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by: Daniel Gelinas - Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Okay, so it's not really the limelight, so to speak, but it is mainstream, and therefore pop! At least, it's a more pop context than the one in which I'm used to seeing false alarms and verification discussed (that would be Security Systems News' False Alarm Ordinance Watch column).

I've noticed something strange over the last few days... I've seen sizable stories in the mainstream media about false alarms, false alarm ordinances,  enhanced call verification and video verification.

These are stories aimed at end users that are talking about false alarm rates and ordinances in place as well as the different technologies available to alarm companies to combat false alarms. The mainstream media is talking with alarm company execs and industry experts. Makes me wonder if Security Systems News was on to something when we asked the association guys, "Should there be an appointed representative that speaks for the industry to the public?"

These are stories that quote industry guys from FARA and SIAC. These are news spots that highlight verification technologies (Hey, there's Corey Boggs, operations manager at Richmond Alarm Company, on NBC! (I interviewed Corey's uncle, RAC president Wayne Boggs recently when RAC expanded it's operations.) Corey's teaching end users all about Videofied, by the way... There's a new end user coming, one that's not afraid of technology, one that wants contact with a technologically advanced system and wants to help catch bad guys.), and educate average consumers about what's out there and available to them (And that's Safeguard Security's Travis Moss telling ordinary average viewers of ABC about verification technology.). And here's a story about a solution that's bringing live video feeds from local surveillance cameras into police cruisers (thanks for the tweet @SonitrolPacific!).

"It's nice to be on the cutting edge and to be known as people who are working with police departments," Corey told me on the phone. "What's weird for me is that my competition in Richmond really doesn't have a relationship with the police department--we dispatch them all day long, but the police departments have never been a group that we've done really well with, I don't think. We have all these false alarms and so they view us in a certain way. We've been able to address that and break down a few of those barriers in town. It's been fun." Corey and the gang over at RAC can be found at their site.

The fact that these news pieces were intended for end users, appeared in end user focused, mainstream media got me thinking once I got over that weird feeling... You know the one I mean... like when you were a kid and you'd see your Math teacher at the movies and you'd be like, "What are you doing here?  You're not a person... You can't be outside of school, going to see Robocop just like me."... Or maybe it's just me... Maybe you never saw Robocop ... or took math--I don't know your life.

Well, I got that same feeling seeing someone from RAC on NBC, and seeing Ron Walters quoted in a regular newspaper.

Anyway, I started thinking about how today's end user is different from the end user of yesterday. I think end users today want to know more,  be involved in more, understand more about everything that touches their lives. If there's an ordinance in place to control false alarms and penalize those who perpetrate them, they want to know where false alarms come from and what they can do to fight them. If they have a piece of technology (their security system, for example) as part of their lives, they want to not only understand how to turn it on, but interface with it and have as much control over it as possible. In fact, I've been hearing as much from industry luminaries like Monitronics' Mitch Clarke and American Alarm's John Tanner (pick up the October, 2010 and December 2010 issues of Security Systems News, respectively, for a look at SSN's feature "How I Use My Panel").

It makes me think more than ever that video and audio will be increasingly more common as time goes on. As technology improves and pricepoints come down. End users are going to start demanding it--especially if they're learning about it on their nightly newscasts.

It seems to me great opportunity lies in coupling different systems together, including security (along with two-way audio and video), home management, environmental controls, lifestyle stuff AV entertainment libraries, shopping lists, calendars, bill paying, etc., etc., and managing said systems through a mobile platform.

It's certainly time to embrace technology and bring everyone and every tool onboard to help fight false alarms.

by: Daniel Gelinas - Thursday, November 11, 2010

I got an email from Mission 500 recently. They're looking for 2011 “Humanitarian Award” nominations. I've written about Mission 500 and the charitable efforts of the industry before.

According to the Mission 500 release, the purpose of the Mission 500 Humanitarian Award is "to honor individuals in the security industry who make important contributions to those in need. The 2010 recipient, Mr. Alan Forman exemplified this through his involvement with numerous charitable organizations, as well as serving on the advisory boards of both Gift of Life International and Mission 500, and as the New York Metro Chapter President for the American Technion Society."

