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Another big security company cuts jobs

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009
I'm just starting to figure out what this means for their security and fire businesses, but UTC is cutting 11,600 jobs. There are very few details in the release and the company makes everything from elevators to jet engines, so security isn't necessarily top of mind for mainstream reporters. Considering the consolidation they've done recently with Initial and Red Hawk, however, I've got to think there will be some trimming in their installation business somewhere. Hopefully I'll have more on this in the newswire Thursday.

Cisco on standards, ISC West

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Monday, March 9, 2009
There’s been quite a bit of buzz about Cisco’s doings in the industry. Any number of online ponderers have wondered openly about Cisco’s commitment level, especially considering their apparent absence from ISC West (not on the exhibitor list). So, I called up Pete Jankowski, director of product marketing at Cisco (actually, I arranged a conversation through a PR gal, but that’s just like calling someone up in this day and age), and Cisco’s liaison to the PSIA, who handed over a great deal of work that eventually turned into PSIA’s device discovery specification. Here's our conversation (the transcribing is a little quick and dirty, so forgive any typos): Sam: So, Pete, why’d Cisco join ONVIF, if you’re already so involved in the PSIA? Jankowski: One thing is, having the two standards is better than having multiple standards for every camera manufacturer out there. I’d like to get PSIA and ONVIF together, get their models together, maybe eventually getting one standard, getting that through SIA, and that’s eventually going to a ANSI standard. And Cisco has a lot of products that are just video, not necessarily surveillance, so we need to be able to support both PSIA and ONVIF. We’re working on a project called Medianet, an initiative to make the network much more video content friendly. It’s: recognize a camera, or an encoder, authenticate it, set up QoS for the video, set up an RSVP connection, which would change the bit rate, etc. So that’s what Cisco is working on internally, the switching and routing portion of the business, with our telepresence group, digital media signage group, Scientific Atlanta, and Linksys for home stuff. Just make it easier to deploy video and audio products, make it much easier to set up and the network a lot friendly to the video. If you drop packets or the bit rate, the video can fall apart, so making the networ more friendly for the video is what Medianet is all about. That being said, PSIA and OINFVI are building standards based on two different types of methodology. One is SOAP, which is ONVIF, then there’s PSIA which is REST and xml based. both of them have their merits. It’s almost a religion. Some like web services, some like xml. Sam: But they’re not mutually exclusive, right? Jankowski: There is overlap, the idea is eventually – what I’m hoping, the groups are still talking – the data is all the same. If you ask for the stream for the camera, it’s the same with both, an RTSP stream. The cameras are putting out the same thing, just over a different community request, but the end result is exactly the same, so eventually I’m hoping that we’ll get the data models pushed together and come up with more of a unified standard, but I don’t think that will happen right away. That will take a little bit of time. But either one is pretty good. They’re both going to be very helpful for integrators and customers, anyone deploying IP cameras, third-party software vendors, they only have to write to two of these, and it will make their lives so much easier. Currently ONFIV is using WS discover to bind the devices, and PSIA is using zero config, which is bonjour, the Apple standard. That’s what the discoveries are being based on, and then provisioning is RESTful and SOAP. But both groups are talking, and they’re planning a meeting at the ISC West show. There will be a lot of work together. This is not betamax vs. VHS, or blu-ray vs. HD – it’s just a way of talking to the devices, and currently the industry doesn’t have a standard, so this way there will only be two. Sam: And so how does this work with SIA? Jankowski: SIA has a whole data model put together, but they never really came together on the other side. That’s one reason these other two started up. We’re also all working with SIA, so it’s going to be all collaborative, hopefully. But I don’t think, in my opinion, that everyone will follow the SIA data model right now. And then you’ll start seeing PSIA has some initiatives around access control, video analytics, and storage, so those three initiatives that they’re starting up. And ONVIF is staring up in storage as well. So as these initiative are put together, the plan is to make them all interoperable. And I might be able to participate and help out. One of the things that’s lacking in a lot of the standards is network security, in my opinion, just stuff like encrypting the video, authenticating the video at the end of the network, when you’re logging in, password protection, device-attach protection, those types of things, almost none of the companies do a very good job of that at all. They put an Ethernet nick on the back, and almost use it like a serial port, they don’t consider the