Rapid Response Monitoring’s Morgan Hertel Immersing Himself in Changing Market
Industry veteran Morgan Hertel is making a months-long transition from his previous role as an operations executive at Rapid Response Monitoring.
Morgan Hertel is making a months-long transition from his previous role as an operations executive at Rapid Response Monitoring to doing the heady work of vice president of technology & innovation. Nowadays he’s on a kind of exploration, shuttling to and fro chasing and discovering market forces that affect the industry. He joins the conversation to discuss his work and how technology and other disruptors are changing the monitoring business.
SSI: How’s the transition going from your former operational role to vice president of technology and innovation?
Hertel:In the operational role I had a dozen direct reports and total operational staff of 400-plus people. A lot of your day is filled up with administrative duties. Everything from approving time cards to time-off requests, and things of that nature. They are a necessity but not exactly exciting or creative.
A lot of that administrative stuff is going away. This is a transition that will last through the end of the year as other people start to get tasked with it. That allows me more time to focus specifically on our technologies today. How efficient is it, and then also where are we going tomorrow? Products, services, verticals – what does that look like and how do we integrate that? I have a lot more time to focus on gaining a better understanding about where we are going.
And also to interface with the various industries out there and understand what are their needs and where they are going to, which takes up a significant amount of time. I have a dozen events I need to attend between now and the end of the year to keep my finger on the pulse of things.
SSI: How do you keep tabs on shifting technologies, among other forces that affect the direction of the market?
Hertel: You have to immerse yourself in it. That is an area I have always been interested in. Rapid has always done a great job of being ahead of the curve. But if you really want to do it, you have to stop what you are doing and you have to jump in head first and have the time and the resources to be able to do that.
At Rapid we are fortunate enough that I can do that. Not many places have the ability to take a high-level executive and pull him out of an operational role and say, ‘Listen, go figure out what the rest of the world is doing, jump in and start attending all these events.’
You have to start talking to all the movers and shakers, not only in the security industry, but other areas that are similar to what we’re doing. Go spend the time with the telecom people. Understand where networking is going. Understand where cable companies are going. You really have to jump on that and pay attention. There is a lot of information out there, but you have to hunt it down, search it out, figure it out and try and sort through what is real and what’s not. And then you have to decide is that a business venture that we want to pursue, or at the very least keep an eye on it, because it could turn into something big?
SSI: How do you contend with the bombardment of marketing hyperbole behind new technologies and services?
Hertel: Some of it is you just have to have a gut feeling. You have to look at something and say, ‘That really makes good sense. I can see where I could apply that in my life or my kids would be interested in that.’ You have to take a chance because if you wait for everybody else to be successful, you will miss the wave. You really have to be out on the edge of it.
So that means there are projects that we start, we look at and they never go anywhere. You build the infrastructure to deal with it or you build the interface to it, and it falls on its face and dies. Then there are those projects you do the same thing with and they take off and launch and you say, ‘I’m glad we did that two years ago.’
SSI: What’s an example of an idea that took off and became successful?
Hertel: The concept of mobile PERS was just starting to get some hype in 2009-2010. One of the first things we did when I got to Rapid was decide, ‘We’re not sure where this mobile medical is going, but wherever it’s going to go, we want to be there.’ So we started building infrastructure to handle that. We started building process control internally.
This was back in 2012 with zero accounts. We just continued to follow that market. We were fortunate to start working with some organizations that knew how to sell it. We started with zero. We started training with zero. Meanwhile, we were also doing various interfaces with various companies and building stuff with the intent, ‘They will come.’ It came to fruition. Today we have close to 200,000 mobile devices in the field.
SSI: And an idea that looked promising but flopped?
Hertel: There was one very similar to mobile PERS and that was the concept of building a mobile application for smartphones that women and kids would use. It was going to be the greatest thing since sliced bread. You’ll be able to get a central station operator on the phone in seconds. We are going to save your life. This is in the 2009 to 2012 timeframe when everybody was going to be a millionaire making apps.
We started building interfaces to apps and getting ready for what we thought was going to be a large wave of mobile apps that provided personal security. In reality, it flopped. It hasn’t gone anywhere. While there are some very purpose-built apps for lone-worker [applications] that are starting to get some traction, overall personal security apps have failed miserably.
There are a lot of reasons why it hasn’t worked out, but that was one where the technology was similar to what was succeeding. So, it wasn’t that far of a stretch. We spent a lot of time and talked to a lot of app builders and interfaced with a dozen of them in anticipation for the wave. And the wave never hit.
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