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Mission 500 helps kids at Expo Seguridad Mexico

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Monday, June 15, 2009
A release from Richard Hahn and Associates shows that altruism is alive and well in the security industry. According to the release, Mission 500, a non-profit, security industry-focused initiative that is dedicated to serving the needs of children and communities in crisis, raised funds to sponsor 70 needy children at the recent Expo Seguridad Mexico. In addition to an auction featuring donated electronics from corporate sponsors including Bolide, GE Security, Giprex, Samsung GVI, and Syscom, Mission 500 also received a $10,000 donation (from ticket sales) from Giprex and Ventas de Seguridad. Former Miss Mexico, Letty Murray was on hand to emcee the event and help motivate the crowd. Other corporate sponsors of and donors to the Mission 500 auction included Altronix, Bosch, CAA, DSC, HID Global, Inalarm Distribution, ISC West, LRG Marketing Communications, Expo Seguridad Mexico, Panasonic System Solutions Company, SIA, Ventas de Seguridad, and Quaddrix, among others. I blogged about another Mission 500 auction at ISC West that raised more than $12,000 for children in need.

Maybe the facial recognition technology isn't that good, then

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Monday, June 15, 2009
Couldn't pass up an opportunity to be snarky: Nebraska has started instructing people not to smile for their driver's license photos. Why?
The new slight-smile rule is part of several security upgrades that will be made to the state's licenses next month. And smiles can cause problems for the facial recognition software Nebraska plans to use.
I'm really curious as to which facial recognition software they've invested in (and for what purpose) that doesn't work well if people are smiling. The only guess I can come up with is that they'd have a database of criminal faces and the computer storing the driver's license photos would be linked to that database, identifying matches so that criminals can't get false licenses (otherwise, the name alone would trigger a match with anyone wanted for a warrant or something). And the criminal faces would all be mug shots (not known for containing a lot of smiles, I'm guessing). Still, I wouldn't want to be the salesman trying to push the facial recognition software that only works if the two faces are wearing the same expression. I mean, what happens if the guy grows a mustache? Are you just totally screwed then? Nor would I want to be the guy policing smiles at the DMV: "I'm sorry, ma'am, but that's too much of a smile. We're only allowing a slight smile ... nope, that's still not slight enough ... mmm, okay, a little too frowny, actually, go with slightly more smile ... okay, hold it, hold it - got it. Thanks ma'am, that should be ready in a couple minutes."

Tri-Association award winners

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Monday, June 15, 2009
They've announced the winners of the Tri-Association Awards (that's SIA, the NBFAA, and the CSAA). No link, but the details are as follows:
SIA, CSAA and NBFAA have announced the winners of the 2009 Tri-Association awards: Alan Forman, president of Altronix Corporation, will be honored with the George R. Lippert Memorial Award and John Murphy, president of Vector Security, will receive the Triton Award.
EDIT: Der, Dan wrote about this already. Looks like the CSAA's press machine is about two weeks faster than SIA's.
Each year, the Security Industry Association (SIA), the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) and the National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA) honor two members of the security industry at the fall Tri-Association Awards Dinner. The Lippert Award, which was first presented in 1989, recognizes outstanding contributions to SIA and the security industry, while the Triton Award, which began in 2004, recognizes industry statesmanship and efforts to promote good working relationships among the three associations. “Over the past few decades, the security industry has evolved to be more advanced, more responsive and more effective,” SIA Chief Executive Officer Richard Chace said. “Alan and John have each had a huge role in that evolution. Not only have they helped businesses thrive, they have helped to make the world a safer place.” Alan Forman has served as a member of the SIA board of directors, president of the Staten Island Alarm Association and a member of the Metropolitan Burglar & Fire Alarm Association of New York board. He is involved with several charitable organizations, serving on the advisory boards of Gift of Life International, Technion Research and Development Foundation, and Mission 500. In 2005, he was inducted into the Security Sales & Integration Hall of Fame. “Alan is a wonderful, soft-spoken, caring guy,” Bud Wulforst, president of CSAA, said. “There has never been a time where Alan has not been one of our strongest and most loyal supporters. Alan’s long-term association with our industry, his hard work, and his generosity has made our alliance of low-voltage professionals better.” John Murphy has more than 30 years of experience in finance and corporate management and has led Vector Security since 1991. He was president of CSAA from 2005 to 2007, he is involved with NBFAA and the Alarm Industry Research & Educational Foundation, and he is a member of the Alarm Industry Communications Committee. In 2008, he received CSAA’s highest honor – the Stanley C. Lott Memorial Award – in recognition of his contributions to CSAA and the industry. “John has always gone above and beyond when contributing to the industry as a whole and encourages his staff to be involved with the industry organizations and take leadership roles,” Wulforst said. “His contributions have positively affected virtually every CSAA committee. I don't know anyone more deserving of this award from all of the associations than John Murphy, and I offer my most heartfelt congratulations.” The Tri-Association Awards Dinner is scheduled for Oct. 28 in New York City.
Um, you've kind of ruined the surprise for the dinner, don't you think? I guess they want lots of time to sell tickets.

