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SDA Security: Something old, something new

Friday, December 30, 2011

San Diego-based SDA Security is proud of its long history, but is known for being a forward-thinking company decidedly not stuck in the past. Now, a fun, new, “silent movie” commercial about the company on YouTube celebrates both its past and its present.

SDA, one of Southern California’s largest security systems providers, was started in 1930 and originally called the San Diego Burglar Alarm Company. The family-owned business changed its name in 1995 as it grew and broadened its selection of offerings for customers.

In 2007, Shandon Harbour became president, the third generation of her family to lead the company. According to the company website, she “restructured and reteamed SDA Security to represent its new advanced and cutting edge identity.”

Now Shandon and a variety of company employees star in a new YouTube commercial SDA created to help promote its services. The commercial seems like an old-time “silent movie,” and is fun to watch while it effectively shows all the company has to offer customers.

Here’s what Megan O’Neal, SDA marketing communications coordinator, told Security Systems News about the commercial spot in an email communication: “We gathered some costumes, some camera equipment, some employees, and shot an old-West bank-heist video with SDA Security coming to the rescue at the end … It shows the fun side to the security business many people may not see very often.”

Check it out!

Lack of detectors = tragic Christmas fire lesson

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The early morning Christmas Day house fire in Connecticut that took the lives of three little girls and their grandparents is an event sad beyond all words.

And adding to the sadness is a report that the century-old Victorian mansion’s smoke detectors weren’t working as the blaze—which officials say was caused by fireplace embers that were improperly disposed of—raced through the wood structure as everyone was sleeping around 3 a.m.

I can’t help imagining a totally different outcome if functioning detectors—or a monitored fire detection system—had been safely protecting this home.

Here’s the latest on the Stamford, Conn. Fire from today’s New York Post:

A permit was approved in May for at least seven smoke detectors in a doomed Connecticut mansion — but none was hooked up when three girls and their grandparents died there in a horrific Christmas Day fire.

The chief buildings official in Stamford told The Post yesterday that, given the time between when he issued the permit and Sunday’s fire, the detectors should have been working.

Robert DeMarco said that the city performed an inspection in June and found that the smoke detectors — part of a security system that included motion and carbon-monoxide detectors — were not connected to the home’s electricity or an outside monitor.

That was not unusual, he said. But the system should have been connected within three months of that inspection, by September, he said, even if the law doesn’t require it.

“If they got all their inspections in June, I would say . . . they should have been complete,” DeMarco said.

Renderings of the planned renovations on the three-story $1.7 million Victorian show that six of the seven smoke detectors were to be installed on the second floor: one in each of three bedrooms, another in a master closet and two near stairwells to the first and third floors.

Owner Madonna Badger, 47, her boyfriend, Michael Borcino, 52, and her parents were believed to be on the second floor when fireplace embers ignited the house.

Her daughters, 10-year-old Lily and 7-year-old twins Sarah and Grace, were on the third floor and couldn’t escape the flames, despite rescue efforts by Borcino and Badger’s dad, Lomer Johnson, 71.

Autopsy results released yesterday showed that the victims, who also included Badger’s mother, Pauline Johnson, 69, died from smoke inhalation. Lomer Johnson also had injuries to his head and neck, likely caused by a fall.

The Post also reported yesterday that a city official said “a modern “hardwired” smoke detection system was being installed as part of ongoing renovations. But it hadn’t gone online in the five-bedroom home, which was built in 1895.”


2011: The Year of the Telecom

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The year is not quite over yet, but it’s clear that 2011 has earned a new name as far as security is concerned: The Year of the Telecom.

That’s because the year has been marked by at least five telecoms entering the security space. And those who have yawned and said, “What else is new? The telecoms have tried this before and failed,” had better take note. There are some indications the telecoms are doing things differently this time—for example, they’re teaming up with other professional security companies and joining industry associations.

Verizon led off in January, debuting its home security/home automation product at the Consumer Electronics show. After beta testing in New Jersey, it followed up in October by launching the product to its broadband customers nationwide.

