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Firm finds a growing market for emergency alert systems

Philip Ferranti Jr., right, is CEO of Fusion Digital LLC. With him is Kevin Kulik, vice president of sales and marketing. (Photo courtesy of Fusion Digital LLC)

With dozens of school shootings nationwide since the 2012 massacre in Newtown, Conn., the importance of mass notification systems in schools has become paramount.

For Penfield-based Fusion Digital LLC, a strategic move to carry the Alertus Emergency Alert System of Maryland-based Alertus Technologies LLC has expanded the local firm’s revenues by 12 percent.

The system helps large institutions prepare for emergencies with interoperable components, including wall-mounted alert beacons and text-to-speech interfaces for public announcements. It also includes fire systems, computer desktop alerting, digital signage override, cable television override, LED displays and Internet protocol phone multicast notification.

“Our goal is we really want to grow the technologies like the emergency alert system,” said Philip Ferranti Jr., CEO of Fusion Digital. “A lot of people sell computers and servers, (but) we’re trying to bring solutions to our customers.”

“Obviously with the events going on almost—unfortunately—on a day-to-day basis, protection of students, faculty and security in the school systems is a top priority,” added Kevin Kulik, vice president of sales and marketing.

The company added the product in 2010 and has done the largest implementation of the system in the United States with its recent installation of 430 alert beacons at Christopher Newport University in Virginia.

“They’re always on their game from a project management perspective,” said Steve Campbell, chief information officer and the information security officer at the university. “They’re a very forward-looking company, very open to new ideas, new suggestions. It’s more than just a company you buy a computer from; it’s a whole partnership.”

The company provides traditional information technology services, digital signs and audio-visual products.

Co-owners Ferranti and Kenneth Chellam founded Texport Technology Group Inc. in 1993 and built it into a $17 million company in eight years. That company was sold to Manchester Technologies Inc. in 2000.

The pair worked for Manchester Technologies for a few years. In 2003 they decided to strike out on their own again, forming Fusion Digital, formerly known as the Technology Co. LLC.

The firm employs 12 people and plans to add a few more by the end of the year.

Evaluating clients and their capabilities is crucial to determining the correct system, officials said.

“What I’ve been focusing on is really introducing enterprise solutions in the smaller companies, because a lot of companies—the small to midsize—there’s a lot of products out there that allow them now to enter into the enterprise space,” said Kevin LaBarr, a network engineer for Fusion Digital.

More than a decade ago the company added digital signage—large-screen digital displays—to its portfolio. That has taken time to bear fruit, however.

“We were trying to almost create the market and then sell into the market, which is very hard to do,” Kulik said. “We’ve been doing that for the last several years. What we’re starting to see is people now have a base understanding of what digital signage is. There is a science to it. It’s not just slapping up a flat display on a wall and putting (up) some PowerPoint slides; there’s a lot more involved with it.”

“I saw the idea, I read about it, I liked that it mixed technology, business and messaging,” Ferranti said. “In a retail setting or a restaurant setting, there is an ROI to (it).”

Many customers come from education or the public sector, but the company caters to any size business and any type of industry.

“I’ve never pigeonholed our company into one segment because I’ve seen so many changes over the years,” Ferranti said. “An order is an order; we treat all our customers the same. If you have a philosophy, you can’t pick and choose when you use it.”

Adapting has never been more crucial, Ferranti said. The realities of advancing technology can often be tough to comprehend.

“Today a company might not live forever,” Ferranti said. “Looking at Kodak, basically Kodak is obsolete. Overnight they were rendered dead. That’s a scary thing that technology does. If something is invented tomorrow—say we don’t need gas for our cars anymore—what does that do for the oil industry? It could be that quick.”

7/11/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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