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by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, December 20, 2017

YARMOUTH, Maine—Now that we are in the second half of December, it seems like a natural time to look back over the year and some of the common topics from the monitoring side of the industry in 2017. 

The Monitoring Association had some notable developments this year, including changing its name from CSAA in March—a change made to better portray the focus of the organization.

It was great to attend TMA’s Annual Meeting this year. You can read an overview of that event here. At the close of the meeting TMA welcomed its new president, Ivan Spector, president of Montreal-based Sentinel Alarm Co., along with several other officers. You can read more about that here.

And, more recently, TMA announced its new Level 1 training course for monitoring center operators.

PERS, yet again, was a big topic of the year.

Affiliated Monitoring held its second annual Catalyst conference in Miami in mid-May, examining the sales and marketing aspects of the PERS industry.

AvantGuard held its fourth PERS Summit in late September, in Park City, Utah, covering a variety of topics.

Medical alert provider Medical Guardian also announced a change-up to its branding and marketing, looking more at overcoming one of the biggest obstacles in the PERS industry, which is “the perception of the service,” according to company founder and CEO, Geoff Gross.

PERS manufacturer Freeus also started a dealer education initiative. There were also some acquisitions announced; VRI made a purchase in the PERS space, as did Tunstall Americas, and GTCR was purchased by a private equity firm. PERS company ONKÖL started production.

There were also a few notable hires and role changes at monitoring companies: Security Partners named Randy Hall as its president, Justin Bailey became the president of AvantGuard in addition to being its COO, MONI’s Bruce Mungiguerra was promoted from SVP to COO, and NMC recently hired Nicola Oakie as its new director of national sales.


by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, December 13, 2017

DALLAS—MONI Smart Security on Dec. 11 announced a renewed relationship with Skyline Smart Home Protection, based out of Los Angeles. Starting on Jan. 1, 2018, Skyline will begin selling exclusively for MONI.

“We’re really excited about it and it really comes at a good time for us—to start off the year with a great new partner,” Jeff Gardner, CEO of MONI, told Security Systems News. “One of the things that drives our revenue growth at our company is the strength of our dealer program, so … adding a dealer with the prominence of Skyline and the size of Skyline will send a great message.”

Skyline was previously a MONI dealer, from 2010 to 2014. Gardner said that increased advertising and publicity for the MONI brand, as well as MONI’s sales training opportunities were among factors that drew Skyline back to MONI’s dealer program. “We’re just thrilled to get them back,” Gardner said.

“I am thrilled to be partnering again with MONI,” Edwin Arroyave, CEO of Skyline, said in a prepared statement. “It has always been important for Skyline to align itself with partners who understand the value and importance of technology and innovation, while consistently providing the highest levels of customer service. MONI shares these values and I could not be more excited to be renewing our relationship. I look forward to the opportunities ahead.”

Skyline was founded in 2004 and offers home security products and services, such as interactive and home automation, mobile apps, video monitoring and energy management products. The company currently has more than 80,000 smart home customers across more than 30 states.

“They’re going to be one of the largest dealers in the MONI program,” Gardner said. Skyline is “the largest dealer partner that we’ve recruited since I’ve been here, and I’ve been here just a little over two years,” he said.

“I’m hopeful that Skyline will be the first of many new dealers that we add to our program in 2018,” said Gardner.

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Security Industry Association on Dec. 1 announced its new Autonomous Security Robots Working Group, appointing Mark McCourt as the group’s chair. McCourt talked with Security Systems News about the group’s formation and core focuses.

McCourt said that he’s been working on the group since September. “We thought about getting out in front of this topic by taking the robotics, the drone, the anti-drone [or] drone defense, underwater unmanned vehicles, that section of the market that serves security, and start early on what SIA’s platform should be to help grow this industry successfully as a partner.”

This would give robotics companies a more direct reason to be a part of SIA, getting a voice at the table with SIA’s various segments, such as its legislative, education and standards teams, McCourt added. The Autonomous Security Robots Working Group is a part of SIA’s existing Public Safety Interest Group. The working group is currently seeking input and participants.

“We want to create good communications around this topic that we can get out and talk to people about.”

The working group will be looking at a variety of relevant topics. “One of the things we want to do is hone in on the go-to-market strategy and the role of channel partners,” McCourt said.

Education for end users and security practitioners—to inform them of the benefits of robots within security—will be a goal of the working group. “It’s not all about job replacement and cost reduction,” McCourt said. There are other elements of productiveness, and allowing people who might have their jobs impacted by robots doing other tasks to add value to their organization

“Robotics technology, especially when powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning, has the potential to reshape how we think about security,” SIA CEO Don Erickson said in a prepared statement. “The Autonomous Security Robots Working Group will help industry members and end users manage and leverage this change to greatly enhance the protection of people and property.”

McCourt currently works with Cobalt Robotics, helping the company with commercialization.

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Reed Exhibitions on Nov. 14 announced the launch of Unmanned Security & Safety Expo 2018, set to take place Nov. 14 & 15 in New York City, alongside next year’s ISC East show at the Javits Center. The launch is an expansion of the Unmanned Security segment at Reed Exhibitions’ ISC West event.

“The all-new event is focused on drones and robotics for commercial and government security and safety use-cases and drone detection/anti-drone solutions,” Reed said in its announcement.

