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Monday morning with DHS

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Monday, September 28, 2009
Many of you know I've been giving this Twitter thing a go lately. I thought it worked out well at the ASIS show - I thought I posted some interesting tidbits in a way that wouldn't have fit either the blog or long-form story-writing (my reports on the location of kegs of beer on the show floor were particularly riveting), and I picked up some cool stuff from other posters there (I first heard of the Gallagher-to-GE letter via a Tweet). (Insert shameless plug here: Follow me at www.twitter.com/sam_pfeifle.) Anyway, I've spent some time cruising around Twitter trying to get my feed filled up with people who have interesting information to disperse. I thought the Department of Homeland Security might be good to pick up, especially since I generally find their RSS feed, which you can follow in the lower left-hand corner of our home page, to be fairly valuable. However, when I found them, I was a little disappointed. I think maybe they lost an intern or something. Check it out: http://twitter.com/HomelandSecurit. First of all, the lack of a "y" at the end is disconcerting. I'm sure it's because that's all the letters you can have or something, but go with another handle if that's the case. The missing "y" just makes you look like a typo. And then, when you actually check their page out, it's kind of pathetic. Sure, they've got 15,000+ followers, which kicks my ass, but friggin' Ashton Kutcher is at 3.7 million and counting. Shouldn't the DHS be able to top Ashton Kutcher? And while you may dismiss Twitter as frivolity, does anyone else have a better way for the DHS to directly message the average citizen about a homeland security threat they need to be aware of? Is there a better tip-line? This is a golden opportunity, and not only is DHS not bothering to get people signed up, but it uses its tweets to tell us if the threat level for flying is orange or yellow (i.e., meaningless or meaningless), and hasn't posted since June. The Twitter feed for Ready.gov is a little better in terms of updates and information, but has fewer than 5,000 followers, which makes it mostly a waste of time in the grand scheme of things. Maybe Twitter isn't the be-all, end-all, but if random celebrities have the time and energy and resources to gather millions of followers, surely the U.S. government does (not generally known for their efficiency with human resources, or resources of any sort). And it has a clear utility. So what's the problem?

Integrator weighs in on estate tax

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Friday, September 25, 2009
I'm not exactly sure where I stand in the estate tax debate. Part of me thinks you can just tax plan the right way and avoid it, so who cares; part of me thinks its an archaic throw-back to anti-bourgeoisie Revolution-era thinking; part of me thinks the government has to raise money somehow; part of me is pretty sure I'll never have to worry about it, considering the $3.5 million exception, so why spend time thinking about it; and part of me thinks it's not good for small business, where personal tax returns double as business returns and it doesn't take a large business to trigger the tax. Anyway, my opinions matter little on the subject. What's cool is that RFI Enterprises owner Larry Reece had an anti-Estate Tax op-ed in the Mercury News this week, showing thought leadership in his business community. I love it when security execs take an active role in the local and national conversation, and he's got a good story about starting his business at the kitchen table. It's worth a read regardless of your position on the matter.

Good works by Prestige Alarm in Birmingham

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Friday, September 25, 2009
Here's a nice story to begin your weekend with: Prestige Alarm and Specialty Products, Inc. of Birmingham, Ala., donated an E3 Series Expandable Emergency Evacuation System, manufactured by Gamewell-FCI, to a nearby Ronald McDonald House. According to a Honeywell Fire Systems press release, Prestige's CEO Eddie Harden decided to donate a system to the Ronald McDonald House, a facility for families to stay while family members are in the hospital, when his kids offered to help pay for the system. [caption id="attachment_2276" align="aligncenter" width="448" caption="Ronald McDonald house in Birmingham, Ala."]Ronald McDonald house in Birmingham, Ala.[/caption] From the release:
Eddie Harden, CEO of Prestige Alarm, recalls being asked for pricing on the fire alarm system. His young children overheard and offered to help pay for it. This ultimately moved Harden to donate the system in his children's names, along with the installation and three years of monitoring and maintenance services. "I've seen families receive the blessing of the Ronald McDonald House. It meant a lot to me to be a part of the new facility and provide a system that will protect lives there for many years," says Harden. To ensure split-second detection, notification and communications, Harden utilized a Gamewell-FCI E3 Series system, operating on a 625k broadband pipeline with the bandwidth to ensure a fully-loaded panel delivers immediate results. One UTP (unshielded twisted-pair) of wires integrates the House's entire fire protection system while reducing its overall footprint and facilitating efficient installation and troubleshooting.
Here's the press release.

