opening reception with a buffet and casual social networking time.

Well, last night at the start of the 2011 convention that I'm attending here in Scottsdale, Ariz. there was something a little different. After the buffet in a ballroom at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa—food with a Tex-Mex theme, yum!—everyone wandered over to the nearby hall where Honeywell for the first time decided to put on an after-hours Products & Services Showcase. And the showcase was enhanced by the amazing “cookie ladies.”

Convention attendees—I’m told there are about 700 this year—strolled around watching demonstrations of the latest technology and talking to vendors while sipping wine, beer and other drinks from a bar and also enjoying desserts—some of the most luscious of which were served by two beautiful young women who were literally walking dessert trays.

Dressed in bright red off-the-shoulder dresses, the two looked like Flamenco dancers from the waist up. But their bodies rose out of the middle of round dessert carts that obscured the lower half of their bodies. The round, wheeled carts were skirted with red material so looked like the women’s hoop skirts. The carts rolled along as the women walked, stopping here and there to let people help themselves to the powdered-sugar-drenched cookies spread out on the carts.

The young women were charming and gracious (one posed for a picture with me—the sight has to be seen to be believed—and I’ll get that up on this site as soon as the photographer emails it to me) and convention-goers told me they enjoyed the unique method of serving up something sweet.

One was John Loud, owner of Loud Security Systems and president of the Georgia Electronic Life Safety and Security Association. “In any business, you try to do something different to bring some value in,”he observed to me.

He and others said they appreciated the extended showcase hours to learn about products and services. “You get to spend more time with the vendors,” Loud said. There also was plenty of opportunity to network with others. “It’s a nice social environment,” Loud said.

At the showcase, I got a chance to see for myself something I just blogged about recently: a new system designed to alert homeowners if their windows are unlocked. It was developed by Honeywell and Andersen Corp., of window fame. John Kovach, Honeywell’s global director of marketing for sensor products, showed me how it works on a window, protecting homes from burglars and also winter drafts.

He also showed me Honeywell’s new 5816OD Wireless Outdoor Contact, which the company says “is the only wireless magnetic contact designed for harsh outdoor environments.” Used with a 5800 Series wireless sensor, it can protect outdoor things like detached garages, barns and other areas too costly to protect with a wired solution. “There’s nothing like this in the industry,” Kovach told me.

Stephen Wheeler, president of Holmes Security Systems, told Kovach he’s trying out the product. Holmes, a Fayetteville, N.C-company founded in 1908, has had four generations of the Wheeler family working for it, Wheeler told me. He said the company has been a First Alert dealer for at least a dozen years. That’s one of the things that stands out for me about this convention—how many Mom-and Pop companies are a part of the First Alert Professional program.

Bold: DICE filed ‘under-handed’ lawsuit because it’s ‘unable to compete’

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Security Systems News has been writing for a few months about a lawsuit filed by central station automation platform provider DICE Corp. against its competitor Bold Technologies. Michigan-based DICE filed suit against Bold in federal court in August, alleging that Bold unlawfully accessed DICE’s proprietary software with the aid of Amy Condon, a former DICE employee hired by Bold.

In a recent story, I wrote about how the legal dispute ratcheted up in October when DICE filed three additional allegations against Bold in federal court, accusing Bold of copyright infringement and violation of two federal laws.

Now Bold, in a response filed in court this month, not only denies those claims and asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit, but levels its own charges against DICE. Bold contends in its Nov. 1 filing that “unable to compete with [Bold] in the marketplace, and in a misguided attempt to level the playing field,” DICE “has launched a baseless lawsuit against Bold.”

Also, Bold president Rod Coles is speaking out to publicly to address DICE’s claims and defend itself. Here’s what Coles had to say in a letter posted on the company’s website:

“I have had so many calls of support from customers, vendors and industry colleagues that I felt that it was necessary for Bold to respond to the allegations leveled against it by the Dice Corporation in the recent lawsuit.

