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What's going on at ASIS?

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Friday, September 18, 2009
Or, maybe better put, What's going on at ASIS. With a period because I'm telling you. But they say questions make for good headlines on the web. Maybe I should stop listening to my web optimization guy... Anyway, here's the drill: I'm going to be meeting with a ton of people, most of them manufacturers, unfortunately (not that I don't love you, manufacturers, but only about 1/5 of my journalist coverage is theoretically dedicated to you), but some integrators, too. Here's the list - let me know if there are questions you'd like to see answered: Flir - a press event on Sunday night? Better be good snacks to go with those 21 new products. G4S - talking about their "new" monitoring center. You know, the one we wrote about (cough!) in December? Diebold - a check in, more than anything, and some talk about new video monitoring offerings. Allied Telesis - a meet and greet. Apparently they make switches and are eyeing network-based security. Genetec - a booth tour, and catching up on that webinar we're doing together. Honeywell - a meeting with Ralph Maniscalco to talk about how the new app is doing and more about the First Alert and CSS programs. Abeo Technology - talking with this integrator about their AWARE program, which is fueled by Knowledge Switch. HID - a noon-time press event. I've sort of already written about their big news with that Genuine HID stuff, but there's other stuff going on, too. Stanley - a check in with Tony Byerly, but also an introduction to some new stuff with Stanley Health Care. AMAG - they say they've got a story for me, but I'm also interested in the new partnership with Salto. Tyco - In truth, I can't actually remember if this meeting is more about American Dynamics or more about Software House, or maybe something else. Object Video and Pelco - meeting with them together to see how it's going with porting OV onto the Sarix cameras. Speco - I kind of want to see the DVR in a panel. Ionit - last time I met with them, it was a bit of a boozy affair. Might be good to have a more formal chat... Reed Exhibitions - apparently, they're not the devil. Who knew? Sanyo - a majorly involved press event for what's basically a small player in the industry, but I said yes because a certain Cameraman is convinced their new products are "awesomesauce," if I remember correctly. Siemens - cocktail party. Carey Boethel is such a good dresser, though, that I feel like I need to stay business formal. GE - a press event. Think they'll be answering questions about their impending sale? I'm guessing not. Doesn't mean I won't ask them, though. Johnson Controls - smart building talk with Lisa Roy and her entourage. Verint - a check in, and some talk about their presentation at TechSec (wait, I haven't actually announced that yet...). Canon - oh, whoops, scratch that. But they weren't lying when they said they were reallocating resources. I'm going to meet with them at ISC East. Infinova - mostly meeting with them because Mark Wilson from Milestone is there now and asked for a meet and greet. I don't really even know much about what they do. Pacom - meeting to talk about their new new CEO (never did meet old new CEO Magnus in person - wow, that was 2006? I've been here too long already). Niscayah - John Nemerofsky is hosting a lunch Mon.-Wed. That's a lot of lunch for one man. Panasonic - Do they have a new president yet? North American Video - a sit down with Jason Oakley to see how the new initiatives to break beyond gaming are working. OnSSI - I meet with them almost every show. Is it just so I can see the cool touchscreen in action? PSIA - I'm going to the plug fest. Are you? Too bad ONVIF kind of stole their thunder (I'd link more directly, but they've only posted a pdf and it's kind of a pain to cut and paste the URL for some reason). Honeywell - this is Honeywell's solutions business (I don't think they talk to the security guys much), and it's a meeting with old friend Andrew Wray, with whom I went to Israel, yet it's still important, apparently, that their PR firm, Weber Shandwick, be in the meeting. Hope they're desperate to hear Andrew talk about taking his boat from California to Guam... Bosch - I'm hitting up their tent to see the camera contest and maybe have some snacks. SG Digital - these are the guys who actually make HDCCTV DVRs. They didn't get a booth, but I'm going to visit their suite. Suite visits can be creepy, yes, and I'm going first thing in the morning. Hope they've got their dirty socks packed away. Cernium - mostly, I like the name Archerfish (that's only partially true). Pixim - I like talking to these guys because they have lots of market stats they're not shy about sharing. John Monti is a great gossip. Hirsch - more of a meeting with Bob Beliles to talk shop in general. And that's pretty much it, other than some parties and that HD panel discussion I'm leading (did I mention that? It's at 2 p.m., on Wed., Booth 1861, Hall C - be there or be a rhombus). Do you think that's busy enough? I've only made one clone for the show. Is that lazy of me? I'm feeling kind of guilty about it. Also, make sure to check out all of Security Director News' coverage. Managing editor Leischen Stelter is going to be busting out all kinds of video. If you want to find me out in Anaheim, the best bet is to follow the Twitter tweets. I'm @sam_pfeifle. I'm slightly concerned my iPhone will self-combust from overuse, but we'll see what happens.

