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UTC makes big buy

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Saturday, January 17, 2009
The folks at UTC are excited about a big acquisition they completed on New Years Eve and announced a few days ago. It's a fire services company based in California called Detection Logic Fire Protection, a $100 million dollar company that's been built up over the past few years, though a series of acquisitions. Terms weren't released, but it's been hailed as a very smart move for UTC by the industry insiders I've talked to. Here's the newswire story I wrote, and at some point in the next day or so, there will be a little video on ssnTVnews (located on our home page, upper right hand corner) of Sam and I talking about this story. Please keep in mind this is my first foray into video, and there's probably a good reason why I haven't ventured into this medium before. I'm expecting to get some tips from SSN's associate editor, Dan Gelinas. (You'll be able to see the video of Dan and Sam talking about a new partnership between ADT and iControl on ssnTVnews as well.) In addition to being a great reporter and new maven of monitoring, Dan's done a bunch of theater. There may be hope for me. Look how far Sam's come from his debut a few weeks ago. Below is that pièce de résistance, a promo he made for the ssnTVnews reader video contest.

Welcome to the new Web site

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Friday, January 16, 2009
Sorry for the intermittent posting lately, but that should all end now that we've got our brand-new Web site up and running like a champ.  So, what's so new? A few major things: 1. The Vertical Search Engine: Seriously, this thing is sweet (and I don't say that only because it took me a few dozen hours of work). Check it out in the upper right hand corner. Essentially, it's google, but only searches Web sites that are germane to the industry (that's the list I put together). Right now, the list of sites is a little manufacturer heavy because it's easy to collect their web sites, but if you've got a site you'd like to be included, just send it along to me and I'll throw it in there if I think it's of benefit to the industry at large.  And what's that mean? Right now it means that it's primary source material - i.e., no aggregators, blogs, etc., that rely on other sources for their content. The idea is to filter out clutter and get you right to the information you're looking for as quickly as possible. You'll also notice that you can sort by a number of sub-industry categories, like monitoring, etc., which will allow you to weed out even more sites and get you as close to what you're looking for as we can figure out.  And you don't have to come to our Web site first to use this if you don't want to (but of course you want to). The direct url is www.ssnwebsearch.com. This is probably, to use IT speak, version .9, so please feel free to comment and suggest on how we can make this better and more useful. My favorite current use for it is tracking down people with names like Robert Smith (not an actual name I've searched) in the industry. Do that search on Google and you get all manner of crap. Do that here and you're likely to find the actual guy you're looking for.  Remember, if your site doesn't seem to come up, don't curse me; send me an email at editor@securitysystemsnews.com. There are already 2,000+ sites included, and I had to cut and paste every one of those into an excel file. You can see why that might have gotten tiresome at some point. 2. ssnTVnews - again, this is version .8, maybe. What you see up there right now is the results of our video contest (I know I said there would be 10 winners - well, if 10 of you had sent me usable videos, that's how many there would have been). If you're an integrator and not pimping a product, send me a link to a youtube video and we can still get you up there. We'll add stuff all the time, including some commercials at some point. Also, starting Monday, there will be original content featuring the members of the SSN staff. We'll see if that turns out to be a good idea or not, but it will basically offer you a behind the scenes look at some of the conversations we have here in the newsroom, and it will let you make snarky comments on things like the cut of my beard or how many times we stumble over our words. This isn't meant to be CNN/Security, but it should offer you some information and commentary you find valuable.  3. Commenting and emailing: Now you can comment on all of our stories, email them directly to your colleagues, and email the editor directly from the bottom of the story if you have feedback or ideas. This is somewhat dangerous, I realize, but should be fun. But only if you actually comment. C'mon, everyone's doing it. 4. The stock ticker: Man that thing is mesmerizing. Now you can watch the market fall, but only the security part! My optimism for the economy knows no bounds... 5. This new blogging software I'm using, which shows you the old posts better, shows you old comments better, and is easier to use both for you and for me. Now, if I could just get it optimized for Safari... (and don't tell me about Firefox being better. It's annoying and crashes my computer). So, that's that. Poke around, tell us what's wrong with it, and let us know how the site can better suit your needs. It's a bit of a work in progress, but I think it's way better and a little closer to 2.0 than we used to be.

