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Answers in Austin

 - 
Wednesday, May 25, 2016

When I looked at the SIA update this morning, I saw a headline about the cloud and cybersecurity concerns. Want to learn about cybersafety in the cloud? Come to Cloud+ in Austin in November!

Cloud+ is the only conference where you can learn how cloud technology is reshaping the security industry, what the potential is for your business and what steps you can take now to enhance your bottom line with cloud-based technology. Cybersecurity is on the agenda.

Sponsored by Security Systems News, the inaugural Cloud+ took place in Silicon Valley in December 2015. This year we’re thrilled to be holding the event in the high tech hub of Austin, Texas. Cloud+ 2016 will take place at the Lost Pines Resort in Austin on Nov. 29 and 30.

SSN launched this conference because we believe that cloud-based technology is the new frontier in physical security. Just as early adopters jumped on IP a decade ago, early adopters today are moving to the cloud.
We’re looking forward to building on the success of last year’s event, which featured speakers from Google and Microsoft.  

As usual, we'll take a TechSec-style approach to the educational program. Expect interactive educational sessions featuring cloud experts from inside and outside of the security industry.

I’m putting together the conference educational program right now. Have a great idea for a speaker or session topic? Call me.

One of the sessions that's already lined up will address central station capabilities in the cloud. It will include cloud providers and will be moderated by one of the country's leading integrators Jeffrey Nunberg of ISS in Miami. Nunberg will be asking the hard questions that all integrators want answered: How is it done? What are the options? Which integrators will benefit the most from moving monitoring to the cloud? What kind of the front-end investment is required and what kind of ROI should integrators and end users expect?.

Stay tuned for more on the educational program.

One of the coolest things about Cloud+ is the exhibit hall: It’s solely focused on cloud-based technology and it’s the only place you can see physical security cloud technologies side-by-side in one room.

Steve Van Till, CEO of Brivo, and one of my Cloud+ advisors, had this to say about Austin: “Austin is perfect because it combines great accessibility for travelers, a very strong tech-focused business community, and lots of local culture for those who want to get out and do something memorable with colleagues or customers.”

Yes! Austin is not your old-school, typical-security-industry-style convention location. In addition to the fact that every important high-tech end user has an office here, I’m convinced you cannot find a bad musician in the town.

It’s also home to a first -class university, restaurant options galore, and there’s easy access to the great outdoors.

Mark your calendar for Cloud+, Nov. 29-30, 2016. Here's a link to the Cloud+ website.

Abode brings professional monitoring to its DIY systems

 - 
Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Abode, a DIY security company that got crowdfunded last year, is now offering professional monitoring—full time or on-demand—from UCC, and the company is actively looking for partnerships with security companies.

“We always had the plan to introduce [monitoring options], but our goal first was to get the product out in peoples’ hands and really drive some of the early feedback to actually make our product better, before we went down the road of charging people for services,” Chris Carney, abode’s founder and CEO, told Security Systems News. Prior to starting abode, Carney was in the traditional security space, working with ADT and Tyco.

The company offers its system with three plans. Its “Basic” plan is MIY with professional monitoring on-demand with no monthly fee. The “Connect” plan offers everything in the basic plan with a 3G cellular back up for $10 a month. Abode’s “Connect + Secure” plan gives users all the functionality of its Connect plan with full professional monitoring, for $30 per month.

The company started shipping products to consumers in November and currently has 1,000 users in 27 countries. “Our goal is to hit 10,000 users in our first twelve months,” Carney said. Users outside the U.S. are on the non-monitored option, but the company is currently integrating with foreign central stations to support other plans, he said.

Abode launched its monitoring options last week. The company offers two options for on-demand monitoring: $8 for three days or $15 for one week.

Abode is currently only sold directly to consumer, but that could change. “We do want to look at the security space as a place to partner with companies,” Carney said. This partnership would appeal to companies that want a DIY offering in their portfolio. Partnering companies would have abode accounts monitored through UCC, he said.

“We can get partners up an running on a pilot in a few weeks,” Carney said. “Our goal is to maintain our brand as part of these relationships, we would be willing to discuss other branding solutions with dealers on a case by case basis.”

Dealers would own the accounts and the possible RMR. “Our solution will also provide the dealers the opportunity to become the trusted advisor for the users entire connected home in addition to their security consultant,” Carney said.

The abode system can also verify alarms which can reduce false alarms. “Every system that we send has visual verification of events,” abode co-founder Brent Franks said.

“We’re focused 100 percent on security, but essentially our product is a smart home in a box,” Carney said. “We also have the ability to add other third party devices that are ZigBee or Z-Wave.” The system also integrates with products

The insurance space is another area for possible partnerships, according to Carney. This could include a “co–branded solution directly sold by the partner to their customers as a security offering [or] offering the abode branded solution to their customers as way for their policy holders to save money on their insurance. These are still in testing stage, but look to be a very viable channel for our fully integrated solution.”

