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by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Tunstall Americas announced its new Vi+ personal emergency response system earlier in the month, with an integral sensor for ambient temperature. Yesterday, the company announced that extreme temperature monitoring will be provided free of charge to its subscribers.

“Record breaking heat across the United States this summer prompted Tunstall Americas to offer Temperature Extremes monitoring free of charge to subscribers of their home based medical alert service,” the company said in the release.

“Environmental changes indicate that the frequency and severity of heat waves will continue. We are pleased that we are in a position to offer this potentially lifesaving benefit to our current and future subscribers of our Vi Medical Alert System at no additional cost,” Casey Pittock, president and CEO of Tunstall Americas, said in a prepared statement.

The system will look for temperatures either above 89 degrees Fahrenheit or below 50 degrees, at which point the subscriber or caregiver will be notified.

Extreme temperatures specifically concern many of the typical PERS users. “Tunstall’s core base of subscribers, the elderly, individuals with chronic conditions, and other at risk populations have been reported to be the most vulnerable to extreme heat related illness,” the company said.

Tunstall Americas operates its own monitoring centers in New York and Rhode Island. 

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, August 3, 2016

It’s been great to see more companies becoming involved with charity work with Mission 500. Coming up next week, on Aug. 10, is an event held in partnership between COPS Monitoring and Mission 500 to benefit schools and the surrounding communities nearby the monitoring center’s office in Boca Raton, Fla. 

Mission 500, COPS, as well as security software company Segware and the Latin American Security Association, are putting together backpacks for students of Crosspointe Elementary School. These would include including supplies like scissors, crayons, pens, pencils, erasers, and rulers.

“We are so proud to once again be partnering with COPS and Mission 500,” Crosspointe Elementary School’s principal Annmarie Dilbert said in a prepared statement. “They are filling a huge need for our students and their families by providing a backpack full of school supplies to every Crosspointe Elementary student.”

“It is important to help fill the immediate need of providing children with the school supplies that will give them the ability to start the school year off right,” Jim McMullen, president & COO of COPS Monitoring, said in the announcment.

“We also hope to positively affect our community in a lasting way by offering stable employment and benefits,” McMullen said. The backpacks will each include a note from COPS on employment opportunities at the company’s Boca Raton office.

COPS Monitoring held a similar event in September 2015, packing 700 backpacks for a Title 1 school in Boynton Beach Fla.

Also in recent news with Mission 500, the organization will be working this weekend with Monitronics to put on a charitable 5k.

I look forward to hearing about more companies using this model of partnering with Mission 500 and their local communities.

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, July 27, 2016

HOBOKEN, N.J.—Voice activation has been an interesting topic that I’ve seen coming up more frequently when I hear about PERS—most recently when I spoke with Ritch Haselden, VP of sales at Essence Group, this week about Essence’s upcoming products, and what it takes to include voice activation. 

One of the things he highlighted in the company’s product roadmap is Essence’s VPD, and Haselden told me a lot about what went in to setting up voice capabilities in the company's VPD—standing for Voice Panic Detector. "The VPDwill be available for purchase this summer and is expected in the next few weeks," Haselden said.

“What that’ll allow somebody to do is be able to activate a pendant by saying a particular phrase of a particular series of words,” he said. The product is always listening for a particular phrase, he said, and when it hears that phrase it would act like a button press on the PERS unit.

Haselden said that, further on down the road, Essence could use voice activation to open up two-way dialogue with the central station.

The company has been testing the phrase “Call 911,” Haselden said. The process of picking a phrase to test was intensive, he said, making sure that it wasn’t common enough to be said in everyday conversation or on the television, but still easy to remember.

Testing involved a large variety of different people, saying the test phrase, “Call 911,” in a variety of pitches. “We’ve been testing in all kinds of different scenarios to make sure that we’re really getting down to a really quality product that provides a low rate of false alarms,” he said.

Essence would consider customized phrases for different companies if they requested such, Hasleden said, “Our process internally is we would at least test that phrase, but we’re definitely going to provide a lot of feedback and information on: Is that a phrase that (A) people can remember, (B) that people can actually articulate well, and (C) does the technology differentiate the words well enough so that it provides a solid response.” 

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, July 20, 2016

ItsPayd.com, a company that makes an application to help dealers collect past due payments, recently added Rapid Response Monitoring as its first Affiliate Partner Program member, a program that specifically applies to companies with a central station.

The application uses text messages and emails to notify customers of past due balances and gives them a link to either send a one-time payment toward that balance or set up a payment plan, depending on their contract.

The idea behind ItsPayd is to help companies with collecting past due payments, but in a more friendly way that preserves the customer relationship and ultimately reduce attrition. “We can actually have the greatest impact on improving customer experience at the least likely moment, and that’s at the past due space,” Ken Green, company CEO, told Security Systems News.

“We’ve got one of our customers, who’s a [security] dealer—they’ve reduced attrition by 40 percent,” Green said. “We’ve recovered over 50 percent for them within the first 30 days.” The company benefited even more by maintaining the relationship and keeping these customers on, he said.