While Verizon’s product is designed to be self-installed and self-monitored, it appears other telecoms are going with professionally installed and monitored products—and in some cases using professional security companies to do the installation and monitoring.

Cox Communications launched a home security/home automation product in Tucson, Ariz. this summer and is planning to launch in other markets in 2012.

Also in the fall, Time Warner Cable and Frontier Communications joined in by launching home security/home automation offerings in upstate New York, and Frontier also is experimenting with a security product in Pennsylvania .

Frontier, which tried going it alone previously a few years ago, is now partnering with professional security companies—with ADT for its New York offering, and with Protection 1 in Pennsylvania.

There’s also recent news that AT&T is creating a new Atlanta-based division to offer customers home security and home automation.

The Georgia Electronic Life Safety and Security Association (GELSSA) is urging AT&T to join that group and be a good, ethical participant in the industry. That’s what Cox has already done in connection with its Tucson launch, joining the Arizona Alarm Association and attending seminars.

In 2012, we’re likely to see more activity from these telecoms and maybe additional players jumping in. Will the telecoms turn out to be competitive players this time around? Only time will tell.

Next Gen 911: On hold for the holidays?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Next Generation 911 is on hold, but don’t blink. It will return, if not tomorrow or next week, then when Congress reconvenes in 2012.

The provision, which was attached to H.R. 3630—“The Middle Class Tax Relief, Job Creation and Let’s Beat Santa Home Act of 2011”—was removed from the version of the legislation that made it through the Senate last weekend.

But it wasn’t removed because senators didn’t like it, according to Bob Bonifas, who has lobbied on Capitol Hill in an effort to change language in the bill that could harm the alarm industry. It was removed to simplify the bill so that extending the Social Security payroll tax cut could make it through both houses.

“They didn’t even bring it up,” Bonifas said. “Rather than deal with it, they just cut the NG 911 … out of it and sent the raw part back to the House.”

The raw part still awaits cooking as I write this, since the GOP leadership in House has refused to bring the Senate-approved bill to a vote. Will 160 million Americans get to keep their payroll tax break, or will it expire? There’s more to the standoff than that, but I won’t get into the particulars. Life’s short and besides, there’s still holiday shopping to do.

The action and inaction effectively kick the can down the road to 2012, unless something changes soon and the House decides to put NG 911 back into play before Jan. 1. But it will be back, eventually. And when it returns, Bonifas wanted to make something clear: The alarm industry supports it. It just wants language in the bill changed to prevent an unintended consequence: permitting unverified data—automated burglar, fire and PERS alarms—to flow into PSAPs.

“We’re not trying to oppose anything that would jeopardize (NG 911),” he said. “We’re not trying to blow up this bill; we’re trying to tweak a minor error in it.”


Mace has a new, new CEO

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mace Security announced December 19 that John J. McCann will take over as CEO of the company on January 3. Michael Smith, the current “interim” CEO “has notified the Company that he will resign as interim Chief Executive Officer and a director of the Company effective January 2, 2012.” The 8K says that Mace was conducting a search for a CEO during the pendency of Smith, but there was no “interim” in front of Smith’s CEO title when he was appointed back in August to replace outgoing CEO Dennis Raefield. Here’s a story about that transition.

McCann comes from outside the security world, having spent his career in the consumer products industry. That background would seem to make sense, given the company’s stated goal of growing its personal defense spray division (its consumer products division). (It also has a monitoring business and a security products business.) Most recently McCann was president and CEO of Fitness Quest, Inc., a privately owned company that distributes and markets home exercise and fitness products. Before that, he was president and CEO of Saeco USA, Inc., a privately owned company that distributes and markets coffee brewing appliances.

Richard A. Barone, Mace’s Chairman of the Board, said in a prepared statement: “In August, Mace received funding through a rights offering to shareholders and an investment by Merlin Partners, LP. With the funding from the rights
offering and the right sizing of the Company under the leadership of Mr.Smith, Mace enters 2012 with a strong working capital position, virtually nodebt, and a management team focused on achieving profitability and shareholder

Next Generation 911: The bomb's still ticking

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

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

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

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 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"

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.