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by: Leif Kothe - Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Highlighted by the marquee acquisition of Security Networks, 2013 was unquestionably a strong year for Monitronics. It appears 2014 is starting the upswing as well.

Monitronics turned in an impressive haul at the latest Stevie Awards, reeling in a pair of Bronze prizes at the eighth awards show for sales and customer service. For the second consecutive year the third-party central station won in the Contact Center of the Year category, according to a news release from the company. The company was also honored in the Front-Line Customer Service Team of the year category.

The awards were presented at a gala banquet at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, the release noted.

On March 11, a pair of Monitronics leaders is slated to speak at the Piper, Jaffray Technology, Media & Telecommunications Conference held in at the Le Parker Meridien in New York.

Bill Fitzgerald, chairman and CEO of Ascent Capital, the holding company that owns Monitronics, and Michael Meyers, CFO of Ascent and Monitronics, will speak at the conference. According to an Ascent Capital news release, management may make “observations regarding the financial performance and outlook of both Ascent and Monitronics.”

In the wake of a big year for Monitronics, this presentation from management could be worth a listen. A live webcast of the presentation will be made available on the Ascent Capital investor relations website.

by: Leif Kothe - Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Though 18 states had previously legalized marijuana for medical use, it was the pair of initiatives passed in Colorado and Washington that legalized the substance recreationally that seems to have made the security industry more attentive to what kind of possibilities lie ahead in this new and rapidly expanding market.

It’s not difficult to see why. Those operating dispensaries and growing facilities will require security solutions for many of the same reasons an end user at a jewelry store would: They have to protect hundreds if not thousands of lightweight and expensive consumer products. End users will likely pull out all the stops on an integrated solution, relying on motion detectors, sensors, access control, dozens of cameras with status monitoring and, perhaps for larger storage facilities, virtual guard tours. Because the industry is in its nascent stages and still very much evolving, it’s difficult to forecast what the industry will look in even five to ten years from now.

New York-based DirectView Security, a provider of onsite and remote video and audio surveillance solutions and a subsidiary of DirectView Holdings, recently announced in a news release that it’s entered into “early stage discussions with several marijuana industry companies to provide a number of potential video surveillance and access control solutions.”

Though in many states marijuana laws are becoming more lax, the substance remains illegal under federal law. This adds an interesting wrinkle to the current security landscape in connection with this market. Federal pressure on banks has made it extremely difficult for pot dispensaries to get loans. As a result, they’ve had to rely primarily on cash, making them an even bigger target for robbers than they already were.  

It’s been well documented that ADT last year made a policy decision not to sell security systems to businesses engaged in the marijuana industry because it’s still illegal under federal law. It’s conceivable that other companies both large and small will also take that approach. But it will be interesting to see what companies take the reins in the market and to see to what kind of impact it will have on business.

In the news release, Roger Ralston, CEO and chairman of DirectView, expressed a good deal of optimism about doing just that: “Having worked to provide security products and solutions for large hotels and several banks, we have a strong understanding of complex security needs and how to provide the most cost-effective solutions,” he said, adding that he views the new market as “strong growth driver for our business in the coming years.”

by: Leif Kothe - Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Members of the IQ Certification Program recently elected officers at the organization’s first meeting of 2014. While there’s considerable continuity from years past (several members earned reelection), the board of directors also reflects some changes, highlighted by the appointment of Lynn Comer as chairperson.

Another change was the election of Don Childers, COO of Statesville, N.C.-based Security Central, to the IQ Board. Earlier this week I spoke to Don about some of the key priorities for the certification program moving forward. Childers said that, as with any association, exploring ways to boost membership remains an overarching objective.

“We have to show the value of what we’re doing, then determine how to get the message out en masse so that those in the industry better understand what we’re trying to do,” he said.

One strategy for doing just that, Childers said, is leveraging big-name industry events—he cited ESX as an example—to hold sessions that perform the double-task of educating prospective members while promoting the business value of being IQ Certified. An education chair at ESX, Childers said he would be in favor of including a 60 to 70 minute seminar at the show.  

As far as other goals with the organization, Childers said he may suggest ways to streamline some of the application paperwork for the certification program, making it easier for non-central station members, whose application process tends to be more involved. Besides that, Childers’ near-term aim is to examine IQ Certification membership “from the business owners’ point of view” and to continue “learning the job as I go along.” 

by: Leif Kothe - Wednesday, February 12, 2014

I reported last week on a bill in Georgia that would expand the number of Georgia contractors licensed to perform low-voltage installations. Yesterday, that piece of legislation (S.B. 294) passed the Georgia Senate by a vote of 53-0. Three senators were not on the floor during the vote.

John Loud, immediate past president of the Georgia Electronic Life Safety & Systems Association, and an opponent of the bill, admitted the outcome in the Senate was disconcerting. But he believes the legislative battle is far from over; he and GELSSA members are now developing a strategy to put the brakes on the bill in the House. “There are seven steps through the House for us to put various stops or blocks to this,” Loud said. “We knew it had been fast-tracked through the Senate, so my original plan was to skip the Senate and get ready for the battle in the House.”

