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Spinoff enhances ADT as job creator

Additional employees to fill corporate positions previously covered by Tyco and because ADT is growing
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01/04/2013

BOCA RATON, Fla.—The ADT Corp. already has about 16,000 employees, but since spinning off from Tyco International in the fall, the home security giant has become even more of a job creator, adding hundreds of new hires around the country.

Couple loses $’s, electronics, ‘peace of mind’ relying on self-monitored security system

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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A story about a home robbery over the holidays reported by a North Carolina news outlet on New Year’s Day caught my eye. That’s because it illustrates the potential costly drawbacks of relying on a self-monitored security system.

A Raleigh, N.C. couple lost $1,500 in cash and electronics and also their “peace of mind” after three thieves invaded their home while they were away for the holidays, according to WRAL.com. The report excitedly touts that the couple has video of the burglary, which they have posted on YouTube in hopes of catching the thieves.  But I can’t help thinking that if they had a security system that was professionally monitored 24/7 by a central station, the thieves could already have been caught and they wouldn’t have suffered the loss of their valuables and the terrible feeling of having their home violated.

Here are some more details from the WRAL.com report:
 

Matt Robinson installed eight cameras in different places around his home as a way to keep an eye on his dog.
The cameras can be accessed online or by using a smartphone, but Robinson said he and his wife had trouble pulling them up Saturday night while they were out of town for the holidays.
A relative went to their home to check things out and found the house had been burglarized.
"Three kicks is all it took" to break through the back door, Robinson said Tuesday.
He retrieved the video that recorded the burglary. It shows the three thieves casually walking around the house for nearly 15 minutes looking for valuables. One of them even used a knife to open a box.
"Imagine seeing your own house and people that should not be there going through your stuff. It is not a good feeling," Robinson said.
One of the thieves eventually noticed the video cameras and is seen in the video cutting the cables to at least one of them. Bleach also was poured over a box that records the video from the cameras, but it wasn't enough to erase the images of the burglary.
Robinson put the video on YouTube and has passed out fliers in his neighborhood, asking anyone who recognizes the people on the tape to call police.
The thieves stole about $1,500 in cash and electronics, he said, but they also took something on which he cannot put a dollar figure.
"It's very violating, unsettling, and you lose your peace of mind," he said. "That is hard to get back."
 

The burglary is also making national news on sites like The Huffington Post.

New year, new urgency on AT&T's 2G sunset

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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

One of the most newsworthy items for the alarm industry in 2012 was AT&T’s announcement that it will shut down 2G service by Jan. 1, 2017. Everyone knew the day was coming, but there had been a lot of speculation in the field about exactly when cellular equipment would need to be upgraded to stay ahead of the sunset.

With the uncertainty gone, the industry now faces the reality of swapping millions of devices that use AT&T’s GSM/GPRS network. Choices must be made that involve assessing the longevity, coverage and cost of competing technologies. The larger the company, the larger the stakes.

SSN covered developments on the 2G sunset throughout 2012, presenting opinions from industry experts and a few rebuttals about the best path for dealers to take. For those still unsure about which way to go, a summation of options is provided by Syed Zaeem Hosain, chief technical officer at Aeris Communications, in the latest issue of CSAA Dispatch. Here’s what he had to say:

Change service to T-Mobile. It may be possible to move service from AT&T to T-Mobile by swapping the SIM [card] inside devices. This requires a truck roll. Furthermore, T-Mobile will also remove 2G eventually. Thus, this option only delays the inevitable by about two years; however, it allows additional time for implementing other options. It could require two truck rolls: one to replace the SIM soon, and another to replace the 2G GSM device later.
 

Replace with 3G HSPA. Alarm device suppliers are making new 3G HSPA devices. However, the HSPA coverage is much smaller than GPRS and, in time, HSPA spectrum also will need to be swapped for LTE. Thus, there is likely to be an “HSPA sunset” starting in about seven to eight years. This sunset would be worse, since the number of deployed alarm units will be much higher.

