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by: Paul Ragusa - Wednesday, August 12, 2020

As one of the last in-person shows to take place back in February, the first annual SecurityNext conference is the last memory I have of feeling the excitement and intimacy of being right there and rubbing elbows with so many industry leaders and peers, an experience that I am sure all of us miss since COVID-19 disrupted so much of what was essential to our industry. I feel fortunate that I was able to connect on that level and look forward to a time when we can get back to some level of normalcy that includes uninhibited — and, of course, safe — in-person events.

In the meantime, we are all adjusting to a virtual world of video meetings, webcasts and events — pretty much most of our interaction and connections right now.

In that light, we here at Security Systems News are excited to be hosting our first SecurityNext webcast on Sept. 9 at 2 p.m. ET, a virtual extension of the in-person conference we had such success with back in February.

“The Future of Security Now: State of the industry from top industry leaders,” features an incredible lineup including:
•    Steve Van Till, President and CEO, Brivo
•    Christine Lanning, President, Integrated Security Technologies (IST)
•    Ray Coulombe, Managing Director, SecuritySpecifiers
•    John Mack, Executive Vice President, Co-Head of Investment Banking, Imperial Capital
•    Kelle Shanks, Senior Account Executive, Convergint Technologies

You can click here to register for this free webcast, which will be an interactive panel discussion moderated by little ol' me with an extensive Q&A session at the end run by Managing Editor Ginger Hill, so get your questions ready for this stellar group of industry thought leaders. 

Panelists will take a three-dimensional look at the industry from each of their unique perspectives and roles in the industry, uncovering what successful companies are doing to navigate and grow their business during volatile times, positioning themselves for continued success moving forward.

Hope to see you there!

by: Paul Ragusa - Wednesday, July 29, 2020

With so many of us still working from home, and many companies transitioning to a fully functional remote workforce that can produce at the same levels they once did pre-coronavirus, the role of the cloud will continue to increase in all aspects of life, not just security.

As Brivo CEO Steve Van Till said during his presentation, “The Cloud Won. Now What?” at SecurityNext back in February, cloud-based technology “has finally won over the hearts and minds of even the most reluctant late adopters among us.”

The emergence of COVID and more remote workers is only going to hasten the speed at which the cloud is adopted universally.

The latest Gartner research published earlier this month forecasts worldwide public cloud revenue to grow at an impressive 18.8 percent growth rate over the next two years, going from $257.9 billion in 2020 to $364.1 billion in 2022. This follows a 6.3 percent growth rate from 2019 to 2020.

“When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, there were a few initial hiccups but cloud ultimately delivered exactly what it was supposed to,” said Sid Nag, research vice president at Gartner. “It responded to increased demand and catered to customers’ preference of elastic, pay-as-you-go consumption models.”

Gartner found that software as a service (SaaS) remains the largest market segment and is forecast to grow to $104.7 billion in 2020, up from $102.1 billion in 2019. SaaS is set to take off in the next two years, growing to $140.6 billion in 2022, at a CAGR of 15.9 percent from 2020-2022.

“The continued shift from on-premises license software to subscription-based SaaS models, in conjunction with the increased need for new software collaboration tools during COVID-19, is driving SaaS growth,” according to Gartner.

Gartner noted the second-largest market segment is cloud system infrastructure services, or infrastructure as a service (IaaS), which is forecast to grow 13.4 percent to $50.4 billion in 2020, and then to $81 billion in 2022 — a whopping 26.8 percent CAGR over that two-year period.

“The effects of the global economic downturn are intensifying organizations’ urgency to move off of legacy infrastructure operating models,” researchers noted.

Public cloud services in many regions is expected to grow rapidly as economies reopen and more normal economic activity resumes, with regions such as North America expecting to return to higher spending levels as early as 2022.

“The use of public cloud services offer CIOs two distinct advantages during the COVID-19 pandemic: cost scale with use and deferred spending,” said Nag. “CIOs can invest significantly less cash upfront by utilizing cloud technology rather than scaling up on-premises data center capacity or acquiring traditional licensed software.”