“We’re excited to launch this cutting-edge event co-located with ISC East in New York in 2018,” Will Wise, ISC group vice president, said in a prepared statement. “Reed Exhibitions’ security portfolio strives to provide the industry with the latest products, technologies and education in security and safety. Unmanned Security & Safety Expo directly embraces an essential need in the industry for addressing the in-depth issues and opportunities of security and safety for UAVs and UGVs. In line with this launch and continued rapid expansion of unmanned security and safety coverage across our portfolio of events, we’re enthusiastic to also announce a collaboration with the Commercial Drone Alliance.”

In its announcement, Reed gave an overview of how drones have entered the space, after the FAA updated Part 107 of its guidelines in June 2016, which governs the commercial use of UAVs/drones. The changes reduced barriers for UAVs in commercial applications.  Increasing the adoption of drones for security.

“The launch of Unmanned Security & Safety Expo directly addresses this need in the marketplace,” Reed said, adding that 67 percent of ISC’s traditional audience is interested in evaluating unmanned technology products, and 75 percent of attendees are interested in learning more about ongoing FAA adaptions to UAV regulations and policies. The Unmanned Security & Safety Expo will include education sessions and product demos on the exhibit floor.

“Our Commercial Drone Alliance has been heavily focused on security concerns and the growth of the drone security market, and we’re thrilled to support the Unmanned Security & Safety Expo at ISC West & ISC East in 2018”, Gretchen West, co-executive director, Silicon Valley - Commercial Drone Alliance, said in a prepared statement. 

Attendees of the inaugural Unmanned Security & Safety Expo in New York will also have full access to the ISC East 2018, Reed announced. ISC East has a built-in audience of 4,500 security professionals, all of whom will also have access to Unmanned Security & Safety Expo. Both events are also supported by the Security Industry Association.

by: Spencer Ives - Friday, November 10, 2017

This afternoon, I landed in San Diego to attend this year’s Honeywell CONNECT conference. Below you’ll find an overview of educational sessions I’ve attended and key themes and technologies highlighted throughout the conference. Be sure to check back as I’ll be updating it for each day of the event.

Saturday, Nov. 11

In CONNECT 2017’s third general session, Michael Flink, president of Honeywell Security and Fire who flew in the previous night to address the event’s attendees, talked about the company’s perspective and approach. He talked about how new entrants to the security industry from Silicon Valley have the model of putting out a product to learn from customers and improve on it.

This is the process that Honeywell is taking with its new DIY security system; using a crowdfunding site to get a product in the hands of interested consumers to learn from them and improve it.

Additionally, Flink said that the company is looking to invest significantly in research and development in the near future. Similar to DeBiasio, Flink discusses the company’s decreasing time from a product’s development to its release.

Jason Dorsey, a consultant and speaker from The Center for Generational Kinetics, was brought back after a popular performance at Honeywell Connect 2014. He addressed some myths and realities of millennials, such as their spending habits and their presence in the work place, as well as how their key attributes compare to other generations.

After the general session, I attended “We’re Here to Help: Leveraging HIS Resources, Services and Programs to Grow your Business,” to hear about the ways Honeywell supports its HIS dealers. The session was presented by Deanna Smith, sales supervisor for Honeywell Integrated Security. and JoAnne Goldman, HIS channel manager.

Goldman and Smith showed the HIS dealer website and its feauters. In the session, they covered a variety of topics, including online resources—such as webinars, articles and case studies, training materials, and specifying tools among others.

From the last selection of breakout sessions at Honeywell Connect 2017, I went to listen Honeywell’s Quentin Gunther and Russ Ackerman, industry veteran and the new residential sales manager for Bates Security’s Jacksonville, Fla., branch. The two presented on how to approach a customer and decide which items to sell in a home security setting in a session entitled, “When Do I Sell What in Residential?”

Throughout the session, Ackerman and Gunther highlighted the benefits of using a questionnaire in sales to determine key information about a potential customer, such as the reason they’re looking to get a system, the amount of time they are typically outside of the home and what they most want to protect.

Customers don’t always value what seems most important to the salesperson, Ackerman noted, citing an instance where a potential customer had a home and a family but was not interested in monitored fire protection.

In the session, the two speakers role-played a customer interaction—with Ackerman as the salesperson and Gunther as the prospective customer—to illustrate the type of information that can come out of using a questionnaire, the importance of how questions are asked and the difference in response when a customer is asked to expand. For example, a customer might say they don’t travel much, but, in actuality, they are away most weekends.

Friday, Nov. 10

Three words were projected above the stage before the first general session: Differentiate. Disrupt. Deliver. These three words serve as the main themes for Honeywell’s 2017 CONNECT and I saw some of that in the previous day’s sessions; differentiating your company by being more involved in the community.

The general session started with a video address from Michael Flink, president of Honeywell Security and Fire. He highlighted the theme and introduced Mandy Harvey, a singer who differentiated herself by singing and making music despite having lost her hearing. Harvey performed her original song “Try” live on stage here in San Diego.

Following Harvey’s performance, Scott Harkins, Honeywell’s GM connected home, came on stage and addressed the theme of “Disruption.” Companies that want to do well in the industry need to be open to the idea that disruption is possible in the industry, he said.

Harkins addressed the recent spin-off of Honeywell’s residential and ADI businesses, which total a $4.5 billion entity. The commercial security and access control sides, a $5.5 billion business, will remain within Honeywell. This will allow both businesses the ability to be more disruptive.

