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iControl to control uControl

 - 
Friday, November 5, 2010

I learned late yesterday that iControl will acquire competitor uControl. They announced the merger yesterday, but did not announce financial terms. This brings together two broadband home security/management providers.

The announcement said the new company will go with the iControl Networks name and will be based iin Palo Alto, Calif. (iControl's home base). Paul Dawes, CEO of iControl and Jim Johnson, CEO of uControl, will be "co-CEOs" of the new company.

I'll be speaking with Dawes and Johnson today, so will have more info soon. In the meantime, below are some more details from the press release:

According to the release: "The combined company has launched commercially with several service providers and will announce additional deployments in the near future. All commercial trials and deployments will continue as planned."  

"Through this merger, iControl and uControl have combined our respective strengths to deliver the best platform for the broadband home management market," said Paul Dawes, co-CEO of iControl, in a prepared statement.  "Whether it's support for industry-leading IP video monitoring, innovative iPhone and Android apps, or cutting edge ZigBee and Z-Wave technology, the new iControl will offer the most comprehensive, innovative solution available."

"This is a rare opportunity where everyone benefits," said Jim Johnson, co-CEO of iControl, in a statement.  "The scale achieved through this market consolidation is better for customers, partners, employees, and investors. Our top priorities are the success of our customers' deployments and accelerating the growth of our OpenSMA ecosystem."

iControl Networks is a venture-backed software and services company that partners with home security companies, broadband operators, utilities and telecommunication firms to deliver iControl ConnectedLife. Investors in iControl include ADT, Charles River Ventures, Cisco, Comcast Interactive Capital, GE Security, Intel Capital and the Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers iFund. For more information, please visit  uControl delivers an open, technology-agnostic Home Security, Monitoring and Automation (SMA) software platform making the Connected Home a reality.  

uControl, based in Austin, Texas, recently announced its OpenSMA program, which "brings together all the players who power the Connected Home, integrating and enabling a diverse ecosystem, from Service Providers such as cable and telephone companies to Platform Hardware and Lifestyle Device manufacturers who supply items such as thermostats, lighting controls, touch screen tablets and security sensors.  Application developers also play a crucial role within OpenSMA, bringing to market an endless list of Connected Home applications." 

 

Making customer satisfaction your job can win jobs

 - 
Thursday, November 4, 2010

We’re all familiar with the “It’s not my job” experience: You want some service from a company, but its employees can’t help you because they say it’s not their area of responsibility. If you’re lucky, they may give you another phone number to call, but then chances are the person you reach will tell you to call someone else.

So that’s why I was intrigued when Scott Hosford, branch manager of the Fairchild Communications Systems office in Fort Wayne, Ind. told me the other day that Fairchild instructs its technicians to do whatever it takes to get the job done—even it it’s not their job.

Hosford said that technicians at Fairchild--a full-line integrator headquartered in Indianapolis that offers everything from fire and security systems to sound systems in the commercial, institutional and industrial verticals—are told to help customers solve problems even if the problem is not something they were specifically sent to fix.

For example, he said, if the tech is out for a programming job but discovers there's something wrong with the wiring, the tech is instructed not to leave and say he'll come back after the customer has called an electrician and the wiring is fixed.

Instead, Hosford said, the techs stay and work with the customer to help solve the problem. He said the tech will say: “We got a problem, (but) I’m going to help you find it. Can you get a guy in with me and go over it?”

Hosford said that rather than making it all the customer’s problem, Fairchild’s approach is: “Just do what you can to get the project done. You’re already out there, why have you schedule another trip and go back--it’s an inconvenience for everybody. Let’s just get the job done and move on to the next one.”

Hosford said the company's good service record has sometimes won it jobs even when it wasn’t the lowest bidder. All because it instructs its employees NOT to say: “It’s not my job.”

 

Tourist in New York

 - 
Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I've been running around like a New Yorker since I arrived in the city yesterday. I had a fantastic tour of Lincoln Center and its security operation yesterday afternoon courtesy of Rob Tarleton, IT director for Lincoln Center and Jeremy Brecher of Diebold (and Tech Sec Advisory Board member.)

Jeremy Brecher of Diebold left and

Rob Tarleton, IT director for Lincoln Center right.

Jeremy Brecher of Diebold and Rob Tarleton of the Lincoln Center

Rob and Jeremy and I did a webcast in September about the Lincoln Center"s IP-security project, part of a $1.22 billion overhaul of this world class (and 16-acre) performing arts campus. You can listen the the webcast by going to our homepage and clicking on the gray webcast tab. It's just above my photo.

