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alarm monitoring

AES' IntelliStart service making an impact

In addition to the training service, the company launched a pair of "productivity tools" at ISC West
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04/16/2014

LAS VEGAS—Since August 2012, when AT&T announced it will discontinue its 2G service on Jan. 1, 2017, talk about the need for central stations and dealers to protect themselves from the adverse effects of cellular “sunsets” has picked up.  

San Diego central earns Five Diamond Certification

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Alarm Relay, a UL-listed alarm monitoring company based in San Diego, became the latest central station to earn Five Diamond Certification from the Central Station Alarm Association, the company recently announced. Fewer than 200 central stations in the country have the certification.

Among the most rigorous requirements for completing the Five Diamond program include the commitment to random inspections by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as FM Global, Underwriters’ Laboratories or InterTek/ETL, and central stations must also comply with quality criteria standards developed by those same organizations.

Five Diamond Certification also testifies that 100 percent of central station operators at a given company have been certified through the CSAA online training course, which covers all phases of central station communications with law enforcement, customers, and fire and emergency centers.

For an operator to achieve certification, they must demonstrate (among other things) proficiency in alarm verification, which helps reduce false dispatches, and in communications with Public Safety Answering Points.

That latter requirement is bound to be vitally important as central stations around the country forge more partnerships with PSAPs, allowing the ASAP to PSAP program to expand. 

Alarm.com puts its own spin on PERS

The offering, called Wellness, leverages sensors, panic buttons and mobile notifications
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01/21/2014

VIENNA, Va.—Alarm.com, an interactive services provider based here, unveiled an offering at the Consumer Electronics Show in January that blends traditional PERS elements with the sensors and home automation features the company has built its brand around.  

AT&T rolls out mPERS unit

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

AT&T has officially launched its mobile PERS unit, called the EverThere, a small wearable unit manufactured by Numera Libris. The device automatically detects falls, has two-way emergency calling, and will deliver both enterprise and direct-to-consumer solutions.

Chris Penrose, SVP, AT&T, emerging devices, shed some light on AT&T's plans for channeling the product to market. “In terms of end-users, unlike traditional PERS, which target individuals in their 80s, this mobile solution would offer true independence and freedom for the healthy aging population as well as those living with chronic conditions.”

For me, AT&T’s announcement has a touch of synchronicity.  For something of a niche offering, mPERS has come up quite a bit over the past two weeks, the topic surfacing in conversations with Josh Garner, CEO of AvantGuard Monitoring, and Kristin Hebert, dealer relations at Acadian Monitoring Services, who both said their companies have made strides with the fledgling offering. Though traditional units still comprise about 90 percent of their PERS account bases, the gains do represent some modest traction for a market that was essentially a non-starter some three or four years ago.

Unlike the market for traditional PERS, which consensus says is poised to explode, mPERS tends to have a few more skeptics. A common critique I hear about mPERS is that if you’re pitching the product to a healthy, ambulatory, active senior demographic, that very same demographic, by virtue of being healthy, ambulatory and active, will see no reason to pay for the unit. Another position I encounter is that cell phones, in all their ubiquity, have all but usurped the value of mPERS units.

This second point is worthy of consideration, but as AT&T’s device illustrates, the automated response provided by certain mPERS units or even professionally monitored mobile apps offers some differentiation.

As always, time will tell whether mPERS adoption will be buoyed along with traditional PERS, as the latter makes its projected rise in the market. As these markets become more valuable, I’ll be interested to see how some of the central stations fare as competition proliferates, both in the industry and outside of it.

Guardian Protection Services hires VP of dealer program

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Weeks after the announcement that Hank Groff, formerly the director of the dealer program at Guardian Protection Services, was tapped to run the partner program at Dynamark, Guardian has made a hiring of its own.

The super-regional, based in Warrendale, Pa., hired Brian Helt to be its new VP of the authorized dealer program, a newly created position, according to a company statement

A 15-year veteran of the industry, Helt comes to Guardian from Interlogix, where he held several sales leadership positions and managed departments dedicated to acquiring and developing business relationships with dealers.

Prior to Interlogix, Helt served in management roles at UTC Fire and Security and GE Security, while being the owner and operator of his own security business in Kansas City.

Helt has experience growing dealer programs, so it will be worth tracking what kind of impact his hiring has for the company, and to see what responsibilities he takes on in the new role. I’m also interested to see what the move means as far as Guardian’s national footprint is concerned.

SecurTek taps new CEO

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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Some hiring news surfaced this week from north of the border. Yorkton, Saskatchewan-based SecurTek, which has three central stations in Canada and commercial and residential accounts in several provinces, hired Darrell Jones to be its new president and CEO, the company announced in a news release.

Jones comes to the SecurTek, a subsidiary of SaskTel, a Canadian telecom company, from outside the industry. He worked previously at the Manitoba Housing and Renewal Corporation, and his background also includes active involvement as a board member with the Real Estate Institute of Manitoba.

He’ll now be at the helm of a company with a dealer network of 150 partners, in retail, wholesale monitoring and security servicing. In addition to its commercial and residential security offerings, SecurTek provides video and medical monitoring.

“Darrell has established strong and positive working relationships with the non-profit sector, stakeholder organizations, and the private sector in his role with the Manitoba Housing and Renewal Corporation,” Ron Styles, SaskTel President and CEO, said in a news release. “Darrell will be a strong addition to the SecurTek team and I’m confident under his leadership SecurTek will continue to grow and thrive.”

In the coming week I hope to speak with Jones about the transition to the security industry, and to explore how his background in real estate could be a boon to someone hoping to expand the company’s residential and commercial account bases.