Check out the stats on alarm company complaints here.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009
You know all those jokes about how everyone hates lawyers? Ha, ha, ha. Well, if the BBB can predict popularity, those lawyers may soon be telling funny jokes about how everyone hates alarm companies. And everyone's gonna get the joke. Did you know that more people complained to the BBB about alarm companies than they did about lawyers in 2008? That the alarm industry is the 93rd highest in terms of complaints, and that that number represents a 68 percent increase over 2007? Oooo. That's bad. Here's a link to my newswire story so you can read all about it. Why so many complaints? The door-knocking companies have taken a beating this summer, with complaints (maybe some whining?) that their sales people are using unethical practices and that's bringing the public's opinion of the alarm industry way down. Well, there may be some validity to this complaint. The BBB Here's their national Web site. puts out statistics on the number of complaints file by industry and some info on the nature of those complaints. They also have about 111 offices throughout the country. On this page you can see the number of complaints by industry. About two-thirds of the way down the page, you'll see "Burglar Alarm Systems-dealers, monitoring & service. On that line are columns for Inquiries --that includes people who even checked out a BBB reliability report for a company; and how that number ranks compared to the 3,900 industries that the BBB ranks. Next is the actual number of complaints filed--2,025. Next column--93, means how that number stacks up compared to other industries. The next columns are self-explanatory. Take note of the next line down from alarm companies--lawyers. OK. I wanted to find out how many complaints had been filed against a bunch of national companies in 2009. Not possible, at least not from the online data. What they do have is reliability reports on each company with data about the number of complaints resolved in the past 12 months. (Note: This may not account for all of the outstanding complaints.) They also have the nature of the complaints that were resolved. Now, if you search on Broadview Security for example, you come up with a gazillion reliability reports. For this story, I just looked at the reliability report from the headquarters office. OK Here's the reliability report for Broadview's HQ in Dallas. Go down section called "Customer Complaint HIstory." Click on "Detailed View" to see the numbers we used. Here's the information on how many complaints were resolved in the past 12 months and the nature of those complaints. The total number (upper left corner) is 201. The number of those complaints that had to do with selling practices is 15. According to our math, seven percent of all Broadview complaints (from its current HQ reliability report) had to do with "selling practices." Here's Apx's report Here's Pinnacle's report Here's Platinum Protection And here's Pro One OK, so what's up with the grades? All of these companies seem to resolve most, if not all of their complaints. So why do some get an F and some get an A? Jeannette Kopco, VP of communications at the Dallas BBB told me that the grade is based on 17 different factors, but a poor grade may have something to do with the number of complaints compared to the size of the company. It may also have to do with "government action" or the BBB may have detected a pattern in the complaints, ie, they're resolved, but the company isn't working hard enough to make certain kinds of complaints go away. What do you think of these reports? About the BBB? About your report? Leave a comment, or give me a call 207-846-0600 ext. 261 and let me know what you think.

Why doesn't every vendor use video like this?

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Thursday, September 17, 2009
Admittedly, Feeling Software has been a little hard to wrap my arms around. Not only is the name kind of off-putting (software with feelings? software that feels me up? software that looks you deep in the eyes and asks, "are you feeling me, brother?"), but its description of its trademark Omnipresence software runs like this:
Omnipresence combines video surveillance with advanced 3D graphics technology. Through partnerships with surveillance industry leaders including Pelco, Genetec, Axis, and Milestone Systems, Omnipresence integrates with the video management system (VMS) to receive live and archived video feeds. These videos are projected inside of a 3D map of the facility in their real locations. In understanding the spatial relationship between all cameras, Omnipresence removes the complexity of operating large-scale surveillance systems. With its scalable architecture, Omnipresence allows a security professional to visualize and optimize their use of an unlimited number of security cameras over vast areas (entire facilities and cities).
Um, okay. So there's a 3D map that the videos are projected inside? How does that work exactly? Would that actually be a good thing, or just completely confusing? I've always been fond of 2D maps, myself. Well, at least they made the effort to "show" me/you what they're talking about with a simple and handy YouTube video. After watching it, I'm not sure if it's the best sales tool for what they're offering, as I think it looks kind of clumsy and confusing (some sound wouldn't kill me, either), but that's up to you, really. Check it out: Regardless of what you think about the product, isn't it a good idea for manufacturers to make up some simple videos and throw them on YouTube? I mean, it's not like this industry has got video crawling out of every nook and cranny or anything...