ADT, iControl announce partnership

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009
According to a recent release from iControl, ADT Security Services, a provider of electronic security systems, on Jan. 9 announced a partnership with iControl Networks that will allow ADT to offer its customers a new interactive services solution. The agreement incorporates iControl's next-generation platform, which iControl refers to as Home Security 2.0, into ADT's monitoring network to provide ADT home and business customers with life safety, lifestyle and productivity service enhancements. "ADT customers will soon be able to remotely control their security systems and much more," said Don Boerema, ADT's chief marketing officer in the release. "In an office, while on vacation or from virtually anywhere in the world where there's access to the Internet, users can conveniently manage their homes or businesses, saving time and money." ADT's personalized solution will integrate security, energy and lighting control, live video, event-driven video clips, pictures and a host of other functions. Through an easy-to-use, personalized Web site or a Web-enabled mobile phone or PDA, ADT customers will have remote control and access of their expanded ADT security system. The new solution will be easily upgradeable to many of ADT's four million-plus customers and millions of other potential clients throughout North America. ADT will provide home and business control management through a state-of-the-art Web-based platform that supports a variety of technologies including Z-Wave. With several companies providing customer solutions through Z-Wave and other wireless protocols, ADT customers will be able to arm and disarm their security system, lock and unlock doors, control heating and air conditioning, turn lights on or off, help provide home health protection for the elderly and disabled, remotely view live video, event-driven video clips and pictures, receive text messages and e-mail notifications when events occur.

How to deal with the telcos?

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009
While there has been some gnashing of teeth over AT&T's return to the security marketplace, with residential installers, particularly, worried about competition from cable and phone companies who can seemingly just add security on to the bill their customers are already receiving, at least one industry publication is chiding these same telcos for trying to do too much. This article makes a lot of sense to me, though I'm less than familiar with the industry dynamics at work in providing Internet and phone service. The general gist is that these providers should worry more about increasing the quality of their networks and worry less about being all things to everyone. I wholeheartedly agree with that point when it comes to AT&T. Here in Maine, I get a dropped call from my AT&T cell at least every other call, and their coverage sucks compared to Verizon when traveling. Not to mention - the "world" plan that's supposed to get me $.99 calls in Europe charges me $1.99 for Prague. What, Prague's not part of Europe? It's a little backwater or something? Ridiculous. And it's always good news when I switch carriers as part of that plan. AT&T at my house in Maine? 3 bars. Some weird provider called Lime in St. Maarten? Five bars. How is it possible that I get better coverage in St. Maarten than in Maine? Anyway, to my point, here's what telephony.com says: "The service providers, for a large part, think they can do it on their own and may even see [potential partners] as competitors, which is ridiculous," Felten said. For example, a service provider could partner with a security company to offer home and business security services over their FTTH pipe. "Or they can crash and burn trying to offer their own security service, after which they would turn to the professionals, who then say, ‘But you were competing with me before,’" Felten said. Hmm. Does that sound familiar to anyone? Maybe this COPS/Xanboo/AT&T collaboration is proof that AT&T is trying a different tack. Anyway, if you're a regional alarm company, it might behoove you to get in touch with your local cable provider (are there any of those anymore?) and see if they want to partner up with a sales and marketing deal. Further, it wouldn't surprise me to see Verizon, say, announce a big deal with a Honeywell or ADT, leveraging their super-fast Fios connection.

Want to secure the Brooklyn Bridge?