A 'smart home' snapshot

 - 
Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Smart Home 360 report, which comes out today from the market research company Argus Insights, provides a snapshot of what is out there in the smart home market today. The study looks at changes in the market from March to April, as well as overall trends Argus researchers are seeing within the quickly emerging and maturing market.

I caught up with Argus Insights CEO John Feland, who pointed that because the smart home market is changing so fast, “we are continuously pulling data around the marketplace from consumers on what is working and what is not.”

Overall, Feland said that Argus is seeing “year-over-year growth" within the smart home market, and equally important, the data is showing that security is still vitally important with consumers when it comes to taking that first plunge into smart home offerings.

“Home security is top of mind,” said Feland. “For those who are in the ‘do it for me’ category, the gateway use-case is security, so that is still what is selling and driving [smart home] adoption.”

And there is even more good news for traditional security dealers: For the ‘do it for me’ group, which is professional-installer based, the data is showing that when consumers try to do it themselves “they have been frustrated,” said Feland. When they work with a local dealer/installer, the “outcomes have been much better,” he noted.

From an installer’s standpoint, Feland said the key to getting someone to start on that smart home journey is simplifying the initial process for customers while providing a system that can seamlessly integrate smart home connectivity and capabilities without any headaches for the end user.

In the area of home automation, “If they [dealers] are not talking to their customers about Amazon Echo, they are not doing their job,” said Feland. “Amazon Echo is still a leader, and Alexa is still the voice in people’s homes, but we will see what happens when Google launches its product.”

In the DIY space, Feland noted that dealers should pay close attention to consumers’ frustration with the lack of support they are getting on the retail side. “If you look at where they [retailers] are failing right now, that presents an opportunity for traditional dealers to be that second date that leads to marriage.”

The report, which Argus released a sample section of today, is also available for purchase.
 

 

News from Affiliated's Catalyst

 - 
Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Thursday, Day 2

This morning I got to speak with Ron Davis, president of Davis Group, and Adam Matlin, COO of Think Protection and one of Security Systems News’ “20 under 40” Class of 2015.

The first session was presented by Michele Shuster, founding partner at MacMurray Petersen & Shuster, “So You Want to Work with a Telemarketer: 7 Essential Tips.” Regulations around telemarketing are a serious issue, and carry with it large detriments to a company’s bottom line. Avoid assisting and facilitating liability, she said; "You are as responsible for your marketers as if you were doing it yourself." Tips included making sure that telemarketing scripts are compliant with both federal and state regulations and being aware of riskier practices like calling or texting a cellphone or using pre-recorded messages.

“Mobile Mania: Catch the Wave of Mobile PERS,” the day’s second session featured panelists Matt Campbell, Nortek Security and Control SVP of sales and business development, and Jake Chandler, co-founder of LiveFree Emergency Response. The session was moderated by Jesse Rivest, Regional sales manager for Affiliated Monitoring and an SSN “20 under 40” from the Class of 2013.

When Rivest asked about the biggest points to selling mPERS. Chandler said that it’s water resistant, ready for future communications with 3G, and that it can be strapped to the wrist. Campbell said that “really defining the user as someone who's active," helps, along with fall detection technology.

The battery life isn’t a challenge, Campbell said, because now users are more conditioned to know that they have to charge it at night. Chandler said that it’s important to know when a user is best suited for a PERS instead of a mobile PERS. “A lot of seniors should not have mobile PERS," Chandler said, because there are some customers that do not have the capability to remember to charge the system every night.

In the last session, “Executive Spotlight: How I Grew a Multi-Channel PERS Company,” Ritch Haselden, vice president of sales for Essence USA, talked about best practices for developing a PERS business. Before working for Essence, Haselden was with ResponseLink, PERS provider in the U.S., in charge of the company’s revenue creation.

Affiliated VP Daniel Oppenheim asked Haselden about who the most important first hires for a PERS company would be, “I would have a very strong operational person and a strong marketing person.”

He stressed the importance of finding a person who is in contact with seniors who were potential customers, and believed the system could help them. Haselden said he would take the effort of "Making sure that we knew that they cared about the customer."

Haselden also advised spending time “looking at referrals that were coming in and where they were coming from."

I thought it was a very informative conference, with lots of knowledgeable people in the PERS side of the industry. Catalyst will be in Florida again next year, also in May. It’ll be a special one, Affiliated founder Stanley Oppenheim said, as it will coincide with Affiliated’s 40th anniversary.

