Subscribe to

Blogs

Steelbox assets acquired; execs come, too

 - 
Friday, January 23, 2009
As predicted widely, Steelbox's intellectual property and people retained quite a bit of value, even if the company couldn't make a go of its business model. Today, Adtech Global Solutions announced they'd purchased what remained of Steelbox. It looks like Adtech is an OEM that wraps hardware around your software. It looks like Verint was one of the company's first customers. There's an Atlanta connection, too. Just what Adtech plans to do with Steelbox is unclear. From the release: ATLANTA, Jan. 22 /PRNewswire/ -- Adtech Global Solutions (AGS) announced today the acquisition of the IP assets of Steelbox Networks, Inc. (Steelbox) under an Article 9 UCC Foreclosure sale. Additionally, Key Steelbox personnel, including founders and inventors of the technology, Jim Jordan and Bill LeBlanc, joined the company. The acquisition provides AGS with industry-leading technology poised to address the needs of one of the fastest growing vertical markets. Current and future Steelbox customers will benefit from partnering with a company that has a solid 10-year record of posting strong returns, a mature and stringent ISO- 9001:2000 Quality Management System, global footprint, and a host of service and product offerings. The combined entity will now be able to offer comprehensive, industry-leading, end-to-end solutions. Notice that security has not been mentioned yet. Or video surveillance. Just what is this "fastest growing vertical market"? "Steelbox will contribute to AGS' growth strategy for 2009 and beyond, while adding industry-leading Intellectual Property to our portfolio," Tim Shadburn, Chief Executive Officer, said. "The community's reaction to Steelbox's exit from the market was simply overwhelming. We felt we were uniquely positioned to bring it back, allowing it to realize its potential." At this point, it's just kind of weird. Which market? Which industry is being led? Nik Moissiadis, Vice President of Business Integration and one of AGS' founding members, will lead Steelbox. "I have personally worked with Steelbox and its founders since 2005. In that timeframe, we partnered in the design, deployment and support of their products worldwide. Through this relationship, we have come to clearly recognize the importance of this leading-edge technology in the marketplace, while understanding first-hand the challenges associated with the unique and demanding applications for which it is intended. With over 50,000 systems deployed and hundreds of installations in Fortune 500, mission-critical infrastructure environments, we know what it takes to execute," said Moissiadis. So maybe AGS created the boxes that Steelbox's secret sauce was wrapped in? There's no mention of it on their web site. This is what they have for "surveillance." "This is an exciting time. Under the AGS umbrella, Steelbox's unique infrastructure approach to the management of digital video and audio, is ideally aligned to thrive in the marketplace. Combining our technology with AGS' broad service portfolio provides the perfect platform from which to continue the development and delivery of best-of-breed video storage, transport and retrieval solutions, with an unparalleled focus on customer and partner needs," commented LeBlanc. First mention of digital video and audio, but still no security or surveillance mentions. It seems like this is a move to use Steelbox's technology to approach other video-heavy markets, as was a goal of former CEO Brian Cohen before the company hit foreclosure. He just couldn't get it turned in that direction in time. I'll work on some reporting to see if this is the last we'll see of Steelbox in security.

What's wrong with being a pizza delivery guy?

