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by: Daniel Gelinas - Friday, November 13, 2009
I'm really starting to dig my LinkedIn blasts. Got one from DICE vis-a-vis the CSAA group on LinkedIn. They're asking about standards. SSN is no stranger to standards discussions, and it couldn't hurt to check out DICE's discussion and offer some feedback. Here's the pitch from DICE:
Should standards be developed to promote hot-redundant phone switches and failover to a DR center? As new soft switches or software-run switches are deployed in more and more centers, a new area of failure points in the central station develops. Should there be a standard to promote and enforce the failover and redundancy specifications of PBXes and telecommunications equipment to ensure proper testing and performance? Furthermore, should alarm companies be required to have redundancy within the alarm center regarding such items as phone switches, multi-path IP and Telco signaling? Also, what standards do you feel should be enforced when routing your entire Telco infrastructure to a DR center?
In my opinion, anything that assures accepted practices are followed, fights errors, and more regularly ensures quality is a good thing. Rock on DICE.
by: Daniel Gelinas - Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Just got a blast from LinkedIn through the CSAA group. Wanda Valenteen, central station manager at The Protection Bureau, is looking for some best practices on training of Gen Y employees. Here's her posting:
Y-Gen Training: We studied them and know that they are unique in their behavior and work ethic. We discussed the studies and behavior and then began to hire them. We've all developed our own unique ways of training and retaining them. Does anyone want to share their training efforts, successes and failures relating to the Y-Gen employees?
Drop on by and give her some feedback. ESA, or the evolved NBFAA, sponsored the creation of a group earlier in 2009 called the Young Security Professionals group which is intended as a resource to get those younger security pros involved in the stewardship of their industry. If you really want some input from younger security professionals who are going above and beyond, check out SSN's most recent 20 Under 40 feature. The young cream of the crop are highlighted therein.
by: Daniel Gelinas - Friday, November 6, 2009
The answer is they're all descendants of my favorite childhood toy ever. But what do they have to do with security? I blogged recently about video and audio verification of alarms and how they are improving relations with emergency responders and municipalities. I was speaking with Keith Jentoft at RSI Video Technologies, who--for obvious reasons--evangelizes video verification as the way of the future for the security industry. I spoke with former NYPD detective Edwin Day who backed up much of what Keith was saying. I wrote a story about the burgeoning trend of verified alarms last month, as well. My editor Sam touched on audio verification recently in a story he wrote about developing tensions between Sonitrol--who evangelize audio verification--and The Stanley Works. Security systems that allow us to hear and see what is going on and interact, via two-way voice are here... What about systems that do more? What about systems that really give us telepresence? Of course the military already widely uses unmanned drones called UAVs to perform surveillance and reconnaissance. And there are other projects in development as well. But when do I get to use my own personal robot to sneak up behind my son and scare the daylights out of him when he's doing something he shouldn't. The next issue of SSN will feature a stats brief dedicated to another possible future for video surveillance. I spoke with ABI Research's NextGen research director Larry Fisher about the forecasted growth of the personal robotics market and what role security applications might play in the next several years. Larry pointed out there were already a couple lower-end robots out there that offered real telepresence (full, wi-fi control of the robot, cameras, and two way voice). Wowee's Rovio seems the more serious of the two and with a $230 price tag, it's not really a toy. Erector also makes a model called the Spykee. This seems much more like a toy, though there appears to be no pricing information on the website... always a bad sign. If you have a free few seconds watch the video... it's AWESOME. I'll admit it, I'm a comic book, sci-fi geek from way back and the idea of a personal robot patrolling my property appealed to my inner nerd. At least I try to keep him "inner" most of the time. So how close are we to personal robots silently and autonomously patrolling our homes and businesses, surveilling and apprehending the bad guys? For those of you who're on the same geeky wavelength with me, when can we finally (FINALLY!) go out and buy our very own ED 209 (that poor guy--wrong place, wrong time--in RoboCop), UCAV named EDI, or Sentinel? Of course, I have to be careful what I wish for... All us nerds know the danger of autonomous robotic guards gone wrong... Here's some of what Larry had to say:
On the low end of this segment are surveillance and telepresence robots like WowWee's Rovio and Meccano/Erector's Spykee robots, both of which are essentially mobile webcams with a speaker. They can be programmed to patrol set paths, and can be controlled by a remote user over Wi-Fi (and through the Internet). Their low height and low-resolution cameras provide limited functionality, but over time this will improve as features will be added to give them greater security and telepresence capabilities. In the long term, the market for high-end security robots will be limited by lower-end products gaining much of their functionality. High-end robots will be sold mostly to owners of large estates for use outside the house, where large size is required to prevent trespass and theft, and better sensors and mobility are required to view and navigate the terrain.