A brief rant about PR types

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Actually, I like most PR people. They serve a needed function and many PR professionals are great at their jobs - they set up phone calls with busy executives and they issue good press releases that draw my attention to things I think my readers care about. The Net is making their jobs less important in some ways, but in other ways they can serve the important task of helping me cut through the firehose of information out there. That said: People, you need to learn how to take no for an answer, goddammit. This rant is, of course, triggered by the upcoming ASIS show. If you don't know how it works, basically many companies invite journalists like me to swing by their booths, meet with executives, and learn more about the company or learn more about a specific piece of news they've got. Unfortunately, there are something like 750 exhibitors at ASIS, and I've got something like 14 possible meeting slots on each of the three days of the show (which leaves me almost no time to just look at the show and do reporting with my readers, which should, journalistically speaking, be my primary objective). So, say I've got 42 possible meeting slots. What do you think happens when 200 companies request meetings and I've got 42 slots? Well, yeah, I've got to say "no" to about 160 people. Which is really fun. My standard response is this: "Sorry, so and so, I'm totally booked for the show and I just don't have any time left on the schedule. Could you please distribute any materials you'll be releasing at the show? Also, we can set up a phone briefing after the show if you'd like." Or I schedule them for ISC East or something. And it's not totally first-come, first served. If the invitation is vague, I often ask: "Is there something specific that so and so would like to discuss at the show?" If I get no answer, or if it's all just about a new and fairly insignificant product launch ("wow! you're releasing v 1.2.5?!?? That's awesome! I'll clear my schedule!"), I'll politely defer - "doesn't sound like a good fit this year." Also, if I just met with them at a previous show, and there doesn't seem to be anything earth-shattering on the agenda, I'll say I think I've got a handle on the company for now and catch me at the next show. Again, 90 percent of PR professionals understand my situation and accept my answer for what it is. I understand that many of them (the independent, outside firms) get paid on the number of things they set up, or maybe feel the need to justify their retainer by setting things up, so I often take calls, for example, that I really don't care that much about, just because I know these people are just doing their jobs and if I help them out by listening to a phone briefing every once in a while they'll be more likely to get on the stick when I need a source for a story. However, things are starting to get a little out of hand with some of them. Maybe they don't realize how insulting some of these things sound, and maybe I'm a little sensitive. You decide: Tactic 1: Basically calling me a liar - "Are you sure there's no space in your schedule? So and so would really like to meet with you." Yes, I'm sure. Tactic 2: Checking back in to see if their incredible email-based charm will get me to change my mind about me not wanting to talk to someone - "I know you said you weren't interested, but so and so is REALLY smart and I think you'd get a lot out of talking to him." I'm sure he's really smart. I'm sure there are thousands of really smart people at ASIS. I can meet with roughly 42 of them. Why are we still exchanging emails? And this is not to say that my mind cannot be changed. I recently changed my mind about accepting a product briefing on a new software package. I regretted that, because it was exactly what I thought it was going to be - vague and unconvincing - but if you give me more information, I can be swayed. That's what I'm saying. Not charm. Not pretty please. Tactic 3: The check back in - "Just checking back in to see if your schedule has changed and some time has opened up." Yep, that happens all the time. My schedule gets MORE free as the show approaches. Glad you checked in. Turns out I DO have time now. I was going to leave that slot open for nose picking and freebasing, but since you checked in, now I can fill that slot productively. THANKS! Again, I know you're doing your job in a way that you think is productive, but, seriously, you don't see how that's insulting? Whoops. Did I say that rant was going to be brief? Sorry about that. Needed to vent. I know I probably sound like a jerk, but you've got to help me out a little people. I'm getting variations on tactics 1-3 about 10 times a day right now and I'm going to lose my mind trying to email back in a polite and non-aggressive way. Addendum: It absolutely drives me crazy when PR people address me as "L" in sending me an email. Just letting you know, I delete right away - just can't help myself. Please, please, let that be some kind of database problem. There's no way anyone looks at my byline and actually thinks I go by "L," right? Did anybody call F. Scott Fitzgerald "F"? As in, "Hey F, I thought that was a really awesome way to kill off Gatsby in the end! Your rock, F." Or G. Gordon Liddy? Do people come up and say, "Dude, G, that was a sweet critique of Obama today. Keep it up, G!" Although, I admit it's very possible that when J. Edgar Hoover dreamed of sweet nothings being whispered in his ear he dreamed of ... well, never mind.

