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Frost & Sullivan briefing tomorrow

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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?

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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?

Should IT take over?

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Monday, January 19, 2009
Yet another good discussion going on over at John Honovich's site, this time regarding the impending/never-gonna-happen takeover of security operations by the world of IT. Here's the nugget of John's take: I believe it would be dangerous for IT to take over physical security. If IT did take over, this would increase security and liability risks. Which is a little bit of a "no, duh!," but is also right, in my opinion. Here's the comment I left, below. Feel free to comment here or at John's place. Would love to hear the opposite view point. I think the analogy with HR or sales is apt. Obviously, both departments need IT to function, and some of their old duties have transferred to IT, but you wouldn't consider scrapping HR or sales entirely just because some of the functionality has been moved to IT. I think the IP telephony analogy is also apt, if in a different and not-bad way. Phones don't really have a department that manages them. The move to IP just shifted maintenance work from one person to another. Similarly, the maintenance of the security system will shift from one person to another. But the operation, installation, and upgrading of the system will still reside with security. The security department will still operate the system in the same way that HR operates the HR database/payroll/everyone's benefits. But when it breaks, they'll call IT, which can fix many, but not all, of the problems. When a specialized HR software program craps out, you call the HR software maker. When the security software/system craps out, you'll call either the integrator or the manufacturer. As for IT's increasing role in security decision-making, I liked something I heard recently on the Pelco-Cisco webinar: IT won't be the guys who say yes, they'll be the guys who say no. Security will select a product and bring it back to IT for vetting. If it's copacetic with the network, they'll approve, but not really care what you selected. If it's not going to be a good network citizen, they'll veto and the security guy will keep looking. So, for the integrator and the manufacturer, the idea is not to get veto'd.

Video monitoring pays off

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Saturday, January 17, 2009
I just got this news alert in my inbox. Entertainingly accurate, if somewhat journalistically-questionable transcription aside, it's a pretty cool testament to the power of having your premises protected by video monitoring. It's nice to see the security industry doing it right, helping people out, being a powerful tool to help police stop the bad guys, and reducing false alarms. Keep up the good work guys!

Where is the security industry?

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Saturday, January 17, 2009
Most of us have seen stories like this, where it's reported that shoplifting or retail theft is on the rise. Here's another similar local story about burglaries being on the rise that I just found today. I come across them all the time. What I continue to notice, though, is that the security industry is completely absent from them, as are any real hard numbers to back up the claims. Why is this? Look at the USA Today story (it's from June, but it's typical, I assure you). Here are the people quoted as experts: • Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial • Richard Hollinger, professor of criminology at the University of Florida who compiles the annual National Retail Security Survey • Joe LaRocca, vice president of loss prevention at the National Retail Federation • Bruce Hutchinson, professor of economics at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga • Sgt. Alfred Pratt of the Shrewsbury, Mass., Police Department • Samyah Jubran, a Knox County assistant district attorney general • Mike Keenan, director of loss prevention at Mervyns department stores • Paul Jones of the Retail Industry Leaders Association • Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Economy.com That, in the business, is what we call a well-sourced story. Nine people contributed their thoughts to why shoplifting might be tied to the economy and what we could do about it. Exactly none of them was an installer or monitorer (is that a word?) of security systems. Why is that? Who would know more about whether retail theft was increasing than someone like Niscayah that has a large retail security system monitoring center? Do they get more calls now than they did in the past? That would seem to give a big-picture view of what's happening, rather than a lot of empty theorizing, a la the last guy quoted: "When the economy is down, shoplifting and other crime go up," says Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Economy.com. "People are losing jobs or moving from a full-time to a part-time job. But they still have the mortgage to pay and the credit cards to pay. When we were kids, that would have drawn a: "No shit, sherlock." But the question still kind of remains as to whether that's actually happening. There's virtually no hard data in that story. Here's what's supplied: When 116 retailers were surveyed recently about shoplifting, 74% said they believed that shoplifting incidents last year had risen from 2006, according to the National Retail Federation. They "believed" shoplifting incidents had risen? Huh? Did they, or didn't they, or can't you actually track them? That doesn't make much sense to me. Did you shrink increase or not? All told, retail theft is estimated to cost about $40.5 billion a year. Okay. In the United States? In the world? In North America? I'm going with the U.S., though it's not clear. This is important for later. Look at these statements: "In general, the shoplifter of the past was mostly trying to fuel a drug habit," says Sgt. Alfred Pratt of the Shrewsbury, Mass., Police Department. "But we've seen a change as the economy has declined. More common, everyday items are being stolen, such as groceries." Okay, that's interesting. But isn't this something you could actually quantify? And does that mean there are fewer people stealing to support drug habits? And has Shrewsbury, Mass., been hit with a bunch of layoffs and such that would correlate with this? This just smells to me like self-validating. He thinks it's going to happen, so he notices it more when it does happen. The district attorney's office in Knoxville, Tenn., says it's seen a similar change. "We get a lot of shoplifters, and I see the trend upward," says Samyah Jubran, a Knox County assistant district attorney general. Okay. Again, got any numbers to support that? It's not like this is a breaking story. He could have taken his time, had a clerk do a find for shoplifting in 2007 and 2008 and seen if there actually was an uptick. I'm skeptical. This next one is mind-blowing: Gangs of professional thieves account for $15 billion to $30 billion in retail losses every year, the FBI and the retail federation estimated in 2005. Somewhere between $15 and $30 billion? Am I the only one who thinks those are really, really different numbers? So, it accounts, using the above figure for total loss, for somewhere between 37 and 74 percent of all the shoplifting? How is that a remotely useful stat? That's like me estimating that Manny Ramirez will hit between 15 and 30 home runs next season. The first would be an utter disaster for the team that signed him. The second would be pretty good. If ORC accounts for 37 percent of retail loss, that seems kind of reasonable to me. If it accounts for 74 percent, well, then, holy crap is that a big problem. Anyway, moving on: "In 1991, when we started this process," Hollinger says, referring to his National Retail Security Survey, "it was like root canal." I can't even believe this is so far down in the story. So, we've been tracking shoplifting numbers since 1991. Well, then maybe we could look and see if an increase in shoplifting correlates positively with the gross domestic product? Or the wholesale price index? Or inflation? No, why bother with that? It's much more fun to pontificate as to whether shoplifting is increasing right now because of the economy. As I recall, the economy was pretty crappy in 1992, which is why Clinton got voted in. Was shoplifting higher then than it was in 1998, during the dot-com boom? Eh. Why bother asking that question? It might actually be relevant. The security industry has stats, has expertise, has valuable insight into trends and stories like these, but it has no visibility. Someone's got to make some friends at USA Today, the New York Times, ABC News, and the like, so that these mainstream crime stories include not only the industry's knowledge, but also its solutions.

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.

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