ISC West, day 0, casino surveillance, and how to make money
I'm not sure how this happened: The ISC West show floor hasn't even opened yet and already my feet hurt, my voice is hoarse, I've got a notebook full of scribbling, and I've lost $100 playing blackjack (nice table of people, but I hit a nasty dealer named Tonya - had no sympathy whatsoever). Anyway, I had a few good takeaways yesterday, two sort of engineered by Honeywell, and the last by DMP. I feel a little guilty about spending so much time with Honeywell, but they put on some great events yesterday and put me in front of a ton of great integrators and installers and I'm hardly going to talk about them, so I'm not going to sit here and make apologies. First up was their Honeywell CSS event, whereby they bring in their commercial dealers for some sales training and to introduce them to new products and tools coming down the pipeline. I live blogged it last year, and this year wasn't that much different. The best part that I saw, though, was a panel whereby they put up four CSS dealers who'd all grown their businesses last year and asked them what they did to make money in such a bad economy. Here's what they said: Rich Montalvo, Security 101, which grew 130 percent last year, he said: -Teamed with guys like cubicle installers and office furniture sales people to get great qualified leads and go after new business. "That was a big deal for us." -Diversified the sales team - made sure they didn't specialize in just one vertical so they don't expose themselves to huge downturns in specific markets. "We treat our sales team like a mutual fund - we don't want to invest to much in any one thing." -Don't let the sales guys put out bids unless they estimate they've got at least a 30-40 percent chance of landing the job. "They've got million dollar quotas, so their time is worth $500 an hour. I don't want them wasting it." Chris Mosely, Complete Security Systems: -Increased the sales and marketing piece with a capital investment -Took advantage much more of the Honeywell relationship, started utilizing much more of the sales and marketing pieces they provide for free -Made a huge play in making sure that every account now comes with a GSM radio. "We're not going to sell another system without a radio." -RMR is the ticket. Got heavily into selling Total Connect. John Wojda - Great Lakes Building Systems -"We lead with our service." Essentially said that most companies have terrible service, especially in the fire business, and they get most of their new jobs by taking over the service business and then getting the new installation later. -40-50 percent of the business is in health care, a booming market even in a bad economy. -100 percent club for salespeople who hit their goal. They get a trip out of it and they bring their spouses. "That's better than money to them." -Service department is separate from installation, and manager is compensated with salary and with quarterly bonuses if he hits profits goals. "He has skin in the game." Fred Dunner, Post Alarm -A third generation alarm company, they were in a position where 80 percent of business came from referrals, so he knew they were in trouble in this economy unless they did something new and different. -Got into social media, beefed up the web presence considerably, better search optimization, put up rate-your-alarm-company sheets, asked people to compare them with competition, takes everyone on a tour of their facility, which includes a UL central station -Also invested heavily in selling GSM radios - made them the same price as POTS so that sales people wouldn't shy away from them. "Salespeople are more reluctant to adopt new technology than customers. Customers just want it to work. They don't care what the technology is." -Offered Total Connect, first three months free. 75 percent kept and paid for it. -Makes money on every installation and offers month to month monitoring. This literally flabbergasted one questioner, who kept asking, "so, you lose money on the installation, and then you don't even ensure that you'll get the monitoring?" Dunner had to tell him three times, "no, we make money on the installation." I think there's some interesting ideas there. The audience, which you could clearly see wasn't comprising a bunch of companies who were killing it right now, definitely paid attention. Also of note is that Joe Sausa, who used to run both the First Alert program and the CSS program, said that the organizations have both become so big that one person isn't right to run both of them, so John Lorenty, who was in charge of access control, has been tapped to head the CSS program, with Sausa retaining the First Alert program. Also, Honeywell has a new HD camera out now, 720p with PoE, which manages to transmit data back at only 3 mbps, which is only a touch more than an encoded analog camera. They won't talk about the secret sauce compression, etc. Next up was a tour of the brand-spanking-new Aria hotel, an MGM property with a sweet new video surveillance system installed by North American Video. The tour was especially good because not only was it conducted by Ted Whiting, director of surveillance at the Aria, but along for the ride were NAV CEO Jason Oakley and Honeywell's president and GM of video Scott Harkins, so you got the whole story from all the different players. Very interesting. It's a pretty massive system, all based on Honeywell's Maxpro video system, the platform on which they'll base everything going forward. There are some 2,700 cameras (the majority analog with encoders, plus about 50 Grandeye 360s and a growing number, but still small, of those brand-new HD cameras from Honeywell), recording on 75 servers. It's important to note that surveillance in a casino refers only to the gaming floor. Everything else in the hotel is the purview of "security," with which surveillance works, so the surveillance guys just point out bad guys and get the security guys to nab them. So all of those cameras I was talking about just point at the casino floor. There's another surveillance system that security uses. That's a lot of cameras in one building. Whiting was a gregarious guy who was pretty damn excited about his operations, based in the basement of the Aria (go to my Twitter feed to check out some of the pictures I took of it - I'd download and post them right now, but I'm in a hurry because I have to make it to an Axis breakfast - see how those breakfasts bite you in the ass? Let's start a movement to boycott them entirely...), with some 5,000 square feet of space to operate in. He's proud of the distributed network architecture that allowed him to save about $700,000 on fiber alone, instead of home running all the