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by: Rich Miller - Wednesday, January 23, 2013

It should come as no surprise to anyone who has attended ESX in the past couple of years that it’s one of the fastest-growing trade shows in the country.

There was confirmation of that recently from Trade Show Executive magazine, which named the Electronic Security Expo one of the publication’s Fastest 50 winners for audience growth. Attendance at ESX grew 15.1 percent from the 2010 event in Pittsburgh to the 2011 event in Charlotte, N.C., easily outpacing average trade-show growth of 1.9 percent across a wide spectrum of industries, according to Darlene Gudea, president of the Trade Show Executive Media Group.

“At a time when most trade shows were battling the Great Recession and could barely maintain attendance levels of the past, along came the Electronic Security Expo, achieving a dramatic 15 percent jump in attendance,” Gudea said in a prepared statement.

The performance lifted ESX to 45th on the magazine’s list, “a success story that others can emulate and … a tribute to [the show’s] organizers,” Gudea said.

George De Marco, ESX chairman, said the growth is based on a winning formula: enhancing the show floor each year, adding to the education program and providing an array of networking events for integration and monitoring companies.

“We remain focused on executing our strategy of providing a dynamic ecosystem for security professionals to experience at ESX, helping them develop new partnerships, uncover new business opportunities and connect with colleagues,” De Marco said in the statement.

ESX moved to Nashville in 2012—hello, Tootsie’s—and it will be held there again in 2013, with events running from June 17-21 at the new Music City Center. For more on what to expect, go to www.esxweb.com.

by: Rich Miller - Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Mace Central Station announced late Tuesday that Michael Kallio, the company’s vice president of business development, died Jan. 10 after a battle with cancer.

Kallio was a 26-year employee of Mace CS in Anaheim, Calif., and was a member of the California Alarm Association.

“Michael was a dedicated, loyal manager and he helped guide the company to be one of the most respected central stations in California and the West,” said Michael Joseph, vice president and general manager of Mace CS, in a prepared statement.

Mace Security International announced that it will create the Michael Kallio Spirit Award and will provide matching funds for a scholarship endowment in his honor. The endowment will help deserving students with their college educations.

Kallio was promoted to vice president of business development at Mace CS in April 2012. Previously, he was manager of business development and operations manager. He was also a real estate agent at Joshua Realty & Loan in Orange County, according to his LinkedIn profile.

by: Rich Miller - Wednesday, January 9, 2013

ADT is getting into the health monitoring game.

The company announced this week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that it has teamed with Toronto-based Ideal Life to offer at-home and mobile health management services. ADT will integrate Ideal Life’s health monitoring and information technology into ADT Pulse, which gives customers remote access to home automation and security features.

Ideal Life bills its monitoring system as “proactive prevention” for people managing chronic conditions such as congestive health failure, hypertension, diabetes, asthma or obesity. The system utilizes digital, wireless, secure two-way communication devices to measure and relay information about glucose levels, blood pressure, body weight, oxygen saturation and heart rate.

“Ideal Life’s solutions empower consumers by educating them on the status of their conditions as well as the advantages of prevention,” Don Boerema, ADT’s chief corporate development officer, said in a prepared statement. “We look forward to working with their team to offer these valuable new services to our customers.”

Other monitoring companies have been into remote health management for a while, so it will be interesting to see what kind of traction ADT gets and how soon it will have an impact. But given the company’s size and marketing power, its push into the field will be hard to ignore.

by: Rich Miller - Wednesday, January 2, 2013

One of the most newsworthy items for the alarm industry in 2012 was AT&T’s announcement that it will shut down 2G service by Jan. 1, 2017. Everyone knew the day was coming, but there had been a lot of speculation in the field about exactly when cellular equipment would need to be upgraded to stay ahead of the sunset.

With the uncertainty gone, the industry now faces the reality of swapping millions of devices that use AT&T’s GSM/GPRS network. Choices must be made that involve assessing the longevity, coverage and cost of competing technologies. The larger the company, the larger the stakes.

SSN covered developments on the 2G sunset throughout 2012, presenting opinions from industry experts and a few rebuttals about the best path for dealers to take. For those still unsure about which way to go, a summation of options is provided by Syed Zaeem Hosain, chief technical officer at Aeris Communications, in the latest issue of CSAA Dispatch. Here’s what he had to say:

Change service to T-Mobile. It may be possible to move service from AT&T to T-Mobile by swapping the SIM [card] inside devices. This requires a truck roll. Furthermore, T-Mobile will also remove 2G eventually. Thus, this option only delays the inevitable by about two years; however, it allows additional time for implementing other options. It could require two truck rolls: one to replace the SIM soon, and another to replace the 2G GSM device later.
 