Wednesday, Day 1

The first day started off well for me, I got to have breakfast with Keith Jentoft, who is now part of the integration team at Honeywell following the company's acquisition of RSI, and David Stang, founder and president of Stang Capital Alliance. 

Zydor, as the event's emcee, started by giving an overview of the conference, saying that it is now "the largest PERS conference ever." He also underlined the value of networking at Catalyst, "We believe that the relationships that you create over the next few days are just as important as the content." Zydor backed this up by having each attendee in the room introduce themselves.

Zydor then handed the microphone to Affiliated VP Daniel Oppenheim, who projected a bright future for the PERS industry. He said that in 2030, just 14 years away, there will be 72 million people in the 65+ demographic, and these new seniors might be more tech savvy, given the current 30 percent prevalence of smartphones in the age group. He addressed mPERS. which has an average sign up age of 78, compared to traditional PERS' average age of sign up at 81. "'That is a meaningful reduction in years," he said. "Mobile PERS are bringing in younger users that will stay with us longer."

Oppenheim then announcce CareAlert priority group chat, a new offering exclusive for Affiliated dealers. When a PERS user activates their system, Affiliated's monitoing center sends out a text message to as many as four family or friends of the user. The text message contains a link that opens a group chat between the recipients. The recipeients can then discuss the user's condition, and even hit the 'On My Way' button, to let the other friends or family members know theyr'e headed to check on the user. This software was developed entirely in-house. 

The first session was the conference's first executive spotlight, "The Complete Guide to Building a PERS Company," featuring Geoff Gross, CEO of Medical Guardian. He said he focuses on culture and picking the right people. "When you go through the wrong people, you learn how to hire the right people," he said. 

He also spoke about hiring Florence Henderson, the actress who played Carol Brady in The Brady Bunch, as the company's spokesperson. Gross said that Henderson had some apprehension, not wanting to be portrayed "on the floor crawling around in bad shape." Gross said this was perfect, Medical Guardian wanted to let customers know that not ever PERS user is in failing health.

The second session was "Benchmarking: Is Your Sales Technology Holding You Back?" with Moderator: Matt Solomon, Affiliated director of software solutions, and panelists Nick Delis, Five9 regional VP enterprise sales, and Michael Marks, Perennial Software, co-founder. Solomon introduced the session by saying, "You can't be a successful sales and marketing organization if you don't have the right tools." With phone calls as such a big part of the sales and marketing job, companies need to monitor that activity, and that's one of the things that Five9's cloud-based software does. Marks said that CRM is made up of two components, the initial sales and then keeping the customers happy. Perennial's offerings include AlarmBiller and SedonaOffice.  

For the keynote presentation, "Managing in the Majors: Running a Big League Team," Bobby Valentine, a former professional baseball player and manager, got onstage to discuss his views on forming a team. Valentine first addressed the idea of luck and the role that plays, "If we all think it's about us ... I think we're making a mistake." Being in the moment is crucial, and that means that means to enjoy what you're doing now because you don't know what's going to happen later." And respect is key, "Teams that win understand respect, and the individuals usually respect themselves, respect the competition, and respect their teammates."

Tuesday night

I arrived this afternoon in Naples, Fla., to attend Affiliated's new PERS conference Catalyst, focused on the sales and marketing of PERS systems. The event began with a nice reception, where I got to catch up with Affiliated's managing director Mike Zydor and president Stanley Oppenheim. It's interest to see people gathered from all sections of the industry; PERS manufacturers, PERS dealers, those involved in insurance around the industry, and professionals from the banking world.

I met a lot of people tonight, but want to highlight a few. I enjoyed meeting Cathy Rempel, president of the California Alarm Association. It was nice seeing Yaniv Amir, president for Essence USA—which recently won an ESX Innovation Award. I had a great conversation with Chris Masse, technical sales manager, US corporate accounts for Tyco Security Products. He told me about how the smart home works well for a PERS user, such as automating lights to help users that have difficulty moving. I also got the chance to speak to Scot McGehee, director of operations for Climax. 

Check back here for daily updates on the conference.

ASIS Media Tour

 - 
Wednesday, May 11, 2016

As one of the biggest tourist destinations in the nation, Orlando, Florida represents a unique challenge for security professionals throughout the area. That is why the ASIS Media Tour provided an exciting opportunity to see what the host city for the ASIS 2016 Conference, Sept. 12-15, is doing to secure some of the major commercial buildings and facilities within Orange County.

Day One

The ASIS Media Tour started at the Orange County Convention Center, where we were able to talk with Orange County Convention Center Security director Timothy J. Wood, who shared some of the key security management strategies for the second largest convention center in North America with 2.1 million square feet of area to secure. Wood and his security staff work closely with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department to create a plan for the more than 200 events that are held at the conference center each year.

