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Chicago integrator expands again

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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Chicago-based integrator SDI is going to Atlanta—with the hire of security veteran Bob Carter, who will serve as director of sales for the Southeast region of the country.

He’ll be working closely with X7 staff, a Washington, D.C.-based integration firm that was acquired by SDI in August. 

Carter comes to Iron Sky, where he has general manager and helped “build city surveillance, LPR and data integration solutions for public safety and police departments.” Before that he was with Sentry Technology and also served as a Deputy United States Marshal.

SDI redesigned its sales organization and opened a Texas office in October.

“We’ve had our eye on Atlanta,” Dawn Pfeiffer, SDI CMO told me. IN addition to the critical infrastructure and government opportunities, there are a lot of commercial opportunities in Atlanta, she said.

SDI has had a very active year. In June it acquired i-sys  and one month later it acquired X7.

SDI specializes in complex technology systems and network infrastructure for critical infrastructure. SDI customers include airports, utilities, schools, 911 centers and public transit and toll authorities. Since June of 2012, it has been owned by LLR partners, a $2 billion investment firm.

The company will continue to be acquisitive, Pfeiffer said. “We’re looking to add a third acquisition within the next six months.”

Vivint Solar sues COO who jumped ship for competitor

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Monday, December 30, 2013

I wrote back in November about how Brendon Merkley, the COO of Vivint Solar, had left to work for SolarCity, Vivint Solar’s larger competitor.

Now, Vivint Solar—an affiliate of home automation/home security provider Vivint—is suing Merkley for breach of contract.

In the lawsuit, filed Dec. 4 in U.S. District Court in Utah, Vivint Solar said it is bringing the case to prevent Merkley “from violating his contractual non-competition, non-disclosure, and customer/vendor non-solicitation covenants by going to work for Solar City.” Vivint also wants to stop him from disclosing trade secrets and soliciting Vivint Solar’s employees to go and work for SolarCity, the lawsuit says.

Vivint Solar is seeking to have the court restrain Merkley from working for Solar City for the time period his non-competition covenants apply. Vivint Solar also is asking for damages.

However, in another twist, Merkley and Solar City, which is based in in San Mateo, Calif., are suing Vivint Solar in California state court, saying non-competition covenants Merkley signed with Vivint Solar are unenforceable under California law, according to Vivint Solar’s lawsuit.

Vivint Solar, based in Provo, Utah, was established in 2011 and quickly has become the nation’s second-largest provider of residential solar systems, employing the successfull door-knocking sales techniques of Vivint. However, Solar City, founded in 2006, is the largest home solar provider.

Merkley was one of the original executives of Vivint Solar and a board member, so had an in-depth knowledge of the company, according to the lawsuit. He was “the face and voice of Vivint Solar” with the public and at community events and industry functions, before starting his new job at Solar City on Dec. 1, the lawsuit says.

Merkley tried to recruit a Vivint Solar VP to join him at SolarCity before he left Vivint Solar, but the VP refused, the lawsuit says.

Merkley was not the first Vivint Solar executive to bail for SolarCity. Former Vivint Solar CEO Tanguy Serra also joined SolarCity last spring.

Video surveillance trends to look out for in 2014

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

IHS has come out this its 2014 prediction of video surveillance trends to look out for in 2014. Of particular interest, is what IHS calls the "crowd sourcing" of video data collection, ie they way video was collected and analyzed from many different sources following the Boston Marathon bombing. There's been a ton of talk about the legacy of how that tragedy was handled, and I think IHS has summed it up well and obviously pointed out a trend to watch.

In terms of products that are selling and vertical markets that are hot, IHS points to "fixed-dome and 180/360 degree network cameras," and, not surprisingly, city surveillance and maybe a less-obvious one--utilities/energy sectors.

Thermal cameras are getting some attention. This is a topic we've written about, most recently in a market trends report.

Are you paying for video analytics? According to IHS, you will be if "the end-user needs advanced reliable analytics." Doesn't everyone need reliable analytics?

Audio capabiities will come into play more in 2014 too, IHS says.