But before I go, I had another wicked cool tour today Leischen Stelter and I met wiith the World Trade Center Security consultants DVS (Phil Santore, Brian Coulombe and Frank Santamorena) and the WTC security director Louis Barani. We had breakfast at a hotel that overlooks the site, so Leischen and I could see what we were talking about, and then we went over to Tower 7 for a look at some of the security operatiions.

SDN Managing Editor Leischen Stelter,

Phil Santore, principal of DVS, the security consultant for the WTC

in front of a balcony overlooking the WTC site

I've got lots more to share about the tour ... and some of my famous foggy iPhone photos to share as well. I've got to run to another event right now

 

 

SIAC gives a shout out to contributors

 - 
Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I got an email from SIAC today concerning a pretty cool update to their site.

SIAC has been updating a lot lately, getting more heavily into social networking and taking the opportunity to update their website give some props to the peeps who've supported the associaiton in the past. There's a section on their new site dedicated to lauding those who've contributed to SIAC's running.

I wrote earlier in the year about SIAC's appeal for contributions. Those guys DO work pretty tirelessly with municipalities on behalf of the industry. They're always there trying to bridge the gap when municipalities and the industry threaten to clash.

SIAC executive director Stan Martin summed up the newly-added contributors page in the SIAC email:

“One of the main reasons we added our list of contributors is to give them the recognition and thanks they deserve for keeping SIAC funded and enabling us to help improve alarm management practices.  It’s only through their help that we can do the good work we do for other companies in our industry,” Martin said in the release.

Drop by SIAC's site and contribute or just get a look at those who have and thank them for supporting one of the industry's advocates.

Security and Election Day

 - 
Thursday, October 28, 2010

I expected to learn lots of new things when I started writing about the security industry, but I didn’t expect to start looking at mid-term elections from a security angle.

But a recent comment from Ackerman Security Systems CEO Jim Callahan about that Atlanta-based company’s new branch in Beltsville, Md., which opened in May to serve customers in the Washington, D.C. area, has made me do just that.

Callahan said Washington’s revolving election cycle is one reason that Ackerman, one of the nation’s top providers of residential and commercial security, decided to open the office.

Callahan noted the area is full of affluent, well-educated professionals who come and go every two to four years as the administration of the federal government changes with elections. The area has a high crime rate, so the newcomers tend to seek out security systems.

So, whoever ends up in control of Congress after Nov. 2, security companies in the D.C. area will be the winners.

On another election note, a recent issue of the CASIA (Connecticut Alarm & Systems Integrators Association) Communicator suggests some questions for those in the industry to pose to candidates. Although the article in the September 2010 issue is focused on Connecticut, some of the questions could be asked of election candidates in any state. They include:

*Will they support or oppose additional taxes on individuals or businesses?

*How will they assist employers in providing affordable health insurance for employees?

*Do they support efforts to stimulate the economy by reducing the regulatory burden on employers, such as addressing permitting delays?

*How will they help businesses reduce energy costs and increase energy reliability?

 

2GIG news abounds

 - 
Thursday, October 28, 2010

I've had lots of news about 2GIG Technologies coming across my desk in the past week or so. In case you don’t know 2GIG, they’re a newish (about three years old now) manufacturer of residential and home management solutions, notably its GO!Control panel.

Just yesterday I spoke to Mary Miller at the Z-Wave Alliance, which is an open consortium of companies that wants to establish Z-Wave as the standard in wireless home control. Miller announced that 2GIG is its newest principal member.

2GIG president Todd Santiago told me the company is pleased to join the board, which includes Cooper Wiring Devices, Danfoss, Fakro, Ingersoll Rand, Leviton, Sigma Designs and Universal Electronics.

Santiago also shared some other news. The company is moving to a bigger office in Lehi, Utah and has opened another  “large office and warehouse in Carlsbad, California.” Company engineers will be housed in both locations, he said. 2GIG has hired three seven engineers lately and Santiago said he expects to hire 10 more  within a few weeks. Below is some biographical information about three senior engineers they hired:

 

--Bruce Ehlers: senior vice president, engineering. Ehlers recently joined 2GIG and has responsibility over all engineering activities. Prior to joining 2GIG, Ehlers was VP of engineering at Linear Corporation where he oversaw all product development including the development of the GoControl panel.  Prior to Linear, Ehlers held leadership positions at numerous companies including Iomega, Copper Mountain Networks, and General Instrument.  He holds a BSEE with honors and MSEE from Purdue University.

--Chris Harris: VP, hardware engineering. Harris has more thna 15 years of product development and manufacturing experience with wireless, networking, and consumer electronic products.  Prior to 2Gig, Harris managed the hardware product development at Control4 Corporation, a home automation and energy management company. Before that, he held engineering and operations management positions at several venture funded technology companies including Redline Networks (acquired by Juniper Networks), Softbook Press (acquired by Gemstar), CellNet Data Systems (acquired by Schlumberger), and Advanced Energy Industries (NASDAQ: AEIS).  Harris has aBS in Mechanical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an MS in Systems Engineering from Stanford University.