“We do a full security plan 21 days out,” he said, looking at the history of the event, attendees expected, guest speakers invited, as well as any high profile attendees, such as military, government or dignitaries.

Wood noted that “although we can’t harden all areas, the goal is to minimize any soft spots” that a criminal or terrorist, for example, might be looking at, and “deter them by disrupting that cycle of planning and surveillance,” as well as being proactive in addressing any suspicious activity. He said it is also vitally important “to have a plan in advance of each event that addresses crowd management,” especially for a big shows like Megacon, which has doubled in size over the past few years.

One thing that struck me is the sense of community that is present throughout the Orlando area, from police and fire personnel to security professionals working at these high-profile facilities, who many times are former police, as is the case with Wood. “We have been working for decades with law enforcement and have a great working relationship,” which he noted includes sharing information and identifying security trends and issues.

Wood attends monthly “tourist crime intelligence meetings” with local law enforcement, FBI, SWAT, Secret Service, and bomb squad and fire personnel, to look at upcoming events, and address concerns or trends in security or for Orange County.

He also emphasized the importance of having security staff trained in hospitality, as well as working closely with Orange County Convention Center public relations, marketing and communications to coordinated efforts, such as with mass notifications, messages, news releases, etc.

For all of its security management efforts, the OCCC won the ASIS Matthew Simeone Award for Public Private Partnership Excellence two years ago.

The next stop on the tour was The Mall at Millenia in Orlando, which comprises 1.2 million square feet over several levels. Greg Moore, security director, said that because of their location in Orlando, “we have a much higher emphasis on security than you will see in other malls,” from training for security and other staff to the technology and services that they employ.

There is also a big emphasis on prevention or deterring crime. “It starts with the tone we set when you pull into the parking lot, with our police and security presence, to when you walk into the building.” He noted that the image that you create and the initial impression create a “big deterrent” to someone who might be thinking of doing something bad.

He and his security staff, including assistant security director Justin Messenger, also examine incidents that have happened at other malls, such as the shooting that happened at a Maryland mall two years ago, to look at “best and worst practices,” which can then be applied during training for their staff, whether it is active shooter training or workplace violence training.

Security guards are also proactive in identifying and dealing with suspicious behavior. “We tell our security officers to control their environment and don’t let it control you,” which can be something as simple as security guards asking someone who is looking at a map, for example, if they can help them find something.

Messenger, who oversees much of the technology employed at the mall, noted that the mall has “state-of-the-art cameras with video analytics capability,” including the ability to record all activity in the mall. A command center has full access to video and can notify security of any suspicious activity so they can be proactive in mitigating any possible problems.

Moving on from the mall, our last stop on day one of the tour was at the University of Central Florida, which at more than 60,000 students represents one of the largest campuses in the nation. To secure such a large campus with so many schools and buildings, UCF has its own Police HQ, an emergency operations center and mobile command vehicle with satellite capability.

UCF Police chief Richard Beary, who has nearly 40 years in law enforcement, noted that a university of this size presents unique challenges, including continued growth, as the campus is about to embark on a project that will add a downtown campus in Orlando.

He noted that creating a campus that is designed to address current security concerns is of the utmost priority. “The biggest challenge with new facilities is what we call ‘value engineering’ where they engineer the value right of a building,” he said. “With the new campus, we can’t afford to do it the wrong way, and then retrofit it after the fact,” which he said has been a challenge with some of the more than 200 existing buildings at UCF.

With Florida a concealed carry state, Beary is concerned about current campus efforts to allow concealed weapons on campus, as he feels the training to get a permit “only requires a 45-minute class, which is not adequate enough training and does not even involve teaching them how to handle the weapon or even fire it.”

Jeff Morgan, UCF director of the department of security and emergency management, noted that the UCF Crisis Intervention Group “is a huge program that is very beneficial” as the group is trained to deal with the many issues that occur on campus, including sexual assault and other violent crimes.

Managing a campus with 11,276 doors with locks creates its own safety and security challenges, and Morgan noted that the campus is researching adding some more capability to the more than 2,000 cameras on campus. “We have had vendors come in and there are future plans to add that analytics capability.”

In addition to a fully functioning Police department, the EOC was activated in 2013, providing a state-of-the-art facility (with a backup generator) that allows security to monitor all facilities, host training of all kinds, leverage the latest technology, and to connect, coordinate and talk with law enforcement, security, fire and hospital personnel while pushing important and relevant security info to all parties in real time.

The EOC is also used as a backup for federal marshals, as well as by FEMA and DHS for training.

Days Two and Three

Our first tour stop on day two was at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, which recently brought on Chris Savard to fill a newly created position of director of security. Savard works closely with Annette DuBose, account manager for Andy Frain Services, a security management company that oversees the Phillips Center, to provide comprehensive security management protocols for a facility that is within sight of town hall and very much a part of the fabric of the community.

