Friday, 7 December 2007

Take our survey!

We want to know what our customers, and potential customers, would like in an AlertMe system. You can now take part in our survey and let us know! We're keen to hear your thoughts so we can make our service the best it can be.

There's also a prize draw to encourage you - if you are the lucky one out of the hat, you will win £200 cash.

Click now!

Friday, 30 November 2007

2008 International CES

Come see AlertMe at the 2008 International CES in Las Vegas, January 7-10, 2008!!

We'll be exhibiting along with our partners in two locations: with Ember in the ZigBee Alliance area and in the Control4 Partner Pavilion.

Special thanks to Ember and Control4 for inviting us!

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Mobile Phone crime

Last week I went to a talk about mobile phone theft and misuse of electronic services, given by Shaun Whitehead from the Criminology and Criminal Justice centre at Loughborough University. There were lots of questions so he only managed to get through the mobile phone part of his research, but I thought some of his points were really interesting for Alertme customers.

You may know that there is a staggering amount of mobile phone theft in the UK - the most recent British Crime Survey (reported here by Halifax building society) reported that two MILLION mobile phones were stolen last year. Shaun and his colleague Jen Mailley have investigated ways of reducing this crime wave, by combining traditional criminology with modern technology.

One of the first things they did was to interview convicted phone thieves. Although most thefts are opportunistic, it turns out that thieves are keenly aware of risk and reward, just like everyone else. When they see an opportunity, they judge carefully whether it is worth the risk. Increase the risk to them, and the reward becomes less attractive. Another thing Shaun and Jen did was to look at ways of reducing those opportunities - if no opportunity presents itself, most thieves won't risk trying to create one.

Alertme helps protect your home in both ways. We give you some easy-to-spot (and rather smart) window stickers, so that potential thieves will have to factor in an increased risk to themselves. We can also warn you as you leave your house if you have left windows or doors open, helping you avoid giving thieves a chance.

Shaun's closing point put a great twist on the story. Phone insurance policies tend not to cover accidental damage or loss. That means that when someone has a problem with their phone, they've got to stump up for a new one, even though they've been paying to insure it. Although nobody can be sure, people who've studied the problem think that a lot of those 'stolen' phones actually went in the bin!

Monday, 1 October 2007

What's going through the front door?

Our first kits!

AlertMe is now shipping our first controlled release to eager customers. It's fantastic to see the kits going out, and we've already had some fantastic feedback. Home security is entering the 21st century at last.

Of course, there are always some rough edges with a new technology, but that's why we're so excited to get the product into the real world and keep improving it. AlertMe's culture includes an emphasis on co-production - a fancy term for working with our customers to build exactly what they want in their homes.

This is only the beginning....

For more information, see

Monday, 24 September 2007

Who's hot in wireless automation?

Just back from Boston, USA, where AlertMe participated in the first ever Ember Customer Forum. The event focused on who was using ZigBee and how they might work together to offer world class solutions in wireless automation.

AlertMe showed off a new Corporate Video, to the great amusement of the audience, and will soon post it live on our website - check back soon and look for the dude in the cowboy hat!

Some of the best consumer oriented companies there included Control 4, Colorado vNet, and the Radio Thermostat Company of America. There were also some great commercial solutions from Indesign, LS Research, Saflok, Sensorswitch, Twisthink, and Trane.

Whether you want to control your lights, entertainment, heating and airconditioning, or monitor your energy consumption, ZigBee seems to be an essential ingredient.

Monday, 3 September 2007

BarCamb 2007

A week ago, I was at BarCamb, the first BarCamp to be held in Cambridge! It was a good event, with a really interesting bunch of people from the local science and technology community talking about aspects of their work (and other interests). I spoke about AlertMe, describing our platform and some of the home awareness and other applications and services it enables. Everyone was really interested and had plenty of good ideas for future features (I wrote them all down!). Several of the people who blogged the event mentioned us, including Jim Downing, Michael Dales from Ndiyo, Rob Hulme and Ian Mulvany from Nature, who even links to a picture of our wonderfully tiny ZigBee tile!

Many thanks to Matt Wood, from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, for organising everything; and hopefully I'll see you all at the next BarCamb!

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Crime maps and home security

This post will be more speculation than announcement. I've recently been alerted to a number of new initiatives that mashup crime with maps. This isn't a totally new idea, my hometown of Berkeley, CA has had an interactive crime map for a few years now, and in the USA at least, newspapers have been reporting police blotters forever, but it does seem to have a new life.

Blog posts like this one from O'Reilly also look at the concept.

Taking it a step further are businesses like the exciting Terabitz are combining this information with real estate listing and other local detail.

What I wonder is how much that will influence people's decisions on how and where they live. I'm guessing it depends, but I've always felt you take the good with the bad. Living in NYC or London may occasionally pose risks, but that hasn't stopped people wanting to live in such vibrant cities.

