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Video surveillance holds the key in Boston bomb probe

 - 
Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Marcus Dunn was late for the phone call Tuesday morning, but there was no need to apologize (although he did so anyway). As director of government relations for the Security Industry Association, he had been in a meeting to discuss the bombings in Boston and it ran longer than expected.

Our conversation—we speak every month about legislative issues affecting the industry—quickly turned to Monday’s deadly attack. Less than 24 hours had passed and speculation was rampant about who had done it and why. There were few new facts, but police had started to sift through surveillance video that likely will be key to solving the crime.

That provided a silver lining, however slim, for Dunn.

“When these things happen, despite all the craziness, there’s a little bit of pride in being with an organization that often prevents these types of things or plays a large role in apprehending those responsible,” he said. “There are some critics of the technology and how there are cameras on the streets, but I think we’ve seen time and time again that they’re effective in preventing crime and certainly very effective in capturing perpetrators.”

Dunn said that was the case after bombs killed 52 people aboard three London trains and a city bus on July 7, 2005. The examination of CCTV images helped investigators identify the suicide bombers and arrest others connected to the attacks.

“We’re trying to determine what was deployed in the area in Boston and if a [SIA] member company had equipment deployed there,” Dunn said. “In London, it’s just decked out—there are cameras everywhere. That’s what they used [in 2005]. They were able to go through the surveillance footage very quickly.”

In the aftermath of Monday’s attack, there was also the realization that “soft targets” like the Boston Marathon will always be vulnerable. No matter what security precautions are taken, the risk can never be eliminated—at least not in a free society. With it comes a loss of innocence that deepens the grief.

“The marathon is one of those things that is very open, you can come and go,” Dunn said. “Those days are gone now.”

After SIA’s meeting Tuesday morning, CEO Don Erickson—who is also a marathon runner—echoed the thoughts of many with the following statement:
 
“As someone who has personally experienced the strong community spirit that exists on marathon days, I am incredibly saddened by the horrific events that tragically occurred yesterday in Boston. On behalf of SIA, our thoughts and prayers are extended to those who were injured and to the families of those who lost their lives on what should have been a day of accomplishment and excitement for the city of Boston. We extend our thanks to the first responders who acted so quickly to help the victims of this attack.”

ADT “Undercover Boss” gives worker $35K reward

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

I wrote previously about Tony Wells, ADT chief marketing and customer officer, posing as an entry-level employee on the CBS reality show “Undercover Boss.”  Wells told me how the experience made him really appreciate ADT’s hard-working employees. But I didn’t know until the show aired on April 12 that the company showed its appreciation to one employee in the form of $35,000.

The employee, a technician named Jesus, has an 18-month-old daughter and he and his fiancée were barely making ends meet. But Jesus showed an outstanding work ethic shown as he helped Wells—in his “Undercover” persona of “James”—learn on the job. So, when Wells revealed who he really was at the end of the show, he also told Jesus that ADT wanted to reward him.

“You told me about your hardships and how hard you were working and we’d like to do something special for your daughter,” Wells said.

He said Jesus would get $10,000 to start an education fund for his daughter, and $25,000 for his family.

Jesus appeared overcome. “It’s too much … thank you,” he told Wells.

The technician used the family money to move into a “dream home,” according to news reports.

Boca Raton-based ADT has 16,000 employees, and it’s not known what salary Jesus earns. But Glassdoor, a salary web site, lists ADT employees' average salary as $44,527, higher than the national average of $41,000, according to the Aol Jobs web site.

Authorities closing in on marathon terrorist suspect?

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Updated 3:40 p.m. April 17

Both CNN and the Boston Globe on Wednesday, April 17 reported that a suspect has been identified in the Boston Marathon terrorist bombing and that an arrest has been made or is imminent. Both backed off of that assertion about an hour later, and the Boston Police made a statement saying that no arrest had been made.