New York Times discovers summer alarm companies

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Friday, June 12, 2009
Anyone who knows me knows how much I like the fire installation business and the residential security business. Aside from politics and art, they're my two favorite sports. I know I'm not alone. Well, I've got some good news for those of you, like me, who can't get enough of this kind of news: the mainstream press seems to be catching on to these hot topics. It was a mere two weeks ago that Bart Didden, of USA Central Station Alarm Company, had his photo in the front section of the New York Times (See May 28 entry.) Today topped that. There was a story about summer model alarm company Pinnacle Security on the front page of the New York Times this morning. The reporter did a good job with the story, although he didn't seem to realize that Pinnacle is one of many summer-model alarm companies, and that it's smaller than the two dominant players--Apx Alarm and Platinum Protection. I did like that he didn't hesitate to come right out with the fact that most of the kids who work at these summer model companies are Mormons who've previously spent two years as a missionary pushing a much harder sell--God.

Surreal Friday

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Friday, June 12, 2009
Maybe this will be a recurring item (like Twitter's Follow Friday or something): Surreal Friday. Today's surreality involves someone who spent $214 and a great deal of ingenuity involving a motion-detecting network cameras in getting his cat to stop jumping up on the counter. It's called the Blender Defender. You owe it to yourself to check it out. Seriously, I think this guy deserves a job offer from Convergint or something. Big thanks to Ling-Mei at A&S International for turning me on to this. It's genius.

Day 2 NFPA, and just say no to round eyeglasses

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Thursday, June 11, 2009
The second day at NFPA was considerably more crowded, which was welcomed by the exhibitors I spoke with. I got a chance to catch up with Jeff Moore at Fike, the fire company that just acquired Video Smoke Detection company axonX. Look for more activity from Fike in the next few months, Moore said. I said a quick hello to SimplexGrinnell president Jim Spicer, who promised he'd tell me more about their video smoke detection solution, which SG was showing in its booth. Stopped by UL, FM and ETL, but my contacts there were all walking the showfloor themselves or maybe in committee meetings. Speaking of committee meetings, I ran into Shane Clary of Bay Alarm, who is normally in committee meetings. Shane is my go-to code guy--he's like a human encyclopedia of fire code knowledge and history. He told me that the new code to watch is NFPA 3, which has to do with the commissioning of security and fire systems. Commissioning is, as Honeywell's Isaac Papier said, "what you need to do before you turn the switch on." If Shane says it's the code to watch, it's the code to watch. I'll be eager to hear the post-convention opinions of attendees. Even though the travel day home on Tuesday was a 12-hour nightmare, it was nice to go to a show in Chicago. I had a chance to walk around the city a bit on Sunday and Monday night. It's a great town. I did notice one disconcerting thing as I was walked around downtown Chicago. It's something I think you'll find disconcerting as well. I saw a few otherwise stylish people wearing round eyeglasses. I didn't think about it much until I read in the New York Times today that round specs are the trendiest new fashion. Here's the story Round eyeglasses, yuck. Fortunately, I didn't see a soul in round glasses at the (definitely fashion-forward) NFPA show, so I guess I can safely stick with my square shades.

