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by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, March 22, 2017

On March 16, CSAA announced that it is officially The Monitoring Association.

To recap: the name change was discussed among members in the second quarter of 2016. It was voted on, and passed, during CSAA’s general membership meeting in early June, 2016, in Fort Worth, Texas.

SSN spoke with executive director Jay Hauhn and the organization’s vice president of marketing and communications about CSAA’s plans for 2017, including the process of changing the name.

In a letter to the CSAA membership, president Pamela J. Petrow noted that “our new name reflects our renewed commitment to our mission: to advance the professional monitoring industry through education, advocacy and public safety relationships. It also emphasizes our long range goals to grow the association beyond our traditional services to embrace the opportunities of our changing industry.” She added that the new name’s meaning “will be reflected in all future initiatives of [the] association.”

Association programs including Five Diamond, Excellence Awards, Online Training, and the Annual Meeting and Fall Operations Management Seminar are also undergoing rebranding and will be re-launched under the new name, the organization noted in its recent announcement.

“The term ‘Central Station’ no longer has wide recognition outside of our industry,” Lasko said in the announcement. “Our new name will facilitate our efforts to educate the public about the critical role TMA members play in public safety,” she said.

“Monitoring life safety events in the traditional central station model remains our core business,” Hauhn said in the recent release. “That will not change. However, our demographics surveys show that members increasingly monitor more than traditional fire and burglar alarms – they monitor medical devices, access control, and other non-emergency but meaningful events. Our new name allows room for the association to encompass all the areas our members are beginning to monitor and any into which they may move in the future.”

TMA’s website can be found at www.tma.us. Member ID numbers and login information for the website will not change. TMA staff will use the email suffix “@tma.us.” All emails to the previous “@csaaintl.org” address will be forwarded.

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, March 15, 2017

CARIBOU, Maine—In Northern Maine, Virtual Managed Solutions LLC recently opened a wholesale monitoring center.

“I have wanted to develop a central station for a number of years,” CB Smith, CEO of Virtual Managed Solutions, said. The development of the monitoring center started in September 2016, and Smith credited the company’s VP and CIO Steve Boddy with much of the due diligence and technological setup.

Virtual Managed Solutions, or VMS, has operated a contact center here since 2007 and will be the parent company to VMSCS. “We’ve had a couple of really good years of growth and financial stability, so we’ve recently invested and we are online,” Smith said.

“We recognize that we have a skillset, we certainly have the network and we have the redundancy—of course—and now … the UL certification,” Smith said. “We are, as I see it, able to present ourselves as an apples-and-apples comparison to any other wholesale [station] out there in the country.”

The center, which officially opened at the end of February, currently monitors for about 150 accounts, Smith said. VMSCS is using Bold Technologies’ Manitou Cloud Services for its automation system. In addition to traditional alarms, the company will also do PERS and video monitoring.

Smith said that having the contact center business, collocated with the central station, will allow the monitoring center to offer “quite aggressive” pricing.

The company will be dedicating employees to monitoring center services, separating them from other call center operations in VMS. Picking the right people was important to the company, Boddy told SSN. “We’re looking for people that use customer service not as a job but as a career, because they’re going to put people first,” he said.

“Business development is obviously a big part of any business operation,” Smith said. The company is starting to grow its account base through contacting local dealers, he said. VMSCS is increasing its marketing and has created a new website. “From there, it’ll just be spreading our wings and going to different geographic areas of the state and then outside of the state of Maine as well,” Smith said.

Smith has a variety of experience with the industry, working with SimplexGrinnell, and Maine-based integrator Norris Inc, before working with VMS. “Since I opened this contact center with my team here, I’ve had a vision of coming into that world and working in that world. … I recognize the potential,” Smith said.

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, March 8, 2017

As I’m watching the weather forecast for Maine predict a drop into single digits temperatures, I can’t help but think about the great weather we had in Delray Beach Florida for this year’s TechSec Solutions conference, held Feb. 27 and 28.

Though there was a bit of rain during the day, the weather worked out perfectly in the evening for our “20 under 40” Class of 2016 reception. It was great to see a variety of award winners able to make it down—seven from our end user class and six from our integrator class. Below is a photo of all the winners that could attend this year's conference.