So not now, but perhaps someday. Baby steps... Baby steps... Baby steps.
by: Daniel Gelinas - Wednesday, November 4, 2009
I was speaking with Keith Jentoft over at RSI Video Technologies today about yet another partnership, this time with Mace CSSS. Earlier this week it was CMS. Keith was telling me about a recent case study RSI put together about the Detroit Public School system. Apparently there were a large number--100--public school buildings in Detroit that were closed and in need of protection from thieves and vandals. An RFP was issued and a bid accepted. 30 schools were outfitted by D/A Central of Security-Net with the Videofied solution as apposed to traditional video surveillance at a cost to the city, according to RSI's study, of $5,000 as opposed to $100,000 for each school. That's a lot of money and a lot of savings. Keith's point is that a Videofied system--which he is quick to point out is NOT video surveillance ("We’re not monitored by a special boutique in the back. The ordinary worker bee does Videofied. Why? Because we’re not video surveillance. All we’re trying to do is answer the question: 'Is there someone there?' If there is somewhere there you dispatch.")--is much cheaper and more effective. Case in point: the Videofied solution costs just 5 percent, again according to RSI's study, of the full-blown surveillance solution. What's more, it was effective. According to the case study, after Videofied was deployed in the remaining buildings, and monitored by Exton, Pa.-based The Protection Bureau, the powers-that-be got 45 apprehensions in four weeks with no false alarms... That's a pretty good track record. Jentoft pointed out the savings didn't stop at the lower price of the Videofied solution. There's savings in not having to board up the vacant buildings as tightly, savings in the form of not having to clean up graffiti, savings of pipes and cabling that weren't stolen, savings in the form of reduced liability from lawsuits from those who break in. Some of the unprotected buildings in the original lot were so damaged by looters and vandals that, according to Jentoft, they had to be torn down at great cost to the city. Jentoft's main point, however, is that many municipalities are moving toward actively changing their dispatch procedures to prioritize alarms that are accompanied by video verification. NYPD was named specifically. I called Long Island City, N.Y.-based American Security Systems' senior security consultant Edwin Day for some background. Day has been around and has an impressive law enforcement resume. During his 22-year career with the NYPD, he was awarded 40 citations for meritorious and heroic actions in the line of duty. Day is an active member of ASIS and the Detectives Crime Clinic of New York and New Jersey. He has completed the Facility Security Design and Physical Security Technology and Applications courses, and is also the recipient of the Detectives Crime Clinic Award for Excellence, the NYPD Detective Bureau Certificate of Exemplary Conduct, and the Detectives Endowment Association Certificate. Speaking of dispatch procedures at the NYPD, Day said he had advocated for understanding of what a video-verified system could do. "They have made a structural change in the approach to video verification of alarms," Day said. "When I first saw this product my first reaction was 'this is fantastic.' ... My belief was basically that the typical burglar alarm is a victim of its own success. Everybody's putting them out there. I know, as a cop, it's a low priority job as a necessity simply because there are so many false alarms." Jentoft said cities in California were following suit. I have emails out to officials at CAA to follow up on this assertion. I wrote a story recently for SSN that postulated the genesis of a trend toward all alarms having audio or video verification. With prices coming down, perhaps now is the time to get into video and two-way voice.
