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by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Connect America, a multi-channel PERS and home medical distribution company based here, is growing its market presence in the central U.S. with its recent acquisition of Home Buddy, a Kansas based PERS and medical solution provider with about 4,000 subscribers.

“The goal is to grow that geography into Oklahoma, Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa … to create a large regional base of operations for the business,” Richard Brooks, president of Connect America’s Healthcare Division, told Security Systems News.

Home Buddy has been in business for about 10 years, Brooks said. “It’s one of the largest providers of PERS in Kansas.”

While Home Buddy does not deal with alarm dealers, Connect America does, buying PERS accounts from a network of Alarm Dealers across the country, according to Brooks. “They’re a steady, reliable part of our business,” he said. Home Buddy distributes through “Medicaid-type agencies,” he said.

Discussions of the acquisition between the two companies started in late 2015, he said, and the deal closed in early May. Terms of the deal were not announced.

Connect America intends to keep the Home Buddy name, Brooks said, because its well known in the area and has existing contracts under that name.

Brooks said that his main goal with the company is building its healthcare division. “We grow organically, we have a sales force nationally, and they are locally meeting people to obtain referrals for our medical alerts,” he said.

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, July 6, 2016

DICE recently announced the latest expansions to its operations team; James Beaty joins DICE in the newly created role of VP of operations and Jen Balash was promoted to director of account management.

The operations team will be focused on maintaining a cohesive environment between different departments of DICE, Beaty told Security Systems News. “Part of what I do is make sure that we’re working together and as efficiently as we can,” he said.

Beaty said one thing he is specifically looking at is improving internal communications between divisions and making sure that division leaders meet on a regular basis. “When we become more efficient, we become more efficient for our customers,” he said.

“As far as operations, Cliff [Dice] had seen a need for someone in a business position to bring together all the entities,” Beaty said. Beaty joined DICE in May, previously working with wholesale central station United Central Control

Beaty said that an important part of the team is Balash’s recent promotion. “By being promoted to director of account management, she has a team now that [is] specifically focused on getting new products to our clients, resolving any issues that they may have.”

A team had been in place at DICE, Beaty said, comprised of operations leaders in different departments. Currently the operations team is, in addition to Beaty and Balash, comprised of Amy Augustin, with DICE’s creative department, Stephen Senk, director of IT operations and Jerry Corrion, director of development.

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by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, June 29, 2016

In last week’s Monitoring Matters blog, I discussed the Apple Watch’s new SOS feature, and its similarities and differences between PERS functions. A few security professionals took me up on the opportunity to respond.

Daniel Oppenheim, VP of Affiliated Monitoring, said that the heightened consumer awareness of personal emergency features could grow the market, instead of cannibalize it, and that the demographics are different. “I think the Apple Watch, specifically, is for a more mobile, more active, more tech-savvy person who would not yet be an mPERS or PERS customer.” Affiliated hosted a PERS-focused conference in May.

He pointed to Amazon, and its Echo product, as another possible entrant. “In its current iteration, the Amazon Echo is not competition, but it is a harbinger of things to come, which is the realization that consumer products now have the ability to replicate or even improve on the current technology offerings of our industry.”

Oppenheim said that neither are large concerns, but something the industry should keep an eye on. “I don’t view either [Amazon Echo’s virtual assistant] Alexa or the Apple Watch as a near-term threat to the PERS industry—I think it’s something that we need to be focused on.”

Brock Winzeler, GM of mPERS manufacturer Freeus, didn’t see much threat in the announced Apple SOS feature. “I don’t think the impact would be significant,” he said. “The reason is: It is very, very difficult to replace the services that we offer. … Our devices call a monitoring center that is specifically built to handle PERS phone calls and PERS emergencies.” 

Oppenheim shared a similar sentiment on the value of a monitoring center. “That crucial decision making process, by which an operator can have a conversation and identify whether or not help is needed—and stay on the line with the customer as help is on its way, for those that do need it—I do not see that being replaced by technology.”

Speaking more generally on voice interaction, Oppenheim said that the technology could become more prevalent in the future. “It seems complex now, but in a short period of time, the concept of voice interaction with a virtual assistant will become commonplace.”

Winzeler also said there is a technology barrier for the traditional PERS demographics. “I think you’ll have a really tough time getting the senior demographic to adopt this type of technology. I think it’s just a little more challenging.”