Harkins outlined the market into three categories of U.S. households; the 20 percent without broadband internet, 60 percent that have internet but don’t currently have a security system, and an additional 20 percent that have internet and a security system installed. Honeywell recently announced a DIY-installed home security system, and it is currently on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo. This system is a way for Honeywell dealers to compete in the other 60 percent of the market, Harkins said, calling it “professionally-enabled DIY.”

Alice DeBiasio, Honeywell’s VP and general manager of software solutions, took the stage to talk a bit about the company’s work in 2017. This year, Honeywell launched 10 products in its hardware business and more than 10 software offerings.

The company has also improved its pace of release, she noted: it launched its lyric platform in 12 months time, then its Lyric Gateway in less than 10 months, and the company’s new DIY system is on pace to be less than 9 months.

The company released a new version of its Total Connect app, which has been highly rated by users, DeBiasio said.

One thing the company is working on now: partitions. Honeywell is working to enable users to arm and disarm different partitions of their property and assign different users to different partitions.

Josh Linkner, the first keynote speaker of this year’s CONNECT, delivered his presentation "Harnessing Innovation: Fresh approaches to Growth, Creativity, and Transformation." Linkner has authored three books and founded multiple companies, including Eprize and Detroit Venture Partners.

To open, he said his goal was making the terms disruption and innovation more tangible and accessible. A theme throughout his presentation was that people should can, and should, stop and apply creativity in their business challenges.

He challenged attendees to think of one new idea for innovation; even if it’s not implemented, professionals will start to think in that direction and that can even spread to coworkers, he said.

After Linkner’s presentation, Honeywell’s Medal of Honor award was presented to Doyle Security Systems and accepted by Kevin Stone, Doyle’s chief operating officer. 

Jerry Camarillo, operations manager for Dillard Alarm Company, presented one of the day’s first sessions “Building RMR into Your Video Business Model.” One of the technologies that Camarillo highlighted was MAXPRO Cloud, Honeywell’s cloud-based hosted services platform for access control and video surveillance. "There's a different way to make RMR now," Camarillo said.

In his presentation, Camarillo pointed to a few benefits of using Honeywell products, such as recognition and trust with the brand and resources for technical support if a dealer needs help.

Within the “Building RMR into Your Video Business Model” session, Tim Sutliffe, regional sales manager for Honeywell Security and Fire, looked at a couple examples where equipment that is being installed today could utilize MAXPRO Cloud. When looking at the examples, Sutliffe pointed out that there’s a certain amount of up-front revenue, but more RMR that can be gained through adding this offering.

Adding RMR services to a system that was already being sold by a dealer is a way to be disruptive in the industry, Sutliffe noted.

John Cerasuolo, president and CEO of ADS Security, gave advice for onboarding, ways companies can make their best first impression to new employees with some examples from ADS’ processes. "I really spend most of my time on building the culture of our company,” he said, underlining company culture’s importance. "Sometimes it's easy to overlook the cultural stuff."

In his presentation, “Onboarding Employees for Success,” Cerasuolo looked at several phases and scenarios for new hires and new employees.

Presenting culture begins in the recruitment phase, Cerasuolo said, with the information from ADS. Specifically, ADS focuses on messaging about culture and the high-tech nature of the business.

Prospective employees also get information from sites like Glassdoor, which allows current and former employees to review an employer, Cerasuolo noted.

Companies can also get involved after an employee has been selected but before they start. ADS sends a fruit basket to new employees. "I can't emphasize enough how significant [that] is," Cerasuolo said.

When the employee starts, ADS’ main goal is to have them feel that they made the right decision in joining the company.

Companies should prepare for new employees, he said, meaning having all equipment—uniform, work phone, tablet, work vehicle—ready when a new hire arrives. Additionally, people in the company should be aware of the new hire.

In the first 90 days, ADS wants to have employees engaging with leadership and reflecting the company’s culture to its customers. Cerasuolo also said that asking employees of 90 days for feedback on their roles can be a good way to field objective suggestions for improving the business.

Clearly conveying the company’s culture is also important with onboarding employees following an acquisition, he said.

Conveying the right message to new employees isn’t something that owners and business leaders can delegate, according to Cerasuolo. "To do it right, it needs the involvement of the senior leaders," he said.

At the start of the day’s second general session, Quentin Gunther, Honeywell’s dealer development manager, gave awards to companies that have now been Honeywell dealers for 20 years—Interface Security Systems and Western Alarm—or 25 years: Golden Bear Alarm, KST Security, Pasek Corporation, and RFI Communications and Security Systems.

Several dealers got on stage to share their views on disrupting, differentiating and delivering.

First, ADS’ John Cerasuolo, talked about ways Honeywell products can help a business like ADS differentiate itself. ADS is exclusively using Honeywell products for its residential business, he said.

Specifically, Cerasuolo looked at the Lyric product, which has been positively reviewed by ADS’ installation team, sales team and its customers, he noted. He highlighted three main benefits to offering the Lyric. It allows dealers to more effectively control and manage the installation process, it helps reduce service costs, and with new features coming out for AlarmNet 360, it can help to cut attrition, he said. "That's a combination that you just can’t avoid," he said.

Alexandra Curtiss, Alarm New England VP, talked about her approach to starting a DIY business. One step Curtiss took was calling large competitors, such as LiveWatch and SimpliSafe, to see how they go to market. A lot of what Curtiss does is similar to large players in the industry, but is backed by a family-owned business.

Curtiss suggested that attendees should call their customers, to see if they are pleased with their service or if they might like more aspects to their system. By understanding the market, companies can better understand how they are different and teach their reps to speak to that differentiation. 

