Subscribe to


About that stimulus money

Friday, March 20, 2009
More than one industry leader has referenced the stimulus package as a potential boon for the security industry. Here's AMAG chief Bob Sawyer talking about "shovel-ready" projects, for example. Our lead newswire story references a webinar where the stimulus was oft-referenced. But SIA has expressed some displeasure with how security was treated in that package and I wonder how much of it will really make its way to the electronic security industry we hold near and dear. Security has such a wide definition that nearly anything can be justified as security: gas masks, haz-mat suits, helicopters, police cars, sidearms, better communications systems, training - the list is nearly endless at some point. This comes to mind as I read this story about money supposedly directed toward "border security" down in Texas.
While Gov. Rick Perry's Office of Emergency Management had "generally" ensured that more than $79 million spent between September 2005 and November 2008 was effectively used to combat border crime, the State Auditor's Office found a handful of examples of squad cars, helicopters and other resources that never made it to Texas' southern frontier.
Check out some of the details:
While the ACLU report primarily focused on the activities of border police and sheriff's departments, the auditor's review analyzed spending within the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Governor's Division of Emergency Management, which together received approximately $142.3 million in state and federal funds between the 2006 and 2009 fiscal years. To date, the agencies have spent just over half of that money, primarily on salaries, equipment and third-party contracts, the auditor's office found. Those purchases included: >> A total of 105 new DPS squad cars that were spread across the state rather than along the border. The department sent 106 used cars to border counties. >> A $7.4 million helicopter that has since been stationed in Austin. DPS redeployed an old helicopter to Laredo. >> Five new commissioned officers in the DPS Aircraft Division who were assigned to duty stations outside of the state's six border operational sectors. The department also failed to establish a planned $1 million Rio Grande Valley Border Security and Technology Training Center slated for Hidalgo County, citing insufficient funds, the audit states. "The (audit) recommendation indicates that resources should be placed in the most critical areas of the border," DPS management said in its response to the report. "We note that the criticality of various areas of the border varies because of a constantly changing threat."
Note how that training center is the only thing on the list that looks like it would have benefited electronic security, and there was no money for that, in the end. When politicians and bureaucrats think about protecting the critical infrastructure that's prioritized in the stimulus package, are they going to be thinking about analytics and cameras and access control integration and PSIM? Or are they going to be thinking about helicopters and police officers and squad cars? Who's out there educating local officials about the ways that security technology can eliminate the need for some of those officers and helicopters and squad cars? That education and lobbying is vital to the ongoing health of the industry.

Colorado fire co. wants to train you to start your own biz

Friday, March 20, 2009
that's what the press release said, but they're not rushing to call back the press with further info. At least, they won't call me back. Here's the press release It a company out of Denver called Nationwide Fire Protection Corp, and they sent out a press release a few days ago saying they'll train "aspiring business owners" to get into the fire protection business. Nationwide, the release says, will train you and "turn over existing accounts in the territory covered by the newly trained fire protection job specialists." (I guess that's what you are before you start your own business? ) From what I can tell, Nationwide specializes in the restaurant business and does a lot of kitchen hood systems. Its Web site says it does fire alarm installation as well. I emailed yesterday, called once yesterday and twice today to get some more information, to see if they're trying to start a franchising or if they're just looking for technicians. The person who answers the phone today said the owner got my messages and he'll call me back when he gets a chance, but she wasn't sure when that would be.

New PR/media exposure resource could help security industry pros

Thursday, March 19, 2009
I was pleased to see get an email recently from John Sternal, proprietor of the Understanding Marketing website, concerning a new toolkit for small business owners, including security products professionals. According to the attached release:
Security products professionals need help promoting their services in this market but do not wish to hire a PR agency for increased media exposure. To help overcome this, Understanding Marketing [on March 17] launched the PR Toolkit, an affordable new e-Book that helps smaller firms generate their own public relations tactics to increase their client base. Authored by John Sternal, a seasoned PR professional of nearly 20 years, the new PR Toolkit provides insight to help small businesses leverage the power of media awareness to promote their companies and generate bigger profits. Understanding Marketing offers DIY marketing and PR information for small businesses and the PR Toolkit serves as an agency-in-a-box for any company looking to insource and get publicity on a shoestring budget.
Well, any small business could use all the PR help they can get in this economy.