Rich Darling, CEO of Instant Care, an OEM PERS manufacturer, also said that PERS and Apple Watch feature differ due to their target users' abilities. “It is our belief that the Apple watch is a fantastic device for the tech savvy user. However, as a … PERS OEM we have found that the most successful products targeting the PERS market are designed to require very little from the user, and perform as required when the need arises.”

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Apple recently announced a new ‘SOS’ feature coming to the Apple Watch—similar to a PERS device.

If an Apple Watch user holds down the device’s side button, emergency services local to that user’s location will be notified, as well as emergency contacts.

I spoke with former Numera CEO, current Group VP of the Nortek Innovations & Incubation Foundry, about how the Nortek offerings compare to the announced features of the Apple Watch SOS. He said one particular differentiator for Nortek is "the advanced fall detection capabilities. In order to have highly reliable fall detection, you need to have something around your torso."

Smokoff noted the difference in battery life. The Apple Watch lasts about 18 hours and the Libris mPERS device lasts “about 2-and-a-half days on average,” he said.

There is a gap in price between the Apple Watch, which needs an iPhone to work, and the Libris mPERS device which stands alone and costs less than the Apple Watch by itself.

While I’ve heard of new and emerging markets for personal emergency devices—such as hikers, lone workers or for college campus safety—many of the PERS and mPERS companies I’ve spoken with point to the aging-in-place market as the market’s main demographic.

It seems to me that there are several reasons why the Apple Watch SOS feature wouldn’t break into the aging-in-place market. Firstly, both the Apple Watch and the user’s iPhone need to be charged and both devices need to be near each other.

Second, older PERS or mPERS users may not be as comfortable with technology and, therefore, less likely to own and operate an iPhone in conjunction with an Apple Watch.

Should people take notice of Apple’s entrance in the market? Will Apple take customers away from dealers in the PERS and mPERS space? If you have any thoughts, feel free to email me: sives@securitysystemsnews.com.

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, June 15, 2016

I recently got the chance to have an email conversation with CMS’ president Tony Wilson about the company working with Honeywell’s DragonFly DIY offering. The DragonFly product is a self-installed system that is tied to professional monitoring. Wilson said the company hopes to have dealers on the DIY program by the end of June.

Wilson said that this is the first DIY solution that CMS is offering its dealers, adding that the company is also “considering adding an additional DIY program that will offer a more traditional security system solution.”

CMS has been looking at the DIY offering since April 2015, according to Wilson. “In April 2015, CMS hosted a small dealer meeting, where one of the hot topics was the growing DIY market. I invited Keith Jentoft, president of RSI/Videofied at the time, to speak at that dealer meeting. Keith introduced the DragonFly offering to the group, and there was a fairly positive response from that small group of dealers.”

“Once we knew the majority of our dealers were interested it was a no-brainer,” he said. “We ramped up the integration of DragonFly with our monitoring platform, and started educating our Business Development team about the product.”

“After a year or so of discussion with our dealers about the DIY business model, and the growth of DIY as a competitor in the security market, we’re hoping that this is an easy way for them to combat against sales they’re losing to DIY only companies.”

Wilson also said that the offering could help CMS dealers enter new markets, “like renters, and all those millennials who don’t see the value in a traditional security system.”

The company announced the DragonFly offering at ISC West, alongside its new proprietary dealer portal, CMS Compass. “Our dealers are excited about the mobile app, the real time data entry, and easy access to reporting.  They realize that CMS Compass is going to be much more than a dealer portal, it’s going to help them navigate their business in a whole new way. … [It] should be ready for our dealers by the end of July.”

CMS is a wholesale monitoring company under Protection 1. Concerning the recent deal merger with Protection 1 and ASG, a company spokesperson declined to discuss the deal, saying that not much has changed at CMS.

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Doyle Security Systems acquired Albany Protective Services yesterday, adding 1,100 accounts to the company, almost doubling Doyle’s presence in the Albany area.

“It gives us a great expansion in our Albany market—just a much stronger presence,” John Doyle Jr., company president and CEO, told Security Systems News. Prior to the acquisition, the company had about 1,400 accounts in that area.

Doyle has been working on the deal for about 6 months. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Albany Protective’s account base is mostly commercial, Doyle said. “Their split is about 70 percent commercial and 30 percent residential.”

APS had operated its own UL central station, but Doyle is transferring the accounts to its monitoring center in the Rochester, N.Y., area. “They were on the same software platform as we were, which was really helpful—for both their monitoring and their billing,” Doyle said, both companies used Bold Manitou for automation and Sedona for billing. “It’s been a very smooth process. It’s not 100 percent done, but its pretty close.”

