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Residential Security

Ex-ADT exec kick-starts Abode

Home security company exceeds fundraising goal
 - 
05/20/2015

PALO ALTO, Calif.—A former ADT executive’s Kickstarter campaign to help finance a new DIY home security company exceeded its $100,000 goal, and the company, Abode, is up and running.

Got design in mind?

 - 
Wednesday, May 20, 2015

You’ve heard the old real estate sales mantra: “Location, location, location.” For many in the residential security industry today, the new mantra is “Design, design, design.” 

At ISC West this year I met with a long list of security pros, from manufacturers to dealers to providers, most of whom proclaimed that on top of tech advancements their equipment was made “to look good.” 

They’re right. Their designs are looking good.

Panels, switches, sensors and more are sleek with a European-design feel. They will be less than obtrusive when mounted on a wall. No more huge black or brown boxes in the front foyer—these blend in. 

The equipment, mostly white and thin, reminded me of the first, very early, iBook I owned. So pretty and neat, small and clean. That was a number of years ago, and my iBook eventually met its demise, but I still remember it fondly, mostly for how it looked in comparison to other bulky laptops of the day. 

“This is the year of industrial design,” Avi Rosenthal, board member of the Z-Wave Alliance and VP of security and control for Nortek, told me early on at the Las Vegas show.  His comments resonated as I visited other booths after that. 

For homeowners, form is equally as important as function for all products, he and others said.

“It’s the ‘wife-acceptance’ factor. She’s the one who decorates, so the devices must look cool on the wall,” Rosenthal said.

Who wants something big, dark and ugly hitched to the wall just inside their front door? Not me. Neither did former ADT exec Christopher Carney when deciding on the look of his new Abode home resi system.

The pursuit of aesthecially pleasing design extended into the ISC West booths themselves this year. Honeywell, for example, had all of its products—from fire to resi—on interactive display in one big, nicely appointed space—think of an Apple store. 

Nortek had a new, interactive booth, too, with each of its sister companies representing myriad slick-looking products. 

How big a deal is this whole aesthetics thing to you and your companies? Are you feeling the need to adapt to the latest trends in home décor? Are you hearing this from your customers? 

If your products are less than pretty, you might want to consider how good design might add to your bottom line.

Vivint alerts homeowners about scam artists

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Say your residential security company has made a huge dent in a particular neighborhood. You’ve got the area covered and all is good, for you and for homeowners.

Then some shifty guy comes around that neighborhood, knocks on your customers’ doors and professes to offer a better deal for their homes’ security than you can provide.

The guy is likely part of a door-to-door scam, and it’s also likely more guys like him will be showing up over the summer months, according to the Better Business Bureau. I read about a spate of this going on recently in Corpus Christie, Texas, but that's not to say Corpus Christie is a unique target of such ploys.

Vivint has a way of letting its customers know to be on the lookout for such scams. It encourages aware customers to contact the company about suspected scams or deceptive sales practices in their neighborhoods. Upon that notification, Vivint will send out an alert to alarm panels owned by customers in the impacted area. The message says that security scams have been reported nearby, and also gives a 24/7 phone number to call to verify a Vivint rep who might legitimately show up at the door.

“At Vivint, we take all possible measures to keep our customers protected. This includes keeping them apprised of what’s going on in and around their homes in real time,” Steve Dixon, VP of customer experience and operations, told me via email.

"The security alert is one of the things Vivint uses, in addition to customer emails and calls, to advise Vivint customers about questionable or deceptive sales practices used by competitor sales representatives in the area," Dixon said.

Good for Vivint, I say, and to all the other resi providers who provide such a service.

Scam artists, beware!

Former ADT finance director wants to kick-start home security company

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Christopher Carney, a former director of finance M&A and director of finance, sales and marketing for ADT, has launched a Kickstarter campaign for his new company, Abode Systems.

The 45-day campaign aims to raise $100,000 by May 7 to bring the “new kind of home security and automation solution to market,” Carney said in a prepared statement. The solution “will put big security companies on notice,” he said.

Carney co-founded Abode, based in Palo Alto, Calif., with Brent Franks, previously an account executive with salesforce.com and EVP and co-founder of TerraSmart, a turnkey solar ground mount provider.

The DIY Abode system puts the customer in charge by allowing them to customize, he said.

"My last decade in home security showed me that big security companies have serious flaws and don't consider the changing lifestyles of today's consumers or accommodate new technologies and devices coming to market," CEO Carney said.  “When developing Abode, we had a vision for a self-installable security system that grows with you and your evolving needs, while also remaining capable of utilizing new technologies next month, next year, or further down the road."

Carney said the system offers portability in that it can be transferred to a new home with no reinstallation costs; it eliminates false alarms by sending real-time visual verification and, through its built-in body analysis technology, by being able to tell the difference between people and animals; has a built-in backup power and a 3G radio for use when Internet connections are lost; provides home automation capabilities at no extra cost; can be controlled through a web portal and mobile app; and has an optional 24-hour monitoring available.

The system includes the Abode gateway, motion camera, streaming camera, door and window sensors and key fob.

ISC West coming up fast

 - 
Monday, March 2, 2015

Will you be at ISC West? Will you have news about residential security, home automation, impactful legislation or end-user focuses that our Security Systems News readers need to know? If so, please let me know.

I’m putting together my show schedule now. Because the show is so huge and offers up so many opportunities, it’s difficult to meet up with everyone I’d like to, but I do my best, as do my SSN colleagues.

I’d like to hear about new and emerging resi securty technology, its current uses and successes. I can’t write about every new product out there, but if you’ll have end users in attendance to tell me how it works for them, that works for me.