He continued, “Any debate around the utility of public cloud has been put aside since the onset of COVID-19. For the remainder of 2020, organizations that expand remote work functionality will prioritize collaboration software, mobile device management, distance learning educational solutions and security, as well as the infrastructure to scale to support increased capacity.”

Looks like it is finally cool to have your head in the cloud!

by: Paul Ragusa - Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Despite some obvious setbacks in the U.S. in states that have experienced a resurgence in COVID cases, the security industry overall has seen business get back to some semblance of normal, although nowhere near the levels that were once enjoyed pre-coronavirus.

Back in April, an overwhelming number (84 percent) of SSN News Poll respondents said that their business was being negatively impacted by COVID-19. Now, three months later, we asked readers to reevaluate the business landscape, with many saying they are seeing things improve.

For example, when asked if they are starting to see an increase in business, 64 percent said yes, with another 23 percent saying, “yes, somewhat,” and only 13 percent saying they were not seeing an increase.

What is interesting is many are using virtual events and meetings to gain more business, with 41 percent of respondents saying they are gaining business this way, and another 32 percent saying they have had “some” success. Only 27 percent said they were not capitalizing on this approach.

Respondents were slightly more optimistic than three months ago on the future and when things will return to business as usual, with 45 percent saying in the next 6 months (compared with 47 percent in April), and another 45  percent (up from 38 percent) saying in the next 18 months, with just 10 percent (down from 15 percent) saying longer than 2 years.

“I think there will be an uptick in cases with all the social unrest, restrictions easing and people just not doing what they're being asked to do to protect themselves and other,” one respondent prophetically noted.

While one respondent said, “We are seeing normal levels now,” there are others, such as Jim Leise, systems engineer at Guardian Protection Services, who noted that business “is not picking up as fast as I expected,” adding that he is seeing a “slow return to business. We cant see a vaccine soon enough.”

Another respondent agreed, noting, “We are seeing an overall decline of purchases by 30-40 percent … new opportunities [are] off by 50 percent.”

Another respondent addressed the overall “concern about attrition, as many hospitality and restaurant businesses may not survive past the end of the year. Another big concern is office and retail space closings.”

While many dealers and integrators were not allowed access for new projects or routine inspections during the shutdown, things are starting to open up as customers demands heighten.

 “As reopening occurs, they want these things yesterday; it’s becoming hectic and stressful for my company,” said Sentry Alarms President Jean Levenson. “I said we’d return to normalcy in six months because we should be able to address the backlog in that time as well as undertake new projects, but that timeframe is totally dependent on the course the virus takes.”

She continued, “There’s never been a more unsettling time to be in business. I am, as I’m sure are most security dealers, grateful that our business model allowed us to weather the shutdown relatively unscathed, but it was and remains anxiety producing to place your valued employees in a variety of locations daily.”

by: Paul Ragusa - Wednesday, June 24, 2020

With the business landscape changing so dramatically over the past few months — possibly irrevocably — the task for many in security, including for consultants, integrators, dealers and manufacturers, is to figure out what the “future of security” will look like and how existing and new technologies can help companies to overcome challenges and stay profitable during these extremely trying times.

As businesses and organizations begin to reopen, many are rethinking the way they budget for security, including access control, video surveillance and security personnel, especially in light of ever-evolving CDC guidelines and state and local requirements for many businesses. Not to mention the protests and riots and looting that has occurred, driving the need for increased security. 

One integrator, STANLEY Security, recently shared a white paper, The Future of Security, which adeptly identifies the technologies they believe will be essential to organizations’ security strategies for the duration of 2020 and into the future.

I really like the following list of the white paper’s key areas of focus as we move into the future of security:
•    Cloud-based solutions;
•    Remote services;
•    Alarm verification;
•    Cybersecurity;
•    Advanced visitor management;
•    Interoperable emergency communication; and
•    Data analytics

“As a result, we expect that many of these technologies will be central to organizations’ security strategies for the duration of 2020 and will be fundamental in helping organizations navigate new challenges in the future,” STANLEY noted in the white paper.