cameras (although this seems kind of old hat at this point, but maybe just for us journalist types). He's proud that even when the corporate network goes down and he can't actually show us something, that he's got dedicated recording paths and he always recording, for sure. He's proud that, for Vegas, he's very advanced into the digital world, with no cabling longer than 300 feet so he's future-proofed for IP cameras to swap in (he claims a larger percentage of casinos on the strip than you would think still use VCRs). He's proud that he's using HD cameras to make his life a lot easier (he can read the dice on the craps table! - "I've lived with making do for 15 years, but I'd rather do it in HD). Speaking of those HDs. He was fairly freaking out over the low-light performance and the 3 mbps part. "They're so good I dream about them," he said. "I spend way too much time telling people like my wife, who really doesn't care, about how good they are." Take that for what it's worth, but he said he tested them against products from 6 other companies and Honeywell won out. Actually, that was one of the more interesting pieces, that he tested the technology and the integrators separately before making a decision. He chose the technology he wanted to install, then chose NAV because of their experience in gaming (the minimum criteria was a 1,000 camera system in a casino on the resume) and hoped NAV was cool with installing Honeywell products, etc. Obviously, NAV was cool with it. What - you're not going to take the Aria job because you don't like the products they want to install? But, actually, Oakley said he would have agreed with a lot of the product choices anyway. But what else was he going to say - Honeywell was sitting in the room with him. Plus, Oakley had just come on board when they landed the job, so it's not like he had a long-standing relationship with another manufacturer anyway. Whiting also loves the 360 cameras. He uses them to track bad guys through the casino to figure out who they are. Used to be he just got a face at the cage window, say, who took home $2,000 too many chips because of a clerk's mistake. Now he can follow that guy back to his table, he's a rated player, he calls him up, "and they always give it back." That's a nice ROI. Both Harkins and Oakley said, actually, that Whiting is one of few corporate end users who really understand making the ROI case back up the corporate chain and does a great job at getting capital funds released for surveillance. Most guys focus on the technology, they said, but Whiting does well with the business case. They said that's probably why he's got such a great system. One other interesting note: Whiting raved about NAV's wiring skills. Said they were the best he'd ever seen. Every place else he's worked has been a rat's nest. This wiring excellence was a not insignificant part of him working with NAV. Also, he said, he's glad that he basically never sees NAV anymore, because everything works. He told a story of a colleague who went with someone else and, a year later, still has four full-time techs from his integrator on site to fix and figure stuff out. "Now I know what company not to use," he said, and he was talking about the manufacturer, too. "If you do a bad job for me, I'm telling everybody," he said. Finally, there was the DMP event, which was at the other Embassy Suites, which created a funny scene where I took at cab to the Embassy Suites closer to the Sands, only to find American Alarm's Wells Sampson getting a cab to the other Embassy Suites. So we shared a cab that pulled up with Tim Purpura, our publisher, in it, thinking that he was going to the right Embassy Suites. So he stayed in (charging his iPhone on the cabbie's charger, by the way) and we scooted over to the right place. Bit of a comedy of errors there, punctuated by me slamming my head on the roof of the cab getting in. So, we were going to this DMP thing because they'd teased everyone with a "big" announcement, and been pretty secretive about it, so that we didn't really know what was going to happen. I admit I was genuinely curious. They had some snacks (no booze - which was probably good for my health) while they built anticipation and then they opened the door and gave a very nice presentation to introduce... The XLT! Or, whoops, the presenter means the XTL! This was mildly comical, but not a big deal. So, what's the XTL? It's a new panel that's completely wireless, is just 3" by 5" (smaller than the wireless keypad that comes with it), and has 28 zones (two-way communicating), 8 wireless outputs, works with a keyfob, works with inTouch communication so that you can control it with your phone, has a built in GMS communicator, and makes toast. Okay, not the last part, but all the other stuff. And the panel sells for $169. There's other cool stuff I'm probably forgetting. The installers collected seemed pretty pumped up about it. They literally ooohed and aaahhed when the wireless siren was introduced. This is apparently a big deal. I didn't realize that the siren was the last great wireless hurdle to get over. I thought the whole thing seemed pretty similar to DSC's Alexor product, and the installer next to me admitted it was pretty close to the same, but he said the DSC panel was much bigger. But, does it really matter how big the panel is? Don't you just hide it somewhere anyway? Well, yeah, but smaller is cooler, in general. Maybe most notable, though, was just that the presentation was really well done. They made a nice promotional video with one of those guys who draws in real-time like on the UPS commercials, and they flew in some presenter from Fiji that I was supposed to have heard of who had a cool Australian accent and was really dynamic and got people pumped up. By the time people shuffled out, they were ready to go sell the crap out of DMP, it seemed to me. Then the night finished with some cocktails with Gallagher and SIA, which were both very nice events with a lot of people to chat with, etc., and I was very well behaved and here I am working at 6 a.m. and not at all upset about it. I'd even take another short warm-up run for tomorrow's 5k (for which I was recruiting like a military man yesterday) if it wasn't for this breakfast. By the way, the breakfasts are killing the 5k attendance, too, if you want another reason to dislike them. I heard a lot of breakfast meeting excuses today. Next year, keep Thursday morning free. Finally, yes it's true that I had minor nightmares about singing the national anthem. I'm not sure what's going on with that. I've sung to much larger crowds of much more discriminating people. But now it's all up in my head. Watch out. Ugly singing could ensue tomorrow.