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Connecting—with costumes and without—at Honeywell's Connect 2012

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Friday, November 2, 2012

Imagine Scott Harkins, president of Honeywell Security Products, lumbering about in an inflatable sumo wrestler suit. Envision Stan Martin, executive director of the Security Industry Alarm Coalition, stalking around in a long cape as Count Dracula, looking for blood as well as donations to SIAC. And then picture Patrick Egan, president of Select Security, scarily attractive in drag as a red-lipsticked brunette in an elegant gown.

Those attending the Honeywell First Alert Professional Convention here in Hollywood, Fla. didn't need to conjure up those images—they were all there for everyone to see tonight as security dealer attendees let their hair down (quite literally in Egan’s case) at a belated Halloween costume party.

They got into the fun with inventive costumes, which included a nun and monk, wizards with tall hats, a beekeeper, a gladiator, a Wizard of Oz scarecrow, Popeye, cave men and cave women in leopard skin clothing and one brave dealer in a Scottish plaid kilt and matching tam–o'–shanter.

It may sound silly, but it turned out to be a good way to break the ice at a networking event—and it was just another way to connect at Connect 2012.

Earlier today, Harkins, in his more familiar attire of a suit and tie, explained why the event was given that name this year.

Speaking on the first full day of activities of the annual event, which launched yesterday and runs into this weekend, Harkins said, “Why the name ‘Connect’? … We wanted to rebrand the entire experience.”

Networking was one reason, he said—“connecting companies and individuals.”

But he said the word also shows how home automation services are transforming the security industry. “It’s not just a security space anymore,” he said. “It’s a connected home space.” And, he added, “we think interactive home services will continue to expand under our brand Total Connect.”

Harkins’ talk this morning also included a sober moment that contrasted with the lighthearted event that ended the day.

He asked everyone in the audience to pause a minute to think about fellow FAP members who couldn’t make the event because of Hurricane Sandy.

He said this year’s event was slated to have had pretty much the largest attendance ever, with 165 companies represented and 740 people total. But he said about 50 of those companies were “in the eye of the storm,” which early this week battered the East Coast, especially New Jersey, where Honeywell is located, so some people couldn’t attend.

However, Harkins said he was impressed with the numbers of people who did turn up despite problems like delayed flights and power outages in their homes. “There has to be about 400 to 500 people here,” he said. And some attendees were still arriving Friday evening.

Harkins already has set his sights on 2013, which will be the 24th year for the dealer program, which Honeywell bills as the “longest running” in the industry. “Our goal is 250 companies and 1,000 people next year,” Harkins said.

And what will the name be in 2013? Expect something similar. Harkins said that “Connect” also will be “a brand going forward.”

Sandy is gone, and Honeywell has new president of authorized dealer groups

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Here in Hollywood, Fla. on the first night of Honeywell’s annual First Alert Professional Convention, the weather is balmy and we dined on shrimp and key lime pie—and felt lucky to be here.

Not too many days ago Florida was being buffeted by the high winds generated by Hurricane Sandy, and of course other parts of the East Coast—particularly New Jersey, the state Honeywell calls home—took a beating from it early this week.

And what with the damage, loss of power and thousands of cancelled flights, some East Coast dealers areas who regularly attend this event haven’t been able to make it this year.

Still, attendance tonight at the convention, called Connect 2012, looked strong. And Honeywell officials tell me that while they don’t have an official count yet, they’re pleased at the numbers who did make it. The conference attracts dealers from across the nation and Canada. There also are dealers from places such as Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Trinidad. I had interesting conversations with some of those attendees at dinner.

And I’m looking forward to the first full day of the conference tomorrow. Among those we’ll hear from is Marek Robinson, a longtime Honeywell employee who recently was promoted to be president of authorized dealer groups.

Robinson, with Honeywell since 1995 and most recently western region director of sales for Honeywell Systems, will be focusing on the First Alert Professional and Commercial Security Systems dealer programs. He'll be introducing himself at the convention to dealers who haven't met him yet. It will be interesting to hear what he has to say.

Illinois fines Pinnacle $1m for alleged deceptive sales practices

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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

I just learned today that summer-sales-model company Pinnacle Security has agreed to pay a $1 million fine in a long-term settlement to the state of Illinois for such alleged violations as “slamming” customers and even hiring felons as sales reps.

In reaching the agreement, Pinnacle neither admitted nor denied the allegations. And the company sent me the following statement:

Pinnacle Security is pleased that it has come to a settlement with the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation of the State of Illinois to the parties' mutual satisfaction. Pinnacle Security has worked closely to address the generally historical issues related to licensing requirements of our sales representatives that allegedly took place as early as 2006.

Since 2010, Pinnacle has implemented industry-leading compliance initiatives to help ensure that Pinnacle's sales representatives meet all city, county and state licensing requirements.  We are confident that through this agreement, Pinnacle will continue to provide its thousands of customers in the state of Illinois superior support and customer service.