The document examines how the impact of COVID-19 has brought “new challenges to light that exposed security vulnerabilities organizations didn’t know existed in their environments. This has not only accelerated new technology innovation but also has driven adoption of security technologies that have been around for years.”

Some key questions the white paper examines include:
•    Is it still about protecting against theft, or is it about creating a virtual command center that integrates their security and communication systems in one place, easily managed and viewed from anywhere?

•    Is it about ensuring their network is secure from the growing number of cyber threats or is it about securing their finances and reducing unnecessary truck rolls and service calls?

•    Is it the ability to track and manage traffic flow and understand exactly who is coming and going from their facility, while ensuring they’ve been properly screened?

As STANLEY astutely points out, technology can’t solve all of our problems, but rather, “It’s the use of differentiated technology combined with an integrated approach that will lay the foundation for a more secure future. In the past, organizations may have fared well managing disparate systems with different platforms and interfaces, but today’s security challenges require a robust, integrated program backed by a holistic strategy.

“In considering these technologies as part of a long-term strategy, as opposed to a short-term solution, organizations can develop a more resilient security program that can propel them forward and prepare them for the future.”

by: Paul Ragusa - Wednesday, June 3, 2020

As my blog title says, giving back is more important — and easier — than ever! With all that is going on right now and so many out of work, or on furlough, or living on diminished wages, the need to give back to those who are less fortunate is becoming vitally important.

And thanks to a new fundraising campaign from one of my favorite charitable organizations, Mission 500, it is easier than ever to raise money virtually, right there from your home, or out running, walking or biking. Mission 500 has made it easy to join the M500 Club, which is made up of Mission 500 supporters who have raised $500 or more by fundraising alongside a wellness or fun initiative.

I love that they are embracing virtual events as it is so difficult these days obviously to hold the usual fundraising events that Mission 500 is known for, such as school supply backpack builds, the 5k/2k Run/Walk at ISC West and the service trips to hard-hit places like Puerto Rico, to name just a few of the gazillion things the organization and those who support it do each year. .

Probably the hardest part of getting started with their new virtual campaign is choosing an initiative/team, as there are so many cool and healthy ways to get involved and start raising money. Below are some of the initial activities to choose from:
•    Walking/Steps Challenge
•    5K Run
•    10K Run
•    Half Marathon
•    Full Marathon
•    Cycling
•    Buzz Challenge
•    Musical Performance

In addition to the feeling of satisfaction from giving back, club members will receive a one of a kind Mission 500 jacket they can show off at industry events. You can see Ronnie Pennington from Altronix showing off the jacket here.

So I guess the only thing left to do is dust off my guitar and join the Musical Performance team and see if I can raise some money.

See you there!

by: Paul Ragusa - Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Typical weekday at my home: My son and I can be seen chasing our dog Blondie, trying to grab her before she escapes out the front door, which is open for some reason (my son?). Chaos ensues.

After countless moments like this over the past nearly three months of working from home, my blog title is a question that many of us — I am sure — are pondering these days. And I mean a LOT of us!

With many still working from home, others phasing back to working at the office and others taking on a more hybrid approach, it will be interesting to see what companies look like when we do finally get on the other side of this pandemic.

One of the unfortunate outcomes of all of this, or fortunate depending on your point of view, will be a natural gravitation toward, or push by companies for, this work-from-home model, especially if a state or company mandates or requires a phased reopening that includes social distancing, temperature testing, masks, etc.

Many companies are even considering changing the work-from-home and work-from-office dynamic/balance forever, allowing for more flexibility. While there are benefits to this new paradigm for both the employee and the employer, you have to wonder what will be lost with the diminished face-to-face time that will naturally occur, as well as accountability questions that will arise. Are consent forms for cameras in our home offices in the near future?

Zoom calls are fine, but they don’t replace actually sitting down and talking with someone eye-to-eye. The same can be said for in-person conferences, as the future of those will change, too.