Ascent Capital's largest stockholder sells half of his preferred shares

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Some intriguing financial news out of the Monitronics/Ascent Capital camp. Ascent Capital Group’s largest direct stockholder, media mogul John Malone, recently sold half his preferred shares—worth $32.7 million in cash—back to the company, according to a news release from Ascent Capital. The divestment comes nearly three years after Ascent acquired Monitronics in a $1.2 billion deal.

Malone, who sold 351,734 shares, now owns the same number of Series B shares, plus 198,540 Series A shares, which together comprise 21.6 percent of the Ascent shareholder vote, the release noted.

In an email exchange, Henry Edmonds, president of The Edmonds Group, a St. Louis-based investment bank, indicated that the move would likely please shareholders. "Ascent has had plenty of cash on its balance sheet so this is not a bad use of funds to help stock price," he said.

It will be interesting to see what (if any) effect this has on operations at Monitronics, a wholly owned operating subsidiary of Ascent. An investor I contacted seemed to believe it would not have much effect. Yesterday, the company announced that it will report its earnings on Nov. 12, 2013. On that date, the company will host a conference call in which management will give an update on Ascent’s operations, including the financial performance of Monitronics, and “may also discuss future opportunities,” the release said.

In all likelihood I’ll be dialing into that conference call, which I’m hoping will shed some light on what those opportunities might be. 

ESA Leadership Summit homes in on growth

Event will bring together perspectives from inside and outside the industry
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10/08/2013

IRVING, Texas—The design of the 2014 ESA Leadership Summit is as inclusive as it is basic: The summit will cater to companies, whatever their size or revenue, with ambition to grow their accounts.

Dynamark Convention: day two

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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Embrace new technology. Adapt. Preserve a human connection in sales and seize the opportunities provided by a market that's bound to become more aware of your products and services. Those were some of the words of wisdom offered by Wayne Alter, founder of Dynamark, and Wade Moose, CEO of The Systems Depot and Elk Products, in the keynote speeches at the Dynamark Convention 2013.

A spirit of optimism pervaded the basic message, and both Alter and Moose were engaging speakers, knowledgeable and honest, with a penchant for weaving helpful and often funny personal stories into their advice for dealers. Early into Alter’s keynote, he predicted the penetration rate for the market would see a spike between 5-8 percent in the not-too-distant future. It’s a lofty projection, but one grounded in the likelihood that market awareness stands to rise appreciably in the coming years due to the influx of new players, specifically the cablecos and telecoms, whose advertising clout could prove a boon to the entire industry. This development, together with a gradually recovering economy and a profusion of home management services that boost RMR and curb attrition, might be enough to nudge that stubborn penetration rate in an upward direction. I’ll be keeping a close eye on market reports to see if Alter’s prediction bears itself out. 

Another point of emphasis in both speeches, particularly Alter’s: The industry has come full circle. “It’s new in some ways, and it’s old in others,” Alter told attendees. While the technology and the means of reaching customers have undergone dramatic transformations recently, some of the original principles of salesmanship remain as essential as ever, Alter noted. He mentioned Vivint’s door-knocking summer sales model as an example of this, as well as the DIY monitoring systems, which Alter originally thought would appeal more to hobbyists than general customers.

Another two-part prescription Alter provided to dealers: Expand the number of people in your business and train them well. It’s a tested formula for building an account base, if not always an easy one to enact. This piece of advice again harkens back to the recurring theme of the keynote—the theme of keeping pace with the evolution of the industry while preserving certain core requirements that have always been conducive to growth.  

In a funny anecdote, Alter drove home the point that many of the same sales practices that work best now were the same sales practices that worked best when he started his business in 1975, a time when he had to scour phonebooks for sales leads.  

There’s much more to say about my experience at the Dynamark Convention. But since this space is reserved for a blog rather than a dissertation, I’ll have to save these thoughts for my next post. Tomorrow I'll discuss my inaugural central station visit at Dynamark's Hagerstown, Md.-based facility, along with some other goings-on at the convention. 

Is the 2G sunset causing outages?

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Friday, September 27, 2013

AT&T’s 2012 announcement that it would phase out 2G service left most in the alarm industry, well, unfazed. With wireless technology, such changes come with the territory. Moreover, it’s not the alarm industry but the mobile phone industry that dictates network “sunsets.” As Lou Fiore, Chairman of the Alarm Industry Communications Commission, put it in a recent conversation: “As long as you go cellular, there is no endgame here.”

A few months after the initial announcement, AT&T attached a deadline (Jan 1, 2017) to its 2G sunset. Since that time, the AICC has established a regular line of communication with AT&T, which sends a representative to attend the organization’s quarterly meetings.

AT&T informed AICC that, while interim changes would take place in advance of the 2G sunset, the changes would not affect the alarm industry. AICC members, Fiore said, were “skeptical.”

“We tried to impress upon [AT&T] the fact that our control sets hang on the wall, and if you change the operating parameters of that network, it may not work anymore,” Fiore said. “You can’t ask the homeowner to move the unit around to see if it works.”

Fiore, who is in the process of gathering information regarding possible outages for units tied to AT&T’s 2G network, said that in given locations, customers might still get 2G coverage but that there’s a chance it “won’t be as deep as it was before.”

Fortunately, there are some steps alarm companies can take to mitigate outages. Companies can switch to AT&T's 3G or 4G network by choosing matching hardware from a cellular alarm communicator, or to one of AT&T's competitors (the 3G and 4G networks of Verizon and Sprint are an option, Fiore said). Certain companies may be able to go with a wired network, but this is highly contingent upon business model, Fiore noted.

Still three years from the deadline, AT&T’s 2G sunset promises to be a story with several more chapters. I’ll be watching closely to see what kind of ripple effects it has on the industry.

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