Four employees from Albany Protective Services are joining Doyle. Former president and majority owner of APS, Mark Foster, is joining Doyle’s Albany office in a management position, the company announced. Ross Foster, who was part owner of APS, will work in Doyle’s sales, and two service technicians are joining the team from APS.

“Mark Foster—he just has tremendous knowledge about the industry and his customer base. Bringing him on board was very important to us, and likewise with his brother Ross. … Having them on our team is just a huge plus for us,” Doyle said.

The company now has about 27,000 accounts. Doyle said that it is not every day you see two multi-generational family businesses joining forces. APS, a third-generation family business, was founded in 1935, and Doyle is a fourth-generation business, founded in 1919.

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, May 25, 2016

PALO ALTO, Calif.—Abode, a DIY security company that got crowdfunded last year, is now offering professional monitoring—full time or on-demand—from UCC, and the company is actively looking for partnerships with security companies.

“We always had the plan to introduce [monitoring options], but our goal first was to get the product out in peoples’ hands and really drive some of the early feedback to actually make our product better, before we went down the road of charging people for services,” Chris Carney, abode’s founder and CEO, told Security Systems News. Prior to starting abode, Carney was in the traditional security space, working with ADT and Tyco.

The company offers its system with three plans. Its “Basic” plan is MIY with professional monitoring on-demand with no monthly fee. The “Connect” plan offers everything in the basic plan with a 3G cellular back up for $10 a month. Abode’s “Connect + Secure” plan gives users all the functionality of its Connect plan with full professional monitoring, for $30 per month.

The company started shipping products to consumers in November and currently has 1,000 users in 27 countries. “Our goal is to hit 10,000 users in our first twelve months,” Carney said. Users outside the U.S. are on the non-monitored option, but the company is currently integrating with foreign central stations to support other plans, he said.

Abode launched its monitoring options last week. The company offers two options for on-demand monitoring: $8 for three days or $15 for one week.

Abode is currently only sold directly to consumer, but that could change. “We do want to look at the security space as a place to partner with companies,” Carney said. This partnership would appeal to companies that want a DIY offering in their portfolio. Partnering companies would have abode accounts monitored through UCC, he said.

“We can get partners up an running on a pilot in a few weeks,” Carney said. “Our goal is to maintain our brand as part of these relationships, we would be willing to discuss other branding solutions with dealers on a case by case basis.”

Dealers would own the accounts and the possible RMR. “Our solution will also provide the dealers the opportunity to become the trusted advisor for the users entire connected home in addition to their security consultant,” Carney said.

The abode system can also verify alarms which can reduce false alarms. “Every system that we send has visual verification of events,” abode co-founder Brent Franks said.

“We’re focused 100 percent on security, but essentially our product is a smart home in a box,” Carney said. “We also have the ability to add other third party devices that are ZigBee or Z-Wave.” 

The insurance space is another area for possible partnerships, according to Carney. This could include a “co–branded solution directly sold by the partner to their customers as a security offering [or] offering the abode branded solution to their customers as way for their policy holders to save money on their insurance. These are still in testing stage, but look to be a very viable channel for our fully integrated solution.”

by: Spencer Ives - Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Thursday, Day 2

This morning I got to speak with Ron Davis, president of Davis Group, and Adam Matlin, COO of Think Protection and one of Security Systems News’ “20 under 40” Class of 2015.

The first session was presented by Michele Shuster, founding partner at MacMurray Petersen & Shuster, “So You Want to Work with a Telemarketer: 7 Essential Tips.” Regulations around telemarketing are a serious issue, and carry with it large detriments to a company’s bottom line. Avoid assisting and facilitating liability, she said; "You are as responsible for your marketers as if you were doing it yourself." Tips included making sure that telemarketing scripts are compliant with both federal and state regulations and being aware of riskier practices like calling or texting a cellphone or using pre-recorded messages.

“Mobile Mania: Catch the Wave of Mobile PERS,” the day’s second session featured panelists Matt Campbell, Nortek Security and Control SVP of sales and business development, and Jake Chandler, co-founder of LiveFree Emergency Response. The session was moderated by Jesse Rivest, Regional sales manager for Affiliated Monitoring and an SSN “20 under 40” from the Class of 2013.