If passed, the bill would permit those licensed as an Electrical Contractor Class II—a high-voltage installation certification—to perform low-voltage contracting, which encompasses fire and security systems, without obtaining the statewide low-voltage license that’s currently required.

Loud says the bill could bring an influx of new contractors into the life safety systems space, and could undo much of the progress GELSSA has made over the past year in promoting legislation that reduces false dispatches. He anticipates that the bill will now be parsed by the Regulated Industries Subcommittee in the Georgia House.

There are two possible compromises that GELSSA would find agreeable, Loud said. One would be to give the additional contractors who would be eligible to install life safety systems a Low-Voltage General (LVG) license rather than a Low-Voltage Unrestricted (LVU). A general license would allow contractors to pull wires but not install, for example, access control or fire safety systems.

The other outcome would be implementing a CEU program and background check that would ensure contractors are qualified to install low-voltage life safety systems.

Loud believes the bill could have implications that extend beyond the borders of Georgia. “It’s vital to get all the folks in Georgia to listen up and understand the impact of this,” he said. “As we all know, what happens in Georgia or Michigan or Pennsylvania can easily be replicated in other states.”

by: Leif Kothe - Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Plagued by an astronomical 98 percent false alarm rate for security systems, Akron, Ohio is following the lead of several other major American cities and introducing verified alarm response, according to a report from the Associated Press, and a news release from Sonitrol, an audio verification company.

The policy, adopted in larger cities such as Detroit, Las Vegas and Milwaukee, is simple: If an alarm goes off, a possible crime must be confirmed prior to law enforcement dispatch.

There are several causes of false alarms—outdated systems and installation flaws are among the most common culprits. But whatever the cause, the torrent of towns and cities taking measures to address them suggests that municipalities and police departments have had enough. In addition to being a budgetary drag, false alarms can potentially have dire consequences if they delay police response to more critical calls.

To some, enacting policies designed to confirm crime prior to police dispatch sets the stage for greater cooperation between the industry and law enforcement. But according to the AP report, not everyone is sold on these measures being the best means of ensuring maximum public safety. David Margulies, spokesman for the SIAC, was quoted in the report saying such policies are "basically putting the public in danger." To be sure, there is a fundamental tension between the need for municipalities to save resources by reducing false dispatch and certain ideas about the best policies for responding to alarms. In the coming days, I hope to gather some opinions on both sides of this debate.

I’ll be interested to hear how municipal measures to curb false dispatches through verification policies modify the demands of central station personnel on the ground level. As such policies become more widespread, how will the industry change? Does the future of monitored alarms involve video or audio verification becoming de rigueur?

by: Leif Kothe - Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The informative marathon that was the opening day of TechSec drew to a close with the inaugural SSN NextGen panel discussion, moderated by yours truly, which showcased the perspectives of four honorees from SSN’s latest “20 under 40” class. The discussion revolved around four areas of technology—video verification, cellular networks, mobile apps and interactive services—that the panelists identified as crucial points of focus with respect to the industry’s future.

As I mentioned in the introduction, the panel provided a good snapshot of the industry. There were representatives from the systems integration side and the alarm monitoring space, and we also heard from an IT director at a super-regional. Well versed across the spectrum of topics, the speakers were able to weigh in on industry topics that were even a bit outside the scope of their professions.  

Joe Parisi, senior account executive at Rapid Response Monitoring, led an in-depth discussion on the value proposition of video verified alarms, and how an awareness of that proposition should guide how a company deploys and sells the offering.

The discussion branched next into the related topics of mobile apps and cellular technology. Johnny Cunningham, IT director at ADS Security, reflected on some of the challenges of the industry’s reliance on cellular networks, and Robert Gaulden, VP of sales and marketing at Kratos, discussed the future of NFC technology and clarified some of the demands involved with Kratos’ NFC pilot project at Arizona State University.

Jesse Rivest, territory manager at Affiliated Monitoring, spearheaded the portion of the panel devoted to interactive services. He forecast an expanded array of automated functions entering the mainstream, marked by the continued (and unlimited) development of interconnected applications in the home and beyond that have yet to fully crystallize.

After the session, SSN “20 under 40” recipients were honored at the awards ceremony. Below is a list of those honored at TechSec:

-Jesse Rivest, territory manager, Affiliated Monitoring

-Joe Parisi, senior account executive, Rapid Response Monitoring

-Navin Goel, operations manager, Go Safer Security

-Stephanie Wagner, licensing and compliance manager; field operations training and support

-Ronda Meyer, VP/controller, Per Mar Security

-Robert Gaulden, VP of sales and marketing, Kratos

-Johnny Cunningham, IT director, ADS Security

-Michael Campbell, VP of global sales operations, Diebold

by: Leif Kothe - Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Less than a week remains until TechSec Solutions kicks off in the comparatively balmy climes of Delray Beach, Fla. The location itself will be a welcome respite for those of us coping with the deep freeze to the north, but it’s the quality of the speakers and panelists that stand to be the biggest draw.  

