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Stanley releases 4Q results: Not too shabby

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Thursday, January 29, 2009
Here are the highlights from Stanley's 4Q numbers, released yesterday: Their "Security" segment did $410m, with $75m of that profit. Nice margin of 18.4 percent. When you consider Stanley paid $545m to acquire HSM, and, conservatively, half of that profit is directly attributable to the HSM platform, it seems more and more like a good buy. In 2007 and 2008, since the buy, the security business has delivered $239.9m and $268.7m in profit, respectively, on sales of $1.4b and $1.49b (note the "b"s). In fact, security is the company's shining star. John F. Lundgren, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, commented: "While the fourth quarter was characterized by steep revenue and margin declines in CDIY and Industrial, the Security segment continued on its growth trajectory, providing welcome stability to overall company operations. We feel that we are taking appropriate actions to protect our cash flow and earnings base while positioning the company for future growth. We are operating from a position of strength in the most difficult environment in memory." You've got to hand it to Stanley leadership. They made an aggressive play into security and are being handsomely rewarded for it.

Like Madoff-lite

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009
A curious story came across my desk because of it's relationship to Mace: The company lost $2.2 million to a 76-year-old hedge fund manager who lost $350 million and then faked his own suicide before being caught today by the FBI. Here's the initial story. The paper got a hold of the suicide note: Nadel's note stated "there are those that would like to kill him, but that he will do it himself." Well, I don't think Dennis Raefield rolls that way, but he's not happy about getting fleeced. In another development, the company that makes the Mace pepper spray acknowledged it lost $2.2 million in the Sarasota hedge funds operated by Nadel. Mace Security International Inc. said the Victory Fund failed to pay the money as promised on Jan. 15, the day after Nadel vanished. The $2.2 million is the largest amount of money any investor has publicly acknowledged losing in the funds operated by Nadel. The company also said it was stymied in its effort to withdraw its money as far back as October. "We have already filed a report with the authorities, and we intend to take all possible legal action against the Victory Fund," said Dennis Raefield, Mace's president and chief executive. Apparently, though, Nadel was either just trying to skip town or chickened out, since he turned himself in to the FBI today. This part of the story doesn't look good for Mace getting its money back: The SEC said Nadel's funds appeared to have assets totaling less than $1 million, while he claimed in sales materials for three of the funds that they had about $342 million in assets as of Nov. 30. The materials also boasted of monthly returns of 11 to 12 percent for several of the funds last year, when they actually had negative results. An investor in one fund received an account statement for November indicating her investment was worth almost $420,000. In reality, the entire fund had less than $100,000, according to the SEC. Unbelievable.

Hate to say I told you so...

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Well, it turns out that having people at home monitor border cameras, looking for illegal border crossings, doesn't really work. Shocker. I first saw a program like this about nine months ago. At the time, I speculated: So, for each camera, the group needs, say, 12 rotating volunteers? Or as many as 48 if each person agrees to only take one shift a day? And each of those volunteers needs to commit to 365 days of vigilance? That adds up to a lot of people in a hurry if you’re trying to cover any serious portion of the border. We’re talking 2,000 miles of border here. If it worked, I thought, it would become a hot thing to do, but I was doubtful. Here's what happened to the official program in Texas: - The coalition hoped to make 1,200 arrests the first year from tips called in by citizens watching the camera feeds on the Internet. In the first six months, there were three arrests. - The coalition expected to report 4,500 suspected immigration violations to the U.S. Border Patrol in the first year. There were six suspected violations reported. - The coalition planned to install 200 cameras, or about one ever six miles. So far, 13 have been installed and there probably will be just 15 total. That's one camera for every 80 miles of border. Well, you can see how this was set up for failure. The initial question, of course, is how they managed to spend $2 million on 13 installed cameras. Is that all cabling? Seems like there's some wasted in the program somewhere. These kinds of stories are not good for the industry. It was a bad plan, clearly poorly implemented, and now it's a failure story that people can bring around saying, "surveillance doesn't work." As in: "I think it's a waste of time and it's a waste of money," said state Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, a McAllen Democrat. "It doesn't work." But it's just like anything else: Poorly planned and executed things don't work. Well planned and executed things do work.

Computer-aided dispatch standard established

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Monday, January 26, 2009
Following up on a Security Systems News story I wrote back in November, The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International announced today (Jan. 26) the approval of an American National Standard to provide a standard data exchange for the electronic transmission of information between alarm monitoring companies and public safety answering points. Called the External Alarm Interface Information Exchange program, the new ANS was approved on Jan. 15 and is now an accepted standard and should, according to Pam Petrow of Vector Security be a boon to the industry. "I think it creates a great opportunity for the alarm industry and should be very cost-effective for the 911 industry to implement,” Petrow said back in Novemeber when the program was entering the ANSI standards testing process. The new ANS can be downloaded here.

