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Even more great press (though not for IP)

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009
For whatever reason, there's been a run lately of local media basically telling home and business owners they'd be morons not to invest in a security system. This seems like a good thing to me. Reporters, as a whole, are generally skeptical of anything that makes anyone else money (we're petty that way because most of us are so poor (if you want to be rich, do not, under any circumstances, go into journalism. Not all of us can be high-powered security-industry-periodical editors)). So, if they're saying you should buy a security system, the reader understands that, yes, the security company is making money on the deal, but the return to the customer is well worth it. What better viral marketing is there than that? Anyway, the newest example is from Salida, Colorado, a place I expect is fairly beautiful and beatific, but has apparently been troubled by break-ins lately. Police chief Terry Clark gave the security industry a ringing endorsement:
Clark said he's surprised more businesses are not using alarms and surveillance equipment. "If there is one thing a person could do it would be to install an alarm or video system," Clark said.
Can we get this guy on a national tour or something? Shouldn't one of you big alarm companies give this guy a medal and put him in an ad? Maybe this guy Joe will buy him a beer.
At Knight Security Services in Salida, owner Joe Ellsworth said he's done a few more bids lately and people calling about security systems, but "it hasn't been as drastic as you'd think." [That sentence is sic.] After the June burglaries, Ellsworth said one restaurant that was robbed called him to install a system. "I think there is still a notion, and I think it's true, that we live in a safe town," Ellsworth said.
Note to security guys: Maybe admitting you live in a safe town is not good for business. Just saying...
His business offers security and surveillance systems ranging in cost from $500 to $3,000. "For a typical business in downtown, for a really good system, is about $2,000," Ellsworth said. A popular item is a monitored security system that, once triggered by an intruder, automatically calls authorities.
Ellsworth also may want to rethink his pricing. A "really good" system for $2,000? I guess I can see intrusion-plus-DVR-plus-analog for $2,000, but he knows the market better than me, obviously. I'm guessing Salida is not a sprawling metropolis.
Monitoring for those systems costs $30-$35 a month, he said.
Again, seems like that's pretty cheap for a commercial account. But here's the kicker for the IP proponents:
A surveillance system typically uses analog cameras to capture images which are converted to digital recording machines, Ellsworth said.
This is the sentence that IP camera makers will ultimately have to wipe from the international lexicon: "A surveillance system typically uses analog cameras to capture images." That would make IP cameras "a-typical." Again, just saying...

Another way to cut you out of the deal

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009
DIY home surveillance systems are getting ever more sophisticated, and the manufacturers are starting to figure out the recurring revenue part, too. Here's a new product called the AVC LiveLine. Basically, it's triggered on motion, sends you an email when the motion happens, and you can dial into it at any time to see what's going on with the ability to PTZ and whatnot. But, you've got to pay $9.99 a month for that functionality. Why? That's hard to figure, actually. I guess you get to use proprietary software. If enough people sign up, it seems like a cash cow to me. There aren't any operators to pay, just software to support. I still say that the majority of consumers will want a central station who can dispatch involved, as seeing there's a burglar in your house doesn't do you a lot of good unless you can actually do something about it and most people don't have the cops on speed-dial. But as a nanny-cam, this isn't a bad solution.

This is great press

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009
I'd encourage every security company to offer up a story like this one to the local TV stations. Great publicity: Second edit: Weird. KFSY took down the link to the story. Well, anyway, there was a story here that said most alarm companies can respond to an alarm in 15 seconds or so. Very positive, info-mercial like story for the alarm biz, though Mike Jagger thinks it creates unrealistic expectations that will be harmful in the long run (see comments) EDIT: Jeepers, and while I'm at it, check out this story from a local Altoona paper. It could have been written by Merlin Gilbeau, himself. Apparently, alarm business is booming!

CIT update

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009
This Bloomberg article gives you just about all you need on where CIT is right now (as in: not a good place). There's some financial mumbo-jumbo, but the bottom line seems to be that CIT is on the brink of bankruptcy, and even the reported $3 billion lifeline it's worked out with its bondholders might not be enough to save the company. Here are some choice lines that underscore why this is a big deal:
The cash shortage has forced CIT to cut back its lending. In the quarter ended June, CIT’s loans to small businesses plunged 88 percent to $65.7 million and the company fell to 15th in the category from first a year earlier, according to the La Canada, California-based Coleman Report. CIT finances about 1 million businesses from Dunkin’ Brands Inc. to Eddie Bauer Holdings Inc.
There are already a small number of lenders who "get" security. CIT was one of them. Now it seems they won't be one of them going forward.
CIT has said a bankruptcy would put 760 manufacturing clients at risk of failure and “precipitate a crisis” for as many as 300,000 retailers, according to internal documents.
The retail market is already terrible, though a large one for security companies. This could have a further negative impact on that market sector, meaning there won't be a whole lot of new surveillance systems going in. Of course, this credit collapse is bad for the economy as a whole, but the security industry stands to be impacted considerably by a CIT collapse.

Evidence of the new economy

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009
If you think you're living in the same world you were living in five years ago, you're the mayor of Wrongtown. Check this out: A software company is bringing in $2,000 a day for an iPhone app that literally, and by their own admission, does nothing. People download this app for free, see their own reflection in their own screen (something that happens when their phone is actually off, for that matter) and then, for what reason no one knows, click on the ads that appear accompanying the "mirror." So, $2,000 a day flows into the company's coffers, for the time being. The fad might last a week, might last a day, might last a month. Regardless, the company is bringing in revenue by selling nothing (or, rather, by giving nothing away). Who says there's no opportunity in this economy?

