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by: Rich Miller - Wednesday, May 9, 2012

ESX attendees who want to get an inside look at a CSAA Five Diamond central station will get their chance on June 26 when ADS Security hosts a tour of its monitoring facility in Nashville.

A motor coach will take tour participants from the Nashville Convention Center to ADS headquarters, where the company's latest monitoring technology will be on display. After the tour, ADS will host a cocktail reception to meet company staff and discuss operations at the central.

ADS serves more than 70,000 commercial and residential customers throughout the Southeast, providing burglar, fire alarm, video surveillance and access control systems. Each central station operator at ADS is Five Diamond certified.

The tour, sponsored by Honeywell Security Group, runs from 4-6:30 p.m. Space is limited. The cost is $75 if registration is received by June 1 and $100 thereafter. For more information, go to www.esxweb.com.

by: Rich Miller - Wednesday, May 2, 2012

What may have seemed like a pipe dream to many a few years ago—getting the alarm industry, the law enforcement community and the insurance industry on the same page—is now reality with the Partnership for Priority Video Alarm Response.

The new public/private partnership brings together all of the stakeholders in property crime to reduce losses and increase arrests through the use of video intrusion alarms. Among the participants are the National Sheriffs Association and the National Insurance Crime Bureau, with Don Young of Protection 1 and Steve Walker of Stanley Convergent Security Solutions representing the alarm industry on the PPVAR board.

"We are beginning to have credible data with encouraging results of arrest rates hundreds of times what is found with traditional alarms," said Keith Jentoft, coordinator for the partnership and president of RSI Video Technologies. "We have been working with many alarm companies, law enforcement and PSAPs, as well as insurers who ultimately pay the bill for property crime. This partnership will help gather real-world examples of what is working best for all the stakeholders."

Jentoft said large third-party monitoring companies have also gotten on board, including CMS, UCC and Rapid Response. On the law enforcement side, the Los Angeles Sheriffs Department—the second-largest police organization in the country—has joined and has designated a representative.

"If you ask people, nobody has ever heard of an organization that has brought together all of the stakeholders, so we're pretty excited about it," Jentoft said.

I'll have more soon on the partnership in the online and print editions of SSN.

by: Rich Miller - Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Talk about overages.

Stranded on a remote island in the South Atlantic with more than 70 other travelers, Bob Bonifas had the distinction of being the only person with a satellite phone. That meant using a lot of minutes: about 1,500 as of Wednesday, with five or six more days of dialing ahead until the group finally gets back to the mainland.

Bonifas, president and CEO of Aurora, Ill.-based Alarm Detection Systems, is among 73 passengers who were diverted to South Georgia Island last week aboard Plancius, a 293-foot polar cruise ship. The vessel was en route from Argentina to Ascension Island on a 31-day sightseeing tour, but engine problems brought the trip to an early end. That resulted in nine-day stay on South Georgia, a desolate former whaling outpost near Antarctica that doesn’t have much to offer beyond gulls and grass.

The layover wasn't easy for Bonifas.

“He’s not a guy who sits around a lot,” said Connie Busby, Bonifas' daughter, who told Security Systems News on Tuesday that she had talked to her father every day of his layover via his satellite phone. “On the nice days like yesterday—he said it was 45 and sunny—they did get out and do some hiking. There’s a chapel on the island that’s not inhabited, and they went to that on Sunday and just kind of hung out for awhile.”

A chartered relief ship picked up Bonifas and his fellow passengers Wednesday and is bringing them to Uruguay. They are expected to arrive on April 24.

Bonifas isn’t a stranger to spending time in remote places. He is ranked No. 3 on MostTraveledPeople.com, a website that tracks adventurers trying to become the first to visit 872 global destinations. South Georgia Island was the 800th destination for Bonifas, but his quest is on hold while he bides his time and tacks on phone minutes.

“When you’re an extreme world traveler, I guess sooner or later it kind of catches up to you, and I guess it did this time,” Busby said.  

by: Rich Miller - Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Social networking is a double-edged sword. It can be a boon to communication, but an ill-advised post can rebound to haunt you—and maybe your central—even if it’s quickly deleted.

So how do you manage the use of these sites and actually get them to help your business?

A CSAA webinar, “Social Media in the Central Station,” will take on the topic from 1 to 2 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, April 18. The session will be presented by Annie Roderick, monitoring center manager for Wayne Alarm Systems of Lynn, Mass., and Melissa Courville, a marketing executive with DICE Corp. and chairwoman of the CSAA Social Media Committee.

“Networking sites like Facebook and Twitter … give way to fast blurb results that can be easily found over the Internet at any time, sometimes linking to your business,” Courville said. “Not only are these social media outlets quick and easy to use, but they offer both helpful and hurtful connotations to business reputations.”