Firstly, Bold Technologies Ltd. has built its business for over 30 years, upon a reputation of providing innovative and leading edge products, combined with the best service in the industry. The way we conduct business, our ethics as a company and as individual employees, is paramount. Indeed our mission statement reflects this very belief:

The Mission of Bold Technologies is to partner with our customers to enable them to control, grow, and differentiate their businesses by providing them with products and services, guided by these four prevailing principles:

1.    Provide innovative, future proof, high value solutions that address customer driven needs.

2.    Foster long-term relationships by making every interaction centered on quality.

3.    Maintain the highest ethical standards. Always.

4.    Give back by contributing to both our business and local communities.

Having conducted a detailed internal review of our processes and talked in depth with our staff Bold Technologies Ltd is 100% confident that the charges leveled against it are completely false.  I would like to also add that Amy Condon is an employee of the highest ethics and a consummate professional, and that the allegations leveled at her are also completely false.

In the last seven years, Bold Technologies has become the dominant force in central station automation software, with 50 to 80 new customers per year switching to Manitou from existing platforms.  Bold has attracted new customers and customers from other automation providers, and as a result, we have had to become very good at data conversion, with three full time employees converting and reviewing data from competitors’ systems. Becoming good at something, however, doesn’t involve taking code from legacy software or doing anything illegal – that accusation simply displays a lack of knowledge in the actual process of moving customers to a particular platform. In the case of the Dice Corporation, nineteen of their customers have moved or are in the process of moving to Manitou. In an industry such as ours with a small pool of customers this is a significant blow. The foundation of the law suit is baseless and seems solely driven to slow down the migration of customers away from the Dice platform. It’s an under-handed tactic with no truth to it, and we will treat it through the legal system as such.

We will continue to defend our reputation and to provide the best possible software and service to the industry. Bold values a marketplace where companies raise their standards to compete and produce better and better solutions. It makes us stronger, and most importantly, brings enhanced alternatives to the customers in the industry.  We don’t intend to continue a war of public opinion but hope our 30-year reputation will stand for itself as we work hard to produce the highest standards of product, service and competition.
Sincerely,
Rod Coles, President”

Behavioral analytics in Houston

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

BRS Labs, providers of “behavioral analytics”, which made some loud pronouncements at ASIS [and who will have an end user participating in TechSec 2012] announced the other day that Houston will use its software in its city surveillance “critical infrastructure protection program.”

BRS say its software “AISight,” [which it pronounces “eyesight”] can “attach to existing video surveillance infrastructure and watch, learn, and identify unusual behavioral patterns in real time …  to proactively identify security violations, potential criminal activity and more serious threats.”

In a press release, Hobby Wright, BRS Labs VP for Strategic Programs said: "We are seeing substantial demand for our reason-based video surveillance software and the City of Houston is one of many American cities deploying and developing programs that incorporate our intelligence into their video surveillance operations."

Very interesting—curious to  learn how it works out.

More love for 'phone as credential'

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Monday, November 7, 2011

Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies, manufacturer of Schlage contactless smart credentials and readers, released a report today that says “two-thirds of American college students are interested in using their cell phone in place of an ID card.” The press release I received said it was “independent research undertaken by Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies” but it did not include hard numbers, sample size or information about margin of error. While I assume I could get those numbers from IR, in this case, I’m not skeptical at all about their findings, even without seeing their numbers. If anything, I’d guess their numbers are low.

The press release points out that “people will almost always notice that their phone is lost faster than noting a card is missing.” During a presentation at ASIS, where HID CEO Denis Hebert, talked about their NFC pilot project at Arizona State University, Hebert said it takes a student like six minutes to realize that they lost their phone, whereas it could take up to 24 hours to realize they lost a key.

The release said that nearly half of all students identify their cell phones as their favorite personal electronic device. Again, that’s probably an understatement--and it's not just college students who are attached to their phones. Here’s a funny NYT OpEd from a month ago about how iPhone owners’ response to their phones is more akin to love than anything else.