Below is an overview of the trends that IHS put out yesterday: 

IHS has recently released its fifth annual white paper on the key trends for the video surveillance industry. 2014 is all set to be another exciting year for the industry, with big data, thermal cameras, embedded audio capabilities and the rise of the cloud in China just a few of the trends to watch out for during the next 12 months.
 
The trends are:
 
1. Video Surveillance: The Star Markets for 2014
2. Big Data: Crowd Sourcing Video Surveillance and Social Media Analytics
3. Cloud Based Video Surveillance Opens Markets in China
4. Thermal Cameras Hit the Commercial Market
5. Panoramic Cameras – Providing the Full Picture
6. Power over Ethernet: Watt’s the Story?
7. Is it Time for a Different View on Live Video and Mobile Access?
8. Video Analytics Market Reaches a Fork in the Road
9. Security Cameras to Make Some Noise in 2014
10. Video Surveillance Vendors Enter New Markets
 
 
1. Video Surveillance: The Star Markets for 2014
 
IHS has been researching the video surveillance equipment market for more than 10 years. During this time, the market has grown quickly, most years at a double digit rate. The year 2014 will be no exception. IHS forecasts that the global market will grow by more than 12 percent. Within the global market, IHS has identified fixed-dome and 180/360 degree network cameras as the fastest growing product segments, and the city surveillance and utilities/energy sectors as the vertical markets to watch.
 
2.Big Data: Crowd Sourcing Video Surveillance and Social Media Analytics
 
The prevalence of smart phones, with cameras and internet connectivity—combined with social media apps such as Vine or Instagram—has led to the first “crowd sourced” data collection for an investigation in 2013, following the Boston Marathon bombings.
 
Now that the trend has begun, IHS predicts it is likely that police forces will increasingly request, and need to manage, crowd sourced video surveillance data. While this will allow law enforcement agencies to react more quickly, especially with the use of social media monitoring, it will also create data analysis and manipulation challenges. Meeting these challenges will provide systems integrators and software vendors with a new opportunity to create solutions that improve police incident responses in 2014 and beyond.
 
3. Cloud-Based Video Surveillance Opens Markets in China
 
In China, the concept of the cloud is becoming increasingly popular, especially as the telecom infrastructure matures. As network bandwidth improves and network product pricing declines, cloud based video surveillance solutions are drawing the attention of more suppliers. While a cloud based solution is not a compulsory choice, it does represent a great opportunity to leverage the massive demand for civil video surveillance.
 
With more attention and an increasing customer base, IHS predicts that cloud based video surveillance solutions will be defined by the value created in the applications it offers to customers. With more than 1 billion potential users in China, getting the right mix of product and security features will be a successful combination.
 
4. Thermal Cameras Hit the Commercial Market
 
IHS forecasts that the video surveillance product market that will see the largest average selling price (ASP) decline during the next few years will be the un-cooled thermal camera market. While the number of un-cooled thermal camera units shipped to the commercial security industry suggests that the market has not yet been commoditized, increased competition, new products and new end-user markets will mean 2014 is a breakthrough year for the technology.
 
5. Panoramic Cameras – Providing the Full Picture
 
The big video surveillance camera category winner in 2014 will be 180/360 degree panoramic network cameras, with global unit shipments forecast to increase by more than 60 percent year-on-year, according to IHS. In particular, the cameras are predicted to gain market share in verticals such as retail, airports and casinos, where monitoring wide indoor areas is a key requirement of the video surveillance system.
 
6.     Power over Ethernet: Watt’s the Story?
 
As the transition towards network video surveillance continues, increasing focus is being placed on the supporting network infrastructure, and a crucial element to this is power. Recent developments in power over Ethernet (POE) standards and products make the technology a much more viable option for security managers. Looking forward, IHS expects that security camera manufacturers will expand and develop their portfolios of low-powered cameras to conform to the POE+ standard. Technologies that overcome the distance limitations of Ethernet and POE also will find general market acceptance.
 