I would think the best approach is to use these tools to be informed, but follow your heart (or job or school or friends) and live where you like. Better to take a few steps to protect yourself where you want to be, than to be afraid.

So I'm hoping these tools deliver the information as just that - information. People shouldn't live in fear, they should have peace of mind about their homes. And I guess AlertMe might just be a useful tool in this respect.

For more information, see

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Home security and AlertMe computing security takes security seriously.

Our revolutionary approach to intelligent home security will be backed by a hardened approach to datacenter server and network security. We've spent the last six months designing a robust and resilient infrastructure to deliver our service without interruption.

Our computer wizard says:
"The AlertMe system utilizes techniques and technologies developed by the military and the banking industry. A resilient, multiple layer firewall system combined with a military designed datacentre, manned by ex-military personnel, ensures the continued security of your personal data."
And given his spotless track record defending a leading internet-based payment processing company, he should know how it's done.

Our email and webservers are migrating into the nuclear bunkers now, and our full application will also be hosted there.

AlertMe manufacturing goes live! is now bringing online our state of the art manufacturing operation.

We have completed build out of the pilot manufacturing facility in our Cambridge headquarters and produced the first run of beta kits here already. All of the kits for the first controlled release will also be hand built in Cambridge by our own crack team of hardware experts. As they assemble the components, they are conducting extensive quality control testing and looking for future improvements and efficiencies.

At the same, we’re also spinning up activity for full scale production with a truly world class consumer electronics manufacturing partner. We’ve had their first samples back and they look really spectacular – just can’t wait to show them off! Even the packaging itself has received rave reviews from those who’ve seen sneak previews of the kit.

FUN FACT: there are over 300 unique parts in a single AlertMe home security kit.

For more information, visit

Monday, 23 July 2007

AlertMe first controlled release - taking pre-orders now!

As we're now getting very close to our first controlled release, we've decided to open the gates.

We’re now taking pre-orders for a limited release, exclusively to friends and family of the AlertMe team in the UK. If you are interested in hearing more about this, please send a note to "sales at" and tell me who you know here and I’ll tell them you’ve said “hi!” Then I can also share more details about our service and the coming release. The response has been great so far, and supplies are limited, so act quickly if you want to be one of the first to enjoy intelligent home security, control, and monitoring.

If you don’t happen to know us personally, but want to learn more, let me know the nature of your interest. We would be happy to have a chat on a variety of topics once we know a bit more about you. To misquote Bogart: I think this may be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.


Sunday, 22 July 2007

AlertMe website relaunching

Is "relaunching" a word? Oh well.

Just a quick note to let you know we'll be relaunching our website sometime in the next couple of weeks. This is the big moment, when we'll open the curtains and show you just what it is we've built. It's been a major effort in developing comprehensive content and a friendly, intuitive design. We're hoping you'll like it!

Sections will include:
  • "Why AlertMe?"
  • "What is it?"
  • "Who is it for?"
  • "How does it work?"
and the ever popular "FAQ" for things that just didn't seem to fit elsewhere.

I won't spoil the surprise, but be sure to check back often at and be the first to know.

Saturday, 21 July 2007

Home trials of AlertMe

Over the last few weeks, AlertMe has been busy with a number of home trials of our home security, control, and monitoring service. A range of people with a variety of homes and living situations have been able to set up the kit, show it off to their friends and family, and find out what's it really like.

The trials have gone very well so far. People outside the company have been appreciative of the design elements and interested to learn more. Perhaps more importantly, we've collected a ton of feedback on areas for improvement and future enhancements.

The trials will be ongoing right up through sign off of our first controlled release, and we plan to never stop learning from our customers. When you get your kit, be sure to drop us a line and let us know what you love about AlertMe, and where we might do better.


Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Business Weekly reports on

Business Weekly covers news, feature and analysis on business issues for senior decision makers in companies across the East of England. It has reported on our business this week.

US investors alert to home security venture

By Lautaro Vargas, 07 March 2007

Two of the region's top entrepreneurs are promising to revolutionise the home security market by launching a new generation of internet and mobile-enabled monitored alarm systems.

Backed with £5 million from entities affiliated to one of the USA's biggest hedge funds, Tudor Investment Group, Pilgrim Beart and Adrian Critchlow will trial AlertMe's first products in Cambridge this summer prior to a national roll-out before the year's end.

The Series A financing follows initial seed funding from the co-founders and business angels and will be used to complete the final stage of development and testing, build brand partnerships and bring the product to market.

Details of the technologies that will be used to underpin the new products, as well as the actual products themselves, will not be released until after the trials, though Beart insists that the AlertMe system will produce a step change in home surveillance.

"In contrast to many older alarm systems that use a phone dialer, the AlertMe system architecture is bang up-to-date; however we are not releasing any details of it yet" said Beart."Suffice to say that a large US hedge fund has invested in us on the basis of its potential."

