SP&T News

Security Summit Canada 2023 wrap-up: Technology, diversity and alarm deals

February 28, 2023  By  Neil Sutton

Summit panelists: Emily McGlenen, director, Acquisition Centre of Excellence, Telus Smart Security & Automation; Patrice De Luca, PDL Consultant; Henry Edmonds, president, The Edmonds Group; Victor Harding, principal of Harding Security; Chris Welling, director, business development, SecurTek Monitoring Solutions.

This year’s Security Summit Canada covered a wide variety of topics, including the influence of AI and metrics on surveillance technology, the importance of diversity and inclusion in building a security business, and the factors that contribute to the successful sale of alarm accounts.

The virtual event was held on Feb. 16 with an online audience from Canada, the U.S. and overseas. Event sponsors included GardaWorld, LANVAC, SALTO Systems, simPRO, ASSA ABLOY and SecurTek Monitoring Solutions.

The Summit kicked off with a presentation from Matt Robertson, a loss prevention professional who spent nine years with Sears Canada before joining retail automation provider Focal Systems almost five years ago. He is currently their senior vice-president of global operations.

Robertson’s presentation showcased examples of how surveillance cameras can be combined with AI tools to improve both retail operations and loss prevention. The session was also an opportunity to review some of the major pain points retailers are experiencing today, such as inflation, food waste/spoilage, an overwhelming amount of data to process, and retail theft. The latter is particularly rampant, he noted, with some retailers putting goods under lock and key in an effort to curb shoplifting.


According to Robertson, Focal Systems has developed a small, low-cost camera that can be securely attached to store shelves and gathers data 24/7/365.

The cameras are placed about eight feet apart. For a big box retailer, for example, 400 would be deployed in a single store location. (Focal has installed more than 200,000 of these devices globally.)

AI, combined with camera hardware, “allows you to move forward and make decisions smarter and faster,” he said. The technology will automatically detect low stock, for example, and deliver that data instantly, replacing the need for manual inventory processes. It can also detect loss prevention issues such as “shelf sweeps” (shoplifters clearing an entire shelf of goods), as well as health and safety concerns such as blocked exits.

“It is possible to leverage cameras that are cheap and small and easy to use to do things that take us beyond what we ever thought would be imaginable before,” said Robertson. He advised enterprises to take the plunge with AI, whatever their business. The sooner they start, the sooner it will have a positive impact on their operations.

Robertson’s session was followed by “How Inclusion & Diversity benefits company culture and business success,” led by Yaruba Tate, vice-president of inclusion and diversity at global integrator Convergint Technologies.

Convergint’s diversity initiatives have been underway for the last six years, said Tate. A 20-year Convergint veteran, Tate took on his current role about two years ago.

He initially met with executive leadership and helped establish an I&D council at Convergint to plan a roadmap for the future. “Our vision was to become the most equitable and inclusive global service provider by leveraging diverse talent and creating a culture where all colleagues can achieve their maximum potential,” he said. “Once we got the vision in place, it was key for me to be able to communicate the ‘why’ to leadership.”

Convergint’s I&D vision was aligned with a business case, financial goals and growth ambitions. “These were all the things that were truly going to make us a better organization and make us a better service provider,” said Tate.

Strategic objectives also included: recruiting talent from outside the industry; increasing representation of women and people of colour; and cultivating and expanding relationships with diverse suppliers.

Bringing in employees with backgrounds other than security benefited the organization through the infusion of new ideas and fresh perspectives, said Tate. Creating a safe environment where voices can be heard and “ideas can bubble up” was also one of the program’s ambitions.

Tate described a journey that started with slogans and ideas and progressed into practical implementation and ultimately opportunities for employees, both current and new. At each stage, it is important to set goals and measure progress. “You know the old saying: Whatever gets measured gets done,” he said.

The afternoon closed with a roundtable discussion on “Maximizing multiples when selling your alarm accounts,” moderated by Victor Harding, principal of Harding Security. Panelists included: Emily McGlenen, director, Acquisition Centre of Excellence, Telus Smart Security & Automation; Chris Welling, director, business development, SecurTek Monitoring Solutions; Henry Edmonds, president, The Edmonds Group; and Patrice De Luca, PDL Consultant.

The panel examined a variety of issues pertinent to both buyers and sellers of alarm accounts, including the relationship between RMR (recurring monthly revenue) and customer attrition.

Attrition is a key factor when assessing a company’s value, noted Edmonds. “Attrition captures a lot of things,” he said. “The quality of the customers… the quality of the service they’ve been receiving… the competitiveness of the rate that you’re charging.”

“It’s a multitude of many different elements,” added McGlenen, “but churn and RMR are definitely at the top.” She noted that it is important to consider the level of service the customer was offered by their previous alarm provider and how that lines up with the acquirer’s own customer service.

Welling agreed with this point, noting that customer service can vary greatly between providers. “As we all know, in this industry, there’s no bible. Everybody gets from A to B but everybody gets there differently,” he said.

There are other factors to take into account when valuing a company, said De Luca, who noted that customers with life safety (smoke or CO detection, for example) tend to have lower than average attrition. The presence of home automation will also tend to reduce attrition.

The panel covered a series of related topics, such as how alarm dealers should best prepare if they are contemplating the sale of their business, and the influence (or lack therein) of the pandemic on the M&A market in alarm and security services.

The complete panel, plus the two previous presentations and all of the Technology Brief sessions, are available on-demand on the Security Summit Canada website.

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