So if you know someone who's been walking the charitable walk and talking the charitable security talk, nows the time to give up some props. You can submit nominees to George Fletcher at pr@mission500.org, or by calling 305-321-3193.

The email also talks about ways you can get involved in helping others. One such way is by participating in the Security 5K, conceived by and cosponsored by United Publications, publisher of Security Systems News and Security Director News.

We've written about the Security 5K a number of times. You can learn more about the race and sign up to run or simply to donate here.

From the Mission 500 release:

"Mission 500 is also hosting its second 5K charity run at ISC West on April 7th, 2011.  The Security 5K/Mission 500 Charity Run is the first charity-driven event at an ISC Expo, conceived to engage corporate sponsors as well as individuals within the security industry.  Runners can register for the race on-site at the Mission 500 booth at ISC West, or online at www.firstgiving.com/mission500.  A nominal entry fee of $30.00 will go directly to the charity.

"The Security 5K / Mission 500 Race at the 2011 ISC West Expo in Las Vegas is a joint collaboration between United Publications, publishers of Security Systems News and Security Director News; Reed Exhibitions/ISC Expos; and Mission 500.  Charter sponsors are Alarm.com, Altronix Corporation, AXIS Communications, Deister Electronics, HID, LRG Marketing Communications, Pelco (by Schneider Electric) and Safety Technology International, Inc."

Though not mentioned in Mission 500's release, Panasonic, Honeywell and Bolide are also co-sponsors of the race.

We hope to see you at the starting line in Las Vegas!

by: Daniel Gelinas - Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I got an email from SIAC today concerning a pretty cool update to their site.

SIAC has been updating a lot lately, getting more heavily into social networking and taking the opportunity to update their website give some props to the peeps who've supported the associaiton in the past. There's a section on their new site dedicated to lauding those who've contributed to SIAC's running.

I wrote earlier in the year about SIAC's appeal for contributions. Those guys DO work pretty tirelessly with municipalities on behalf of the industry. They're always there trying to bridge the gap when municipalities and the industry threaten to clash.

SIAC executive director Stan Martin summed up the newly-added contributors page in the SIAC email:

“One of the main reasons we added our list of contributors is to give them the recognition and thanks they deserve for keeping SIAC funded and enabling us to help improve alarm management practices.  It’s only through their help that we can do the good work we do for other companies in our industry,” Martin said in the release.

Drop by SIAC's site and contribute or just get a look at those who have and thank them for supporting one of the industry's advocates.

by: Daniel Gelinas - Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Going through my email this morning, I noticed a little further discussion of video at Ken Kirschenbaum's newsletter. I've done a lot of writing about video. Specifically, I've written a lot about verification and companies like G4S, Westec, Stealth Monitoring and Viewpoint CRM who go beyond simple verification. A reader named John asked a simple question:

"Hi Ken,

Whom do you recommend for off site video storage and monitoring, including live look-ins?

John"

To which Ken responded, "I invited central stations to respond to the inquiry.  Here are the responses I received:"

I found the responses interesting and informative.

First was a reply from U.S.A. Central Station Alarm's Bart Didden. I've blogged about Bart's take on video verification and manufacturers and alarm companies that tout priority police response before. Here, though, Bart just talks about video in general:

"Ken,

    First my position, then the answer to your question.

    Video has gotten so much buzz for the last couple of years, that in my opinion many companies have been financially damaged trying to live up to the hype of video."

I've actually blogged about this before--the overselling, over-hyping of what video can do and the underplaying of it's limitations. We DO live in a world where Hollywood tells us we can recognize people and license plates from an orbitting satellite and make out the name of a perp's girlfriend in his tatoo from a conveniece store's CCTV footage... How much of that is true and how much science fiction? Regardless of the answer, Average Joe End User believes it can be done 'cuz he saw it on a mediocre (at best) episode of "CSI: Miami."