From the Globe:
“ …authorities have an image of a suspect carrying, and perhaps dropping, a black bag at the second bombing scene on Boylston Street, outside of the Forum restaurant.
Investigators are “very close” in the investigation, said the official, who declined to be named.That official said authorities may publicize their finding as early as this afternoon.The same official also said a surveillance camera at Lord & Taylor, located directly across the street, has provided clear video of the area, though it was unclear whether the image of the suspect was taken from that camera.  “The camera from Lord & Taylor is the best source of video so far,” said Dot Joyce, a spokeswoman for Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino. “All I know is that they are making progress.”

Most experts hope that crucial information will be gleaned from video—footage from city surveillance systems, local businesses and videos from the smartphones of those watching the marathon.

This morning the LA Times reported that analysts from the FBI are “sifting through more than 10 terabytes of data for clues about who might have placed the bombs near the finish line. The data include call logs collected by cellphone towers along the marathon route and surveillance footage collected by city cameras, local businesses, gas stations, media outlets and spectators who volunteered to provide their videos and snap shots, said the federal law enforcement source.
The FBI has flown analysts from field offices across the country to Boston to watch and log hundreds of hours of video, he said.

I asked Amit Gavish, GM, Americas, BriefCam, via email, what he thought the prospects were for finding clues in the various video footage taken in the area of the finish line. In addition to working for Briefcam, a manufacturer of video synopsis systems which enable the very quick review of hours of video [],
Gavish, is a CPP, with 16 years of security and military experience in the U.S. and Israel. He served as the Deputy Director of Security at the Office of the President of the State Israel and was in charge of physical and information security. Before joining BriefCam, Gavish was a risk management consultant specializing in risk assessment, development of emergency plans and training programs.

Gavish said it will be important to look at video footage taken days before the marathon: “In my opinion, the person was there before. The person who did this most likely did some dry runs before the event, even days before and probably was there hours before the event.”

He said the footage from Monday is likely “crowded to the point where you can’t see who put the device at the scene, and you have to go back a few days prior and see who was there … who looked suspicious, who was just walking by or loitering.”

He said there “are hundreds of cameras that could potentially have something. There are good cameras there—Boston PD, public cameras, stores in the neighborhood—but part of the effectiveness of the investigation is how fast you can get to something that you can work on,” he said.

I also did an email interview with Zvika Ashani, CTO of Agent Video Intelligence (Agent Vi). I asked Ashani how a product like Agent Video’s VI-Search would  examine video from multiple sources.

Vi-Search can be “used in an offline mode on cameras that are not part of a large pre-installed surveillance system. For example, video can be retrieved from a store or a gas station, which is in the vicinity of the event. This video can then be quickly processed by the software (at a rate of about 10x) and then searched using the same query structure.”

 
 

Day 3 and done ISCWest 2013

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Monday, April 15, 2013

On Friday, April 12, Day 3 of ISC West, many were already heading to McCarren, but I was heading back to the show floor. And this year, though the crowd had thinned considerably, so were a lot of other folks.

Very decent crowd for Friday of ISC West.

While I had early rallies on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, I didn’t have any official appointments until 10 a.m. on Friday. My first was with IMS/IHS’s Niall Jenkins. We caught up on a few things including plans for TechSec 2014. Yes, plans are underway, and Amy and I have some great ideas—you’ll hear all about them in September.

Next was a meeting with Matt Barnette of AMAG. I was supposed to go to the AMAG A&E and integrators’ event in March. Unfortunately, lengthy flight delays derailed that plan—so I spent some time catching up on some news announced at that event. AMAG is all excited about their new Symmetry SR series retrofit controllers, which can be used to convert competitor’s legacy systems to AMAG’s Symmetry solution. “Our engineers used our existing hardware platform and changed the form factor so it’s a direct pin for pin [upgrade] solution for traditional Casi Rusco solution,” Barnette said.