Scott Hightower, president and CEO of Verified Security, addressed the topic of delivering the best results, both for industry businesses and their customers. In order to deliver, Hightower said that companies need to do a few things: be innovative in the offerings, provide solutions, give reliability, and support the products and services.

Hightower also addressed several ways that companies can know if they are delivering, such as customer surveys, net promoter score or by getting reviews or testimonials.

Honeywell’s Life Safety Award was this year given to Graham Bloem, the founder of Shelter to Soldier, a charity that rescues dogs from shelters, fully trains them to be psychiatric service animals, and pairs them with a veteran who is recovering after returning home.

Veteran Vic Martin came on stage with his service dog to talk about how the program changed his life.

“Why believe in the cloud?” This question was the session title and main point for Scott Hightower’s educational session, one of the final selection of sessions for the day.

Hightower opened with an overview of what is good about the cloud. Cloud is well tested, Hightower pointed out, and cloud services have been in other industries longer than they have been in the security space. The cloud also presents an RMR opportunity for installers as well as lower initial costs for customers. Additionally, products in the cloud evolve faster, with quicker fixes to problems.

In the presentation, Hightower discussed his company’s work with the cloud, particularly with Honeywell’s MAXPRO Cloud offering. He lauded the product’s functionality and commented on the variety of deployment methods—hosted, managed or a hybrid model—and its mobile app among other benefits. The mobile app is a strong selling point, he said.

The platform also lets companies monitor the health of devices, and contact their customers when a product goes offline.

In terms of pricing, the industry tends to undervalue the services that it provides, he said. To help sell the service, Hightower noted that he puts an emphasis on compensating RMR that’s brought in.

Verified started with a measured deployment of MAXPRO Cloud, Hightower said, to ensure that his business could support it. Systems don't need to be entirely on the platform. Companies can have an NVR on premise and a selection of cameras linked to the cloud for redundancy, he said.

Thursday, Nov. 9

The first educational session I attended was “Maximizing you Monitoring: How to Ensure Your Central Station Is Working for You,” a presentation from Tony Wilson, president of CMS. Here, Wilson discussed key points and questions dealers should consider when looking at a wholesale central station.

Companies should look at their monitoring center in terms of its people, he said, advising companies to tour their monitoring facilities. “Go visit your central station. See the people, meet the people,” he said. Alarm dealers should also be looking at how the central station recruits, hires and trains its employees, as well as its process for quality assurance.

There’s also the level of service to consider; while a quick response is the goal in a monitoring center, representatives should also be courteous and polite, Wilson noted. 

When it comes to the center's technology, “Make sure your monitoring partner is not cutting any corners,” Wilson said.

Companies also should have the right tools available to them. He gave an overview of how CMS worked with a third party software developer to design its new CMS Compass dealer portal to better assist its partners.

Disaster recovery is another key consideration. Dealers should know their monitoring company’s policies around events—such as natural disasters—that may affect the station or otherwise increase alarm traffic. “Ask what the plans are for an evacuation,” he said.

In the end, companies should find a monitoring center that fits them best in terms of capabilities and overall attitude, he said.

APS owner Cat Fleuriet, EPS director of business development David Hood, and Custom Alarm CEO Melissa Brinkman, in the second session I attended, each gave their insight into how security companies can differentiate and better themselves by becoming more involved in their respective communities.

Fleuriet opened the session with her company’s approach to community service. APS, based just outside of New Orleans, hears what its employees care about; the company asks each of its new hires about the community service opportunities that are most important to them.

Helping out can, in turn, help the business too. People want to do business with a company that gives back to the community, said Fleuriet. It can also be a recruitment tool, Hood noted, with employees wanting to be aligned with a company that contibutes to the area.

Community service can be a simple gesture, Fleuriet said. As an example, APS delivered handwritten notes from its employees to residents of the Ville St. Marie Senior Living Community.

Security companies can also recognize a need in their area and fill it, Fleuriet said, such as with assisting after natural disasters. Gathering school supplies for children is one example she gave, stressing the importance of returning to normalcy after a difficult event such as a hurricane.

Hood said that EPS has been embracing community service more in the past 10 years.

EPS, based around Grand Rapids, Mich., is a local business that is competing with national companies and community service can make a difference, Hood said. Companies can also get benefits out of more local involvement, such as networking.

Earned media recognition, when a company gets recognized for its local efforts, can also be a valuable resource, Hood said.

Companies can get overwhelmed with requests for sponsorships or their desire to help many areas of the community—don’t overcommit, Hood advised. For example, EPS tries to only donate money where it will also donate its time. 

Custom Alarm is based in Rochester, Minn. Brinkman gave examples of how the company has gotten involved. The company has been very involved with United Way, said Brinkman, as well as with local efforts like Fire Prevention Week and Litter Bit Better, which gathers volunteers to clean up roadsides in the area.

Custom Alarm looks to focus its efforts on specific areas, such as aiding people in crisis and the development and support of children. Brinkman also organizes where it devotes resources, looking at who is suggesting the charity—a customer or an employee—and if it is an employee, whether they are also donating time or money as an individual.

While there can be positive benefits to a company helping its surrounding community, all speakers stressed that this should not be the largest factor in starting a community service effort.

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, November 1, 2017

In mid-October, ESX opened registration for ESX 2018, to be held in Nashville, Tenn., June 19-22. “To open the event to even more industry professionals, ESX is launching registration with budgeting season in mind,” the announcement read.  

