Subscribe to


Interface lands huge retail deal

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Interface Security Systems has landed a huge deal where it will provide managed cloud services for 9,500 Dollar General stores—the entire retail store network. I wrote a story last month about Interface’s being certified as an “Advanced Managed Services Channel Partner by Cisco” which means that Cisco value-added resellers across the country would be introducing Interface to its customers.

Interface’s Secure Managed Cloud Services for Dollar General includes Wide-area Network Management, PCI Compliance, Wireless Access Management, IP Alarm System Monitoring, IP Video Surveillance, and Interface Digital Voice.

Interface’s Secure Managed Broadband, a wide-area network design has redundant, high-speed network connections for failover and business continuity.


“What Interface delivers for any single location or a large organization like Dollar General is the economy of vendor consolidation. Interface offers a single point for billing and support,” said Michael Shaw, CEO of Interface in a statement.

I’ll be interviewing Shaw and Robert Aranda, IP Division President of Interface, today, so I’ll have a story on the deal online soon.

LifeShield targets B&B security market

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What’s popular? What’s new? LifeShield Security seems to pay close attention to what’s hot in popular culture and leverage that to promote itself. LifeShield is a wireless digital home security system that’s self-installed and professionally monitored.

I blogged about a couple examples of this earlier this year. In 2010, LifeShield, based in Yardley, Pa., announced that it had brought on NFL Hall of Famer Dan Marino as an investor and to help market its product on TV. Then, in January, the company announced it had added John Timoney—“America’s Top Cop”—as an advisor to help the company and customers protect against burglars with the aid of Timoney's inside knowledge of criminals’ minds.

Now, LifeShield's latest venture is to piggyback on the popularity of Airbnb, an Internet "bed-and-breakfast" service though which people can rent rooms or homes for vacations or other short-term stays from private home and apartment owners. LifeShield is offering a free home security camera promotion to Airbnb landlords.

The three-year-old Airbnb is tremendously popular and has experienced rapid growth. But it received a lot of negative press this summer after two separate claims that renters had heavily vandalized places they rented. Now, according to news reports, Airbnb is offering such safeguards as $50,000 in property insurance for landlords.

At the same time, LifeShield announced Aug. 11 that it will give free home security cameras to Airbnb users to help prevent renter theft and damage to residences.
The first 5,000 Airbnb users to call 877-874-4640 will get the cameras. The company also said it will give away free home security cameras to Airbnb users who sign up for LifeShield’s home security monitoring service.

Here’s more from the press release:

LifeShield’s next generation home security system offers sophisticated encrypted wireless technology that allows for easy set-up, a significantly lower up front cost and free, customizable monitoring options. The free wireless HomeView Camera will allow Airbnb users to view snapshots or video clips via the web or mobile phone. Users can also program specific triggers to take snapshots or even store images online to view later.

“LifeShield helps to safeguard a home on the inside as well as from outside intruders – which is critical for any type of landlord. Airbnb provides an outstanding and valuable service to its users, and LifeShield is a great complement to it – the ability for users to protect their most valuable assets,” said Mike Hagan, CEO, LifeShield. “Airbnb users need to prepare themselves in case they get one of those few bad apples who might temporarily rent their home but who have no real respect for the property itself or the personal items within it. A text message can be sent any time an off-limits cabinet or door is opened – so they can know the exact moment their agreement with that renter has been compromised. For instance, if a tenant has an unauthorized party with 100 people, they’ll know about it in real time – and can retrieve the camera snapshots or video clips of party guests for proof.”



Private industry pays for municipal video surveillance cameras

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

So I picked up this somewhat interesting article via SIA's Daily Update email (which is pretty cool--you can sign up for your edition here). They picked up a story from a local Allentown, Pa. paper, The Morning Call. That paper was carrying a story on municipal video surveillance, which is something I've written about before.

I'm interested in video, surveillance, analytics, biometrics, access control--oh and robots and flying cars--and all that other stuff that brings us closer to a sci-fi-ish future.

According to the story, the city had leveraged government money to put up 97 municipal "blue light cameras," so named for their adjoined, flashing blue, cruiser-like lights to watch city streets. However, that money is now drying up and the city is turning to the private sector--area businesses to chip in and cover the cost of adding more.