Savard, who is recently retired from law enforcement, said he wanted to begin to “change the culture and mindset” at the theater, with a stronger emphasis on security while still maintaining an “inviting and welcoming environment” for theatergoers.

One of the first things Savard did was start bag checks to better enforce a strict no weapons policy at the theater. “I was amazed and shocked at what they were trying to bring into the building,” he said, noting that items found during newly instituted bag checks included guns, knives, pepper spray and bullets, to name just a few.

Changing the culture at the theater is challenging, as bag checks or the use of wands, for example, is not something that is being done yet in New York’s theater district, for example. “Here in Orlando bag checks and the use of wands is becoming more of the norm, as you see it being done at Disney and other theme parks, so people are starting to get used to it,” said Savard, who noted that the theater is also considering starting checks for weapons using a wand, which would be done on a random basis. “After Paris, people want to see an increased police presence and focus on security.”

He said another important initial step to boost security was adding a police officer inside the building as well as a more strategic use of law enforcement officers outside. “We added a canine officer outside the theater to greet people as they drop-off and enter the valet area in front of the building, which we feel is a huge deterrent for a bad guy,” said Savard.

Security also brought in the Department of Homeland Security to do a complete assessment of the facility, looking for vulnerabilities and areas that can be hardened. “They found a few things that we were able to correct, such as varying our valet parking procedures,” noted Savard.

The assessment process included a 3D virtual analysis of the building that provided a comprehensive look at all of the access points and areas in the building, which can then be shared with and accessed by SWAT teams, for example, to aid them in getting in the building in the fastest and safest manner possible during an emergency situation.

In terms of video surveillance, cameras are located throughout the facility, especially “in high-value areas,” Savard noted, including five out in the front plaza area, as well as at all levels of the loading dock.

Security staff and employees are also given active-shooter and workplace-violence training. “This training is vitally important,” Savard said, as it teaches situational awareness, behavior assessment and counter surveillance, as well as how and when to engage someone who might be showing signs of suspicious behavior.

Savard also started offering a situational awareness and self-defense training class for female employees and their daughters, to teach them some basic techniques on how to neutralize someone and defend themselves better.

“Overall, we have increased security and taken it to the next level, so we are doing a lot better than we were,” said Savard.

Our next stop on day two was the Florida Hospital, where William S. Marcisz, senior director of security and a member of the ASIS Health Council, provided a comprehensive overview and guided tour of the hospital’s security program. With 10 hospitals over eight campuses, Marcisz relies on a large and highly trained security staff to manage buildings, including more than 1,000 access points and approximately 2,500 cameras.

When Marcisz arrived about three years ago, he suggested that the campus-based management structure be reorganized into one security department. “We designed it similar to a corporate security program but it is scalable,” said Marcisz, who noted that the program has five key elements, including operations (guard force management, for example), a communications division or dispatch, technology, including an IT department, a training division and investigations.

Marcisz explained that the training division is vitally important because it helps ensure that “communications and operations are synchronized and that we have everything standardized across the system.”

One area where the hospital sees “a lot of return on investment,” said Marcisz, is through investigations. “We investigate everything that is criminal in nature and we leverage our technology in our investigations, including our cameras, to help resolve many cases,” he explained.

Marcisz pointed out that through investigations, the hospital is able to get back hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in hospital assets, such as property that is either lost or stolen, as well as provide risk mitigation and defer litigation. “We did solve a case in 2015, for example, that saved us $15 million,” noted Marcisz. 

Another key part of training is to ensure that all head security positions have certifications attached to them, such as the Professional Certified Investigator (PCI) certification through ASIS.

The hospital also developed a workplace violence prevention program that is managed through security. “We do threat management and have put together training programs developed in-house, including computer-based learning modules on active shooter and workplace violence,” said Marcisz. “And we are in the process of developing additional training for our leadership on how to manage workplace violence.”

Because the hospital has a constant turnover of staff, there is an employee orientation program, and staff receives MOAB (management of aggressive behavior) and CPI (crisis prevention intervention) training.

“Our safety violence risk assessment was also developed in house, and we are in the process of implementing that, which allows our nursing staff to match up objective criteria, in terms of a patient’s behavior, based on a stoplight system—red, yellow and green—that provides responses and actions that need to be taken as behavior escalates,” said Marcisz.  

With close to 200 security personnel and growing, the hospital has a structured onboarding training process that consists of several different training modules an officer must complete once they finish orientation. “They must attain, and if applicable, get certified in certain skill sets (handcuffing, for example) before they can even interact with patients,” noted Marcisz. “A hospital is a very unique, high stress environment, so we have to be compassionate and customer service-oriented as well.”

