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Griffon Systems looks at business-intelligence approach

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04/25/2012

WESTCHESTER, Ill.—Griffon Systems, a systems integrator based here, takes a business-intelligence approach to security.

Aloha Alarm flourishing in Hawaii

The small new company is adding customers and employees and says quality service distinguishes it from big summer-model rivals
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04/25/2012

AIEA, Hawaii—Aloha Alarm just launched in January, but already has about 200 customers and is gaining more at the rate of about 50 a month, according to Aloha president Mark Plischke. He said he also plans to add six more employees to his current staff of 14 before year’s end.

ASG ups credit facility to $250m

CapitalSource leads deal; Super-regional expects to make eight to 10 acquisitions in 2012
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04/25/2012

BELTSVILLE, Md.—ASG Security now has a quarter of a billion dollars on hand, thanks to a recent $20 million extension of its previous $230 million credit facility, the company announced April 25.

McGinn Smith Alarm Trading accounts sold for $2m

The criminal trial of alarm industry investors Timothy McGinn and David L. Smith also is about to begin, on June 18
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04/25/2012

ALBANY, N.Y.—More than 5,000 alarm accounts managed by McGinn Smith Alarm Trading LLC have been auctioned to Security Systems Inc. of Cromwell, Conn. for more than $2 million, legal documents show.

Dakota Security opens seventh office

‘Modern-day Gold Rush’ spells opportunity for integrator
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04/25/2012

RAPID CITY, S.D.—Dakota Security, a PSA Security owner, on April 18 opened its seventh office here. It will serve as a logistical base of operations for Dakota to take advantage of security opportunities arising from the booming local economy, Eric Yunag, CEO of Dakota Security, told Security Systems News.

Getting home security from the cable guy: drawbacks along with benefits

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

We’ve written a lot here at Security Systems News about more and more telecoms and cable companies getting into the security market. And now mainstream media is taking note. For example MSN Money had a recent post from its SmartMoney partner site, titled “Home security—from the cable guy.”

I read the post, thinking it would simply extol the convenience of bundling security with your cable. But it was actually a balanced piece that included the argument from professional security companies that the service they offer is safer. In fact, the subtitle of the piece was: “More cable TV companies are offering home-monitoring systems in their markets. Know the drawbacks before you sign.”

Here’s what the April 20 post had to say to consumers:
 

The same company that provides your home phone, Internet and television services now wants to offer some protection.

A growing number of telecom providers have added home security to their lineup of services. Their interactive systems use sensors and cameras to monitor the property, while apps let users check in remotely and receive alerts about trouble.

Comcast has expanded its Xfinity Home system to 65 percent of its markets since the 2010 pilot. In October, Verizon introduced Home Monitoring and Control in 12 states and Washington, D.C. Time Warner Cable launched IntelligentHome in markets including Los Angeles, Hawaii and upstate New York last summer. Cox Communications and AT&T are separately in the process of rolling out similar programs.

For the companies, the services are a way to "improve their revenue per user" by tapping into the $8 billion home security market, says Tom Kerber, research director for home controls and energy at Parks Associates, a research firm. Telecoms are worried about slowing broadband growth – 62 percent of households already have it, according to PewResearch –  as well as the rise in landline cord-cutting, he says.

CTIA-The Wireless Association reports that roughly a third of households are wireless only, up from 11 percent in 2006. It helps that smart-home technology has also become cheaper and more widespread in recent years, as consumers get used to using their smartphones to control the thermostat or sync with the car's entertainment system.

These companies say their smart-security set-ups let consumers have more interaction with their home than simply arming an alarm when they leave home and disarming it when they get back. Window and door sensors and cameras interact with apps and a control panel, letting customers set rules about when the system reacts, and how.

For example, "when doors open, the system takes a video of whatever made that door open, and I get an alert on my phone," says Mitch Bowling, a senior vice president for Comcast Cable.

Users can also set alerts for things that don't happen, such as if the front door doesn't open by 3:30 p.m. when the kids should be home from school. As an added benefit, most systems can tie in technology to control home appliances such as the thermostat, lights and door locks from afar. So you could set the system to turn on the light when that front door opens, or turn on the air conditioning when you're on your way home from work, says Ann Shaub, director of product management for Verizon.