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Wednesday, January 7, 2009
I know that sounds like a come on, but there appears to be about a half billion dollars worth of business out there for securing the bridges that connect Manhattan with the mainland. But you better hurry if you want in on the deal: Contractors have until 2 p.m. on Jan. 9 to express interest in carrying out the work. So far, 23 firms have done so, including Kane Security Screens of Braintree, Mass.; Siemens Government Services of Reston, Va.; and Integrated Security Solutions of Kalispell, Mont. Just throw your name in the hat. Couldn't hurt, right? An employee of the Corps Contracting Division told the Brooklyn Eagle Tuesday that solicitation number W912DS-09-S-0014 is a “sources sought” solicitation, “to determine how many qualified contractors are available to do the job.” She noted that the plan is in the earliest stage of development, and the Corps has not yet issued a request for proposals or invitation for a bid. According to the solicitation, the estimated cost of this work would be between $400 and $500 million. One would think they'd publish this kind of "sources sought" call in a certain publication that does nothing but distribute information to security companies, but I suppose that would make too much sense.

Chicago drops zero tolerance false alarm bomb on businesses

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Tuesday, January 6, 2009
The City of Chicago recently (I heard about a notice being posted on the city's website on Dec. 30) and quietly enacted some radical changes to their False Burglar Alarm program. These quiet and sudden changes have been meeting with some resistance. Chuck Mishoulam, owner/president of Chicago-based Alert Protective Services, Inc., said the changes are not only sudden, but extreme. “It’s pretty radical … We’re all a bit taken aback by it,” Mishoulam said. “It’s a big deal. People make mistakes, and come in and can create a false alarm—an employee, an owner, or whatever the case might be—and I think having the three free passes before was just a better way to do business … You know there’s a human factor involved here. It’s not just an equipment thing … so people have to have the ability to have some wiggle room to make a mistake. So the three free ones gave people enough warning to know `I’ve only got three of these things, so I should be careful.’ But you hit somebody with a $100 fine and an administrative hearing and that all takes time for people.” This is one way to assure that people maintain and test their alarm system, I guess.

First end to end Cisco solution in a casino?

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Monday, January 5, 2009
Hey, everyone, I'm back. I know how sorely you've missed me over these holiday weeks (as if any of you have been at your desks either - jeez, the industry's been a ghost town while I've been gone). Anyway, I've been pounding the WWW looking for news and ran across this blog run by Data Systems Worldwide, a California company that's a Cisco silver-certified outfit doing everything from IT infrastructure to security. Like most blogs in the security industry, it doesn't contain a lot of posts, but check out the bit from October, which I hadn't seen before: First Casino in the World to Feature End to End Cisco Solution. What's that mean? Well, it's got "Cisco Physical Security, Cisco Unified Communications, Cisco Ethernet Slot Network featuring VSS, Cisco Wireless, and Cisco Security all under one roof!!!!" Clearly, it must be a big deal if it requires four exclamation points to tell you about it. It's just more proof that no matter how mediocre some might find Cisco's physical security products, Cisco simply has some hyper loyalists that are going to tack those products on to what they already offer and not really think twice about it. Why is it so good to be end-to-end Cisco? Does Cisco really make the best product in all of those categories? I have no idea. But that shows you the power of a brand. It's kind of like when I walk into the Brooks Brothers outlet here in Maine (everything in the store is 50 percent off, people - we're talking $125 suits) and grab socks, pants, boxers, shirts, and ties. Does Brooks Brothers really have the best boxers? Probably not. But it sure is easy to buy everything in one place. Yes, standards are great for offering people the ability to put best-of-breed components in for every part of the system. But do people really want to put best-of-breed components in for every part of the system, or do they just want one reliable manufacturer with a solid brand that can solve all of their problems? In this case, it looks like the latter. You can watch a video about the installation here, but leave yourself time for it to load or you'll get frustrated with the latency. Oh, and did I mention I'm looking for stories about commercial integrators? If you've got anything, send it my way. Happy New Year!