AlertMe's next generation home security offering will use internet and mobile technology to connect people with their homes and alert them immediately to any unauthorised entry or fire.

The company's intention is to provide a major challenge to traditional monitored alarms by using the latest technology to offer enhanced functionality at a fraction of the current cost.

Increased functionality will free users from a prickly relationship with alarm firms according to Critchlow.

He said: "Many people use alarm companies but are not happy with the service."

AlertMe's system is expected to provide significant savings to users over existing systems.

Critchlow added: "Over the lifetime of our products we would hope to strip a significant amount of cost off existing systems, up to 50 per cent. But the comparison is really chalk and cheese as the amount of functionality would be far beyond what you can get at the moment."

The teaming of Beart and Critchlow could prove to be the masterstroke behind the success of the new venture, bringing an expert in wireless and RF technology start-ups together with one experienced in the rapid exploitation of a highly successful internet firm.

Beart has 20 years exp-erience in establishing ground-breaking high-technology companies including ActiveRF (which was sold to US-based Gatekeeper) and Antenova, which is heading full-throttle towards its goal of becoming the global supplier of choice for integrated antennas.

Critchlow co-founded online reservation service Active Hotels in 1999, helping it become one of the UK's fastest growing companies before it was sold five years later to Priceline for £90 million.

"The intention is to get a leading edge product up fast and one of the reasons for taking this on is that the technology already exists," said Critchlow.

True to its word, AlertMe, which was founded in April 2006, not only has 12 employees working in Cambridge on hardware and software R & D and commercial, but it already has a team of five doing software R & D in India.

As it finalises its commercialisation strategy, AlertMe is now seeking to develop partnerships with a number of different sectors including Internet Service Providers, mobile operators and insurance companies.

Mythbusting - Home Security Myth #2: Effectiveness

There was an interesting article about the effectiveness of home security a few weeks ago.

You can read the full version here.

The summary is that Britain has high rates of burglary because people don't take adequate steps to protect themselves (such as locking up and using their alarms) and that many steps they do take are ineffective (such as security lights and siren only alarms.)

They argue that some of these actually aid the burglar, like lights to work by, or are easily circumvented, like wearing a hoodie around a CCTV camera. And we all know that most alarm sounds are routinely ignored.

I would argue that the real reason all of these security measures fail is that they don't tell anyone who cares that there is a crime in progress. With our approach, a crafty burglar may still get in as none of us really wants to live in a concrete bunker, but if they do, you know instantly. You can then call the police and give them an opportunity to intervene WHILE it's still happening.

I'd much rather the police catch the bad guys in the act, than just take a crime report long afterward.

Effectiveness is based on deterrence and response. We can help with both.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

A shout out to all Entrepreneurial Engineers

Yesterday Amyas and I were at the IET's Entrepreneurial Engineer event in Cambridge. It was wonderful to see so many engineers keen to learn more about entrepreneurship, both in the true sense of starting new businesses, and within their current employing organisations. Everyone we spoke to was excited by the AlertMe proposition, and it was good to meet so many people who are already fans of ZigBee! There was a real buzz around new consumer technology ideas such as ours, and several people said how great it was to see a company using ZigBee for the purpose it was designed for, and getting a compelling new product out using it.

So a big Hi to everyone we met yesterday, especially the avid followers of this blog! Do sign up at so we can keep you up to date with when AlertMe will be available in your area, and keep being entrepreneurial.

Mythbusting - Home Security Myth #1: Risk

One of the most common misconceptions of home security is about RISK.

Generally, people are bad judges of risk. Whole industries exist for the management of risk in various forms, ranging from financial to personal. Business managers are kept up nights by their decisions around risk mitigation. And we all have to judge risk, reward, and consequences on a daily basis.

  • Can I park on the yellow line for 15 minutes or will I get a ticket?
  • Should I buy a house now or hope the property bubble will burst soon?
  • If I leave work early today will the boss think I'm being slack?
  • Do I need to replace the batteries in my smoke detector today or next week?

A good way to think about risk is to weigh the CHANCE of an event happening against the OUTCOMES if it does or does not.

Parking on the yellow line might conveniently saving me walking several blocks and circling around looking for a legal space, and the chance of a traffic warden coming by in the next 15 minutes is fairly low, but the consequence might be a 60 pound penalty citation and the minor hassle of paying it.

Interestingly there is also an emotional cost to all this. If I park in a legal space, then I don't have to worry about it - very nice benefit that should be factored in. If I get a ticket for illegal parking, it'll probably annoy me for the rest of the day, and again when I get around to paying it.

What does this have to do with home security? A lot actually.

Some decisions are made daily. Lock up the house, using one or more locks. Close some or all of the windows.

Some decisions we make once and then forget about. Getting an alarm system. Installing smoke detectors. Joining Neighbourhood Watch.

