Month: December 2015

Product Review – Schlage Sense Smart Deadbolt

Mark Christenson
President of Md7 International

As the Internet of Things becomes more and more prevalent, whenever I need to replace something at home, I find myself looking to see if there is an internet version—whether that is light bulbs, garage door openers, alarm systems, refrigerators, temperature gauges, etc.  One item I had to replace recently is a deadbolt.  We have had a keypad-controlled deadbolt on our house for some time, and it has become one of my favorite pieces of technology because I don’t need to fish around in my pocket for a key.  Also, if needed, I can provide the code to family members and give them access when I’m not at home.  However, the deadbolt functionality was a little like a flip phone in that it simply replaced a key with a keypad (and still had a traditional key-actuated function in case of dead batteries).  If I wanted to add a new code, it required a somewhat complicated, non-intuitive set of numeric keystrokes to set up a new entry code, and it required that I go through a similar, complicated, non-intuitive set of keystrokes to remove that code if it was only intended for one-time use.  And it still required physical contact with the deadbolt.  However, there is a new product from Schlage that claims Bluetooth functionality with an iPhone or Android device as well as remote connectivity and control through Apple’s HomeKit—the Schlage Sense Smart Deadbolt.

I ordered it from Amazon the day before Thanksgiving and it arrived the day after.  Installation of the deadbolt into the door was simple.  It took about 10 minutes to remove the old one and install the new one.  Following the instructions closely, it was also easy to pair with my iPhone via Bluetooth and configure codes and control the action of the deadbolt.  I can add and remove codes easily, I can set up “temporal fences” that only allow certain codes access at certain times on certain days, and I can get a nifty update on when and how the deadbolt has been used (opened by the button inside, via a device, which code was used, time of day, etc.).

The first 20 minutes with the deadbolt were awesome and showed me a bright new future.  It even works using Siri—I can invoke Siri and say “unlock front door” and a couple seconds later I hear the whirr of the deadbolt and I can walk in.  So far, so good.  Assuming all this would work remotely via HomeKit, I felt like I had stepped from the aforementioned flip phone to a smart phone in terms of front door access.

However, HomeKit functionality is only marginally better than “completely unusable”, and even that is being generous.  (This means that Android users, although left out of HomeKit, are not any worse off functionally speaking!)

First, getting the device to connect to HomeKit requires an Apple TV, either a 3rd generation with the latest Apple TV Software 7.2 or 4th generation running tvOS 9.0+.  Second, the Apple TV must be within Bluetooth range.  The deadbolt connects via Bluetooth to the Apple TV, which itself is the hub for Apple’s HomeKit technology.  Unfortunately, there is no HomeKit configuration screen, but rather it is supposed to work simply by ensuring that remote access is enabled for HomeKit on your iPhone, and that your Apple TV is connected to iCloud using the same iCloud/Apple ID as your iPhone. Sounds very easy and Apple-like, so I rebooted the lock, my phone, the Apple TV, my home network, the lock, my phone, etc.  For about three hours I had perfect functionality when I was within Bluetooth range, but it ceased to work when I moved outside of Bluetooth range.  Well, except that one time where I asked Siri to “open front door” and, when I went back home, it was open!  So apparently, it is not “completely unusable” but rather it works once, randomly, and that’s it.

I’m hopeful that firmware updates, HomeKit improvements, and Apple TV OS updates, or some combination of those will eventually provide the promised remote access.  However, until then, 95% of the desired functionality is available, and I just need to make sure I set up some remote codes ahead of time in case I need to share one with a family member in order to give them access.

Pros:  Easy to install, Bluetooth functionality and integration with Siri works well, profile of keypad is much sleeker than previous version

Cons:  Expensive, remote access via HomeKit is virtually unusable

Integrating Our Core Values in an Acquired Company

Michael Moskowitz
Human Resources Director

At Md7 we take our 6 Core Values – Integrity, Respect For The Individual, Extreme Service, Continuous Improvement, Balanced Life and Giving Back – very seriously. They are not merely posters on the wall or statements in our Employee Handbook; they represent ways of thinking and behaving that we want all Md7 employees to emulate every day. To this end, all employees receive annual Core Values training in small groups to share experiences and discuss the virtues and challenges of a work culture that embraces these tenets.

So when we purchased Lexcom in July 2015, it was imperative that the 30+ employees in Lexcom’s Seattle and Portland offices learn about and integrate our Core Values into their daily work practices as soon as possible. Cheryl Bobbitt, Director of Corporate Responsibility and myself designed a 4 hour interactive training program that incorporated the topics of Core Values, Harassment Prevention and Conflict Resolution. We sensed the Seattle and Portland offices would be receptive, warm and welcoming to this training initiative, but you’re never sure until you’re in front of the group. Having been through several mergers and acquisitions in my time (on both sides of the transaction) I knew very well the skepticism that potentially awaited us.

