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by: Tess Nacelewicz - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I’ve written before about how ADT filed not just one, but two lawsuits against Orem, Utah-based Vision Security, accusing the door-knocking company of scamming customers. And I’ve also written about how Vision Security contends it is being unfairly targeted.

Now, a new settlement Vision has reached with the Idaho Office of the Attorney General paints a picture of Vision sales reps engaging in unfair sales practices in that state.

I reached out earlier this week to Vision attorney Sean Brown for that company’s comments on the settlement but I haven’t yet gotten a response.

However, according to the office of Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, Vision reached a settlement with that state after being accused of violating Idaho's Consumer Protection Act.

The settlement requires Vision “to implement significant changes to the way its sales representatives interact with Idaho consumers,” according to a July 18 news release from the AG’s office. Also, consumers who paid extra fees because they were scammed may be entitled to a refund from Vision if they submit a complaint form to the AG’s office by Sept. 8, the release said.

Here’s more of what the AG had to say in the release:

"The purchase of a home-security system is a significant investment and consumers should feel safe knowing that the people selling them are providing truthful and honest information, without hidden fees or misrepresentation," Attorney General Wasden said.

Consumers reported to the Attorney General that Vision Security's door-to-door sales representatives misrepresented the terms the company's security system contracts, and that representatives failed to fulfill their promises to "buy-out" consumers' current security system contracts.

Consumers often ended up paying monthly monitoring fees to two companies or paid large termination fees to cancel one of their monitoring agreements. Additionally, Vision Security's door-to-door sales contracts failed to provide consumers with accurate information about the time allowed to cancel contracts.

The settlement requires Vision Security to make several changes to how it does business in Idaho. For example, the company's sales representatives:

*Must wear identification that includes the sales person's name and affiliation with Vision Security.
*Must inform the consumer of his or her three-day right to cancel the agreement.*Must not tell consumers that their current alarm monitoring company went out of business or is affiliated with Vision Security.
*Must not misrepresent the number of security systems Vision Security has installed in the consumer's neighborhood or misrepresent that a consumer's home is located in a high-crime area
 *Must not misrepresent the condition or operability of the consumer's current security system.
 *Must not promise to "buy-out" a consumer's current monitoring agreement.
 

Hmmm…this list reads a lot like some new revisions the Electronic Security Association made to its code of ethics this summer in response to some new sales scams that ADT and other companies have complained door-knocking companies are using.

 

 

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by: Tess Nacelewicz - Wednesday, August 6, 2014

It should only take about four minutes for installers to program and activate AlarmNet communicators with Honeywell’s new Interactive Voice Response system. And it’s available 24/7.

That’s what Donna Namorato, channel manager for Honeywell Security Products Americas, announced today in a post at Honeywell’s The Security Channel Blog.

Here’s more of what she had to say: “Honeywell Security Technical Support is now providing an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system for you to use to program and activate new AlarmNet communicators. The automated, voice-prompt service enables faster, more effective programming and activation of AlarmNet communicators, saving you valuable time and letting you move on to the next installation sooner.”

“With the new system,” she added, “the average usage time is only four minutes since there is no more waiting for a live operator to complete the programming process.”

Namorato said the IVR lets installers “activate a SIM, check SIM activation status and program a device for registration to an AlarmNet account.”

Honeywell describes its AlarmNet network as “a family of communications services designed specifically for the security industry.”

For more information on the IVR and how to access it, check out Namorato’s blog post.
 

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by: Tess Nacelewicz - Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Home security giant Protection 1 is up for sale for more than $1.5 billion, according to a Reuters news report this week.

GTCR, the private equity firm that bought Protection 1 in 2010 for $828 million has asked Morgan Stanley to help in the sales effort, the news service reported Aug. 4.

I’ve reached out to Romeoville, Illinois-based Protection 1 for comment on the report, which Reuters ascribed to unidentified sources.

Protection 1 is one of the largest full-service business and home security companies in the United States. As of the end of 2013, it had 1.5 million customers and $28 million in RMR, an increase of nearly 8 percent over the previous year, according to published reports. Revenues exceeded $429 million.

By contrast, home automation/home security company Vivint—which was acquired by The Blackstone Group in 2012 for more than $2 billion—ended 2013 with more than $42 million in RMR, an increase of 23 percent over the previous year. Provo, Utah-based Vivint, which has more than 800,000 customers, had in excess of $500 million in revenues in 2013, according to published information.