It's well worth re-evaluating the risks of home security now. The chance factor should reflect 733,000 reported home burlaries last year in the UK according to the Home Office Crimes Report, and the average cost is fairly high at an average theft claim of £2,250 (total home property loss claims were at £1.4 billion in the UK last year.)

Again, not least is the emotional cost of the risk. That same Home Office report says that 63% of people believe crime has increased in the UK, with 13% expressing very high levels of worry. The most significant issue may be the awful feeling of invasion if you do have the misfortune of being a victim.

This is all a personal decision, but now you have some of the facts, assumptions and myths around the risk of burglary. A similar decision can be made for smoke and fire detection, and a variety of other considerations.

Perhaps the strongest conclusion is that it is worth being informed and making an educated decision about risks to your home. I hope this helps you do that.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Usability in practice

Last week I attended a three day intensive camp called "Usability in Practice." This was run by the world-renowned Nielsen Norman Group, a consultancy who work in the field of usability - making tools which are easy for people to use to accomplish their desired task. The group is made up of people who have been working on product design and thinking about the whole user experience for decades, and has the philosophy "to help companies enter the age of the consumer, designing human-centered products and services." That's AlertMe!

I've previously met Don Norman (co-founder of the group) at Intelligent Environments, a Microsoft Research event. He's a really inspiring guy, with a huge range of design and psychology expertise, as well as technical experience (amongst many other things, he was Vice President of the Advanced Technology Group at Apple). Norman recommends companies design the Total User Experience, going beyond just a few nifty features and good engineering to make a product, and we've followed that best practice whilst designing the AlertMe system.

The camp focussed on how to design and test for usability, which is something which has been critical to AlertMe from day one. It was great to build on my previous experience with some more detailed study at the camp, and I'm now planning the next round of user testing for our system.

Jakob Nielsen ran some of the sessions; he's one of the foremost advocates of easy to use websites and a top usability guru. He also founded the "discount usability engineering" movement for fast and cheap improvements of user interfaces. This kind of rapid, responsive technique to create a highly usable, functional and fun-to-use system is at the heart of AlertMe's development.

I'm going to be looking for participants to help AlertMe refine our user interface and website during the summer. If you'd like to be considered, send me an email at usability @ or sign up for more information at This is a great opportunity to help us make using the AlertMe system a truly straightforward and enjoyable experience.

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Long weekend #4 - The morning after

Again, absolutely true experience - I really am not making this up.

Ah it was nice to be back home. I love the cosy feel of our little English terrace house.

I woke up the morning after we got back, refreshed and ready to get back to work. Except, why was the house so cold this morning?

I wander downstairs for my usual glass of Ovaltine (the good stuff we bring over from the States.) I notice it's even colder down here. Ah, I see why!

The front door is wide open!

Apparently it has been wide open all night. The Yale lock must not have latched properly when we closed it, then the wind must have blown it back open. It does that sometimes. This is why I'm always wondering if I closed the front door. See, there is a perfectly good reason for my paranoia!

Um, wait a sec, the front door was wide open all night!

We live on fairly busy street, just off a major road through town. It's a mixed part of town, generally very nice, but some rough characters bumming around pretty often, too. Uh, oh.

Rush into the front room for a quick look around: yep, there is my laptop, my iPod, my wallet, my keys, my wife's purse, and all our passports, right there where we dropped them after the France trip.

I am very, very, very relieved no one wandered in last night.

We really do need to get one of them high tech new home monitoring systems....

Long weekend #3 - The Return Home

The following is absolutely true. Sometimes life just hands you material.

Coming back from the ZigBee conference in Paris, I had the usual mild worries:
  • Did the cleaner come while we were gone?
  • Did we leave the heating on for five days with no one home?
  • And generally, was the house ok?
Interestingly, these worries increase the closer we get to home, which is compounded by the fact that the trains get exponentially slower as we approach home:
  • Paris to London - no stops - 2 hours 40 minutes - 280 miles - average 105 mph
  • London to Cambridge - 28 stops - 4 hours 20 minutes - 60 miles - average 14 mph
At last, we're home!

The house is still there, not a smoking pile of bricks!
The front is closed, not hanging off it's hinges!
The front door is locked, but we can't open it!

Err... apparently the cleaner did come, and she locked an extra deadbolt on the door, one for which I don't have a key. Whoops. Now what?

Time to break in to my own home!

Wife watches me vault the locked gate to the back alley, easy enough, this is kind of fun!
Slip around the neighbours', into our back garden.
Test the french doors to see if they're locked - yes, good, we remembered to lock them when we left. Now what?

Tug a bit harder on the back door... hmm... it seems to have a little play in it... I wonder.
Sharp yank on the handle of the french doors, and voila, quiet splintering and I'm in!
  • Locked out to broken in - 1 stop - 2 minutes - 40 yards - average 0.7 mph
That was really easy. Quick and quiet. No one saw me.