Bart continues:

"Dollar for dollar video has been the worse security investment ever to date because there are high expectations created by TV shows, manufacturers and the public at large because everyone expects HDTV quality and that the on-site recorders are always working. These expectations could not be farther from the truth especially when coupled with the inability to create recurring revenue streams for service."

I can't vouch for the veracity of that statement, since I don't know how much y'all have invested in failed attempts at video. It seems to me, however that there are companies out there offering video as a component of what they do, as well as making successful video services their entire business model. And I'm pretty sure RMR has been and will continue to be a part of that.

"Yesterday’s alarm company would have been better served if they followed the advice of industry pundits who said flood the neighborhood with door hangers while you were installing a system for the neighbor, concentrate on your business, stay focused on what you do best and communicate with your customers by making them lead generators."

Bart seems to be saying don't try new stuff... The problem is that end users tell YOU, their employees (wlhen you install a system for them), what they want. Especially in today's world where end users are more and more tech-oriented.

Bart DOES give some props to video, however.

    "But I do believe that there is hope for video in the near future.

    Here is my recipe for successful video sales into the traditional, service oriented alarm company.

    Smaller camera systems generate sales leads not just for the camera but an alarm system as well and vice versa.

    Health monitoring (system health, i.e. that its still alive) is essential! Otherwise your next call from your customer is going to be that the equipment failed when the customer needed it. This is just a no win situation because you failed to meet the customers expectations. This must also include the all of the system components, starting from the camera itself, all the way back including any recorder. Any loss of function has to leave the premise otherwise it is still useless.

    Tie the video into a monitoring protocol for enhanced alarm verification. This way it seems like you need both to 'get it all.'"

Here, I like Bart's direction. Use video intelligently--as part of a larger system. Tie everything together. It seems like he's saying be educated, be smart, communicate with the end user and provide a real service. I think that's probably sound advice. And though he doesn't come right out and say it, it's there: Be honest. If there are limitations to what the system you're selling can do, tell your end user. Be honest about the limitations and honest about how video can supplement more traditional solutions. Sounds like a good policy. USA does offer video programs for dealers, and interested parties can contact them.

Now the input on video didn't end with Bart. Steve Tapper over at OzVision also chimed in. I'm actually working on a story about OzVision and Sonitrol teaming up for Sonovision right now. Look for that story later this week.

Here's what Steve had to say about video:

"Hi Ken,

    If you are interested from a manufacturer perspective, I am happy to offer incite on what OzVision offers regarding off site Video Storage, as well as the many RMR services the central stations can provide to their clients such as:

- Continuous 24/7 recording on all cameras to be stored up to 1 year via the customized GUI for an OEM (and can be downloaded to your local PC)

- Video Motion Detection events stored and accessible via the customized GUI for an OEM (and can be downloaded to your local PC)

- Alarm Video Verification that the video will go to the off site server first, then instantly to the monitoring station, then onto the operator workstation which integrates with their particular automation software platform."

We here at SSN have done some writing about the ongoing evolution of video, including improved resolution quality, improved scalability through IP systems, dropping pricepoints, and improved analytics, all of which will continue to bring video into the mainstream.

What're your thoughts on video? I'd love to hear from you.

by: Daniel Gelinas - Wednesday, October 20, 2010

New Vector president and CEO Pam PetrowI just got the release from Vector, which last week lost its long-time and much loved and lauded president John Murphy. Vector announced Oct. 19 that its board had appointed Pam Petrow, former EVP and COO of the company as the new president and CEO.

A release from Vector states that Murphy selected Petrow before his death and that her taking over is part of a carefully laid plan for the direction of one of the largest full-service alarm companies in the U.S. “The current appointment is the culmination of a carefully thought out succession plan for Vector Security,” the release reads. “Petrow will now be in charge of moving the company forward on the successful path which Mr. Murphy began when he became President and COO of Vector Security, Inc. in 1991.”

I have calls out to Vector to try and track Pam down and get some commentary from her on her plans for helming Vector into the future.

Congratulations to Pam.