ONVIF plugfest update

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Friday, September 25, 2009
Looks like my passive-aggressive post about the PSIA plugfest, wherein I snarkily mentioned I couldn't get in touch with ONVIF (admittedly, I didn't try THAT hard, but I hate when phone calls aren't returned), has resulted in good things. I got a report on what happened at ONVIF's ASIS plugfest and it sounds like it was a resounding success similar to the PSIA's. Per ONVIF executive director Paul Ritchie:
First, we had 8 companies represented, and they demonstrated 10 cameras and 4 software clients. AVerMedia, Axis, Bosch, Canon, IndigoVision, Lilin, Panasonic, Sony, and Vivotek were present and demonstrating products. By actual headcount, we had 146 people, both members and non-members of ONVIF attend the reception and plug fest demonstration.
That's a major headcount, and definitely more people than were at the PSIA event (not that it's a competition). Speaking of competition, though, I was talking with Warren Brown, director of product management for access control and video at Tyco (Software House, Kantech, American Dynamics, etc.), and he mentioned that while Tyco has joined the board of directors for PSIA (go to the link, then click on the story - it's one of those automatic PDF downloads), they're also members of ONVIF, and that he thinks the competition of the two groups is good for the industry. He doesn't think either group would be as far along as they are without the other as a benchmark and I think most people agree. Maybe eventually it will shake out to where one is the dominant standard, or maybe they'll converge at some point and everyone will be arm-in-arm and the world will be all peace and harmony, but for now the race is on and it's fun to watch.

St. Louis needs golfers

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Thursday, September 24, 2009
Got a note today from Rick Drake, who's running the Alarm Association of Greater St. Louis' 5th annual golf tournament, and could use a hand. The proceeds of the tournament "are to assist and benefit our local chapter alarm association, members and other interested parties in the mechanics of starting and maintaining an accredited industry apprenticeship program to learn the necessary skills that would enable them to work in the alarm industry." I agree with Rick, George Gunning, and a number of others that a pipeline for new talent into the industry is important. The event is Oct. 6, at Pevely Farms, which is apparently a very nice course, starting at 8 a.m. If you're interested in playing or sponsoring the event, you can find Rick at 636.349.2442 Ext. 301 or email [email protected]. Sounds like there's a good St. Louis BBQ involved, too.

Tips from Pinnacle Security

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Thursday, September 24, 2009
Here's a press release issued last night by Pinnacle Security. And these are not tips on how to sell security systems, ala the You Tube video. This is a consumer press release--the kind many big security companies release from time to time about how homeowners can best protect their homes. I thought it was interesting because it's the first time I've seen Pinnacle put out a press release. I've had a dog of a time trying to get them to comment on anything. There's a press contact down at the bottom. I'm going to give this guy a call once offices open in Utah.

iOmniscient wades into analytics wars

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Thursday, September 24, 2009
One of the things I really appreciated about the Bosch tent this week at ASIS was that they didn't pull any punches. They held head-to-head competitions (of their own design, obviously, to maximize their strengths) and let people take a look. They went after Pelco particularly hard. I don't know why these kinds of performance tests aren't more common. I suppose we should be doing them, and I probably would if I even knew how to plug in an analog camera and make it work, or wire an access reader. I suppose I could learn, or contract other people to do it. Maybe I will. Regardless, the hollowness of manufacturer claims are hardly unique to security, nor are marketers to be faulted for seeing what they can get away with. Every day I come across another "leading manufacturer" of some piece of equipment. The security industry is kind of like Lake Wobegon: Everyone's a leader! I'm reminded of this today because of an email I got from iOmniscient, a company that just started sending me emails, but which I've gathered makes video analytics they think are pretty special. Here's the good part:
Last week Security World Magazine hosted the Secon conference in Seoul. With over 2500 attendees it is THE event on Automated Surveillance in Korea. For the second year in a row they invited Dr Rustom Kanga, CEO of iOmniscient to deliver a Keynote address – this time on “Selecting Software and Hardware for Video Analysis Systems”.
There is apparently some major interest in automated surveillance in Korea. Who knew? Also, why would you have the same keynote speaker two years in a row? Anyway, moving on:
An interesting observation on the event was that several speakers talked about the dissatisfaction that users felt about Video Analysis systems because of the number of false alarms they usually had to deal with. This is inevitable as other systems do not have an Artificial Intelligence based Nuisance Alarm Minimisation System (NAMS). All iOmniscient products above an IQ level of 65 are armed with NAMS. (Note: products with an IQ lower than 65 are rarely sold by iOmniscient. They are offered only in competitive tenders where the user does not understand the value of NAMS and wants the lowest price. These low end products always come with a warning that they do not include NAMS).
I mean: obviously! No else has NAMS! If only they did, all of their troubles would go away. I'm also impressed with the way that iOmniscient is willing to stoop below their normal IQ level to sell to those pesky end users concerned about price. Sorry. I'm being extra snarky this morning because I'm half-way through the red-eye home. I still haven't really gotten to the good part. My apologies. Here we go:
The importance of NAMS became evident in a recent trial in North America where we were in a competition against one of our very large US competitors. Over a week the customer put both systems through various tests. Both companies did equally well on the detections but there was one difference. Our competitor had 200 false alarms each night. We had zero. This wide difference in capabilities explains why there are so many “unhappy users” around the world among those who have used systems which do not have NAMS.
Ah-ha! A secret test, conducted by an unnamed end user, pitting iOmniscient against an unnamed competitor, in a completely unexplained environment! That totally explains why there are so many unhappy users out there. I'm utterly convinced. Seriously. What is the point of this? You know, recently, I gave my newspaper to 100 people at a major U.S. conference and asked them to read my paper and then read one of my major competitors. Then I asked them, "which one made you smarter?" Every one of them, it turns out, chose Security Systems News! In fact, many of the readers commented that the competitor's paper actually made them dumber. So that really explains why there are so many dumb people in the security industry: They're reading the wrong newspaper! But this kind of stuff isn't just limited to emails sent out by iOmniscient. Here's the text from the front page of their web site:
Our multi-award winning, patented Non Motion Detection is recognized as the world's only technology to accurately detect in crowded areas despite constant movement and obscuration; a feat that is not achievable with standard Video Motion Detection. This has resulted in a multitude of airports, railways, and roads and traffic organizations adopting iOmniscient's products worldwide.
Recognized by whom? What awards? Detect what? A multitude? Then why does the press release section of the web site mention exactly three customers since 2004? The big case study they're touting is a museum in Australia. I'm sure it's a national treasure, but doing people counting and loitering in a museum isn't that tough, and certainly isn't indicative any secret sauce. If you beat out some other guy, tell me which guy. If you were tested by a customer, tell me which customer, or at least tell me who the integrator was? If you don't have anything more than vague references to mythical stuff, just stop it.