As it turned out, it felt like the session in the Seattle office went great, as did the program in Portland. Experienced trainers like Cheryl and I can sense when things go well (or not!) but sending anonymous and confidential post training surveys and receiving the results from all attendees would confirm or dispel any trainer impression. Our perceptions were correct – participants overwhelmingly felt the content of the training and our expertise as instructors exceeded their expectations. But the strongest positive answer was in response to the question “The training session helped me feel more connected to Md7.” 100% of the participants agreed with the statement, 70% of them stating they strongly agreed!

Working effectively in a Core Values driven organization more likely happens when experienced employees model the desired way of doing business and new employees are sought out and actively engaged in the beliefs of the organization. Posters on the wall and statements in the Employee Handbook are nice, but they don’t influence employee attitude and behavior like high quality, interactive and ongoing communication and training. It’s how we roll at Md7.

Are Zoning Renewals on Your List?

Cynthia Hanson
Md7 Land Use Counsel

Have you made your list and checked it twice? Do you know what approvals you will need to get your site on air? What about to keep your site on air? Have you looked at your CUPs (Conditional Use Permits) and SUPs (Special Use Permits)? Do you know if and/or when they expire? Do you know how and when to renew these permits so they don’t lapse?

Many CUPs and SUPs have a termination date. Usually CUPs and SUPs permits are good for a period of 5 or 10 years. Most municipalities will agree to an extension, usually an additional five year term, if the extension is requested prior to the expiration of the permit. If an extension is not requested and not granted, the permit expires and the carrier’s equipment (antennas, mounts, cables, cable trays, base station, cabinets, and even tower) become unpermitted equipment on the site and subject to removal. This unpermitted equipment can be removed by the municipality without notice and at the carrier’s expense. The carrier may also incur fines for each day the unpermitted equipment remains on site. Many jurisdictions will not issue new permits to carriers with permit violations such as an unpermitted wireless facility or unpermitted equipment on a site. If you don’t timely renew, you can be back at square one with a gap in your network and starting the CUP or SUP process over. Plus, when you go to apply for the needed CUP or SUP, you will be trying to get that approval with an unpermitted equipment issue, fines, penalties, and asking an angry jurisdiction to issue the permit. It’s not a pretty picture.

Judicial relief is not readily available either. Take for example the American Tower Corporation vs. City of San Diego case. In that case, American Tower asked the City of San Diego to renew CUPs for 3 of its towers upon the expiration of the CUPs. CUPs had regularly been renewed by the City at other American Tower sites and recent applications by co-locators to install equipment on these sites had been approved. However, the City of San Diego required American Tower to start over and submit new applications for each site. New public hearings were also required. The City’s planning staff recommended denial of the new CUPs because the aesthetics of the towers did not meet the requirements of the City’s Land Development Code. At the hearings, the CUPs were denied by the City. Years of legal battles ensued. Agreeing with the denial of the CUPs, the final court decision said that American Tower should have known their request for new CUPs could be denied because the original CUP stated clearly that all activity must cease and the sites must be returned to their original condition after ten years if new CUP applications were not timely submitted and approved. Past renewals of CUPs and recent approvals of co-locators’ applications to install equipment on the sites did not give American Tower a reasonable expectation of renewals or approval of their CUPs, according to the Court, when the language of the CUP gave a termination date for the permit.

Unfortunately, there are many of these cases in California and across the U.S. Check your CUPs and SUPs. Read them carefully. When do they expire? Do not assume, even if local Code allows for renewal of your CUP or SUP that these permits will be renewed. Start the process early, at least 18 months in advance of the permit expiration date, by entering into a dialogue with local planning staff. Know what issues you will need to address to get your CUP or SUP renewed. If you have used all your renewal terms or, if the local jurisdiction has indicated they will not renew the permit, you will need to get new CUPs or SUPs for the site. Start by finding out whether the CUP or SUP process and Code requirements have changed. Then begin the approval process while the existing CUP or SUP is in effect to avoid the unpermitted equipment issues, the removal of equipment issues, and any gaps in coverage.

Time to start making your list.

Mind The Gap: The Changing Economics of the Wireless Industry

By Tom Leddo
Vice President

The S-Curve

In business, the growth of a product or service is often represented on a life cycle curve in the shape of an “S”.
As noted in this basic S-curve model, during the infancy stage of a product or service, the growth curve is relatively flat or increasing slowly as only first movers and/or wealthy consumers purchase the product. As economies of scale take hold, prices decrease and the product or service becomes mainstream, the curve enters the expansion stage and begins to greatly accelerate upward. Eventually, the curve begins to flatten as the product/service approaches maximum penetration – the maturity stage.

A great example of this concept is the automobile. At the time Henry Ford developed the Model-T assembly line in 1907, less than one percent of the population owned a car – the extremely wealthy. Mass production enabled cars to be built and sold more cheaply. With the addition of installment financing, the growth curve for the automobile exploded upward. By the 1950’s, the suburbanization of America was in full swing and the U.S. was approaching one car per household. According to the U.S. government, car ownership peaked in 2001 with 1.1 cars per licensed driver in the U.S. and has declined slightly since that time.