A couple of years ago, UTC (parent company of Casi Rusco) announced that it would end-of-life its Secure Perfect and Picture Perfect solutions and would transition those customers to a product called Facility Commander. AMAG considers this change in UTC’s roadmap as an opportunity to get those UTC (Casi Rusco) customers to instead transition to AMAG.

Back at the video studio, I did two more ssnTVnews interviews, one with Rob Hile, CEO of IFSS, an independent integrator in Florida and one with Levy Acs of American Integrated Security Group.

Hile and I talked about IFSS’s successful migration to a services-based model, and Acs and I did a follow-up interview on this story I wrote last month about his ambitious growth plans.

The rest of Friday was spent walking the show floor and hanging around the ssnTVnews studio chatting with folks who stopped by.

What was the theme of ISCWest 2013? There was continued talk about mobility and cloud. More manufacturers are figuring out how to offer the two and integrators are starting to see possibilities for making money offering the same. The big theme it seems to me, however, was optimism. There was a vibe at this show I haven’t sensed in many years and, frankly, it’s not what I was expecting after the not-so-crowded ASIS show last fall.

I heard the same from nearly everyone I spoke to. Good to see; nice to be a part of.

ISC West 2013: Day 1 & 2

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Friday, April 12, 2013

Lots of people on the show floor on Wednesday! 29,900 square feet of exhibit space and 1003 booths, is what I heard.
Wednesday started for me with the Axis Press Breakfast, where the network camera company introduced three new cameras and an upgraded Axis Camera Companion. In 2012, there were 60,000 downloads of the software, according to Axis’ Fredrik Nilsson.

The cameras of the future will be customized for customers with apps, the same way we currently customize our smartphones, Nilsson said. With that in mind, Axis also announced a partnership with the Wentworth Institute of Technology, a college in Boston, where students will design apps for cameras. One professor, Charles Hotchkiss, and two students, Joshua Ramirez and Nicholas Gelfman,  attended the breakfast and the two students talked about the apps they’ve already developed.

Gelfman is working on a 3D multi-tracking app that is intended to alert operators if someone is trying tamper with a camera. The app determines where an approaching person or object is distance-wise from the camera and sends an alert if it gets too close. Gelfman put it in simple terms for me: “Cameras see in 2D, this app basically allows it to see in 3D.”

Ramirez is a sophomore computer information systems major from Hanover, N.H., who is the station manager of Wentworth’s radio station WIRE. 
“I had a selfish reason for developing the app” he said. Students who work in the radio station are supposed to sign in and out when they come to work at the station, but they often don't do that, he explained. So Ramirez developed an app that automatically records the time that a student comes into or leaves the station, and it sends Ramirez an email alert under certain conditions.

He named the app Alibi. It "tracks students and if they log in, [the app] is their alibi to say that they were [at the station]," he said.

“It’s still a work in progress. I’ve spend six weeks on it but it was during exams and finals,” Ramirez said.   

Nilsson said that Axis didn’t give the students any ideas about kinds of apps to develop. They approach the project with no preconceived notion of what kinds of apps to develop. Axis has been amazed with the results, he said.

After the Axis breakfast, I did a video interview with Renae Leary and Matthias Ernst of Tyco Global Accounts were I got an update on how Tyco's global enterprise customers are standardizing their security systems across in offices spanning the globe.

At a press conference Bosch launched 110, count ‘em, 110 new video products and previewed its ‘4K Ultra HD’ camera. It also announced its integration partner program and is showing integration with 5 VMS providers in its booth.

Next, I interviewed Mark VanDover of Tyco IS for ssnTVnews. He talked about the progress the integration giant has made as a standalone entity over the past year and a half.

More mobile news: Jay Hauhn, Tyco IS Chief Technology Officer, also did an interview for ssnTVnews. We talked about Tyco’s launch of  MSM, Tyco’s Mobile Security Manager.

Next up was an interview with Tony Byerly, Felix Gonzales and Jeremy Brecher of Diebold, where I got to see a demo of their very cool “SecureStat” enterprise security platform. I heard about it at ASIS and saw if for the first time at the show. Here’s a YouTube video about the platform.

