Daily updates from ESX 2018

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06/19/2018

Friday, June 22

There have been several natural disasters in the past year, including Hurricanes Harvey and Maria. Companies need to know what to do in the event of a natural or manmade disaster. In “Monitoring Center Down! How to Improve Recovery Time when Natural Disasters Strike,” a group of speakers discussed how disaster recovery works in the security industry and more specifically within monitoring centers.

Steve Butkovich, CTO at CPI Security, led the conversation, with Matt Narowski, VP of operations at Bold Technologies, Cliff Dice, president and CEO of DICE, and Roberto Morales, CFO and COO of Genesis Security Services. 

Instead of focusing on recovering after a disaster, companies should look at business continuity, how to keep a business moving forward in the event of a disaster, Narowski said, and that starts with putting a plan in place that encompasses potential disasters and how to deal with them. 

Monitoring centers can be impacted by more than just weather events, Narowski noted, such as man made accidents, IT mishaps, loss of utilities, or phishing attempts to name a few. 

Narowski outlined the soft and hard costs in setting up a business continuity plan; soft costs are the research and information gathering to set up the plan, yards costs include items like back up facilities and networking equipment. 

Cliff presented a case study, of a medical alert company utilizing DICE for its disaster recovery during a hurricane. He discussed that the set up can look right, but other factors can impede roll over to the DR site, like errors in accounting or the company trying to utilize numbers that were no longer connected. Though, DICE was able to iron things out. 
 
Drawing on recent experience, Morales discussed what it was like to operate a monitoring center in Puerto Rico during Hurricane Maria. Maintaining power was  one challenge, he said; Genesis utilized a diesel generator 24/7 for about 4 months, which meant procuring that much fuel. During the emergency, the company kept a stock of food, water and beds for its workers. 

Morales also pointed out some of the measures Genesis has built in post-hurricane, such as a 1,300 gallon diesel tank for its generator and a contract with a main fuel provider, implementing solar panels for additional energy and increasing internet redundancies.

As I’ve seen throughout the industry in recent years, cybersecurity is certainly a growing concern. The session I next went to handled how this threat applies to monitoring centers. “HACKED! Important Steps to Protect your Company (and Yourself) AFTER a Cyberattack,” featured the moderator Sascha Kylau, vice president of central station solutions and services for OneTel Security, and panelists Jay Grant, senior systems engineer with Symantec, and Joshua Grecko, senior vice president of engineering.

Grecko opened the session with a brief overview of UL 2900, the new cyber standard from UL, and some of its iterations. He also covered coming changes to UL 827, such as the inclusion of more NIST standards.

Grant asked the audience: What do you do after you’ve been hacked? At that point it’s too late. “Grab a coworker and have a good cry,” because it’s going to be a bad day, he said. Companies should focus on what they have in place for detection, instead of waiting until you’ve been hacked, and recognize the most valuable assets in their company—the ones that absolutely need to be protected.

At the end of the day, hackers will probably get in, Grant said, but companies can stop hackers from getting everything and kick them out of the system with next to nothing for their effort. That’s the goal, he said.

There are a variety of tactics and technologies that can help with false alarms, and the session “Plagued by False Alarms? Audio/Video Alarm Verification Best Practices” brought up quite a few of them. Steve Walker, VP of Stanley Convergent Security Solutions, Mike Tupy, director of monitoring technology for Vivint, David Snyder, VP of security operations for Eyewitness Surveillance, and Tom Nakatani, IT VP—customer monitoring technology and product for ADT Security, were on the panel, with Larry Folsom, president of I-View Now, as the session’s moderator.

Ninety-eight percent of alarms are false, Folsom said, citing the number from the Texas Police Chiefs Association. In addition to that, outbound calls made during an alarm are often going unanswered, as people don’t often pick up their phone if they don’t recognize the number, Folsom said. False alarms are expensive, and they take up law enforcement resources. “I believe the answer is better information,” Folsom said.

Each of the panelists presented on one technology that they were familiar with. First, Walker presented on video verification. While this technology results in a better decision on alarms, it takes time to review video clips. Verification also requires operators to judge the intent of people on cameras at a location; all in all, while it’s beneficial, the technology can be taxing for the operators, Walker said.

Tupy took on two-way audio verification. What is two way audio? It is when an alarm trips and the panel initiates two-way audio capabilities, allowing alarm operators to interact with the people on site. Being able to reach people—who might not be on the alarm’s call list—as soon as an alarm is triggered helps reduces false alarm dispatches, he said. Though, you miss what you can’t hear, Tupy said, as sometimes the people on site can be to far from the system to hear or there can be ambient sounds.

Snyder addressed interactive monitoring. This is where analytics in a camera trigger alarm clips to be reviewed, independent of an intrusion alarm. It works well outside, he mentioned. The can be cheaper than guards, provides improved situational awareness, and works with audio, he continued. Some situations are very clear, such as people in ski masks carrying things around a warehouse at night, but the gray area situations are a bit more difficult, Snyder said.