I wanted to use this space to draw attention to a pair of Next Gen Security Series panels slated for the opening day, one of which I’ll be moderating. For the panel, titled “Security integrators’ perspective: The changing landscape of security integration,” I’ll be asking four members of SSN’s latest “20 under 40” class a range of questions focused on new and emerging technologies, all with an eye toward identifying what implications such developments have for the industry as a whole.

The panelists for my session will be Johnny Cunningham, director of information technology at ADS Security; Robert Gaulden, VP of sales & marketing at Kratos; Jesse Rivest, territory manager at Affiliated Monitoring; and Joe Parisi, senior account executive at Rapid Response Monitoring. Considering the range of professional responsibilities, the panel provides a pretty strong snapshot of the industry.

The other Next Gen panel will include “20 under 40” winners from SSN’s sister publication, Security Director News, and that session will be moderated by SDN editor Amy Canfield.

From Delray Beach I’ll be following up with more coverage on the Next Gen panels, while covering several other events in the TechSec program. I’m eager to meet some new folks down at the conference, and eager to hear what those at the vanguard think of the industry’s direction.

by: Leif Kothe - Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Several organizations recently joined PPVAR’s growing membership roster, but two of the new additions are particularly striking. Digital Life, a home management platform from AT&T, is now on board, according to Keith Jentoft, an industry liaison for PPVAR. This comes about seven months after Digital Life earned CSAA Five Diamond certification.

Investment bank Imperial Capital also joined the organization. This is doubtless an interesting development as well, with Imperial being the organization's first member from the private investment side. In a certain sense, an investment bank showing interest in video verified monitoring seems unsurprising, given signs of the technology's more mainstream direction, plus the technology’s ability to drive higher average revenue returns per customer. Additionally, when a private investment bank allies itself with a best-practices organization, it suggests their interest in the value proposition runs fairly deep.

The group also added The Illinois Alarm Association and the Michigan Association of Police Chiefs as members—both organizations the likes of which we've become more accustomed to seeing engage with PPVAR, an organization focused on pooling knowledge from members in both public and private sectors.

As PPVAR forges ahead toward its goal of written standards for video verification, I’ll be keen to see what kind of bearings its new members have on the organization’s direction. Will the addition of Digital Life compel other cablecos and telecoms to join? And with respect to Imperial Capital, I’m curious to see what kind of role they play in promoting PPVAR’s cause. Will their membership generate further interest in video verification from other private investment groups?

The organization is convening in the coming days, Jentoft said. After they do, I hope to get a clearer picture of where the organization is at this stage of the process.

by: Leif Kothe - Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Alarm.com’s new Wellness solution, unveiled recently at CES, may perform some of the same functions as a traditional PERS unit, but the solution has the unmistakable stamp of an Alarm.com offering.

The solution combines mobile notifications and sensors with the company’s home automation platform, a medley of functionalities that make it a unique contribution to the independent living product realm, which is fast becoming a widespread RMR-generating fixture in the industry.

That’s not to say Wellness doesn’t feature some of the typical trappings of more traditional PERS technology. The solution includes panic buttons, for instance. But how the offering differs from traditional PERS units in some ways parallels how Alarm.com initially distinguished itself as a company in the residential security space—through its automation functions. Through a network of sensors, the solution can automatically detect unusual information and send mobile notifications to caregivers.  

Since Wellness is fully integrated with the company’s home automation, energy management and security services, the offering essentially slots in as another component of the broader ecosystem of a connected home. Another neat wrinkle to the offering, and one that maybe shouldn’t be surprising given the overarching design of the solution, is that it enables caregivers to adjust household devices like thermostats remotely.

It’s hard to think of a product perfectly analogous to this elsewhere in the industry, though that doesn’t mean there’s not one, or at least something similar in scope and breadth. In the coming days, once CES is in the rearview mirror, I plan to speak to Alison Slavin, VP of product management at Alarm.com, to find out more about how this product puts a new spin on the PERS space, as well as what the future holds for the company in that market. 

by: Leif Kothe - Tuesday, December 31, 2013

DirectView Security Systems, a division of New York-based DirectView Holdings, is adding a video verification component its offerings to clients, which include both commercial and larger residential customers. As part of the initiative, the company plans to incorporate central station alarm monitoring and remote video surveillance into a comprehensive security solution.

In its initial announcement, DirectView stated it would provide a state-of-the-art UL-Listed facility for these services, but at this this juncture it’s not clear who that third-party partner will be. Security Systems News reached out to DirectView but did not receive a response by press time.

The impetus behind the video verification push, the company noted in the announcement, is multifaceted. As any champion of video verification will tell you, the value proposition lies in the technology’s ability to add the extra layer of security of trained professionals monitoring video footage, while saving clients money by reducing false alarms. In the announcement, the company said the solution will enable clients to also save money by reducing their dependence on on-site staff.

The verification component can also provide added urgency to a legitimate alarm, making dispatches a higher priority for law enforcement.

“We have received numerous inquiries from both current and potential clients about these services as part of a comprehensive and competitively priced security solution,” Roger Ralston, CEO and chairman of DirectView, stated in a press release. He added that the central station initiative is designed to make the company a “one-stop-shop” for comprehensive security solutions.

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