It’s a busy show so let’s—and I mean this politely and beneficially to all—try not to waste each other’s time. I’ve booked booth visits and attended ISC press conferences before that have promised news for our readers that just haven’t panned out. As readers of SSN, you know the types of articles we report on and print.

Please contact me at acanfield@securitysystemsnews.com with your news items.

Also, we’ll be holding our annual “Meet the Editors” event from 9:30-10 a.m. April 15 at our media stage right near the entrance of the show floor. Please stop by to say hi to us. It’s completely informal, no presentations, just a way to reconnect and in some cases put names with faces.

I look forward to seeing you in Las Vegas!

'Gone Girl' for the win

Film receives annual award for using security tech in plot
 - 
02/26/2015

REDONDO BEACH, Calif.—The winner of the 2015 Morepheus Award is David Fincher, film director of the thriller, “Gone Girl.”

Vivint and Undercover Boss: Lessons learned

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Vivint CEO Todd Pedersen wasn’t “fast enough” to work in one of his own warehouses, was “moving a little slow” on an installation job and should have been more adept at handling a basic tool, according to two of his  employees.

Pedersen got those professional reviews during his stint on the CBS show “Undercover Boss” on Feb. 20. I wrote about that here. During that experience, he says, he learned much about being a company leader and that “details matter most.”

For the popular reality show, Pedersen posed incognito, which included wearing a wig, as a Vivint trainee and met with four of his company’s employees at their workplaces.

First he worked with Mark on an install job that involved being up on a roof. That encounter enlightened him on the need for Vivint workers to have proper, non-slippery footwear.

He then worked with a monitoring center rep, Sandy. Pedersen, handling a call, disconnected it inadvertently. During one call, static was prevalent and Sandy told Pedersen that the system needed some fine-tuning.

On his third stint he worked at one of the company’s warehouses with Alma and was surprised when he had to fill out a work order on paper rather than digitally. Alma is the employee who told him he wasn’t suited to work for Vivint: “Too slow.”

He also was told he was working too slowly by employee Will during Pedersen’s final “Undercover Boss” gig at a smart-home installation. And, Will added, Pedersen needed practice working with a basic tool—a drill.

When I talked to Pedersen before the show aired, he couldn’t say all that much about the outcome of the show due to CBS restrictions. But I did catch up with him via email this week to get more details.

Here’s what Pedersen had to say.

Q: What was the top lesson you gleaned from being on the show?

A: As a leader, it’s your job to look at the big picture and focus on the vision of the company, but I learned that when it comes to employees, the details matter most. The smallest upgrades in equipment and installation hardware can shave off significant amounts of time and stress for employees. Little things really do make a big difference to the people you employ.

Q: How will the show have an impact on the way your company is run/managed in the future?

A: After each day on a new job [for the show], I would get on a conference call with senior management and discuss what I learned and potential improvements pertaining to that job. And while the experience hasn’t changed the way we run the company in a major way, we have made several changes in equipment and processes. 

The most significant change we implemented was announcing a brand-new facility for our monitoring professionals. As I worked alongside Sandy, she had interference issues with her equipment. In addition to improving phone cords and headsets for Sandy and her coworkers, we decided to give them a beautiful new facility. 

Q: Any other insights? Would you do this again?

A: The most interesting part was just being able to work alongside my employees as a regular guy, rather than the CEO. I truly enjoyed getting to know each of them on a personal level and learning about their backgrounds and the things they’ve overcome. I’ve always believed in cultivating strong relationships with my employees, and this experience reaffirmed the importance of that for me.

While not every executive has the chance to go undercover like I did, taking the time to work side by side and connect with employees is important for all members of the leadership team. I plan to give this opportunity to other executives so they can benefit from the invaluable insight that comes from being on the ground. (Although, I won’t make any of them wear a wig!)

I don’t think I could get away with going undercover again. Word has definitely gotten out around the company, but I did really enjoy going out in the field and working with employees across the business. I would definitely do that again, and I’ll probably take some of our other executives along with me next time. 

Pedersen also heard the four employees’ personal stories and responded to their hardships—widowhood, bankruptcy, cancer treatments, custody disagreements and more—with compassion and with his wallet. Kudos to him.

 

 

Vivint boss goes undercover

TV show experience offers insights
 - 
02/18/2015

PROVO, Utah—Vivint CEO Todd Pedersen’s incognito stint on “Undercover Boss” prompted him to make some “tweaks” in his business, he said.

ADT puts muscle, aka Ving Rhames, into ad campaign

 - 
Wednesday, February 18, 2015

BOCA RATON, Fla.—He had commanding roles in “Pulp Fiction” and “Mission Impossible” and starred in HBO’s “Don King: Only in America.” Now award-winning actor Ving Rhames is putting his tough-guy persona and deep voice to work for ADT.

Well, wait a sec. According to Rhames, he’s not just working for the huge home security firm; he says in the new commercials that he “is ADT.”

The ad campaign seeks to set ADT apart from the increasing number of smart home products available to consumers. The spots are based on the premise that consumers often mistake convenience “with the added safety of professionally monitored security,” ADT said in a prepared statement.

In the ads, Rhames asks, “What good is a smart home if it’s not a safe home?”

“Our new campaign addresses the desire for connectivity, control and most important of all—security. Self-monitored security solutions do not provide police, fire or emergency medical response in the event of an emergency,” Jerri DeVard, chief marketing officer of ADT, said in the statement.

Rhames says in one of the spots I viewed: “Strong isn’t wrong, I’m ADT, I oughta know. But what makes brawn even better is brains. See, I’m both the big brain at the center of your peace of mind and the big muscle to keep the peace.”

Big brain, big muscle, gotcha. I'm not going to argue with Mr. Ving. Good ad campaign, I think. What do you think?

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