Here’s what the state said in its Oct. 31 news release:

State regulators announced today they have reached a long-term settlement agreement with Pinnacle Security, LLC, headquartered in Orem, Utah and licensed to sell home and business security systems in Illinois.  The Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) alleged in its order that Pinnacle had sold its services using unfair and deceptive trade practices, knowingly hired unlicensed sales personnel, and allowed employees with criminal histories to sell their products door-to-door to Illinois consumers.  The company also ‘slammed’ consumers by changing their alarm service using fraudulent and deceptive means.

“When homeowners purchase security systems to protect their families from crimes, they should at least be assured that the company with which they do business is following Illinois laws,” said Jay Stewart, Director, Division of Professional Regulation, IDFPR.  “With this settlement agreement, families doing business with Pinnacle Security, LLC will know that Illinois’ consumer protection agency is making sure they meet their obligations.”

The investigation conducted by IDPFR included issuing subpoenas for all employees working in Illinois and found that 700 of the 1,100 were not licensed by the state.  Further, several of the employees listed on the employee roster had been charged with or convicted of felonies, including larceny, robbery, theft, conspiracy to commit burglary, aggravated criminal sexual abuse, assault, domestic battery, and possession of controlled substances, any of which would have been cause to deny a license, had an application been filed.

The case was referred to IDFPR by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, after her office settled a lawsuit to protect prospective customers.   Today’s settlement includes payment of a one million dollar fine, of which $250,000 has already been paid, a two-year ban on new sales to Illinois consumers, supervision of Pinnacle’s ongoing business of overseeing already installed security systems and five years of supervised probation by the Illinois.

Pinnacle has settled similar complaints made by other states, although the amount of this fine stands out.

Pinnacle has told Security Systems News that the company had some issues in past years with “rogue” door-knocking sales staff.  However, in 2010, Pinnacle made a company cultural shift to emphasize a code of ethics for employees and the implementation of new ways to monitor their behavior and enforce the code.

 

Riders on the storm: Central stations take Sandy in stride

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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The snowy remnants of Hurricane Sandy are still blowing across the ridges of West Virginia, but the worst is over for the Eastern Seaboard. Now the recovery begins. And as is the case with any natural disaster, preparation holds the key to the extent of the difficulties ahead.

The lesson—one that’s often learned the hard way—is that it pays to do your homework and have a backup plan in place. The monitoring industry prides itself on that, of course, a fact that was validated by a quick SSN survey of central stations in the Northeast after the storm. It showed that while Sandy packed a tremendous punch, the industry was ready to handle it.

Long Island, N.Y., was one of the areas hit hardest by the storm, with thousands of homes damaged and nearly 1 million customers left without power Monday night. Andy Lowitt, vice president of dealer relations for Hicksville-based Metrodial, said via email Tuesday that despite the horrific damage in the area, the central station weathered the storm.

“Lots of downed trees and power lines … 912,000 [on Long Island] without power today versus 934,000 this morning, so tons of customers with beeping keypads, smokes and carbons,” Lowitt wrote. “Our natural-gas generator powered our central from 3 p.m. yesterday until power was restored today around 2 p.m. We had some valiant efforts of operators making it in during the day yesterday. Most PDs and some FDs stopped responding during the overnight hours and at one point we had over 3,000 signals in queue.”

New Jersey was also pounded by Sandy, but COPS Monitoring in Williamstown was prepared and took it all in stride, according to Executive Vice President Don Maden.

“In short, we proactively re-routed a percentage of alarm traffic away from N.J. to other sites, and significantly increased staffing at our other four central station locations,” he wrote in an email Tuesday. “We had 100 percent uptime in N.J. with services, did not lose power, and handled nearly double the normal alarm traffic across our network of central stations yesterday. Today, as expected, was heavy with alarm activity as well. [Generators] kicked on due to a few power flickers, but the grid stayed up.”

Don Piston, vice president of sales and marketing for Dynamark Monitoring in Hagerstown, Md., also reported heavy alarm volume but said “we knew that was coming.”

“We did great. We got battered with AC power loss and low battery signals because of all the power outages, so the traffic was just huge,” he told SSN on Wednesday morning. “But we sailed right through. We had the staffing in place. It’s almost no news because we did everything we were supposed to do.”

Despite Sandy’s mammoth strength and reach, it didn’t cause a lot of damage in Syracuse, N.Y.—just 250 miles from New York City and the home of Rapid Response Monitoring. Morgan Hertel, vice president of operations, said Wednesday that at the height of the storm, “we were getting pizzas delivered by the local pizza place. [Sandy] really wasn’t a big deal. It was like business as usual.”

That might have been the case meteorologically, but it wasn’t the case when it came to alarm traffic. At the peak, “we were seeing well over 100 signals a second coming in,” Hertel said, adding that Rapid is well versed in storm preparation and had extra staffing in place.

“We’re back to normal shifts today,” he said. “The technology did what it was supposed to do, the people did what they were supposed to do, and quite honestly we couldn’t be happier with the result. We even saved a few lives along the way.”