 - 
Friday, January 23, 2009
All kinds of things come across my desk, and lately a lot of stories about the struggling American work force have been showing up in my in box because people are finding or losing jobs with security companies. Anyway, this one from CNN bothers me. Look at the title: "Deliver pizzas, wife tells laid-off hubby" What's that supposed to imply? Delivering pizzas is a great job. It says in the article the guy's making $10 an hour, plus tips. That's not bad at all. I paid my rent and drank my beer in college thanks to pizza-delivery jobs (making, I think, $4.25 plus tips), and I know a lot of guys who got themselves through grad school and financed moves to locations all over the country thanks to delivering pizzas. That's not exactly supporting a family, I understand, but we weren't exactly working 40 hours a week. Check this out: "I had to swallow my pride and take whatever I could get," Rob LeBlanc says. "I kept telling myself one of these days something better will come along." He spent nearly five months delivering pizzas at Domino's. He admits he fell into depression during that time. But the family received good news Friday, when a private security company hired Rob LeBlanc to be a security officer. He says the company offers many opportunities to move up to a managerial position. "My first thought was to tell my wife right away," he says. "I could hear the relief in her voice." Swallow your pride? It must have been tough! Give me a break. What job is better than listening to tunes in your car, driving around and seeing people, and hustling for decent pay? A security guard? No way. I'm sorry. I would take delivering pizza over being a security guard six days a week and twice on Sunday. And did anybody at CNN do any math for this story? The guy lost a $55,000 a year job. Okay. How much could he make delivering pies (that's industry talk, there)? 40 hours x $10 = $400 x 52 = $20,800 base Plus, you should be able to hit at least 5 houses an hour even in a slow night, depending on the size of the city and how well the pizza joint advertises (Domino's is pretty good at that). So that's another $10 an hour, easy, which, of course, is under the table and you don't report, so a very robust $20,000 a year. My first year out of school, I made more than $50,000 (shhh, don't tell the IRS) doing nothing more than substitute teaching and delivering pizzas. That's good scratch. So I don't think it's outrageous to say those jobs are fairly comparable. A pay cut, for sure, and you've got to subtract out the gas money, which isn't insignificant, but better than unemployment, probably, and I think lots of people would take $40,000 a year. That's a damn good job in the journalism industry. My first gig at the Portland Phoenix paid me $6.25 an hour. Sorry, I was off track there. My point was: These people are not suffering from financial hardship! Things aren't that bad. It's just that, yes, the unprecedented life of opulence being led by the American middle class over the last 10 years is coming to an end for a short time. It's just like Obama said in his inauguration speech: It's time to start working our asses off again. Suck it up. Deliver some pies. Do some babysitting. Knit and sell some hats. Hustle. Be better than the other guy. Stop crying about how you can't afford HBO and Showtime. Did you read this part? The LeBlanc family lives lean in their five-bedroom, three-bathroom house with its $440 a month mortgage. The couple is teaching their children about budgeting and bargaining while relying on coupons and sales. They no longer eat out and no longer have cable TV. For entertainment, they attend free movies at a church. Donna LeBlanc takes pride that they have no credit card debt. $440 a month mortgage? On a five-bedroom, three-bathroom place? Holy smokes! That's like living for free! They have no credit card debt? This is an example of the bad economy how? Sorry, only tangentially about security, I know, but it speaks to a growing feeling on my part that people are beginning to wallow in their own self pity, even in this industry, and people need to knock it off.

Atlanta revamps alarm ordinance, looks to collect $3 million

 - 
Friday, January 23, 2009
ATLANTA—Atlanta's City Council hopes to collect $3 million from people who have multiple false alarms at their homes or businesses. The 15-person council voted unanimously Thursday, Jan. 22 on a proposal that increases fines and simplifies the penalty process regarding fire and burglar alarms. “The Atlanta Police Department supports the legislation on false alarms which will reduce the number of false alarm calls generated,” said Deputy Chief George Turner of the Atlanta Police Department in a statement. “This will create additional manpower hours to respond to the present call volume and increase police visibility in the Atlanta communities.” While Atlanta has had false alarm penalties in place for a while, it has not collected any fine revenue since 2005. According to the proposed ordinance, a project of Councilmember Anne Fauver, Atlanta had $4.4 million in issued, but uncollected false alarm fines in 2002. From 2000-2004 Atlanta saw revenues of only $1.5 million in collected fines. The reason for the drop off in collected fines? Fauver claims the ordinance was too difficult to enforce and that police stopped giving citations. Fauver believes the new ordinance will help the city out of its current budget hole. “The City’s emergency personnel need to be available for valid alarms and for their primary purpose of protecting our citizens,” said Fauver in a release. The ordinance gives a free pass for the first false alarm, but after that, penalties escalate from $100 for the second false alarm to $1000 for any false alarms over six in a calendar year. Under the ordinance, citations would be enforced like traffic tickets through the city's municipal court, and would allow for appeals. The legislation will go into effect upon approval by the mayor.

BICSI and NBFAA: we're pals

 - 
Thursday, January 22, 2009
In yet another sign of the IP-oriented times, note this press release from BICSI and NBFAA. I have never actually seen such an announcement in my 10+ years of getting press releases: Today, BICSI and the National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA) entered into an honorary friendship agreement. What's an "honorary friendship agreement" entail? The two organizations plan to engage in a variety of cooperative activities, including exchanging visits and views between the members of the two entities in order to promote a qualified and skilled work force; promoting and developing reciprocal training, education and certifications of ITS and ELSS design and installation professionals; and pursuing other cooperative activities as appropriate. I'm not sure why that's different than a partnership agreement or memorandum of cooperation or some other such thing, but I guess I kind of like the whole "friendship" language. It's cozy. And in the business world, so much can be kind of cold and calculated. Regardless, it's pretty interesting that the NBFAA, the old-school alarm industry vanguard, is being so progressive and hooking up with an "information transport" organization. No, that IT doesn't necessarily mean IP/network IT, but I'm sure that's a bulk of the work done by the membership at this point. In fact, I bet they're dealing with, or have already dealt with, many of the convergence and technology-shifting issues that security is dealing with right now. It must also be noteworthy somehow that I had never heard of BICSI until about three months ago, but now seem to find it popping up all over the security sphere.