Back to the release, in a statement, Beverly Vigue, Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies VP of education markets said: “There are a great number of early adaptors in the college population that are already sold on cell phones being a credential, just like they were sold on the use of smart cards and biometrics previously … [this] ties in nicely with the budding discussion of NFC (near field communication) which will inevitably end up on cell phones. No Visa card; no MasterCard card…only your cell phone will be needed for cashless payments or to show your identity.” Further, she notes that  “the solution is still in the testing phase and not yet ready for mass commercialization … plus, it is hard to determine what the phone providers will charge for having this attribute.”

So a variety of manufacturers are clearly all over this new technology, but how soon will phone credentials be ready for prime time in the commercial market?

Funny you should ask. This is one of the many topics that will be discussed at TechSec 2012 (Delray Beach, Fla. Feb. 7&8). One session: “The Smartphone: ID of the Future,” will explore NFC and its use for various physical access control applications. In addition to the ASU pilot, HID is doing pilot projects with non-education end users, and those end users will be at TechSec to talk about whether the love for “smartphone as credential” is just as strong in verticals other than education. More important, Hebert, the end users and an integrator will discuss what it will take to move this technology into the maintstream and what this emerging technology will mean for integrators' bottom line.

Tyco post-split talk Part II: Are acquisitions in the air?

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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Here’s Part II (I posted Part I yesterday) of a blog with some Tyco post-split details, which I found in the process of reviewing the Tyco International Conference Call. The call took place on the day that Tyco announced its plan to split into three publicly traded companies.

On that day, most of the industry, including yours truly, was running around the ASIS show floor. The quotes below are courtesy of Seeking Alpha.

Was the split construed to ready Fire & Security or ADT for acquisition? And, is there any government regulation that would preclude the acquisition of ADT or Commercial Fire and Security from taking place in the next 18 months?

Asked if Tyco had “not had substantive conversations with any outside parties about the sale of any of these businesses?” Tyco CEO Ed Breen said: “We are well aware of the laws and regulations out there and … we are very careful about what we do. So I will leave it at that.”
 
OK, well is there anything to preclude one of the entities from being acquired in the next 18 months?
“If anyone approaches us about a piece of the … our Board would have to take that under advisement. It is our fiduciary responsibility, but it is not our plan. Our plan is to get these out there on their own and let them play in the their industry,” Breen said.

Answering a question on a different topic, Breen said: “I’m a big believer that there going to be consolidation in these industries. I think you’ve already been watching some of that occur and we want our businesses to be able to play in that environment in their respective industries.”

Asked about the split between resi and commercial security, Breen said much of the separation has occurred already, when ADT split into residential and commercial divisions.

And, in terms of the monitoring operation, Breen said they have a plan about how to separate the two and “it’s easier than it sounds.”

Whey didn’t they bifurcate the two businesses back in 2006? The companies were too fragmented at that time, Breen said. “The management teams were more fragmented and there wasn’t consistent performance.”
 

System secures windows from burglars, drafts

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I live in Maine, where the fall weather can be up and down—wintry one day, almost balmy the next. On the warm days, I’m likely to yank open a window to make the most of the fresh air before we batten down the house for the winter. But afterwards, I sometimes forget to lock my windows. That’s why an announcement this week of a new system designed to alert homeowners if their windows are unlocked caught my eye. It was developed by Honeywell and Andersen Corp., of window fame, and it seems it would be useful not only for security reasons, but to make sure that your windows are locked up tight against winter drafts. The system works for doors too.

Here’s more from the Oct. 31 release:
 

Honeywell and Andersen Corporation are collaborating to provide a first-of-its-kind system that allows security alarms to alert homeowners if their windows or doors are unlocked. The VeriLock sensor technology embeds Honeywell’s widely used 5800 series of wireless sensors inside the locking mechanisms of a select group of windows and patio doors manufactured by Eagle Window & Door Manufacturing, Inc., a subsidiary of Andersen Corporation.

Similar technology can only detect if a window or door is open or closed. VeriLock sensors are the first that can detect whether they are actually locked or unlocked, in addition to open or closed.

