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In odd Twitter speak, Air Force says GPS is fine

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Friday, May 22, 2009
This is one of the strangest stories I've ever come across - and only emboldens my extreme dislike of Twitter (despite the fact that I use it regularly). So, people are rightly concerned about the GPS satellite system because the GAO, a pretty respectable body, issued a report saying the GPS system was in danger of failing, at least in part, because the Air Force was way behind and over budget in its satellite upkeep and repair schedule. And what does the Air Force do to reassure people? They tweeted, or twittered, or whatever the past tense is of acting like jackasses. To quote (and I had to retype this because ABC has figured out a way to make it so you can't copy text from its web site - how very convenient): "Agree w/ GAO thr's a potential risk, but GPS isn't falling out of the sky--we have plans 2 mitigate risk & prevent a gap." Oh, well, if you tweet so... Seriously, is no one else offended by the fact that the Air Force is answering these very serious (for business and common usage) issues with 140-character asinine tweets? Who said GPS was falling out of the sky? The GAO indicated there could be gaps in service. Maybe the Air Force doesn't think a few gaps in service is a big deal, but I'm thinking that if I'm tracking my child with GPS and all of a sudden she disappears off my map, I'm going to think that's a pretty big deal. The dismissive tone, the dismissive medium, the lack of attention shown by using the number 2 as a frigging preposition pisses me off, quite frankly, especially coming from an agent of the government whose salary I pay with my tax dollars. (You can check out the whole Twitter conference here.) I'm sorry you're being held accountable for your terrible planning and budgeting in the past, Colonel, but the least you could do is take the situation seriously. I love mealy-mouthed statements like this: "Since 1995, GPS has never failed to exceed performance standards." This is like when an employee calls in hungover and says, "I've been on time every day this month." Good for you! You've been doing your job! Huzzah! How many medals have they pinned on your chest for making sure you don't suck at your job, Colonel? Or here's a great tweet: "Good article in terms of the risk...very, very low. However, one of the best things about GPS is it's free to the world!" So, Space Command, you pay for all these satellites with the gold you found at the end of the rainbow? I thought you used billions of dollars in tax money collected from people like me. How silly. Look, I know a bunch of you are thinking about how magnanimous the Air Force is for opening themselves up to the public and answering questions from the average Twitter Joe, but don't be fooled. In these forums they control the message, they control the questions they answer and don't, and they love that they can't write more than 140 characters because it's impossible to say anything of substance in 140 characters, therefore they can't be accused of not saying anything of substance. It's a bunch of PR-orchestrated crap, and a way to avoid actually addressing the issue. They've got GAO egg on their faces and they don't like it so they hit the web for a counter offensive. Good plan by them, but I'm not buying it.

Analytics poll

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Thursday, May 21, 2009
Here's a somewhat random poll of random linkedIn members regarding where best to host video analytics. Take the results for what they are. It was set up by Mate's Alon Blankstein - Mate might be the largest "analytics company" I didn't include in my virtual roundtable. I didn't intentionally exclude them. They just weren't someone I've talked to in the last couple months.

More bad PR for municipal video (or is it?)