Sonitec Corp. to offer PERS via SafetyCare

 - 
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Sonitec Corp. on Jan. 20 announced it had become a SafetyCare Authorized Partner and would soon begin the roll-out of SafetyLink, the company’s new personal emergency response system. I spoke with SafetyCare general manager Mike Bodnar last year on the growth coming in the PERS industry. SafetyLink customers in metropolitan New York will have the benefit of access to a 24-hour-a-day safety and security system at the push of a button. Unlike other PERS systems, the owner of a SafetyLink system gains instant two-way voice contact with a certified emergency medical technician at the National SafetyCare Response Center, based in Reading, Pa. Leslie Lief, president of Sonitec Corp., believes the partnership with SafetyCare will benefit end users and Sonitec dealers immensely. “We've chosen to make a strategic and substantial investment in the SafetyCare product,” Lief said in a statement. Lief also said that a comprehensive website and a sales staff are being dedicated to SafetyLink now. Bodnar said Sonitec brought a strong industry reputation as well as a 33-year record of service in the New York area to the table. “We're pleased that Sonitec recognizes the unique product offerings at SafetyCare, as we work to steadily revamp and improve the security industry in this country,” Bodnar said in a release. Sonitec is the most recent addition to a growing stable of security companies taking advantage of the growing PERS industry through the SafetyCare Authorized Partner Program. Other recent Authorized Partners include LifeCall, LLC, Independent Living Solutions, and Eastern Distributing, among others. Pictured below are SafetyCare general manager Mike Bodnar (left) and Leslie Lief, president of Sonitec (right). [caption id="attachment_1661" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="SafetCare general manager Mike Bodnar and Sonitec president Leslie Lief"]SafetCare general manager Mike Bodnar and Sonitec president Leslie Lief[/caption]

Mace now has more cash on hand

 - 
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Mace continues to sell off its car washes, which gives the company cash with which to grow its security business, whether through sales and marketing spend or through acquisition. Considering leadership's recent comments, I'd be shocked if they don't buy somebody this year. The question is whether they're looking to add technology or a dealership base or a customer base. Obviously, all three wouldn't be bad. The way I read the release, they're adding about $3.5 million in cash to the reserves right away. Eduardo Nieves, Mace VP, made a point in a recent interview of noting Mace's cash reserves and pointing out that this allows the company to eye acquisitions as part of its growth strategy, with a central station being a possible addition. Look for an interview with new Mace security division president John O'Leary in our February issue.

Who won't be at ISC West?

 - 
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Following up on last month's posts about the big shows feeling the bad economy pinch, I got an interesting note from Denise Gadowski at Johnson Controls this morning, in response to a call for ISC West new product information. She says: [W]e will not be exhibiting at the ISC West show this year. There are many reasons for this decision: 1) our dedicated resources that are traveling around the globe to ensure everyone is trained are the same staff that run the booth (I'm running the risk of stretching everyone too thin) 2) the ASIS show is on the west coast as well this year 3) budget constraints force us to look at other ways to market ourselves. We will have representatives at the show and we are working with the show management on other marketing opportunities. Maybe this is just a random occurrence. Johnson Controls is in the middle of a big upgrade in security capability and is focusing much more on their integration business, for example, so they're a little bit of a company in flux and I can see why they'd want to take a year off from ISC West. But I didn't hear anyone complain in 2007 when both ISC West and ASIS were in Vegas in the same year. And Johnson Controls has never been shy at ISC West in my experience. They could have easily just downsized a bit and saved a bunch of cash. I think the "other ways to market ourselves" gets at a growing feeling in the industry that the big shows just don't deliver as much bang for the buck as they used to and I think we would be seeing them start to wane regardless of the economy. They'll continue to have their place, but won't be as "must-attend" as they've been in the past. I'll keep you posted on other ISC West developments.