"It takes people to drive profits," ESX chairman George De Marco said in a prepared statement. "At a time when market competition has never been fiercer, it's important to invest in your people—to fuel their development. Launching registration early allows business owners and management to plan for ESX, while in budgeting mode. I urge you to think hard about professional development programming for you and your team — I'm confident there's no other event that can deliver the same impact to your business."

Additionally, ESX is currently offering its full-access Premium Pass at $199. The event will feature new technologies, perspectives ideas and best practices relevant to electronic security and life safety companies.

According to the announcement, “Educational programming will address such topics as: building sales teams, increasing leads, driving profits with doorbells, cameras and door locks, tracking top KPI's, customer care programs, creation cost analyses, organic vs. acquisition growth, disruptive technologies, cyberattacks, attracting and retaining operators, and more.”

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, October 25, 2017

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.—The Monitoring Association recently recognized two notable professionals: Morgan Hertel, vice president of technology and innovation of Rapid Response Monitoring Services, and Sascha Kylau, vice president of sales at OneTel Security.

Hertel was awarded The Monitoring Association’s highest honor, the Stanley C. Lott Memorial Award for Exemplary Service. “This award was created to honor the memory of Stanley C. Lott, a TMA (CSAA) past president renowned for his above-and-beyond efforts to lead and financially support the Association through difficult times,” the announcement read.

Pamela J. Petrow, then-president of TMA who presented the award, said in the announcement: “Morgan is someone who gives tirelessly of his time through committee work, responding on our digital community board, and in one-to-one consultation, all in an effort to improve our association and to educate others in the industry … including his competitors!”

Hertel said in the anouncement, “This is really an honor and a privilege – not only to receive this award but to be here at the TMA Annual Meeting.”

He continued, “One of the reasons I do what I do is a personal belief in the importance of giving back. I think many in our industry feel the same way. You give back to your community, church, faith, your industry that’s provided you with a great living over the last 40 years.

Kylau was awarded TMA’s President’s Award for service to the alarm industry.

“Part of TMA’s mission to provide education to our members that helps them meet today’s industry challenges. This year Sascha’s efforts as co-chair of the Technology Committee and member of the Education Committee have resulted in considerable advances toward that goal,” Petrow said in the announcement of Kylau’s award. “He helped coordinate technology webinars open to all TMA members, spearheaded the Annual Meeting technology sessions that were a big attraction at our event, and assisted in the review of the Level 1 training course.”

Kylau, upon receiving the award, said, “I am honored to be presented with this award by Pam Petrow. Not only do I consider Pam a friend but I look to her as a mentor; she has helped me to become the person I am today.  I have had the privilege of serving this association for the past 19 years. I will continue to bring my knowledge to the table and assist the association in its education as we move forward in a constantly-evolving industry.”

Both awards were presented at TMA's annual meeting, held Oct. 7-11 in Scottsdale, Ariz.

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, October 18, 2017

PHILADELPHIA—Medical Guardian, a large medical alert provider, recently changed up its branding, rolling out a new website, logo and tagline. Geoff Gross, company founder and CEO, talked with Security Systems News about the process behind the company’s “brand evolution,” which it started at the beginning of the year.

Medical Guardian’s new website features images and content that better reflect the lives of seniors today, Gross said. The largest obstacle in the PERS industry, “is the perception of the service,” he said. “We want to display imagery and content that is relevant to the lives [that potential customers] are actually living.”

The website also now includes a “Risk Score” which assess factors of a potential user’s life based on questions and suggest either an mPERS or in-home PERS product. Visitors to the website can also have another questionnaire that will recommend a more specific offering. Additionally, the company is including a customer web portal and a Medical Alert Blog.

Medical Guardian’s new logo is a shield with a range of red and purple colors. “The shield represents the protection that Medical Guardian provides, while the gradient provides a visual metaphor for growth and transformation,” the company said in its announcement.

The company’s new tagline, “Life Without Limits,” resonates with the company’s customer base, according to Gross. “If you want to go in the garden in the summertime and spend a few hours out there, with the protection of our service and one of our mobile products or home products, you’ll be able to do that. If you want to take the volunteer shift at the museum, feel free and have the confidence to go and do the things you love to do,” he said. 

Gross said the research was the most involved step in rethinking the company’s brand. Through this process, the company learned that the potential customer don’t like certain terminology, such as “mature” or “senior.” Medical Guardian refers to its customers as “older adult” or “older American,” Gross noted.

In research for the new branding, the company conducted a survey with its customers, asking about their number of falls, level of activity and types of activities. “We were able to pull a tremendous amount of data and most of it all pointed toward that our customer base specifically … they’re more active than we think. It’s reflected in the products we’re selling now,” Gross said, adding that almost half of Medical Guardian’s new sales are mobile PERS products.

Medical Guardian, based in Philadelphia, has about 200 employees, Gross said.

by: Spencer Ives - Tuesday, October 10, 2017

SYRACUSE, N.Y.—Rapid Response Monitoring recently announced that it will be expanding its West Coast facility in Corona, Calif. This news comes as the company is currently working on expanding its headquarters here from 40,000 to 75,000 square feet. 

“Our partnerships with dealers on the West Coast have increased steadily since the opening of our Corona facility in January 2015. The growth of our dealer network and our commitment to provide the highest level of support for the industry is the driving force behind this project,” said Spencer Moore, vice president of sales and marketing for Rapid Response, said in a prepared statement.