Reviewing the feedback we’ve gotten, many said that they enjoyed the networking opportunities. Each year, I find that the poolside “20 under 40” reception is a great place to spark those conversations and meetings.

Beyond making it to the reception, it was great having so many of these winners also participate on panels. Paramount Pictures’ Jeff Reider, National Oilwell Varco’s Bob Bernazal and Brian Phillips of Alexion Pharmaceuticals—all three of which are 2016 end user winners—gathered for a conversation, moderated by Guy Morgante from Northland Controls, on the nature of GSOCs today.

Phillips also moderated the session on big data in the physical security world, which you can read more about here.

Class of 2016 integrator Andrea Kuhn, from Kastle Systems, moderated the panel on the mobile security technologies that are out there today.

Kuhn also served as a panelist on “Class of 2016 ‘20 under 40’ winners take on the future,” along with fellow integrator winner Jeremy Brooks, with CSG Security, and end user winners Michael Brzozowski from Symcor and Tyrone Chambliss of Flex. Together, these four panelists discussed various hot topics in the industry, including the Internet of Things, smart buildings, cybersecurity and drones.

It is very rewarding each year to recognize up and coming professionals in this industry, and it was great to see some of them at this year’s TechSec conference and hear their perspective on the latest industry trends.

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, March 1, 2017

One theme that I was happy to see at this year's TechSec Solutions conference, held in Delray Beach, Fla., on Feb. 27 and 28, was that conversations were picked up in- and outside of sessions.

Many topics in the industry impact more than just one sector, vertical or business. Drones, IoT, cybersecurity, biometrics—these technologies have many different applications and their changes and developments have a wide impact.

This year, we wanted to continue the conversation on biometrics after a very interesting "Battle of the Body Parts" at TechSec Solutions 2016. In the end, iris scan technologies proved to have the most potential, for its security as well as its applicability. This year, we brought back reigning champion Blaine Frederick, vice president for product management with EyeLock, to talk more about iris scan technologies’ developments and opportunities with Jeff Kohler, product line and business development director of the newly named Princeton Identity.

Cybersecurity has come up a lot in the industry, and it was definitely brought up a few times during the conference. During the last session of this year's conference, moderator Jay Hauhn, executive director for CSAA, pointed out how he liked that cybersecurity was addressed as it specifically related to each conversation.

The first panel session, "The future of IoT: Taming security's wild west," looked at IoT's current standards and developments. This topic was then picked up and added to by both our panel of "20 under 40" winners from the class of 2017 and the second day's session on the latest trends in monitoring. 

At our "20 under 40" reception I discussed the hot topics with Brian Cote, product manager for Eizo. He made an interesting point about the maneuverability Nightingale Security's Jack Wu showed in his drone demo, comparing the free range of rotation to a more traditional camera's pan, tilt, and zoom capabilities.

Thank you to everyone that came out and participated!

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by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Mass notification system provider Alertus Technologies recently entered a partnership with AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions, bringing its customers more capabilities when it comes to weather alerts and emergencies.

Alertus, founded in 2002, has included weather alerts in its system and has been developing and automating these alerts. “We wanted to partner with AccuWeather since they really are the leader in that space, and have a lot of additional services that they bring to the table,” Amanda Sassano, Alertus director of commercial sales, said. 

Formerly, the company relied mostly on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data. “[Previously], there was a certain radius outside of a ZIP code, and that area would be notified if there was a tornado watch or warning—they were very basic alerts,” Sassano said. “Now, with the partnership with AccuWeather, we’re able to tap into their resources—or their feeds as well, and leverage if they have severe weather packages—from hurricanes, to snow, to lightning—to their SkyGuard Service.”

AccuWeather’s SkyGuard service provides users with real-time data relevant to their local areas from a meteorologist. This information will be brought directly into Alertus' ThreatWatcher tool.

Alertus has a broad customer base, Sassano said. The company’s most matured market is in higher education, she said, “they’re the early adopters in mass notification. But, we work in verticals like state and local government, healthcare, corporate, manufacturing, … stadiums, sports arenas, aviation, k-12 [and] military.” The company sells its offerings through security integrators as well as directly servicing customers.

