King-Monital-IDC emerges as Criticom

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Monday, April 1, 2002

HACKENSACK, N.J.-Nearly nine months after monitoring giant King-Monital announced its acquisition of International Dispatch Center, the combined organization has emerged with a new identity, one company officials said represents its focus both on the traditional alarm business and the threshold of a new era in security monitoring.

King-Monital-IDC began phasing in its new name, Criticom, short for Critical Communications, in marketing materials and in its presence at the ISC West show in March. The name portrays the company's focus on new technologies that, along with traditional burglary and fire monitoring, will become the integral link in both security and other communications markets, said Tom Few Sr., chairman and chief executive officer of Criticom.

"We always knew that we had to come to a common name that we could build a brand around," Few said, "but we needed a name that would tell everyone exactly what we did."

With the new name also comes a host of changes at the company, including a consolidation of central stations, new programs to help dealers capitalize on new technologies and a series of dealer advisory councils, located around the country for better communication between corporate operations and the local dealer.

Company officials are careful to market the union of traditional burg and fire monitoring companies like King and Monital with technology companies like IDC-- both bring integral elements of the future together. King-Monital's strong dealer base, which was 400,000 before the merger with IDC, will benefit from IDC's already proven track record with GPS monitoring. This technology is already being used in site cleanup at the World Trade Center in New York (see related story).

To that end, the company plans to roll out a GPS-dealer program at the ISC East show in August, an opportunity for dealers to harness the potentially explosive demand for this new location-based technology, company officials said.

"As soon as one year ago, for someone to be involved in the GPS industry was an expensive proposition and payback was a long-term situation," said Curtis Quady, president of Criticom. "Because of our background and of our clientele, it is incumbent of us to set forth the parameters of what a program like that will be."

This location-based technology is already growing most rapidly in the commercial sector, particularly in the use of management of fleets of trucks, Few said, followed by the monitoring of other mobile and fixed assets. Consumer awareness, currently GPS's biggest obstacle, will likely by buoyed by an upcoming federal program that will mandate the embedding of GPS tracking units in all cell phones by 2004. That deadline is under negotiation, however, between the government and cell phone makers.

All GPS monitoring, as well as other non-traditional technologies such as advanced medical services, telemedicine and other specialty services, will be performed in Criticom's Minneapolis central station, IDC's former facility. Criticom's four other central stations will be consolidated to two; one central will remain on each coast and will handle the more traditional burg and fire monitoring, Few said.

The company will also be maintaining its six dealer care facilities, locations across the country that gives Criticom a more direct connection with dealers in that region. A series of advisory councils for dealers, headed by Ray Sacks, Criticom's executive director of dealer services, will also be launched across the country to forge better continuous relations between the local dealer and Criticom management. A group is already set up in the Northeast, with ones in southern California, Florida and the Southeast to follow.

"What we're trying to do is while on one hand try to leverage our size to bring more value and more services toour dealers, at the same time we want to provide local and regional service to dealers so that we don't loose that personal touch," Few said.

Although the company will leverage its subscriber base of more than 500,000 accounts in several ways, from negotiating equipment discounts to increased marketing opportunities, one aspect targeted for growth is dealer finance.

"As we get larger that translates into being of more interest to capital sources, and gives us the ability to acquire more capital," Few said. "We expect that part of our business to grow considerably."