At a NICE press conference, Tony Ruiz, City of San Diego, talks about implementing NICE's Situator, to manage protection for its critical infrastructure, and for the city too. The implementation is new, but Ruiz said it's already saving training time and money for the city and taxpayers.

Back on the show floor, I met with Bryan Schmode, EVP of Global Sales at Avigilon. We talked about Avigilon’s the Adaptive IR in its new bullet camera, and the company's new Dallas headquarters.

Also had a chance to swing by Next Level Security Systems and talk to Bill Jacobs. I got to see some of the stuff I spoke to Bill and Jumbi Edulbehram about in this story.

Next I had a chance to visit with Stan Oppenheim and Dan Oppenheim at Affiliated Monitoring. Looking forward to seeing their new monitoring station the next time I get to NYC.

And, I wrapped up Day 1 after catching up with Will Schmidt and other CapitalSource folks.

THURSDAY, April 11

Is Thursday Day 2 or Day 3 of the show? Officially, it’s Day 2, but with so many events scheduled for Tuesday, it really is Day 3 for most of us.

Whichever day it was,  it kicked off brilliantly with the fourth annual Security 5K!

We had a different course this time. Rather than starting near the Fashion Show Mall, the 2013 start line was a half-mile jog or bus ride away from the Sands in an office park of sorts. The course was a completely flat out-and-back labyrinth of switchbacks. Best course yet in my opinion. It wasn’t exactly bucolic, but the office park was considerably greener and cleaner than past year’s courses, and it was fun to watch the crowd of runners ahead of you snaking back and forth around the park. And because of the switchbacks, the finish line appeared closer than it really was.

More than 400 finished the 5K and there was a big crowd for the 2K as well.

Most important, we raised more than $90,000. Mike Perkins of Anixter raised more than $7,000 with his company match. Jesse and Nicole Foglio raised $2,350, and Bob McKee raised $1,685.

Mission 500’s George Fletcher said that 650 people registered for the race. If each person raised $100, we would raise $65,000 before any extra fundraising efforts—something to think about for 2014.

Back on the show floor on Thursday morning I did an ssnTVnews interview with John Mack, managing director and head of M&A for Imperial Capital. We were talking about the availability of financing and the flow of PE money into the industry. Here’s an interesting statistic: More than half of the top 20 alarm companies are now owned or have majority ownership by private equity firms. Five years ago “it was just a handful,” he said.
It’s a great time for alarm company owners and integrators to refi their debt or make acquisitions, Mack added.

I stopped by the Stanley booth on my way to Denis Hebert’s HID Global Strategy Briefing, which was packed, as usual. Hebert gave a great presentation. His focus this year was on the opportunities and potential pitfalls the security industry needs to be aware of as access control goes mobile. The move to mobile will “redefine credential use and management” he said. As a result, “best practices” for end users and integrators will become more important than ever. Privacy is an increasingly crucial element for all stakeholders to consider, he added.

Next I met with George Farley at Observint Technologies. Owned by The Carlyle Group, Observint was formed in 2006 with the goal of acquiring security-focused companies. Observint acquired Supercircuits in 2006. It subsequently bought Security Cameras Direct, DIGIOP and SC Technologies. Last summer it helping LG Electronics relaunch its security products in the United States, and this past November it acquired access control provider infinias. Farley said the last six months have been “all foundational work for us. … [building] a comprehensive sale and support solution.” That was Phase 1, he said. Observint is in Phase 2 now, he said, which is centered on its distribution partnership. Digiop and Infinias had distinct partners before the acquisition, and Observint is finalizing relationships with a variety of distributors, Farley said. The next phase will focus on the dealer, “building a robust and differentiated program … that will include demand generation support and sales support.”