I first met Pam at the 2008 CSAA Fall Operations Management Seminar in beautiful Peabody, Mass. (I used to live next door in Salem). I was immediately impressed with Pam's passion, pressence, professionalism and poise. I spoke with Pam again on various occasions in relation to her various roles at CSAA and Vector and in working out a computer-aided-dispatch protocol that has since become a new national standard. Pam won an award for her tremendous efforts on that project.

I'm looking forward to speeking with Pam again and getting some input from her on her new role.

by: Daniel Gelinas - Wednesday, October 20, 2010

CSAA's holding a couple webinars over the next few days. I've attended them in the past and written about them. They've been time well-spent.

The first one is today and is on social media, which many have been discovering is a useful business tool. Today's webinar focuses on Twitter and LinkedIn, both used by yours truly daily for discussions of best practices, story leads, promotion of content, etc., etc.

The last one on social media was very informative and well-attended. I wrote about it here.

If you're interested in attending, you can register here.

Here's some  more info on today's webinar from CSAA:

"Attend the Next CSAA Social Media Webinar on LinkedIn and Twitter for Business 201 Wednesday, October 20, 2010, 3:00pm ET:

Speakers: Brandon Lilly, Bold Technologies and Kristen Plante, Alarm.com

A CSAA Signature Series Webinar:

Gain a deeper knowledge on how to use LinkedIn and Twitter for your business."

The next webinar is next week and follows up on the very first free webinar CSAA conducted. It will again be led by Attrition Busters president Bob Harris. Avid readers of mine will recall the times in the past I've speculated on Bob's potential connection to the A-Team...

I also attended Bob's debut as a webinar moderator for the CSAA. That was a good one, too.

Here's some info on Bob's webinar:

"Attend the Next CSAA Webinar 'From Satisfied to Delighted' Raising the Bar on Customer Loyalty' Tuesday, October 26, 2010, 2:00pm ET:

Speaker: Bob Harris, President Attrition Busters

A CSAA Signature Series Webinar:

From Satisfied to Delighted: Raising the Bar on Customer Loyalty

An energetic and interactive seminar conveying some fundamental tools which will empower employees and managers to raise the bar in terms of perceived “added value” in doing business with your company as opposed to your competitors."

Interested attendees can register here.

 

by: Daniel Gelinas - Monday, October 18, 2010

I noticed an ACCENT discussion string talking about "POTS trainsmission issues" going on lately and, of course it caught my attention.

The discussion started when Matt Bergeron over at NEXgeneration Central asked if anyone else out there in ACCENT land had been having problems with their POTS service. I spoke with Matt a while back about their sudden and successful growth this past year. Many people chimed in on the POTS transmission string and the discussion began to examin VoIP issues with alarm communicaitons.

Morgan Hertel at Mace CSSS said that he believed that bad POTS transmissions were a sign of the times as service providers attempted to save money which meant routing calls (including alarm signals) through--or at least partly through--VoIP channels.

"The industry in my opinion is not taking this seriously both with  working with carriers to provide a transition plan but also to  start educating the dealer trades with the bad news that what they have been using for the last 25 years is suddenly going to be changing," Hertel said. "I speak with central stations all the time and just about everyone I talk to is going through the same stuff all the time and as an industry we need to have a unified message to the dealers and installers so they can start the transition and training, otherwise if you all think the AMPS sunset was a challenge this is going to melt us down."

Of course, I've done a lot of writing about POTS and VoIP... Actually the last comment is from Stephen Kovacsiss from Bosch security. He wanted to let everyone know about a free VoIP solution Bosch has.

"We have found that many are not aware of the latest update to the Bosch D6600/D6100i receivers in response to VoIP/GSM issues, so we would like to make sure that you know that Bosch has made significant advancements in dealing with VoIP when using Contact ID, 4-1 Express, and 4-2 Express formats.  Using patent pending digital signal processing, Bosch receivers can now interpret signals that would previously have been dismissed because they did not meet the formatting requirements of the communications protocol. This new processing performs additional analysis on alarm signals that allows the receiver to decode signals that have been modified by VoIP or digital phone networks.  Our testing has shown error reductions of up to 76% in known problem sites," Stephen said. "These updates are available at no charge for all users of our D6600 (with D6641 line cards) and D6100i Central Station Receivers in Version 1.35 of our D6200 central station receiver software on the Bosch web site.  Click on the following link to be directed to the download site, or paste it into your browser."

