Security, automation and remote monitoring are hot categories today, in both the residential and commercial sectors.
That’s why Universal Services of America in Santa Ana, Calif., and Vivint in Provo, Utah, ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in Inc. magazine’s Hire Power Awards, honoring the biggest U.S. job creators over the past 18 months.
The two companies are remarkably similar. Both offer security (intrusion detection), video surveillance, HVAC management, access control and other facilities management services that can be professionally monitored and/or self-monitored through cloud-based services.
The big difference is that Universal serves commercial facilities and Vivint serves residential customers.
About Universal Services
Founded in 1965, Universal Services provides building maintenance and security services. Its security group, Universal Protection Service, offers fire and life safety systems as well as training programs in the categories of access control, CCTV, fire alarm management, intrusion detection, parking equipment, physical security and visitor management systems.
According to Inc., the company had 2012 revenues of $718.1 million, representing a growth of 204% over three years. Inc. reports the company added 14,240 jobs in 18 months ended mid-2013, for a total of 35,000 employees.
As part of its security and life safety solutions, Universal will monitor all aspects of a facility from HVAC to CCTV to access control to intrusion detection. But the company also offers self-monitoring solutions for facility managers who wish to take on that burden themselves.
Per the company Web site:
Sentry is the answer to any building that would benefit from a wireless security installation or portable solution. This uniquely designed system was initially created to assist property managers with an affordable application for vacant properties, and has quickly grown to include a wide variety of building structures and interior spaces. The Sentry security system requires no phone lines, can program multiple access codes, uses wireless contacts and sensors, and provides alarm response by either the police or security.
Such products and services are quite similar to what Vivint offers in the residential market.
Famous for unleashing thousands of young door-to-door salespeople every summer to peddle security and home automation systems, Vivint over the past 18 months added 1,943 jobs for a total of 6,496 employees, according to Inc.
The figure is misleading, however. One year ago, Vivint employed about 2,800 people full time, with the staff swelling by about 3,000 for the summer season. So the numbers don’t quite add up.
Even so, a spokesperson tells CE Pro: “The majority of the new hires are not seasonal. This year Vivint built and fully staffed the new Innovation Center in Utah, call centers in Spokane and Minnesota, and also made numerous Vivint Solar hires.”
We wrote earlier in 2013 about Vivint’s move into solar panel installations and broadband services, as well as its new Innovation Center where developers are creating the service provider’s next generation of products.
Since it was founded in 1999 (as APX Alarm), Vivint has relied on third-party product and service providers – most notably security and automation hardware from 2GIG (now owned by Nortek’s Linear brand) and cloud-enabled security and home automation services from Alarm.com.
As it moves into its own product development, the company is staffing up the Utah Innovation Center.
For the residential market, Vivint will continue to sell security and home automation door-to-door with seasonal workers, but also plans to bolster its full-time sales and marketing staff in Utah.
As SSI‘s sister publication CE Pro wrote in August of 2013:
[Strategy director Luke Lanford says] Vivint “has a good brand now” but the company expects to rival the likes of Comcast in the not-too-distant future. He intimates that door-to-door sales tactics will continue, but Vivint would like more customers to come to them, rather than the other way around. As such, the company plans to invest heavily in enticing more inbound customers.
Much of this planning takes place at Vivint’s new Innovation Lab, a skunkworks organization of big dreamers, currently numbering about 100 product designers, user experience experts, marketers, researchers, operations guys and other thinkers and doers.
Vivint’s security and home automation offerings include a self-contained security/automation touchscreen system; Z-Wave-enabled door locks, thermostats, lighting controls and other devices; IP-enabled cameras; security sensors; and remote home monitoring and management.
Vivint owns its own security central monitoring stations, but customers can also monitor their own security and automation systems themselves through the Internet and iDevice apps. The company charges up to $70/month for a complete service that includes security monitoring and the customer’s remote access to Z-Wave devices and cameras, plus cloud services that include geo-location.
Vivint was acquired by Blackstone Capital for about $1.86 billion in 2012 (after 2GIG divestiture). Inc. magazine does not list the company’s revenues, but Forbes pegs it at $400 million for the fiscal year anded Dec. 31, 2012.
Julie Jacobson is Editor-at-large for CE Promagazine. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson.