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Home alarm system of the ‘Blade Runner’ plays role in his murder trial

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

I’ve written here before about former NFL star Aaron Hernandez, who is charged with killing his friend Odin Lloyd, apparently failing to realize his home security camera was recording him with a gun both hours before—and minutes after—Lloyd was shot to death last summer. Now a home security system could be a key piece of evidence in the murder case against another sports star, the “Blade Runner.”

The security system in the home of Oscar Pistorius, the South African double-amputee track star accused of murdering his girlfriend, came under scrutiny in his trial in Pretoria, South Africa in early April, news reports say.

Pistorius, 27, known as the Blade Runner for high-tech artificial legs he uses, was being grilled by prosecutor Gerrie Nel when, according to Alliance News, “Nel went into details about whether the alarm system at Pistorius' home was in order and whether he had turned it off.”

“A functioning alarm would contribute to discrediting Pistorius' claim he mistook his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp for a burglar when he shot her dead through the bathroom door in February last year,” Alliance News said. “Pistorius said several times he was unable to remember all the details and complained he was tired.”

The Globe and Mail newspaper reported that Pistorius “acknowledged that he must have deactivated the house’s alarm system when he carried the injured Ms. Steenkamp down his stairs after the shooting, although he said he doesn’t remember it.”

And the Globe and Mail reported: “Nel said the alarm system was functioning and should have alerted him to any intruder. Mr. Pistorius said his external motion-detectors were sometimes removed when the house was painted, and ladders were sometimes left in the garden that could have been used to enter his bathroom window, but he admitted that he hadn’t checked on either on the day before the shooting.”

Pistorius, who lost his legs below the knee because of a congenital abnormality, was the first double-leg amputee to compete against able-bodied athletes in the 2012 London Olympics.

His trial began in March and is expected to continue into May.
 

ISS is growing, expanding and rebranding

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

ISS is growing, expanding and rebranding

Integrated Security Systems of Miami is getting ready to add 10,000 square feet of space to its headquarters here.

“We’re growing into new territories, but our back office and design center [work] is all done here,” Jeff Nunberg, ISS CEO said.

“We’re finalizing plans with the architect now,” Nunberg said. “In ten months we should have the new space.”

In business since 1962, ISS is a PSA Security owner,  that does CCTV, fire, access, and life safety and mass notification systems. It specializes in design-build projects and has in-house engineering, consultation, AutoCAD, construction and service departments.

ISS has two branch offices and employees “stationed throughout Florida and the Carolinas,” he said. ISS has more than 70 employees; its revenues exceed $20 million,  

The company is also getting a new look. ISS has a new logo that was designed by a student.

Nunberg said he’d spent two years and “tens of thousands of dollars” hiring professional ad agencies to design a logo for his business, but he was not happy with any of the designs.

“I wanted something that hit me emotionally,” he said. “Something iconic, so when you see it, you know it’s us.”

Last November, Nunberg spoke to fashion students at a Florida art college about running a business, as a favor to his cousin who works at the college. “While I was there I asked if they had a graphic art department and she said yes.”

Nunberg ended up sponsoring a logo contest. Tiffany Campos, the student-designer of the winning logo received a $1,600 scholarship, and ISS finally got a logo that Nunberg is excited about.

The logo will figure prominently at ISS’s expanded office, on its new Web site, its 60 vehicles, all of its literature and lapel pins and “other trinkets we give out,” he said.

It’s a big project and it’s “reinvigorating employees,” he said. “Change is good.”

“At the end of the day, we’re a service company and it's hard to copy our model, what we deliver,” he said. However, he believes the logo will “help my business stand out even more,” Nunberg said.

 

 

San Diego central earns Five Diamond Certification

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Alarm Relay, a UL-listed alarm monitoring company based in San Diego, became the latest central station to earn Five Diamond Certification from the Central Station Alarm Association, the company recently announced. Fewer than 200 central stations in the country have the certification.

Among the most rigorous requirements for completing the Five Diamond program include the commitment to random inspections by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as FM Global, Underwriters’ Laboratories or InterTek/ETL, and central stations must also comply with quality criteria standards developed by those same organizations.

Five Diamond Certification also testifies that 100 percent of central station operators at a given company have been certified through the CSAA online training course, which covers all phases of central station communications with law enforcement, customers, and fire and emergency centers.

For an operator to achieve certification, they must demonstrate (among other things) proficiency in alarm verification, which helps reduce false dispatches, and in communications with Public Safety Answering Points.

That latter requirement is bound to be vitally important as central stations around the country forge more partnerships with PSAPs, allowing the ASAP to PSAP program to expand. 

Guardian hires another Devcon exec

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I wrote recently about Barry Bruce becoming Guardian Protection Services’ new senior VP of corporate sales. Bruce formerly was VP of national sales for Devcon Security, the residential security company that ADT acquired last summer.

Now Warrendale, Pa.-based Guardian has hired another former Devcon VP, Guardian announced today.

Michael Brand, who was VP of sales at Devcon, joined Guardian on April 3 to become director of Guardian’s southern region, assuming responsibility for all sales and operations, the company said. The region includes branches in Austin, San Antonio, Tampa, Charlotte and Philadelphia.

Brand was hired by Devcon in 2010 and then worked for ADT after it bought that company. “During his tenure,” Guardian said in a news release, “Mr. Brand held the positions of area manager, regional director and vice president of sales, including responsibilities for sales and field operations for the residential, commercial and HOA (home owners association) business segments.”

Before he joined Devcon, Brand worked for Brink’s, where he was general manager for that company’s Deerfield, Fla. branch, the news release said.

His previous experience includes leading New Jersey and Massachusetts branches of Enterprise Rent-a-Car, and being a sales training coach with AT&T’s broadband division, according to the news release. It said Brand has a B.A. in communication from Hofstra University.

In a prepared statement, Bruce praised his new (and former) colleague: “I have worked with Mike Brand in the past and have great confidence in his capabilities. I have no doubt he will help us achieve new levels of success in our southern region.”

 

A smart move by ISC, SIA and the WSC

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

This is an old-fashioned industry in too many ways, so I'm always thrilled when I hear news like this: the Security Industry Association, ISC and the Women’s Security Council will be awarding a full scholarship for a woman student enrolled in the new Mercer County Community College security degree program in 2015.

“This scholarship program is made possible with financial support from SIA and ISC and we are incredibly honored by their support and generosity,” Rhianna Daniels, founding committee member of the WSC, told me. “The overall goal of the program is to increase diversity in the industry and allow more women to gain access to the great opportunities available in today's security market.”

The scholarship was announced at the Women’s Security Council reception at ISC West by Ed Several of Reed Exhibitions, which produces ISC events, and Don Erickson, CEO of SIA.

“The lack of women in the security industry is not a new problem, but in this role [CEO of SIA] I really believe it’s something we need to draw more attention to. This is a small example of how we’re doing this,” Erickson said.

The Mercer County Community College security degree program will be launched in the fall of 2015. It is a two-year program that will award degrees in: project management; security integration; product technology and security sales.

A SIA committee came up with the idea for the program last summer. Key participants on that committee are Dave Lyons of System Sensor, Pierre Trapanese of Northland Control Systems and Frank De Fina of Samsung.

De Fina said the industry continues to struggle to find qualified candidates, even though jobs in this industry pay well and offer advancement opportunity.

In addition, De Fina said there’s a “tremendous lack to diversity in the security industry” and said one of the reason organizers chose Mercer County Community College for this program is because it “draws a higher-than-normal percentage of African Americans, Hispanics and women. We need to expose these people to our business,” De Fina said. And this degree program is one way to do it.

SIA has signed a memorandum of understanding with Mercer and is in the process of recruiting industry professionals to teach courses at Mercer.

De Fina pointed out that high grades in the associates degree program at Mercer can lead to a bachelor’s degree. “If you go through the program with a 3.5 GPA or better, you’re assured spot in a four-year program at Rutgers [University],” De Fina said.

Both the scholarship and the degree program are smart moves for the security industry. Congratulations to SIA, ISC and the WSC.

Tyco expands in Alabama

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Monday, April 14, 2014

I’m here in Alabama, my first time in this state, for a Tyco event—the ribbon-cutting ceremony for it new Global Center of Excellence (GCoE) in Birmingham. The event starts in an hour, so I’ll have more info later: Below is some stuff from the press release.

“The GCoE enables multinational companies to streamline and standardize their security systems around the world. The GCoE develops standards, technical specifications and detailed work plans that enable consistent security installations globally, while also providing customers with remote system audit services to verify functionality and compliance to corporate standards.

With the increasing number of global clients supported by the GCoE, the expansion of the center will allow Tyco to better serve clients with a single point of contact for their global security needs. Fortune 500 customers are seeking to streamline and standardize their global integrated security systems by consolidating the number of local system integrators they work with worldwide. Managing multiple integrators across hundreds of locations can lead to operational redundancies, quality degradation, compliance issues, and increased costs.
The center will also play a key role in the company’s effort to create comprehensive solutions for customers that encompass a range of building systems.

The new 24,000 square foot facility currently houses 90 employees, including certified design engineers, computer-aided design operators, program managers, system engineers and other specialists, who design and document global security standards for enterprise-level intrusion security, access control, video management, fire systems and integration. The GCoE’s diverse team has multiple competencies, including fluency in 14 languages, and is well-versed in the business and cultural nuances required to successfully conduct business in the 38 countries the center supports, so customer standards and technical specifications can be maintained and updated as needed."

Possible defect halts sales of Google’s Nest smoke detector

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

It was big news early this year when Google decided to buy Nest Labs, a  California-based maker of smart smoke detectors and thermostats, for $3.2 billion. But now it appears that Nest Lab’s intelligent new smoke/carbon monoxide detector isn’t as smart as billed. News reports say sales of the device have been stopped because it’s possible users can deactivate it without meaning to do so.

The smoke/CO detector, called Nest Protect, is so smart it can talk to home residents to warn them if there’s a fire or dangerous levels. But now a feature of the device that allows users to simply wave at it to turn it off has been identified as a potential problem and sales have been halted, Reuters reported this week.

Here’s more of what that news service had to say:
 

Nest co-founder and Chief Executive Tony Faddell said that, under a unique set of circumstances the alarm's "Nest Wave" feature, which allows a user to switch off the device with a wave of the hand, could be inadvertently activated.

Faddell, one of the creators of Apple Inc.’s iPod, apologized in the blogpost for a problem that was discovered during recent laboratory testing. He added that no customer had complained so far.

"We observed a unique combination of circumstances that caused us to question whether the Nest Wave could be unintentionally activated. This could delay an alarm going off if there was a real fire," he said. "The fact that it could even potentially happen is extremely important to me and I want to address it immediately."

He did not specify that set of circumstances.

Nest will immediately disable the Wave feature—one of many innovative design elements that has won the company and its devices acclaim—in all smoke alarms that are Wi-Fi-connected while it works on a software update to fix the possible defect. It said the fix, plus regulatory approvals, could take two to three months to complete.

Customers without Wi-Fi-connected devices should either disable it or return it for a full refund, the company added.

Security experts have said the industry should take note of Google’s Nest Labs buy, saying this first venture by Google into the connected home could portend more Google home automation products and possibly a security offering.
 

 

 

Securadyne expands in the Heartland

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Intelligent Access Systems—a rapidly growing systems integrator that was acquired by Securadyne in January—has made a move in the Midwest, expanding into Cincinnati and tri-state region (comprising Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana).

IAS employee Kevin Grice has relocated to the area and hired Cincinnati native and industry veteran, Jeremy Brewer.

Securadyne Systems’ branch network is now in more than 15 locations, from Texas to Maine.

Founded by Ron Oetjen in 2004, IAS specializes in integration for critical infrastructure, health care, and higher education vertical markets. Oetjen now serves as SVP of Securadyne Systems

I saw Ron in the serpentine cab line at McCarron last week and asked him about a Twitter comment I’d seen about Jeremy Brewer—but I didn’t have a chance to speak to him at any length at the show. I have a call into Ron to get talk more about this move and to see what else is planned in the next month.

Monitronics, Security Networks enter final phase of integration

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Several months after Monitronics acquired Security Networks in a $507 million deal, the company has officially incorporated the more than 200 Security Networks dealer affiliates into the Monitronics dealer program, the company recently announced.

This phase, which will go down as one of the final steps of the integration process, brings the number of Monitronics dealers to about 620, making it one of the largest networks in the country. The company says it will provide monitoring services to more than 1 million customers out of its Dallas-based central station.

Bruce Mungiguerra, Monitronics’ VP of operations, said in the statement that merging businesses is “never easy,” but that “the hard work of many groups across both companies has kept things as organized and efficient as possible.”

Also being brought into the Monitronics fold are 60 field technicians who previously serviced Security Networks accounts across several regions, bolstering the company’s network of field service dealers.

Vegas-bound—and trend-watching in the central station space

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Monday, March 31, 2014

ISC West 2014 - Day Three

After spending much of my career in the medium of print, I managed to make my on-camera debut at ISC West 2014, interviewing several folks from the central station side who provided some lively perspectives about the show and the direction of their respective businesses.

First up was Jim McMullen, president and COO of COPS Monitoring, who said the company had around 800 dealers at its annual Dealer Appreciation Bonanza, an event I also happened to attend with several SSN colleagues. He wasn’t lying; Gilley’s was thronged, and there was no shortage of attendees eager to duke it out in the mechanical bull riding competition, a contest for which the event has become well known. The Bonanza has become a marquee event for CO, McMullen said, and has proven to be another way the company goes about forging strong relationships its dealer base.

In my next interview, Josh Garner, CEO of AvantGuard Monitoring, discussed the company’s new monitoring center in the rural community of Rexburg, Idaho. Garner characterized the new facility as a human capital investment, as the company aims to leverage the community’s young and well-educated workforce (Brigham Young University has a campus in the town). We also talked about AvantGuard’s success in the mobile PERS market and the company’s PERS Summit Network, which has an educational component that takes a “granular” approach to equipping dealers with the knowledge they need to run a successful PERS operation.

My final on-camera interview of the day was with Hank Groff, SVP of sales at Dynamark, and Tom Piston, VP of business development. The duo explained the philosophy behind Dynamark’s recently launched partner program and discussed the company’s highly focused, customized approach for ISC West.

I also met briefly this morning, off camera, with Barry Epstein, president of Dallas-based investment firm Vertex Capital. We discussed the late 2013 Security Partners acquisition of Mace Central Station (a deal in which Epstein represented Mace) as well as the PERS valuation market, which remains intriguing (and well worth keeping an eye on) but relatively inactive.  

And that just about does it for ISC West 2014. Keep an eye out for our show roundup, which we’ll include on the newswire next week.  

ISC West 2014 - Day Two

The second day of ISC West had the same frenetic energy and pace as the first—which is maybe fitting for a day that for many began with the Security 5K run. My opening meeting of the day was with I-View Now, who hosted a forum for several attendees. I-View’s Steve Patterson, chief information officer, and Matt Fleming, chief technology officer, highlighted some of the company’s new initiatives, which include the a newly launched cloud analytic, and discussed the company’s push to form additional partnerships with some big name manufacturers. The two also touched on sales strategies for video verification, which can contribute an additional $35-50 in RMR for monitored accounts, according to Patterson.

Patterson noted that demos are a critical component of the sales process for video verification. I-View Now has developed a demo portal that can act as management tool, demonstrating the correlation between video verification demos and successful sales.

I returned to the show floor for my second demo of the day, this one led by Aaron Salma, at Union, N.J.-based Affiliated Monitoring. Salma showcased the e-contract functionality on the company’s new dealer app, which allows technicians to efficiently manage their accounts. Salma said the app can be enormously beneficial for businesses employing a summer sales/door-knocking model.

In the afternoon I made my way up the Venetian Tower where I joined Kevin O’Connor, president of LogicMark, and Troy Bruce, director of sales, to discuss the company’s newly released mobile PERS offering, the SentryPal, as well as its new traditional unit, the Caretaker Sentry. Both emphasized the need for PERS products (and the security industry at large) to remain grounded from a practical standpoint despite rapid technological advancements.

O’Connor believes even a less tested market like mPERS holds considerable promise. That market, he said, may evolve much like the security industry in general, continually adding new functions that central stations and dealers can translate into more RMR.

While the sheer numbers of America’s aging Baby Boomer demographic bode well for anyone in the PERS space, security companies still need to develop a sound strategy for bringing the product to market, managing the expectations of customers and efficiently redeploying their units, they noted. Interestingly enough, both agreed that security companies, if the resources are there, do themselves a favor by creating a separate division for bringing PERS to market.

My afternoon concluded with back-to-back PPVAR panel sessions, the first of which distilled several outside-the-industry perspectives on video verified response. The session, moderated by Steve Walker, VP of Stanley Convergent, president of PPVAR, featured representatives from law enforcement and private insurance.

The next session, moderated by Don Young, CIO of Protection 1, VP Stanley Convergent representatives from the manufacturing side (Scott Harkins, president of Honeywell) and the central station space (Chuck Moeling, executive VP of sales at Interface, and Tony Wilson, president of CMS), together with representatives from the private investment and legal arenas.

An interesting topic raised by the panel dealt with the potential of video verification in the residential security space. Moeling pointed out that there are considerably more barriers to establishing a foothold in the residential market (as opposed to commercial) in North America. One of those barriers, he said, is the “basic nature of American independence” and customers being leery of having “big brother watching.”

