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by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, September 23, 2015

New Orleans is looking at outsourcing its false alarm fine management and collections to CryWolf False Alarm Solution from Maryland-based Public Safety Corp, according to a report from The Times – Picayune for Greater New Orleans.

This particularly interested me because, just last week, I spoke with SIAC’s executive director, Stan Martin, about the process of automating false alarm connections, following a report that Pittsburgh was considering it.

When talking with Martin he said it was a great practice, one that SIAC recommends.

Martin said that increased collection efforts, through automating or outsourcing the process, can have a positive effect on reducing false alarms. Properly administrated fines provide offenders with an incentive to change their behavior.

I greatly look forward to following up with Public Safety Corp. about CryWolf and how it can help a city with false alarm management. CryWolf has worked with cities such as Atlanta, Los Angeles and Sante Fe, N.M., according to its site. 

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, September 16, 2015

DIY and MIY—Monitor-It-Yourself—have been big topics lately. Gavin Tanner, VP of marketing for the new startup DIY security company Novi, told me that Novi is looking to “bridge the gap” between the DIY and traditional security companies.

Tanner said that Novi bridges this gap by offering a spectrum of options, ranging from MIY, pay-as-you-go monitoring, and constant professional monitoring. 

I recently saw a report comparing Novi to nationals like Vivint and ADT. A primary difference is Novi doesn’t charge monthly fees, installation costs or have contracts, while traditional security companies do. I wanted to take a closer look at the main differences is both installation and monitoring.

Novi’s product, the Guard, incorporates a camera, smoke detector, motion sensor and into one device. The Guard is battery operated and connects to a hub linked with the user’s router. It has not been officially released, Tanner said, but roll out should begin in the next 6 weeks. The most basic model of Novi’s system is entirely DIY install and MIY.

“We offer you the DIY benefit of self install … there’s no contracts, there’s no monthly fees to use it,” Tanner said. “That being said, we have additional features that you can add-on, features that you would often find at a traditional security company like ADT.”

“We [will] offer professional monitoring at a monthly rate, [but] there’s still no contract—you can opt out at any time. We offer cloud storage—which, again, [has] no contract.” It can also incorporate a cell connection, he said.

Tanner said Novi’s monitoring would be at a third party monitoring center, though he declined to say which central station.

Novi is currently exploring a pay-as-you-go option for professional monitoring as well, Tanner said. As examples of pricing, Tanner estimated full monitoring would cost around $8 to $12 dollars per month, or $4 to $5 per week.

Tanner said that the company is exploring how to give customers the option of professional installations, through installers close to them. 

Novi is based and manufactured in Orem, Utah.

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, September 9, 2015

More than a month in advance, CSAA’s hotel block for its annual meeting sold out. Talking with Elizabeth Lasko, the organization’s VP of marketing and communications, this booking was faster than in previous years and AHJ presence alongside expanded educational sessions might be why. The meeting will be held in Sonoma, Calif., Oct. 10-14.

“We are pleased to have sixteen representatives from AHJ organizations attending, our largest representation in several years,” Lasko said, which includes Chiefs of Police, State Fire Marshall and Sheriff organizations. These groups have time both by themselves and with the CSAA members, she said. “They’ve got their own unique challenges that they want to alarm industry to be aware of, and we’re working hard to build those relationships.”

“We think that we’ve done a good job listening to the members who said they want to see a ramped-up education program,” Lasko told me. “[Members have] responded by signing up early and in high numbers.”

The meeting has three featured speakers, covering topics such as cybersecurity as it pertains to alarm monitoring, and understanding different people and personalities. Lasko also pointed to a session on understanding what current health care trends mean for employers as a key benefit for attendees.

There is still space for more attendees at the meeting; they would just need to make other hotel accommodations.

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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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