Outside, each campus has two security vehicles that are equipped with video and license plate identification technology, including a strict parking policy to keep employees from parking in unauthorized areas.

In addition to the security team, the hospital has a threat management team and works closely with law enforcement and fire personnel.

On day three, our final stop on the tour was at the Hyatt Regency Orlando, formerly the Peabody, where Fred Prassack, director of security, talked about the challenges of securing the largest Hyatt convention property in the U.S.

Located next to the Orange County Convention Center, the hotel has 1,639 rooms and 105 breakout rooms as well as numerous meeting rooms, the largest of which is the size of two football fields. The hotel is also getting set to add a $450 million new tower with a conference center that will have approximately 350,000 square feet of meeting space.

To secure such a large property, the hotel has a main security office, a video monitoring and dispatch center as well as a small conference room for security meetings and briefings.

Prassack said that one of the keys to their success is having a staff that is all on the same page. “We have an officer training program, as well as a new-hire orientation program,” he noted, which includes security, fire safety and other emergency preparedness training. “We also have training for managers in areas such as anti-terror, active shooter and workplace violence, which is done in cooperation with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.”

Prassack noted that he reminds security and other hotel staff that 9-11 “changed the way we live forever … many of our freedoms went away that day.” Staff is trained to look for suspicious activity and “be vigilant,” he said. “If you see something, say something. After orientation and training, I deputize them and have them sworn in, which makes them feel empowered to be able to do something, if needed.”
 
As a major convention hotel, Prassack speaks with other hotel security directors in the area and nationwide and participates in monthly sheriff’s crime intelligence breakfast meetings, which address current issues or concerns that security may need to address or be aware of, such as the Zika virus, which has been garnering a lot of attention lately in Florida. 

On the technology side, the hotel also utilizes more than 400 Panasonic cameras with IP addresses and a separate hard drive. Cameras have motion sensors and record activity, which is saved for 30 days. The video surveillance room is set up on an automated schedule that provides views of cameras in key areas at the hotel, while taking the feed off of areas that are not active, such as the bar area in the morning.

This attention to detail is paramount at such a busy and bustling hotel property, said Prassack.

 

What differentiates a PERS central?

 - 
Wednesday, May 11, 2016

I’ve spoken with plenty of monitoring professionals about the difference between monitoring a PERS signal and a more traditional burg or fire alarm. Recently, I spoke with Todd Lindstrom, director of Life Safety Monitoring, about some of the things that differentiate the company's PERS-focused central station. 

Lindstrom said that PERS operators need to be segmented from operators that handle more traditional alarms because the mindset is different. “You tend to be more production orientated when you’re doing the burg/fire, … [focused on] speed, how they handle the call, how many calls they handled,” he said. “Here, we’re on the call a lot longer, because you’ve got patients that may not hear well, [or] they’re a little confused.”

The company has been doing more wellness calls with its users, Lindstrom said. “We call and ask them a few basic questions; if they’ve taken their meds, or how they’re feeling today.” Life Safety Monitoring has been doing these calls for about a year-and-a-half, he said.

Plans for wellness calls could include calls once a week, once a day or twice a day, he said. “It makes a son or daughter more comfortable to know that someone’s calling,” said Lindstrom.

These calls could be linked to activity tracking platforms, “If somebody doesn’t pass down a hallway … Then we’ll call and check, and if we don’t get a response then we’ll send somebody.” The company is currently working on integrating the Numera Libris in the next 30 days, he said. Particularly, the company is interested in the device's fall detection abilities. 

He said that activity monitoring platforms help with the quality of care, such as tracking items users might forget, like how many times they got up during the night.

Lindstrom said that only about 1 percent of the company’s monitored accounts are mPERS devices, but expects this segment will grow to 10 percent in the next year or 18 months. MPERS are good for a segment of users that like to spend the winter months in warmer climates, “Now, they don’t have to drag that stationary device.”

Life Safety Monitoring has 16 operators and monitors about 10,000 accounts, he said. 

PSA-TEC 2016 roundup: M&A trends; The cyber opportunity; Robots

 - 
Wednesday, May 11, 2016

There was not a free chair in the Lakehouse conference room here at PSA-TEC in Westminster, Colo. yesterday afternoon during two panel discussions that addressed topics such as: M&A, cybersecurity and managed services.

John Mack Imperial Capital said that there’s been “more significant M&A activity in the past year than in the previous 30 years.” He called that “generally good news” and predicted M&A activity will continue. He noted that new entrants into the security industry are not “taking share away” from others. Rather, new entrants are helping the security industry grow, and they’re bringing “new and interesting technology.”

