CAA Executive Symposium: Beware the Change-Averse Culture

The 17th annual symposium delved into topics such as industry trends driven by disruptive technologies and business models challenging the status quo.

SAN FRANCISCO — Moderating the executive symposium at the California Alarm Association (CAA) winter convention, George De Marco set the table by telling an audience of installing security contractors the aim of the session was to “make sure you hear what you need to hear rather than what you are hoping to hear.”

Now in its 17th year, the symposium, held here Dec. 6, delved into topics such as industry trends driven by disruptive technologies and business models challenging the status quo, as well as adaptability — or a lack thereof.

“One of the reoccurring themes that I see across the country in this industry is resistance to change. The hard part of change is taking the complex and making it a thoughtful, seamless and enjoyable customer experience,” De Marco said. “Especially as the flood of new products, services and go-to-market strategies hit the marketplace.”

To help explore and better understand these and other dynamics, De Marco welcomed to the stage Larry Folsom, president of I-View Now; Eric Fullerton, executive director of OpenEye; and Mike Harris, president of Ring Solutions.

Following brief company presentations by each panelist, De Marco sought to pinpoint the biggest challenges confronting the industry today, and the critical changes installing and monitoring companies need to make to remain effective.

Folsom highlighted the struggle for relevancy, and collaboration as a possible remedy. “The manufacturers that have traditionally served this space are being challenged by new entrants, they are being challenged by technology change. One of the challenges here is for the dealers and operators to actually help these manufacturers.”

Folsom invoked his entry into the market two decades ago working for a First Alert dealer. “They told us who our customer was, how to sell to them, how to install their product. Some of that [partnership] is getting lost. The traditional manufacturers aren’t necessarily leading the way in the space at this point.”

Lagging innovation in the area of false alarm reduction was referenced by Harris. He, like Folsom, views this technology void as presenting great opportunity for the security industry. But with outside technology disruptors angling to be first dog to the dish, the industry is conversely threatened.

“Technology innovation has not been as quick as it could have been. When you see some of the new entrants and the technology they can bring to bear, there’s an opportunity to really move things quickly in that regard,” Harris said.

De Marco broached the topic of machine learning, deep learning and the wider context of artificial intelligence (AI). These technologies will eventually be used to more effectively process data and deliver richer solutions to end users. But will it be the security industry to innovate and capture the market opportunity?

Folsom is involved in developing a solution that analyzes various streams of sensor data from security systems, then assigns am automated confidence score that can help first responders determine whether or not to dispatch to an alarm event.

“I personally think this is the moment. It is imperative that we start adding machine learning to all of the streams that we have. And then we as an industry agree to what those scores are going to look like,” Folsom said. “So when we have that engagement, whether it’s programmatic or telephonically with 911, we’re able to transmit information that is going to help people use their resources better.”

Fullerton, too, expressed optimism for vast amounts of meta data to be collected from all sorts of IoT devices and analyzed to create knowledge about events. The promise is to innovate meta data engines that can then start delivering more value in the applications.

“And that’s where the burden is on us. But it’s not going to be an independent thing. The artificial intelligence is going to be integrated into the applications as we know them today,” he said, “and create a return on investment and value for the end users and for the dealers.”

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About the Author


Although Bosch’s name is quite familiar to those in the security industry, his previous experience has been in daily newspaper journalism. Prior to joining SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION in 2006, he spent 15 years with the Los Angeles Times, where he performed a wide assortment of editorial responsibilities, including feature and metro department assignments as well as content producing for Bosch is a graduate of California State University, Fresno with a degree in Mass Communication & Journalism. In 2007, he successfully completed the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association’s National Training School coursework to become a Certified Level I Alarm Technician.

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