7.     Is it Time for a Different View on Live Video and Mobile Access?
 
Following the events of the school shooting in Sandy Hook 12 months ago, there has been renewed focus on the idea of facility security managers securely sharing live video footage with law enforcement in the event of an incident. The technology needed to provide this already exists, yet issues over ongoing cost—and more importantly, who pays for the system—have meant that market penetration has been limited. However, with costs dropping and a refocus on protection of assets of both the physical and human kind in the post-Sandy Hook era, 2014 could be the year where live streaming of video surveillance to law enforcement becomes the norm.
 
8.  Video Analytics Market Reaches a Fork in the Road
 
For some time now, video surveillance device vendors have been embedding low-end video analytics applications in their devices and offering them as “free” features. A question has therefore been raised: Will there continue to be a market for video analytics, or will all applications simply be offered for free? As the market reaches this fork in the road, it’s clear that vendors can no longer charge for basic algorithms. That said, in 2014, the market for video surveillance devices with chargeable VCA will remain a viable market in applications where the end-user needs advanced reliable analytics.
 
9.  Security Cameras to Make Some Noise in 2014
 
More than 70 percent of network cameras shipped globally in 2013 had either unidirectional or multidirectional audio capability, according to a new analysis from IHS. However, the consensus from security systems integrators is that these capabilities are rarely used. Nonetheless, with increasing awareness of embedded audio analytics and even sound source localization, market penetration could be about to rise. With much of the technology already available and the constant need to differentiate products and increase system efficiency, IHS predicts that the market will see greater emphasis on the audio capabilities of video surveillance systems in 2014.
 
10. Video Surveillance Vendors to Enter New Markets
 
Contrary to popular belief, the physical security market is not consolidating, at least not in the near future. However, video surveillance vendors are beginning to look at new markets as they invest the profits made from years of fast market growth. Following the announcements of new products from companies like Milestone Systems and Axis Communications and new services from Hikvision and Dahua during 2013, IHS expects this trend to continue into 2014 with more new product and service announcements from network focused security companies, as they seek to add new revenue streams to their portfolio.

Honeywell gets to the heart of the holidays

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Many security companies produce holiday ads featuring their products. But Honeywell took an innovative approach in promoting security this season—actually commissioning a Nashville band, Telecommunicators, to create an original song, “You’re My Heart,” and using it in a music video that highlights the features of Tuxedo Touch.

The resulting video tugs at the heart while showing the ways Tuxedo Touch can enhance a family’s home life.

And Angela Remmert, media specialist at Honeywell Security, told me the music video carries benefits for dealers too.

“The song is free to download for dealers and consumers. It also gives dealers an opportunity to use the video on their web sites and social media channels as a holiday message, in case they didn’t have the resources to create their own,” she said.

David Gottlieb, Honeywell Security’s global marketing communications leader, summed up the holiday initiative in a recent blog post on Honeywell's The Security Channel blog by saying it shows “what our industry does is woven into … daily life.” Well said—and happy holidays!
 

Axis, I-View Now team up on hosted video offering

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

By way of a partnership with Axis Communications, cloud-based video verification service I-View Now is expanding its hosted video offering to include both cloud-hosted and central station monitored video with the release of its I-View Cloud service.

I-View Now made the announcement today in a news release. “Cloud stored video has matured as a service and product offering and coupling those benefits with central station monitoring is a true game changer,” Larry Folsom, president of I-View Now, stated in the news release.

The pairing of the cloud solution with Axis’ IP cameras offers customers a video monitoring service with the added security of central station backing. The video is streamed to the cloud then supplied to the central station for professional monitoring.

Just more than a week ago, at Affiliated Monitoring’s Security Summit ’13, I had the privilege of meeting Larry Folsom after hearing him speak as a panelist about sales strategies for video verification offerings, which continue to move on a trajectory toward broader, more mainstream adoption.

One of the overarching points Folsom emphasized in that panel was the importance of determining and then targeting a specific market for which a given video verification service or platform is best suited. He’s practicing what he preaches. Judging by the company’s statements, the I-View Cloud seems ideal for small businesses with low camera count sites, especially franchises with multiple locations (the release points specifically to gas stations, convenience stores and retail outlets). As with any cloud offering, the advantages are obvious: less reliance on less reliable forms of local storage for video clips.

In the coming days I plan to follow up in greater depth on some other RMR sources within the I-View Now cloud offering, including VSaaS, guard tours and video alarm verification from one installation.