With this office dynamic changing forever and more of us working from home, even just part of the time, security, especially cybersecurity, also becomes a major concern. There has already been increases in cyberattacks on those working from home, which is why companies need a strategy, policy and plan in place for securing home offices, as well as provide a secure and safe environment for employees who are going back to the office. Guidelines, training and resources for those who are now working from home is critically important for companies, as it is easy to become complacent about cybersecurity during these times.

At the very least, I’d take a way to alert me when my dog is about to bark and dart out the front door.

by: Paul Ragusa - Wednesday, May 20, 2020

As most of you know, each year for the past 13 years, the Security Systems News team has honored a diverse, talented mix of young professionals within the security industry. Known as “20 under 40” up until last year, when we changed it to “40 under 40” to encompass the growing security industry and to include security consultants into the mix for added depth and perspective, once again, we are searching for our next “40 under 40” class of consultants, end users, integrators and monitoring professionals to celebrate their professional achievements thus far and support them into their future success within the security industry. 

Based on nominations, our “40 under 40” Class of 2020 will be chosen; profiled in our Oct and Nov 2020  issues and on our newly designed website (coming soon); and honored at a special ceremony at SecurityNext in February 2021, among a few other perks explained by Managing Editor, Ginger Hill here. To nominate someone (or yourself) with excellent leadership qualities, skills and business acumen and tech-savviness with dedication and commitment to the security industry, click here.

Mentioning SecurityNext, over half of our “40 under 40” Class of 2019 attended the event, participating in sessions, networking with industry professionals, etc., as well as living it up at their own special ceremony. Here’s what a few of last year’s class had to say about the event and how it will help them navigate their future in the industry: 

“Diverse group! Informative topics! Excellent speakers! Great venue!” — Matt Brandon, national accounts, East, AvantGuard Monitoring Centers

“SecurityNext gave me an opportunity to learn more about where the industry is going and how to remain, as the industry and technology evolves. Additionally, the relationships I established will be key to my own learning and growth in this industry.” — Ebony Haywood, director, Training & Development, Allied Universal 

“The educational sessions went into greater depth than typical overview sessions, providing much more valuable training and use of my time!” —Chrissy McCutcheon, principal & senior security consultant, Security By Design, Inc. 

Brandon, Haywood and McCutcheon used their time wisely at SecurityNext, recognizing diversity; actively participating in educations sessions; learning more about the industry and the direction it is going; establishing relationships for growth; and more. 

We invite you to become a part of the “40 under 40” Class of 2020, and attend and participate in what will be our second-annual SecurityNext event, whether in-person or virtual! 

To get some pointers on completing the “40 under 40” nomination form, check out this LinkedIn article penned by Hill

To learn more about SecurityNext, check out its dedicated site here

by: Paul Ragusa - Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Trying to gauge how badly the security industry is being affected by the coronavirus, and figuring out ways to best help us all get through this, is top of mind for everyone.

In the last few weeks, The Monitoring Association (TMA), the Electronic Security Association (ESA) and the Security Industry Association (SIA) joined together to conduct a nationwide survey of members in order to better understand the impact COVID-19 has had on electronic security and life safety businesses. This survey confirms the electronic security and life safety is being negatively impacted despite its role as an essential service in our economy.

The results also mirror what we here at Security Systems News have heard from our readers. Furthermore, our most recent News Poll, which is still open, shows that more than half of respondents are having trouble applying for and getting funding/assistance through the CARES Act. Hopefully, this new round of funding that was just passed will get into the right hands!

Turning our attention back to the findings from the research from TMA, ESA and SIA, it is good to see these top associations coming together to provide this vital info, as well as provide tremendous resources for their members to help support and help them during this time.

“The survey results show a very wide variance due to the differences between Residential and Commercial businesses, as well as revenue sources and the costs to support them,” TMA President Don Young told Security Systems News. “Given that the largest contributors to the survey are the commercial integration companies and manufacturers, it should be considered carefully before assuming too much from the data, without more clarity on segmentation. Lastly, there are also geographic disparities that would also impact the results such as from ‘hot spots,’  or areas barely affected by the pandemic. As always with the law of averages, we just need to appreciate that dividing the highest and lowest numbers in these areas does not necessarily represent a majority opinion.”