The webinar, adapted from material shared at the 2011 CSAA Fall Operations Management Seminar, will teach attendees how to harness the power of networking sites and how to address central station staff about their use. Case studies will be shared to illustrate the do’s and don’ts.

Space for the session is limited. To reserve a seat, go to the CSAA registration site.

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by: Rich Miller - Wednesday, April 4, 2012

American Public Media’s “Marketplace” weighed in on false alarms this week, with the featured guest delivering a decidedly unfavorable verdict for the security industry: Alarm customers might be better off relying on a dog.

Program host Kai Ryssdal interviewed Stephen Dubner of Freakonomics.com, who cited a litany of figures and study results that don’t reflect well on alarm companies. Here’s a bit of what Dubner had to say on the show, which aired on National Public Radio:

—“We talked to Simon Hakim, an economist at Temple who’s been studying this issue for a long time. He says that in a given year, U.S. police respond to more than 35 million alarm activations. … Something like 95 percent of them are false alarms and the cost is about $2 billion.”

—“Financial analysts say that industry leader ADT ... has an operating margin of about 25 percent on roughly $3 billion [in] annual revenues. So these false alarms pose what economists call a negative externality. That is, the provider charges you for the service, but then they pass along a big part of their costs to someone else. In this case, the police departments and the taxpayers who support them.”

—“Well, it’s probably a good idea to make the alarm companies more accountable in some fashion, including having them make alarms that don’t fail so often. … As for me, I think I’m just going to ditch my new alarm that seems to go off every five minutes.”

Dubner then referred to his new deterrent—growling can be heard in the background—and told Ryssdal, “Go ahead. Make my dog’s day.”

On the positive side, Dubner quoted Hakim as saying that alarm systems deter burglars to some degree, citing “the sign in the yard and the threat of the alarm and the police.” He also quoted Ron Walters, director of the Security Industry Alarm Coalition, who said false alarms are SIAC’s “No. 1 priority. This is the one issue that we have decided has to be addressed.”

The incidence of user error was briefly mentioned, along with the move toward more video monitoring to verify whether an alarm call is legit. But that was about it for the bouquets, which points to the long-standing need to better educate customers and improve relationships with law enforcement to reduce false dispatches.

It’s either that or the doghouse.  

by: Rich Miller - Monday, April 2, 2012

ISC West 2012 is in the books.

As expected, Day Three was a bit quieter than the opening two acts, but there was still plenty of action for those who chose to stay for the duration. Here are a few details from my stops on the final day:

— Don Maden, executive VP for COPS Monitoring, said the company is putting the final cosmetic touches on its new central station in Dallas, with an anticipated opening sometime in May. COPS has also rebranded its COP-A-Link online management tool for dealers as MPower and has added "a whole series of technical improvements to make the customer experience more seamless."

— Uplink VP Michael Gregory provided a rundown of new offerings from his company, including the Uplink 5100 universal broadband alarm communicator. The device is the company's "first broadband solution," enabling a dial-up alarm system to transmit signals and two-way voice over an Internet connection.

— Micro Key Solutions President Victoria Ferro detailed the company's new WebTech app, which gives technicians access to accounts in the field with any Web-enabled device. "It gives techs remote access to tickets, Google directions, signature capture and credit card payments," she said. "It's green, reduces the costs of paper, and provides better customer service by putting information at [techs'] fingertips."

— Wayne Alter, chairman of the board for Dynamark Monitoring, was still meeting-and-greeting during the final two hours of ISC West. Alter, who was joined by Tom Piston, VP of sales and marketing, and Michael Hutcher, VP of product services, said it had been "a great show" for the Hagerstown, Md.-based company.

That sentiment seemed to be echoed across the expanse of the Sands Expo, with many exhibitors predicting better days ahead for the industry as the economy continues to rebound. As the show ended and the booths were broken down, thoughts turned to the next big event on the calendar. For the monitoring industry, that means ESX.

See you in Nashville ...

by: Rich Miller - Friday, March 30, 2012

ISC West kept up a strong head of steam on Day Two.

It started at 7:30 a.m. with the Security 5K to benefit Mission 500, a nonprofit group that aids impoverished children. An impressive turnout of runners raised an equally impressive funding total, according to race organizers, and the group later said it had topped its goal of 500 children sponsored.

Then it was on to the show floor for another day of networking and discussion among the thousands, with no letup from Day One’s brisk pace. Here are a few details from my stops along the way:

— Secure Global Solutions announced a May 1 launch for a new app, Stages Metrix, that will give users tablet access to key central station performance figures.
— Keith Jentoft of Videofied provided an update of the growing alliance between insurers, law enforcement and central stations to increase arrests and reduce false dispatches with the use of video alarms.
— Cliff Dice of Dice Corp. detailed his company’s Matrix software, which brings video into a browser environment and opens the door to continuous RMR for integrators.
— Morgan Hertel, the new VP of operations for Rapid Response, disclosed that the company is planning to build a new central station in the West sometime in the next year.
— Gordon Hope of AlarmNet at Honeywell talked about the move to 4G and the June 1 release of the LYNX Touch 5100 wireless control panel with Wi-Fi communications module, which finds the best signal—2G, 3G or 4G—in the user’s area.

