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New threat to RMR? Sizing up PhantomLink

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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The headline on the news release is an attention-grabber: “PhantomLink technology pushes alarm monitoring to the cloud, threatens industry.” If that isn’t clear enough, the subhead rephrases it: “Cloud-based technology set to undermine traditional alarm monitoring industry.”

The PR piece from Phantom Data Services proceeds to trumpet the company’s new PhantomLink project, which encourages homeowners to monitor their own security systems for no charge via the Web. The project “leverages existing equipment, requires only a simple retrofit, and is offered for free with no recurring costs.”

“Nearly 80 percent of households in the U.S. have Internet access,” states Adam Peters, founder of PhantomLink.com. “So why are people still paying their hard-earned money to a central station to monitor their alarm? Just connect it to the Internet and monitor it yourself!”

The news release describes PhantomLink as a small, easy-to-install, build-it-yourself device that links an existing security system to the user’s wireless Internet connection. If the device senses an alarm, company servers alert the user with an email or a text message. Circuit schematics, interface specifications and instructions for using the “self-monitored security system solution” are available for free on PhantomLink’s Web page.

“Do-it-yourself alarm installers and electronics hobbyists are encouraged to participate in this project to develop and expand the capabilities of this technology,” the company states.

Visitors to the PhantomLink website will find all of the information mentioned in the news release, but little about the company promoting the device. Phantom Data Services is described only as “a New Mexico limited liability company specializing in website development and data-processing products and services.”

So is this the new age of monitoring? Is it time to mothball the central station and say goodbye to RMR? Will homeowners tired of “simply paying for piece of mind,” as the news release states, now opt for self-service?

Grammatical glitches aside, peace of mind is what many alarm customers are seeking. Millions have shown the willingness to pay a professional for it, even in a down economy. Do-it-yourself security will obviously appeal to some, but free doesn’t mean free of responsibility.

This also isn’t the first time the alarm industry has been down this path, said Morgan Hertel, vice president of operations for Rapid Response.

“This kind of stuff has been around for years,” Hertel told Security Systems News. “In the ’70s, it was tape dialers calling neighbors, work numbers and sometimes police departments. In the ’80s, we moved to pagers—you could get paged on alarms. Now we have email, SMS and IVR.”

While there is always something new coming down the pike, the bottom line remains the same for alarm companies: provide professional service at a competitive price and chances are you’ll stay in business. PhantomLink and other do-it-yourself offerings are unlikely to change that.

“The professional monitoring and installation companies are still here doing their thing,” Hertel said. “What most [customers] come to realize is that the cost of a monitored security system is so affordable these days, and is packed with so many features, that most people who take security seriously don’t ever consider [a DIY] solution.”
 

New VP looks to expand Mace CS’ footprint nationwide

Michael Joseph now overseeing California central
 - 
08/22/2012

ANAHEIM, Calif.—Mace Central Station has seen its share of change in the past three years, including the acquisition of CSSS, a shift in CEOs and the recent departure of Morgan Hertel as vice president and general manager. As Hertel’s successor, Michael Joseph sees an opportunity and a challenge: instill continuity in the company’s operations and leverage the Mace name to expand nationwide.

Sizing up the competition

Go small for better service and big for better pricing? It’s not always that easy when comparing central stations
 - 
08/07/2012

“Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.”
That pearl of wisdom from baseball legend Satchel Paige could very well be applied to the world of wholesale alarm monitoring. The competition is fierce and getting fiercer, raising the stakes for central stations of all sizes. Dissatisfaction over real or perceived problems can prompt a dealer to jump ship, costing a company a chunk of RMR and maybe even a bit of its reputation.

Rapid’s expansion plans reach east and west

Company moving ahead with headquarters project, new central station
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07/25/2012

SYRACUSE, N.Y.—Double-digit growth at Rapid Response is fueling a two-pronged expansion strategy, with plans proceeding for a new central station in the western United States and $11.3 million of new construction proposed at the company’s headquarters here.

Rapid plans to add up to 200 jobs in Syracuse expansion

 - 
Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Rapid Response has won preliminary approval for a tax break that could pave the way for an $11.3 million expansion on its home turf in Syracuse, according to a report Tuesday in The Post-Standard.

The project, which would add up to 200 jobs, would include the purchase and renovation of the 37,500-square-foot building that Rapid currently leases, according to the report. Rapid also plans to build a 20,000-square-foot facility nearby.

The “payment in lieu of taxes” deal, or PILOT, approved by the Syracuse Industrial Development Agency would save Rapid about $738,000 over 10 years. A sales tax exemption on construction materials is expected to save the company another $500,000, the report said.

The expansion is not a done deal, however. The tax plan still needs to be approved by the City Council, with a bigger potential hurdle at a higher level: acquiring financial help from the state.

Ben Walsh, the city’s deputy commissioner of neighborhood and business development, told The Post-Standard that the project is contingent on Rapid receiving assistance from Empire State Development, a state agency.

An application has been submitted to the Central New York Regional Economic Development Council, which recommends projects for state funding. ESD officials are expected to announce the list of projects that receive funds by late October.

A start date for the project, which the company says would take about two years to complete, has not been announced.

New partnership links alarm industry, police, insurers

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

What may have seemed like a pipe dream to many a few years ago—getting the alarm industry, the law enforcement community and the insurance industry on the same page—is now reality with the Partnership for Priority Video Alarm Response.

The new public/private partnership brings together all of the stakeholders in property crime to reduce losses and increase arrests through the use of video intrusion alarms. Among the participants are the National Sheriffs Association and the National Insurance Crime Bureau, with Don Young of Protection 1 and Steve Walker of Stanley Convergent Security Solutions representing the alarm industry on the PPVAR board.