When Rivest asked about the biggest points to selling mPERS. Chandler said that it’s water resistant, ready for future communications with 3G, and that it can be strapped to the wrist. Campbell said that “really defining the user as someone who's active," helps, along with fall detection technology.

The battery life isn’t a challenge, Campbell said, because now users are more conditioned to know that they have to charge it at night. Chandler said that it’s important to know when a user is best suited for a PERS instead of a mobile PERS. “A lot of seniors should not have mobile PERS," Chandler said, because there are some customers that do not have the capability to remember to charge the system every night.

In the last session, “Executive Spotlight: How I Grew a Multi-Channel PERS Company,” Ritch Haselden, vice president of sales for Essence USA, talked about best practices for developing a PERS business. Before working for Essence, Haselden was with ResponseLink, PERS provider in the U.S., in charge of the company’s revenue creation.

Affiliated VP Daniel Oppenheim asked Haselden about who the most important first hires for a PERS company would be, “I would have a very strong operational person and a strong marketing person.”

He stressed the importance of finding a person who is in contact with seniors who were potential customers, and believed the system could help them. Haselden said he would take the effort of "Making sure that we knew that they cared about the customer."

Haselden also advised spending time “looking at referrals that were coming in and where they were coming from."

I thought it was a very informative conference, with lots of knowledgeable people in the PERS side of the industry. Catalyst will be in Florida again next year, also in May. It’ll be a special one, Affiliated founder Stanley Oppenheim said, as it will coincide with Affiliated’s 40th anniversary.

Wednesday, Day 1

The first day started off well for me, I got to have breakfast with Keith Jentoft, who is now part of the integration team at Honeywell following the company's acquisition of RSI, and David Stang, founder and president of Stang Capital Alliance. 

Zydor, as the event's emcee, started by giving an overview of the conference, saying that it is now "the largest PERS conference ever." He also underlined the value of networking at Catalyst, "We believe that the relationships that you create over the next few days are just as important as the content." Zydor backed this up by having each attendee in the room introduce themselves.

Zydor then handed the microphone to Affiliated VP Daniel Oppenheim, who projected a bright future for the PERS industry. He said that in 2030, just 14 years away, there will be 72 million people in the 65+ demographic, and these new seniors might be more tech savvy, given the current 30 percent prevalence of smartphones in the age group. He addressed mPERS. which has an average sign up age of 78, compared to traditional PERS' average age of sign up at 81. "'That is a meaningful reduction in years," he said. "Mobile PERS are bringing in younger users that will stay with us longer."

Oppenheim then announcce CareAlert priority group chat, a new offering exclusive for Affiliated dealers. When a PERS user activates their system, Affiliated's monitoing center sends out a text message to as many as four family or friends of the user. The text message contains a link that opens a group chat between the recipients. The recipeients can then discuss the user's condition, and even hit the 'On My Way' button, to let the other friends or family members know theyr'e headed to check on the user. This software was developed entirely in-house. 

The first session was the conference's first executive spotlight, "The Complete Guide to Building a PERS Company," featuring Geoff Gross, CEO of Medical Guardian. He said he focuses on culture and picking the right people. "When you go through the wrong people, you learn how to hire the right people," he said. 

He also spoke about hiring Florence Henderson, the actress who played Carol Brady in The Brady Bunch, as the company's spokesperson. Gross said that Henderson had some apprehension, not wanting to be portrayed "on the floor crawling around in bad shape." Gross said this was perfect, Medical Guardian wanted to let customers know that not ever PERS user is in failing health.

The second session was "Benchmarking: Is Your Sales Technology Holding You Back?" with Moderator: Matt Solomon, Affiliated director of software solutions, and panelists Nick Delis, Five9 regional VP enterprise sales, and Michael Marks, Perennial Software, co-founder. Solomon introduced the session by saying, "You can't be a successful sales and marketing organization if you don't have the right tools." With phone calls as such a big part of the sales and marketing job, companies need to monitor that activity, and that's one of the things that Five9's cloud-based software does. Marks said that CRM is made up of two components, the initial sales and then keeping the customers happy. Perennial's offerings include AlarmBiller and SedonaOffice.  

For the keynote presentation, "Managing in the Majors: Running a Big League Team," Bobby Valentine, a former professional baseball player and manager, got onstage to discuss his views on forming a team. Valentine first addressed the idea of luck and the role that plays, "If we all think it's about us ... I think we're making a mistake." Being in the moment is crucial, and that means that means to enjoy what you're doing now because you don't know what's going to happen later." And respect is key, "Teams that win understand respect, and the individuals usually respect themselves, respect the competition, and respect their teammates."

