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This should make IFSEC feel better

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008
IFSEC losing Norbain and Pelco is a bummer. Macworld losing Apple? I'd say that's a crushing blow. Wouldn't want to be in the trade show biz right now. Oh, wait...

Breaking good-deed records

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Those summer model alarm companies are sure competitive. The photo above is a moving van full of donated non-perishable food items that Platinum Protection donated to the Community Action Food Bank in Utah County and the Utah Food Bank in Salt Lake County last weekend. Platinum had 400 employees hit the streets on Dec. 12 for a food drive, and their efforts "broke the record for the largest one-day, door-to-door corporate food drive, bringing in a grand total of 34,000 pounds of food," according to this press release that they sent me this morning. From the release: "We have broken the record the last two years as the fastest growing alarm company in the history of our industry by knocking doors," said Jeremy Pixton, a co-owner of Platinum Protection. "This time the record we wanted to break was giving back to those that are in need and doing it by knocking doors. We felt this was a good opportunity to teach our employees the value of giving back." A few weeks ago, I wrote a story about summer-model companies expanding their philanthropic deeds and public relations efforts. In that story I reported that Apx Alarm "had made the largest donation in history to the Utah Community Action Service Services Food Bank." This is the kind of competition I can appreciate, and I'm pretty sure that Apx will up the ante again. I'm thinking Josh Houser's going to call me this afternoon to let me know what Apx is doing next. How about you non-summer sales model companies? Let me know what you're doing along these lines as well.

A good time to buy

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008
As I wrote in my preview of the finance special report last week, most lenders are of the opinion that now is a great time for strong companies to take advantage of the down market and roll up some smaller firms with an eye toward expansion. They're looking to lend to companies with a strong balance sheet, so you can find some financing if you need it, but they also say it's a good time to take cash you might have on hand and invest it in gathering up more RMR, or, alternately, cash out some RMR to make some capital investments that will allow you to gather more RMR still. Looks like this isn't contained to the security industry. Here's an interesting article from the Boston Globe that mentions American Alarm passingly in looking at this phenomenon. The premise is that the market for mid-market acquisitions is hot right now (relatively speaking - it's down, but not down as much), which jibes with the information I've been gathering - in that it's much easier to get a smaller deal done than a larger one, since the days of bit leveraged buy-outs and the like are pretty much over with for the foreseeable future. I think this line of thinking applies well to security: "You can pull your horns in and wait for the storm to go by, or you can go out there and act," said Dale Calder, the chief executive of Axeda Corp., a Foxborough maker of diagnostic software for medical gear, data storage equipment, and automated teller machines. "If you're a buyer in this economy, there's some pretty good deals to be had." The question is whether we'll see an aggressive buyer like Stanley start gobbling up mid-sized players, or whether those mid-sized players will start consolidating among themselves and picking up smaller firms. Or both, I guess. But I'm leaning toward the latter. I expect ASG to be very aggressive in this market, along with Security Networks (which closed on a big credit facility this summer, so has the cash on hand), Per Mar, Guardian Protection, ADS, Dakota, and the like. It could also be a good time for some of the larger independent commercial/government integrators to pick up talent and customers, like Adesta, Convergint, NAVCO, etc. Finally, like the firms in the Globe article, smaller manufacturers might decide this is a good time to get out and sell themselves to larger companies with cash on hand or similar-sized companies who aren't in the red, in a "merger" scenario where everyone keeps their jobs. This also jibes with what I'm hearing: "We're seeing a crack in the ice," said Gail R. Long, the chief executive of the Boston chapter of the Association for Corporate Growth, a group representing midmarket merger professionals. "If companies have capital, this is a great time to make strategic acquisitions. And plenty of small banks and nonbank lenders are getting deals done." Finally, there's the capital gains question that looms over all of this. Will be see a small surge of sales right before Dec. 31 and people look to cash out and avoid an Obama-led capital gains increase for 2009? We'll see. That would certainly make things more interesting around here. The news biz is currently pretty slow.

Why it's so hard to find good techs these days

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008
I'm not trying to shame anyone, so I won't say where I found this, but here's a recent employment wanted ad posted by a security integrator: Job opportunity for Electronics Technician Experience: 1. Three years of field experience installing and designing security, fire, access control, computer network wiring, or similar low voltage systems. 2. Knowledge of 120 volt wiring and conduit installation. 3. Computer experience with Windows and computer aided drafting. Education: 1. Degree in electronics or computer repair or 2. Military training in electronics or 3. Company based training programs in electronics with minimum of three years field experience. Restrictions: 1. Individual must have a clean criminal record. An FBI background search will be required for this position. 2. A maximum of three moving traffic violations in the previous three years. 3. Clean and neat appearance. 4. Non smoking environment. Description: Individual will be required to understand electronic circuits and make field modifications for the system to operate within the designed criteria. He or she must be able to read engineering design drawings and build prototype circuits to be used in integrating multiple systems from different manufactures. Install cable, conduit, and electronic devices at the job site and program equipment to perform as specified. Develop CAD drawings for closed circuit TV, access control, and fire alarm systems. Compensation and Benefits: Based on experience, starting pay will be $10.00 to $12.00 per hour. Normal working hours will be 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM Monday through Friday. So, this person has three years of experience installing, has a clean criminal record, has a degree or military experience, and can develop CAD drawings. And you want to pay him/her $10-$12 an hour. That's, oh, say, $20,800-$24,960 a year or so. Maybe you can get to $27,000 with overtime. No mention of benefits. Hey, that's a little over the federal poverty level for a family of four, so not that bad, I guess. Of course, I pay my babysitter $10 an hour. She's 14. Look at that job description above. That person is going to be a major touchpoint with your customer and basically ensure whether the system you put in works or not. I'm thinking you want people who value themselves more highly in that position. Maybe I can see a total rookie coming out of a 2-year program getting that for what amounts to an apprenticeship. But someone with three years already on the job? Is this a sign of the economy? Is unemployment that bad? Am I completely out of touch on this? I made $24,600 my first year out of school as a teacher. In 1996. Seriously. As a teacher. They don't get paid much, remember. Now I know why people are balking at hiring IT professionals to help get into the IP security installation world. I'm guessing the networking guys are looking for more than $25k a year.