What sets Alertus apart from other MNS technologies? “Definitely our approach. We’re very interoperable with all technologies, whether that's existing infrastructure on the emergency asset side—like access control, fire panel integration, cameras—to leveraging existing infrastructure that's not emergency assets, like VOIP phones [and] desktop computers,” Sassano said.

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, February 15, 2017

DALLAS—Last September, when Monitronics changed its name to MONI Smart Security, it also said it would be pushing its brand toward consumers more. In line with that, MONI started a new initiative: its Customer Bill of Rights.

“Products and price are relatively similar across companies within the industry. The true differentiator, in this industry, can be customer experience,” Jay Autrey, recently promoted chief customer officer at MONI, told Security Systems News. “We want to be disruptive when it comes to the customer experience in the home security industry.”

According to the company, customers have the right to local service, easily moving their system to a new location, understand their contract, voice their opinions, have all issues addressed in one business day and a simple cancellation process.

The company relied on customer feedback, as well as a collaborative effort from dealer support and customer service organizations within MONI, to identify the most important customer rights.

Moni has in the last nine months been instituting more channels for direct customer feedback, Autrey said, and can use that information to gauge whether or not it is upholding the customer’s rights.

The company wants to “make sure that customers fully understand what they can expect from MONI, up to choosing us but obviously [also] well after choosing us.”

Chief customer officer is a newly created role at MONI, and Autrey said that the role shows a commitment to customer service, both internally and externally.

MONI is also looking to improve relations with customers by more frequently contacting them and giving them information on new products and services, Autrey said, which was a request the company heard from customers.

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, February 8, 2017

EDMONTON, Canada—FillQuick, a CRM company that has worked with MONI, UCC and AvantGuard, will now be integrated with ADT’s API.

FillQuick has “done a fantastic job in developing a customer relationship management tool that will allow our dealers to run their businesses more efficiently and more effectively,” Clay Fearrington, senior director of strategic initiatives, business architecture & dealer development at ADT, told Security Systems News.

“In the past, a dealer would have a CRM, but didn’t have the connection into the ADT systems,” Fearrington continued. “The big benefit here is it’s reducing keystrokes.”

ADT is also working to integrate other CRMs into its API, such as Engarde and SecurityTrax. ADT dealers specifically requested an integration with FillQuick, which led to the companies’ collaboration, Fearrington said.

Since FillQuick’s last wave of announcements in 2016, FillQuick has added several new features to the software, including auto-generating account numbers for installation and connection to central stations, expanded reporting features of its software and uploading features for proposals or images in a range of different formats. “Sales reps, they write proposals and take a picture, and attach it to a lead. So, if they ever come back to that lead, they can take a look at what they offered to that customer,” Paul Shakuri, FillQuick's founder said.

“Another big feature update was notifications for users within the software when statuses change on accounts, such as [when] an account gets installed, an account gets cancelled [or] an account gets paid on,” he said, adding that this now brings this information to salespeople.

Shakuri said that the company has a high rate, close to 95 percent, of converting companies that demo the software into customers. “[A] huge percentage of people who were not joining was because we were not integrated with ADT,” Shakuri said.

The company is currently working on new communication capabilities in the software between a dealer and its sub-dealers. “We’re looking to have it complete within quarter one [2017],” Shakuri said.

What else is on FillQuick’s agenda for 2017? “Our sights are set on integrating with a couple more central stations,” Shakuri said. FillQuick will also focus on data and dealer feedback to further improve the software.

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, February 1, 2017

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.—ManitouNEO, Bold Technology's latest version of its central station automation platform, is commercially available as of today.

Rod Coles, Bold’s CEO, called ManitouNEO “the first major re-architecture of the software. … This is version two.” Bold Technologies released its first version of Manitou in 2003, 14 years ago, and Coles expects this version to hold up just as long. Bold has about 600 customers using Manitou; the upgrade is free for current Manitou customers.

ManitouNEO will be browser-based, and feature a new user interface. “The reason that we’ve chosen a browser-based application means that its portable,” Coles told Security Systems News. The software can now run Windows, Linux, Mac and even on a phone or tablet, he continued. 

“With ManitouNEO, we can use exactly the same application for dealers as well as central station staff. It’s just permissions based,” Coles said. This makes Bold’s maintenance and dealer support easier, according to Coles.