Have some fun in 2009

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Wednesday, December 31, 2008
So I'm changing things up this year. Normally I'm either in New York or on my way there about now...getting ready to celebrate the New Year with a group of college friends (which now includes spouses and kids) whom I've been celebrating with for, oh, well, since "The Big Chill" was a new movie. It's a tradition to eat a fantastic home-cooked meal, have a dance party with the kids, watch the ball drop and then stay up even later. This year, work schedules and one family's relo to the West Coast have changed our plans. So I'm working on an IP White Paper story, and I can attest that Gene Pecora of Honeywell Power Products, Morris Stoops of GE Security, Lee Richardson of NFPA and Todd Shearer of SimplexGrinnell are not slacking off on New Year's Eve Day. They're taking my calls and looks like I'll even meet my Jan. 5 deadline, in spite of the fact that everyone else in the industry is not working. And speaking of not working ... our New Year's Day tradition is to greet the day with Bloody Mary's and this song. Hope you all have some fun in 2009 too.

False Alarm freebies...?

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Wednesday, December 31, 2008
As many of you know, one of the big problems faced by everyone involved in selling, installing, monitoring, owning and responding to security systems is false alarms. I produce a regular column for every issue of SSN called False Alarm Ordinance Watch in which various new false alarm ordinances from around the country are highlighted. This morning I came across a column from newsok.com that discussed the new ordinance in Yukon, Okla. It's fun and lighthearted and has a few funny ideas for how to spend your freebie false alarms... At first I was taken aback, because false alarms are a serious problem that cost taxpayers and communities time, resources and money, and the industry itself, in terms of bad PR. However, the idea of spending your freebie falses, and not wanting to "waste your free false alarms," to quote the column, got me thinking. In tough economic times, maybe responsible security and fire alarm system owners who don't use, or "spend," their own freebie falses should start a market in which they sell their unused freebie credits to those less fortunate... Hmmmm... You know, similar to how companies can buy and sell tax credits, and pollution credits. I think the creation of such a False Alarm Credit Exchange would help reduce the number of false alarms drastically since it would operate on a system of positive reinforcement, rewarding people for operating properly rather than punishing them for operating falsely... Such a system could even begin to take on characteristics of a real economy with false credits from areas that have a rampant false alarm problem being valued and traded more highly than communities that don't have much of a false alarm problem, thus producing a living and changing false alarm credit exchange rate... Just an idea... I welcome your comments. Or a piece of the action if you choose to implement this idea ;-)

Congratulations Nick!

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008
I learned yesterday that one of my best sources—an expert on all things fire—went and retired on me! ( And before I could talk to him for a story I'm writing this week about IP technology and fire installations. Not happy about this, Nick.) Guess who? It's Fire-Lite director of marketing Nick Martello. In case any of you can't place the name, here's his photo. Recognize him now? Probably. Nick spent 25 years in fire and integrated systems and besides working for the Honeywell Fire Group, he also worked for Kidde Automated Systems, Thorn Automated Systems, Medeco Security Electronics, Medeco Locks and Matrix Systems of Dayton, Ohio. And here's some stuff you might not know about Nick... He spent 14 years as a public school music teacher (K-12) and was also a middle school principal. He worded at Sea World of Ohio for eight summers, where he found, according to his bio, that he "really liked electronics and went back to get electronics training. I then started my own wireless central station." After selling out to his partner, he developed intelligent fire systems for Kidde. He then transferred to marketing and worked extensively in the integrated security business including integrated fire, security, access control and CCTV. Next was Medeco Electronics, where he did marketing for SiteKey, an intelligent r/w keying system, and then, full-time consulting for Matrix Systems of Dayton, Ohio. In 1997 he joined Notifier, where he helped develop the Uninet Integration platform and served as marketing director and, finally he took over as Fire-Lite marketing director My sources at Honeywell say he's going to play golf, but they also say he likes to be busy, so may do some consulting. He's also got a blog to write. Here's the link. I like the tagline, "the online home for all things Martello" Congratulations and good luck Nick! Security Systems News will miss you!

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