Another profile of Lou

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Monday, January 26, 2009
So I'm looking for news for my residential section and what do I come across but a a nice little profile of InGrid's Lou Stilp? Lou is, hands-down, the master of getting nice little profiles. This one's a Q&A in the Philadelphia Inquirer. There's some background on Lou and an interesting quote about how InGrid piggybacks on advertising done by the big guys like Brink's and ADT.
And what we do is take advantage of the fact that ADT and Brinks run ads on TV and that people go on the Web and they start searching on home security. And the more they learn about us, the more they like us
You know what? I believe it, because every time I go on the Web and start searching on home security, I find Lou.

Update on NFPA show

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Monday, January 26, 2009
I got a call from Linda Bailey at the NFPA bright and early this morning. She said registration is on track for the June show in Chicago. The early sell out of the block of rooms at the hotel where the convention is being held (see previous post) is the result of early registration by exhibitors. "It's looking good for the show in Chicago," she said.

The infamous skeet-shooting video

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Monday, January 26, 2009
Some of you remember senseless posts back in June, referring to a skeet-shooting outing with the TBFAA at ESX. Well, here's proof that I could at least fire the gun without injuring myself. And if the Maryland folks would like to set up an afternoon of shooting things, I'd be all for it.

IPv6: Big deal or not?

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Monday, January 26, 2009
Maybe one of the most under-reported and least-understood stories out there is the one about the move to IPv6, from our current IPv4 Internet addressing system. Essentially, the world will eventually run out of IPv4 IP addresses (the line of code that identifies where a device lives in relation to the Internet) and we'll be forced to move to IPv6, which offers addresses with much longer strings of numbers and letters and therefore opens the amount of addresses to something more than trillions and trillions. But what do we actually have to do to prepare for this switchover? When does it have to be done? Will it affect your average installer and end user? How will it affect network security? These are questions I get varying answers on. Here's a story I wrote about IPv6 late in 2007, for reference. Nothing much seems to have changed since then. Other than one release from Axis that mentioned IPv6 capability, I've seen virtually no security manufacturer even mention IPv6. I'm not sure why. I'm reminded of this mostly because of an article I came across today positing that IPv6 might make networks less secure. This is the exact opposite of the information I've been getting, that security is built into IPv6 and it is inherently more secure than IPv4. From my story: Also, Nilsson emphasized the added security features IPv6 offers, and its ability to make installation easier. So, who's right? I understand about half of this, but it appears to be a primer for network security during the IPv6 conversion. Here's a white paper from 3Com (who will be in physical security shortly, I'm told), which points out security vulnerabilities, but is pretty vague. Here's a white paper from SIA, but it's a pdf and is cumbersome for my poor version of Safari. Probably works in Firefox. According to this White House memorandum from 2005, the federal government was supposed to be totally IPv6 compliant by June 30, 2008. Did this happen? Did anybody check? I haven't heard anything to the contrary, but then I run across press releases from Verizon where they talk about upgrading the Army to IPv6. Do they not count as part of the federal government? In short, it seems prudent to make sure your people are up to speed on IPv6, especially if you're doing work with the government, but it doesn't look like the security product manufacturers are in a huge hurry to make things IPv6 compliant. Will this matter? I'm not sure.

Steelbox assets acquired; execs come, too

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Friday, January 23, 2009
As predicted widely, Steelbox's intellectual property and people retained quite a bit of value, even if the company couldn't make a go of its business model. Today, Adtech Global Solutions announced they'd purchased what remained of Steelbox. It looks like Adtech is an OEM that wraps hardware around your software. It looks like Verint was one of the company's first customers. There's an Atlanta connection, too. Just what Adtech plans to do with Steelbox is unclear. From the release: ATLANTA, Jan. 22 /PRNewswire/ -- Adtech Global Solutions (AGS) announced today the acquisition of the IP assets of Steelbox Networks, Inc. (Steelbox) under an Article 9 UCC Foreclosure sale. Additionally, Key Steelbox personnel, including founders and inventors of the technology, Jim Jordan and Bill LeBlanc, joined the company. The acquisition provides AGS with industry-leading technology poised to address the needs of one of the fastest growing vertical markets. Current and future Steelbox customers will benefit from partnering with a company that has a solid 10-year record of posting strong returns, a mature and stringent ISO- 9001:2000 Quality Management System, global footprint, and a host of service and product offerings. The combined entity will now be able to offer comprehensive, industry-leading, end-to-end solutions. Notice that security has not been mentioned yet. Or video surveillance. Just what is this "fastest growing vertical market"? "Steelbox will contribute to AGS' growth strategy for 2009 and beyond, while adding industry-leading Intellectual Property to our portfolio," Tim Shadburn, Chief Executive Officer, said. "The community's reaction to Steelbox's exit from the market was simply overwhelming. We felt we were uniquely positioned to bring it back, allowing it to realize its potential." At this point, it's just kind of weird. Which market? Which industry is being led? Nik Moissiadis, Vice President of Business Integration and one of AGS' founding members, will lead Steelbox. "I have personally worked with Steelbox and its founders since 2005. In that timeframe, we partnered in the design, deployment and support of their products worldwide. Through this relationship, we have come to clearly recognize the importance of this leading-edge technology in the marketplace, while understanding first-hand the challenges associated with the unique and demanding applications for which it is intended. With over 50,000 systems deployed and hundreds of installations in Fortune 500, mission-critical infrastructure environments, we know what it takes to execute," said Moissiadis. So maybe AGS created the boxes that Steelbox's secret sauce was wrapped in? There's no mention of it on their web site. This is what they have for "surveillance." "This is an exciting time. Under the AGS umbrella, Steelbox's unique infrastructure approach to the management of digital video and audio, is ideally aligned to thrive in the marketplace. Combining our technology with AGS' broad service portfolio provides the perfect platform from which to continue the development and delivery of best-of-breed video storage, transport and retrieval solutions, with an unparalleled focus on customer and partner needs," commented LeBlanc. First mention of digital video and audio, but still no security or surveillance mentions. It seems like this is a move to use Steelbox's technology to approach other video-heavy markets, as was a goal of former CEO Brian Cohen before the company hit foreclosure. He just couldn't get it turned in that direction in time. I'll work on some reporting to see if this is the last we'll see of Steelbox in security.