by: Daniel Gelinas - Monday, November 2, 2009
I got a press release from SIAC on Thursday of last week. I love the guys over at SIAC. They're working hard to make the industry function more efficiently with municipalities so that everyone--the industry, the municipalities, and the end users--wins. Plus the guys over there are always, courteous, quick to call back, and copious in their comments on the issues about which I write. It appears the annual Police Dispatch Quality Award, which recognizes the North American security company that best demonstrates a dedicated and cooperative effort to reduce unnecessary alarm dispatches, and is sponsored in part by the False Alarm Reduction Association is underway. They're currently looking for applications from false-alarm-fighting North American security companies, so if you feel like you've been going above and beyond to reduce needless law-enforcement rolls and improve industry relations with municipalities, by all means, throw your hat in the ring.
by: Daniel Gelinas - Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Got my email newsletter from Ken Kirschenbaum today and was interested to see lots of input from various industry players on the NRTL debate and the rise of Intertek/ETL. I wrote about this before, as did my colleague, Martha. I like Kirshenbaum's email's. They're frequent, touch on important issues and include input from many industry luminaries. You can sign up for Ken's newsletter here. Ken opens the newsletter thusly:
The issue is NRTL and ANSI. Nationaly Recognized Testing Labs. American National Standards Institute. Most familiar, at least to me, is UL. you need to be UL listed in order to issue UL Certificates. In NYC you need UL listing for your central station before applying for approval to monitor fire alarms in the City of New York. But NYC FD will accept any NRTL listing. UL isn't the only NRTL. ETL/Intertek is another. FM, which stands for Factory Mutual, is another NRTL that lists central stations for fire alarm monitoring only. ETL and UL list for fire alarm and burglary.
So what's the big deal? Why is ETL's entry into the NRTL space ruffling some feathers? Ken then goes on to add newsletter reader commentary. Mark Hillenburg of Digital Monitoring Products had this to say:
Actually, the Standards are not UL standards; they are ANSI standards and are therefore available for any NRTL to test to under the authority of OSHA ... We recently brought a new control panel to market. A WHOLE NEW PANEL. ETL had all the testing done and completed by the time that UL got back to us with the quote. You guys couldn't stay in business if you were that lax in getting your customers quotes. We're talking about testing to the exact same standards as ANSI in the exact same rigorous manner. The costs are only slightly lower, but the time savings is a fraction of the time to do a UL project. This is why most of the manufacturers are moving to ETL, because they will actually get your project done in a time frame that the product is still relevant when you can introduce it. At the end of the day, our economic system is founded on competition and competition makes all of us better.
That makes sense to me. More competition on any playing field assures better pricing, better service, better quality, better standards, etc. It's the American way. Thomas F. Connaughton of Intertek spoke up with the following:
Why did Intertek enter the Life Safety and Security space? Manufacturers wanted and needed CHOICE in NRTLs ... During our product service launch to the manufacturing community it became clearly evident that these companies [central stations and ASCs] were also in in need of a choice in third party certification. Why? Their current service provider accepts only 1 NRTL brand (their own) which puts owners, operators and service professionals at a distinct disadvantage as the manufacturing community continues to diversify their NRTL providers, be it Intertek and our ETL brand, FM, CSA, etc. Their pool of acceptable and available equipment will continue to shrink as competitor market share grows. History shows that as the goods pool shrinks, the costs of these goods will rise directly impacting these organizations. In addition, when an organization has a CHOICE regarding the equipment that they can purchase and use they can effectively manage their bottom line (while still complying with the OSHA NRTL third party requirements).
Again, it's all about choice, and as long as their testing to the same standards as the other NRTLs, choice is a good thing. Bart Didden of U.S.A. Central Station Alarm Corp. was pleased with the discussion but advocated for UL more than some others.
So many correct points have been made about the Standards and ANSI and NRTLs, I love it--more great information ... Remember, I am all about increasing PROFITS, maximizing return on investment (ROI), and separating my organization from those who are substandard ... SOON WE WILL PRESS FOR AN ADDITIONAL LISTING CATEGORY FROM UL FOR MULTI- OFFICE CONFIGURATION, and if UL won't author it with us we can go to NBFAA (ESA) and get it done. But back to certificates because that is where the money is. Let's hear about how is ETL going to support the creation of more jurisdictions requiring certificates. UL, for all its faults has been working with various CSAA committees to expand these jurisdictions for years. If equality for ETL begins to dilute that effort, as small as it may be and does not pick up the shortfall, we will be the ones that lose in the long run.
