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Business optimization at ASG

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Aronson Security Group, the Seattle-based systems integrator, is putting more resources into its Business Optimization Center.

The integrator announced this week that Nigel Waterton has been promoted to SVP of Corporate Strategy and Development for ASG. in this new role, Waterton—who was a speaker at TechSec 2014 on the topic of big data—"will guide the value proposition for ASG’s professional services, engineering, implementation, and performance that their management teams fulfill."

In a statement, Phil Aronson, CEO of Aronson Security Group, said: “Our growth demands another layer of leadership to identify and lead existing and future senior leadership. As well, Nigel will be extending and evolving our new Business Optimization Center which is a key foundation to our business model.”

ASG's Business Optimization Center helps security executives create a "Common Operating Picture" for their security program. ASG takes a look at the end user's the current operation to "understand the gaps between the as-is and to-be vision."

The next step, is to “establish a roadmap that guides the strategy, execution, measurement and budgeting of the program as it evolves over time,” Waterton said in a statement.

Waterton served in the British military for 16 years before he started working in the security industry in 1996.

Congratulations to Nigel!

AT&T’s Digital Life starts 2014 with market expansion

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

It hasn’t been a year yet since AT&T in April 2013 launched Digital Life, its home security/home automation product, but the telecom has lost no time in making the professionally monitored, professionally installed service available. As of this Friday, Digital Life will be available in a total of 63 markets around the nation.

The company will launch in four new markets that day: Albany, N.Y.; Dayton, Ohio; Grand Rapids, Mich.; and Wichita, Kan., according to an AT&T news release.

As of Feb. 21, customers in those markets can receive a live demonstration and buy Digital Life in company owned retail stores or make the purchase online. The company has 1,378 retail stores around the nation where the product is available, AT&T said.

The Dallas-based telecom had set a goal when it first launched Digital Life to have the service in 50 markets by the end of 2013, but surpassed that goal this past October.
And AT&T is predicting even more growth for Digital Life in 2014.

Kevin Petersen, president of Digital Life, said in a prepared statement: “This year is going to be exciting for AT&T Digital Life and the connected home industry. We’re going to expand our footprint and add features to the platform while being aggressive in the market to show customers how convenient it is to control your home with our easy-to-use technology.”

Also this year, the release said, “AT&T Digital Life joined the AllSeen Alliance, a nonprofit consortium dedicated to driving the widespread adoption of products, systems and services that support the Internet of Everything with an open, universal development framework supported by a vibrant ecosystem and thriving technical community. The alliance is a broad cross-industry consortium aimed at advancing adoption and innovation in the “Internet of Everything” in homes and industry.”

According to the news release, “AT&T Digital Life makes customers’ lives easier by simplifying the management of their home, offering security, convenience and peace of mind, in a customizable and easy-to-use experience from a smartphones, tablet or computer.”

Packages for Digital Life range from Simple Security, for $29.99 a month plus $149.99 for equipment, to Smart Security, for $39.99 a month plus $249.99 for equipment. Automation packages, such as camera or energy packages, can be added to the Smart Security for an additional monthly cost.

IQ Certification elects new board

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Members of the IQ Certification Program recently elected officers at the organization’s first meeting of 2014. While there’s considerable continuity from years past (several members earned reelection), the board of directors also reflects some changes, highlighted by the appointment of Lynn Comer as chairperson.

Another change was the election of Don Childers, COO of Statesville, N.C.-based Security Central, to the IQ Board. Earlier this week I spoke to Don about some of the key priorities for the certification program moving forward. Childers said that, as with any association, exploring ways to boost membership remains an overarching objective.

“We have to show the value of what we’re doing, then determine how to get the message out en masse so that those in the industry better understand what we’re trying to do,” he said.

One strategy for doing just that, Childers said, is leveraging big-name industry events—he cited ESX as an example—to hold sessions that perform the double-task of educating prospective members while promoting the business value of being IQ Certified. An education chair at ESX, Childers said he would be in favor of including a 60 to 70 minute seminar at the show.  

As far as other goals with the organization, Childers said he may suggest ways to streamline some of the application paperwork for the certification program, making it easier for non-central station members, whose application process tends to be more involved. Besides that, Childers’ near-term aim is to examine IQ Certification membership “from the business owners’ point of view” and to continue “learning the job as I go along.” 

Security Networks of America makes a change

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Friday, February 14, 2014

Security Networks of America has changed its name.