Good news for resi security

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Monday, July 20, 2009
It may not be time for you resi dealers to pop the champagne, but at least some of the numbers are moving in the right direction. From WSJ's Marketwatch last week, here's some news about housing starts:
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) - New construction of U.S. houses expanded for the second straight month in June after hitting a record low in April, the Commerce Department estimated Friday. Starts rose 3.6% in June to a seasonally adjusted 582,000 annualized units stronger than the 531,000 pace expected by economists surveyed by MarketWatch. This is the highest level of starts since last November. Starts of new single-family homes rose by 14.4% to 470,000 in June, while starts of large apartment units fell 29.4% to 101,000. Building permits, a leading indicator of housing construction, rose 8.7% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 563,000. This is the highest level of permits since December.

Depends what your definition of "security system" is

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Friday, July 17, 2009
I'm not sure if people are following what happened at Mount Rushmore (a place I've been twice - it's amazing and worth the trip), but it's gotten pretty out of hand. People are wondering, naturally, how the Greenpeace folks were able to climb the mountain and unfurl the banner asking Obama to more strenuously combat greenhouse gases. Well, it sure wasn't a security breach!
“All security measures functioned exactly as designed,” said Memorial superintendent Gerard Baker, reading from a prepared statement Thursday morning. Baker said park officials would review security systems and procedures in light of the incident. There was never any danger to visitors at the memorial, and programs continued uninterrupted, he said.
Huh? That was from last week, though. Surely they've changed their tune by today? Not so much.
Mike Evenson, district manager for SimplexGrinnell, said his company hasn't received any requests for service of the system from memorial officials. "To my understanding, everything worked as they expected," he said. "We did not have any reports of anything that failed or did not work as they designed it."
Well, then, what happened? They saw the Greenpeacers heading up there and didn't care? Is that the implication about the "danger" part of the first quote: "We saw they were there, but we knew there were just banner hangers, so we let them do their thing and then arrested them. Easy-peasy. If saw guns, or didn't see a banner or something, we'd have been all over them with helicopters and machine guns." It's hard to know.
Matt Leonard, one of the climbers, said he didn't see any cameras or other security measures on the hike up in the dark. He believes the holding area where the climbers waited, just 100 yards from the faces, was not monitored by security cameras. Only when the Greenpeace team got very near the sculpture did Leonard notice the fences and cameras.
Looks like Rushmore didn't have a way to extend its perimeter. This goes back to something the Israelis always wonder about American security systems: If the first time anyone encounters a security system is when they're at your front door, what stops them from walking up to your front door and blowing up your house? Nothing. So why are metal detectors INSIDE buildings? I also like how the Greenpeace folks come to the defense of the security guys:
It would be hard to make any security system foolproof in such a rugged terrain, said Michael Crocker, a Greenpeace spokesman. "In fairness to the park officials there, it is a massive place. And they have limited resources for that (security)," he said. "Obviously, we were able to get around it."
Being pitied by Greenpeace: Is there a more embarrassing moment for a security guy?

Some perspective

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Friday, July 17, 2009
Just when I start to think the security industry might not be as small as everyone says it is, I'm presented with a reminder of its relative size. This story talks about GE's 2nd quarter numbers, and spends about 1,000 words doing it. However, you'd never know GE was even in security at all. And GE's kind of a big player in security...

Utah alarm company needs an alarm system at Texas facility

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Friday, July 17, 2009
I was doing some email interviewing lately on a story I wrote on DIY surveillance systems when Keith Jentoft over at RSI--in a sort of impromptu Videofied pitch--pointed me in the direction of this little nugget from the Odessa American, out of Odessa, Texas. Can you say irony? My favorite part is this sardonic little gem:
The equipment, obviously, was not in use at the time of the theft.
Really? I don't like to make fun of anyone's misfortune, but doesn't this almost seem like something you'd see in The Onion? Good luck to the Odessa PD in tracking down the stolen goods, and good luck to Utah-based Apex Alarm in recouping the loss.

This is potentially very bad for the alarm industry

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Thursday, July 16, 2009
CIT, which has traditionally been a major lender to the alarm industry, looks to be on the brink of bankruptcy. Gretchen Gordon, who runs their media/alarm division, is a friend of the paper so I'm going to try to tactfully ask her what the potential implications are, though I imagine she's kind of busy right now. This would be the part that would seem to affect the alarm guys, though Gretchen has told me in the past they didn't really get involved with small alarm deals:
Founded in St. Louis in 1908, CIT boasts on its website that 1 million business customers depend on it for financing. Many may now have to depend on someone else, at a time credit markets remain tight, reducing business activity as the government tries to lift the economy out of recession. Failure to meet its obligations “would be a disaster” for small and mid-market borrowers that depend on CIT, said Eric Goodison, a partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP in New York. Published reports said many customers drew down credit lines in recent days as CIT’s problems became widely known. Steve Bartlett, chief executive of the Financial Services Roundtable, said in an interview that 10,000 small businesses could be choked off from needed funds if CIT failed.
I guess it depends on the definition of small business, too.

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