ItsPayd.com does about 90 percent of its work with security companies, mostly security dealers and monitoring centers.

Rapid dealers receive discounts on ItsPayd’s monthly subscription fee, through Rapid being a part of the Affiliate Partner Program. The Affiliate Partner Program specifically applies to third party monitoring centers and full-service companies with central stations.  ItsPayd is currently looking to get more members in the program, according to Green.

ItsPayd is currently working on an integration platform with MKS, to be completed around the end of the summer, Green said. 

ItsPayd was founded last year and went to beta with its product in August 205. The company went live with its offering in January 2016.

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Connect America, a multi-channel PERS and home medical distribution company based here, is growing its market presence in the central U.S. with its recent acquisition of Home Buddy, a Kansas based PERS and medical solution provider with about 4,000 subscribers.

“The goal is to grow that geography into Oklahoma, Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa … to create a large regional base of operations for the business,” Richard Brooks, president of Connect America’s Healthcare Division, told Security Systems News.

Home Buddy has been in business for about 10 years, Brooks said. “It’s one of the largest providers of PERS in Kansas.”

While Home Buddy does not deal with alarm dealers, Connect America does, buying PERS accounts from a network of Alarm Dealers across the country, according to Brooks. “They’re a steady, reliable part of our business,” he said. Home Buddy distributes through “Medicaid-type agencies,” he said.

Discussions of the acquisition between the two companies started in late 2015, he said, and the deal closed in early May. Terms of the deal were not announced.

Connect America intends to keep the Home Buddy name, Brooks said, because its well known in the area and has existing contracts under that name.

Brooks said that his main goal with the company is building its healthcare division. “We grow organically, we have a sales force nationally, and they are locally meeting people to obtain referrals for our medical alerts,” he said.

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, July 6, 2016

DICE recently announced the latest expansions to its operations team; James Beaty joins DICE in the newly created role of VP of operations and Jen Balash was promoted to director of account management.

The operations team will be focused on maintaining a cohesive environment between different departments of DICE, Beaty told Security Systems News. “Part of what I do is make sure that we’re working together and as efficiently as we can,” he said.

Beaty said one thing he is specifically looking at is improving internal communications between divisions and making sure that division leaders meet on a regular basis. “When we become more efficient, we become more efficient for our customers,” he said.

“As far as operations, Cliff [Dice] had seen a need for someone in a business position to bring together all the entities,” Beaty said. Beaty joined DICE in May, previously working with wholesale central station United Central Control

Beaty said that an important part of the team is Balash’s recent promotion. “By being promoted to director of account management, she has a team now that [is] specifically focused on getting new products to our clients, resolving any issues that they may have.”

A team had been in place at DICE, Beaty said, comprised of operations leaders in different departments. Currently the operations team is, in addition to Beaty and Balash, comprised of Amy Augustin, with DICE’s creative department, Stephen Senk, director of IT operations and Jerry Corrion, director of development.

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by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, June 29, 2016

In last week’s Monitoring Matters blog, I discussed the Apple Watch’s new SOS feature, and its similarities and differences between PERS functions. A few security professionals took me up on the opportunity to respond.

Daniel Oppenheim, VP of Affiliated Monitoring, said that the heightened consumer awareness of personal emergency features could grow the market, instead of cannibalize it, and that the demographics are different. “I think the Apple Watch, specifically, is for a more mobile, more active, more tech-savvy person who would not yet be an mPERS or PERS customer.” Affiliated hosted a PERS-focused conference in May.

He pointed to Amazon, and its Echo product, as another possible entrant. “In its current iteration, the Amazon Echo is not competition, but it is a harbinger of things to come, which is the realization that consumer products now have the ability to replicate or even improve on the current technology offerings of our industry.”

Oppenheim said that neither are large concerns, but something the industry should keep an eye on. “I don’t view either [Amazon Echo’s virtual assistant] Alexa or the Apple Watch as a near-term threat to the PERS industry—I think it’s something that we need to be focused on.”

Brock Winzeler, GM of mPERS manufacturer Freeus, didn’t see much threat in the announced Apple SOS feature. “I don’t think the impact would be significant,” he said. “The reason is: It is very, very difficult to replace the services that we offer. … Our devices call a monitoring center that is specifically built to handle PERS phone calls and PERS emergencies.” 

Oppenheim shared a similar sentiment on the value of a monitoring center. “That crucial decision making process, by which an operator can have a conversation and identify whether or not help is needed—and stay on the line with the customer as help is on its way, for those that do need it—I do not see that being replaced by technology.”

Speaking more generally on voice interaction, Oppenheim said that the technology could become more prevalent in the future. “It seems complex now, but in a short period of time, the concept of voice interaction with a virtual assistant will become commonplace.”

Winzeler also said there is a technology barrier for the traditional PERS demographics. “I think you’ll have a really tough time getting the senior demographic to adopt this type of technology. I think it’s just a little more challenging.”

Rich Darling, CEO of Instant Care, an OEM PERS manufacturer, also said that PERS and Apple Watch feature differ due to their target users' abilities. “It is our belief that the Apple watch is a fantastic device for the tech savvy user. However, as a … PERS OEM we have found that the most successful products targeting the PERS market are designed to require very little from the user, and perform as required when the need arises.”