More manufacturer workforce trimming

Thursday, March 19, 2009
The effects of the economy continue to be felt in the security industry. Today comes word (right in my back yard) of workforce trimming at the GE Security plant in Pittsfield, Maine.
GE Security in Pittsfield is cutting its workforce, likely by more than one-third. About 430 people work at the plant. Just before the end of the first shift Wednesday, company officials called workers together to tell them the news: due to a drop in sales, they have to cut jobs. They asked first for a voluntary reduction, offering severance packages with benefits. Company spokesperson Michelle May tells TV-5 the number of jobs that will be cut depends on how many people take the voluntary package. But, she says it's likely more than 100 people will permanently lose their jobs. Some workers at the plant were already on month-long furloughs.
Obviously, this is a very small portion of the GE Security workforce, and companies have to do what they have to do to stay profitable (or avoid losses) in bad economic times, but these are the kinds of layoffs that really hurt a community because, I can assure you, there's really not much else going on in Pittsfield, Maine. It's pretty close to the middle of nowhere:

View Larger Map We need to do some serious bootstrap-pulling, and quick.


Thursday, March 19, 2009
This press release came in today (sorry no link):
VSI Viscount Selected for Obama Hookerbucks Program. VSI Viscount is pleased to announce the company has been selected by the US Government as the official co-sponsor of the launch of the Obama Hookerbucks program. Attendees to the upcoming ISC WEST Security Conference will receive complementary Hookerbucks at the VSI booth. As part of the US Government's $3 Trillion budget, the $30 Billion Obama Hookerbucks program is expected to be the key to stimulating the Las Vegas economy. Stephen Pineau, CEO of Viscount, commented, "The public is being screwed by the whole mess anyways so at least this way attendees will have something to show for it."
I did not make that up. I swear. Unless someone has hijacked Pineau's email address, I can confirm it came directly from him. Hookerbucks. Get 'em while they're hot. This is the same guy, remember, who held a wake for the access control panel in 2007, famously parading through the ISC West show floor with a coffin and, if I remember correctly, bagpipes. So he's got a flair for the dramatic.

More (bad news) on the casinos

Wednesday, March 18, 2009
On the heels of the Harrah's news yesterday, MGM/Mirage just released their numbers today. Not good. Here's the summary: 2007 net income: $1.6 billion 2008 net loss: $855 million No surprise, they blame the economy. Just in the fourth quarter, here's what happened:
Gaming revenues decreased 17% for the fourth quarter. The Company's total table games volume (including baccarat) decreased 17% in the quarter, with the overall table games hold percentage near the midpoint of the Company's normal 18% to 22% range in the 2008 period, lower than the 2007 period when the hold percentage was near the top end of the range. Slots revenues decreased 12% company-wide. Rooms revenue decreased 21% as market conditions impacted rates and occupancy leading to a 21% decrease in Las Vegas Strip REVPAR(1). Average room rates decreased 15% at the Company's Las Vegas Strip resorts and occupancy decreased from 93% to 85%.
We're staying at Treasure Island for ISC West (again, we booked our rooms too soon, I fear). There better be some $5 blackjack tables!

Executive carousel continues

Wednesday, March 18, 2009
You heard about Scott Schafer leaving Pelco for Arecont on Monday. Now comes word of his replacement (comma use in the below headline is sic): Clifford S. Holtz of Nortel Networks, to Join Pelco as Senior Vice President, Americas Sales I don't have a link for you, but here's the drill:
Clovis, CA (March 17, 2009) – Pelco is pleased to announce that Mr. Clifford S. Holtz has joined the executive management team of Pelco as its new Senior Vice President, Americas Sales, reporting to Mr. Dean A. Meyer, Pelco President and CEO. Holtz comes to Pelco from Nortel Networks Corporation in Denver, Colorado, where he was President of Enterprise Sales, North American.
I think this is an interesting move, if only because he's not a security guy. I've heard both sides of the debate on this one. Some people in the industry say if you haven't sold security, you might as well be a total rookie coming in. Others say the industry needs a taste of how the outside world sells nowadays. Clearly, we see how Dean Meyer and Pelco feel right now.
“The addition of Cliff our management team brings invaluable sales management experience to Pelco. Cliff has a long and successful record of working with leading technology products and independent sales channels that are similar to ours. We look forward to working closely with Cliff to do an even better job of taking Pelco products and services to market,” says Meyer.
The guy's definitely got a good tech background:
Prior to joining Pelco, Holtz was President of Enterprise Sales, North America, at Nortel and was responsible for all sales and marketing activity to this customer base. Leading technology-oriented enterprise business units for over 23 years, Prior to that, he served as Executive Vice President, Business Markets Group at Qwest Communications, where he led a $5 billion unit and managed an organization of over 5,000 employees. Earlier in his career, Holtz was at Gateway Corporation, where he led the $5 billion Consumer Division as Senior Vice President, where he managed all aspects of retail sales channels, advertising and product development. While at AT&T Corporation, he was President, Metro Markets, a $4.5 billion business unit.
Any move that brings top-notch talent into the industry is probably good for the industry as a whole.