--Karl Hisamoto:  VP, Software Engineering. Hisamoto brings more than 30 years of embedded software development and management experience with simulation systems, cellular systems, and home technology products. Hisamoto managed the software development of 2gig’s Go!Control security and home management system.Prior to 2gig, he has held software engineering management positions at Linear LLC and Skyworks Solutions. Hisamoto received his BS in Electrical Engineering from California State University, Long Beach.

Santiago also said that they company now has 10 distributors, has a nationwide sales organization having signed on “numerous independent rep firms"  and a couple of direct sale employees.

 

Extrapolating video's evolution in security

 - 
Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Going through my email this morning, I noticed a little further discussion of video at Ken Kirschenbaum's newsletter. I've done a lot of writing about video. Specifically, I've written a lot about verification and companies like G4S, Westec, Stealth Monitoring and Viewpoint CRM who go beyond simple verification. A reader named John asked a simple question:

"Hi Ken,

Whom do you recommend for off site video storage and monitoring, including live look-ins?

John"

To which Ken responded, "I invited central stations to respond to the inquiry.  Here are the responses I received:"

I found the responses interesting and informative.

First was a reply from U.S.A. Central Station Alarm's Bart Didden. I've blogged about Bart's take on video verification and manufacturers and alarm companies that tout priority police response before. Here, though, Bart just talks about video in general:

"Ken,

    First my position, then the answer to your question.

    Video has gotten so much buzz for the last couple of years, that in my opinion many companies have been financially damaged trying to live up to the hype of video."

I've actually blogged about this before--the overselling, over-hyping of what video can do and the underplaying of it's limitations. We DO live in a world where Hollywood tells us we can recognize people and license plates from an orbitting satellite and make out the name of a perp's girlfriend in his tatoo from a conveniece store's CCTV footage... How much of that is true and how much science fiction? Regardless of the answer, Average Joe End User believes it can be done 'cuz he saw it on a mediocre (at best) episode of "CSI: Miami."

Bart continues:

"Dollar for dollar video has been the worse security investment ever to date because there are high expectations created by TV shows, manufacturers and the public at large because everyone expects HDTV quality and that the on-site recorders are always working. These expectations could not be farther from the truth especially when coupled with the inability to create recurring revenue streams for service."

I can't vouch for the veracity of that statement, since I don't know how much y'all have invested in failed attempts at video. It seems to me, however that there are companies out there offering video as a component of what they do, as well as making successful video services their entire business model. And I'm pretty sure RMR has been and will continue to be a part of that.

"Yesterday’s alarm company would have been better served if they followed the advice of industry pundits who said flood the neighborhood with door hangers while you were installing a system for the neighbor, concentrate on your business, stay focused on what you do best and communicate with your customers by making them lead generators."

Bart seems to be saying don't try new stuff... The problem is that end users tell YOU, their employees (wlhen you install a system for them), what they want. Especially in today's world where end users are more and more tech-oriented.

Bart DOES give some props to video, however.

    "But I do believe that there is hope for video in the near future.

    Here is my recipe for successful video sales into the traditional, service oriented alarm company.

    Smaller camera systems generate sales leads not just for the camera but an alarm system as well and vice versa.

    Health monitoring (system health, i.e. that its still alive) is essential! Otherwise your next call from your customer is going to be that the equipment failed when the customer needed it. This is just a no win situation because you failed to meet the customers expectations. This must also include the all of the system components, starting from the camera itself, all the way back including any recorder. Any loss of function has to leave the premise otherwise it is still useless.

    Tie the video into a monitoring protocol for enhanced alarm verification. This way it seems like you need both to 'get it all.'"

Here, I like Bart's direction. Use video intelligently--as part of a larger system. Tie everything together. It seems like he's saying be educated, be smart, communicate with the end user and provide a real service. I think that's probably sound advice. And though he doesn't come right out and say it, it's there: Be honest. If there are limitations to what the system you're selling can do, tell your end user. Be honest about the limitations and honest about how video can supplement more traditional solutions. Sounds like a good policy. USA does offer video programs for dealers, and interested parties can contact them.

Now the input on video didn't end with Bart. Steve Tapper over at OzVision also chimed in. I'm actually working on a story about OzVision and Sonitrol teaming up for Sonovision right now. Look for that story later this week.