“Statistics show a large number of home invasions are the result of an intruder simply walking in, and not ‘breaking in,’” said John Kovach, Honeywell’s global director of marketing for sensor products. “Whether it’s people rushing out of the house or simply going to bed forgetting to lock up, it’s easy to leave a door or window unlocked and easily accessible. This is the only technology to offer another layer of home protection.”

VeriLock sensors will initially be available on Eagle Axiom casement and awning windows, Talon double-hung windows, and Ascent hinged French patio doors and sliding patio doors. The sensor devices are ideal for single-family homes, multi-unit light commercial dwellings such as assisted-living complexes and remodel projects. In addition to security, VeriLock sensor technology can help reduce home energy use by notifying homeowners when doors and windows are unlocked .

“Windows and doors are a home’s first layer of protection for both comfort and security.  It’s important to make that layer ‘smarter’ for added protection.” said Holly Boehne, senior vice president of Andersen Corporation’s research, development and innovation.

The VeriLock sensor technology is available January 1, 2012 on Eagle products from select Andersen window and door dealers in North America.

 

Tyco post-split Part I: Dealer news; New Fire & Security group to save $

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Will ADT grow its dealer or internal sales groups post split? How will Tyco save $400 million to $500 million mostly from the new Commercial Fire and Security division?

I found some interesting details on those questions when I finally had a chance—on a recent long plane ride—to review the Tyco International Conference Call. The call took place on the day that Tyco announced its plan to split into three publicly traded companies.

On that day, most of the industry, including yours truly, were running around the ASIS show floor. The quotes below are courtesy of Seeking Alpha.

ADT to grow internal sales force

ADT residential currently derives about half of its business from its dealers and half from its internal sales force, but the goal is “to get more internal sales people, [and] keep the dealer channel where it’s at,” said Tyco CEO Ed Breen during a recent Tyco earnings call.

“We have a good business there, but [we will] continue to increase on the direct side of the house,” he added. ADT serves more than 6 million homes and small businesses, has more than $3b in annualized revenue (90 percent of that from RMR.) Its average creation cost for accounts is $1,000, according to the call.

Naren Gursahaney, who is now president of Security Solutions and who joined Tyco in 2003, will become CEO of ADT. And, ADT will no longer be officially headquartered in Switzerland with the rest of Tyco. Presumably it will be in Boca Raton, its U.S. headquarters. Asked about ADT’s resi business abroad, Breen said that most of its business outside of the U.S. is commercial, and regardless, ADT overseas business has always been managed by commercial…so there’s not a change there. Of the estimated $10 billion in revenue Commercial Fire and Security, about $1 billion is RMR from fire and security and most of the security business is commercial, with a little residential, he said.

Commercial Fire and Security business key to to $400m - $500m savings

When the fire and commercial security business are combined, the new approximately $10 billion entity will be the “largest global provider of fire and security products and service.” This entity will continue to list Schaffhausen Switzerland as its headquarters. Its CEO will be George Oliver.   

Breen said Tyco as a whole will save $400 to $500 million over “multiple years” as a result of the split. The bulk of that savings will come from Commercial Fire and Security and the Flow Control business, he said.

At Commercial Fire & Security “we’re bringing together a security commercial company and a fire commercial company, all extremely global with all the back offices. So you can imagine not only do we get those synergies htat we talked about but when we bring those two businesses together, which have been managed separately, that helps us a little more create that synergy.”

He said the combined businesses will make a “big push” to go after enterprise business and said that “we’ve created key verticals, on one of our key verticals, for instance in Security and Fire is oil and gas … we’re not going to miss the opportunity to really go dive deep on those…”

Look for more on Tyco post-split tomorrow in this space.

Verizon securing nation’s homes

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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

It was big news in January when Telecom giant Verizon debuted its new home security/home automation offering at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Now it’s even bigger news that the company has finished beta testing the product in New Jersey and launched it for real to Verizon broadband customers nationwide in mid-October.