Like Day One, there was obviously much more, but I’ll put it to bed for now and gear up for tomorrow’s finale. See you there …  

 

by: Rich Miller - Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Quite the first day for a first-timer at ISC West, and for a first-timer to Vegas to boot. Now I can understand what all the fuss was about leading up to the show.

Day One started with a “Meet the Editors” session at the SSN booth—No. 27065, stop by if you get a chance—which was followed by a full slate of media gatherings and meet-and-greets. Here were a few:

— I got the lowdown from ASSA ABLOY on what it’s doing to fill the “medium security” gap for access control, or components targeting the void between $200 and $4,000. The company sees a growth market there and is moving to take advantage.

— Bill Hobgood, project director for the Department of Information Technology, Public Safety Team, for the city of Richmond, Va., gave a firsthand account of what ASAP can do for speeding the flow of information between central stations and PSAPs. If you’re still holding on to the phone as the future, Richmond’s experience will change your mind.

— Chris Holbert, CEO of SecuraTrac, told me how the company’s new app, SecuraFone, disables social media sites when in motion—hello, distracted teens—along with immobilizing email and texting. Other features include physical tracking and more importantly, emergency response for seniors. SecuraTrac is teaming with Mace CS to expand along this avenue in the future.

— Bosch acknowledged the hectic pace of the day with a 5 p.m. session that featured a truck giveaway and happy hour refreshments, which turned out to be a real crowd-pleaser. A great way to end a long day on the floor.

My day isn’t done yet—I’m about the step out the door to attend a UCC cocktail party—and Day Two and Day Three await, so I’ll sign off for now. Much more ahead, hopefully with a decent night’s sleep to take it all in. The young and lively door-bangers in the room next door may have something to say about that, though. This is Vegas, after all …    

by: Rich Miller - Monday, March 26, 2012

Morgan Hertel has been named vice president of operations at Rapid Response Monitoring.

That information, courtesy of a new posting on his LinkedIn profile, greeted me today as I packed up my laptop and headed out the door to ISC West. It marks a quick turnaround for Hertel, who just two weeks ago stepped down as vice president and general manager for Mace CS.

In a March 12 news release from Mace Security International, the company said Hertel’s departure was “for personal reasons” and that he would be “working closely with Mace CS in a consulting role over the next several months.” Hertel took over as director of operations at the company’s wholesale central station in Anaheim, Calif., shortly after the CSSS acquisition in 2009.

As for what lies ahead at Rapid, the 30-year industry veteran states on LinkedIn that he’s working on “several high-level projects and initiatives. … At Rapid Response I have many resources, some of which include a complete software development team, a huge IT and technical staff and one of the most educated and talented operations and finance groups consisting of almost 400 staff members.”

Hertel will be a panelist at ISC West at an educational session titled “NFPA 72: Are You Ready for the Changes?” If I can’t catch up with him before I get on the plane, hopefully I’ll get a chance to do so at the show. It will be interesting to see how his expertise comes into play at Rapid.  

by: Rich Miller - Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Calling all alarm companies …

Are you robocalling into the void in an attempt to land new business, or to sell new products and services to existing customers? There are new rules that will soon affect you.

Under provisions of an order adopted Feb. 15 by the Federal Communications Commission, express written consent will be required from consumers before a company can place a marketing robocall to a residential or wireless number. The FCC also will require telemarketers to provide an automated “opt out” mechanism during each robocall, and it is sunsetting an important exemption for businesses placing such calls.

The bottom line for the alarm industry is that companies using robocalls to market products and services will no longer be able to do so under the “established business relationship” exception, according to Lou Fiore, chairman of the Alarm Industry Communications Committee. Instead, companies will have to obtain prior customer approval.

The good news for alarm companies is that the AICC petitioned regulators to protect certain industry uses of robocalling, and Fiore said the FCC adopted final rules that did just that.

“Alarm companies that use robocalls to try to reach customers to verify an alarm [after initial attempts by a live operator] should be able to continue such practice because it would appear to qualify as a call made for emergency purposes, and not a call made for a commercial purpose,” Fiore wrote in an online AICC missive. Calls to verify service appointments and to collect debt also will not require prior consent.

Implementation of the new rules is pending publication of approval by the Office of Management and Budget in the Federal Register. The exact time frame for that is uncertain, but it will happen. To determine the extent that it will affect the industry, the AICC is asking companies that use robocalling for marketing purposes to contact Fiore at ltfiore@aol.com by Friday, March 23.

And those political robocalls that we all know and love? They’ll still be allowed. Only seven months till November …

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