A little surprisingly to me, some businesses are down with the expense and are ponying up.

"Capital Blue Cross became the first company to chip in, paying the city $16,670 to install a blue-light camera at Hamilton and Jefferson streets, across from its 1221 Hamilton St. offices, near its employee parking lot," the story reads.

That's pretty cool. Here's a business that understands the value in municipal monitoring and is working with the city for the benefit of its own employees as well as law enforcement and the general citizenry.

I did an extensive piece on municipal video surveillance in our 2011 Video Surveillance Sourcebook. Specifically, I looked at privacy concerns and whether or not a proliferation of municipal cameras could stave off crime. Some have said no, but the statistics from Allentown seem to say otherwise.

The cameras have reduced crime in areas where they have been installed, mostly by pushing it into un-monitored areas, said Assistant Police Chief Daniel Warg. For example, a chronic drug market at the corner of Sixth and Turner streets evaporated when the city installed a camera there, he said.

There's no way to prove the cameras prevent violent crime, but in 2010, the city recorded nine murders, the lowest number since 2002 and less than half the record 21 killings that took place in 2007, the year Allentown installed its first surveillance cameras.

Let's hope more communities start this kind of privately funded municipal program. Seems to me it would mean improved industry/municipality relations, businesses more invested in their communities, safer streets for citizens and probably increased work for local integrators and monitoring companies.


Will Ackerman acquire soon?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ackerman Security announced today that it’s opened a new, 32,000-square-foot headquarters in Atlanta. The facility is three times bigger than the former headquarters and includes “a state-of-the-art demonstration center where visitors can see the newest security technology up close and personal. Examples include alarm systems that allow home and business owners to manage their security systems via web-enabled devices like smartphones, and touchscreen keypads that simplify operation and incorporate home automation.”

In business since 1967, Ackerman Security Systems does residential and commercial security a Five Diamond, UL-listed central station.

Ackerman has 70,000 customers and employs 258. The announcement said the company will increase its workforce by 25 percent in the next year, according to the release.

Sounds like Ackerman may have acquisitions in mind. I have a call into Jim Callahan, and will let you know what I find out.

Winging my way to Venice!?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Yeah, I wish... Unfortunately, it's not in the budget. Of course my headline alludes to the upcoming CSAA Annual meeting. I've heard all about them and read all about them and, of course, written about them, but I've not had the opportunity to go yet. (If anyone has room in their luggage, I'm not a large man... I'd probably fit in a carry-on ;-))

I spoke last year with Keith Jentoft from RSI Video Technologies. He told me at the time, that last year's move back to the states (last year was in the Greater Tucson area—a real favorite of mine) after being in Greece the year before, was an effort on CSAA's part to be sensitive to its mostly financially strapped (given the economic climate) constituents. Keith said he thought the cost issue wasn't really all that relevant, though.

“I think the CSAA is doing its level best to be responsive to its members—and carry out their mission. In these economic times ‘perception’ often is reality, whether or not it is true. I don’t really think the cost difference between exotic/local is as significant as people think. It is more perception,” Keith told me last year. “I think that alternating between something more exotic and something less exotic is a good compromise and will be effective in today's environment. I think that the fact that the CSAA is willing to adjust and make changes based upon input from their members demonstrates that Ed Bonifas and the board really do want to serve their members and listen to what they say.”

I also spoke with Keith the year before in '09 when the Annual Meeting was in Greece. He really hit the importance of the meeting (and I've heard this from a few different people over the years...)

"What’s cool about this is that you get all the AHJs in one place ... The most important people there are the AHJs. you’ve got the president APCO—the 911 people. etc., you can just ride the bus with these guys. if you’re an integrator, you can get your views heard," Keith told me on location from Greece in '09.

Anyway, the whole reason I bring this up is that the most recent edition of CSAA's Signals wants you all to know that early bird pricing for the Venice trip is due to expire next Friday, Aug. 19. Early bird registration secures $150 savings per person off the regular rate.