Plugfest lovefest

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Why I went to the PSIA plugfest and not the ONVIF plugfest is a little unclear. I guess maybe it was because I knew when the PSIA plugfest was and was only sort of mildly aware of when the ONVIF plugfest was happening (it's true that I've called the "executive director" of ONVIF, based in San Ramon, Calif., at least three times and he's never called me back. That might have something to do with it). Anyway, if you're unfamiliar with the concept of the plugfest, or if it makes you feel a bit creepy, let me explain: Basically, people show up with their cameras, plug them into the NVR, and see if they work or not, based on the fact that everyone is writing to the same standard. In the case of the PSIA, they all worked, and it was pretty awesome. Truly, there was the feel that someone had just landed people on the moon or something. People were lining up for awkward photographs. Engineers with iffy social skills were drinking wine and wearing ill-fitting ties. People were clapping each other on the back. IBM's Frank Yeh, the sort of guy who puts his Second Life persona on his business card, was pronouncing: "We're witnessing history in the making here." And it felt like maybe he wasn't being bombastic. Here is a picture of what the plugfest looked like. plugfest11 Notice all the different cameras running into the NVR powered by Milestone. They're all connected via the same driver. You plug them in, they work. Pretty nice. "But everything works with Milestone," you say. Okay. Ever heard of Synectics? Me neither. But they showed up with an NVR, plugged in all the same cameras, and because they'd downloaded the specification and implemented it, when they plugged in all the same cameras, they all worked great. How do I know this is cool? I asked Ian Johnson, of IQinVision, and a PSIA active participant: "Who's Synectics?" Ian: "I have no idea." That's right, a random company downloaded the spec, implemented it, and then just showed up and made things work. Pretty cool. Johnson said the spec is already paying dividends. For the new 1080p camera IQ just released, IQ didn't have to call ahead to Milestone and make sure they had a driver ready for it. They just wrote to the spec and assumed it would work. And it did. Why do you, the integrator and installer, care? Well, because things are going to get cheaper and faster now. No longer is money going to be wasted on engineering to make sure one camera works with another piece of software, and that means that money can be lopped off the MSRP or it can be used to fuel new product innovation. Want to see what happy engineering guys look like? Here you go: plugfest2 It's very possible, and likely, the ONVIF plugfest was very similar. I just wasn't there.

Are you too old for security?