Nakatani spoke about the future of verification. For video verification, he noted on inexpensive devices getting better and the increase in popularity of outdoor cameras. He also connected the trend of two-way audio and more smart speakers throughout a home.

The closing keynote luncheon featured a conversation about school security, moderated by Louisiana State Fire MarshalH. "Butch" Browning, with Guy Grace, director of security and emergency planning for Littleton Public Schools and director of the Partner Alliance for Safer Schools, and Ryan Petty, SVP of business solutions with Liberty Latin America’s Cable & Wireless subsidiary and founder of The WalkUp Foundation.

This presentation is also personal for Petty, as he lost his daughter Alaina in the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that occurred February in Parkland, Fla.

Key themes that the speakers highlighted was that there is often information about potential threats—among students, teachers, parents or other authorities—that isn’t being shared. “There are signs along the way,” Petty said, and that information needs to be shared.

From a security standpoint, one thing that can be done is to get a better idea of who should and shouldn’t be on the school campus, and reducing entry points into the school can help with that, Petty said.

Grace highlighted one new technology that has helped, an app that lets school children report suspicious behavior anonymously.

Ryan encouraged people to be engaged, and look into how their district deals with security issues and threats.

Thursday, June 21

My first session of the second day was “Improving the Customer Interaction Experience: Strategies to Consider Before Implementing IVR in the Monitoring Center.” Here, Peter Giacalone, president of Giacalone Associates, and Morgan Hertel, VP of technology and innovation for Rapid Response Monitoring, presented on interactive voice response technologies, or IVR, and the benefits for the companies that implement them and their users.

The main benefit of IVR is not its reduction of labor for a company like a monitoring, but instead providing a better user experience, and it can be utilized to achieve both, Giacalone said.

Hertel used Rapid Response’s relationship with Connect America, a PERS company, as an example for the benefits of IVR, though he said the technology benefits other companies in the space as well. One observation about senior users of PERS systems is that they often don’t want to bother people or be a burden, Hertel said, and that can be a difficulty when asking them to test their systems frequently. With IVR their test signals are handled quickly, and through automation. He also highlighted the reduced work load for test signals by handling those with IVR.

The rollout process for IVR should be a careful consideration, Hertel said, not something that goes on overnight but rolled out in phases with different groups. 

For a few years now I’ve been hearing about the concept and potential for on demand or pay-as-you-go monitoring models. A panel tackled exactly this topic in “Next Gen Monitoring—Do Monitoring on Demand or Pay-as-you-Use Models Really Work?” Morgan Hertel served as moderator, leading panelists Caroline Brown, EVP form Security Central, Mark Matlock, SVP of UCC, and Thomas Nakatani, IT VP—customer monitoring technology and product, ADT Security.

Customers understand that, with the MIY model, they do need to eventually sleep or go on vacation, Hertel said to open the conversation, and when they don’t want to they’ll seek a professional monitoring options.

UCC does some work with DIY installed systems, such as Lowe’s’ Iris offering. Matlock said that, overall, the company has seen a good adoption rate from MIY set ups to on demand customers.

Asked about the typical usage for monitoring from on demand customers, Matlock and Brown estimated about 10 days. Nakatani mentioned that ADT is a little different in its model, offering one month at a time.

Hertel brought up a key question: while there is an opportunity for new business from offering pay-as-you-go monitoring, will it take revenue out of existing customers who then want to downgrade their system? Each panelist seemed to portray it as more of an opportunity than a risk. Brown said that it’s important to offer the dealers different options, Matlock said that he doesn’t foresee losing many customers to DIY, and Nakatani sees tremendous opportunity for DIY and monitoring on demand.

Don Yaeger, associate editor, Sports Illustrated, NY Times best seller, presented the Thursday general session titled, “Great Teams Understand ‘Why.’”

When Yaeger started looking at what makes great teams great, he said he looked at two types of teams: those that make up exceptional sports teams, and those that make up outstanding companies.

One of the things Yaeger noted on in his presentation was that companies should look for the signs and clues of success from successes in the industry. “The truly great ones are always studying each other,” he said.

He also addressed culture, specifically that a team’s culture will form either through design or default, Yaeger said. And a key part of a culture is understanding why the team is there, who it is that they working for—whether that is friends, family or a certain cause or group of people.

According to Yaeger, culture can influence behavior, behavior brings about habits, and habits can lead to success.

Getting the right people is important for every organization, and several speakers that I’ve heard in the past few years have addressed the challenge with different approaches—and I’ve been interested to hear the variety and universal focus on the matter. That’s why, for the last session of the day, I attended “The Perfect Fit: New Strategies for Attracting and Retaining the Right Operators.” This session featured Michelle Lindus, central station manager for Vivint Smart Home, Steve Crist, director of monitoring, ADS Security, and Bill Kasko, president and CEO, Frontline Source Group.

There are now more job openings than people looking to work, Kasko pointed out, which means that companies are going to have to find individuals in new and ingenious ways. While before companies looked at college recruiting, now some are getting involved at the high school level, to get their brand out to potential employees even earlier, he said.

