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by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Private equity firm Huron Capital Partners is working with long-time Siemens executive Terry Heath to build a fire detection platform company. Huron will work through holding company Sciens Building Solutions. Huron defined the ideal acquisition as a Canadian or US fire detection provider to large commercial buildings, generating at least $15 million in revenue.

Huron Capital announced this Tuesday, listing “products, inspection and test services, ongoing maintenance and monitoring” as the scope of fire detection. Huron emphasized Heath’s experience in technology, specifically with fire and security products. He was, most recently, Siemens’ SVP of Corporate Technology USA.

“We are excited to partner with Terry to build a national platform focused on exceptional customer service and specialized capabilities within fire detection,” said Jim Mahoney, partner at Huron Capital, said in a prepared statement. “We believe demographic and regulatory trends will drive growth in the fire detection space, and Terry is an experienced executive in this market who will provide strong leadership to the platform.”

“Huron Capital is a great fit for this opportunity and I'm looking forward to the mutually beneficial partnership as we look to establish a strong presence in this industry together," Heath said in the statement. Through its business model, "Huron Capital can provide the necessary financial, strategic and operational resources to support my goal to build and lead a world-class fire detection services business," he said.

Huron Capital is based in Detroit. Started in 1999, it has raised more then $1.1 billion in capital.

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, August 26, 2015

CPI Security now has a lot of room to grow, including some R&D space. The company started building a new 120,000 square-foot building a few weeks ago. Recently, I got a chance to catch up with Ken Gill, CEO of CPI, and talk a bit more about the new facility’s design and how it compares to—and expands on—the current one.

Room to grow is a big theme with this building. Not everyone at CPI is moving over to the new facility once it’s built, Gill said. In fact, the company currently plans on maintaining both buildings on its 28-acre campus.

“Even though we’re not required to, the entire building will be UL-listed so we can operate [the central station] anywhere in the building,” he said.

The central station, which will move to the new facility when its completed, will have almost triple the space it has now.

“We’ll have better training space in there. Research and development [space] is going to keep us on the forefront of technological advances,” said Gill.

The current 47,000 square foot headquarters was built in late 2001. Gill said he expects the move to be done around the end of 2016.

The building will have amenities like a dining facility and gym to attract and retain employees, he said. It will be environmentally friendly, and CPI will seek LEED certification for the building.

“If we keep our employees happy, then they’ll—in turn—keep our customers happy, they’ll be more engaging with the customers,” Gill said.

CPI’s new building could even help the atmosphere. “Any time that you make investments into the business, it creates good morale,” he said. “When folks see growth, they see opportunity, from an employee standpoint, and we want our employees to know that they do have opportunity.”

CPI has about 130,000 customers in the Southeast United States.

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by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Dice has added more than 200,000 accounts to its cloud-hosted monitoring center platform this year, the company announced today, and has a 24-month goal of reaching 1 million accounts total.

I got the chance to talk with Cliff Dice, company president and CEO, today about the platform’s growth and some of the problems it has helped solve, like dropped signals and account attrition.

Prior to this year, there were only about 10,000 accounts on Dice’s monitoring center, Dice estimated. Many of the new 200,000 accounts were added on after the service received its recent UL-listing. Here's a story on that.

When asked about strategies for hitting the 1 million hosted accounts mark, Dice said that the company’s currently focusing on current Dice software users. Though, he said it could be an easy way for alarm companies to switch from a different automation platform to Dice.

Dice is part owner of a telephone company, and Dice’s hosted monitoring center uses its own network. Having the ability to fully track the signal gives Dice the ability to see when and where a signal gets dropped and address the problem.

“Because we’re controlling everything end-to-end, we don’t have the problems with the VoIP issues that the alarm industry has,” Dice said.

This end-to-end understanding has even helped with attrition. “With the people we’ve put online, it’s cut their attrition primarily because we were able to analyze which panels weren’t working. … A lot of the alarm cancellations, problems, and service calls that alarm companies do, is related to the alarm panels not communicating right.”

Account attrition was cut by about 50 percent among the companies hosted on its cloud center, Dice said.

When I met with Cliff, both at ISC West and ESX, he mentioned the great reception the cloud-hosted service has had. It’s interesting to see more about that.

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by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A lot of companies seem to have their employee environment on the mind, especially when it comes to designing a new space. CPI Security broke ground on Friday for its new 120,000 square-foot facility, to be built adjacent to its current building in Charlotte, N.C. Alongside this development, the company announced that it plans to add 300 employees, to its current total of 540, over the next couple years.

The new building will hold training facilities, R&D, and the company’s central station, which is CSAA 5 Diamond certified and UL listed, CPI said in a recent release. For the company’s employees, there will be a gym and a dining facility.

This news comes in at a time where others like Vivint and Monitronics are moving into new spaces—both of which incorporated a close-by body of water, interestingly enough. Vivint underlined the benefits employees get from something as simple as natural light. Monitronics talked about an open floor plan keeping groups together.