ramifications of physical network security, and we can help both of them get those network security standards in there and help them with those. So their end devices are secure end devices, that’s one of the big benefits that Cisco can offer. I’ve been pushing that with both. I’ll be doing a presentation to both groups on Medianet. Sam: Okay, so then I want to ask you about ISC West. There’s a lot of buzz about why you guys aren’t exhibiting. What’s happening there? Jankowski: That had something to do with our marketing budgets, we had our marketing budgets changed last year, and Cisco has a group that runs all their large trade shows, so they bill our business unit an extraordinary amount of money for a trade show. We couldn’t do it ourselves, so we had a choice between ISC and ASIS. So they made the decision that we’d do a huge splash at ASIS and do meeting rooms and seminars and speeches at ISC West, so we won’t do a booth, but we can now get around the Cisco requirement for supporting a booth. Sam: You mean you weren’t just going to do a 10x10 at ISC West, if you were going to do it, you were going to do it. Jankowski: We could have done a 10x10, actually, but if you go to a 20x20, it has to be corporate run, and it’s a huge amount of money. Even though we’ve got a bunch of new products, especially around IP cameras, we figured that AISS would be a bigger show and we could do a bigger splash. Everybody says you’ve got to be crazy not to have a booth at ISC. And I think that will change later, that position, we’ll be at ISC again. But that’s the reason why we’re not there this year. Sam: So, you’re not thinking of pulling out of physical security altogether, as some have posited? Jankowski: Security is on John Chambers’ top list, there’s going to be a lot of focus on it, probably a lot more focus, I would expect, in the next year.

Brink's stock and Brink's commercial biz

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Friday, March 6, 2009
I keep coming across stories about Brink's Home Security stock. Since it's the sunniest stock news I can find, here's one of those stories. Speaking of Brink's, I interviewed Brent Uhl yesterday. He's in charge of their commercial division and was also featured in our "20 movers and shakers under age 40" feature in 2007. Brent filled me in on what Brink's has been doing over the past year ramping up their commercial efforts. I'll be writing a story about that for the April (ISC West) issue.

NMC holds open house at new Texas central

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Friday, March 6, 2009
National Monitoring Center held an open house at their brand new, state-of-the-art 8,000 square foot facility here on February 12. The central station serves independent alarm dealers in the Texas market and has been in operation since the summer of 2008. The new UL-listed central station is fully redundant with NMC’s original 10,000 square foot Aliso Viejo, Calif. central station that opened in 2002. More than 100 guests, representing alarm companies from Texas as well as various other states, attended the open house. The guests were given tours of the facility and had the opportunity to meet with the company’s management team. Included below are pictures of the event. First is NMC executive vice president Woodie Andrawos with director of operations Todd Shuff and president Michael Schubert. Second is NMC management with some of the guests who attended the open house of the new central station. nmc-irving-open-house-0209-andrawos-shuff-schubert nmc-irving-open-house-0209 Security Systems News toured the new facility on February 22, led through the rooms of glass, concrete and chrome by central station manager Stefan Rayner. Rayner spoke at length about the design and development of the new facility and the stringent requirements for attaining UL-Listing. Visit the Monitor This blog at www.securitysystemsnews.com for an account of the visit. “I’ve been involved in the design of about six monitoring facilities during my 29 or so years in the contract monitoring business,” said Michael Schubert, NMC president in a release. “I believe our Texas location is the finest that I’ve been involved in because we put all of our experience as well as the latest technology into the design. With an experienced management team in place, we bring the Texas market a much needed state-of-the-art facility.” The central station uses the latest technology and is fully redundant with the California location, providing a high level of reliability and service to alarm companies and their customers. NMC purchased the newly constructed building and spent more than 18 months creating the most technologically advanced contract monitoring station serving the electronic security industry. “The facility and technology along with an experienced management team and comprehensively trained staff offer alarm dealers the support they need to grow their business,” said Woodie Andrawos, NMC executive vice president in a release. “We listen to our dealers every day and this facility and the services we provide reflect what they need to be successful in a very competitive market.” NMC is a UL-listed and FM-approved third party monitoring central station company that provides services to independent alarm companies. NMC is a member of various professional trade associations including Texas BFAA, and North Texas BFAA. For more information, call 800-662-1711 or visit the website.