At Milestone, I spoke with Courtney Dillon Peterson, about the company’s new Arcus product  “It’s a super-streamlined VMS that’s only for our technical partners to embed, not Milestone.” Partners embedding the solution, and present at the booth were Veracity, which is offering “Coldstore Arcus” for enterprise customers; Lenovo EMC (formerly Iomega), which is offering two different versions of what it’s calling LenovoEMC NVR; and, Razberri, which is offering its “Netswitch” appliance. “They each target a different audience and each offer a different form of VMS,” Peterson said.

The bottom line differentiation for this product? That it’s multi-platform, Peterson said. “It runs on Linux, MacOS and Windows. Others are Windows-based.” The product is “versatile … [and will enable partners to sell a] preconfigured, pre-installed, simplified VMS,” she said.

Samsung is in the midst of a “massive hiring campaign,” Frank DeFina told me during our meeting. Samsung was talking about its new 6000 Series line of cameras driven off its “core WiseNet II chip.” The full line of cameras are “available in every skin. … are 2.4 megapixel, with full 1080p. The clarity is second-to-none,” Samsung marketing director Janet Fenner said. Among the analytics available in this line is a “defogging” analytics, which gets rid of smoke or fog.

Back at our booth, I interviewed Don Erickson, CEO of SIA, and SSN’s own group publisher Tim Purpura. We spoke about two collaborative efforts SIA and SSN are working on—the distribution of SIA’s “Fiscal Year Informer,” a quarterly insert available through SSN with information about government grants; and, a webcast series on security technologies, moderated by me, and featuring a variety of speakers. The next webcast is scheduled for April 24. Here’s a link to that.

I did two other video interviews. One with Matthew Ladd, president and CEO of The Protection Bureau. We talked about how The Protection Bureau is saving money by sharing certain operational metrics with employees.

The other interview was will Bill Savage, CEO of Security Control Systems in Houston, and one of Security-Net's original founders. Security-Net, a group of independent integrators that functions as a national integrator, is celebrating its 20th anniversary. We talked about how the group has grown  from 5 to 20 integrators and the efforts it makes to ensure its employees are up to date on technology.

Next, I spoke to Pierre Racz, CEO of Genetec about the company’s new cloud-based video surveillance as a service solution for small and medium sized businesses. This offering takes Genetec “out of its comfort zone … into the realm of small camera-count  jobs, the 6-14 camera jobs [that represent a huge growth opportunity] for integrators and installers,” Racz said.

Thursday ended with the Security 5K reception. Mike Keegan of Magnasphere, who was honored for his community service efforts, gave a simple and compelling argument for getting involved with causes like Mission 500, the beneficiary of the Security 5k. “The ripple effect [of these efforts] is incredible,” Keegan said.

 

Last day of ISC West

 - 
Friday, April 12, 2013

I’ve heard about so many new products and trends in my four days here at ISC West that will provide good background for future stories I’ll be writing. I also wrote yesterday about some dealers who scored $10,000 at the show. Check out that blog if you haven't seen it yet. In addition, here are some highlights from the last day of the event.

I started Friday at an interesting panel presentation by top dealers for Guardian Protection Services. The Warrendale, Pa.-based company was holding its annual authorized dealer convention in Las Vegas in conjunction with the show.

Three of the dealers who spoke excelled in different approaches to selling security: door knocking, telemarketing, and affinity marketing and gave insight on the various strategies.

The fourth dealer has a knack for hanging on to his customers and told his secrets for keeping attrition rates low. Hank Groff, national director of Guardian’s dealer division, commented that while a focus on sales is key, it’s important to remember that, “the ultimate goal is to protect customers and long-term relationships.”

A bit later in the day, I met with Sarah Semerjian, director of marketing for CheckVideo, a provider of cloud-based intelligent video surveillance and alarm verification solutions that is based in Reston, Va.

She said that CheckVideo executive VP Chris Brown participated in a panel discussion at the show on cloud RMR opportunities for integrators, which she said is something the company is focusing on.