The company’s Home Monitoring and Control Service—which has no professional monitoring component—costs $9.99 per month, with equipment packages starting at $69.99. Verizon said the service “enables customers to remotely access, control and monitor doors, thermostat controls and appliances well as view home-energy use in near-real time—all via a smart phone, PC, FiOS TV and, eventually, a connected tablet.”

And this may be only the beginning. A Verizon spokesman, Clifford Lee, told me last week that Verizon may consider the possibility of adding a burglar alarm security option in the future. Lee said it’s too early to discuss specifics, so it’s not clear if this would be a professionally monitored option or not.

So what does Verizon’s offering mean to professional home security providers?  Is this going to cut into your business or is there enough business to go around for everyone? Verizon also is known more as a communications/entertainment provider … will customers trust the company to also provide security as much as they do professional security providers?

I’m talking to industry experts to find out the answers to those questions and more for a Market Trends story in our upcoming December issue. Also, I’d love to hear your answers to those questions. Please participate in our December Newspoll on this topic, which you can find by scrolling down to the bottom of our site. Let us know what you think!

Personnel changes at Diebold, Pivot3

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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pivot 3 has a new CEO, and Diebold is looking for a new leader of its security division, according to announcements, released today by the two companies.

Excepts from releases below:

Diebold’s Stephenshon to retire, Engelhardt to serve as interim VP

Diebold announced that Bradley J. Stephenson is retiring from his current post as leader of the company’s security division. Diebold is conducting a national search to identify a replacement for Stephenson, according to the company.

In the meantime, Kevin Engelhardt, vice president, security operations, will serve as interim vice president, security solutions.

Stephenson joined Diebold in 1973 and during his tenure has been part of the significant evolution of the company’s security business. He has served in a variety of senior management and technical positions, including general manager of physical security, card systems, fire services, NexusSoftware and the original equipment manufacturer division. He led the company’s electronic security division from 1996 to 1999, developing security solutions to meet the needs of financial services, retail and higher education clients. Appointed to his current role in 2009, Stephenson’s retirement will be effective in December.

Engelhardt joined Diebold in 2004 via the company’s acquisition of New York’s Antar-Com, Inc. In his operations role, Engelhardt is responsible for the business operations of electronic security solutions in North America for all vertical markets. He has managed and executed a multitude of successful project implementations, including those underway at World Trade Center (WTC) Tower 4 and the WTC Transportation Hub.

He has also managed purchasing, warehouse operations, contract administration and finance activities. In his current role, Engelhardt will be responsible for leading Diebold’s security business, with a focus on large-scale enterprise security sales and installations. He will also continue to lead all security related application and project engineering teams, as well as Diebold’s government, retail and event monitoring security business efforts.

Pivot3 names Rich Bravman CEO

Storage provider Pivot3, Inc, today announced that Rich Bravman has been named the company’s new CEO, effective immediately.

Bravman takes over for Robert Fernander, who has served as the company's president and CEO since 2007. Fernander will continue in a business development role for Pivot3.

“Rich is a proven leader with an impressive track record in taking start-ups to global publicly-traded technology leaders. Having grown through the ranks from software engineer to CEO, and having been associated with technologies that are a mix of both hardware and software makes Rich a perfect fit for Pivot3,” said Ron Nash, Chairman of the Board of Pivot3 in a prepared release.

Most recently, Bravman served as vice president of corporate development and chief marketing officer at NCR Corp, a Fortune 500 technology leader in self-service solutions for ATM machines, retail and airline check-in systems. At NCR, Bravman was responsible for all corporate marketing, business development activities, and forged several strategic partnerships for the company. Previously, Bravman was chairman and chief executive officer at Intelleflex, Inc., where his leadership helped the RFID technology start-up raise $51M in venture funding and develop key partnerships with

Lockheed Martin, Mitsubishi and Motorola. Bravman started his career at Symbol Technologies where, during his 26-year tenure at the company, he held several positions with increasing responsibility and eventually assumed the role of chief executive officer and vice chairman. As CEO, Bravman led a major turnaround effort at Symbol, which paved the way for the company’s acquisition by Motorola in 2007.

 

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