NetOne’s Dave Carter said the flurry of M&A can be a concern to NetOne if a member company (there are 28) is acquired by an outsider (as happened when Safeguard Security was acquired by SAFE)  However, that is not normally the case. “For our companies, in the regions they operate, they are the acquirers," Carter said.

Brent Franklin of Unlimited Technologies looks at all of the M&A activity as an opportunity. “While the big guys are turning the battleship in the dock … [Unlimited can] pop up into that space and serve their customers,” he said.

Carey Boethel of Securadyne agreed: “When big companies are consolidating and merging they focus strategies internally. …They take their eye off the ball.”

Michael Meridith of SEi concurred,  “customers fall through the cracks,” he said. And, there's more good talent looking for jobs, he added.

Jeff Nunberg of ISS pointed out that many of the recent buyers are venture capitalist firms who “expect a return on investment in three- to five years.” As they build a business, he said, they also “suck the live out of it … which makes it hard to deliver service.” In terms of vendor M&A, Nunberg said: “We have zero control over that,” so he does not worry about it.

All of the panelist admitted concern about cybersecurity—keeping their own companies and customers as safe as possible from a breach. A couple speakers also noted that most security installation companies are not taking cybersecurity concerns seriously enough. Those companies likely will not take it seriously until there’s an incident.

Imperial Capital’s Mack and Michael Kaiser National Cyber Security Alliance talked about cybersecurity as a possible money maker for physical security integrators.

Mack said adding cybersecurity services is a “huge opportunity for people in this room.” Small and medium-sized businesses “have a lot to do to better protect their information, data, and networks.” He suggested that security integrators partner with cybersecurity experts. That would make them very valuable to customers.  “When you upgrade physical security systems [for a customer] at the same time talk to them about how to update their information security infrastructure.” Mack said if he were to get back into the operations side of security, this is where he’d focus.

Kaiser agreed that “one of the biggest gaps in cybersecurity right now is the SMB … they’re not making cybersecurity a priority,” he said. They need a provider to help them “secure their network and their security devices.”

How should you educate yourself on cybersecurity? Attend the RSA show in San Francisco, Mack said. Do your homework about companies attending RSA. Many of them really want to know about physical security. “I guarantee you there will be guys who will be incredibly interested in talking to you," Mack said.

PSA Security is also an excellent resource to educate yourself on cybersecurity he said, noting that Andrew Lanning would be presenting the initial PSA Cybersecurity playbook at PSA-TEC on May 12. Here’s information on that presentation.

“Be part of the solution,” Lanning said.

Managed services make your commercial companies more valuable, Mack said. In addition, he said that acquirers are losing their appetite for security companies that derive all of their RMR from residential accounts. Buyers don’t like the high creation costs on the resi side and the “commoditization of residential security."

“There is no question if you show up [to sell your company] with more RMR, you have a higher valuation,” Mack said. “Guys who show up with a mix of RMR with a commercial focused business will be higher valued than the gyu with the same about of RMR from a residential business,” he said.

There is technology out there now that makes managed services much easier, Mack said. And the financing model for managed services is easier to manage than the model on the resi side. “You don’t have to go upside down on the direct labor and materials,” he said. “But the selling proposition to the customer and how you define that customer and sell to them has to be different,” Mack said.

He said it is probably a good idea to create a new division, or even a new company, to do managed services. Other speakers agreed.  

Robots were another topic of discussion at PSA-TEC. Sharp announced its new SRBD. Here’s a link to this story. A key SRBD executive—Mike Kobelin—is well known to PSA Security members and PSA-TEC attendees, as he is a former PSA board president.

One of the first people in the security industry to talk to me about security robotics was Joe Lynch of Minuteman. Here’s a story I wrote a couple years ago where I spoke to 10 top integrators about tech trends.  Scroll to the end to read Lynch’s remarks. One year after I wrote that story, I asked Lynch about aerial drones and he said there were many questions about legislation and regulation, an obstacle that PSA Security CEO Bill Bozeman told me will hold back development of that technology for the short term. I ran into Lynch today and asked him about aerial drones. He said he’s been able to figure out the FAA regulations and is optimistic about the possibilities. Minuteman owns an aerial drone and is using it in beta projects currently.

Ray Dean of ASI  was at the Sharp robotics press conference and was eager to know when the company’s product would be available.

Numera releases new wearable line

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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

CARLSBAD, Calif.—Numera this week announced a new selection of wearables to complement its Libris mPERS device while users are at home.

The center of this announcement is the new Smart Cradle, which connects the Libris device with the new wearables while charging the mPERS, Anu Herranen, marketing manager for Nortek Security and Control, told SSN. 

The new wearables include a Fall Detection Pendant, a Convertible Help Button which can be worn as a pendant or on the wrist, and a Simple Help Button Pendant.

