PSA, day 2

I'll keep these updates all in one post, and time-stamp them, so your RSS feeds don't get slammed with a bunch of posts: 9:45 - The show floor is picking up here. I might have underestimated the booth count. It's more full on the back side than I thought. Something like 100 booths, which may be even with last year or a touch more. Hard to say. Had a good conversation with the guys at CelAccess, which is basically cellular-based access control you can control from anywhere. It's all web-based, with no software necessary, and they sell hardware, too, though they'll integrate with other hardware and OEM as well. Plus, you can white label the web interface that end users see, so you can resell the wireless access control as a service if you want. Their pitch is cost, too, as you can install one wirelessly controlled access control device for about $1500, instead of having to install a panel, etc., for one door or one gate. Plus, they'll manage all the cellular service stuff for you, buying the service in bulk and managing the cell contracts, etc. Not a solution for every door in a 50-story high-rise, but pretty good for a remote location, that's for sure. 10:15 - Have you heard of PDS? Apparently, they're the 11th largest PC manufacturer in the country, do about $150 million in revenue, and in November they bought a company called Vision Controls, a DVR manufacturer. So, in addition to all of their IT systems building business, they're not looking at being the server of choice, and maybe the system of choice, for the video surveillance industry. Essentially, why buy Dell, who don't necessarily understand video surveillance, when you can buy PDS. That's the pitch. Now they've also hooked up with NUUO, a Taiwanese NVR manufacturer I've written about a couple times that's really making a lot of noise. They're everywhere all of a sudden. The PDS guys say NUUO's "capture hardware is awesome," and that they integrate with more cameras than Milestone. I'm not taking that as gospel, but it's interesting, nonetheless. 11:30 - Heading over for the vendor appreciation lunch - they're kicking us out of the call - but I've been doing some great eavesdropping on integrators today. Just a quick selection - do these correlate with what you're thinking about your integration business? "We go in with the access and then sell the video, usually, not the other way around, so if your camera doesn't work with the access it's not really going to happen." "IP cameras are basically great indoor cameras, but they suck outside. They just focus on the back-end, they don't worry enough about the front end, the lens and the iris." "We're here looking for an RMR generator." "A video camera is worthless if no one's watching it." 1:10 - The awards luncheon wasn't half-bad, actually. The corporate entertainer guy they hired was a little too amped up for the crowd (he had us all standing up and high-fiving the rest of the table), but it sure went a lot quicker than the dinner they usually have and no one got sloppily drunk. I don't know how important the awards are, but I guess the ones that stood out for me were Samsung Techwin and Exacq winning the awards for new and rising vendors. That seems to jibe with my impression that the former is making a huge marketing push this year and the latter almost doesn't have to because people really like their video management software and how open it is. The exhibits open back up in five minutes. We'll see if everyone just goes and play golf or what. 2:15 - Talked with Frank Abram about how his new gig with Vitek is going. He said, going along with my postulation in the UTC post earlier, that they didn't see the slow-down until late 4Q, but then saw a major slowdown in 1Q. However, in March, he said they were at 95 percent of goal and April was gangbusters. Also, he said he keeps up with a lot of recruiters in the industry just because he's been in it so long, and he's seeing more people asking for good tech people than he's seen in at least 12 months. Definitely a good sign. He also theorized that the slowdown has been good for the industry as it's weeded out the camera companies, for example, that were just looking to dump cheap product on the market and weren't ready to support that product. 2:35 - Be on the lookout for iluminar if you need some IR illumination products or license plate capture help. They're brand-new and owned by Eddie Reynolds, who has been repping for another company for 14 years and decided to open her own business. She's got a small, compact product line, sourcing out of Russia and the UK. 2:40 - Do you know Aboundi? Essentially, they allow you to run IP over AC wiring, eliminating the need for switchers and what-not in the middle. Need to switch out some monitors and go IP digital signage with it? Give them a call. They're based in Nashua, NH, too, so I've got to give them credit for being fellow New Englanders. Also, they recently bought WebEyeAlert (here's Chelsie editorializing about them back in 2002, though they've been quiet recently), and so now they've got a packaged solution for Web-based hosted video management software. According to Hong Yu, the CEO and president, they create "one big happy family of LAN all running on AC." 5:15 - So, the last couple hours of the exhibit floor were a bit sloooowww, but nobody seemed pissy about it. There was a bit of tossing the football around (ScanSource has a whole box of footballs - if you're hear at the show and want to donate them to a preschool or something, I bet they'd give you a deal...), packing up early, and raffle giveaways that needed to call a few names, but I think that's pretty normal. I took the opportunity to watch a few integrators get a tour of WeSuite's WeEstimate software package. Maybe you remember me writing about this last May, but, if not, let me tell you that I can really see why this would help integrators who are struggling with bad estimates from sales people, are having trouble tracking the status of bids and jobs, or are just generally having a hard time getting good numbers on how they're sales people are performing. For example, if there's a certain type of job you do all the time, like a two-door access control system for a retail operation, you can package all the parts, materials, labor, etc., into a standard "job," and then use that as your starting point, with the ability to adjust the cost of the labor, the travel distance, etc., and be constantly seeing the exact gross profit that would come with an accepted bid or estimate. You can set bottoms on gross profit for specific items, specific subcontractors. You can allow some sales people to bid at lower gross margins than others. You can make it so no job is allowed to be estimated before an engineer takes a look at it. You can track when an engineer was sent a job, when it was sent back, and when the sales person actually sent it out. You can track not only jobs won, but jobs lost, and why those jobs were lost. Further, they're working with Sedona Office to make the two software packages compatible, so you're pulling pricing information from the one to the other. "This is great," said one integrator. "You can't screw it up." Finally, you hit a button and it generates a Word document for the proposal and even calls up your Outlook withe client's email already inserted if you want to simply email it off as a pdf document. You can monitor every salesperson's closing percentage, jobs in the pipeline, average gross margin per job bid, whatever you want. The guys I sat with were eating it up. That's probably because it's designed and programmed by former integrators, people who worked at SST and Antarcom, largely, so they feel your pain. Do you have salespeople who are using Excel templates they brought over from a former company with 5-year-old pricing on parts that don't exist anymore to do their estimating? You should call WeSuite. The only flaw I can see is the salespeople not going back after the fact to update the job status, especially on jobs they don't get. I could see there being lots and lots of jobs "in progress" that never go to sold or not sold because after a job is lost, who's going to go in an deal with that account anymore? Then you're constantly hounding sales people to update job status, etc., and they end up resenting the tool. Still, if it's top-down from management that it has to be done, it'll probably happen. It's a little like the way we track story status here at SSN. Basically, our process is great if everyone actually updates where a story stands, but when even I never do that until right before a meeting where we're going to talk about story status, what's the point of even using the story status tracker? It's never accurate until the meeting where you talk about where everything stands anyway...


"“IP cameras are basically great indoor cameras, but they suck outside. They just focus on the back-end, they don’t worry enough about the front end, the lens and the iris.”

I hereby endorse this statement, unless you are willing to pay out the nose for an Axis 223M (for example) and even then, it isn't great.

At least Axis now ships good Tamron lenses with their megapixel cameras, so that's something.