Avid readers of mine will recall I did a story about this a few months back.

I also did a story on a new company out of Sugarland, Texas called ipDatatel that claims to defeat the IP communications problems.

Matt over at NEXgeneration said something that stuck with me as well, since it's something I've been speculating about for a while:

"We need to do all wireless radio solutions and divorce ourselves from the phone carriers totally!!!"

I've been wondering when someone in the industry is going to create a communications backbone owned by the industry--by a communications association, say--that serves the industry reliably like POTS did. Is such an undertaking possible? Or worthwhile?

While they get in on the ACCENT discussion, I also had contact recently with World Wide security, a New York-based full service alarm company with their own central station, Vision Monitoring Services. They had a thing or two to say about POTS transmission problems and VoIP issues as well.

“With copper lines, your voice is your voice," said World Wide operations and technical services manager Christopher Edgar. "With VoIP, your voice is captured, compacted and combined with other data such as alarm signals and runs it across the line.”

This is the same problem the guys from ipDatatel were telling me about.

“One solution for transmission problems associated with alarm signals and VoIP switches are capture boards. The idea is to capture the transmission off the outgoing phone connection of the panel and convert that IP information and send it over the Internet. This is one idea the industry is working towards. If you have VoIP then you probably have Internet service. That makes IP signaling a possibility. The idea is terrific, but in practice it is difficult because every manufacturer uses its own protocols," said Dave Young, VP Vision Monitoring Services." The central station requires that manufacturers’ receiver equipment receive the signal. In traditional alarms it came down to format; as long as the receiver could handle the format, you could receive any manufacturer’s signals. The ideal solution for those products is a standardized transmission that allows a universal receiver to receive that traffic which the industry may or may not be working on. It is mind boggling that manufacturers cannot agree on a transmission protocol to send traffic to be handled by any number of devices—they all want to sell the razors and the blade, but not the razors that can handle any blade.”

Does anyone else have anything to say about IP communications? Problems or solutions? What's next?

 

by: Daniel Gelinas - Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Mel Mahler

I received a press release today announcing that CSAA past president and ADS Security chairman and CEO Mel Mahler has received the CSAA's Stanley C. Lott award. The award is given out annually to one whose "contributions have been significant over the span of their careers," according to the release.

Mel received the award at the CSAA's annual meeting, which wrapped last week in Marana, Ariz.

I spoke with Mel earlier today about his time as president of the CSAA, what the award means to him and to ADS customers and what the future holds for ADS.

Was this a surprise to you Mel or were you expecting this?

It was a surprise. When I was president of CSAA I awarded the Stan Lott Award twice and there were only three people that knew about it: Myself, CSAA executive director Steve Doyle, and the person that put together the trophy. It was very closely guarded. So, yes, it was a great surprise. It was an even greater surprise in 2005 when I got the Weinstock award from ESA, formerly NBFAA because I'm a former president of CSAA, not ESA. So in 2010 to get the same kind of high honor from CSAA meant the world to me.

What do you think led to you receiving this honor?

Well, I'll tell you, back seven years ago, when I was asked to come in as president of CSAA, I was reluctant, because I didn't have my really excellent team I have in place now, and I knew that job was going to be very time consuming. Four past presidents of CSAA came together in a meeting and told me, 'Mel, you have to do this, it's very important. You bring a different perspective that we need now. That was Ron LaFontaine, Bob Bonifas, John Mayberry and Ralph Sevinor ... I'm glad now I did it, and I would encourage anyone that has that opportunity to step up and do the same thing.

Does this award say anything to your ADS customers?