Pete Tallman from UL added his voice to the discussion as well:
The alarm industry really consists of two parts: 1) manufacturers of equipment and 2) alarm services companies. OSHA's NRTL program only addresses organizations that assess the equipment and materials for manufacturer's so that an OSHA inspector can determine a product installed int he work place is safe. The eveluation of alarm service companies and the alarm systems they install, service, maintain and often monitor is beyond the scope of OSHA's NRTL program. So being a NRTL has no relevance to the certification of alarm services or the evaluation of central stations. Does that mean being a NRTL is a bad thing? Of course not. Nor does it mean that as a NRTL the organization necessarily has competency in the alarm service side of the industry. What is important is to tone down and clarify the sweeping claims and broad statements being made by others that have in effect brought confusion to a relatively simple question. What is relevant in a discussion about the certification of alarm systems and central stations is competency of the staff performing those assessments. Competency of staff which can only be determined by technical certifications such as NICET and independent accreditation agencies assessing the process by which staff makes certification decisions, not by having an OSHA designation of being a NRTL. All will agree that the industry should have choices; but let's agree to ensure that the industry has correct information from which to make an educated choice.
It's an interesting debate.
by: Daniel Gelinas - Monday, October 26, 2009
Came across an Oct. 22, 2009 Reuters story that highlighted the results of a Harris Poll Survey that showed 96 percent of Americans were okay with video surveillance used in public in order to combat terrorism. I wrote a piece on the opportunities available to security companies in an age where people expect more public surveillance. I actually couldn't find this "recent" Harris Poll at Harris Interactive, the company that runs the Harris Poll. The most recent Harris Polls on video surveillance I can find online are from February and August of 2006... not really that recent... I've got an email back with the hard data from Harris. Looks like this poll was conducted from May-June 2009. Hopefully they'll put it up online soon. Regardless, it appears the piece is less a news story on a recent poll and more a sales pitch for Behavioral Recognition Systems, a software development company that provides "cognitive video analytics software," that purports to learn the particulars of an environment. Their website also has an audio pitch that starts up automatically and plays regardless of whether you want it to or not... I hate that. The problem, according to the Harris Poll piece, is that "citizen support of video surveillance rests on the assumption that more cameras will result in more secure environments, but that isn't the case. Recently, the security staff at the George Washington Bridge in New York City--responsible for monitoring bridge cameras and security kiosks--was photographed sleeping on the job. Thus, camera proliferation alone ... will not solve the problem." Enter the MacGuffin, in this case analytics from BRS Labs. We here at SSN have written about this problem before, highlighting what many of you are doing to combat the problem of too-thin human resources, including easily overwhelmed or fatigued human attention span. We're all aware that adoption of analytics has been slower than it could be due to over promising capabilities. The November issue has a stats piece (linked in the previous sentence and available in SSN's premium section) on the drivers for future analytics growth. It seems to me, however, that with the price of video coming down, coupled with advances in analytics and wide-spread acceptance of being monitored there should be a lot of opportunity out there for the security industry to get into monitoring of public spaces.
by: Daniel Gelinas - Friday, October 23, 2009
I got a press release from ESA the other day. That's the Electronic Security Association, or what used to be called the NBFAA, or National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association. The release points out ESA as the "evolution" of NBFAA... and here we just thought they'd simply changed their name... Anyway, it appears ESA is now accepting applications for their annual Youth Scholarship program. Everything costs more nowadays, so if you're a security professional with kids at home in need of higher education, look to your industry's associations for help. It's what they're there for. SIA also offers a scholarship for first responders. Good luck with all submissions.
by: Daniel Gelinas - Tuesday, October 20, 2009
ATHENS, Greece--So I was checking out my Twitter feeds from the CSAA Annual Meeting in Athens, Greece today, and there appears to be some pretty heavy stuff going on. And while it's true I'm definitely NOT in Athens, Greece right now (we had our first snowfall over the weekend in New England, which may or may not have helped the Pats trounce Tennessee...), through the magic of social networking, it's almost like I'm actually there covering the meeting. Vector Security's Pam Petrow's (Twitter handle PamPetrow) phone keyboard has been on fire during the sessions with topical (and perhaps tropical, given the meeting's location--according to the member survey at this year's meeting, next year's should be held in the Caribbean...) tweets on issues such as the new FTC Red Flag Rules, which will go into effect Nov. 1. The FTC Red Flag Rules apply to financial institutions and creditors and are intended to help protect consumers by fighting identity theft. At first, I was confused how this applied to the security industry, but then I saw a tweet from Pam that put it in perspective.