What's wrong with being a pizza delivery guy?

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Friday, January 23, 2009
All kinds of things come across my desk, and lately a lot of stories about the struggling American work force have been showing up in my in box because people are finding or losing jobs with security companies. Anyway, this one from CNN bothers me. Look at the title: "Deliver pizzas, wife tells laid-off hubby" What's that supposed to imply? Delivering pizzas is a great job. It says in the article the guy's making $10 an hour, plus tips. That's not bad at all. I paid my rent and drank my beer in college thanks to pizza-delivery jobs (making, I think, $4.25 plus tips), and I know a lot of guys who got themselves through grad school and financed moves to locations all over the country thanks to delivering pizzas. That's not exactly supporting a family, I understand, but we weren't exactly working 40 hours a week. Check this out: "I had to swallow my pride and take whatever I could get," Rob LeBlanc says. "I kept telling myself one of these days something better will come along." He spent nearly five months delivering pizzas at Domino's. He admits he fell into depression during that time. But the family received good news Friday, when a private security company hired Rob LeBlanc to be a security officer. He says the company offers many opportunities to move up to a managerial position. "My first thought was to tell my wife right away," he says. "I could hear the relief in her voice." Swallow your pride? It must have been tough! Give me a break. What job is better than listening to tunes in your car, driving around and seeing people, and hustling for decent pay? A security guard? No way. I'm sorry. I would take delivering pizza over being a security guard six days a week and twice on Sunday. And did anybody at CNN do any math for this story? The guy lost a $55,000 a year job. Okay. How much could he make delivering pies (that's industry talk, there)? 40 hours x $10 = $400 x 52 = $20,800 base Plus, you should be able to hit at least 5 houses an hour even in a slow night, depending on the size of the city and how well the pizza joint advertises (Domino's is pretty good at that). So that's another $10 an hour, easy, which, of course, is under the table and you don't report, so a very robust $20,000 a year. My first year out of school, I made more than $50,000 (shhh, don't tell the IRS) doing nothing more than substitute teaching and delivering pizzas. That's good scratch. So I don't think it's outrageous to say those jobs are fairly comparable. A pay cut, for sure, and you've got to subtract out the gas money, which isn't insignificant, but better than unemployment, probably, and I think lots of people would take $40,000 a year. That's a damn good job in the journalism industry. My first gig at the Portland Phoenix paid me $6.25 an hour. Sorry, I was off track there. My point was: These people are not suffering from financial hardship! Things aren't that bad. It's just that, yes, the unprecedented life of opulence being led by the American middle class over the last 10 years is coming to an end for a short time. It's just like Obama said in his inauguration speech: It's time to start working our asses off again. Suck it up. Deliver some pies. Do some babysitting. Knit and sell some hats. Hustle. Be better than the other guy. Stop crying about how you can't afford HBO and Showtime. Did you read this part? The LeBlanc family lives lean in their five-bedroom, three-bathroom house with its $440 a month mortgage. The couple is teaching their children about budgeting and bargaining while relying on coupons and sales. They no longer eat out and no longer have cable TV. For entertainment, they attend free movies at a church. Donna LeBlanc takes pride that they have no credit card debt. $440 a month mortgage? On a five-bedroom, three-bathroom place? Holy smokes! That's like living for free! They have no credit card debt? This is an example of the bad economy how? Sorry, only tangentially about security, I know, but it speaks to a growing feeling on my part that people are beginning to wallow in their own self pity, even in this industry, and people need to knock it off.

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