Integrators: Making money on big security data

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

When I met with my TechSec advisory board this past summer to talk about TechSec 2014, one of the topics the group wanted to make sure we talked about was big data. We had an excellent primer on big data at TechSec 2013, thanks to Axis’ Steve Surfaro and EMC’s Patrick Snow. For this year’s conference (Jan. 28-29 in Delray Beach, Fla.), we wanted to take a different tack.

I"m really pleased with the idea we came up with. We've asked four leading integrators to discuss how they’re helping their customers mine and synthesize data from their video and access control systems.

Kratos CTO Chris Peckham is going to moderate the educational session that will feature these integrators: David Coleman of Avrio RMS; Nigel Waterton of Aronson Security Group; Robert Locke of Open Innovation (part of Tyco); and, Don Zoufal of SDI.

The discussion will center on how the data is extracted, what kind of business intelligence that data provides and in what format. Each integrator will focus on the data mining they're doing in a specific vertical market including city surveillance, airports and retail.

Sound good? You can register for TechSec here.

AT&T rolls out mPERS unit

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

AT&T has officially launched its mobile PERS unit, called the EverThere, a small wearable unit manufactured by Numera Libris. The device automatically detects falls, has two-way emergency calling, and will deliver both enterprise and direct-to-consumer solutions.

Chris Penrose, SVP, AT&T, emerging devices, shed some light on AT&T's plans for channeling the product to market. “In terms of end-users, unlike traditional PERS, which target individuals in their 80s, this mobile solution would offer true independence and freedom for the healthy aging population as well as those living with chronic conditions.”

For me, AT&T’s announcement has a touch of synchronicity.  For something of a niche offering, mPERS has come up quite a bit over the past two weeks, the topic surfacing in conversations with Josh Garner, CEO of AvantGuard Monitoring, and Kristin Hebert, dealer relations at Acadian Monitoring Services, who both said their companies have made strides with the fledgling offering. Though traditional units still comprise about 90 percent of their PERS account bases, the gains do represent some modest traction for a market that was essentially a non-starter some three or four years ago.

Unlike the market for traditional PERS, which consensus says is poised to explode, mPERS tends to have a few more skeptics. A common critique I hear about mPERS is that if you’re pitching the product to a healthy, ambulatory, active senior demographic, that very same demographic, by virtue of being healthy, ambulatory and active, will see no reason to pay for the unit. Another position I encounter is that cell phones, in all their ubiquity, have all but usurped the value of mPERS units.

This second point is worthy of consideration, but as AT&T’s device illustrates, the automated response provided by certain mPERS units or even professionally monitored mobile apps offers some differentiation.

As always, time will tell whether mPERS adoption will be buoyed along with traditional PERS, as the latter makes its projected rise in the market. As these markets become more valuable, I’ll be interested to see how some of the central stations fare as competition proliferates, both in the industry and outside of it.

ADT working to ‘stabilize’ dealer program

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

ADT officials weren’t available for comment when I wrote recently about an industry’s analyst’s report on how ADT had “culled” about 100 low-performing companies in order to improve its dealer program over the past year.

But in an ADT investor call last Friday, Alan Ferber, president of ADT’s residential business unit, confirmed much of what the analyst, Jeff Kessler, Imperial Capital’s managing director of institutional research, had said. Ferber also outlined ways ADT is working to “stabilize” that channel.

According to Seeking Alpha, which published a transcript of the Dec. 6 investor call, Ferber said:

So in 2013, we began to optimize our dealer channel to focus more resources on those that are [indiscernible] to evolving with ADT's overall direction and the trend towards automation. And while we're eliminating about 100 dealers, which obviously impacted overall net adds, our focus on the right dealers has resulted in the quality of the customers that come through that channel to remain high and actually have been improving. ARPU is about 10% above our average ARPU and growing about 5% over the past year and the creation multiple has actually come down even though there's been an increase in SAC. But we do remain focused on strengthening and continue to optimize this dealer channel to drive growth over time.