ISC West to showcase more than security

Tuesday, March 17, 2009
I love all the little extras you get with ISC West. Granted, this will be my first ISC West show, and I have no point of reference for how this one differs from years' past, but I'm just really wowed at all the promises of cool stuff there. I heard a while ago that Monitronics is going to have UFC champion Chuck Liddell on hand at their booth. I also just heard that Iveda Solutions will be sharing their ISC West booth with John Deere (yeah, the green-tractor people, or for those more into country music, the titular, colored tractor of the timeless Joe Diffie classic) and showing their proof-of-concept video of an impressive piece of hardware. I don't have a link for that one, but here's a bit of the news from Bryce Witcher at Iveda:
Our goal is to show off at ISC West and give people a taste of how their security applications will be facilitated in the future. (Actually, the future is now, as the data infrastructure that makes our solution so robust has already been built and is currently in use.) In addition to showing what we are doing, John Deere (the heavy equipment manufacturer) will be sharing space in our booth to show their latest proof-of-concept product, the R-Gator. It is a semi-autonomous vehicle designed for patrolling areas that might be dangerous or inefficient for people to patrol. This includes huge installations like wind farms and power plants, or even border patrol areas. It carries on-board cameras that can be connected to our data center via wireless broadband cellular or other connections to the Internet. This is a really cool application.
My fearless editor Sam Pfeifle recently blogged on this same phenomenon. Cool stuff, cool stuff, cool stuff. For those a little less into action, less into ultimate fighting and cool, green, autonomous, border-patrol vehicles, Mission 500 will be there holding a silent auction to benefit needy children. There'll be lots there for everyone in the industry. I'm very much looking forward to it.

The casinos are struggling

Tuesday, March 17, 2009
You'll see in April an interview I did with Jason Oakley, CEO of North American Video, who, one year in, has drastically changed the company's market approach, diversifying beyond video and casinos. Good thing. Casinos might get blasted by this economy. For instance, news comes today that Harrah's is in trouble. Yep, $24.5 billion in debt sounds like a problem when no one's really in the mood to blow all their cash on gambling right now. You'll remember that Harrah's signed that big contract with Cisco for security and more. Have to wonder whether that will actually come to fruition. The storage companies have made hay with the casinos, as have many big integrators, but the casino boom is definitely over, and you've got to wonder if there might be some contraction. Check out this casino industry blog. Major casinos are bringing back $5 tables. And for those of you who'll be in Vegas in a couple weeks, I hope you didn't book your rooms too soon:
According to travel website Orbitz, Las Vegas is slashing room rates to stay afloat amid the economic morass. The average day rate for three-star hotels in Vegas is $48, down 54 percent from 2008’s $104. The average rate for four-star hotels is $87, down 43 percent from last year’s $152. Week nights are even cheaper, says the Las Vegas Sun–you can hit the rack at the Stratosphere for just $25.99 Monday night. That’s even better than the dingy no-tell motels that line the Black Horse Pike outside Atlantic City.
Um, yes, I'm thinking we booked a bit too soon here at SSN. Crap. Anyway, once a go-to market for the security industry, gaming may be a dry well for a good 12 months, if not longer.

Furthering the bad economy=increased crime debate

Monday, March 16, 2009
I came across this release from PRWeb in my google alerts this morning, and the first thing I want to say is kudos to Los Angeles-based S2-Security Solutions for being in the right place at the right time and helping make the world a better place through the cleaning up of our night time streets. I was interested in the headline of the press release: "Rising unemployment = rising crimes, mail thief caught red-handed in Sacramento." I blogged previously on this debate. Does a bad economy naturally force otherwise well-balanced and law abiding citizens into a life of crime? Or is it just that those who are going to steal are going to steal, and we're all more willing to look for and believe in bad news during tough times? Either way, fears of increased crime DO appear to drive the security industry, which can, especially in this case, be a good thing. My whole problem with the bad economy=more crime assumption is that the kind of guy who would break into an apartment complex mailbox bank and steal people's pension and social security checks, birthday cards, and mail order prescriptions is the kind of dirt bag who would do these things anyway, even if the economy was doing great. I mean, this guy wasn't any Jean Valjean , okay? He would stupidly steal people's mail (opening even one person's birthday card to fish for cash is a federal offense, by the way, Einstein) anyway, just like he would kick a box of puppies or kittens. Even if he were in a good mood. I suppose it doesn't matter whether the people perpetrating crimes are being forced into said moral backslide by the economy or by a drug habit. The important question is, do crimes go up in conjunction with unemployment and a bad economy. Hm... Well, in this case, it looks like they did. I'm just glad they caught this guy. Hurray for live video monitoring!