We'll need to fix the door though.

And perhaps we should get some sort of high tech home monitoring system....

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Long weekend #2 - ZigBee in Paris

The ZigBee Alliance held a conference and open house at the Hyatt by Charles De Gaulle Airport last week. It was an international event, with attendees coming from at least four continents.

Interesting to see the booths - a lot of developers and platforms and chipsets and everyone had some green circuit boards on display. What I didn't see was many consumer applications of the technology. It still seems very rooted in the industrial world. The technology is ready and solid, but we'll be one of the first to deploy it for a really cool home usage.

Even Eaton's presentation was about their electrical and automotive bits, not their geek-next-door home products. It just feels like this isn't the focus for their company.

The best customer oriented product was Control4 and they had a nice demo of their kit - we'd love to have a chat with them about the security aspects sometime. We also enjoyed the TSC Systems display.

It was great to see our friends from Ember and PRI.

All in all, a very interesting event, but it'll get better when we are ready to show our stuff!

Long weekend #1

Wednesday last week, we left home for a long weekend in France. A conference in Paris requires some extra time on holiday. (Note to our Directors: this was not a boondoggle. Really.)

As always, I had to go back twenty steps from the front door, just to make sure it was closed tightly. I had a touch more worry than usual, after all we were going to be gone for five days. The neighbours were gone also (to Bristol, almost as glamourous.)

Worse, we had to put the trash bins out in front of the house two days early because we were going to miss the collection day otherwise. They only collect every two weeks here, which means if you miss once, it's an entire month of rubbish to stomp into the small bin, sort of a very sad man's grape stomping. But I digress. The non-political issue with the bins was that leaving them in front for five days on a semi-busy street seems to be a clear sign of "Nobody's Home - Come on in!" They even have the house number spraypainted on, just so your slower crook doesn't get confused about which house is empty. Sigh. My paranoia needs little encouragement.

The trains were fine: Cambridge to King's Cross, King's Cross to Leicester Square, Leicester Square to Waterloo, Waterloo to Gare Du Nord, enough trains already, taxi to hotel.

Ah, Paris in the spring. If you must know, the weather was absolutely perfect -- warm but not hot, blue sky sunny, with a cool, light breeze -- all day on Thursday. Of course, I spent the entire day in a windowless convention room in an airport hotel, but more about the ZigBee Open House in the next post....

(To Be Continued.)

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

AlertMe moments at the weekend: Freezers and Cats!

Last week was my wife's birthday, so on Thursday we took the family up to London for a long weekend at my sister-in-law's house. On Friday I got a call from our cleaner, who'd arrived at our home that morning to find our freezer door ajar ... and most of the food inside spoiled.

"If only we already had AlertMe!" I thought - we'd have known about the problem and asked someone to come and close the door before any damage was done. This alone would have been worth the cost of a year's of AlertMe subscription, to say nothing of all the hassle.

This is a classic example of a device in the home knowing that there's a problem (our fridge-freezer beeps if either door is left open), but not having any way to tell its owner.

So we were house-sitting my sister-in-law’s house. They have a cat, and were reassured to know that we'd be around to check that it was getting in and out of the house OK, getting fed and watered. I wondered - could one of our AlertMe door/window sensors on the catflap give some peace of mind for cat users? In 2004, 4.5 million UK households owned 7.7 million cats.

Can't wait to get the system launched!

Friday, 20 April 2007

Happy Birthday to!

AlertMe had its first birthday this week -- turning the company into a jolly one year old.

We've achieved an amazing amount in one year:
  • incorporating as a "we're really going to do it" business
  • growing the team with many new superstars
  • moving into our new headquarters in the heart of Cambridge
  • defining and adopting our brand and identity
  • closing our first major round of venture funding
  • finding great partners to help us with design and development, manufacturing and marketing
  • and most importantly, prototyping and developing a revolutionary new home security and monitoring system
We look forward to moving from infancy to toddler-dom in the next us grow!


Thursday, 19 April 2007

ZigBee: at home in Cambridge

This month, AlertMe has performed a variety of tests using our own ZigBee hardware, to make sure that it performs well in real houses. Following on from previous test phases, we went out into a wide range of homes, of differing sizes and construction types, in the Cambridge area and beyond, and explored how our kit would work in these homes. As well as checking that ZigBee has the range to reach everywhere in these homes, we also tested the potential for interference with operating Bluetooth and WiFi networks in the home. I'd like to take this opportunity to say thanks on behalf of the technology team to Preethi Kalimuthu and Sean Warren, who joined AlertMe to help with this study, and who were rigorous and insightful.

We used our hardware to simulate real user installations of AlertMe equipment, and generated heavy network traffic on the other wireless networks present in the homes where they existed. From nineteenth century large family homes to new build townhouses, with all kinds of electronics already installed (microwaves, DECT and mobile phones, and even giant plasma TVs and huge fridges!), we found great performance using ZigBee. This is excellent news, confirming our previous conclusions. We're looking forward to getting real systems out into houses soon!