… In addition, channel growth was impacted by some changes among our largest dealers. We purchased 1, 1 had some cash flow issues that impacted their ability to increase adds and 1 left ADT for a competitive program. I'm very pleased, however, to report that, that dealer has now returned to the ADT family once he experienced the negative impact on his business of not having the powerful ADT brand behind him. So it's reconfirmed our dealer value proposition with that dealer and with many other dealers as well.

But more importantly, we're taking a number of actions to stabilize this channel. We are investing in enhanced funding to help drive further Pulse adoption, particularly higher end Pulse, where that higher level of automation has a very significant retention benefit as well. And increased funding will also enable some incremental sales and marketing activities by our dealers and also the recruitment of new high-quality dealers that are positioned to further drive automation.

… We're also investing in staffing and support to ensure success. We've added resources to provide better support for planning and performance management, and we've enhanced training and other tools to get new and existing dealers more productive, particularly with our new services. And while we certainly expect some noise in the next couple of quarters, we do believe these actions are establishing a very strong foundation for growth over time.

 

 

Affiliated rolls out InView at Security Summit '13

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Friday, December 6, 2013

The big news emanating out of Affiliated Monitoring’s Security Summit ’13 was (as expected) the roll out of InView, the company’s new video monitoring platform. Compatible with a host of DVR and NVR manufacturers, the suite signals Affiliated's entrance into video verified alarms.

In his welcome speech, Affiliated president Stanley Oppenheim told dealers they can expect to provide services in the coming years that they may not even be thinking about now. And, based on vice president Daniel Oppenheim's keynote, InView may be the platform that tries to bear that philosophy out. The suite is designed to continuously add new functionalities, Oppenheim said, and though he couldn’t disclose all that was in the pipeline, it’s safe to say he expects the offering to be a powerful generator of RMR.

Befitting the introduction of InView, the morning session consisted of a sales strategy panel with Larry Folsom, president of American Video and Security and CEO of I-View Now, and Deanna Blair of Videofied, who describes herself as a “video verification evangelista.” The panel was moderated by Mike Zydor, managing director at Affiliated.

In the discussion, Folsom talked about the positive correlation between sales and demos with video verified alarms. Demos are a crucial step in selling verificatio technology, he said, because there’s no better way to demonstrate its unique value to subscribers. Both Blair and Folsom also stressed the importance of honing in on a specific market, and leading instead of finishing with video verification when pursuing a sale.

After an InView demonstration led by Affiliated’s Aaron Salma and Larry Weintraub, we were led by Ashley Owens, Affiliated territory manager for the south, on a tour of the central station. This proved to be a major highlight of the summit. The place is sleek, and it’s hard to imagine that just a few years ago the venue was a furniture warehouse. The main space for operators and dealer relations personnel is spacious, and still has ample room to accommodate personnel growth in the future. The interior of the facility underwent a wholesale revision. I was told by Jesse Rivest, regional sales manager at Affiliated, that the mezzanine overlooking the much of the central's interior did not even exist when Affiliated bought the facility.

The tour concluded with us given access to a room housing two enormous, bright yellow Caterpillar generators which, should the need arise, allow the facility to run without external power assistance for 24 days straight.

This blog is beginning to stretch the limits of its medium, so I’ll plan to follow up with more highlights from the show in a future post or in the summit roundup. 

Tynan joins MicroPower Technologies

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

As part of its growth strategy, MicroPower Technologies has another new executive: Dave Tynan, who joined the wireless surveillance provider—known for its low-power and solar solutions—as VP of global marketing and business development

Tynan is a familiar face in the security industry, having worked for Avigilon, GE Security and Verint.

When I spoke to Tynan, he said the recent additions to the MicroPower team are a reflection of the company’s “laser focus on end users” and showing them how MicroPower  can help them “gather indisputable forensic evidence … and reduce the cost of doing so.”

Tynan moved to San Diego and joked that after a just a few days in California he is talking the “green theme.” In addition to saving money, the solar and low-power requirements of MicroPower cameras means “not only can the technology be applied to proactive solutions that reduce crime, [it also] addresses the corporate call for sustainability [requiring] fewer resources for the security infrastructure, [reducing] carbon emission and … no back hoe for trenching.”

Among his initiatives are monthly Voice of the Customer  web conferences.

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