Stay posted. I'll be updating this story as I get more information.

 

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by: Tess Nacelewicz - Tuesday, July 22, 2014

I’ve written recently about Google’s $3.2 billion buy of smart thermostat and smoke alarm maker Nest Labs, and then Nest’s $555 million plan to buy Dropcam, which makes video cameras that stream video to a user’s computer or cellphone. Also, Apple in June introduced HomeKit, its new home automation/home security framework.

Now, Samsung also may be making a home automation push with a $200 million buy of startup SmartThings, according to news reports.

The potential deal was first reported in TechCrunch.

Forbes says that SmartThings is based in Washington, D.C. and “sells $100 hardware hubs and provides a cloud platform to make the hundreds of smart gadgets out on the market talk to each other in one unified app.”

Forbes notes that Samsung “already has many connected home appliances on the market.” However, Forbes says SmartThings could enhance those.

“What the SmartThings technology could do is better connect its appliances to other third-party devices onto one central platform. This is what Apple looks to be aiming to do with its HomeKit and what Nest may one day achieve after opening up its API program to allow other devices to talk to its growing family of smart gadgets.”

SmartThings, founded in 2012, has “tens of thousands” of SmartThings systems currently installed in U.S. households, Forbes said.

 

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by: Tess Nacelewicz - Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The BusinessDictionary defines “actionable intelligence” as data “that can be used to boost a company's strategic position against industry peers.” But with a new partnership announced this week, Vivint is using data collected from sensors in smart homes to “identify actionable insights to enrich their customers’ lives.”

Provo, Utah-based home automation/home security company Vivint has partnered with Cloudera, which offers businesses “one place to store, process and analyze all their data,” according to a July 15 news release.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based Cloudera provides businesses with “fundamental new ways to derive value from their data.” In Vivint’s case that means, according to the news release, that “for the first time, Vivint is able to apply a new lens to data generated from intelligent devices and systems embedded with sensors in and around homes.” More than 100,000 data points “from smart sensors embedded in devices [are now] visible with Cloudera,” the release said.

Brandon Bunker, Vivint’s senior director of customer analytics and insights, put it this way in a prepared statement: “Vivint has been at the forefront of the connected home for decades, and now with the emergence of [the] IoT (Internet of Things), we are truly able to innovate by collecting and analyzing vast amounts of data from sensors embedded in our devices. We've taken that one step further with Cloudera and can now look across many data streams simultaneously for behaviors, geo-location, and actionable events in order to better understand and enrich our customers' lives.”

Vivint has more than 800,000 customers using various third party, smart-enabled devices, the release said. Each home has from 20 to 30 sensors, it said.

Here, according to the release, is how Cloudera’s services will make a difference with data from those sensors:

“Many of those devices come in the form of thermostats, smart appliances, video cameras, window and door sensors, and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Without a central internal repository to gather and analyze the data generated from each sensor, Vivint was previously limited in its ability to innovate and to add higher intelligence to its security offerings. For example, knowing when a home is occupied or vacant is important to security -- but when tied into the heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) system, you can add a layer of energy cost savings by cooling or heating a home based on occupancy. Similarly, by adding geo-location into the equation, you can begin to adjust temperature changes to a home based on the proximity to an owner's arrival, for instance, when the owner has a connected vehicle.”
 

Such "actionable intelligence" would be a sellling point for Vivint because consumers can save from 20 to 30 percent in energy costs by turning off their HVAC systems when they’re away or sleeping, the release said.

Vivint said it chose Cloudera because it has a proven track record and a very broad “big data ecosystem, to ensure support as more and more devices are connected to the Internet each day.” The company also ensures the data’s security, the release said.

And that traditional definition of “actionable intelligence,” about boosting a company’s position against industry peers?

Well, that’s actually a part of the partnership too, according to Vivint. “This platform has differentiated our business and given us a tremendous competitive advantage,” Bunker said in his statement.

 

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by: Tess Nacelewicz - Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Vivint is not a DIY company—it offers professionally installed and monitored home security. But its new online Support site—which the company announced this week—is geared toward those who like to take things into their own hands.