Herranen said that a noticable difference between the Fall Detection Pendant and the Libris device is their weight. The Libris is about 2.1 ounces, she said; the Fall Detection Pendent only weighs about half an ounce. The pendant is also 40 percent smaller by dimensions.

She said the two biggest benefits for end users are the ability to have a personal safety device while the Libris is charging and the option for a more comfortable device while around the house.

“[Users] can leave their Libris in its Smart Cradle, because all of the mobile PERS devices do have a battery that needs to be charged, … and they are still equally protected,” she said. The Libris has a battery life of 36 hours, she said, while the wearables’ batteries last for several years.

The new wearables also continue to track users in the EverThere program. “The Smart Cradle connected with any of the wearables provides exactly the same experience in EverThere that we do in the Libris device.” The Smart Cradle is also upgradable, via Over-The-Air software updates.

Herranen said that the ability to wear a help button on the wrist is new for the Libris offering. She said the wrist-worn help button was specifically designed for wear during sleep.

The Libris still has features that the new wearables don’t, such as voice capabilities and GPS location. 

Outsmarting the smart home

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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Talked about heavily at ISC West in April, cybersecurity is the buzzword in the industry right now, as manufacturers and dealers on the residential side try to figure out how to navigate through the potential minefield of new smart home products and devices that may leave their security systems vulnerable to hacking.

In a study unveiled this week, Cybersecurity researchers at the University of Michigan were able to hack into a leading "smart home" platform and essentially get the PIN code to a home's front door.

Their "lock-pick malware app" was one of four attacks that the cybersecurity researchers leveled at an experimental set-up of Samsung's SmartThings platform, and is believed to be the first platform-wide study of a connected home system. The researchers weren’t picking on Samsung, as the overall goal of the research was to show how vulnerable these new connected home devices and systems are to hacking.

The researchers found “significant design vulnerabilities from a security perspective," noting that hackers’ attacks can “expose a household to significant harm—break-ins, theft, misinformation and vandalism. The attack vectors are not specific to a particular device and are broadly applicable."

The findings will be presented on May 24 at the IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy in San Jose, in a paper titled "Security Analysis of Emerging Smart Home Applications."

At the very least, this study—as well as numerous stories of hackers finding their way into connected home devices, from smart TVs to baby monitors—raises important questions that manufacturers and dealers must ask themselves in this new world of advanced technology and interactivity.

As Samsung works out the kinks in its system, many other smart home companies can benefit from this study, as it sounds an alarm—no pun intended—of the importance of cybersecurity. While no system is completely immune from hacking, the research also underscores the fact that smart home companies and dealers need to make sure they are adhering to, at a minimum, the industry’s best practices and guidelines.

One resource is UL’s new Cybersecurity Assurance Program, a standard by which companies can have their products tested and verified by UL for guard against well-known cyber risks.

Having your products and systems third-party tested is a good first step in addressing any security flaws that may be present, as well as any potential fixes, and provides a measure of comfort for customers who are making their first forays into this bold new world of connected home technology.

 
 

The 'New ADT' is here

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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The "New ADT" is here. As of May 2, the Protection 1/ADT deal is closed, and ADT is no longer trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

The deal, initially announced in February, was the third major security investment for Apollo Global, which announced it would buy ADT for $6.9 billion and merge it with Protection 1.

I tried to get a call scheduled with Tim Whall who is the CEO of the combined company or someone else at “The New ADT,” but have not heard back yet.

The official announcement had little new information, it mentioned that the headquarters of the combined company will be ADT’s headquarters in Boca Raton, Fla., and said that the company will “operate primarily under the ADT brand.”

Will the Protection 1 name go away completely? Who will run the resi business? What about ADT's nascnet commercial business? Is CMS staying or going? CMS has the opportunity to go after the cablecos/telecom business and DIY business that other wholesale monitoring companies are doing well with. Will it? As a non-public company, ADT can concentrate on slow smart growth--something observers say it has done well with, even under the constant scrutiny of the stock market. So many questions to ask.

Goldman, Sachs served as lead financial advisor to ADT and BofA Merrill Lynch also served as financial advisor to ADT.  Barclays, Deutsche Bank, Citigroup Global Markets Inc. and RBC Capital Markets, LLC served as financial advisors to Apollo and Protection 1 and provided debt financing.  PSP Investments Credit USA LLC also provided debt financing.

The deal also provided an entry for the Koch Brothers into physical security. An affiliate of Koch Equity Development LLC, the investment and acquisition subsidiary of Koch Industries, provided $750 million of preferred equity financing.

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP served as legal advisor to ADT. Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP served as legal advisor to Protection 1 and Apollo.  Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP served as legal advisor to Koch.

 

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