The ultimate standards discussion

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Friday, March 6, 2009
As I said in my last post on TechSec (another monster of a blog post), the standards panel that closed the conference was an important discussion for the industry. Rob Zivney, VP of sales and marketing at Hirsch, and someone who’s been active with standards efforts for SIA, BACnet, and the federal government, convened a panel with some of the leading voices in the current push for standards in the security (specifically the IP-based security) industry. With him were Jonas Andersson, chair of the ONVIF effort being led by Axis, Bosch, and Sony; Rob Hile, chair of the PSIA, a group of companies brought together by David Bunzel after the last TechSec; Roger Roehr, head of the government vertical at Software House (so active with FIPS 201/HSPD-12/NIST activities), and the chair of the Smart Card Alliances physical security committee; and Hunter Knight, generally known as the father of SIA’s standards efforts, which have resulted in the OSIPS body of increasingly ANSI-recognized standards. For some reason, I decided to transcribe the entire conversation they had, and you’ll see it below. I was going to only give you the highlights, but I found there weren’t that many lowlights. It’s over 5,000 words, but it’s worth reading over the lunch break or something because there are some important points made about the future of the industry and where you might want to sink some of your dollars in working with these standards efforts, and what the benefit to you might be. Enjoy: Rob Zivney: 2009 is a year of standards. You’re going to see a lot of new standards, where we’ve been an industry without standards up until now. We’re going to see an unwanted abundance of standards, a plethora; you’re going from nothing to a lot Some of us have torn allegiances here. I personally am involved with SIA and BACnet. And just to start things off: The private sector today has more than 600 organizations preparing standards, trade associations, SDOs, consortia; there’s no right or wrong way to do it. They all can achieve credibility in the marketplace. They will compete in some areas and they may cooperate in others The first volley: After six years in development, BACnet just voted out of committee the first access control standard for our industry. The BACnet standard is recognized by ANSI, as well as being an ISO standard, it’s downloadable this week. This is an open standard for no fees or royalties. So, the first question for the panel: Why is your organization the best for developing standards, and what do you think of BACnet being out there first? Jonas Andersson: The benefit of ONVIF – Really there are three cornerstones: developing and standardizing on the interface level - we released the first specification in November, based on the architecture of Web services. The second cornerstone is interoperability, not only specification for standardization, but also a test specification, so we’ll develop a test tool that we’ll offer to all members to ensure compliance to the standard, and the web standards will provide code generation. The third cornerstone is that it’s a global open organization, concentrating on processes for cooperating, the processes for conformance. The organization today consists of Axis, Bosch, Sony, Cisco, Panasonic, Samsung, and a number of other companies. Hile: After hearing it for five years, a bunch of us just got together and decided to do something about it, to promote the interoperability of all IP-enabled security devices, not just video. We have active initiatives in CCTV, video analytics, an access control working group. It’s a bunch of industry leaders who got together; we’re an open system, we came out with a specification that is open. We’ve got core members and associate members - we want to get something done. We’re tired of not having – are we the best standard, no, but we have a very good specification, based on REST architecture, everything is going to the edge, seeing that with the TI chip, and REST is the best tool out there for edge-level integration. Is our specification the best? I don’t know, that’s open to industry interpretation. I’ve got an interesting perspective on this. I came out of the DDC controls industry. Does anyone know what the original standard for DDC was? No? The original open standard for the DDC controls industry was pneumatics. It was air. Then all of a sudden everyone had their own protocol. I worked for Johnson Controls and then what later became Andover, I thought we had the best access control system because it worked with our HVAC system, but it was still proprietary. And it came down to cost, the end users were tired of the cost of all these disparate systems, and that’s exactly what’s happening in our industry, and now you look at the DDC controls industry, they have BACnet and they have Lon ware, so am I surprised to see BACnet here? No I’m not. It’s not a stretch to see a day when every IP device, elevator control, lighting control, a smoke detector, are all geo-spatially aware that each other exists, not only to save money, but also to give us almost artificial intelligence, so we can be proactive instead of reactive. Roger Roehr: The smart card alliance is an alliance of end users, integrators, and manufactures. We’re not a standards creating organization, we’re in the enviable spot of going out and stealing other standards – through our members we come up with existing standards that are already out there. There might be something that’s already written that you need, and trying to figure out which one you need, the alliance almost becomes the google of the standards. You say, ‘Hey, I think that will fit?’ I think the BACnet standard is interesting and we’ll be happy to steal from them. Hunter Knight: OSIPS is a program that we started I think nine years/10 years ago, at the direction of the board of directors of SIA. They had done a lot of market studies and had end users complaining about the lack of interoperability, complaining about not being able to switch from one supplier to another. The association however, recognized the need to have an aggressive standards program, and created an open forum looking at NIST-defined systems integration, putting things together, and performance, predictable performance, metrics that you can apply to a standard for compliance. And this program was drafted and heatedly argued among the board at that time, funded, and has been a cornerstone of the SIA business plan going forward. There was a lot or reluctance, if not intransigence, on the part of the membership to participate. There was almost no effective infrastructure to manage and provide venues. We just didn’t have the talent to put a program of substance together. It took three or four years to get our sea legs, and what we did was focus on the end user community. We figured they’d come along if their customers mandated it. We worked several years to build trust, so that they didn’t feel it was a sales scam, and we’ve been successful in gaining that trust in the federal space. We haven’t gotten tons of allegiances in the commercial space, but that’s harder to organize and quantify. What have we done? Our task was to build a mechanism for all kinds of security technologies to talk to each other. And we had a lot of meetings, conferences, government round tables: What is it that we should be going set out to do? That round table decided they wanted to be able to talk to any other product, and to do that we need some kind of foundational level document that allows each thing to talk to each other - what does time look like? How does data look to each other? And it was hard to inventory all those requirements, so we started on several different standards and we thought we’d learn enough to really define what the foundation should look like along the way, and we’ve done a lot of work on a lot of standards: How identity management should be accomplished, how access control calculations should be done, what access point controllers should be done. We’ve looked at digital video - that’s one of the first standards we addressed - sensors, a lot of those different things. Today, the framework document is now an ASNI standard, the digital video interface standard is an ANSSI standard. Zivney: I did say that BACnet was first in access control, but SIA was out with video first. But I’ve got another question: Do standards insure interoperability Roehr: The simple answer is no. What you have to realize is that standards are written by industry consensus, and if there isn’t consensus, nothing gets written or multiple avenues get written. Look at HSPD-12: there’s two places where we see this issue come up – they define both a part a and a part b, and the government just said we’ll support them both, both type a and type b cards, which puts another requirement on manufactures that want to sell product to the federal government. The second was biometrics, there’s the ANSI insights minutiae template and the pattern template, and the government said they didn’t want to deal with pattern template, and that pretty much eliminated the go forward development of pattern templates for biometrics companies, and they did that through their own FIPS standard. Andersson: Writing specifications does not ensure interoperability. It takes much more than that – if you’re familiar with web services, developed by the world wide web consortium, already a worldwide standard, and that’s wsdl, and that’s the full interface of the ONVIF specification, and then each manufacturer can use this for code generation, but also on the client side, you use this to automatically generate the code and automatically ensure you have interoperability – furthermore, I would say that’s not even enough, it’s just insuring that the interface is correct, but if you request the h.264, you have to make sure that you get that stream, so you need a test tool and a conformance process to ensure that interoperability. Zivney: You mentioned REST earlier Rob, what’s that stand for? Hile: REST represents – you don’t want me to get technical – it’s an architecture style that’s built around exchanging information in an open format, using tools that are readily available, and it’s best for the edge integration. You don’t need the skills and tools that you need for some other architecture styles out there. Having standards does not ensure interoperability, until you have a standard that’s widely adopted, and that’s written around interoperability, it’s not going to be successful. Knight: I want to call the audience’s attention to my colleagues to the far right. They all represent very serious and intelligent and capable specialized interests, in areas that overlap, and what we have are two distinct solutions that both of them are pitching to us, and they’re both quality solutions, but what we’re