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Champagne moment #4

The champagne flowed at AlertMe last Thursday, as the team celebrated the major achievement of "System Alpha" - a demonstration of the integrated system working from end to end.

We're all thrilled to see our system working. We even exceeded our aims for this demo, so a very successful milestone passed!

A MySpace party and a wrecked home

It's long been conventional wisdom that a major benefit of programming computers is that this allows you to do a task many times over with ease. It's also been noted that if this task isn't well thought through, any bug is repeated many times over. The computer does what it is told, and the result may be much less or much more than desired. Networking on the internet can probably be said to escalate this effect by distributing the result far and wide.

In this case, we have a simple task: "Invite people to a party", that contained a small error of judgment "the party was unsanctioned by the parents and uncontrolled by the teenage host", and led to a disastrous result of "more party than desired".

Web revellers wreck family home

About 200 youngsters caused damage put at £20,000 to a family home after a party organised on a website.

Police said a teenage girl used the social networking site MySpace to advertise the party while her parents were away from home on Easter Monday.

The full article is available here.

So what does this have to do with AlertMe?

Well, our service monitors activity in the home. It could easily be set to report unusual volumes of activity, for instance the front door opening 200 times in an evening and ceaseless motion in the lounge, kitchen, or any other room. If the parents were alerted of this unexpected and abnormal circumstance, perhaps they could have responded in time to avoid the result, even calling the police to break up the party if necessary.

Monday, 16 April 2007

ADT adds daily premium rate phone charges

Another interesting news article, from the Guardian on Saturday:

'Phantom' calls raise the alarm

Premium rate lines: Patrick Collinson on a lucrative security mystery

(Saturday April 14, 2007, The Guardian)

Ben Whitney's father just could not work out why his phone bill was so high. He's retired and recovering from a stroke, so he asked his son to take a look at it. The thing puzzling him most was a 20p or 23p call every day, sometimes twice a day, to an 0906 number at 1.17am each morning. The calls had started months ago, and if they carried on were likely to add £100 a year to his bill.

The calls lasted only a few seconds, but the high cost alerted Mr Whitney to the fact that they must be premiumrate lines. Had some rogue dialler or trojan software hijacked his father's phone? He contacted industry regulator Icstis for help - and was astonished to discover that the premium rate calls were being auto-dialled from the family home's ADT burglar alarm as it made a daily registration contact with the ADT monitoring centre.

Mr Whitney and his father were flabbergasted. The alarm had cost more than £1,000 to install, plus monthly service charges . The last thing his father had expected was another £100 or so a year in premium rate phone calls. "I traced the number via the Icstis website to ADT alarms," says Mr Whitney. " I made some enquiries and was told that this type of ADT alarm has to 'check in' every day by calling in to their system. The units come with an expensive revenue-generating number as default but I was told they can be modified to call a cheaper 0870 number by an ADT engineer."

The ADT call centre assured him that on the next inspection visit by an ADT technician, the line would be changed.

"However, the engineer who called knew nothing about this or how to change it. I was astounded that this information had to be uncovered by me and was not something that the company tell their customers when the unit is fitted, " says Mr Whitney.

The article continues on, you can see the rest of the story here

It's well worth noting that's service will continuously monitor its status through your home's broadband connection at no additional charge, not just once a day over a premium phone call as ADT's does.

"Police take action as burglary rate increases"

I'm back from a two week holiday in the USA - not surprisingly I spent a fair amount of time there wishing I had a way to check in on our house in Cambridge....

I did return to find an interesting article in the Cambridge Evening News about local police efforts to stem burglaries. Seems to be a bit of good news/bad news - I'm very glad the police efforts are meeting some success, but it's a shame the burglary rate was almost triple last years' numbers.

Here's the first bit of the story:

SEVEN people were arrested and stolen property was recovered as police launched a bid to stem a sharp rise in burglaries.

The move, called Operation Onslaught, saw police swoop on the Arbury and King's Hedges areas of Cambridge in a crackdown on break-ins.

Between November 2 last year and February 23 this year there were a total of 128 burglaries in the two areas. In the same period the previous year 44 offences were reported.

It was also reassuring to hear that "All reports of burglary are taken extremely seriously and are fully investigated."

You can read the full article here.

Friday, 23 March 2007

Wireless control that simply works

A core part of the AlertMe system is its use of ZigBee technology in the home. ZigBee is a wireless system that allows devices to communicate over short distances. It is straightforward enough to work on small, simple devices such as light switches, but can carry enough data to monitor and control a security system, to track energy usage around the home, and much more.