NFPA goes to Chicago

 - 
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
09conf60The National Fire Protection Association's Conference & Expo is going to be in Chicago this year from June 8-11, with pre-conference meetings the few days before that. I was checking out the lodging for the event and learned that the main hotel, at McCormick Place where the event is being held, is already sold out. In fact, it's been sold out since November. I'm hoping that's because registration is way up, rather than because it was only a small block of rooms. I've got a call in to Lorraine Carli, the press person at NFPA to find out. I spoke to one of the event organizers and she said there will be shuttle buses running from the other conference hotels. There are six other official conference hotels. The bad news is that they're all at least three or four miles away from McCormick Place. Here's the good news: They're in a much more fun part of town. McCormick Place is kind of off by itself, while the other hotels are further north, within the "loop" near restaurants, Millennium Park, the Art Institute, you know, near all those other fire-related activities you'll be doing while you're at the conference.hotels-nfpa There will be two Behind-the-Scenes fire tours on June 6, one to the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, and one to Underwriters Laboratory. I think I might go to Fermi since I toured UL a couple years ago. I'd highly recommend a visit to U.L., it's a very cool facility, where you get to see all the ways they think up ways to set things on fire. Here's the link to the NFPA conference info

Frost & Sullivan briefing tomorrow

 - 
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
While you could surely wait for my report on it, you might want to throw this webcast by Frost & Sullivan into your Outlook calendar for tomorrow. The short description: Michael Suby, Director of Stratecast (a Division of Frost & Sullivan), has completed extensive analysis for the Business Security Services market. The research expert will lead a short teleconference about new findings that affect the market, followed by a live question and answer session. Whatever your opinion of Frost & Sullivan, this seems like a good free opportunity to gain some market data and analysis. There's a Q&A session that follows, as well, so you can use it as a research opportunity if you're so inclined. This may end up being IT security heavy, but, if so, you can always close the window.

What legend would you ask to lunch?

 - 
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
One thing I've learned about business after covering the security world for the last three years is that the good managers always steal from other people. I think some people have the idea that successful business people are just visionaries who have great ideas strike them like lightning, mavericks (oh, how that word has been degraded) who don't need anybody's help. But I don't think that's often true. Sure, there are some people who follow pretty much exclusively their own path and strike gold, but I haven't met many of them. Most of the smart people I know have a mentor they often talk about, or have a few authors they admire, or are just generally on the lookout for good ideas they can steal. That's why I love this op-ed that came across my desk, written by Mark Thompson, owner of a security firm in Plano, Texas, called Smith Thompson Security. It's a great story about how he admired Southwest honcho Herb Kelleher so much that he decided to write him a letter and ask him to lunch. Lo and behold, Kelleher accepted and the two of them ended up talking for two hours over lunch. That must have been a blast. So, who would you love to have lunch with from the business world? My pick would have to be Black Swan author Nassim Nicholas Taleb. There aren't many people out there I'd label as geniuses without ever meeting them, but this guy really changed the way I think on a regular basis, right down to common every day occurrences. He basically posits that trying to predict the future is pointless because it's always the unpredictable occurrence that shapes the future, and, further, the way we predict the future (based on history) is fundamentally flawed. My favorite example of this is when something breaks around the house. Recently, our beloved waffle maker just decided one day, after nine years (it was a wedding present), that it didn't want to get hot anymore. My wife lamented, "It's worked every time we've plugged it in for nine years, why would it just stop working?" Well, it's exactly because we've used it so often for nine years that it stopped working. Each day it became more likely that it would stop working, not the other way around. It's the most sensible thing in the world that a relatively cheap waffle iron would crap out after about 2000 waffles. But that's not the way we think. We think, "Well, because it's worked every other day, it will work today." When we should be thinking, "Well, it's worked every day so far. Maybe this will be the day it fails." When you begin to think like that, you're much more flexible and ready to adapt to change because you're not surprised by it, you're expecting it. I'm not surprised at all, by the way, that Taleb has made huge bank on the recent financial crisis. Rather than expecting the market to continue to soar, he expected that it would eventually fail and was ready for it. So, yeah, I'd like to have lunch with Taleb. In fact, I wouldn't mind being offered the opportunity to intern for him for free (and I don't work for free). Who'd you want to take to lunch? Is there someone in the industry you'd like to have a couple hours with? Is there someone you're hoping to seek out at a show and get a drink with? What about outside the industry? Who's a businessperson who, like Thompson, you definitely steal ideas from?

Pages