alarm ind.qualifies as creditor under FTC defn. If bill in arrears,extend credit,have mtple pymts you must comply
Makes sense that the industry could qualify as a creditor if it regularly extends credit, through payment plans, to past due accounts. CSAA has been letting us know about these impending rules since last year. Another tweet--this one from CSAA VP of marketing and programs Celia Besore's Twitter handle CSAAIntl--let me know that ETL had, indeed, become the the next nationally recognized testing laboratory, allowing the industry more choice in whom they go to for their testing lab listing or approval. My colleague Martha Entwistle wrote about ETL's rise here. UL and FM were the two NRTLs approved by CSAA. ETL has been covered by SSN before, and the CSAA member vote to change the by-laws and allow companies listed by any CSAA-approved NRTL other than UL and FM to join association was expected. Pam also let us know Honeywell Security and Communications president Ron Rothman was approved to the CSAA Board to represent associate members. Martha also interviewed Ron back at ISC West. A kind of big issue facing the security industry today is the life expectancy of POTS (or Plain Old Telephone Service) lines, and the increasing need for solutions to have multiple pathways of communication between the panel and the central station. An announcement from Verizon--AICC-10 yr life projected on POTS by Verizon (as tweeted by Pam)--should raise even more concern from the industry. The AICC is a pan-association group, made up of the three main associations in the industry: the Security Industry Association, the Electronic Security Association (formerly the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association) and the Central Station Alarm Association. An SSN Market Trends piece from 2008 addressed the need get off of POTS post-haste. I'm actually working on a story right now about a partnership between NationWide Digital Monitoring and Visonic that will help dealers future proof their solutions with multiple pathways of communication. NWD EVP and chief technology officer Mark Fischer, in an interview with me the other morning, said the time to expand beyond POTS was now. "Right now, what's happening in the world is there's a move away from having POTS phone lines," Fischer said. "What you see is--especially with people 30 and under now--you go to houses and people don't have standard phone lines, period. If they even have phone lines--they're just cell only ... By allowing multiple paths you have a higher degree of security." It's all about more security.
by: Daniel Gelinas - Monday, October 19, 2009
Of course, you're probably wondering what the headline means. I found myself thinking about false alarms this morning upon reading a catchy headline--Alleged pork chop theft a false alarm--and saw a developing trend in some of the stories I came across in my Google Alerts. This blog post's headline refers to three stories with the common theme of people making stuff up, causing an unneeded and expensive emergency response and then, I'm sure, wondering what all the fuss is about and why they're being treated like criminals. The first story is about a guy from Texas who called in a hoax 911 call about his grandmother having chest pains. The caller then gave the dispatcher a fake address. That is just not cool. Waste of time, tempting karma with your grandmother's wellbeing... This kid should be locked up. It's curious to note his middle name is Wayne... which, if you follow News of the Weird means that he is, according to scientific proof, destined to most likely be a serial killer... Let's save him from himself and put him away now. The second story is out of New York and concerns a guy--probably mentally ill--who authorities assume pulled a fire alarm in order to vacate the firehouse and then slip in while emergency responders were out investigating the false he caused. Again, waste of time and money... another guy who would be better off locked up. And probably the worst of the lot is the balloon boy's father, who we now realize put his son up to the hoax so that he could get his own reality show. I won't, in this blog, call this guy the many names that come to my mind right now. Another guy who's lies and pathetic need for attention cost tax payers a lot of money. He should also have his kids taken away from him and be locked up. False alarms are not cool. They're a huge problem to the alarm industry and to municipalities and emergency responders. People who incite false alarms and panic on purpose, to gain attention need to be locked up. Just my opinion. I welcome yours.

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