In the announcement, Rapid said that the Corona facility—fully redundant with the company's headquarters in Syracuse, N.Y.—will be a total of 35,000 square feet after the expansion and “will include a state-of-the-art dealer and vendor training center, an enhanced employee training area and an expanded monitoring center,” the announcement read.

“We are excited to support our West Coast Dealers and vendors in an advanced space completely dedicated to learning and facilitating their growth,” said Moore.

by: Spencer Ives - Monday, September 25, 2017

PARK CITY, Utah—AvantGuard recently held its fourth PERS Summit here. Included here is a day-by-day overview from Security Systems News' managing editor, Spencer Ives, who attended the event.

Tuesday, Sept. 26

To kick off this year’s PERS Summit, AvantGuard hosted a tour of its recently remodeled Ogden, Utah, headquarters. Small groups of about eight people each were shown each department. Veronica Smith, account executive with AvantGuard, led my tour group.

The remodel was extensive, and involved moving entire departments across the building’s three floors.

Certain aspects of the remodeled building stand out. All employees have similar workspaces in a very open floor plan; no one has a separate office. The updated building also includes a new lounge for employees. Additionally, every workstation is outfit with a convertible desk for sitting and standing.

Rich Watts, VP of information technology, gave and overview of the IT department. Watts also detailed the levels of redundancy, between the company's Ogden, Utah, and Rexburg, Idaho, and locations, for alarm communications.

Madison Barlow, company director of training and quality assurance, outlined the training process for new employees, including a written exam to in-call center training. This process is followed by quality assurance audits. The company also has coaches, she pointed out, which work with the operators and hear feedback and ideas.  

Cindy Miller, dealer care supervisor, introduced the company’s team of account representatives and account executives.

Spencer Dean, operations manager working in AvantGuard’s Idaho facility, met with the tour to talk about culture and finding the right people. Dean pointed to a company saying to illustrate AvantGuard’s culture, that AvantGuard cares F.I.R.S.T., meaning the company cares, it is Fun, it is Innovative, it values Relationships, focuses on Service, and builds Trust. He also highlighted that both of AvantGuard’s facilities are close to universities, allowing the company to bring in college students with new ideas.

Suzie Nye, AvantGuard’s VP of operations, discussed the company’s monitoring center. A big difference following the remodel was bringing the monitoring from the first floor to the third floor. When the monitoring center was on the ground level, windows needed to be blocked as a requirement for UL certification. Now, the monitoring center is just about surrounded by windows that can let in natural light. Troy Iverson, AvantGuard’s vice president, commented on an increase in productivity after the move.

Rich Slater, the company’s VP of human resources, talked about his team’s approach within HR, as focusing on the employees as well as the company as a whole.


The first day ended with a networking reception at The Chateaux Deer Valley, where the conference is being held.

Wednesday, Sept. 27

Justin Bailey, AvantGuard president and COO, presented Wednesday’s first session on “The Future of PERS Monitoring.”

Bailey first started by taking a look back at the predictions he made about the PERS industry and where it was headed in 2013.

He warned of the demise of the landline. In the last two years, he said, there are more homes with only cellphones than those with landlines.

Next he took a look at VoIP and how that’s progressed. AvantGuard has seen massive growth in non-traditional communication, according to Bailey.

MPERS has also grown greatly since 2013. In 2013, AvantGuard’s medical monitoring was 3 percent mPERS, it grew to be 36 percent in 2015 and now—the majority—55.3 percent in 2017.

Another prediction Bailey had in 2013 was toward the advancement and use of location services, and noted significant growth in that area. While there is cell ID and GPS, "What we're seeing now in the industry is the use of Wi-Fi location," he said.

Additionally, at this year’s PERS Summit he highlighted IPS—or indoor positioning system—technologies, and predicted more of those in the future.

Not all of his predictions came true; Bailey also discussed some that missed. In 2013, he predicted a large PERS and Telehealth convergence. While that hasn’t happened, Bailey expects that it will come in the future.

Similarly, the obsolescence of equipment refurbishment was another 2013 prediction from Bailey that wasn't seen in the last four years, but he still predicts it's coming up down the road.

Bailey then showed a short video to illustrate AvantGuard’s work with PERS, a true story of when an AvantGuard used the proper procedures after receiving a PERS alert. The operator, after speaking with the user and dispatching paramedics, contacted a family member who informed him of certain doctors the PERS user should be taken to. By then contacting the paramedics, the user was able to get the help she needed.

AvantGuard refers to its operators as “heroes” and following the video, Bailey asked all of AvantGuards heroes in the room to stand up and be recognized.

Times are changing, according to Bailey, with increasing Internet and social media usage as well as the number of smart phones and cell phones. One demographic that he highlighted was those 50 to 64 years old, 97 percent of who have a smartphone or cell phone.

Bailey looked at the process of the call list on an alarm, which hasn’t changed much in a while; calling a home number for one contact, then calling their cell, then moving on to the next contact. He shared that when a landline rings now, a person may not answer, thinking if it’s important they’ll receive a call on their cell. Likewise, some people are not inclined to answer a call on their cell phone from a number they don't know. The process of reaching someone can take time.

This process could be changed if AvantGuard’s sent a text message to several people on a call list. The message would include a link to a browser-based chatroom, where members of the call list can discuss the alarm. Bailey called the model "Interactive Parallel Monitoring," and said it could result in improved notification and response times, meaningful caregiver involvement, increased subscriber retention.

Enhanced caregiver engagement is the future of PERS, according to Bailey.