doing by virtue of the process is we’re balkanizing the industry, ensuring the failure of standards to unify and achieve open system integration and predictable performance. It doesn’t mean that what they’re doing is wrong, it’s a good thing, but it speaks to the standards process in general. They’re making great intellectual contributions, but we’re doing it in a balkanized way, and so we’re not getting the aggregate harmonization of these in the ASNI process that has very strict rules for consensus based development, no pay to play, public review, all those things that are fundamental to the development of standards that will actually work. Another issue for a standard to actually work, both the consumer and the manufacturer have to be partners in the development of the standard, and this is my considered opinion. If it’s just manufacturers agreeing to do something a certain way, that’s fine, but whether they can shove it down the customers’ throat is kind of in doubt. You have to build a constituency behind the standard that brings everyone to the same table and they need to work on defining the use cases. But absent the motivation to utilize the standards and absent the open consensus based forum, I don’t think you get standards that work. I think you get a balkanized development environment. Manufacturers will go that way, customers will go another way, and the next solution will come along and frustrate everybody and we’ll wind up where access control is today. Zivney: What are the market forces that are driving standards? Hile: It’s all about the cost, it’s about cost of ownership, cost of implementation. It’s about a system being obsolete because it won’t talk to anything else. Every tool they have is interoperable with something else, except they can’t expand their camera system without going back to the original manufacturer, and that’s wrong. You might think I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth, because we’re making a lot of money taking those disparate systems and making them talk, but Id’ rather make my money making the customer happy with services, instead of making my money every time vendor a doesn’t work with vendor b. Zivney: The customer drove the demand for standards, but it took 10 years to get that first BACnet standard out, and this is not an easy process. Knight: I saw an industry recognize that its customer base was angry at it, and they felt like, ‘boy we better placate them because otherwise they might do harm to our revenues.’ But a more mature perspective about the value of standards is that it defines markets, makes it possible for folks outside the current market to come in and use the standards within that market. You can count on buying products in markets that are subject to open public based standards, so if you’re a manufacturer of a product in this space, and participating in standards it’s a good plan, because you will know what to do first, and your products can be more acceptable to people in your market, and more important, outside your market. I’ve got an example for you: In the early to mid 80s, if you wanted to put a network in your business, it was a proprietary experience, and a network card cost $450 and the software cost three thousand dollars, and no one would talk to anyone, and it was frustrating. Today a network card costs $25 and it does everything under the sun. And now a lot of manufacturers aren’t there, but the ones that are there are making a lot of money, and the business expanded for the manufacturers and the end users, and that’s why we should all be participating: faster solutions development, more competitive environment, so we get better products faster, and much more capability, and save money, yes. Roehr: You hit the pin on the head - it is the customer at the end of the day who says, ‘Hey, I want something that’s interoperable.’ After you get out of that, ‘hey, I’m going to be a proprietary manufacturer’ mode, one of the things that’s a big benefit is that you gain from the intellectual capital of everyone in the industry. You don’t just have this myopic view of your world from where you sit, or what you learned at maybe one trade show a year. You’re actively engaged with your colleagues and your customers, and if you don’t do that, you’re going to fail. You find out and get the consensus of everyone’s good ideas. I’ve certainly come from a lot of standards meetings thinking one thing and leaving thinking another. Question from the audience: Have we looked around the world at what other countries and groups are doing? Andersson: There are certainly standardization organizations doing work around the world, BACnet, SIA; you see organizations like Senelec in Europe that are on the same pace right now, not only with video but with other devices as well. We are also involved with organizations like JAFA in Japan, really trying to get a global overview, get these efforts aligned. Zivney: Are we reaching out to the globe with these efforts or just an American base? Hunter? Knight: I’ve been to China, for SIA, I’ve been to Brazil. We have other staff members who’ve been to other countries working with local industry associations around the world. We all look at everyone else’s technical standards as they are available. But the problem is more fundamental. The existence of standards in Europe vis a vis different standards in the U.S. creates market opportunities and difficulties, for each of the parties. And there are