Tuesday night

I arrived this afternoon in Naples, Fla., to attend Affiliated's new PERS conference Catalyst, focused on the sales and marketing of PERS systems. The event began with a nice reception, where I got to catch up with Affiliated's managing director Mike Zydor and president Stanley Oppenheim. It's interest to see people gathered from all sections of the industry; PERS manufacturers, PERS dealers, those involved in insurance around the industry, and professionals from the banking world.

I met a lot of people tonight, but want to highlight a few. I enjoyed meeting Cathy Rempel, president of the California Alarm Association. It was nice seeing Yaniv Amir, president for Essence USA—which recently won an ESX Innovation Award. I had a great conversation with Chris Masse, technical sales manager, US corporate accounts for Tyco Security Products. He told me about how the smart home works well for a PERS user, such as automating lights to help users that have difficulty moving. I also got the chance to speak to Scot McGehee, director of operations for Climax. 

Check back here for daily updates on the conference.

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, May 11, 2016

I’ve spoken with plenty of monitoring professionals about the difference between monitoring a PERS signal and a more traditional burg or fire alarm. Recently, I spoke with Todd Lindstrom, director of Life Safety Monitoring, about some of the things that differentiate the company's PERS-focused central station. 

Lindstrom said that PERS operators need to be segmented from operators that handle more traditional alarms because the mindset is different. “You tend to be more production orientated when you’re doing the burg/fire, … [focused on] speed, how they handle the call, how many calls they handled,” he said. “Here, we’re on the call a lot longer, because you’ve got patients that may not hear well, [or] they’re a little confused.”

The company has been doing more wellness calls with its users, Lindstrom said. “We call and ask them a few basic questions; if they’ve taken their meds, or how they’re feeling today.” Life Safety Monitoring has been doing these calls for about a year-and-a-half, he said.

Plans for wellness calls could include calls once a week, once a day or twice a day, he said. “It makes a son or daughter more comfortable to know that someone’s calling,” said Lindstrom.

These calls could be linked to activity tracking platforms, “If somebody doesn’t pass down a hallway … Then we’ll call and check, and if we don’t get a response then we’ll send somebody.” The company is currently working on integrating the Numera Libris in the next 30 days, he said. Particularly, the company is interested in the device's fall detection abilities. 

He said that activity monitoring platforms help with the quality of care, such as tracking items users might forget, like how many times they got up during the night.

Lindstrom said that only about 1 percent of the company’s monitored accounts are mPERS devices, but expects this segment will grow to 10 percent in the next year or 18 months. MPERS are good for a segment of users that like to spend the winter months in warmer climates, “Now, they don’t have to drag that stationary device.”

Life Safety Monitoring has 16 operators and monitors about 10,000 accounts, he said. 

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, May 4, 2016

CARLSBAD, Calif.—Numera this week announced a new selection of wearables to complement its Libris mPERS device while users are at home.

The center of this announcement is the new Smart Cradle, which connects the Libris device with the new wearables while charging the mPERS, Anu Herranen, marketing manager for Nortek Security and Control, told SSN. 

The new wearables include a Fall Detection Pendant, a Convertible Help Button which can be worn as a pendant or on the wrist, and a Simple Help Button Pendant.

Herranen said that a noticable difference between the Fall Detection Pendant and the Libris device is their weight. The Libris is about 2.1 ounces, she said; the Fall Detection Pendent only weighs about half an ounce. The pendant is also 40 percent smaller by dimensions.

She said the two biggest benefits for end users are the ability to have a personal safety device while the Libris is charging and the option for a more comfortable device while around the house.

“[Users] can leave their Libris in its Smart Cradle, because all of the mobile PERS devices do have a battery that needs to be charged, … and they are still equally protected,” she said. The Libris has a battery life of 36 hours, she said, while the wearables’ batteries last for several years.

The new wearables also continue to track users in the EverThere program. “The Smart Cradle connected with any of the wearables provides exactly the same experience in EverThere that we do in the Libris device.” The Smart Cradle is also upgradable, via Over-The-Air software updates.

Herranen said that the ability to wear a help button on the wrist is new for the Libris offering. She said the wrist-worn help button was specifically designed for wear during sleep.

The Libris still has features that the new wearables don’t, such as voice capabilities and GPS location. 

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