Replace with 3G HSPA. Alarm device suppliers are making new 3G HSPA devices. However, the HSPA coverage is much smaller than GPRS and, in time, HSPA spectrum also will need to be swapped for LTE. Thus, there is likely to be an “HSPA sunset” starting in about seven to eight years. This sunset would be worse, since the number of deployed alarm units will be much higher.

Replace with 2G CDMA. Alarm device suppliers have not yet supported this option, though it is likely the best. CDMA carriers have committed to 10-plus years of service longevity, and the 1xRTT coverage is better than GSM. Given the lower cost of 1xRTT radios and the large number of deployed 1xRTT applications in other industries (notably automotive and trucking) supporting the technology, using 1xRTT for alarm units makes sense.

Replace with 4G LTE. Deploying LTE devices is not viable for the alarm industry today. Radio costs are very high, and coverage is simply not sufficient for national deployments. Both will improve in time, but not at a pace that makes it a viable replacement option today. Carriers have not yet worked out LTE roaming agreements—these also will take time. Most importantly, the spectrum fragmentation for LTE means that current-generation LTE radios are single band (dedicated for use on a single carrier when in LTE mode). This is too restrictive, since these units can never be moved from one carrier to another.

Whichever route is chosen, it should be noted that the four-year window is a best-case scenario. Frequency harvesting is expected to dilute AT&T’s 2G coverage well before the sunset, with constraints already being reported in some areas. While the best choice for dealers seems to vary depending on who—or which manufacturer—you talk to, one thing is clear: Procrastination is no longer an option.

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by: Rich Miller - Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The outrage and debate in the wake of the Newtown massacre will inevitably bring change. It might not involve the federal action that many have demanded—a ban on assault weapons tops the list—but it is certain to include local initiatives that strengthen school security: improved access control, additional guard services, expanded video surveillance or a combination of the three.

Unfortunately, school shootings are a problem that security alone can’t address, involving complex issues that go well beyond simply installing metal detectors or better entry controls. A determined, well-armed assailant will still be able to kill despite the best intentions of public officials—that was proven in Newtown. Progress can be made to limit the scope of such tragedies, but to think we can eliminate them is naïve.

That being said, and with the horror of the Connecticut shootings still painfully fresh, it might come as a surprise to learn that the number of school homicides in the United States has dropped since the early 1990s. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there were two years during that decade—1992 and 1997—when the school homicide toll among students ages 5-18 rose to 34. By 2010, that number had fallen to 17. The decline hasn’t been constant and one slain student is one too many, but it’s a decline nonetheless.

For many schools, the tipping point for action was the Columbine High massacre in 1999, which led to the widespread adoption of lockdown procedures and other safety protocols. That sense of urgency has faded, however, according to school security consultant Kenneth Trump, who told The Washington Post this week that “the conversation and the training that we have today [are] not at the same level of consistency and intensity.”

Physical security assets at the nation’s schools also have lagged. Michael Dorn, executive director of the nonprofit group Safe Havens International, told the Post that fewer than 10 percent of U.S. schools have strong access control with locked entryways, buzzers, protective glass and camera or intercom systems. That’s likely to change after Newtown, he said, as school districts feel pressure to upgrade security.

“There’s a shift from concern to panic, if you will, and you have parents doing something to improve safety,” Dorn said.

That presents an opportunity for security companies not only to benefit financially—the unspoken result whenever such tragedies occur—but also to strengthen the protection of children across the nation. Regardless of what happens at the federal level, local school districts are sure to come knocking.

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by: Rich Miller - Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Partnership for Priority Video Alarm Response has added four new voices to its campaign to increase arrests and reduce property losses through the use of video-verified alarms.

Joining the PPVAR’s board of directors are Jacqueline Grimm, vice president of security solutions for Diebold Inc.; Douglas Curtiss, president of Sonitrol New England; Jon Bolen, chief technology officer for Interface Security Systems; and Robert Baxter, president of Radius Security.

The new directors from the security industry will work with representatives from the National Sheriffs Association and the National Insurance Crime Bureau, an alliance of groups that would have seemed unlikely a few years ago.  

“We’re pleased to join PPVAR to promote priority response to video alarms that are verified by a certified central station,” Grimm said in a prepared statement from the partnership. “[Diebold has] offered alarm verification services for many years, and our focus on priority response, apprehension and risk reduction provides comprehensive threat protection. Also, by assisting law enforcement with a second-by-second situation analysis, we can help improve officer and customer safety while increasing criminal apprehension rates.”

Bolen, who was the chief product officer for Westec before it was recently acquired by Interface, is a 15-year veteran of video verification. He cited its benefits by breaking down the numbers.

“We have reduced and maintained our dispatch rate to less than 3 percent of events handled by our operators, meaning that over 97 percent of the alarms we receive are resolved without the costly, and often needless, intervention of authorities,” he said in the PPVAR statement. “We are pleased to join an organization promoting this kind of value.”