Here's some of what you can expect at the Annual Meeting, should it be in your budget to go:

Early bird registration deadline: Friday, Aug. 19, 2011

Registration deadline: Friday, Sept. 16, 2011

Special tours registration deadline: Friday, Sept. 16, 2011

Hotel reservation/cancellation deadline: Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2011

Airport transportation form deadline: Friday, Sept. 16, 2011

2011 CSAA Annual Meeting: Oct. 14-19, 2011

The keynote address is being given by FST21 founder Israeli general Aharon Zeevi Farkash. I've met the General a few times and interviewed him at this past year's ISC West. That promises to be a good talk. FST21's been seeing a lot of press lately, too.

In addition to his talk, CSAA will also offer the following educational sessions at its Annual Meeting:

* An AHJ president’s open forum.

* The current state of acquisitions and mergers.

* Alarm communications technologies.

* A nationwide public safety broadband wireless network.

* The ASAP to PSAP program.

* An update on PERS’ initiatives.

* Cloud computing: security as a service.

* Residential technologies of tomorrow.

For more information on the annual meeting head to CSAA's site, or call John McDonald, CSAA Vice President of Meetings, at 703-242-4670, ext. 17.




Golf, anyone? Market limited for house in fraud case

Monday, August 8, 2011

For sale: House in Vero Beach, Fla. Priced to sell at $1.49 million (it was valued earlier this year at $1.7 million to $1.9 million). Must like golf.

Under a judge’s order, the house is up for sale to benefit investors defrauded of more than $80 million in a Ponzi scheme allegedly run by security alarm industry investors Timothy McGinn and David L. Smith. Smith and his wife bought the home 10 years ago.

But the property on Orchid Point Way is proving difficult to sell, partly because it’s in an exclusive gated community for golfers, according to a court filing this month.

McGinn and Smith were principals of McGinn, Smith & Co., an Albany, N.Y.-based investment firm that conducted investment dealings in the alarm industry. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed charges against them last year, contending that from 2003 to 2009, the pair diverted funds into financially troubled entities and also into their own pockets, and for such expenses as paying for exotic dancers on McGinn’s You Only Live Once cruise ship business. The pair’s assets have been frozen and a receiver appointed.

A judge this February ordered the Smiths’ vacation home be sold. But the receiver wrote to the judge on Aug. 4, saying there’s a water leak in the garage and the pool is not functional. The receiver said the Smiths haven’t paid their homeowners or floor insurance premiums for the house, so he recently bought new policies that cost $10,000 per year.

Also, receiver William J. Brown wrote: “While the broker has worked hard to sell the home, and we have looked at a number of creative ways of trying to sell the home, it is a difficult market in a gated golfing community which is very expensive to reside in and appears to appeal to only the most avid golfers as a general rule.”

Brown said he is going to continue to evaluate the equity in the property.


Guards in my inbox

Thursday, August 4, 2011

For a change of pace, there’s been some guard news in my inbox this week. Earlier this week peHUB reported that Wind Point Partners closed a deal with Goldman Sachs Capital Partners to sell its guard company U.S. Security Associates

From the release: “U.S. Security provides security services for over 3,000 clients, with 146 branches across the United States and Puerto Rico. Wind Point acquired U.S. Security Associates (f/k/a Outsource Partners) in 1999 in partnership with CEO Chuck Schneider. Chuck co-founded U.S. Security in 1993 and previously served as CEO of Borg-Warner Security. He will continue to lead U.S. Security Associates and invested in the company alongside Goldman Sachs Capital Partners

U.S. Security Associates is a premier national provider of uniformed contract security services. Our more than 33,000 employees across more than 140 offices serve several thousand clients in a variety of industries across the country."

Then yesterday, I got more information on this deal and about the guard business in general from Robert Perry’s White Paper on the U.S. Security Guard Industry.  Perry reports that U.S. Security Associates is a $900 million company, and this deal is the latest in a busy year of guard company acquisitions. He includes a list of announced guard transactions and says, “the list certainly indicates that the buyers have been very busy in the past 12 months and there does not seem to be any slow down in sight.”

But is the guard market growing? Not recently, according to Perry: “Most industry experts are saying that today’s security guard market, to include only traditional

guarding services, is in the $17—$18 billion range; almost no change since our last report. Therefore, we’ll use $18 billion.”

Perry identifies four developments that present future challenges for guard companies: the new national health care bill; unionization of the guard industry; increase in Federal income, capital gains an inheritance taxes; and, higher unemployment and other taxes.