The organization of 36 independent security companies is now "NetOne." Together, the 36 companies serve 775,000 customers throughout the U.S. and Canada. The group "shares best practices and compare performance to ascertain the most effective methods of giving customers what they need—and projecting what they may need in the future." Among other trends, the group "foresee[s] a rapid expansion of the remote interactive services our companies offer."

In an announcement, SNA managing director David Carter said: "The name acknowledges that we function as a network, reflecting the unity of purpose of our member companies —sharing information and expertise to foster best practices and evaluating new technologies, so their customers are provided with a broad range of solutions to meet their expanding security needs and improve business operations.”

The name change is also an acknowledgment that times have changed since the group was founded way back in 1988. In a prepared statement SNA chairman Scott Elkins, CEO of UAS in Philadelphia said: "Customers want to control facilities and systems remotely, and they want to be able to use the operational insights they gain from these systems to manage their companies more efficiently and effectively."

Verizon getting out of home security?

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

It was big news in 2011 when Verizon got into home security/home automation with the launch of its Home Monitoring and Control service, which did not have a professional monitoring component. Now there’s an even bigger buzz because it has now apparently discontinued the $9.99 per month DIY product.

Verizon this past October stopped accepting new orders for the product, although it is continuing to let existing FiOS subscribers continue with it, according to the FierceCable website.

I haven’t heard back from Verizon yet, but I have some questions. Does this mean that Verizon is getting out of home security and home automation?

Or perhaps it’s just dropping home security and will offer a new stand-alone home automation product? There’s some precedent for that. I reported last year that Comcast last year was offering Xfinity Home Control, a home management package for customers who don’t want security but do want home automation. That offering is distinct from Xfinity Home Secure, a product that has professional monitoring.

It’s not clear what Verizon’s latest move portends but FierceCable did report this:

“Verizon officials suggested that the telco may introduce a new home automation product, but wouldn't say if the company is considering adopting a wireless-based approach similar to AT&T Digital Life.”

I’ll continue to follow on this story. Stay posted.
 

HID reportedly paid $60m for Lumidigm

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Updated 2/13/14

Identity solution provider HID this week made its second purchase in a month, buying fingerprint biometric provider Lumidigm.
In January,  HID announced that it had purchased IdenTrust, a provider of digital identities.

The Albuquerque Journal is reporting that HID paid more than $60 million for the biometric company. Through a spokesperson HID said that because this is a "private transaction" the company would not comment on the purchase price.

I was not able to speak to Jeff Kessler at Imperial Capital about the deal. (Imperial advised Lumidigm,) but I did get a look at a research brief Kessler published on Feb. 12, where he said this deal "continues to put distance between Assa Abloy’s HID Division and the competition in the way of interoperable, identity solutions for government and enterprise users."

Here's more from Kessler's brief:

In our opinion, Assa Abloy has made a concerted effort to become the undisputed leader in higher technology access control and identification solutions for not just enterprises and institutions, but for Government as well—the latter is an area in which it did not have a lot of traction until 2011. However, a series of acquisitions have turned the company into the leader in this segment from a revenue perspective. This is unlike Safran (which purchased L-1 in 2010), which is primarily involved in registration and border identification. The challenge remains for Assa Abloy and HID to integrate these acquired technologies and companies carefully, to let some of the more creative sectors provide both competitive advantage to Assa Abloy, yet still remain the leading providers of software and identity solutions to other companies in the industry as well.

Founded in 2001 and based in Albuquerque, N.M., Lumidigm has 33 employees. Its 2014 sales are expected to be $25 million, and the deal is expected to be accretive to earnings per share, according to HID parent company ASSA ABLOY.

Common problems with fingerprint biometrics include that fact that the technology will not work in harsh environments or when peoples’ fingers are dirty. In addition, some peoples’ fingerprints are simply not detectable. Lumidigm’s technology overcomes these problems, HID said, with its patented “multispectral imaging technology [that] uses multiple light spectrums and advanced polarization techniques to extract unique fingerprint characteristics from both the surface and subsurface of the skin.” The technology is also highly effective in detecting “imposter or ‘spoof’ fingerprints,” according to HID.  

Lumidigm’s products are used in verticals such as banking, healthcare, entertainment, and government services. HID is also interested in Lumidigm’s “premier global customer base,” HID CEO Denis Hebert said in a prepared statement.  

The opportunity for HID, according to a statement from Bob Harbour, executive chairman of Lumidigm is: “to apply multispectral imaging capabilities to credential acquisition and authentication, gesture recognition, and other image-based process control systems, making multi-factor authentication on a single, integrated device a reality.”