Curtiss of Sonitrol, which has a history working with police to make arrests through audio verification, echoed Bolen’s sentiments.

“Whether it is audio or video, the operator is a witness to a crime in progress,” he said. “From my perspective, the ‘V’ in PPVAR is ‘verification.’ We support his organization and its work to reduce false alarms and make more arrests.”

Canada gets a nod in the PPVAR with the addition of Baxter. He is president of Radius Security, a Greater Vancouver video monitoring central station.

“Alarm response in many cities in Canada has been degrading as budgets and police resources decline,” he said. “Video-verified alarms help us provide greater security for our customers and reduce false alarms for our law enforcement partners.”

by: Rich Miller - Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Picture the perfect world for a monitoring manager: Every dispatcher takes every call efficiently and professionally, with no need for motivation beyond a paycheck and the satisfaction of a job well done. There are no prizes, awards, back-patting or cajoling, saving you time, money and maybe even a bit of your hairline.

If your central station has a work force that rises to that level, congratulations. Chances are, though, that no matter how many self-motivators you have, you also have employees who are content to just do their time—punch in, punch out, repeat. Maybe the work they’re doing can be considered satisfactory, but that’s not going to cut it in an industry that is getting more competitive by the day.

So how do you get those staffers to take it up a notch to help themselves and your company? To answer that question, the CSAA has recruited Amy Becht and Michelle Lindus, central station managers for Vivint, to share their expertise in a Dec. 12 webinar titled “Measuring Performance for Excellence.”

The session will focus on what the CSAA calls “the nuanced art and science” of measuring and improving staff performance. That includes assessing objective and subjective customer call metrics, promoting professionalism among dispatchers, and implementing incentives. Becht and Lindus will highlight some of the best practices employed by Vivint, which was named 2012 Central Station of the Year by the CSAA.

Becht, honored as the CSAA’s Manager of the Year, oversees monitoring at Vivint’s central station in St. Paul, Minn. She talked about home security in SSN’s “How I Use My System” feature in the September 2012 issue. Lindus is manager of Vivint’s central station in Provo, Utah.

The webinar will run from 1 to 2 p.m. EST and is free for CSAA members. Click here to register or go to www.csaaintl.org.

by: Rich Miller - Wednesday, November 28, 2012

SecureWatch 24’s new Fusion Centre in Moonachie, N.J., has a new tenant: Monitor America.

That’s the name of the company that will be operating the 25,000-square-foot central station at the facility, which served as an emergency command post for police and municipal officials after Hurricane Sandy.

Jay Stuck, chief marketing officer for Monitor America, said the company “brings together virtually all existing alarm and hosted video services available today, including video analytics, in one central point.”

Stuck said Monitor America is developing a third-party sales initiative and a traditional dealer program. It will all be anchored by the advanced technology at the Fusion Centre, with a 40-by-11-foot video display wall overlooking stadium-style seating for 36 operators.

“It looks like something NASA might put together—our dealer customers and integrators will be knocked out by it,” he said.

Monitor America is hosting a sneak preview of its new facility during ISC East and is expected to begin formal operations by the end of January.

After the storm: How did you cell carrier measure up?

It’s only been a month since Sandy, but officials are already deep into assessing its impact on everything from tunnel vulnerability to emergency communications. Part of the evaluation concerns cellular service, with FCC hearings set early next year on network performance during and after the storm.

Lou Fiore, chairman of the Alarm Industry Communications Committee, said the group plans to weigh in and is seeking comment on the following:

1) How alarm service was adversely affected by cellular carriers’ handling of the storm.
2) How cell carriers handled prioritizing restoration of service.
3) How cell carriers communicated with alarm companies about storm issues.
4) How any problems can be resolved.

Fiore said the issue will be discussed at the AICC’s Dec. 6 meeting and all comments are appreciated. Responses can be sent to Ltfiore@aol.com.
 

by: Rich Miller - Tuesday, November 20, 2012

City-mandated video surveillance? It’s on the table in Pine Bluff, Ark.

In the wake of the unsolved killing of a convenience store clerk, local leaders are considering an ordinance to require convenience stores and restaurants to install and maintain surveillance cameras on their properties, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported on Nov. 12.

The move was prompted by the shooting death of Mohammad Islam during an attempted robbery Sept. 25 at the Big Red Food Mart. The shooter has not been apprehended, a situation that police investigators say has not been helped by the fact that security cameras inside the store were not working at the time of the crime.

“What we want to ensure is the safety of people working in these stores,” said Alderman George Stepps, who sponsored the ordinance. “That’s the bottom line here.”

Fines of up to $1,000 could be assessed against storeowners, managers or clerks at properties found in noncompliance. The city’s Fire and Emergency Services Department would inspect properties and ensure that cameras are operational.