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Thursday, May 21, 2009
This column in the Philly Daily News is a good window onto how the public sees, and what the public expects of, municipal video systems (about which we've got a special report on our main page right now). Basically, people are upset because a jogger out at 6:45 a.m. on a bridge was mugged and the image captured of the attacker is all grainy and it's hard to make out who he is. Ok, sure, it would be great if the image was clear and we could make out the attacker, but think about that for a second: People are mad because they couldn't get a crystal-clear image of someone at 6:45 a.m., outside, on a bridge? I mean, couldn't they just zoom in one of their magic cameras in space? I think on the one hand, this is bad PR, since the image seems to be unusable, and what's the point of putting cameras up if you can't use the images? But, on the other hand, isn't it a good sign that society now expects there to be a video image of just about anything that happens anywhere? If this jogger had been attacked and there had been no video image at all, would there have been a clamor: Why wasn't there a video camera on the bridge? I think maybe yes, judging by the rest of the article, and it seems like that might be good for business. Also, I love the comment at the bottom: "I have to agree that any cameras installed should produce CLEAR and SHARP images." Well, yeah... I've got to think an article that thinks this kind of investment in security cameras isn't enough is also good for business. Check this out:
On May 12, he says, the agency underwent a massive switchover from analog to fancy digital technology on the existing cameras that survey the area's four bridges and the PATCO train line, allowing DRPA to capture and store more images. The agency will also "phase in" another 220 high-tech cameras throughout the system in 2009, bringing to more than 300 the number of lenses trained on the system's users and infrastructure. Matheussen said that "no less than eight" of those cameras dot the Ben Franklin Bridge. None of them are trained specifically on the walkway, however. Instead, they provide a sweeping view of the walkway, roadway and PATCO line (which runs alongside the bridge) and allow DRPA police to zoom in, pan out and swivel to and fro as needed. As for the quality of the image caught on tape of Weighnecht's attacker, all Matheussen will say is that "we have an image" and that the agency is working with law enforcement on both sides of the river to make an arrest.
Exactly how much money do you want to spend on IP video, columnist? And why is "phase in" in quotes? Do you think they can install all of them simultaneously? Like with a magic wand? In the end, I think these high expectations for video systems are good, as they create an expectation that video will be there, and that it serves a purpose. Living up to those expectations can be hard, but it's worth the effort if it means municipal video becomes virtually universal.

GVI makes a buy

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Thursday, May 21, 2009
GVI announced today the acquisition of some VMS technology from a company I've never heard of called PacketNVR. From the Web site, it looks like they've mostly been OEMing software for other people. Likely, instead of OEMing for GVI, GVI just said, "Why don't we buy you so you don't create software for our competition at the same time?"
GVI Security Solutions, Inc., (OTC Bulletin Board: GVSS), a leading provider of video security surveillance solutions featuring the complete Samsung Electronics line of products, has acquired a suite of Video Management Systems (VMS) software and related technology from software provider PacketNVR, LLP. The acquisition was effected through GVI's wholly-owned subsidiary, GVI Video Management Solutions.
So, basically, GVI is getting into the software game. You'll see in the release that they picked up some talent in Tom Galvin, who'll now run their VMS business going forward. I've got an interview request in, so I'll see what more I can learn, if anything.

GPS fails, what happens to security?

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Thursday, May 21, 2009
I'm sure many of you saw this story, about the GPS system potentially failing, come across various news wires, though it hasn't yet really hit the mainstream. And maybe it's much ado about nothing. The GAO is sort of famous for warning that things are going to happen, but then they don't happen by virtue of the strenuous warning that was issued. But here's how Information Week puts it:
The global positioning system could fail next year and repairs aren't moving quickly enough to prevent failure, according a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office. It's unclear whether the U.S. Air Force will be able to acquire new satellites in time to prevent disruption in GPS service for military and civilian users, according to the report.
So, I'm thinking that could be bad, if GPS systems just stopped working all of a sudden. I've got a call in to confirm this, but I'm pretty sure that StarTrac service that Centra-Larm puts out would just stop working, leaving a lot of customers pretty angry and drying up some serious RMR. And that's just one very small example. Guardian Mobile would certainly be hosed, as well. Here's what their head honcho told us:
John Tedesco, president and chief executive officer of Guardian, said, "Marketing up to this point has been done primarily via word of mouth, but we've gotten some early adopters. Now that GPS is mainstream and there are exciting new products, we need to market to the industry and let it know that we are the leading provider," said Tedesco.
That's right, GPS is now mainstream: In your iPhones, Blackberries, and, yes, a bunch of security products. Is this a big deal? It seems like it could be. More from Information Week:
"If the Air Force does not meet its schedule goals for development of GPS IIIA satellites, there will be an increased likelihood that in 2010, as old satellites begin to fail, the overall GPS constellation will fall below the number of satellites required to provide the level of GPS service that the U.S. government commits to."
So, maybe not a widespread black-out of GPS, but spotty and intermittent service? That might be almost as bad. Those security applications pretty much have to be up and running all the time or they're not much good.