Low-voltage contractor bill passes Georgia Senate

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

I reported last week on a bill in Georgia that would expand the number of Georgia contractors licensed to perform low-voltage installations. Yesterday, that piece of legislation (S.B. 294) passed the Georgia Senate by a vote of 53-0. Three senators were not on the floor during the vote.

John Loud, immediate past president of the Georgia Electronic Life Safety & Systems Association, and an opponent of the bill, admitted the outcome in the Senate was disconcerting. But he believes the legislative battle is far from over; he and GELSSA members are now developing a strategy to put the brakes on the bill in the House. “There are seven steps through the House for us to put various stops or blocks to this,” Loud said. “We knew it had been fast-tracked through the Senate, so my original plan was to skip the Senate and get ready for the battle in the House.”

If passed, the bill would permit those licensed as an Electrical Contractor Class II—a high-voltage installation certification—to perform low-voltage contracting, which encompasses fire and security systems, without obtaining the statewide low-voltage license that’s currently required.

Loud says the bill could bring an influx of new contractors into the life safety systems space, and could undo much of the progress GELSSA has made over the past year in promoting legislation that reduces false dispatches. He anticipates that the bill will now be parsed by the Regulated Industries Subcommittee in the Georgia House.

There are two possible compromises that GELSSA would find agreeable, Loud said. One would be to give the additional contractors who would be eligible to install life safety systems a Low-Voltage General (LVG) license rather than a Low-Voltage Unrestricted (LVU). A general license would allow contractors to pull wires but not install, for example, access control or fire safety systems.

The other outcome would be implementing a CEU program and background check that would ensure contractors are qualified to install low-voltage life safety systems.

Loud believes the bill could have implications that extend beyond the borders of Georgia. “It’s vital to get all the folks in Georgia to listen up and understand the impact of this,” he said. “As we all know, what happens in Georgia or Michigan or Pennsylvania can easily be replicated in other states.”

Vivint becoming a broadband provider?

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Vivint prides itself so much on innovation that it has outgrown its new Innovation Center and is building a much larger one, as I wrote recently. Now here’s something else that the Provo, Utah-based home automation/home security company apparently is innovating on: broadband service.

According to Gigacom Research, Jeremy Warren, Vivint VP of innovation, mentioned this week that the company is trialing broadband in Utah, but provided few details.

What is known, Gigacom says, is that Vivint’s wireless broadband service costs $55 for 50 Mbps.

Here’s more from the Gigacom story, which was picked up by CNN Money:
 

[Jeremy Warren] said that Vivint is testing the service in Utah where Vivint is based, and that it uses a mesh networking topology as opposed to a traditional tower-oriented network design that many Wireless ISPs deploy today. He said the company is taking advantage of off-the-shelf radios and using unlicensed and “semi-licensed” spectrum in a variety of ranges including the 5GHz and 2.4Ghz range used for Wi-Fi.

… He believes Vivint can deliver competitive broadband at a relatively low deployment cost. “We have a nationwide field service arm and know how to talk to customers and acquire customers and service them,” Warren said. He argued that customer acquisition costs are a big expense of building out a network, and Vivint can sidestep those costs because it already has a customer acquisition infrastructure thanks to its distributor network.

With cablecos and telecoms getting into home security and automation, Gigacom concludes, “Why shouldn’t a security and home automation provider try its hand at broadband?”

Interesting question!

 

Milestone IPO? Other MIPS news

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

I’m in Orlando for the Milestone Integration Platform Symposium (MIPS), the VMS provider’s annual partner conference.

One of the first topic addressed: Will Milestone be doing an IPO anytime soon? You see, an UK-based publication here reported as much.

Milestone CEO Lars Thinggaard said going public is something Milestone may do and it “will be great if it ever happens,” but that the company “had not decided to do that.”  He declined further comment on the topic.

Founded in 1998, Milestone is based in Copenhagen, Denmark. It reported 2012 revenues of  $55.3 million 19.5 percent over 2011), EBITDA of $9 million (up 16 percent), and net income of $2.2 million (up $23 percent).  In 2012 the company invested $9.6 million in R&D. In 2012 it had 350 employees, Thinggaard said yesterday Milestone now employs 400.

In his opening address to the crowd—which numbers about 350 and includes integrators, manufacturer partners and folks from Milestone—Thinggaard talked about the forecasted growth for IP video surveillance and how Milestone is set up to take advantage of growth opportunities. He reviewed the company’s organizational set up—which was changed last year to include: the Professional Business Unit for lower complexity systems; the Corporate Business Unit for highly complex systems; and the Incubator Business Unit, which is based in Silicon Valley.