One thing I’ve been interested to hear about, from both Vivint and Monitronics, has been the process of the move. Monitronics appointed “move captains” and Vivint did it in the space of one shift.

I’m curious to hear more about how CPI will physically move into its new space, and hope to follow-up with the company soon. 

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by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Eighty-seven percent of Monitronics’ 1,100 employees were fully moved into the company’s new campus by the end of July (photo of new facility on left). Now all that’s left is to move the central station, which will happen around the beginning of Q4 this year, according to Bruce Mungiguerra, Monitronics’ SVP of operations. I caught up with Mungiguerra recently to hear about how the move went.

“Obviously, moving a thousand people … is never an easy task,” Mungiguerra said. “Providing … the service to our customers without a hiccup was the important part. So, we staggered the move on a weekend-by-weekend basis.”

In these weekend time windows departments, like customer care, tech support, and dealer development, were guided by identified “move captains.” Moving groups department-by-department made the move easier, Mungiguerra said.

I’ve heard a lot about the move over the past several months. I remember talking with Mungiguerra earlier this year about what the move would add to the company’s culture. Here’s a story on that. Not too long ago, when I was at ESX I heard more about it from the company’s dealer sales and marketing coordinator, Bre Otero. "It'll be great to have everybody back in one building," Otero told me.

Now, the bulk of the move is finished. Mungiguerra, when I spoke with him recently, said he was surprised at how smoothly the process went, always waiting for the unexpected to happen—but it never did.

“I don’t think we could have even anticipated that it went as well as it did,” said Mungiguerra. “[I] couldn’t be happier with how the entire company pulled together to make it as successful as it was.”

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by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, July 29, 2015

AvantGuard’s PERS Summit is coming up at the end of September in Park City, Utah, and the company recently released the event’s itinerary. This event is held every two years now, with the last being in 2013. 

While MAMA is also hosting its annual meeting this fall, the two cover different areas of PERS monitoring, even complementing each other. “We’ve created this conference for specific PERS dealers. It’s apples and oranges different from MAMA, where they’re more focused on the government aspect,” Troy Iverson, AvantGuard’s VP of sales and marketing. AvantGuard is a member and supporter of MAMA, he said, and isn't looking to compete with its efforts.

“Fall detection technology is going to be … a hot topic in the industry,” Iverson said. This year’s summit has a panel specifically discussing the technology: “Fall Detection… Is it the ‘Holy Grail’ of PERS?” On this panel will be representatives from PERS manufacturers Climax, Mytrex, Numera.

Some of the other sessions are “State of the PERS Industry,” “PERS Monitoring Trends” and “PERS Contracts: Cover Your Assets.”

The keynote speaker for the event will be NFL’s Steve Young, talking about his experiences as well as meeting with attendees.

The summit will start with a tour of Avantguard’s facility. Networking and sharing best practices between PERS dealers is a big part of the summit, Iverson said. “Our whole goal of this is to bring … AvantGuard dealers, non-AvantGuard dealers, manufacturers, industry experts together for three days, and let’s grow—let’s grow together.”

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, July 22, 2015

PERS. It’s come up a lot lately—everywhere I look it seems that I’m hearing about new angles to the market, and new contenders. One thing I’ve also heard plenty of is that it’s not a space for everyone. But some seem to be finding it a very sensible new market.

Just recently the cellphone provider Consumer Cellular entered the market, choosing this as a logical space to make its first step outside of cell phones. I think it’s interesting that a market avoided by some can be an easy fit for others.

Another newcomer is Blue Star. The company took a look at a certain area it saw as underserved: the veteran community and their families. Now, Blue Star is looking to triple sales by the fall.

It was even a lively discussion at ESX. AvantGuard’s COO Justin Bailey said that mPERS is a quickly growing market. PERS isn’t for everyone, panelists said, because it can take a toll on your operators that you need to be prepared for. Daniel Oppenheim, VP for Affiliated Monitoring, said that it might be best left to those centrals that can handle it.

Now, the Medical Alert Monitoring Association is looking toward its annual meeting, catering specifically to the medical alarm space.

So, it seems that the PERS market is particular, a very specific niche in the industry of monitoring, but there is space for those companies willing to look into the space and work their way into it.

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by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Even a few weeks past it, I’m still thinking about ESX and what resonated with me about some of the panels. One in particular, “Central Station Technology—The Latest and Greatest,” has kept me thinking.

Panelists included Jay Hauhn, CSAA’s executive director, Jens Kolind, VP of external partnerships for IBS, and Chris Larcinese, cloud-based services market manager in the Americas for Bosch Security Systems. Joe Miskulin, proprietary central station manager for State Farm, served as the moderator.

First off, Kolind brought up the cloud. He said it brings certain technological efficiencies, such as when upgrading systems or not needing as big an IT staff on hand.