Which Md. security co is going green?

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Homesafe Security of Baltimore is going green. I got a press release from them this morning about a contract they secured to install GE's Ecomagination Smart Command systems (along with security and other low-voltage services) at a new development in Anne Arundel County Maryland. The development, called The Preserve at Severn Run, is Baldwin Homes' first all-green community. The community is green " from the development work through the house construction and house finishes." The development will have 72 home sites, all of which are well and septic and just under/over an acre. The press release said that the new model home is underway. The idea, according to the release, is to "create a more cost-effective living environment than a traditionally constructed home." I'm talking to Stuart Forchheimer, president of Homesafe, this afternoon, so will have a story about the project for tomorrow's newswire.

New online video monitoring entrant

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Monday, September 14, 2009
I was contacted recently by the proprietor of www.ugolog.com, a site that offers live peek-in, as well as cloud storage, to end users who'd like to hook up an IP camera and watch pets, nannies, office spaces, etc. Mostly, cameras are set up to record on motion, and there's plans in the works for email alerts, etc. If anything, its newness is in its set-up. It's very bare bones and appears much like a lot of the online offerings out there, like Snapfish, etc., that charge a monthly fee for some kind of cloud-based operation. It's billed as a security offering, and the owner of the small shop in Seattle is wondering why no one in the industry seems interested in becoming an affiliate partner and offering the services on a commission basis. I took a quick swing through the site and I think the resistance they'll find in the industry is that the traditional guys are skeptical of self-monitored systems that can't at least be tied in to professionally monitored central stations as well. It sort of eliminates their raison d'etre. It looks like they've got a good opportunity for recurring monthly revenue, which the residential guys, especially, do like, but they're going to want to bring the video back into their central station, not give up control of the customer to the ether, so they're probably not going to be interested in taking a piece of the monthly fee they've got set up (which is pretty small in the first place, thus the security companies will get a small piece, indeed). Plus, motion-based recording/alerts aren't very reliable or trusted in the industry. Pets will set off the cameras all the time and use up all the storage they're offering (probably) and create alerts that will eventually be ignored, so that when there is eventually a break-in, they probably won't pay attention . I think if they pitch this more as a life-style service, and less as "security," they might have more luck. As a nanny-cam, baby-cam, pet-watcher, it makes perfect sense. As a security system, it's going to be hard to compete with the professional systems, because consumers are less likely to take risks or go the DIY route when it's about life safety or protection. They want the pro more for their conscience than for the difference in service. Further, security is very much an old, closely-knit community, and they take a while to warm to new companies and business partners. But if you ugolog.com can figure out a good way to generate lots of recurring revenue, they'll take notice in a hurry.

Got something to say? SIA says 'Say it here.'

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Friday, September 11, 2009
Following on the heels of CSAA's call for industry commentary on their pending standards, SIA has sent a call for commentary out to you, the security industry. SIA has released for public review a revised control panel standard that is intended to reduce false alarms. The standard under review, "ANSI/SIA CP-01-2007 Control Panel Standard - Features for False Alarm Reduction," details the recommended design features and settings for security system control panels and associated arming and disarming devices. SIA is asking members of the industry to chime in and comment before the revision is accepted by ANSI. The comment period ends Oct. 19. Some significant changes in the new version include the elimination of single button devices to initiate panic alarms, exceptions for the specified time ranges of the entry and dialer delay times, expanded range for swinger shutdown programming and more specific product documentation requirements. You can direct your comments to Joe Gittens, SIA's standards manager.