Cheaper -- but is it better?

The services are typically cheaper than going through a dedicated security firm -- $10 to $40 per month instead of $30 to $75. But experts warn that consumers are likely getting less protection. More elaborate home security systems can monitor for threats as diverse as carbon monoxide and rising water levels that smart systems can't detect.

In addition, some telecoms' monitoring services only alert solely to you, without relaying an alarm in a central monitoring station that would call the police or fire department, says James Orvis, a past executive vice president of the Electronic Security Association and owner of Security Solutions in Norwalk, Conn. Miss the text that the door sensor tripped, and the police may not arrive in time to catch the burglar.

It's also added risk if you're at home during a fire, break-in or other emergency where calling for help yourself isn't easy or safe, he says.

On the other hand, alerts that go only to you limits the number of false alarms, which some police departments add a fine for responding to, Orvis says. Verizon's Shaub says Home Monitoring and Control, which doesn't use a central monitoring station, still provides peace of mind and keeps consumers in tune with what's going on in the house. At the very least, it's a way homeowners can keep tabs on their kids and pets.

Shoppers should also be careful to dig into package details to determine the full cost before signing up, says Chris McGoey, a Los Angeles-based security consultant. Telecom companies' $70 to $500 one-time equipment charge is typically for a basic kit with a monitoring station and a few sensors; consumers with a large house will need to buy extra equipment for thorough coverage. So will those who want remote control over more home devices.

Services may also charge extra for connectivity to a cellular network so alarms will sound even if the power goes out. "By the time you get the system that you really want, it costs you a heck of a lot more than the promotional offer," he says.

Consumers may have little recourse to change their mind, either: Some offers require a two-year service contract.

 

Pinnacle settles Missouri AG complaint

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Monday, April 23, 2012

Pinnacle Security, an Orem, Utah-based summer-sales-model company, has reached a $76,000 settlement with the state of Missouri over a complaint filed last year regarding alleged deceptive sales practices from a few years back. As part of the consent agreement, Pinnacle has promised to monitor its door-to-door sales reps more closely, according to a recent news release from Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster.

I asked Pinnacle about the settlement, which the AG announced April 20 and here’s what the company had to say:

Pinnacle Security is very pleased that it has resolved the Missouri Attorney General's lawsuit to the parties' mutual satisfaction.  Over the last several months, Pinnacle worked cooperatively with the AG's office to address issues related to customer complaints regarding certain alleged sales practices that occurred primarily during the 2008 and 2009 summer sales seasons.
 
Since 2010, Pinnacle has implemented industry-leading compliance initiatives to help ensure that Pinnacle's customers are treated honestly and fairly.  As part of its agreement with the Attorney General's office, Pinnacle will continue to ensure that its Missouri customers receive superior customer care and service.  Pinnacle looks forward to continuing its relationship with the State and to protecting the security of Missouri's citizens.

Pinnacle, which sells nationwide and in Canada, said when the company settled a complaint with the Florida attorney general earlier this year that the company had some issues in past years with “rogue” door-knocking sales staff.  However, in 2010, Pinnacle made a company cultural shift to emphasize a code of ethics for employees and the implementation of new ways to monitor their behavior and enforce the code.

Here’s more from the AG’ release announcing the agreement:

Under the settlement, Pinnacle will provide $46,000 in refunds to customers in Missouri who were misled about Pinnacle’s relationship with other security companies, the cost of its services, or its cancelation policy. Pinnacle will also pay $12,500 to the Missouri Merchandising Practices Revolving Fund and $17,500 in civil penalties to the state.

Additionally, Pinnacle must reform its sales practices to ensure consumers understand the important terms of the contract before purchasing, including the company with which they are contracting, the monthly price for the service, the total duration of the contract, and any restrictions on cancelation. The settlement, embodied in a consent judgment filed today in St. Louis County Circuit Court, also obligates Pinnacle to monitor its sales representatives who conduct door-to-door sales more closely. ...