Thinggaard said IP video is in its third stage of growth right now. The first stage was the move from analog to digital, the second was video integration and the third is “video enabling. ... the business optimization processes that video is enabling.”  He cited, as an example, the medical school at St. Andrews University in Scotland, which is using a Milestone system as the basis for a new learning technology system called MedVu. It's a video capture system that the students use to “record, delete, share, bookmark and present video evidence of key practical medical experience in the areas of clinical and communications skills. …MedVu is also being used by the school’s post graduate researchers to gather and analyze evidence.”

Eric Fullerton, Milestone chief sales and marketing officer, said that video is becoming “mission critical.”  Video “adds value to the bottom line, it can be a significant profit generator, companies cannot live without their video working,” he said.

Further, he said that Milestone’s ability to bring multiple manufacturers together “is adding more value to end users than one company [one of those manufacturers] can do alone.”
Some companies try to “get vertical” or proprietary, he said. “We try to maintain horizontalization … to partner with the best of class.” It may be easier to partner with just one vendor, but then “you lock yourself into [proprietary] jail.”

Cheolkyo Kim, president and CEO of Samsung Techwin, gave a talk and then spoke to reporters afterwards. He said that Samsung Techwin believes it can be the number one IP camera globally by 2016, (the company is currently between number three and four.)

Bernhard Shuster, EVP Bosch Security Systems, also spoke to the group about how Bosch is making a radical change from closed to open products.

MIPs featured three panel discussions, all worthwhile: one with camera manufacturers, one with access control providers, and the best of all—and I am not being facetious here—was a panel discussion among five storage providers. Ken Mills of EMC; Duke Duong of HP; Dave Taylor of IBM; Dick Cecchini of Seneca; and, Scott Sereboff  of Veracity

Storage? Yup. All eyes were on the stage during this storage discussion.

It was lively from the first question: Why should the integrators in the audience really care about storage?

What you store is the most important piece of security, said Veracity’s Scott Seraboff.  Duke Duong of HP said “it’s all about protecting your data … [the actual storage] is just one component.”  Taylor said, the real value of your system is “when your first event occurs [and it needs to have been properly stored]."

There was  a lot of disagreement about the value of RAID storage.

There was one uncharacteristic point of agreement during the discussion when Dave Taylor, of IBM, was asked about the cloud. He said that, for some applications the network infrastructure necessary to move video to the cloud is prohibitively expensive. For some, cloud is not going to be the right option. A “hybrid capability is where we see cloud going in the future.” None of the other speakers disagreed. 

Taylor, by the way, said earlier in the discussion that your storage provider should also provide you with their home phone number.

More on the MIPS storage smackdown later, but the crowd did seem to appreciate a theme that Veracity’s Sereboff spoke to more than once: that storage has too many bells and whistles, what systems integrators want is storage that’s simple, easy and safe. 

Ohio city enacts alarm verification

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Plagued by an astronomical 98 percent false alarm rate for security systems, Akron, Ohio is following the lead of several other major American cities and introducing verified alarm response, according to a report from the Associated Press, and a news release from Sonitrol, an audio verification company.

The policy, adopted in larger cities such as Detroit, Las Vegas and Milwaukee, is simple: If an alarm goes off, a possible crime must be confirmed prior to law enforcement dispatch.

There are several causes of false alarms—outdated systems and installation flaws are among the most common culprits. But whatever the cause, the torrent of towns and cities taking measures to address them suggests that municipalities and police departments have had enough. In addition to being a budgetary drag, false alarms can potentially have dire consequences if they delay police response to more critical calls.

To some, enacting policies designed to confirm crime prior to police dispatch sets the stage for greater cooperation between the industry and law enforcement. But according to the AP report, not everyone is sold on these measures being the best means of ensuring maximum public safety. David Margulies, spokesman for the SIAC, was quoted in the report saying such policies are "basically putting the public in danger." To be sure, there is a fundamental tension between the need for municipalities to save resources by reducing false dispatch and certain ideas about the best policies for responding to alarms. In the coming days, I hope to gather some opinions on both sides of this debate.

I’ll be interested to hear how municipal measures to curb false dispatches through verification policies modify the demands of central station personnel on the ground level. As such policies become more widespread, how will the industry change? Does the future of monitored alarms involve video or audio verification becoming de rigueur?

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