Lindus brought up that Vivint has programs that event engage parents and children in elementary school.

One thing Kasko recommended was a instituting a referral program, where current employees can recommend their friends for open positions. “Great people know great people,” Kasko said.

Lindus added to that, saying about 30 to 35 percent of new hires come through a referral program. Crist said that 50 percent of new hires that he sees are coming from referral programs.

Crist also stressed that job applicants of all ages ask about possibilities for advancement or developing their careers.

Wednesday, June 20

I started my day with this year’s OpenXchange breakfast. Held on the main stage, Michael Simmons, CEO of Driveway, Mike Soucie, senior product marketing manager for Google, and Jeremy Warren, chief technology officer for Vivint Smart Home gathered for a discussion, moderated by ESX chairman George De Marco.

In large letters projected onto a screen, De Marco highlighted the idea of disruption and some key questions around that topic, such as whether a company is changing as fast as the world around them, or if there are factors blinding a company to change. 

Each of the speakers was given the opportunity to introduce themselves, their company, and their perspective.

Simmons outlined the mission for his company, Driveway, as wanting to cure car crashes. The Driveway app utilizes mobile phone sensors to keep track of driving habits and keep users safer. It can let a parent know if their child is not available to talk or text due to driving and it can alert authorities in the event of a crash, among other functions. “We’re all in the peace of mind business in one way or another,” he told the audience.

Soucie define his role with Google as seeing how Google, Nest and partners work together. He addressed his reason for being—as a company with a primarily DIY product offering—at a professional security conference: “We actually believe there is a tremendous market opportunity for your, for this channel.”

Warren stood up and posed some considerations to the audience around changes in the market place, such as what to do if new companies enter the market with different ideas of profit margins for similar offerings.

Among a variety of questions, De Marco asked was about how to make sure that dealers and integrators remain the preferred home providers.

According to Warren, it’s about finding out where it is that companies are really providing differentiated value.

Soucie brought up making business models around reducing complexity for consumers, as well as hearing from consumers what is important to them.

From Simmons’ perspective, it will be important to have great customer experience, but also around a profitable business model.

The first educational session I attended for ESX 2018 was, “The Monitoring Center of the Future is Here Now! – Technology You Must Leverage to Thrive,” featuring Mike Tupy, director of central station technology at Vivint Smart Home, Ken Green, CEO of ItsPayd, and Justin Bailey, president and COO of AvantGuard.

Tupy opened the session with an overview of several topics. He started with the alarm panel, saying that he hopes attending companies aren’t installing any more systems on POTS lines. Keeping users upgraded is important, he noted, and even if it comes at a fee. His comparison: people will pay to upgrade their cell phones, so why not their security system?

Monitoring companies can also look at their receivers, he said, as a way to increase more accounts coming in or help with redundancy.

Green brought up the changes in paths of communication and how to best reach customers, specifically hitting upon the value of text messages. He offered several reasons for why companies should look into offering text messages: it can provide a competitive edge, it can improve customer experience, it offers flexibility, and it can help reach new younger customers—the millennials.

Bailey covered uses for analytics and other data analysis tools. Staffing is one problem that affects a lot of monitoring centers, he noted. The right analytic tools can provide a better picture of where the best operators are coming from and metrics can show how and why a great operator is a great operator.

Certain tools can also look into alarm traffic and whether the number of operators on staff is perhaps too light or too much.

Tupy added that looking into historical data can also help, such as with knowing roughly what to expect on the Fourth of July as opposed to a more typical Wednesday.

Younger generations that are entering the work force now can be accustomed to plenty of feedback, Bailey said, and the right dashboards can provide information on how an employee has been doing or how they’ve improved.

At this year’s Opening Keynote Luncheon, Scott Stratten, president of UnMarketing, presented “The Age of Disruption: Everything Has Changed and Nothing is Different.”

Stratten said that the most effective marketing happens not through marketing campaigns but through interactions between employees and customers. “The front line affects your bottom line,” he said; companies often want good word of mouth but that means doing things that would be worth talking about. Creating stories that evoke an emotion makes them more likely to be shared, Stratten said.

Brands and how they are perceived can change, Stratten said. For instance, he asked the audience to shout what came to mind when they thought of The Ritz-Carlton. Some attendees said “expensive” or “luxury.”

Stratten told the story of a child losing their stuffed animal at a property of The Ritz-Carlton. The child’s parents said that the stuffed giraffe, named Joshie, was just on an extended vacation and would return. A laundry worker found Joshie, recognized its importance, and brought it to the attention of a front desk employee. Joshie was sent back to its family, along with pictures of the toy lounging at the beach or in the spa, working for The Ritz-Carlton—even with a new ID badge made for the giraffe.

Asked again how the audience would define the hotel brand, attendees used words like “caring.”

Tuesday, June 19

I landed late this afternoon in warm Nashville, Tenn., for this year's ESX. It was great to see some familiar faces at the opening reception. I'll be updating this blog with daily updates on the educational sessions I'm attending, the keynote sessions and some of my meetings from the show floor. Be sure to check back for more perspective on the show! 

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