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Actually, it's partly the aging security legacy the sparked the creation, through the NBFAA... er... I mean ESA, of the Young Security Professionals group. I got a press release from ESA the other day detailing the heights of rip-roaring success enjoyed by the first YSP Executive Forum held in Aurora, Ill. The Forum dealt with some pretty big issues facing those young security professionals looking to take over the biz from their parents. Here's some 411 from the release:
The forum focused on effectively managing change, implementing and selling new products and controlling attrition. Thirty young professionals attended the session, a first of its kind. It also provided best practices sharing opportunities in a non-competitive environment, and networking opportunities.
Attendees looking to curb attrition at their businesses might want to also check out CSAA's recently announced free Webinar led by Bob Harris of Attrition Busters. Though the forum was focused on the youngins, the evening was helped along by some established security heavy-hitters.
Ed Bonifas of Alarm Detection Systems in Aurora hosted the event and provided a special kickoff dinner and barbecue lunch on the Alarm Detection Systems campus. Bonifas, Mel Mahler of ADS in Nashville, Tenn. and industry icon Bud Wolfhurst from Reno, Nev., served as mentors to the group and shared their years of expertise and knowledge on the topics at hand.
For more information on the YSP, go here. And tell Trevor I'm still waiting for that Sears Portrait Studio pic of him on a Jetski for use in our next issue.

ASIS day 2, in pictures

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009
I apologize in advance for the quality of the photos, but I think being able to show you some stuff via iPhone pics is better than not having anything at all, and there's just no way I'm carrying around a real digital camera with a decent lens all day, so this is what you get. First up, evidence that the show was better today, following on the dead aisle pic I posted yesterday. Of course, I could have just cherry-picked something from the front, but this is from the back in a similar kind of spot at a similar time of day: day2traffic Also, check out the attendance for OnSSI's demonstration. It never fails to put butts in seats, despite the fact they've basically had the same presentation for 2 years. Yes, the technology is different, but not so much so the casual observer would notice, and most of the guys that sit in these seats are casual types. The touch screen stuff is just cool. onssi The show was busy enough for me, that's for sure, but I managed to resist stopping at the massage area. I'm kind of creeped out by massages anyway, and I can't say the folks in this pic are in particularly flattering positions. (I'm a little vain. I admit it.) ge-massage Anyway, the way I relax on the show floor is to visit VideoNEXT. Their Macs immediately put me at ease. An interesting note is that Apple gives them all of this display stuff and the servers for free use whenever they ask for them to go to a trade show. They've got to give them back, but it's sure nice to have a pallet of free stuff waiting for you at the show when you get there. Look for VideoNEXT to have a big announcement of a government win that's all Mac based. Apple has a big government sales force that's under the radar, but likely pretty effective if it's anything like the rest of the company. Too bad no one at Apple is allowed to talk to the press. Ever. videonext One of the hottest new things in software is the "dashboard," an interface for end users that gives them real-time stats that are easily digested. Here's Pacom's version of it, which is very slick, but Ionit have a similar thing happening geared toward business intelligence for retailers. Look for this to be everywhere in 2010. End users need stats to justify their jobs now more than ever. It's not good enough to just say you're protecting people and the enterprise, you have to prove it. pacom And, yeah, there were a ton of parties last night. I was going to go to the Stanley party, which I'm sure was awesome, but I discovered it was in Laguna Beach and that's 45 minutes from here and I just felt like I was going to be trapped. In terms of seeing the most people in the least amount of time, I felt like I needed to be on foot and mobile, so I was able to hit Arecont, Bosch, Open Options, Verint, get denied by ADT (there's a long and funny story behind that, but it's probably not safe for the blog), and then hit the tail end of Tyco. I feel like that's more productive than smoking cigars on the beach in Laguna, but I can't say it was more fun. Kind of exhausting, really. Anyway, here's the Arecont crowd, which was very strong. It's amazing to think how far Arecont has come in just three years. They've gone from being the industry outsider to the company everybody loves for their imaging and cost. arecont And here's the Bosch tent that had quite a few vendors a little grumbly (maybe because they wish they thought of it?): boschtent And here's the inside of the tent. Bosch had all kinds of carnival games set up as head-to-head competitions with other vendors' products. In this pic, an end user inexplicably makes himself look silly (again, the vanity, right?) for the opportunity to win a Bosch drill. The deal is that Bosch's motion detector consistently picks up the guys trying to get through and the competition - GE Security and some others - doesn't. It convinced me, and I love the bravado of the tent as a whole. In side-by-sides, they sort of kicked Pelco's ass all over the place, and they weren't shy about it. I think these kinds of "skills competitions" are healthy for the industry. Bosch acknowledged though that it isn't just technology that's gotten Pelco where it is, it's customer service and the whole package, and Bosch knows its customer service can't hang. It's a balance, and Bosch feels technology is on their side and getting better on the other side. boschtent2 The PSIA plugfest was also awesome, and I've got some pics from that, but I'm going to put that in a separate post later today.

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