Bummer for IBM

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Thursday, June 11, 2009
IBM's work on the Navy Pier in Chicago gets a big article in the Sun Times, but there's no mention of who did the design and installation. I tend to think that IBM overhypes its installations (yesterday's release called the Chicago installation "one of the world's most advanced, integrated network video monitoring systems"), but that doesn't mean a reporter shouldn't note the name of the company that designed the sweet surveillance system that she/he's so impressed with. Really, would that be so hard? You know she/he's writing about the installation because of the press release that IBM put out - the installation happened back in February, as the reporter notes, but I suppose it could just be coincidence that he/she writes the story the day after IBM sends the release - so why not throw IBM a bone? (Maybe Fran's just kind of dim: In the span of four paragraphs he/she twice mentions "cameras so sophisticated, they can pick up a face in a crowd six blocks away." What does "pick up" mean? Is he/she impressed that the camera can see a face from six blocks away? Most consumer megapixel cameras can do that nowadays. Does he/she think the facial recognition can pick a person out of a crowd and identify that person from six blocks away? If so, she/he seems to be avoiding actually saying that. And, technically, the cameras aren't what's sophisticated, it's the software that's processing the images being collected that's sophisticated - and, actually, I kind of don't think the facial recognition software can identify faces from six blocks away very consistently, but maybe I'm wrong.) I'm also a big fan of this finish (as you might guess from having read yesterday's blog):
And what about Navy Pier and lakefront patrons who are not comfortable being watched? "Walt Disney [World] has probably been doing this for years," said Ray Orozco, executive director of the city's Office of Emergency Management and Communications.
A: They're being watched anyway! Why does no one get this point about cameras in public places? If you are on the Navy Pier, there are all kinds of people (you know, other people on the Pier) who are watching you. There are police wandering around watching you. The cameras are the LAST thing you should be worried about if you're worried about being watched. No one's actually sitting there watching what's going on over 200 cameras. It's not really even possible. I don't care if the reporter isn't a security expert or anything - just think about what you would need for a force to watch 200 cameras simultaneously for two seconds and you realize it's idiocy. B. "Walt Disney [World] has probably been doing this for years"? That's the response you give to that question? Come on! That's not only a flippant and terrible answer, but, um, hey, you're executive director of the city's Office of Emergency Management and Communications, guy. Don't you think you could provide an answer more like: "Well, everyone on the Navy Pier is being watched all the time by our crack on-foot police force and, of course, by their fellow citizens. The cameras are more of a forensic tool in large part and our monitoring center would only really pay attention to cameras that indicated someone was in a restricted area or if a crowd massed in a strange location. People who are just going about their business aren't going to be watched by these cameras in any way, actually." To just toss off some stupid comment about Disney World is irresponsible. But, of course, there's the very real possibility that he said exactly the right thing but the reporter only quoted the Disney World part. I guess that's more than possible. I'd go with likely.

Please, make it stop...

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009
I'm not sure why I do it to myself, but I can never help reading the local pieces on our "surveillance society" that inevitably find their way into my inbox. I don't even really have to read them - they all are carbon copies of one another: Hey, did you notice there's lots of cameras around? Doesn't that, like, hurt your privacy and stuff? Big brother!!! The cops say it's good for fighting crime. There are some statistics that say maybe that's not true. Most people don't give a crap about it. A couple of ACLU people do. There's a professor who has some thoughts about it, but doesn't really know what he's talking about. The end. Here's a great one I came across today. Let's start with the lede:
WILMINGTON -- If you are planning a day trip to downtown Wilmington, surveillance cameras will likely monitor you when you park, walk down the street and even when you eat in a restaurant. Paranoid yet?
Yes. You've sent chills right up and down my spine. I won't leave my house for a week. EVEN WHEN I EAT IN A RESTAURANT?!? But that's where I get naked and murder people! I'm so paranoid. Don't go on. I can't stand it.
"You feel like Big Brother's watching," said Kim Gold, 48, of Wilmington. "I just hope he is. Wilmington is just not as safe as it used to be, so anything they can do to deter crime is great."
I like this Kim Gold. She sounds sensible and like most people I know. However, she managed to work Big Brother into your story within the first five paragraphs, so I hate her just a little bit. (A little reporting note here: Um, is Wilmington actually more or less safe than "it used to be"? Do we have any crime statistics we could supply? Or is it just that the media is hyper-aware of everything now and all crime is much more noticeable? Also, how long ago is "used to be"? Are we talking two years ago before the recession started, or 1970 when Kim was 10 and rode her bike on the sidewalk and ate lots of lollipops?)
Webster said in addition to acting as a deterrent, the cameras have helped police spot drug deals and radio the information into patrol units that can make an arrest. But the cameras are also recording the activities of civilians on a daily basis. It's that trade-off that has always made privacy advocates and civil libertarians uneasy.
Could we supply some of these people to talk about why they don't want cameras at the dump? I don't think they really exist anymore. You're just setting up a strawman here. Cheap reporting. Cheap. Sorry. I was really wasting time there when I should have lead with my favorite part:
Now, though, the next wave of video surveillance technology is poised to connect all those electronic eyes into a seamless network and pair it with such advances as facial-recognition software. Police could be more effective at catching criminals, but businesses could also become more efficient at identifying customers and their buying habits and preferences. "Right now, all those cameras are disparate systems," said Stephen Henderson, who teaches criminal law and procedure at Widener University School of Law. "What happens when all those are put together? That's the critical question, and it's beginning to happen."
Ah, yes, the giant seamless network of all the cameras in the world, operated by Hal 2000 and ready to catch you every time you pick your nose. I am very intimidated by that possibility. Also, the possibility that "businesses could also become more efficient at identifying customers and their buying habits and preferences." This is very terrifying. What would happen - I ask you - what would happen if you walked into the grocery store and you didn't even have to go to the sushi counter like you do every day, and instead, they identified you when you walked in the store and just kind of came up and handed the sushi to you? What would you do then?!? Wouldn't you freak out?!? Also, here's a bulletin: Were this technology to become more widely used, you might actually get better service in the retail environment! How would you like those apples? You'd have nothing to complain about! Also, is there anyone who knows more about the future of surveillance technology than Stephen Henderson, who teaches criminal law and procedure at Widener University School of Law? I think not. I bet that guy knows the crap out of surveillance technology. Pelco - get him on the phone, goddamn it! Try to follow Henderson's logic here:
As a practical matter, though, there are a limited number of police officers, so they focus their efforts on people suspected of crimes. Public cameras remove that limitation, especially as they become smaller, cheaper and more widespread, he said. "Then you have the worst of all possible worlds: You have no resource constraint and no legal constraint," Henderson said. "And that creates the danger of a surveillance society."
What? The supposition here is that you should be able to commit crimes in public and get away with it. And that you can't get away with it is "the worst of all possible worlds." Two problems with that: 1. You're in public. You should always expect that someone is watching you, not on a camera, but with their eyes. If you commit a crime of some sort, one would hope that, if it was egregious, a citizen would report that crime. Would that be part of this horrible surveillance society Dr. Hendu imagines? Should we all walk about with blinders on so that we don't see each other at all, doing anything? 2. Henderson doesn't have much of an imagination. If he thinks that's the worst of all possible worlds, let me introduce him to a place where the only band you can listen to is Nickelback, the only show you can watch is Grey's Anatomy, and the only author you can read is Nicholas Sparks. THAT is the worst of all possible worlds. Slightly better, but also really bad, is a world where you have to coach T-Ball every single minute of your waking life. In terms of ranking the worst possible worlds, I would put "a place where there are cameras in public places" at about number 1,398,008,321,996. And, for the record, this reporter could not find one single actual citizen who is concerned about these possibilities. Instead, he found sensible people like this person:
For people such as 29-year-old Waikeem Clemmons of Wilmington, the cameras just aren't that big of a concern, even if a government agency wants to expand their use. "They don't creep me out," Clemmons said. "You shouldn't be having sex, scratching your butt or picking your nose in public anyway."
So, this story was written why? Can someone please make stories like this stop?