Here's what Steve had to say about video:

"Hi Ken,

    If you are interested from a manufacturer perspective, I am happy to offer incite on what OzVision offers regarding off site Video Storage, as well as the many RMR services the central stations can provide to their clients such as:

- Continuous 24/7 recording on all cameras to be stored up to 1 year via the customized GUI for an OEM (and can be downloaded to your local PC)

- Video Motion Detection events stored and accessible via the customized GUI for an OEM (and can be downloaded to your local PC)

- Alarm Video Verification that the video will go to the off site server first, then instantly to the monitoring station, then onto the operator workstation which integrates with their particular automation software platform."

We here at SSN have done some writing about the ongoing evolution of video, including improved resolution quality, improved scalability through IP systems, dropping pricepoints, and improved analytics, all of which will continue to bring video into the mainstream.

What're your thoughts on video? I'd love to hear from you.

McGinn and Smith, charged with fraud, seek new investors

 - 
Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hmm. It’s interesting to see that David L. Smith and Timothy M. McGinn, two security alarm industry investors who made headlines this spring after the SEC charged them with bilking investors in a Ponzi scheme, are back in the news--with a new investment venture.

Smith and McGinn have started a new investment company and have been trying to raise more than $500,000 to loan a small Georgia-based alarm company $425,000 at an annual interest rate of 19.62 percent, according to the Times Union, a newspaper in Albany, N.Y.

This time, the newspaper says in a story this week, Smith’s and McGinn’s former administrative assistant owns the new business, Security Alarm Credit, and is running it out of her house in East Greenbush, N.Y. Smith and McGinn are just her employees--and executive vice presidents, the newspaper says.

(Below is a photograph from the Albany Times Union of the East Greenbush, N.Y. home which serves as the headquarters of the new Security Alarm Credit business.)

Security Alarm Credit is being run out of this Greenbush, N.Y. home.Longtime partners Smith and McGinn were the principals of McGinn, Smith & Co., an Albany-based investment firm that conducted investment dealings in the alarm industry. The company is now in receivership after the SEC in April seized Smith’s and McGinn’s business and personal assets and accused the pair and their company of defrauding investors of at least $80 million. Places the money went included the pair’s own pockets and to pay for exotic dancers on McGinn’s You Only Live Once cruise ship business, the SEC said.  The court case is pending.

I’m trying to get hold of McGinn, Smith and their attorneys, as well as the SEC and others involved in the story to learn more.

McGinn invoked his civil rights in an interview with the Times Union about the new business venture. “My partner David Smith and I are not enjoined from earning a living and this is the United States of America,” McGinn reportedly told the paper.

 

 

Crime ring at ASIS, busted by Milestone

 - 
Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Jeez, you'd think all those cameras and the fact that it's a security show would dissuade would-be theives, but no. Milestone put out a press release this morning about thieves nabbed at ASIS.

When a laptop was stolen at the MoogQuickset booth during the show (Oct. 12-15), Moog employees asked those at the neighboring Milestone booth if they'd noticed anything missing. No, but they did happen to have footage of what went on after hours on the ASIS show floor that showed members of the cleaning crew picking up the laptop. Turns out they'd picked up a few more items as well, and when confronted by the video, one of the cleaning crew turned in items stolen from a previous trade show. These guys really cleaned up at trade shows. 

Click here to read the press release, and make sure to scroll down to see the video.

Roll the credits: MIlestone's XProtect VMS, and Axis camera, and featuring a synopsis by BriefCam.

This is the second time I've blogged about an attempted heist on a trade show floor. The first time was  at ISC West in 2008. Here's a link to that blog and accompanying camera shots. That time it was a cleaning crew guy who swipped a cellphone from a Intelliview Technologies booth while the camera caught his every move.

Crime ring at ASIS, busted by Milestone

 - 
Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Jeez, you'd think all those cameras and the fact that it's a security show would dissuade would-be theives, but no. Milestone put out a press release this morning about thieves nabbed at ASIS.

When a laptop was stolen at the MoogQuickset booth during the show (Oct. 12-15), Moog employees asked those at the neighboring Milestone booth if they'd noticed anything missing. No, but they did happen to have footage of what went on after hours on the ASIS show floor that showed members of the cleaning crew picking up the laptop. Turns out they'd picked up a few more items as well, and when confronted by the video, one of the cleaning crew turned in items stolen from a previous trade show. These guys really cleaned up at trade shows. 

Click here to read the press release, and make sure to scroll down to see the video.

Roll the credits: MIlestone's XProtect VMS, and Axis camera, and featuring a synopsis by BriefCam.

This is the second time I've blogged about an attempted heist on a trade show floor. The first time was  at ISC West in 2008. Here's a link to that blog and accompanying camera shots. That time it was a cleaning crew guy who swipped a cellphone from a Intelliview Technologies booth while the camera caught his every move.

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