Vivint notes that it already offers customer support 24/7/365. But in addition to that, the Provo, Utah-based home automation/home security company has launched the new Support site. Here’s how it describes its new online service:  

“If you’re a go-getter, a do-it-yourself-er, a knowledge-seeker, or a hate-being-put-on-hold-er, then this is great news for you. On our new Support site, you’ll find video tutorials, step-by-step instructions, troubleshooting, FAQs and more for anything from changing the batteries on your electronic door lock to adding a new camera to your system.”

I checked out the site. It’s easy to read and it provides answers to basic questions that range from “Where can I send my payment?” to “Why do you use a door-to-door approach?” Vivint’s answer to the latter is that it’s more personal and allows a sales rep to customize systems for each homeowner.

But in case anyone is wondering, Vivint stresses that the site does not replace its traditional customer service. “If you’re a I’d-rather-just-talk-on-the-phone-er, we will always be here to answer your call,” the company says.

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by: Tess Nacelewicz - Tuesday, July 1, 2014

“You Speak. Your Home Listens.” That’s how ADT is describing ADT Pulse Voice, a new app that adds personal voice commands to Pulse security systems.

Voice commands appear to be the hot new trend in home security. For example, I blogged recently about the voice control capabilities of Honeywell’s Wi-Fi thermostat. And Alan Stoddard, senior director of marketing for Honeywell Security Products Americas, told me last week that a new release of Honeywell’s Tuxedo Touch this month will provide for voice commands.

ADT announced the release of its new app today and bills ADT Pulse Voice technology as “the first of its kind in the smart home space.”

The company says the technology “enables homeowners to log in and log out of the Pulse Voice app via custom technology that recognizes unique voice signatures. Once logged in, users can arm and disarm their Pulse security panel, control their home’s lighting, adjust thermostats, lock and unlock doors, and check the overall status of their home – all verbally and virtually touchless through an iOS or Android smart phone.”

ADT says it’s all about making life simpler for today’s busy homeowners. No longer do they have to interrupt what they’re doing to manually control their homes. “Instead, a homeowner’s voice can trigger ADT Pulse functions by recognizing select key words, device names and phrases to perform. In addition to accepting personal voice commands, the ADT Pulse Voice app provides auditory feedback to confirm actions and system status for all of its connected devices.”

The technology is a boon for the visually impaired as well, ADT says.

The company says it has also taken steps to secure homeowners’ privacy in case a mobile device is lost or stolen. ADT says it does that by leveraging “a multi-layered identification process allowing only registered members of a household to log in. Through voice commands, a user is approved by three personal checkpoints: a secret phrase, state-of-the-art voice recognition, and confirmed identification of a mobile device. …Without all three verification checkpoints confirmed, any login attempt will be denied.”

The company says existing ADT customers can download the new app for free in the Apple App Store, as well as through Google Play.

 

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by: Tess Nacelewicz - Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Pam Petrow stands out in the industry as one of just a handful of female CEO’s of a leading security company.

Now, four years into her leadership as CEO and president of Vector Security, Petrow is being distinguished again, this time for winning the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award for her region, the Pittsburgh-based company announced this week.

As the Western Pennsylvania/West Virginia award winner, Ms. Petrow will be automatically eligible for consideration for the Entrepreneur of the Year 2014 national program, the winners of which will be announced in November, according to a Vector news release.

The EY award “honors distinguished entrepreneurs who demonstrate widespread success, a commitment to innovation and forward thinking and unwavering passion for business,” the release said. Former recipients have included CEOs, private capital investors and regional leaders of a wide range of businesses.

Petrow succeeded Vector’s longtime president, John Murphy, after his death in October 2010. She formerly was Vector’s EVP and COO.

In a prepared statement about her EY award, Petrow credited company employees and the community with the win. “Being recognized for this prestigious award is not only a testament to the dedication of our employees, many of whom have made serving our customers their careers, but also to the stability and pioneering spirit of the people and businesses in our communities,” she said.

Vector serves nearly 300,000 residential and business customers. The release said Petrow “challenges managers to learn what their direct reports do on a day-to-day basis and to adapt their management style to extract the best performance from their employees.”

It also noted that she “held leadership positions in a number of security industry associations and received a number of awards including the Public-Safety Communications Officials International President’s Award and Central Station Alarm Association recognition for her outstanding contributions to the electronic transmission of signals between central stations and 911 dispatch centers. In 2012, Ms. Petrow was inducted into the Security Sales & Integration Hall of Fame.”