According to the Democrat-Gazette, Pine Bluff—population 49,083—could be the first city of its size in the state to have such an ordinance.

Capt. Greg Shapiro of the Pine Bluff Police Department told the newspaper that the department supports the proposal and sees it as a crime deterrent.

“We asked for this piece of legislation following [Islam’s] murder,” Shapiro said. “We don’t want to place a financial burden on any business, but this is 2012, and the technology is available and affordable to protect employees [of these businesses] and help us deter, as well as solve, crimes.”

Keith Jentoft, president of RSI Video Technologies, said the proposed ordinance is a sign of the times: using technology to fight crime instead of throwing declining law enforcement personnel against it.

“What I find fascinating is that the motivation is not to reduce false alarms, but to make arrests,” Jentoft told Security Systems News. He said Pine Bluff’s ordinance and similar legislation can help the alarm industry “upsell an entire community of businesses so that their alarm systems can do a better job of protecting people.”

The Pine Bluff City Council on Monday night postponed a vote on the proposal.

by: Rich Miller - Tuesday, November 13, 2012

We’re getting into the time of the year when opportunistic thieves make the most of others’ holiday cheer and generosity. Packages left at the doorway or a pile of presents that can be easily seen from outside a home send a signal to the unscrupulous: Come and get it.

Alarm systems are an obvious deterrent, with the signs and decals accompanying them often enough to make thieves think twice. But for true peace of mind, there’s no substitute for an actual system. The problem is that many alarm users don’t know how to properly use their systems, or if they do, they neglect to do so.

The Security Industry Alarm Association estimates that 77 percent of all false alarms are due to end-user error. Many of those end users could just as easily forget to arm their systems amid the bustle of the holidays, essentially leaving the door open to property crime. It’s safe to say most alarm companies could tell a tale or two along those lines.

There are other ways to reinforce security at home, though, measures that might seem obvious but somehow are frequently overlooked. With that in mind, the Electronic Security Association has rolled out a tip sheet to help homeowners think like an intruder. Alarm companies can also use the tips to remind their customers to think deterrence, especially during the holidays.

Here’s an excerpt of what the ESA had to say:

Most home intrusions can be classified as random opportunistic acts—not planned events. Homeowners can protect against a home intrusion by looking at the weaknesses of their home from an intruder’s point of view. Here are a few questions an intruder might ask when deciding on a house to target.

 

Is anyone home?
The first thing many intruders do is check to see if anyone is home. Sometimes the intruder will simply knock on the front door. If someone answers, the intruder may make up an excuse for the disturbance, such as being lost and needing directions. If no one answers, the intruder may do further research to ensure the home is vacant. He or she may look into windows and listen for the sound of someone watching television. Other times, if the knock at the door goes unanswered, the intruder may try his or her luck at an unlocked door. Three out of 10 times, he or she will hit the jackpot and walk right in.
 Homeowners should try to make their homes appear occupied at all times. Timers for inside lights and televisions serve as easy solutions. Another effective and cost-efficient measure to consider is motion sensor lights. Placing these lights in dark areas outside of the home may scare away potential intruders lurking in the shadows.

Is the home equipped with an alarm system?
A 2009 study by the Rutgers School of Criminal Justice found that an installed burglar alarm makes a dwelling less attractive to would-be and active intruders and protects the home without displacing burglaries to nearby homes. Additionally, the Cromwell-Olson-Avary study, conducted to better understand offenders’ perception of the risks and rewards involved in criminal activity, found that nearly all convicted intruders (90 percent) admitted that they would avoid homes that are equipped with alarm systems. Additionally, the study revealed that if a potential intruder sees a yard sign or window decal from a credible security company outside of a home, around 75 percent would think twice about going through with an attack. But signs and decals aren’t enough to deter an intruder; alarm systems are the best protection against home intrusion.

What is the easiest way to break in?
On average, intruders will spend no more than 60 seconds breaking into a home, since a longer attempt may result in detection by a neighbor or passer-by. First, they will seek out unlocked or open doors and windows—even on the second or third floor—that can be accessed by a ladder. And sometimes, a standard locked door or window won’t always be enough to stop them. Homeowners should consider upgrading to deadbolts and reinforcing the frame of their front door to make a break-in more strenuous for the intruder.

Will anyone notice?
Intruders tend to target homes that they can get away from easily. For an intruder, an ideal home would be located in a dark, lifeless neighborhood with good hiding places and escape paths, such as overgrown bushes or trees in the yard. Hiding areas can be eliminated by keeping the landscaping neatly trimmed and using outdoor lights so the home is well lit at night. Homeowners are encouraged to start or join a neighborhood watch group. These groups can help reduce the risk of home intrusion for everyone in the community. By enhancing the home’s security features with electronic timers, motion sensor lighting and a professionally installed security system, homeowners can protect their property and keep their family safe from crime.

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