I think Stan Lott is really the one who brought Five Diamond as a designation to CSAA and today, we now have over a hundred Five Diamond central stations, and we were the number five Five Diamond... So to get this award--which is about more than just Five Diamond--connects us to him. Right now Five Diamond is really the hallmark of the industry.

What's on the horizon for you and for ADS?

I think now that I've got the team together--I've got a great president in John Cerasuolo who is on top of the day-to-day--it really gives me the opportunity to concentrate on acquisitions. As you know we just completed our 15th new location in Jackson, Tennessee. Now we go from Kentucky all the way down to Melbourne, Florida. And it really frees me up to do these acquisitions. I'm also on a number of industry boards--I'm on the board of American Alarm in Arlington, Mass., Lowitt Alarm in Long Island, Gilmore Security in Cleveland, Habitec Security in Toledo. If I didn't have this team here, I wouldn't be able to do these things. I also have a great partner in Bill Hunt in Pittsburgh. He's been with me for 20 years now--since we started--and he allows me the time to do all these things. I see lots of opportunity now for more acquisitions.

by: Daniel Gelinas - Thursday, October 7, 2010

I got an email from Sean O'Keefe of Texana Security today. Sean has been an advocate of RSI's verification solution Videofied for a while. I wrote a special report  a while ago on verification and higher priority response for alarms that are verified. In that story, Sean made a bold statement: O’Keefe said Texana actually has gone so far as to get all their customers to agree to a new Texana policy: police will not be notified of alarms that are not video-verified. “Part of our dealer program is that we deeply subsidize the equipment, so that a dealer can get this stuff now for almost the same price as other equipment,” O’Keefe said. “There really is a difference in police response time ... We had 11 apprehensions in a two-month period—that’s a lot … I tell police I have a technology here that can significantly reduce false alarms, increase apprehension opportunities and creates a safer response environment for responding officers. In 30 years I’ve never received the kind of response from law enforcement that I get with this.”

In his email this morning, Sean passed on a customer testimonial and some Videofied clips showing the solution doing what it was designed to do: verify a potential apprehension opportunity and help lead to an arrest.

From Sean's email:

"I thought you might find the following message and accompanying videos interesting.  There has been a rash of thefts at building supply warehouses during the past couple of years.  I  have been advised by law enforcement that many of these thefts are being carried out by organized crime syndicates.  As you can deduct from the following customer testimonial, we replaced his “standard” video system  (after he had experienced several undetected break-ins) with the Texana Video Verified system and as the videos indicate were able to facilitate the detection  and apprehension of two (not four) intruders."

Regardless of where you stand on the verified vs. non-verified debate (is it okay to trumpet higher police priority for verified alarms? Something I've written about before) you can't argue with results: in this case video verification got results.

Here's the testimonial (from the alarm dealer) Sean references:

"Building Supply Centers/Warehouses have been a frequent target of thieves.  On 10/6/2010 Texana received 'video' intrusion alarms from one of our customers (Roofing Materials Supplier) and transmitted the alarm to Dallas PD.  Dallas PD responded immediately and apprehended four individuals.  Following is an unsolicited testimonial from our customer.  Note the customer indicates he had experienced 5 previous break-ins that were undetected by a conventional CCTV system.  This is yet one more example of the effectiveness of a 'video verified' alarm system coupled with priority response from the police department."

And here's the testimonial from the end user:

"Attached is a video stream from the security system we installed in Dallas last year after the string of burglaries. The new system  last night worked just as advertised and  resulted in 4 people being arrested for theft.  The system has an infrared perimeter cameras that when the infrared is broken sends this 15 second video stream to the security company that monitors it 24/7 and if they determine if the cops need to be contacted. They did and dispatched the police and the cops caught the 4 guys in the act and arrested them."

Again, I don't advocate for either a verified (either by video or by audio) alarm system. I don't have an alarm system myself--neither verified nor traditional.

I DO like hearing what all of you think, however. I think that as consumer electronics get more advanced, end users are going to demand more technology and more personal involvement in monitoring... Look at Total Connect and other smart phone type apps.

I'm actually working on a story right now about a company that's turning smartphones into monitored, mobile two-way audio units for personal security.