"We are beginning to have credible data with encouraging results of arrest rates hundreds of times what is found with traditional alarms," said Keith Jentoft, coordinator for the partnership and president of RSI Video Technologies. "We have been working with many alarm companies, law enforcement and PSAPs, as well as insurers who ultimately pay the bill for property crime. This partnership will help gather real-world examples of what is working best for all the stakeholders."

Jentoft said large third-party monitoring companies have also gotten on board, including CMS, UCC and Rapid Response. On the law enforcement side, the Los Angeles Sheriffs Department—the second-largest police organization in the country—has joined and has designated a representative.

"If you ask people, nobody has ever heard of an organization that has brought together all of the stakeholders, so we're pretty excited about it," Jentoft said.

I'll have more soon on the partnership in the online and print editions of SSN.

Onward through the blog: Day Two at ISC West

 - 
Friday, March 30, 2012

ISC West kept up a strong head of steam on Day Two.

It started at 7:30 a.m. with the Security 5K to benefit Mission 500, a nonprofit group that aids impoverished children. An impressive turnout of runners raised an equally impressive funding total, according to race organizers, and the group later said it had topped its goal of 500 children sponsored.

Then it was on to the show floor for another day of networking and discussion among the thousands, with no letup from Day One’s brisk pace. Here are a few details from my stops along the way:

— Secure Global Solutions announced a May 1 launch for a new app, Stages Metrix, that will give users tablet access to key central station performance figures.
— Keith Jentoft of Videofied provided an update of the growing alliance between insurers, law enforcement and central stations to increase arrests and reduce false dispatches with the use of video alarms.
— Cliff Dice of Dice Corp. detailed his company’s Matrix software, which brings video into a browser environment and opens the door to continuous RMR for integrators.
— Morgan Hertel, the new VP of operations for Rapid Response, disclosed that the company is planning to build a new central station in the West sometime in the next year.
— Gordon Hope of AlarmNet at Honeywell talked about the move to 4G and the June 1 release of the LYNX Touch 5100 wireless control panel with Wi-Fi communications module, which finds the best signal—2G, 3G or 4G—in the user’s area.

Like Day One, there was obviously much more, but I’ll put it to bed for now and gear up for tomorrow’s finale. See you there …  

 

Hertel named VP of operations at Rapid Response

 - 
Monday, March 26, 2012

Morgan Hertel has been named vice president of operations at Rapid Response Monitoring.

That information, courtesy of a new posting on his LinkedIn profile, greeted me today as I packed up my laptop and headed out the door to ISC West. It marks a quick turnaround for Hertel, who just two weeks ago stepped down as vice president and general manager for Mace CS.

In a March 12 news release from Mace Security International, the company said Hertel’s departure was “for personal reasons” and that he would be “working closely with Mace CS in a consulting role over the next several months.” Hertel took over as director of operations at the company’s wholesale central station in Anaheim, Calif., shortly after the CSSS acquisition in 2009.

As for what lies ahead at Rapid, the 30-year industry veteran states on LinkedIn that he’s working on “several high-level projects and initiatives. … At Rapid Response I have many resources, some of which include a complete software development team, a huge IT and technical staff and one of the most educated and talented operations and finance groups consisting of almost 400 staff members.”

Hertel will be a panelist at ISC West at an educational session titled “NFPA 72: Are You Ready for the Changes?” If I can’t catch up with him before I get on the plane, hopefully I’ll get a chance to do so at the show. It will be interesting to see how his expertise comes into play at Rapid.  

Barnes Associates/SSN release results of 2012 Wholesale Monitoring Study

Growth in 2011 is 5.7 percent, down slightly from 2010
 - 
03/23/2012

YARMOUTH, Maine—By most measures, the economy is slowly improving. But that doesn’t mask the pain of the past four years, and for many sectors—the security industry included—the recovery has been a case of two steps forward, one step back. Caution still abounds and it continues to temper growth in jobs, investment and spending.

In the face of this sluggishness, how has the monitoring industry fared when it comes to keeping and adding customers? To find out, Barnes Associates, a consulting and advisory firm specializing in the security alarm industry, teamed up with Security Systems News for a second annual survey of wholesale monitoring companies.

Barnes/SSN survey takes pulse of industry

 - 
Wednesday, March 7, 2012

How did the wholesale monitoring industry hold up in 2011? Michael Barnes knows.

Barnes, founding partner of Barnes Associates, a consulting and advisory firm specializing in the security alarm industry, recently completed a joint survey with Security Systems News that involved the biggest players in the industry. It was the second year that Barnes has conducted the survey with SSN, and it provided some interesting insights.

Without completely tipping Barnes’ hand, let’s just say that the industry grew. I had a chance to find out more about it this week in conversations with two leaders of the monitoring world, Russ MacDonnell of Rapid Response and Don Maden of COPS Monitoring. They both confirmed what the Barnes/SSN survey found, and that bodes well for the industry.

I’ll have more about the survey soon, both on the SSN website and in the April issue.

CSAA webinars: The Central Station Alarm Association has two sessions on tap that promise to be of interest to members and nonmembers alike.

“Building a Partnership with Insurers,” scheduled for 1 to 2 p.m. March 14, will focus on how insurers are resurrecting the insurance/alarm industry/law enforcement triad for lower losses and greater profits. “Social Media in the Central Station,” set for April 18 from 1 to 2 p.m., will examine the benefits and hazards of Facebook and Twitter in the monitoring workplace.

For more information on either webinar, contact Stephanie Morgan at smorgan@csaaintl.org or call 703-242-4670, Ext. 15.

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