Replace with 2G CDMA. Alarm device suppliers have not yet supported this option, though it is likely the best. CDMA carriers have committed to 10-plus years of service longevity, and the 1xRTT coverage is better than GSM. Given the lower cost of 1xRTT radios and the large number of deployed 1xRTT applications in other industries (notably automotive and trucking) supporting the technology, using 1xRTT for alarm units makes sense.

Replace with 4G LTE. Deploying LTE devices is not viable for the alarm industry today. Radio costs are very high, and coverage is simply not sufficient for national deployments. Both will improve in time, but not at a pace that makes it a viable replacement option today. Carriers have not yet worked out LTE roaming agreements—these also will take time. Most importantly, the spectrum fragmentation for LTE means that current-generation LTE radios are single band (dedicated for use on a single carrier when in LTE mode). This is too restrictive, since these units can never be moved from one carrier to another.

Whichever route is chosen, it should be noted that the four-year window is a best-case scenario. Frequency harvesting is expected to dilute AT&T’s 2G coverage well before the sunset, with constraints already being reported in some areas. While the best choice for dealers seems to vary depending on who—or which manufacturer—you talk to, one thing is clear: Procrastination is no longer an option.

Devcon ‘getting back to core business’

Munday: Company actively seeking new owner, has ‘positive momentum’ despite setbacks
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12/28/2012

NEW YORK—At the Imperial Capital Security Investor Conference here on Dec. 13, Devcon’s chairman of the board, Christopher Munday, spoke frankly about the company’s challenges in the past couple of years—including an ill-fated branch expansion. He confirmed that the company is actively seeking a buyer and shared several operating and financial metrics to support his assertion that the company is on strong footing.

FutureSentry and Mi5 team up

Companies partner to produce solar-powered wireless cameras with automated detection system; debut expected at ISC West
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12/27/2012

MIAMI—FutureSentry and Mi5 Security in December announced a new partnership that will open up new markets for the two companies and provide a new solution for integrators working on critical infrastructure and other projects in remote locations.

Tribal business is specialty of Oklahoma company

York Electronic Systems is American Indian-owned, but its president says real key to winning jobs is good service
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12/26/2012

BROKEN ARROW, Okla.—Oklahoma has one of the greatest concentrations of American Indian tribes in the nation, and tribal businesses are an important vertical for York Electronic Systems, which is based here.

San Francisco company to upgrade fire system at landmark

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12/21/2012

SAN FRANCISCO—The Marin County Civic Center, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, is a marvel of modern architecture with an old and outdated fire alarm system. Now, however, U.S. Electric Technologies, based here, has been awarded a contract of up to $2 million to upgrade the system.

Schools need to be armed … with mass notification!

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Shock. Grief. Outrage. Those are some of the feelings we’ve all experienced in the aftermath of the massacre of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Now I’d like to add “frustration” to the list.

That’s an emotion expressed by some fire installers who say they’re frustrated that school officials don’t realize how valuable an emergency communications system/mass notification system can be in situation like the one at Sandy Hook, where a young man gained entrance to the school and shot the students and staff. Adding a mass notification component to a fire system, particularly if the system already has speakers, typically is a pretty simple job. Yet many school officials are unaware such an important option exists, fire installers say.

Among those expressing frustration is Carter Rierson, president of Best Defense Security & Fire Protection, based in Waunakee, Wis. Here’s his very articulate summary of the situation:
 

Over the summer we installed several school fire alarm systems along with dozens of card readers and cameras for schools.  No schools, however, installed an emergency communications system here in Wisconsin.

Emergency Communications Systems … are the best tool to minimize the impact of what we saw last week.  Rather than luckily having heroically push an intercom to alert the building, ECS systems are designed to do EXACTLY that.  The industry as a whole is just beginning to learn about these systems. Unfortunately, the school administrators, and the engineers who design fire alarm systems for them, have no idea what these systems are, how they work, and how they should be implemented in buildings such as this.