lots of politics. ANSI is the US representative to ISO. ANSI is therefore the top dog for standards in the United States, and when you look at the position of the United States vis a vis Europe, and the development of the protection of markets. For example in Europe they might want to develop a standard that freezes U.S. products out and at the same time eases European products into the U.S., so there’s all this internecine warfare going on out there. You can’t just hope that you get good standards. It’s a very tough problem. If you think it’s hard to develop a standard in the U.S., try developing one worldwide. Zivney: So, is SIA trying to develop a global standard or a US standard? Knight: All SIA standards are right now ANSI standards, because that has to be our first step, but they’re all formatted and tagged to go to ISO; our focus is to have all ISO standards over time. But I can’t minimize the challenges. The way to make it better is to get more of you folks to come up to DC and participate and give your opinions. Roehr: Most of the standards I deal with are developed internationally, and we’re starting to leverage them here in the United States, they’re either German or French and have been moved up through the ISO process and are being used in the United States. Hile: We’ve talked to Senelec and the British Security Industry Association. Our philosophy is pretty simple. We’re not a SDO. We’d like to develop a specification and we’d like SIA to take that specification and run it through its process and make sure it is an international standard. Zivney: How do companies realize a return on investment for participating in this process? Can the new small guys participate in standards development? In many cases they don’t have the money or the bandwidth to participate in these things. So, can the little guys participate with your groups and do you charge for participation? Hile: It’s my personal opinion that the smaller manufactures stand the most to gain from interoperability. Most of the VMS players have already integrated with a lot of the big players, so the small guys are standing there looking at a brick wall, and they have no way of working with these VMS players unless they sell a lot of cameras and then can leverage the fact that they want a gateway or an API to their system. So, yeah, the little guys can participate and I think there’s tremendous return on investment for them. The larger players, their return on investment is that they better do something or they’re going to get run over. That’s probably not the best thing for the industry, but maybe it is, to get us out of the proprietary system that we’re in. As far as pay to play, we are open, we do have core memberships that are fee-based, based on SIA and what some of the other organizations do. But our specification is out, you can go to the internet and register for it. It’s an open comment specification. We want industry influence on the specification and we take that very seriously. Zivney: It’s not unusual for standards development activities to have a cost associated with it, and therefore a fee associated with it, so I didn’t mean that to be a negative. Jonas? Andersson: In my opinion, companies can actually calculate how advantageous it will actually be to engage in a standard organization. If you look at the manufacturers of video devices, access control devices, for example, there’s a cost in developing the interface, but also a certain cost in ensuring that the interface is correct and testing and so on. But you can actually calculate how much that would cost and how much you would gain by joining a standard organization, or standardization effort in general, to actually reduce your development and testing costs. Zivney: Can you clarify whether ONVIF includes a testing body to go along with it? Andersson: I’ll get back to that. But I’d like to begin on the other thing first. Specifically if you look at VMS manufacturers, who have to develop support for hundreds of video interfaces today and test them, they can reduce that cost quite a lot. Even a small company will gain a lot by influencing standardization and reducing their development costs. To get back to the test body, ONVIF will provide a conformance process, and the test tools to ensure that the manufactures have the quality interface. Zivney: Does ONVIF charge? Andersson: To join ONVIF it’s from $1000 to get a hold of all of this, but just as Rob mentioned, the specification is of course available freely on the Internet. But to get all of these test specifications, the test tools and process, it’s $1000 per year, and then there are higher levels to be more involved. Zivney: Hunter, does SIA charge? Knight: SIA makes no charge for participating in its standards program. You don’t even have to be a member. You have to pay your own expenses. In any particular standards program you might have four meetings a year, two days, probably spend $1000 in meeting expenses, so you’ve got some meeting expenses, and a critical person may or may not be missing from the group. One of the things you asked Rob, was what about small companies. In 11 years of doing this, what I find is the greatest contributors, the most effective contributors, come from small companies, and they end up having an enormous influence on the evolution of standards, and why is that? Because they don’t send a junior person, they send a CEO or provisionary for the organization to the meeting, and that