Hauhn said, “The promise of cloud is quite attractive.” This is especially true for proprietary centrals, he said, and predicted the number of proprietary monitoring centers would increase.

An attendee asked about the risks of using the cloud. Jens answered, saying that there is a larger risk of a data breach. Those looking to the cloud should make sure that the cloud provider is encrypting important information, he said.

The panel addressed two interesting sides to the technology coin; what is on the upcoming horizon, and what might be sunsetted.

Larcinese pointed to “wearables” as an emerging technology.

According to Hauhn, new entrants should be the ones to look out for; it is movement’s like DIY or the smart home that will define what is going to be monitored in the future.

This begged the question: what kind of weight does a self monitored dispatch carry? Hauhn said it’s very credible, the home owner might have a better idea of who should or shouldn’t be in that house than the operator.

The ASAP to PSAP is also an emerging trend. Hauhn said that program is cloud-friendly.

As toward what technology might be sunsetted soon, Kolind said the age of IP might inhibit the end of the traditional receiver. 

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, July 8, 2015

More and more I’m hearing about the “Millennials;” those born between 1980 and 2000. I fit squarely in that range.

Millennials seem to be the target audience for home automation, some have noted them as the more “technological-savvy” generation. Now, the Millennials are entering the job market. At this year’s ESX I heard UCC’s Mike Lamb, and ADT’s Stephen Smith, share their observations on training this younger generation.  

During Lamb and Smith’s ESX Panel, “Training for Central Station Operators,” I was—as a Millenial—quite alert, asking myself how each technique or perspective applied to me.  

There were quite a few points that I could agree with and—imagining myself in the shoes of a prospective central station operator—would see a lot of value in. Though, there were other points where I differed in opinion.

Lamb said that Millenials like understanding the value in their work. That is certainly something I could agree with, and I don’t think Millenials are the only ones who could benefit from better grasping the value behind what they do.

Also, he had a point that, when given a task, Millenials might be more prone to ask “Why?” This isn’t a sign of disrespect, he said, but instead looking for more understanding.

I definitely agree with that. Approaching a task, I find it very useful to understand where my role or any action plays into the larger plan.

Lamb pointed out that Generation Y is the age of “participation trophies,” which, unfortunately, I can’t disagree with. Lamb had a point that this constant recognition given to many individuals in Generation Y is something to notice and enable in your central station employees; that they like to be recognized if and when they are doing things right. I can see how a little positive reinforcement would encourage confidence in a new employee. Though, I personally wouldn’t want to see this overdone, certainly not to the levels of participation trophies.

Lamb also had a point that younger generations occasionally struggle with professionalism, specifically in writing. An example he gave was with “twitter speak,” using “u” instead of “you,” “r” in place of “are” and so forth. This surprised me the most. Perhaps it is my writing experience separating me from the Generation Y pool of potential operators, but I have always found a professional writing style to be imperative. Lamb, and some of the attendees, said this is a problem of the generation.

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, July 1, 2015

On June 25, in Chicago, the NFPA held its annual meeting, but the alarm industry was concerned about two motions on NFPA 72, which would effectively give local municipalities the authority to disallow the use of listed central stations for fire alarm monitoring.

Ultimately, motion 72-8 passed with a vote of 142-80, giving municipalities that discretion. Motion 72-9, which would have removed the line referring to central stations completely, was withdrawn after 72-8 passed.

Kevin Lehan, executive director for the Illinois Electronic Security Associaiton, told Security Systems News that there were some beneficial aspects to the meeting for the alarm industry. “Previously the language said ‘alternate location approved by the authority having jurisdiction.’ Now the language specifically says ‘listed central supervising station.’” Lehan said that this specific mention will help central stations through being now a specific entity as opposed to the previously vague language.

“We were thrilled to be able to get the numbers out that we did.” Lehan said, pointing out that the vote, being on June 25, happened at the same time as ESX. “We mobilized very well, we just have to inform and entice the rest of the alarm installer community to be active in the NFPA going forward.”

“What we learned at this event is that there is a disconnect between the industry and the fire services,” Lehan said. The two sides of the argument, fire departments and the alarm industry were approaching the matter from very different perspectives.

“The fire services, their testimony came across as stating that central stations are unsafe. We have heard for a few years, and this was echoed at that [NFPA] meeting, anecdotal situations whereby the private alarm industry failed in dispatching [without more specific details on the alarm event]. When we ask for specific situations when this has happened, we do not get a response," he said.

“On the private industry side, it’s the same position that we’ve always had, allow us to compete for business. Let UL listed central stations perform to NFPA code standards, and let the market choose service providers,” said Lehan.

Lehan said that the idea of creating a forum for fire services and the alarm industry to communicate better had come up in discussions following the meeting, and that may be further developed in the future, Lehan said. 

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