Much has been written about the “first responders”, the police officers, EMT’s, etc. In reality they were NOT the first responders. The first responders were the heroic teachers and staff members who ALWAYS respond first in a case like this. Unlike the other “first responders” who are fully equipped, very little has been done to equip the true first responders for a situation like this. ECS is the first step as it decreases the amount of time required to notify the staff and students, compartmentalizes the buildings, and automates the dispatch of the “first responders”.

The word needs to get out.

 

I’ll be talking more to Carter and other fire companies about what the industry can do to make sure the word does get out about ECS/MNS! Stay posted.

 

Stepping up school security after Newtown

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The outrage and debate in the wake of the Newtown massacre will inevitably bring change. It might not involve the federal action that many have demanded—a ban on assault weapons tops the list—but it is certain to include local initiatives that strengthen school security: improved access control, additional guard services, expanded video surveillance or a combination of the three.

Unfortunately, school shootings are a problem that security alone can’t address, involving complex issues that go well beyond simply installing metal detectors or better entry controls. A determined, well-armed assailant will still be able to kill despite the best intentions of public officials—that was proven in Newtown. Progress can be made to limit the scope of such tragedies, but to think we can eliminate them is naïve.

That being said, and with the horror of the Connecticut shootings still painfully fresh, it might come as a surprise to learn that the number of school homicides in the United States has dropped since the early 1990s. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there were two years during that decade—1992 and 1997—when the school homicide toll among students ages 5-18 rose to 34. By 2010, that number had fallen to 17. The decline hasn’t been constant and one slain student is one too many, but it’s a decline nonetheless.

For many schools, the tipping point for action was the Columbine High massacre in 1999, which led to the widespread adoption of lockdown procedures and other safety protocols. That sense of urgency has faded, however, according to school security consultant Kenneth Trump, who told The Washington Post this week that “the conversation and the training that we have today [are] not at the same level of consistency and intensity.”

Physical security assets at the nation’s schools also have lagged. Michael Dorn, executive director of the nonprofit group Safe Havens International, told the Post that fewer than 10 percent of U.S. schools have strong access control with locked entryways, buzzers, protective glass and camera or intercom systems. That’s likely to change after Newtown, he said, as school districts feel pressure to upgrade security.

“There’s a shift from concern to panic, if you will, and you have parents doing something to improve safety,” Dorn said.

That presents an opportunity for security companies not only to benefit financially—the unspoken result whenever such tragedies occur—but also to strengthen the protection of children across the nation. Regardless of what happens at the federal level, local school districts are sure to come knocking.

A life saved—thanks to a monitored fire alarm

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

It can be hard for fire installers to convince homeowners they need a monitored fire alarm instead of the inexpensive DIY smoke and fire detectors sold at hardware stores. But those detectors won’t be heard by a person away from home at work or on vacation—or if they’re in situations they never imagined. A Missouri woman got in such a situation recently—and a monitored fire alarm at her home saved her life, according to a story from the West Newsmagazine Network.

According to that publication’s Nov. 29 story, an 82-year-old Cottleville, Mo. woman who uses a wheelchair fell out of the chair while she was cooking and lay helpless on the floor, unable to get back up or reach her phone.

“The stove was on high and eventually burned what was in the pan. Smoke filled the home and activated the monitored alarm system. The alarm company alerted 911, who in turn called the fire department,” the story said.

“Without having the alarm system, we would have likely been dealing with a fatal fire,” said Capt. Scott Bumeter [of the Cottleville Fire Protection District], the story said.

The story added: “Fire departments do not actively promote monitored alarm systems in residential dwellings. However this incident serves as an example of the importance of a secondary means of communication and/or alerting for disabled residents, officials said.”

Maybe it’s time for fire departments to rethink their policy.

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