CheckVideo has a variety of monitoring, technology and distribution partners and CheckVideo also is working with those partners to provide education about its products in the field, Semerjian said. “We’re really focusing on working with these partners to educate their dealers,” she said.

Also on Friday, I had an interesting talk with Jon Paine, a manager with the Sensor and Surveillance Systems division of manufacturer Moog, about new products the company was touting at the show. One was the EcoKit, a remote solar and wind power generator for surveillance systems. “Although there are other options out there, the blend of a wind turbine with solar is unique,” Paine told me.

He said the green solution is designed, as are all Moog products, for extreme environments and weather solutions, and is ideal for remote surveillance locations where other sources of power are not available or would be too expensive to make accessible. “There’s been a lot of interest at the show in the product,” Paine said.

The company also just released its EXO GeminEye high definition network thermal and HD visible imaging system. He said the blend of the two types of technology “gives 24/7 day and night coverage.”

ISC West Day 2: A new look at locks, and at home with radar

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Thursday, April 11, 2013

My second day at ISC West—Wednesday—was the first day the show floor opened. And among other things I learned from my visits to various booths was how to view locks from a new perspective.

For example, at the Kwikset booth, Stanley Black & Decker national account manager Brian Willis told me that as dealers work to convince homeowners to add home automation features to their security systems, “a lock is that transition piece.”  Kwikset is part of the Hardware and Home Improvement Group of Stanley Black & Decker.

The door locks that the California-based manufacturer makes serve as a bridge to home automation. For example, one of the many features of the 2nd Generation SmartCode deadbolt lock with Home Connect technology that Kwikset introduced at the show on Wednesday is its ability to integrate with home security and automation systems.

That means the lock can communicate with other wireless products in the home. For instance, Willis said, the lock can be set up so that if a smoke alarm in the house goes off, the door will automatically unlock. As Keith Brandon,Stanley Black & Decker director of residential access solutions, put it, such features “add value to consumers and dealers.”

Not surprisingly, ASSA ABLOY, a Sweden-based door opening solutions company, also was talking locks—a lot of them.

Martin Huddart, executive VP and CEO, said the company has launched 280 new products in the last three years. He said that typically 95 percent of a building’s doors require mechanical locks because they are low-risk entry points and 5 percent of the doors are high risk, so require more expensive access control.

But Huddart said ASSA ABLOY also has solutions for medium-risk entry points and he urged integrators to explore with their customers “matching the right level of technology with the risk.” He estimated about 15 percent of a building’s entry points might require those medium solutions.

Another highlight of my day was learning about a new form of residential security: radar. That’s the latest development from SpotterRF, which makes compact radar systems for military and commercial markets—and now for the residential market. SpotterRF, a company established in 2009 that has offices in Herndon, Va. and Orem, Utah, announced at ISC West that it has installed radar security at a luxury estate.

CEO Logan Harris told me that he can’t reveal much about the client for privacy reasons, but he said he believes the job was the first of more to come in the high-end luxury market. Installed was a 100-acre, 360-degree perimeter security system in just one day that cost about $12,000, he said.

Harris said that radar “gives you the capability of sticking on GPS tracker on someone without their actually knowing anything about it.”

Security dealers score $10,000 wins at ISC West

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Thursday, April 11, 2013

2GIG Technologies recently shipped its one-millionth panel and the lucky Utah security dealer who ordered it was awarded $10,000 at the ISC West show on Thursday as a result.

And remember SAFE Security’s ISC West promotion in which it was offering a $10,000 bonus to dealers who signed up for its dealer program by the last day of the show?

Well, the show and the promotion don’t end until tomorrow, but SAFE President and CEO Paul Sargenti told me on Thursday that it looks like 11 dealers have qualified so far.

That’s just one shy of the dozen dealers he was anticipating, he said. And although everything has not been finalized, Sargenti said it appears that “it’s one of our best results for a promotion.”