The S-Curve for Mobile Service Subscriptions

In terms of mobile phone service, the growth curve is measured by the number of subscriptions for mobile service compared to the total population within a given market.

The growth curve for mobile subscriptions is very similar to that of the automobile with two distinct differences. The first is that it occurred much more quickly. What took nearly a century in the U.S. auto industry, transpired in just 29 years in the U.S. mobile phone industry. The mobile phone was introduced to U.S. consumers in 1985 and subscriber penetration reached 1.1 per person in 2014.

The second, and more interesting difference is that the subscriber growth curve did not peak at 1.1 and appears to be continuing in the expansion phase of the growth curve.

One would expect that as each market approaches or crosses the key point of 100% subscriber penetration, the sales of wireless subscriptions and handsets would decrease significantly. In other words, if the population of a country is 100 million and the collective wireless operators have sold 100 million subscriptions, then who is left to buy new subscriptions other than the ~10% who purchase a second phone to separate their work and personal lives.
But this is not happening in wireless.

At the end of 2014 the U.S. had 318.9 million people and 355.4 million wireless subscriptions or 1.1 subscriptions per person. But the wireless industry is not yet peaking or showing signs of flattening due to the advent of tablets and other smart devices which will lead to consumers having more than one connected device.

According to Wikipedia, there are over forty countries with wireless penetration rates greater than the U.S., including Hong Kong at 240%, United Arab Emirates at 204% and several European countries, ranging from 114% in Belgium to 178% in Finland.

If this is the case worldwide, then it is safe to assume that the S-curve for wireless will remain in the expansion phase for the foreseeable future – that is very exciting.

What About Wireless Revenue?

So if the S-Curve for wireless subscriptions is not beginning to flatten out and the industry appears to be headed to 200% penetration and beyond, then one might assume that wireless revenues are going to continue to rapidly expand as well. But that is not the case, and therein lies the challenge for the industry.

While the number of subscriptions continues to increase past 100% with the sale of each additional tablet, it is not reasonable to expect that wireless revenue will increase at the same rate because subscribers will most likely not be willing to pay full price for each additional device. Think about it as a consumer. If you have a $100/month subscription plan for your smartphone, are you also willing to pay $200/month for both a smartphone and tablet combined? For most consumers the answer to that question is “no!”
Consumers are buying more devices that, according to Cisco, are causing the data traffic to double every twelve months. The same consumers are demanding better pricing.

As the usage of wireless devices continues to evolve from its original usage of voice to data, and now to video, the gap between mobile traffic and mobile revenues will continue to significantly widen.

So the wireless industry is experiencing an unusual phenomenon – rapid growth in subscriptions, which is causing an exponential increase in traffic on the networks without the corresponding growth in revenue. Furthermore, if subscriber count is continuing to grow rapidly, then more and more devices require networks with more and more capacity, but revenue is not growing to provide the investment necessary to help the networks keep pace with the users.

Unless costs are minimized and every opportunity for profit is maximized, this is an unsustainable predicament.

Mind The Gap

How does the industry maintain growth in the subscriber base and the required investment in the network, all the while constrained by limited/flat growth in revenue?

Typically, during the expansion phase of the S-Curve industries generate larger profits and find it easier to take in investment—both good things. However, with “excess” profits and easy investment as the norm, sometimes operational inefficiencies are ignored because the main focus is simply trying to keep up with growth. As long as profits and investment continue, these inefficiencies can usually be ignored without any immediate detrimental effect. However, sometimes what results is a mindset or a business process that is not as efficient as it could be because the “bottom line” does not need to be managed as closely.

However, in the current economic environment, operational inefficiencies are no longer buried under expanding revenue. Operational and capital expenditures (OpEx and CapEx) are being managed more closely than any other time in the last 29 years.

Md7 has always focused on wireless OpEx through a variety of cost containment and language enhancement programs for wireless operators throughout the U.S., Europe and other markets as well.

Rent roll for cell sites remains one of the largest line items for operators world-wide. As markets cross the critical 100% penetration point, rent is becoming an even more key issue. And Md7 remains the world leader in negotiating cell site rents.

But over the last few years, the team at Md7 has expanded its focus to issues that impact Capex – accelerating the time and lowering the costs involved in getting more technology on-air!

The old models for site deployment that were developed 29 years ago have not evolved along with the technology. Everyday we focus on what we call “The Three T’s” – Talent, Training and Technology. We recruit great people (often from outside the industry) who bring a strong work ethic coupled with creative thinking. We train and retrain them well. And, we give them the tools to do their jobs faster and better.

The team at Md7 has developed, and will continue to develop, revolutionary new processes and software to lead the development of cellular antenna sites into the new economic era and beyond.

We look forward to a new year of growth and opportunity!