There are lots more details in this report. To check it out visit


POTS legislation imminent?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

So I was reading through my email the other day and I came across the most current edition of Ken Kirschenbaum's e-newsletter on the security industry.

One reader of Ken's asked about POTS and legislation regarding the imminent demise of the communications pathway with which the industry has grown up.

Ken put the question out there and asked if anyone could offer some help.

Now POTS lines, communications pathway alternatives and the FCC's actions with POTS and other communications mediums are topics about which I've written a lot.

I have a call out to my contact at the FCC as well as to a friend with the AICC to see if there is anything current to report on the FCC's developing Broadband Plan as well as any legislation out there currently.

Here's the question posed to Ken in its entirety:

Hello Ken,

We are about to embark on a new marketing campaign to "cut the cord" and I wanted to know what legislation is currently out there on landlines. I know there has been some talk about landlines coming to an end within the next decade or so, but I was wondering if there was anything more specific-maybe at a state level. I am having trouble finding information on line and was told by Amy that you are the expert in the field. Could you maybe point me in the right direction on where to search?

Thanks for your time. I greatly appreciate it.



Last time I talked with FCC spokesman Mark Wigfield in the beginning of 2010 he told me there was going to be a big job of work getting any sort of solid plan ready for implementation.

"There was a requirement in the stimulus bill that the FCC develop a national broadband plan for congress within a year. The purpose of the plan is to look at how to make broadband more universal and more affordable and address a number of national purposes, including national security, public safety, homeland security and education—a whole laundry list of things. So we’ve been gathering a lot of data. There were 28 public notices, directly relevant to broadband," Mark told me last year. "The broadband plan is supposed to be delivered to congress by Feb. 17 and it’ll have a lot of recommendations on rulemaking that the commission should move forward on. I can’t say right now what the recommendation would be, but this public notice certainly asks for a lot of data."

While I was putting this post together I heard back from Mark over at the FCC. He said he didn't think there was anything going on right now.

"I think certainly there's a recognition that networks are evolving to more IP-based networks, but I don't think there is any sort of proceedings to shut down the PSTN. AT&T has filed a petition talking about that and it's out for comment," Mark told me. "Certainly, we're focused on incentives for IP networks in terms of how the current regulatory structures may incentivize people who might want to keep older networks rather than make networks that are more advanced, IP-based networks ... But there's nothing else to really report, other than AT&T's petition."

AT&T's petition can be found here.

At that time, when rumblings of a possible POTS sunset began to surface, I also talked with Vector Security's Rick Simpson. He was pretty insistent that even if POTS went away today the tech exists to make the transition.

"If you called me up today and said, ‘Listen I don’t have any landline phones in my house. I have an alarm system and I have a network connection. Can you monitor me?’ I’d say ‘Yeah, we can.’ Honeywell, Bosch, DMP a couple others out there today have devices that allow us to take that information and transmit it back to the central station,” Rick told me at the time. “This is not a major issue … There’s enough technology out there available to us to be able to connect and monitor any system out there.”

I also have a call out to Lou Fiore at the AICC, from whom I waiting to hear back now.

On the same topic, I also picked up a LinkedIn discussion started by IPAlarm's Steve Nutt in the Alarm Monitoring Group. I've talked with Steve before about telcos, the PSTN and alternative communications pathways like VoIP, GSM and broadband.

He shared a story and topical question:

How not to handle migration away from PSTN

I was recently contacted by an alarm monitoring company in Bulgaria who had switched all the lines within their own premises from PSTN to VoIP. The majority of their systems stopped functioning correctly and they were getting all sorts of communication errors.

Bulgaria has the highest level of software piracy in Europe and it was quite funny how they contacted me with the expectation that I would immediately send them everything we had ever developed without pausing for a moment to discuss the simple matter of cost.

Anyhoo, it reminded me of a misconception (one of many) that I had stored in my head about the demise of PSTN. I had only ever thought about what would happen when customers no longer had the option of a landline, when in fact the situation could arise where a monitoring company no longer had the option either.

I have no idea if this is what happened to the monitoring company in Bulgaria as our communication ended very abruptly, but I can't help wondering how many other monitoring company owners worldwide have contemplated this happening to them.