Pinnacle sells 93,000 accounts to Monitronics

Pinnacle says the $131 million transaction reduces debt, putting it in a better growth position
 - 
10/31/2012

OREM, Utah—Pinnacle Security, a leading summer-sales-model company based here, recently announced an alliance with Monitronics International in which Pinnacle has sold Monitronics about 93,000 accounts and made an agreement for future account sales. The accounts represent $4.4 million of gross RMR, according to a news release.

Top eBay security specialist, other experts to present at TechSec Solutions 2013

Twenty young professionals will be honored at the February conference
 - 
10/31/2012

YARMOUTH, Maine—Organizers of TechSec Solutions 2013 have announced the educational program for the conference, which will take place Feb. 5-6 at the Westin in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

NFPA’s annual conference to colocate with new expo

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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The National Fire Protection Association Conference & Expo will be held in Chicago in 2013, from June 10 through 12.

And the NFPA just announced that it will be colocating the annual event with a brand new expo, one featuring information and products designed to improve safety for people with disabilities. For a conference that’s all about how to save lives, it sounds like a great match. Here’s more from an NFPA press release on the event, to be held at Chicago’s McCormick Place:
 

The inaugural Accessibility Expo: Beyond the ADA will colocate with the annual. The three-day event will inform building designers, builders, managers and safety executives, and promote the idea of moving beyond the minimum requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

“With each passing day I marvel at new innovations and advancements, particularly those that improve access to information, communications and the ability of people with disabilities to be more empowered with respect to their own safety,” said Allan Fraser, NFPA’s senior building code specialist.  “It’s time to shine a light on innovations so that building designers, suppliers, facility and safety managers, and first responders can connect and interact.”

Conference sessions will address life safety in five categories of disability, including mobility, vision, hearing, speech and cognitive, as well as creative and common sense best practices and solutions. The exhibition will feature enhanced alarm systems, directional sound devices, voice-to-text/text-to -voice devices, video phones for American Sign Language users, power wheelchairs, accessibility training and employer preparedness programs.

The NFPA Conference & Expo is the premier industry event for fire protection and life safety and attracts more than 5,000 professionals whose work involves code compliance, fire, building and life safety. To learn more, visit www.nfpa.org/conference.

 

Southwest Surveillance and the gaming market comeback

Focus on IP, HD capabilities, promise of analytics, meta data on the horizon
 - 
10/24/2012

DESTIN, Fla.—Talking with Security Systems News at the PSA Security Convention here this week, David Pettit, president of systems integrator Southwest Surveillance, described the comeback his company experienced in the past five years.

ADT sues Flo Rida

 - 
Wednesday, October 24, 2012

This recent news item from the Toronto Sun newspaper recently caught my eye, even though I’ve never heard of this rapper and singer songwriter, whose real name is Tramar Dillard, but is known as Flo Rida. It sounds like Flo Rida has a bit of a legal problem over security at his home in Florida.
 

Here’s what the news report said:

Flo Rida has been sued by bosses of a security company who claim the rapper failed to settle a bill for an alarm system at his Florida home.

Executives at ADT allege their operatives installed a state-of-the-art security system at the star's Miami mansion in 2009 and received the full deposit of $19,366 US but Flo Rida failed to hand over the remaining balance of $38,733.

They have filed a lawsuit demanding payment plus interest amounting to $47,134.

However, the rapper claims he never authorized the deal and the contract was signed by a man called Lee Prince, who reportedly worked as the star's manager, according to TMZ.com.

A judge has yet to rule on the case.

 

2G sun starting to set in Arizona

 - 
Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Looking for signs of the 2G sunset? Don’t blink.

That was the message today from Telguard’s Shawn Welsh, who notified CSAA members via the group’s ACCENT email service that AT&T has begun to pull the shade on Arizona’s Pinal and Gila counties.

“For those of you with cellular customers in Arizona, AT&T has announced that there will be no roaming network available to 2G GSM/GPRS-only cellular devices using [the company’s] 410 SIMs—they are often yellow in color—in Pinal and Gila counties starting on Nov. 1, 2012,” Welsh wrote.

If you struggle to keep pace with the calendar—and I am among you—that means next Thursday.

Welsh said he and his counterparts at other cellular equipment companies made a promise at the CSAA’s annual meeting, held Oct. 12-17 in Hawaii, to keep the industry informed about pockets of lost 2G coverage “as soon as we were notified by our carrier partners.”

“Having just returned this week, this one is beating the official CSAA process,” he wrote.

Welsh advised anyone with customers in the two counties to contact their cellular manufacturer for official confirmation from AT&T and a coverage map to determine if their units are affected.

“Only your cellular device manufacturer (or waiting until next Thursday—not recommended) can advise you of your potential loss of service,” he said.

Welsh said Telguard customers should not notice a change “as we do not use 410 SIMs in our [legacy] 2G or 3G devices.” For those affected by the AT&T announcement, “you’ll need to roll trucks next week and replace the units with a device operating on a 3G/4G network,” he said.
 

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