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UL's buying up companies - who knew?

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?

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

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.


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.

GVI 1Q numbers

Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Here's another post in our continuing look at just how bad the first quarter was. This time, it's GVI | Samsung reporting numbers. Remember that this is a company about three years into a major turnaround, as orchestrated by Steve Walin and Joe Restivo, and can be considered something of a "new" company, despite the fact that it's been around for a while. It had been growing pretty consistently, but 1Q put an end to that:
For the quarter ended March 31, 2009, net income was approximately $116,000 or one-third of a cent per diluted share, as compared to net income of approximately $330,000, or one cent per diluted share, in the quarter ended March 31, 2008. Net revenues for the quarter ended March 31, 2009 were approximately $10.4 million, a decrease of approximately 8%, as compared to net revenues of approximately $11.3 million in the quarter ended March 31, 2008.
Eight percent off certainly isn't armeggedon, and it's certainly a hell of a lot better than many industries. Bad numbers for a company that would like to still be growing, but more evidence that security has been fairly resilient to the economic situation.
"In the face of a deep worldwide recession, we are reporting our ninth consecutive profitable quarter," said GVI Chief Operating Officer/CFO Joe Restivo. "Net sales were down approximately 8% reflecting the difficult economic conditions. Despite the economy we were able to strategically deploy our sales and marketing efforts to record strong overall sales gains in Latin America and selectively expand market share."
Check this out, though. Remember that $116,000 in profit?
Net interest expense for the quarter ended March 31, 2009 decreased 42% to approximately $113,000 from approximately $196,000 in the quarter ended March 31, 2008. The decrease was primarily a result of a lower interest rate on the Company's credit facility which stood at prime plus 25 basis points or 3.5% as of March 31, 2009.
Well, at least $83,000 of that was thanks to the really cheap credit that's available right now. They've got a gross margin of 28.5 percent translating to an operating margin of 3 percent. Sustainable? Last year it was more like 30 percent and 6 percent. As long as it's really the economy that did them in for 1Q, everything seems fairly healthy.

Good news for those in builder market?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Here's a story about a National Association of Home Builders study that shows that builders' confidence is increasing, and that we may have finally seen the bottom of the housing crisis.
The NAHB-Wells Fargo index rose to 16 in May from 14 in April on a scale of zero to 100. It's the highest since the 17 recorded in September. The index got as low as 6 in January. Before the current housing meltdown, the index had never gotten below 20 in its 24-year history. It peaked at 72 nearly four years ago.
The industry trade group received 733 responses to its survey in May. The story says that the index matched economists' expectations. According to John Ryding and Conrad DeQuadros of RDQ Economics.
"This is one more piece of data that suggests the recession's grip in the economy is beginning to loosen."
The story says that tomorrow the Commerce Department releases its estimates for housing starts and building permits in April.
Over time, the NAHB index and housing starts are highly correlated. Starts are down 48% in the past year and down 72% from the peak. Economists are forecasting a slight increase in starts to a 519,000 seasonally adjusted annual rate from 510,000 in March.

SafetyCare news: Extraordinary Caregivers Award, Gold Eagle is new partner

Monday, May 18, 2009
SafetyCare announced on Thursday that Denver-based Gold Eagle Systems, a senior care specialist company, had joined the ranks of the SafetyCare Partner Program and would begin offering PERS systems to its customers in Denver and the Front Range. The partnership will allow both companies to maximize their services and enhance senior safety in Colorado, with Gold Eagle offering its strong ties to the local senior community and its expertise in PERS installation and SafetyCare offering its certified EMT-staffed national response center. Information on becoming a SafetyCare Authorized Partner can be found at SafetyCare's website. SafetyCare on May 14, also sent out a call for nominations for the third annual Jack and Rosemary Gulati SafetyCare Awards. The awards are given to caregivers in three categories--Caregiver of the Year in a Facility/Institutional Environment, Caregiver of the Year in Home Health Care, and Emergency Medical Technician of the Year. The national award is open to professionals who have shown dedication to their profession, an extreme level of compassion or who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to help those in need. Entrants must be from the U.S. and its territories, and the deadline for nominations is July 31. Winners will be honored at a special awards ceremony on Sunday, Sept. 20 at a location yet-to-be-decided. For more information, visit SafetyCare's site.

Security firms make Red Herring 100

Monday, May 18, 2009
Continuing a theme that's flowering here on the blog, there's a bit of evidence that "high technology" is starting to recognize that physical security exists. For example, the Red Herring 100 is a list of privately held technology companies that are identified as potentially "disruptive," etc., and therefore bear watching. Last year, the list included exactly zero physical-security-oriented companies, despite there being a category labeled "security/defense." For high-tech types, "security" only means IT security: email, network, what they call access control, etc. (Also, please note that in the two events I'm looking at, the keynote speakers for the Red Herring 100 event include just one woman, so IT types are apparently as homogeneous as physical security types - I thought they were progressive!) This year, though, there's actually a nod to physical security. For example, Pivot3 made the list, and they focus their "serverless computing" pretty directly at the security surveillance market. And Vumii made it, too. They actually manufacture cameras! Cameras as high technology - who knew? So, two of the eight "security & defense" companies (they added an ampersand and took out the slash this year) are actually physical-security-related. I take that to be a good sign. High-tech companies and start-ups eyeing security might in the short run make for a glut of manufacturers and suppliers in the space, but in the long-run will make the technology move forward faster and offer better options for integrators to bring to their customers.

Pelco continues to open up

Monday, May 18, 2009
Sometimes it's the little things that speak volumes. While Pelco has continuously been talking about opening up its architecture and product line, it's one thing to "integrate" with other companies' products, it's another thing to open up what was previously a closed, proprietary system. So, I read with some interest this release (warning: that's a pdf download from an ftp server - that's how they post all their press releases) about lifting certification requirements on Pelco Endura encoders. See, before, if you wanted to use Endura encoders, you had to have an Endura system from front to back. Now you can just use the encoders, which work really well with the Pelco PTZs and are thus attractive for taking the large Pelco analog install base and making it digital, as a piece of the system. Seems like an obvious move to me (I've never understood why you'd tell someone you can't buy something from you, for whatever reason), but it's just another sign of the industry moving from proprietary systems to best-of-breed solutions.

Keith Ladd honored

Saturday, May 16, 2009
At its annual conference, held yesterday, the Pennsylvania Burglar & Fire Alarm Association honored Keith Ladd posthumously with an honorary membership. Ladd, founder of The Protection Bureau and a founding member of the PBFAA, died in February. At the meeting, it was announced that the PBFAA President's Award had been renamed the Keith M. Ladd Award. Ladd's wife, Mary Ladd, daughter, Karen Ladd Baker, and his son, J. Matthew Ladd, attended the event and were presented with a plaque and a brass bell. The bell is in appreciation for Ladd's work in founding the PBFAA newsletter, "The Bellringer."