I am working with a company in the Caribbean and the owner told me it's not possible for anyone to order a new installation of a PSTN line any more. I'm not sure how many countries would have a similar situation right now, but you'd have to guess that the number might increase rapidly over the next five years.

What is the situation with PSTN in your country?

Security industry consultant and CTO at Systems Support Specialists Mark Fischer responded:

Here in the U.S. the problem on the central station side is that the communications carriers are using VoIP as part of their network "upgrades." So the central station my be served by PSTN or T1 connections, and the subscriber may have plain POTS, but all of sudden systems stop communicating form certain areas, because backbones from an area are being routed over a VoIP connection by a carrier in the routing chain.

What I find amazing is the number of installing alarm companies that are in denial about the problem, they believe that because they made a format change or are able to get a few test signals through that they have provided reliable communications. What they do not understand is how VoIP really works and how it is treated on the Networks, the difference between tier1, facility based solutions and secondary level providers, and the effects of network load. Not to mention backup power issues both on site and off.

The fact is that VoIP is the going to be the future of land line telecommunications for the foreseeable future. Central Stations and installing companies need to provide migration paths for their subs to ensure reliability of monitoring services.

There are lots more comments that I won't get into here.

Interesting conversation. I'll update this post and tweet should I hear back from Lou from the AICC side.

Let me know what you've heard in your municipalities re: POTS or PSTN legislation.

ESA conducts survey on alarming trend

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I just wrote about a battle ongoing in Illinois over public entities taking control of fire alarm monitoring away from the industry. Even though a federal judge recently ruled in favor of ADT and some other alarm companies that state law doesn’t give fire protection district the authority to be in the fire alarm monitoring business, municipalities in Illinois are interpreting part of the ruling to assert they still have the right to mandate all alarms be monitored by them.

But the problem isn’t just in Illinois, according to the Electronic Security Association. A recent post by the ESA Integrator, the ESA’s news site, says that cities and towns across the country are looking to raise revenues by getting into the alarm monitoring business. The ESA is conducting a survey to learn the extent of the problem.

Here’s more from the ESA:

“A hot issue in the industry right now is municipalities across the country, seeking ways to increase revenue, looking at entering the alarm business by either offering monitoring services to residential or commercial alarm users or mandating that all alarms be monitored by the municipality. ESA has created a survey that every member should take to help us determine the breadth of the problem nationwide.

To take the survey, visit




Reputed mob boss appeals ADT fraud conviction

Monday, August 1, 2011

Security Systems News has written previously about Vincent Artuso, who was sentenced in 2009 to nine years in federal prison for his role in a real-estate scam to bilk ADT out of millions of dollars.

Now, according to a recent Associated Press story, Artuso, reputed to be a captain of the Gambino crime family's South Florida operations, has asked a federal appeals court to throw out his conviction. Artuso’s lawyers claim that prosecutors in the trial used “prejudicial evidence” about organized crime that wasn’t related to the fraud charges, the story states.

Here’s more from the July 27 report:

“Vincent Artuso's attorneys asked the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to toss the conviction because prosecutors didn't have enough evidence to convict him of fraud and racketeering charges involving a scam that targeted ADT Security Services Inc. They also claim the trial was tainted by a biased juror.

But federal prosecutors countered that there was ample evidence in video recordings, audiotapes and court testimony that proved Artuso was a "made member" who ran a South Florida crew for the notorious crime family. And they said defense attorneys should have raised objections at trial if they were concerned about the juror.

Artuso was convicted of the charges in a 2008 trial after prosecutors built a case contending he was a captain of the Gambino crime family and directed a powerful crew that included his own son.

Prosecutors also asserted that Artuso was linked to the infamous hit that led to John Gotti's rise to power. They cited FBI affidavits and other evidence indicating Artuso was present on Dec. 16, 1985, when former Gambino boss Paul Castellano was gunned down in front of a Manhattan steakhouse — allegedly on Gotti's orders.

Gotti, known as the "Teflon Don" for his ability to avoid criminal convictions, was convicted in 1992 of racketeering and murder and died in prison a decade later.

Artuso was never charged in the Castellano killing, but prosecutors in January 2008 accused him of setting up a sale and leasing scheme involving four office buildings owned by ADT Security Services that defrauded the company of at least $11 million over five years. He and three others were convicted of the charges in October 2008.”