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Apple recently announced a new ‘SOS’ feature coming to the Apple Watch—similar to a PERS device.

If an Apple Watch user holds down the device’s side button, emergency services local to that user’s location will be notified, as well as emergency contacts.

I spoke with former Numera CEO, current Group VP of the Nortek Innovations & Incubation Foundry, about how the Nortek offerings compare to the announced features of the Apple Watch SOS. He said one particular differentiator for Nortek is "the advanced fall detection capabilities. In order to have highly reliable fall detection, you need to have something around your torso."

Smokoff noted the difference in battery life. The Apple Watch lasts about 18 hours and the Libris mPERS device lasts “about 2-and-a-half days on average,” he said.

There is a gap in price between the Apple Watch, which needs an iPhone to work, and the Libris mPERS device which stands alone and costs less than the Apple Watch by itself.

While I’ve heard of new and emerging markets for personal emergency devices—such as hikers, lone workers or for college campus safety—many of the PERS and mPERS companies I’ve spoken with point to the aging-in-place market as the market’s main demographic.

It seems to me that there are several reasons why the Apple Watch SOS feature wouldn’t break into the aging-in-place market. Firstly, both the Apple Watch and the user’s iPhone need to be charged and both devices need to be near each other.

Second, older PERS or mPERS users may not be as comfortable with technology and, therefore, less likely to own and operate an iPhone in conjunction with an Apple Watch.

Should people take notice of Apple’s entrance in the market? Will Apple take customers away from dealers in the PERS and mPERS space? If you have any thoughts, feel free to email me: sives@securitysystemsnews.com.

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, June 15, 2016

I recently got the chance to have an email conversation with CMS’ president Tony Wilson about the company working with Honeywell’s DragonFly DIY offering. The DragonFly product is a self-installed system that is tied to professional monitoring. Wilson said the company hopes to have dealers on the DIY program by the end of June.

Wilson said that this is the first DIY solution that CMS is offering its dealers, adding that the company is also “considering adding an additional DIY program that will offer a more traditional security system solution.”

CMS has been looking at the DIY offering since April 2015, according to Wilson. “In April 2015, CMS hosted a small dealer meeting, where one of the hot topics was the growing DIY market. I invited Keith Jentoft, president of RSI/Videofied at the time, to speak at that dealer meeting. Keith introduced the DragonFly offering to the group, and there was a fairly positive response from that small group of dealers.”

“Once we knew the majority of our dealers were interested it was a no-brainer,” he said. “We ramped up the integration of DragonFly with our monitoring platform, and started educating our Business Development team about the product.”

“After a year or so of discussion with our dealers about the DIY business model, and the growth of DIY as a competitor in the security market, we’re hoping that this is an easy way for them to combat against sales they’re losing to DIY only companies.”

Wilson also said that the offering could help CMS dealers enter new markets, “like renters, and all those millennials who don’t see the value in a traditional security system.”

The company announced the DragonFly offering at ISC West, alongside its new proprietary dealer portal, CMS Compass. “Our dealers are excited about the mobile app, the real time data entry, and easy access to reporting.  They realize that CMS Compass is going to be much more than a dealer portal, it’s going to help them navigate their business in a whole new way. … [It] should be ready for our dealers by the end of July.”

CMS is a wholesale monitoring company under Protection 1. Concerning the recent deal merger with Protection 1 and ASG, a company spokesperson declined to discuss the deal, saying that not much has changed at CMS.

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Doyle Security Systems acquired Albany Protective Services yesterday, adding 1,100 accounts to the company, almost doubling Doyle’s presence in the Albany area.

“It gives us a great expansion in our Albany market—just a much stronger presence,” John Doyle Jr., company president and CEO, told Security Systems News. Prior to the acquisition, the company had about 1,400 accounts in that area.

Doyle has been working on the deal for about 6 months. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Albany Protective’s account base is mostly commercial, Doyle said. “Their split is about 70 percent commercial and 30 percent residential.”

APS had operated its own UL central station, but Doyle is transferring the accounts to its monitoring center in the Rochester, N.Y., area. “They were on the same software platform as we were, which was really helpful—for both their monitoring and their billing,” Doyle said, both companies used Bold Manitou for automation and Sedona for billing. “It’s been a very smooth process. It’s not 100 percent done, but its pretty close.”

Four employees from Albany Protective Services are joining Doyle. Former president and majority owner of APS, Mark Foster, is joining Doyle’s Albany office in a management position, the company announced. Ross Foster, who was part owner of APS, will work in Doyle’s sales, and two service technicians are joining the team from APS.

“Mark Foster—he just has tremendous knowledge about the industry and his customer base. Bringing him on board was very important to us, and likewise with his brother Ross. … Having them on our team is just a huge plus for us,” Doyle said.

The company now has about 27,000 accounts. Doyle said that it is not every day you see two multi-generational family businesses joining forces. APS, a third-generation family business, was founded in 1935, and Doyle is a fourth-generation business, founded in 1919.

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