It uses a similar radio frequency to both Bluetooth and WiFi (2.4GHz), but is rather less well known! Unlike Bluetooth, ZigBee can communicate between many devices at once, and over greater distances (a single ZigBee network will connect together all parts of an average UK home). ZigBee doesn't need as much power, or computer processing ability, as a WiFi network.

AlertMe is a Participant member of the ZigBee Alliance, which is a global ecosystem of companies creating wireless solutions for use in residential, commercial and industrial applications. The ZigBee Alliance companies work together to enable reliable, cost-effective, low-power, wirelessly networked products based on an open global standard.

AlertMe will be increasingly visible at ZigBee Alliance events (and in conference calls) over the next few months as Amyas and I start to participate in the development of the standard. If you are one of the many people involved in the ZigBee world, do say hello to us!

Monday, 19 March 2007

Blogs from the underground

"Enough about the funding already," I hear you saying, and fair enough. The coverage has been very positive, but what have we done lately?

We're still in a pre-launch mode here at It's a stealth mode, not like a fully cloaked Romulan ship, nor like a ninja in the shadows, but very much like my two year old playing hide and seek in the closet. We secretly want you to know we're here, otherwise what's the point of hiding?

So there are some things we can talk about today: our business, industry, and open jobs. There are some things we won't reveal just yet, but soon: our products and services.

This blog will be often the very first place to hear the news. I'll be sharing more as we go, so stay tuned....

Keep the peace,

Thursday, 15 March 2007

Tornado Insider tracks on the Radar

Looks like a Tornado is coming our way! closes £5 million financing round, the home security company for the internet generation, today announced the closing of a £5 million financing round from entities affiliated with the Tudor Group.

The funding will be used to help complete the final stage of development and testing, to build brand partnerships, and bring the product to market.

Adrian Critchlow, co-founder of, commented, 'We are delighted to have Tudor as an investor. We feel this investment validates our product development efforts to date, and our planned approach to the home security market.' will be launching a next generation home security product using internet and mobile technology to connects people to their homes at all times, and alert users to unauthorized entry or fire. The product's increased functionality will be cost much less than the installation and monitoring costs of a conventional home alarm system.

Growth Business features on the front page

A much appreciated front page report from Growth Business:

Wednesday 14th March 2007

AlertMe bags £5 million
Cambridge-based start-up AlertMe has raised £5 million in its first round of funding from US hedge fund Tudor Investment. The money raised will be used on R&D, developing the company's brand and establishing partnership. The company has been founded by serial entrepreneurs Adrian Critchlow and Pilgrim Beart. Critchlow was behind Active Hotels, which was sold to Priceline for £90 million, and Beart has founded three start-ups and has 20 years' experience in building technology companies. AlertMe will be launching a home security offering, using internet and mobile technology to connect people with their homes and alert them immediately to any unauthorised entry or fire. It will begin trialing the offering with customers in the Cambridge area in the next few months, prior to a national roll-out in the second half of 2007. The company worked with Cambridge-based Green & Green on the legal side, while Deloitte provided financial advice.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

alarm:clock euro picks up the story

Another report on our funding announcement. Thank you to the alarm:clock team.

Hedge Fund Tudor Makes Fifth Investment With AlertMe - A Zigbee Play The Latest

Zigbee sensor startup AlertMe has raised £5M from Tudor Investment Corp. It's a deal we missed and seems to have been announced in February.

AlertMe is a one-year old startup that's pitching a homeowner securtingy alerting system direct to the mobilephone. It has not released product yet but according to a report in Real Deals magazine, it will use the new low power Zigbee sensor technology as part of its home security alerting service. A typical application is a door sensor that triggers an alert to a homeowner's cellphone.

Library House says that this is Tudor's fifth transaction in recent months. The others are Plastic Logic (December 2006), Passado (December 2006), Netronome (November 2006) and Hotxt (July 2006), it said.

A couple of readers have written in to ask us for more info about Tudor and how it goes about sourcing dealflow and its interest in Europe. We do not have an answer yet. We know that GP Bullhound brokered the Passado deal. Maybe other a:c euro readers in the UK have some insight, if so, send us an email.

Back to AlertMe. It's too early to evaluate the product on offer, because there isn't one to look at yet, but the founders sound good.

The tech-oriented co-founder is Pilgrim Beart. This is his third wireless venture. His bio describes a career in the UK, then six years working in Silicon Valley in the 1990's for the likes of Atari and Chromatic Research (now AMD). Returned to Cambridge in '99 and founded activeRF Ltd., an early implementer of wireless asset-location systems and antenova Ltd., a VC-backed WiFi and Bluetooth antenna maker.

The other founder is Adrian Critchlow, whose most recent venture is an eco-hotel, a carbon-neutral hostelry for the wealthy tourist. But he's got some tech cred: founding and Iota Software Ltd. and he was in marketing at Acorn Computer Group, at the time of the ARM spin out. was acquired for £90 million giving its backers a "16 fold return".