I wrote a story back about GPS tacking company Wind Trac in which a couple security executives said monitoring companies would have to start offering mobile, personal tracking services and be ready to embrace more technologically advanced solutions.

From that story:

"Doug Harris is director of public relations at Wind Trac, a provider of real-time GPS-based tracking and monitoring systems for asset tracking, fleet management, child tracking, lone-worker protection, elderly tracking, weapons tracking, medical alert, and personal safety applications. Harris said that such a lack of attention on the part of the traditional security industry to sell and monitor GPS-based tracking and monitoring systems has allowed his company to flourish. 'We’ve taken a very reasonable and a very reasonably-priced approach that most people don’t.' It’s this willingness to 'protect the family, protect them where they go,' to go mobile, that will set Wind Trac apart, said Harris. 'Individuals can save a bundle getting out of the conventional monitoring culture and that’s the secret to our success.'

Mike Simpson, president of Bay City, Mich.-based security software developer Dice Corporation, agreed that the time was right for traditional security companies to expand their reach· 'I think the point is that the technology is becoming more mobile, less costly, more reliable and easier for central stations to be involved in the monitoring part of a solution,' Simpson said. 'I have been saying for a couple of years now that the really smart central stations will become general monitoring centers, if they aren’t that already. This is the result of moving into the monitoring of devices that go beyond traditional security services.'"

I wonder how long it will be before a company comes up with a way to use a smartphone's camera to send video feed to a central station in connection with a panic button activation? I welcome your thoughts.

by: Daniel Gelinas - Thursday, September 30, 2010

I was going through my Google Alerts today and came across an intersting article from WIRED  about a new patent recently granted to Apple. The patent is for what WIRED argues is THE new use for biometrics: Personalization. WIRED says biometrics has been oversold and doesn't work all that well for security, but may be a perfect fit for personalization.

We've written about Apple and security before.

From the WIRED article:

"The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office last week granted Apple a patent for biometric-sensor handheld devices that recognize a user by the image of his or her hand. In the not-too-distant future, anyone in the house could pick up an iOS device — or a remote control or camera — and have personalized settings queued up just for them."

Okay, I get that. That sounds pretty cool. The article then goes on about how the new patent will "protect" devices... which sounds like security to me...

Then the article claims this new use for biometrics will differ from the over-promised but undelivered use of biometrics in access control.

"It’s a very different use of biometrics than we’ve seen in the movies. Hand and retina scanners have been touted for years as a futuristic gatekeepers to high-security buildings. This is usually a much-embellished version of their real-world use by businesses and government agencies for whom secrecy is a big deal. In the wider world, tiny fingerprint scanners have been built into laptops, but they aren’t widely used for the simple reason that they don’t work reliably enough.

"But while they might be insufficient for security, biometrics might work just fine for personalization. Suppose my family shares a future-generation iPad that supports multiple user profiles and a version of this sensor technology. When my wife or I pick it up, the mail application displays each of our inboxes separately. When our young son picks it up, only games and other approved applications are available. If guests or intruders pick it up, a guest profile would make none of your personal information immediately available to them."

Don't get me wrong, I see the cool factor of all this. I mean, extrapolate this use of biometrics out to the automobile: As soon as my hand touches the sensor in the door handle, the seats and mirrors automatically adjust to me, the sound system automatically sets to my personal music playlists and ear-splitting volume levels... That's pretty cool. But isn't assuring that my 3-year-old son only sees his pre-approved Wiggles videos on the iPad and not my classic horror movie collection a form of access control? Even it it's only access control of movie playlists? and isn't access control security? I would argue that biometric control of personalized settings is still security.

The article aslo mentions that biometrics has been oversold as "futuristic gatekeepers to high-security buildings." I wrote a story a while back about a security company that uses a suite of technologies, including biometrics to secure buildings. That company--FST21--was followed by SSN later in a story about a security integrator who was having luck with the solution.

What do you all think? Is there still room for biometrics in security, or is it all about the iPad from here?

 

 

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