ManitouNEO is starting out with options for both a new user interface and Manitou’s existing interface. This allows companies and their employees to learn the new interface at their own pace, according to Coles. “We’ve done a lot of work to allow them to have both [user interfaces available], and they can gradually move from one to another.”

Many of NEO’s new features are also available in the previous Windows interface. Previously, Bold had offerings in separate interfaces, such as its GPS-focused BoldTrack. “Now we’ve been able to pull that and other things all into one user interface. It just brings a lot of different parts of our products together,” he said.

Bold, in addition to the new interface, has enhanced its action patterns, which give users specific instructions and information on alarm handling. These action patterns now include more conditional items, Coles noted.

Bold’s cloud-based automation platform, Manitou Cloud Services, will be upgraded to ManitouNEO as well. “This application will work within a central station, just like our existing platform does. But, of course, it’s a natural fit for the cloud,” Coles said. This upgrade should take place in the next few months, he said.

“NEO itself will improve the upgrade process,” according to Coles. “Because it is web-based application, then all we have to do is literally update the server and then all of the work stations are effectively upgraded.”

A new feature coming soon to NEO is a communications center that will allow operators multiple avenues to connect with alarm users at the same time, such as text messaging capabilities while also being on the phone.

Training new employees could become easier, as people are generally familiar with browser-based applications, according to Coles.

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, January 25, 2017

MONI Smart Security, formerly Monitronics, recently promoted its SVP of operations, Bruce Mungiguerra, to the role of COO.

In this new role, Mungiguerra will be “Shifting some focus off of customer care leadership and increasing focus on dealer operations, innovating our dealer channel through dealer enablement, sales training and building a stronger more efficient field operations group within in MONI,” he told Security Systems News in an email interview.

Since joining the company in 2006, Mungiguerra has served in several roles in the organization, including as director of consumer sales, VP field operations, VP Sales and dealer development, and most recently SVP operations.

“In the 10 plus years I have been with the organization, we have seen a tremendous amount of change,” Mungiguerra said. When Mungiguerra started, the company “Had just over 300,000 customers, with 100% of our business coming from dealer generated sales with a heavy concentration in summer sales activity, no internal field service technicians and a brand that was unknown to most consumers.”

He continued, “Today, we sit with over 1 million customers, a new brand in MONI Smart Security, national advertising in print, radio and T.V., close to 100 field technicians across the country in MONI wrapped vans servicing our customers and several national lead partnerships driving sales and leads both internally and for our dealer channel.”

by: Spencer Ives - Tuesday, January 17, 2017

HAGERSTOWN, Md.—Throughout the past year, Dynamark entered some new areas: it moved into a new 24,000 square-foot facility, launched a funding program for its dealers, and entered the mPERS space through working with Numera’s Libris device. Company CEO Trey Alter looks ahead at 2017 as the “year of improvement.”

“This year our theme is it’s all about service, both for Dynamark customers and helping our dealers provide better service to their customers. It’s easy to create accounts in this industry, but it’s hard to fulfill the expectations of the customer,” Alter told Security Systems News.

“It’s a more competitive marketplace than it’s ever been,” Alter said, pointing to the cablecos and DIY offerings. “[We’re] trying to help our dealers understand that it’s going to take more each and every year to both get new customers and keep the customers you have.”

The company grew by 36 percent in 2016, which is somewhat consistent with Dynamark’s previous growth according to Alter. He also said that dealers have been showing interest in the new funding programs since its release.

The company previously said that it is looking to acquire another central station, and Alter said it’s a “must do” for 2017. “We’re very focused on finding a second central station this year—whether it means opening a new location or purchasing an existing location—and adding it to Dynamark,” he said.

“I think, ideally, we’d like to see something more in the Western market; but, we would never overlook a quality central station,” Alter said. Purchasing an existing central, instead of building one, “gives us the chance to meet a bunch of new dealers, to roll out some new technology to them, and to just make more relationships.”

What is the company looking to improve on? “Helping dealers understand early warning signs of bad customer behavior.” Alter gave a couple of examples, “If your customer’s not arming their system, and has not done so in a month, they will cancel on you—earlier than you’d like them to—because it means they have not found value in the system.”

Alter continued, “If you are not talking to your customers about the new offerings, about the camera systems that are available today, about the ability to integrate home automation devices, someone else is going to take your customers.”

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