Monday, 12 March 2007

My Home Security Pro blogs

We're happy to see an independent security expert commenting our business....

Home Security Revolution In UK

PILGRIM BEART: He's had more than 15 years of working in a number of high-technology companies (including ActiveRF, which was sold to Gatekeeper, and Antenova) in Cambridge, Oxford, and Silicon Valley. He has become and experienced technology entrepreneur with admirable skills in leadership and technical disciplines.

ADRIAN CRITCHLOW: He has a proven entrepreneurial track record and has worked big time in technology companies. In the 80's he worked for Acorn Computers and in the 90's became the founder of Iota Software Ltd., a UK software company that ranked in the top 10 software suppliers to education by RM PLC and won two DTI SMART awards.

Now what happens when these two technology entrepreneurs come together? Surely, it's the beginning of a new revolution!

Beart and Critchlow will be working together to revolutionize the home security systems market by launching a new generation of internet and mobile-enabled monitored alarm systems. They will lead AlertMe's products to the final stage of its development and testing. They'll also be building brand partnerships and introduce the product to the market.

Beart believes that the AlertMe system will bring about a great change in home surveillance. Though details have not yet been released about the product, it is said that AlertMe will be using the internet and mobile technology to connect people with their homes. The AlertMe main differentiation is that it uses the latest technology to offer enhanced functionality without costing too much. While offering increased functionality, the system will also be expected to provide significant savings to users.

Presently, AlertMe is developing partnerships with a couple of different sectors including Internet service providers, mobile operators, and insurance companies.

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Real Deals reports on

Here is another story about our company, this time from Real Deals, a fortnightly magazine that covers European private equity and venture capital news, comment, features and analysis, aimed at venture capitalists, investment bankers, lawyers, accountants, directors, and entrepreneurs.

08 March 2007

Cambridge-based start-up AlertMe has raised £5m ($7.4m) first round funding from Tudor Investment Group.

AlertMe is developing a next-generation home security product that will use broadband internet and mobile technology to connect people to their homes and alert them remotely to fire or unauthorised entry.

The company is due to start piloting the technology in the Cambridge area in summer 2007, with a national launch towards the end of the year.

"Interesting radio technologies such as Zigbee are really coming of age now, and enough people (45 per cent of the UK population) are using broadband to use this to update traditional alarm systems, said AlertMe co-founder Adrian Critchlow.

"Less than two per cent of households have monitored alarm systems, and even those that do rarely have a good word to say about their provider, suggesting this is an industry ripe for change."

AlertMe was seed funded by its founders, repeat entrepreneurs Critchlow and Pilgrim Beart. Critchlow is the founder of Active Hotels, which was sold to Priceline for £90m in 2004, generating a 16 times return for its seed investors. Beart has also founded three start-ups.

The pair had been talking with angel investors and VCs, but according to Critchlow, "none were as proactive as Tudor".

"They were prepared to seek us out and listen to our business plan. We got their term sheet in a few days and closed within weeks," he said.

"Some people have suggested that a hedge fund is just 'dumb money' but that isn't the case at all - they were very well informed, and asked all the right questions, digging into the technology and what we are doing."

AlertMe, which was founded in April 2006, has a team of 15, comprising software and network developers, and a commercial team, many of which were recruited from Cambridge University.

Thursday, 1 March 2007

Library House blogs

Library House, which provides essential intelligence to investors in early stage companies, has blogged about our funding....

Life in Tudor England

Posted by Andrew T at 9:02am, 14th February 2007

If US investor sentiment is anything to go by, Europe is spawning a healthy crop of new entrepreneurs. Certainly, European venture capital investment saw renewed interest by US investors last year, highlighted by several high profile Sequoia Capital investments (such as JaJah and Stardoll) and also the appearance of hedge funds in a number of venture funding rounds.

Tudor Investment Corporation, led by one of the savviest investors of all-time, Paul Tudor Jones, is particularly active at the moment, VentureBlog has learnt. The Boston-based hedge fund is just about to announce a £5m ($7.6m) investment in, a developer of a consumer product package described as "Home Security 2.0". Alertme, which has only just come out of stealth mode, was co-founded by Adrian Critchlow, co-founder of Active Hotel, which was sold to in 2004.

The investment will be the hedge fund's fifth European investment since July last year, all of which have been in the UK. The others are Plastic Logic (December 2006), Passado (December 2006), Netronome (November 2006) and Hotxt (July 2006).

Top class investors are welcomed by all venture-backed companies, but does that welcome extend to all hedge funds? I'd need some convincing on that one.

Thursday, 25 January 2007 has raised £5 million investment!!

We are thrilled to have closed our funding round for £5 million investment from an American hedge fund. This gives us the venture capital we need to continue research and development, and launch our product. We are sincerely appreciative of the support and would like to express our commitment and profound thanks for the belief in our vision.

Now the work (fun) really begins!

Read the press release here