Some of the initial quick figures from their survey include:
•    21-30 percent loss of revenue is the median reported for all respondents. More than 60 percent of respondents reported losing this much or more of their revenue.
•    Less than 4 percent of respondents were denied the “essential service” label in their jurisdictions.
•    31-40 percent denial of access to job sites for service/testing/inspections/maintenance was the median for residential integrators, compared to 21-30 percent for commercial integrators

A cross-section of the industry represented itself in the responses as follows:
Market Segments                    Responses

  • Residential Integration               27%
  • Commercial Integration              49%
  • Monitoring Center                      11%
  • Manufacturer                             41%
  •  Distributor                                11%
  • Manufacturer Representative       5.7%
  • Individual/Specifier/Consultant    19%
  • Other Security Provider               19%

Looking closer at the overall impact so far, more than 56 percent of respondents reported having to reduce hours or layoff less than 10 percent of their employees. On the other end of the scale, 13 percent of all respondents were forced to reduce hours, furlough or layoff more than 90 percent of their employees.

On the positive side, less than 4 percent of survey respondents reported that their businesses were denied access as an “essential service” in their jurisdictions.

Impact on Residential and Commercial Integrators

The survey found that the median loss of revenue reported by residential integrators was 31-40 percent, while the median loss of revenue reported by commercial integrators was 21-30 percent, with the majority of integrators — more than 70 percent — losing less than half of their revenue.

The reported levels for denial of access to job sites for service/testing/inspections/maintenance in each segment correlate with these figures, with residential integrators reporting a median denial rate of 31-40 percent while the median denial rate for commercial integrators was 21-30 percent.

The denial of access seems to contribute to income loss for most integrators, though, as more than 80 percent report some level of interrupted access, according to the findings.

Survey responses confirm the observation many have already made: gaining access to residential customers’ homes has been more difficult during this time than access to commercial properties, many of which are unoccupied due to social distancing measures. This could contribute to lower demand for residential services during the pandemic.

When asked how industry associations could continue to help businesses weather this storm, respondents most frequently expressed their desire for opportunities to connect and continued updates on the latest information related to winning business strategies, economic assistance and industry trends.

by: Paul Ragusa - Wednesday, April 22, 2020

With so much debate and uncertainty today about when and how America can safely go back to work, it was a pleasant surprise — even some relief — to see an email from my friends over at ESI Convergent, LLC and Butchko Inc., two security consulting firms, who have partnered to develop the STEPS partnership program to Bring America Back to Work, a guide to provide a safe path forward as the American workforce gradually gets back to business as usual. The group presented their comprehensively detailed and clear and concise resource guide to government, state and local agencies earlier this week.

“We brought together leaders in the safety, security and entry business to help define our detailed plan,” Butchko Inc. President & CEO Benjamin M. Butchko told Security Systems News. “It will take determination and effort, but with pragmatic steps, we can overcome the economic turmoil resulting from Covid-19.”

Some of the industry leaders assembled to help with this guide include industry consultant and SSN Security Legend Award winner Jim Henry, Sage Integration’s Rick Leighton and Building Intelligence Inc. CEO Jeff Friedman, to name just a few.

ESI Convergent, LLC CEO Mark R. Perkins, said in the opening letter introducing the program that the goal of bringing this group of “renowned security and safety professionals” together was to create a process that the group hopes “will enable our great nation to get back to work again,” he said. “The process of reuniting us with our normal process will be a daunting task but we believe with practical and safe adherence to processes that not only have been part of our daily work lives but are adjusted to the new norm we can make this a smooth transition. This process was created as a way to partner with our government and local agencies to become part of what we call the STEPS Partnership with America.”