Technological advancements can disrupt and industry. Bailey gave the example of the taxi industry, disrupted by Uber’s capabilities with a smart phone. "I want to challenge each of us to not be the taxi industry," Bailey said.

The day’s second session looked at PERS cases in court, and what business can do before, during and after potential litigations. Philip Kujawa, attorney with Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP, opened by saying that this presentation is not legal advice.

Specifically, Kujawa looked at what a PERS company could do to prepare for or prevent a lawsuit, such as a wrongful death suit following the death of a PERS user.

The PERS user is not a medical alarm company’s enemy, Kujawa said, and the people who get PERS to help a loved one are not either, typically. The potential problem is with people who buy a PERS for a family member out of guilt. Kujawa said that he finds plaintiffs in wrongful death cases against PERS companies don’t have a great relationship with the deceased.

"Try to evaluate who it is that's purchasing the product from you," he said. "Put high caution on those customers." If a person is paying for the PERS unit but doesn't want to be on the call list, that can be a sign of potential trouble.

Litigation in this arena is new, according to Kujawa. Unfortunately, alarm companies don't have the greatest reputation, which can make them a target, he said. Additionally, some states are more litigious than others, he said, pointing to Louisiana, Missouri, Illinois, California, and Florida as the five worst states.

"Unfortunately, you have to think about being defensive," Kujawa said, and the best defense is a good offense. In order to offensively protect a company, attendees should do a good job with their businesses, he said, adding that attending an industry conference is a good sign. Company’s that want to be defensive can develop, adopt and implement best practices in all facets of the business.

Contracts are critical, not having one is very helpful to the plaintiff’s lawyer, Kujawa said. "I want the person wearing the pendant to sign that if they can," he said; family members bringing a suit would not have better rights than the deceased. After the user themselves, the next best thing would be to have the person who is most responsible and involved in the user's life as the signatory. "What I don't want is somebody completely remote to the end user signing the contract; [such as] the hospital, the nursing home."

In preparation before a suit, those on the frontline should be aware of when they receive complaints after an event—such as a user’s death—and get the facts, do an internal investigation. Kujawa also encouraged attendees to save any media coverage related to the event, as it might be helpful. He stressed that companies should be careful regarding requests for information. Freely sharing information that the company isn’t required to—like an alarm history—may appear helpful but can create more problems in a lawsuit, he said.

Laurie Orlov, founder of Aging in Place Technology Watch, presented the last session of the day, “Key Technology Trends for the Aging Beyond 2017.”

Orlov began by pointing out four key technologies needed in the aging in place market: communications and engagement, safe and security, learning and contribution, and health and wellness. From there, Orlov examined the ways these technologies fit around aspects of aging in place.

She started with home care, which is a space that sees a lot of turnover—at least 64 percent, according to Orlov. Potential reasons for this are that the work is labor intensive compared with other low wage occupations. Home care is a space that needs partners, devices and services, she said.

One technology that Orlov highlighted was voice interactions. This is the opportunity for virtual assistants, she said. For example, a senior could repeat questions with a virtual assistant, and the response would be the same, not annoyed or frustrated.

Currently, there are 9 million devices like this in homes, Orlov said, and by 2018, 30 percent of interactions with technology will be through conversations. Examples of this category would be Amazon’s Echo, Google Home, and Siri with Apple.

Orlov also addressed risks and concerns in the voice market, such as the cost of broadband, language support, and difficulties implementing the system through an app.

Another technology Orlov examined was wearables. Wearables are relevant because older demographics have pets and have to walk their dog; one third of the 65+ population has a dog, she said. While some wearables appeal to a users interest in fitness, that will give way to their interest in safety, said Orlov. She listed Phillips wearable, Freeus belle+, Unaliwear, FallSafetyApp and Kytera among examples for wearable technologies.

Wearables have changed, Orlov noted, becoming more mobile, accurate in terms of location services, and can be voice activated. One of the problems with safety wearables is that people forget to wear them, she said.

Virtual reality technologies also have potential among seniors because it can be used to show them different areas, outside of their facility, Orlov noted. 

Thursday, Sept. 28

Jason Hewlett, the speaker giving the day’s first keynote presentation, gave lively impressions of various singers, including Michael Jackson, Diana Ross and Stevie Wonder. He pointed out how recognizable he was by simply copying one or two signature pieces of their stage presence.

Performers need to meet expectations by doing what their known for—their signature; MC Hammer had “Cant Touch This,” Billy Joel had “Piano Man,” Michael Jackson had his moonwalk. These are expectations—promises that each performer needs to fulfill when they take the stage, according to Hewlett.

"Have you thought recently about the unspoken promises inside of you?" Hewlett asked at the beginning of the session. "Each of us are performers in our line of work,” he said later.

Hewlett went on to discuss how, as performers, people have promises they need to fulfill in various aspects of their life, such as with customers or an audience, at work, at home and for themselves.

When it comes to delivering on the promise to a person’s audience, they need to consider whether the reality of their offering meets “the commercial”—their promise. "We just want to exceed expectations," he said.

People can look at work differently, as a family, Hewlett said. Additionally, everyone has a part that they play, and relying on others specialties can be a good thing.

Hewlett asked attendees whether they are consistent on and off the stage as performers. While work requires energy, so does home life, according to Hewlett; at the end of the day, he still needs energy to play with his kids.

He asked attendees to think about promises they have for themselves. These are promises that people break a lot, he noted.

He asked attendees to write down what they think they’re good at, pointing out that its more difficult than finding personal faults. A core theme of his presentation is that people need to recognize their gifts and share them.