The settlement resolves a lawsuit filed in May 2011, in which the Attorney General’s Office alleged that Pinnacle induced consumers to purchase by misrepresenting that they were associated with the consumer’s current alarm company and that the consumer would receive free services when the services were not free. The suit also alleged that consumers were told they could cancel at any time when in fact consumers had to pay for the entire 39-month contract if they did not cancel within three days.

In addition to the $46,000 in restitution, Pinnacle will also pay refunds to any consumer who files a new complaint within the next four months and provides documentation showing they were induced to enter a contract with the defendant using unfair or deceptive practices.

 

Comcast adds more markets across the country

In March, the telecom introduced its home automation/home security product in locations that included San Francisco, Connecticut and Utah, home of the summer-sales security companies
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04/23/2012

PHILADELPHIA—March was an active month for Comcast as it launched its new home automation/home security service in a number of additional major markets across the country. Xfinity Home is now being offered in Atlanta, the San Francisco Bay area and parts of Connecticut and Vermont—and Utah.

Protect your customers from 'flood season'

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Friday, April 20, 2012

OK, up until now we’ve had kind of a drought this spring here in Maine, but normally this time of year is known as “mud season,” because of how wet the combination of melting snow and spring rain can make the ground. And lots of rain is in the forecast for the coming week, which is why a recent post about protecting homes from "flood season" on Honeywell’s The Security Channel Blog caught my eye.

Jason Lutz, district sales manager, Honeywell Security & Communications, wrote a piece titled, “Water Damage Prevention Is as Important as Security.” He said there’s a big market out there for water detection and flood protection that savvy security dealers should be taking advantage of. And the timing couldn't be better than right now.

Here’s more from his April 4 post:
 

Spring is flood season. Are you talking to your customers about the damages floods can cause?

Since 1929, Alarm Device Manufacturing Company (ADEMCO) and Honeywell Security have designed and manufactured products that make our world safer and more secure.  While we typically focus on perimeter and fire protection, I’ve found there is a huge untapped market for water detection and flood prevention.

Recently, a rental property of mine became a victim of a water leak that caused more than $4,000 in damage. I decided to investigate water damage claims and other insurances statistics. According to the National Flood Insurance Program, the average annual U.S. flood losses from 2001-2010 were more than $2.7 billion. Our research suggests there are about 22 million residential systems installed in the U.S.; how many of those systems include water detection?

Water detection is a great add-on to new and existing security systems and it’s as easy as making homeowners aware of the potential hazard of water damage and how easily they can reduce their risk. Many claims adjusters will tell you, if the homeowner had only known sooner, they could have shut off the water and deployed water drying systems thereby reducing the damage to the home.

To meet this need, Honeywell Security offers low-cost 5821 and 470-12 wireless water sensors that can be monitored through the central station or through Honeywell Total Connect event notification. They’re easy to install and multiple units can be installed throughout the home. Honeywell suggests installing these devices behind the dishwasher, refrigerator, and washing machines. Other great locations include around HVAC drip pans and near hot water tanks.

Recently Honeywell created the video below to demonstrate to homeowners how a variety of sensors, including flood detection, can keep them informed about what’s going on at home when they’re not there. It’s a perfect way to begin the conversation with your customers. And to help them realize how much a flood can cost, use the powerful interactive tool on the Flood Smart website that dramatically calculates the costs by the flood level. Check it out here.

And to bring the message to an even larger group, talk with your insurance partners.  When you’re out speaking with agents about security and life safety protection, start the discussion about water and flood detection and how a referral program can really benefit them.  Many insurance agents receive a portion of their compensation based on Loss Ratio Bonuses.  If we can help them reduce their homeowners’ risk and lower claim amounts, everyone wins.

Are you promoting your security solution this flood season? Let us know.

 

Uplink, DMP offering 4G alarm communicators

Companies say upgrade means greater longevity for equipment in the field
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04/20/2012

LAS VEGAS—While asserting that 2G technology is still far from its predicted “sunset,” Uplink and DMP are both rolling out 4G cellular communicators to give alarm dealers the option of upgrading to accommodate new features and to extend the time between equipment swaps.

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