Sargenti said that for the dealers, the bonus was only part of the draw. “The money offer was nice but they were looking for a program that had stability and longevity,” he said.

SAFE, based in San Ramon, Calif. is one of the nation’s largest full-service security companies and does business in every state but Hawaii and also in Canada, Sargenti said. The company is growing rapidly and just completed a $130 million senior debt refinancing in late February.

At the 2GIG booth on Thursday afternoon, Ben Edstrom, CEO of Jordan, Utah-based Elite Home Security, was delighted to learn a panel he ordered from 2GIG contained a “golden ticket” worth $10,000.

“We’ve been placing some large orders,” he told me. “I guess we placed it at the right time.” The panel was shipped last week, the company said.

Edstrom plans to use the money to take a trip to Hawaii.

Lance Dean, co-founder of Carlsbad, Calif.-based 2GIG, a manufacturer of security and home automation equipment that was established in 2009 and is known for its Go!Control system, surprised Edstrom with the award at a small ceremony Thursday. Dean sounded as thrilled as the $10,000 winner.

“This is a huge milestone for us,” Dean said of the fact that now 2GIG has shipped one million panels. He said he dreamed of such success when the company began but is happy it has happened so quickly.

Nortek, the parent company of Linear, which helped development the 2GIG Go!Control product, recently announced the acquisition of 2GIG for $135 million.

 

ISC West: DMP panels offer ‘more for less’; System Sensor launches combined CO/smoke detector; FLIR aims for infrared cameras in every home

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I spent my first morning at ISC West on Tuesday at a rather “unique” forum made up of DMP dealers. The talk there included discussion of the Springfield, Mo.-based manufacturer’s new XR150/350/550 Series access, burglary, and fire panel that the company is showcasing here in Las Vegas.

“We’ve tried to pack as much stuff as we could in this panel,” Rick Britton, DMP CEO and president, told the dealers. He said it’s extremely fast and it’s affordable. “More for less,” he said.

The one-day DMP forum was an owners forum, the second year DMP has held such an event. David Peebles, DMP VP of training and quality, said, “We think the idea is unique”—having DMP executives sit down and discuss ideas with the owners of top DMP dealer companies.

Included in the forum was a presentation by Stanley Oppenheim of New York-based DGA Security Systems, who spoke about how his company weathered Hurricane Sandy. Alan Kruglak of Maryland-based Genesis Security, a security/life safety provider, gave a talk on service contracts and how they can be even more lucrative then monitoring contracts.

In the afternoon, I talked with System Sensor’s director of communications, David George, about the company’s new i4 Series Combination CO/Smoke Detector and Integration Module that it’s launching here at the show.

“The i4 Series is the first low-voltage, system-connected, combination smoke and carbon monoxide detection solution on the market,” according to a company news release. The i4 can be integrated into conventional security and fire panels.

I wrote last spring about a new intelligent combined fire/co detector from Gamewell-FCI by Honeywell. That addressable detector is ideal for large facilities such as hotels, dormitories, apartment buildings, hospitals and nursing homes.

The System Sensor conventional combination CO/smoke solution is the answer for smaller spaces, such as businesses and residences, George told me.

On Tuesday evening, I headed to an event put on by FLIR Systems, an Oregon-based manufacturer of thermal imaging infrared cameras. It makes products that are used in commercial and military applications, but also ones used by consumers, such as hand-held thermal imaging cameras that can be used by recreational boaters or hunters.

Thermal cameras detect images through the heat they emit so can operate in total darkness. The FLIR event was held at the Bali Hai Golf Course, and with the aid of such an infrared device, we could clearly see FLIR employees chasing golf balls on the golf course, even though it was pitch dark out.

And now, with FLIR’s acquisition last year of Lorex Technology, a Toronto-based video surveillance provider, it aims to provide thermal imaging cameras to the home market.

Lorex sells enterprise-grade video products sold through the security channel under the brand name Digimerge; Lorex itself sells video products sold through retail outlets for small businesses and homeowners. The company has hundreds of thousands of customers.