Code of ethics has legs

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Friday, September 11, 2009
I just heard yesterday that ApxAlarm wants a "seat at the table" —that's ADT chief legal counsel David Bleisch's table—as the so-called Door-knocking Code of Ethics is put together. And today, I saw a press release from Platinum Protection that they're onboard as well. Jeremy Pixton, owner of Platinum Protection, a summer-model company based in Utah, had already told me as much, but now they're officially putting the word out: Platinum's release last night says that they're working with multiple industry organizations on a door-knocking code of ethics. Click here to see the release.

Awards are everywhere: Who cares?

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Thursday, September 10, 2009
I'm a little out straight putting out our October issue (not that you care), so I wanted to point those of you who don't go there regularly to John Honovich's post on industry awards. It's great stuff. I would only change the title to be, "Awards benefit manufacturers, not end users or integrators, and maybe no one." His point is that the awards are mostly granted with amorphous and undefined criteria, there's no rigid testing, and it's usually pay to play. Therefore, what good are they? They're just marketing tools for manufacturers. I agree with all of that. We don't do awards here at SSN for that very reason - we don't have the staffing to do them properly. However, I think you can make the argument that the awards don't benefit the manufacturers either, because no one really puts in any stock in them. So while manufacturers waste time and energy garnering awards and promoting their awards, no one really cares and most of that effort is for naught. Maybe there are integrators out there who think to themselves, "Gosh, I've never heard of BRS Labs, but they just won an award from ASIS, so I better pay attention." Maybe not. It's true that I often link to awards results and say something snarky and that does get them some recognition they wouldn't otherwise have gotten, and the other publications often make a big to-do out of their own awards, which garners recognition, so I shouldn't say they're value-less for manufacturers, but the whole rigamarole just seems so pointless. Why don't organizations like ASIS promote awards for their members? A security director of the year award would highlight one of their members and provide yet another benefit for the dues. The winning member would get a line item for the resume and the other members would learn about her/his ideas for best practices in the award write-up, and maybe steal a few things. Maybe they do that and they just don't put press releases out about it. At least those Sammys are given out to integrators and installers, and there are tricks of the trade to be stolen from the write-ups.

NBFAA to go away. ESA is new name

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Thursday, September 10, 2009
The NBFAA announced yesterday evening that members voted to change the 61-year-old association's name to the Electronic Security Association. The press release said 79 percent of voters wanted to change the name. The 79 percent is well over the two-thirds majority necessary for a name change. The actual number of ballots cast was not included in the release. I'll be calling the NBFAA later this morning when the Texas work day starts. The impetus for changing the name was to more accurately reflect the work that members do, something NBFAA officials believe will help the association in lobbying efforts, working with AHJs, and expanding membership. This is the second time that the NBFAA membership has voted on changing its name. In the winter of 2006, the membership said an unequivocal no on changing the name to ELSSA, the Electronic Life Safety Security Association. Personally, I have to agree that ESA sounds better than ELSSA. ELSSA sounds like a cow's name; ESA, on the other hand, sounds, like we say in Maine, wicked good. Here's the release:
Irving, TX, September 9, 2009 - Results from the National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA) name change vote were announced today. Of the ballots cast, 79% voted in favor of changing the name to the Electronic Security Association (ESA). The by-laws require a 66% margin to pass. This decision didn’t come lightly to the association. “There were many hours of discussion and reflection, before the NBFAA Strategic Planning and Executive Committees and its Board of Directors voted to recommend an update of the association brand name to the membership,” said Michael A. Miller, ESA President. “Strategically, we feel that this name change will strengthen our association and allow us to connect with a broader membership demographic.” Additionally, the proposed name and composite brand: More accurately represents the services that the members and prospective members provide. Puts the association in a position to make their strongest case to the public and authorities. Strengthens the cause with federal and state legislators as lobbying efforts are increased. Puts the association in position to grow their membership and widen their influence. “The mission of the association, to promote, protect and to serve the members and their businesses, will remain the same,” said Dave Simon. “We’ve just updated our name to more accurately reflect all of the technologies in which our members are actively engaged. We will always respect our heritage and we have confidence that this history making move will have a powerful, positive impact on our members and the industry that we represent.” The Electronic Security Association wants its members to know that the change-over will take place throughout the next several weeks. “Changing the logo, the brand, the look and the feel will be a work in progress,” said Merlin J. Guilbeau, ESA Executive Director. “Stay tuned for a new, fresh, relevant and updated identity for your sixty-one year old association.”

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