Eric Allen, managing attorney with Allen, Mitchell & Allen based in Salt Lake City, presented the fourth session of this years PERS Summit, “New regulations for Texting and Automated Calls.”

Allen started by saying that he wouldn’t be focusing on state laws, but instead, talking more about federal.

Allen explored why this matter is important. FTC fines are now over $40,654 per individual violation, he said. TCPA—the Telephone Consumer Protection Act— plaintiffs can sue alone or in a class action for up to $1,500 per call. There are over 130,000 telephone numbers identified as being owned by individuals who sue telemarketers, and career plaintiffs or "serial litigators" on the rise.

While that seems daunting, some basic principles can offer hope, Allen said. "One, don't auto dial or auto text cell phones without consent," he said. "For anything other than an emergency call, you need some level of consent to text."

Allen added that, “you better know which numbers in your data base are cell phones."

Don't send recorded messages without consent and be able to prove you had consent, he said—"have documentation."

One point that Allen highlighted a few times—something particularly relevant for the PERS industry—is that emergency calls are a big exception, though, companies should be sure not to include and marketing or upselling during that call. Allen also advised honoring opt-outs here as a best practice.

Allen covered new technologies in telemarketing, such as ringless—where a voicemail can be left without a calling seeming to go through—and avatar—where a person, regardless of their natural speaking voice, can use small recordings of someone else to sound more natural.

Henry Edmonds, president of The Edmonds Group, and Hugh Van der Veer, attorney at Buchanan Ingrersoll & Rooney, looked at “Best Practices for Buying and Selling a PERS Business,” by each taking a different side; Edmonds presented the seller’s perspective and Van der Veer presented the buyer’s perspective.

Edmonds opened the session with the seller’s perspective. Companies should be able to outline their strategy as well clearly articulate their strategy and tell the story of their business, he said. They should also be organized, and have good financial and operational reporting, he said.

Businesses looking to sell should consider their monitoring and make sure that customers could be moved to a different central station of monitoring service, Edmonds pointed out.

State and local taxes are an emerging issue, according to Edmonds, and companies that aren’t paying tax in every state where they have customers are going to encounter problems.

Van Der Veer added: “Be proactive, because the buyer is not going to let your problem become the buyer's.” Additionally, companies that approach the state before it becomes and issue may be in a better position in working to resolve an issue.

Van Der Veer said, "Two things that will kill a deal: speed—trying to rush—and surprises."

Edmonds ended his portion of the presentation by covering relevant metrics—such as creation cost and attrition rate—as well as other value drivers—such as the company’s reputation and the size of the transaction.

Van der Veer began by looking at some of the traits that would make up the idea buyer: a company already in the PERS space, well financed, one that is opportunistic but patient.

While Edmonds discussed where a seller’s reputation can come in, Van der Veer advised looking at that buyer’s reputation. Selling owners likely want to protect their employees and their customers.

Van der Veer outlined some key initial steps, including NDAs for the buyer and the seller, conducting due diligence and gaining exclusivity from the seller.

Common problems that can come up are legacy problems, or lacking critical third party consent, according to Van der Veer. There are also common solutions: sharing some risk, or the fact that the seller and buyer have come too far to walk away.

Ahead of both the 2015 and the 2017 PERS Summit, attendees were given a survey about their experiences in the PERS industry. John Brady, owner of TRG associates, shared the results of this year’s survey and how some of the responses differ from 2015’s survey results.

Included here are a few of the survey questions and some of their findings.

One question asked attendees for the number of subscribers they currently service, with answers ranging from less than 100 to more than 10,000. Some notable differences: the 5,000 to 10,000 category jumped from 7 percent in 2015 to 13.79 percent in 2017. The category of less than 100 accounts, was 21 percent of respondents in 2015 and now 17.24 percent in 2017.

Another question asked ho many PERS manufacturers attending companies support. Results showed 2.8 on average, slightly fewer, than in 2015.

Attendees were also asked about the number of customers expect to add in 2017? The average number of subscribers was 4579, with revenue ranging from $20,000 to $90,000.

What is the cost to create an account? Figures given by respondents dropped more than 100 dollars on average between 2015 and 2017.

Aron Ralston, author of Between a Rock and a Hard Place and subject of the movie 127 Hours, delivered the 2017 PERS Summit’s last session and second keynote.

Ralston was hiking in southern Utah when he came to a canyon where boulders were lodged. He described the experience of watching a boulder come lose above him, ricochet between the canyon walls on the right and left side of him, and trap his right arm from his fingertips to his wrist. "And that's where I reach for the pendant I always wear around my neck," he joked.

Ralston introduced himself as the guy that cut his arm off, but said he’d tell the story of being the guy who cut his arm off while smiling.

Metaphorically, everyone faces boulders in their lives, according to Ralston. "Whatever your boulders are, we get to make choices,” he said. Later in the session, he pointed out that he had made some big choices that impacted him: going alone and not telling anyone where he was headed.

Ralston was trapped under the boulder for more than five days, attempting various means of freeing himself—using ropes to move the boulder, chipping away at the area around his arm—before using a pocket knife to amputate his arm. “I felt every bit of it, and yet I was still smiling," said Ralston.

"Boulders, obstacles—they can also be our stepping stones," Ralston said. While the experience was extreme, it brought him clarity of what was important to him: his family.

"What we are capable of is a lot more than what we believe we’re capable of. ... We're only able to find that out because of the boulders," Ralston said.