FLIR President Andy Teich said the company’s aim is to offer a low-resolution thermal imaging camera that is affordable to the average homeowner. The cost eventually could perhaps be as low as about $200, said Bill Klink, FLIR VP of business development.

Teich said FLIR’s goal is have infrared technology be “ultimately ubiquitous” in the way that GPS technology is. GPS, he said, answers the question, “Where am I?” and “thermal imaging will tell you what’s out there.

Drawing the line on tattoos in the workplace

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Twenty-five years ago, the only tattoo I remember seeing was the one on my father-in-law’s left bicep. It was a simple black anchor, a reminder of his Navy days, that hadn’t fared well over the years. Its once-sharp lines had morphed into blurry tentacles, an embarrassment that he kept covered with shirtsleeves even during the dog days of summer.

How times have changed. Ink art is now de rigueur, with nose, lip and cheek piercings often part of the package. You may not like the look or believe it’s wise given the bill that will arrive with advanced age, but that’s never stopped fashion before. It’s all the rage and it’s coming soon to a coffeehouse near you.

But what happens when the look goes beyond the baristas and it reaches your security company? If a sales rep’s stud earring gives way to a ring through the lip, or an operator’s ankle shamrock begets an arm’s length of more colorful ink, how will it affect co-workers? More importantly, how will it affect your customers?

The problem isn’t a lack of professionalism—it’s the image of a lack of professionalism. You can nip the problem in the bud by having a workplace appearance policy, but you’ll need to tread carefully to avoid running afoul of anti-discrimination laws. Cross that line and you could end up in court.

A great primer the topic was provided via email last week by Judge Ruth Kraft, chairwoman of the Labor and Employment Group at Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum. Here’s what she had to say:

Body art and piercings are personal expressions. However, in general, you have a great deal of discretion with respect to appearance standards. You can require that ‘ink’ and piercings not be visible. There is no legally established right for workers to display them in the workplace. Unless the employee can establish that they are indicia of religious or racial expression, tattoos and piercings are not protected under federal anti-discrimination laws.          

Therefore, you are entitled to establish policy. The best policy is one that explains itself in terms of reasonable business needs. Just as a manufacturer may require assembly-line workers to wear protective clothing and to tie back his or her hair for safety reasons, a pediatrician may ban hanging earrings or nose rings which could be torn out by a recalcitrant youngster or prohibit nail extensions which could harbor bacteria.

   The typical approach in establishing policies is a midground which limits restrictions to employees who have contact with the public and requires that the tattoos and piercings not be visible. This is the most practical to implement since it doesn’t restrict employee self-expression but simply limits what they can show at work. A policy which provides that, if an appearance standard is violated, the employee will be asked to correct it, including going home to change into clothing that covers the tattoos and/or piercings, puts workers on notice as to the consequences of their actions.  The policy should be enforced just as you enforce other behavior policies. If your rules call for progressive discipline, then you should follow the same steps for violation of the appearance policy, beginning with verbal warning and proceeding to written warning, etc.

  Caveat 1: If the tattoo or piercing represents a genuine religious or racial expression, then it may be protected under the federal anti-discrimination laws. The rights of observant Jews to wear yarmulkes in the workplace or of Sikhs to wear their turbans and beards have been upheld in the courts, except where such outward manifestations of belief could pose health or safety risks in particular occupations. There is limited case authority on this point, but I believe that the courts will differentiate between a volitional outward manifestation of belief (i.e., a tattoo of Jesus on one’s arm) which is not religiously mandated, and tattooing which is required of members of a bona fide religious or racial group.  

   Caveat 2: Be sure to enforce your policy consistently to prevent claims of unfair application or discrimination against a member of a protected class under the law.

For more information on workplace appearance policies, or to update or create one for your company, contact Kraft at RKraft@Kirschenbaumesq.com. For advice on how to remove tattoos, go to www.tattoohealth.org.

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