Though Harkins believes there is potential for video verification in the residential space, he added the caveat that, from Honeywell’s perspective, bringing the technology to a mainstream market has to be done in a way that keeps such systems affordable to a mass market. 

ISC West 2014 - Day One

Though access control resides a little outside my coverage domain, my first ISC West stop was at Assa Abloy’s booth for a morning press conference. It was an impressive showing from the company, whose president of access and egress hardware group, Martin Huddart, delivered a presentation outlining the company’s past, present and future.

Huddart keyed in specifically on the company’s transition to a new line of “2.0” solutions. The presentation touched on several on several of the company’s newer and more sophisticated solutions: Access credential technology that sends keys “over the air” through smart phones, “futureproof” maglocks that support several different credential strategies (NFC and Bluetooth among them), and the company’s EcoFlex locks.

The latter, according to David Sylvester, president, door security solutions at Assa Abloy, was a major point of attraction for the sustainability officer at Amazon, which plans to use the locks at its new headquarters.

I spoke with Michael Schubert and Woodie Andrawos, president and executive vice president, respectively, of National Monitoring Center, which is fresh off announcing the opening of a new 25,000-square-foot facility in Lake Forest, Calif. Both characterized the facility as a substantial technological upgrade that amply accommodates for future growth. NMC now has two central stations (the other is in Texas), and Schubert said, down the road, the company may explore the possibility of getting another, ideally in a new time zone.

I had the chance to meet early in the day with Gary Shottes, president of AES Corporation, and Candyce Plante, senior director of marketing at AES. We spoke at length about the company’s patented wireless mesh technology, some new developments at AES on the product front (stay tuned for that), and the ramifications of the 2G sunset—an industry inevitability from which a company like AES is well-positioned to prosper. Already seeing gains from clients keen on “futureproofing,” the company could thrive even more when the 3G sunset occurs, according to Shottes.

The 2G sunset proved to be a theme that found its way into some of my afternoon discussions as well, particularly in my conversations with some folks at Uplink, whose software solutions are geared to mitigate some of the adverse effects of network obsolescence.

I also spoke with Telguard’s Shawn Welsh and Pam Benke (VP of business development, director of marketing, respectively) about their launch, today, of their OneRate service plan for their HomeControl platform, which replaces the company’s previous multi-tier pricing structure with a single flat price.

The plan, according to Welsh, goes along way in terms of “demystifying” the sales process for customers, and he believes the simpler, pared down approach will give sales personnel a considerable advantage when trying to sell home automation in conjunction with security products. The service plan also includes a reseller price that allows central station partners to “make margins bundling the service,” Welsh said.

A recent report from ABI Research shed light on the notion that the industry is still in the laboratory phase as far as figuring out the best way to bring home automation to market. There’s still a fair amount of tinkering and experimentation going on, the report noted, and this simplified (and innovative) service plan from Telguard seems indicative of that.

Once again, as I’m wont to do at trade shows and other industry events, I’ve stretched this blog a bit beyond its ideal length, so that’s all for day one. I have a slew of meetings and interviews tomorrow, which I’ll provide updates about during the course of the day.  

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Like thousands on the east coast, I’ll be flying west tomorrow to Las Vegas, where I’ll be spend the following three days at ISC West, trying to gauge what those in the central station arena are finding compelling about the marquee show.  

Judging by conversations I’ve had with members of the industry over the past several weeks, there should be no shortage of new developments at this year’s show. Days after booking my ticket to Vegas I was hearing about new central station automation software, a cloud- and algorithm-based video verification platform, the launch of new mobile apps for dealers and technicians, and manufacturers warming up to mobile PERS.

Basically, I’m expecting an aggressively forward-thinking show, and, since I’ll be updating this blog over the next three days, you’ll be able to see to what extent that presentiment is realized.

I want to encourage readers to take up the opportunity to meet with me and my colleagues—SSN editor Martha Entwistle; SSN managing editor Tess Nacelewicz; and Amy Canfield, managing editor of our end user-focused sister publication, Security Director News—at our “Meet the Editors” event at the show. This is scheduled for Wed., April 2 from 9:30 a.m. to 10 a.m, and will be held at the SSN booth, adjacent to the ISC West Media Stage, which is located directly outside the main entrance doors to the show floor.

I very much look forward to meeting our readers in person, so please feel free to stop by!

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