Using the STEPS acronym, the Partnering with Americans to get America Back to Work in the COVID-19 era program focuses on:

Social Distancing Policy
• CDC defined and implemented
• Federal and State Guidelines
Testing Guidelines for employees and visitors
• Government Medical Alliances
• Drug Testing Guidelines
Entry Assessment Program (EAP)
• bSMART Guidelines
• Security Consultants
Privacy Policy (PP)
• Properly managing high risk individuals
• Existing Legal Precedent
Stay Home / Work-From-Home (WFH)
• Incentive Program
• Government/Private Partnership

As the group points out in the guide, “the greatest challenge is doing the right things now, and not allowing missteps and future mistakes to erode momentum in getting Americans back to work. With all the misinformation, negative perspectives, and social media influences, it is necessary to put forth a plan that substantially alleviates or eliminates any reasons not to go back to work. In this way, people who are skeptical and fearful of returning to work can be reassured that the right STEPS are being taken to assure their health, privacy and wellbeing.”

The guide also includes some great resources, such as the Testing Bill of Rights, as well as The Coronavirus Measurement and Positive Alert System (COMPAS), a COTS-based system designed to safely provide rapid field results and a common operating picture during both natural and manmade emergencies, including disease pandemics.

The COMPAS field sensor system provides immediate analysis and results indication to operators and consists of a thermal imager, calibration reference, field test controller, and an optional auxiliary data workstation. The touch-free operation and remote set-back deployment flexibility simultaneously maintains safety for test subjects while reducing operator exposure and personal protective equipment (PPE) demands. The field test controller operates from both Android and iOS operating systems for immediate local analysis, results reporting, and automated analysis algorithm enhancements developed through system-wide data analysis.

“The STEPS program is all about creating confidence and trust between business owners and employees, and between small businesses and customers," said Perkins. "It’s about eliminating confusion, especially as it pertains to COVID-19, and returning to a healthy work environment and returning to consuming goods and services. We can’t ask business owners to do more than they can do. We can only ask them to follow some easy guidelines and do the best they can do with what they have.”

by: Paul Ragusa - Wednesday, April 1, 2020

With most of us “sheltering at home,” and relying more and more on our devices to stay connected for work and family and friends, bandwidth limits in households across the U.S., and the globe, are being tested, to say the least.

I know in my household, we probably have twice as many devices connected now, all day and night long. It can be draining both technologically speaking and emotionally as well, as I know many of us (especially those with spouses working from home and children learning remotely) are finding out.

With so many of us at home for the foreseeable future, I see a continued rise in DIY security solutions and other connected devices, which were already seeing a rise in demand before the outbreak. For example, among consumers who acquired their security system less than two years ago, 60 percent are self-installed, compared to only seven percent of systems purchased more than six years ago, according to new research from Parks Associates.

The research firm’s DIY Home Security Tracker finds that DIY security systems are taking a larger share of the residential security market due to their growing popularity among security households.

“Most DIY households use professional monitoring services, but currently 63 percent of these DIY systems have had their monitoring subscription for less than two years,” Parks Associates Senior Analyst Dina Abdelrazik said. “Most DIY security owners are also self-installing add-on smart home devices, so companies are expanding their product lines to meet consumer demand, including Abode, Array by Hampton and Blue by ADT. This demand for an easy-to-install, integrated solution is becoming more prevalent in the Apple HomeKit ecosystem, with more DIY security systems and camera-related devices releasing product lines compatible with this ecosystem.”

The traditional residential security channel is dominated by professionally installed, professionally monitored systems, but smart home device manufacturers are increasingly extending into the security space, Parks noted. Currently 33 percent of U.S. broadband households own a security system, up from 28 percent in 2018.

It will be interesting to see how long it will take before things get back to normal, with business as usual, and the overall impact, whether short-lived or lasting, this extended crisis will have on consumer spending trends in the home.

And on a deeper level: Do we become a society that sinks deeper into using technology as our main, or even only, way to connect with people, or do we get back to a time when meeting face-to-face — and forging meaningful and lasting connections — was worth its weight in gold?

Only time will tell.