GPS'ing Jesus remains hot

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Monday, December 15, 2008
Still kind of digging out from that ridiculous weekend storm up here (to top it off, I got a flat on Sunday morning on the way to the dump and had to change the tire on the side of the road in 15-degree weather - yes, I'm bitter), but wanted to let you know: That tracking Jesus story has legs. Check the Good Morning America bit. It's amazing what people will latch on to. Feel free to ride the bandwagon.

Not the best PR for Siemens

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Monday, December 15, 2008
Hey, I like the Siemens security guys, and there's no mention of security at all in this article, but it can't be the best PR when your parent company gets whacked with $1.3 billion in corruption fines. Yikes. On a side note, let me assure you, gentle readers, that none of those suitcases full of cash were used to bribe certain editors for favorable coverage.

Disaster preparedness

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Friday, December 12, 2008
Well, I'm hoping nothing important happens today, as we only recently got power back here in our Yarmouth, Maine, offices, and we're still without a reliable Internet connection (I'm using one of those Sprint wireless cards, but we have to share it among about 10 of us) or email server (that's totally kaput). Such is life in Maine, where we get blasted fairly regularly with ice storms (in this case), blizzards, and Nor'easters. But there's a lesson in all of this: Plug in your cell phone before a storm so that when you lose power, you don't lose your cell. We have a landline at home, but no long-distance service on it. So I could call for help if I needed it, but I couldn't get on conference calls I had, say, scheduled with certain prominent sources in the industry. Whoops! Anyhoo, no power is actually pretty fun when you're prepared for it. We cooked pancakes on the woodstove this morning and went tromping through the ice and snow to check out all the smashed up and broken trees. Big fun for a two-year-old and a five-year-old, I'll tell ya. Also, I'm thankful that our school district has invested in a mass notification system, but I could have done without the 5 a.m. phone call to tell us school was cancelled.

From the beach to the mountains

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Thursday, December 11, 2008
Did you see yesterday that ADT and Simplex parent company, Tyco, is mulling a move to Switzerland from Bermuda? Here's the story. I'm sure this has nothing to do with financial manuevers. Ed Breen must have taken up skiing, or maybe he's a jazz fan. Here's something to brighten your day, even if you're not Ed Breen: a young Oscar Peterson at the Montreaux Jazz Festival. Wow.

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SCM and Hirsch to merge

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Thursday, December 11, 2008
There's news out on the wire that SCM Microsystems, a logical access manufacturer, and Hirsch Electronics, a physical access manufacturer, are merging. They kept the numbers out of the press release, but the SEC filing makes it look like a $30 million acquisition of Hirsch by SCM, with Hirsch shareholders acquiring another $14.1 million worth of warrants to buy more SCM stock at $3 a share, which is about double the price it's trading at right now on NASDAQ. I'm looking to grab some interviews on this as we speak. My initial impression is that this is a cool move for both companies, and with all the real talk I've been hearing lately about physical and logical access convergence getting almost easy to accomplish, it seems like a good business decision, too. Though IP video might get more attention, the applications for IP-based access control solve a lot of real-world problems and people sure do hate having to carry around gobs of cards for access to different servers and locations.

Colorado Springs PD recognized with SIAC Director's Award of Distinction

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008
A recent press release from SIAC spotlighted the Colorado Springs Police Department for its instrumental role in developing an open to the public process for creating an agreed upon false alarm ordinance for city officials to vote on. The SIAC award, presented to the CSPD at the city's Dec. 9 city council meeting, recognizes the CSPD's foresight in establishing an open public meeting process that ensured all parties with an interest in the alarm ordinance had a forum in which to express opinion on issues of concern. The award emphasizes the importance of the initiative's community spirit, exemplified by the coming together of law enforcement, private citizenry and the security industry in a decision making process, the results of which affect everyone. In the release, SIAC representative Dave Simon said he saw the action of the CSPD as trend setting. Over the past five years, many communities across the United States have revised their ordinance. The Colorado Springs Police Department stands out for openly engaging its citizens and setting an example of grassroots democracy for other communities across the country. By involving all interested parties, the Department should be saluted for its leadership in developing a consensus alarm ordinance document that can be emulated in other cities. In the release, Colorado Springs mayor Lionel Rivera praised the joint efforts of all to produce a document that was universally fair and acceptable. Good public policy is a direct result of hard questioning that has our community's best interests at heart. The open public discussions of the ordinance hosted by the police department and council's public hearings have resulted in an ordinance that is fair to the alarm users, alarm industry and our Colorado Springs taxpayers.

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