NBFAA helps out PD, FD families

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009
I got this release from the NBFAA recently, and was impressed with the altruistic nature of their actions. According to the release, the NBFAA has awarded more than $45,000 in scholarships through the Youth Scholarship Program. Currently, a dozen state chapters participate in the national program. These states conduct local and state programs and their top student competes for the national NBFAA scholarships. The state programs generally award $1,000 or more to their winners. The NBFAA is the nation's oldest non profit trade association dedicated to representing, promoting, and supporting the electronic life-safety and security industry.

NFPA expo Day 1

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009
The first day of the NFPA Expo was yesterday from 3:30 to 7:30, and all the usual suspects were there. Traffic appeared light compared to last year in Vegas, but as one person pointed out to me, the center aisle was huge. Even if it was packed, traffic would appear slow with that veritable freeway of an aisle. So I spoke to Lorraine Carli, NFPA director of communications about their Twitter experience, and she said, "the verdict is out." They're giving it a whirl she said, to see if it has value as a business tool. She runs a smart communications operation at NFPA that's focused on news, so it makes sense that they're trying it out--(and that she's skeptical.) She said they had 445 followers, and they use it to drive traffic back to their Web site where they have further information on events, studies, statistics. (We've done some experimenting with Twitter here at United Publications. Not me but Sam and Rhianna. I'd say the verdict is still out for us as well.) So it was mass notification a-go-go at NFPA yesterday--at all the Honeywell Fire Group, Seimens, GE Security, and Simplex Grinnell. Interestingly, SimplexGrinnell was launching a new VSD--video smoke detection, you know like axonX and DTec, in its booth. They're working with a Chinese company called WizMart and the product will be available in North America within 60 days, according to SG's David Brooks. UL and FM had booths on either end of the front row of the show, while ETL, a relative newcomer to the market, was a little further back. Both Fike and Bosch told me last month that they want to take their place among the top four fire providers in the industry within the next 4-5 years. The four dominant players now are: Tyco, Siemens, Honeywell & GE. Fike, which acquired axonX recently, had a big booth a couple rows back from the front, but Bosch had a big honkin' booth in the front row. I saw some familiar faces in a different place yesterday. Former Silent Knight guys, Jeff Hendrickson, Karl Eiden, Hugh Blair and Dave Kosciuk are now working for Potter. Bernie Lears has hired some pros. I have lots more info, but no time. Had hoped for a run along the lake --what a great place to run!--this morning, but work's getting in the way. Gotta check out of the hotel and get to the show for a couple hours before I head back to Maine.

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