Pretty impressive!

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by: Tess Nacelewicz - Monday, June 16, 2014

In 2013, there was a restructuring at the top of DEFENDER Direct, with CEO and president Marcia Barnes exiting and company founder David Lindsey stepping in to take her place. Now, the company announced today, it has a new president, and it’s a promotion from within.

Lindsey is passing the mantle of president to Jim Boyce, the company’s chief operating officer for almost three years. Boyce will also retain his COO title. His leadership has helped the Indianapolis-based company to grow dramatically, according to a June 16 news release.

DEFENDER bills itself as ADT’s only authorized Premier Provider. In business since 1998, the company employs more than 2,000 individuals in 48 states with over 143 branch offices nationwide.

Boyce actually joined DEFENDER’s Board of Advisors in 2009 and became the company’s COO in October 2011. Prior to joining DEFENDER, Boyce served on the executive teams at two large, global businesses, Convergys and Procter & Gamble, the news release said.

As president, Boyce will lead all day-to-day company operations, including overseeing DEFENDER’s Business Improvement Team, which includes key leaders from around the business who collaborate to achieve organizational alignment and continued success, the release said.

“In his time at DEFENDER, Jim has done an amazing job leading our security business. Key components of our business have dramatically grown and improved under Jim’s leadership,” Lindsey said, in a prepared statement.

In his own statement, Boyce said, “I am pleased with the success we are having and am incredibly optimistic about the future for this healthy, growing and inspired company. We have lightning in a bottle!”

Boyce is active in charitable work, according to the news release. He currently serves on the United Way of Central Indiana Board of Advisors and supports the Make-A-Wish Foundation. He is also involved with organizations such as the YWAM Homes of Hope Program, Junior Achievement and Habitat for Humanity.

I hope to learn more about DEFENDER's growth and future plans. Stay posted.

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by: Tess Nacelewicz - Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Honeywell has released its new LYNX 5200 wireless security system and Alarm Grid DIY Security Solutions, a new Florida company that focuses on helping customers install their own security systems to keep costs affordable, says it is “on a mission to make the L5200 the perfect panel for security system Do-It-Yourselfers.”

It will be interesting to see how much traction Alarm Grid—founded in 2012 and based in Lighthouse Point, Fla., and which offers its customers no-contract central station monitoring—is able to achieve with its DIY approach.

It’s clear the company really likes the new Honeywell panel.

“The L5200 is the sister panel to this year's ISC [West] ‘Best in Intrusion’ winner, the Honeywell L7000, which is expected to be released in the latter half of 2014,” Alarm Grid said in a June 11 news release. “Like the predecessors of these two panels, Honeywell has designed the L5200 to be an integrated system that combines state-of-the art wireless security features such as Advanced Protection Logic (APL) and interactive services that allow an user to control the system from any smart device, with the incredible convenience afforded by modern home automation products.”

Alarm Grid said that with the new panel, “Honeywell has gone far to address many of their consumers' demands, and it's clear that with this panel the company is furthering its commitment to improved user experience. … The Honeywell L5200 comes with more zones of protection, the ability to display a camera on screen, and one of the most exciting developments in Honeywell's technology comes with the announcement that the L5200 is flash upgradeable … which allows the panel to download the latest software updates that have been released for the unit.”

Alarm Grid believes that DIY is the wave of the future and that Honeywell’s new panel is perfect for DIYers. The company says it is making it available to end users through its website.

"Do-It-Yourselfers have really taken up the reins in this industry. These panels are easy to understand, they are simple to program, and they are simple to install," said Joshua Unseth, Alarm Grid's director of marketing, in a prepared statement.

The news release continues: “While the release of a security system like the L5200 would generally mean big money for installers who bank on consumers knowing very little about how these systems work, Alarm Grid has already released the L5200 manuals, they have begun writing L5200 frequently asked questions, and they have even released a L5200 DIY installation video, which they say shows just how simple installing this system yourself can be.”

"We don't think you have to be an experienced DIYer to install a security system," Sterling Donnelly, Alarm Grid president, said in a statement. “… Our goal is to make it easy. For those who want to give it a try, our tech team patiently guides them through every step of the way."

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