Alarm management committees started in Texas, Miss.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009
I got a press release from SIAC the other day. It's available here. SIAC Law Enforcement Liaison Glen Mowrey, with whom I've chatted on various occasions, summed it up best when he said "There's a tremendous amount of positive energy generated by these committees because people are coming together from different disciplines and sharing their best ideas and effective practices." It's all about team work and realizing that at the end of the day, we all want the same thing: We want the product/service to function efficiently, the way it's supposed to, so that the protection of life and property is assured. Mowrey continued: "I expect the number of these committees to continue to grow as alarm management practices are refined and improved nationwide." Let's hope so. I've written about it before, and it's true: everyone wins when we work together. Also from the release, Don Williams of the Mississippi BFAA noted that "Understanding that both law enforcement and alarm companies have different ideas on how to define success is the first step in creating a cohesive working environment. We both want to provide residents and business owners with the highest level of protection. Through mutual cooperation we can make this happen." Amen to that.

UL's buying up companies - who knew?

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Why this story is running in the Boston Herald, I'm not sure, but it's an interesting profile of Underwriters' Laboratories, an institution I know some of you are quite familiar with. Most of the article is the sort of stuff you've read about lots of times: testing of products, blowing stuff up, setting it on fire, cracking a safe with a blow-torch, etc. (and, by the way, why is the safecracker guy driving a Ferrari, exactly? What's the pay like at UL? Can I get a job?), but there are a few interesting tidbits, too. Such as:
"We’ve acquired one company in Denmark, two in Italy, one in Japan, one in New Zealand — a lot of it has been hiring people and engineers overseas and training them," said Keith Williams, UL’s president and CEO. "That’s really been the big emphasis for us — globalizing our operation."
Huh? Guess we haven't exactly been on the stick with our UL reporting. Are they doing more security product testing overseas? We're going to have to look into that. Also, this:
With globalization comes piracy and, of course, piracy of the UL logo, which is another company concern. (Counterfeiters know that while the mark is not government mandated, most distributors won’t ship a product without one.) Because of this, UL unveiled a new holographic mark last June, which will soon appear on 32 common consumer goods, including power supply cords, night lights and ceiling fans. The new mark features a gold background, color shifting ink and several "floating UL symbols."
Cool. Holograms are pretty. Will they come on fire panels next?

Housing crisis bottomed out or not?

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009
What do you residential dealers who play in the builder market think of the surveys and stats reported in the past couple of days? Yesterday, a National Association of Home Builders survey seemed to indicate that, yes, we'd reached, or almost reached, bottom. Government stats released today, however, seem to indicate that the bottom is not so close. These figures show April housing starts at a record low pace, which would indicate we've got a ways to go before hitting bottom. Here's that story And while I spent most of my academic life avoiding all things math, I know it's always a good idea to look at the methods and sample size in these studies. And whadya know? This story includes this reminder:
The government cautions that housing data are volatile and subject to large sampling and other statistical errors. In most months, the government can't be sure whether starts increased or decreased. Large revisions of reported figures are common.

Quick PSA-TEC update

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009
You may remember my vague guesses about PSA-TEC being up from last year. Here are the details from the press release:
The 2009 PSA®-TEC went against the current trend in trade shows with a 7 percent increase in registrants and a 17 percent increase in the number of companies attending.
That's pretty great, in this economy or ever, for a 25-year-old show. Of course, last year was the first time they really made a push to get non-members to the show, and this year that message probably hit home the most. Also, they teamed with Reed Exhibitions (they do the ISCs), so that couldn't have hurt. Regardless, a good sign for the industry, I say.

HDCCTV?

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009
If you haven't checked out the discussion on John Honovich's post about a new HDCCTV Alliance, you need to. Great stuff there. I remain skeptical about the HDCCTV Alliance's very existence, considering the amateur quality of the Web site, but I've got an email into them and I'll let you know what I find out.

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