brings in a wealth of talent that we don’t normally see when a big company leads a charge of following chickens, or a couple big companies lead a group to go build some standards. It tends to be the big guys set the pace, and the rest of the guys chug along and just hang on. At SIA, we find the small organizations have the greatest influence and the greatest contribution, and the voting process, because it’s ANSI, is such that a big company can’t overpower a little company, five big companies can’t overpower five little companies, so it’s a really democratic process, and it’s fun to watch how ideas change and get manipulated because of the brilliance of some of the contributors. Zivney: I’m going to ask a question. So, Jonas and Rob Hile can come to a SIA meeting, come participate on day one, without having to pre-register and pay money? And I’ll ask it the other way around, can Hunter show up at one of your meetings and participate without having to pre-register or pay money? Knight: You can come, you just need to let us know so we can buy lunch for you. We tend to work a lot. There’s no charge, you can come and participate. You get on the mailing list. You don’t even need to come, just say you’re interested and you’ll get all the evolutionary documents and participate. But it’s a thrilling process if you get in there and participate. Zivney: How does it work the other way around? Andersson: Well, at ONVIF, you have to be a member, but like Hunter talked about, we do have democracy. It’s one vote for one company, so it’s important to get that democracy in there in these organizations so small companies can cooperate with the larger in developing these standards. And you mentioned earlier that it’s important for small companies to join and influence, and I agree on that, but often you need some larger manufactures to really get things going and implementing the standards on the market and providing product. Hile: These are very good points that are being made up here. To be a voting member of the PSIA you do have to join and there is a fee associated with that. We try to take a little simpler approach by putting our specification on the Internet so you don’t have to travel to DC four times a year to get input into our specification. You don’t have to travel. I’ll also add that our organization just got off the ground, and we’ve been getting beat up because we’ve had some closed meetings, and a lot of people are a little, ‘what the heck’s going on with this PSIA group and what’s been going on?’ Really, that just came down to financials. We didn’t have enough money to rent a room. So we just basically begged, borrowed, and stole to get a small room so we could have core group meetings to get this thing off the ground. However, we are a little more organized now, we’ve got some cash, and we are going to have an open meeting at ISC West. All of my friends here can come, everybody out there can come, and we’ll tell everybody what’s going on. Zivney: Roger, you’re involved in a lot of committee activity, who do you see mostly involved? Large guys, small guys? Roehr: Most of the guys I see are large guys, just because of the travel expenses, and that. I do think it’s a value for an organization no matter what size it is. To reiterate, the Smart Card Alliance is not an SDO, the product we primarily put out is a white paper. We are an alliance, we do run off of membership, so it is a corporate membership, and then any employee of that corporation can attend any of the council calls. We do not in general have in-person meetings; we generally do white paper development through conference calls and WebXs. Zivney: And typically your white papers might even talk about how to use the standards of another body, right? Roehr: Yes, quite often it is about how to use the standard of another body. Or, in the case of the one we’re working on right now, we’re recommending to NIST that they use the standard of another body for their program. Knight: One comment. I should point out that SIA doesn’t always have face to face meetings, but since most of our technical design work is done around a conference table, I think we’ve found that we’re more efficient and get better work done in person. However, we do do the WebX, we do do the conference calls, we do circulate documents for comment. I don’t want to make you think it’s only face to face, but I really think you get the most effective work with a couple of days of face to face meetings. Zivney: I promised I’d get to a question in the back here. Question: (Paraphrasing, because it’s mostly inaudible) How does a software company like us, which is small and just getting started in the industry, possibly participate in all of these organizations, and how are we supposed to compare the different organizations and try to get an opinion on which might be the best to work with? Zivney: And I’d like to add to that question: Do you all have Web sites that make it easy to compare between each other, and if not what do you do? Hile: Definitely a web site, PSIalliance.org. What we’ve tried to do is we didn’t want to reinvent the wheel. We’re not an SDO. We really just wanted to take some grassroots, come up with some interoperable specifications for the industry. We reached out to SIA, we reached out to ONVIF. There’s some emails going around today, actually, to maybe try to merge the 2.0 specification. It’s not going to do us any good to all get up here and beat the crap out of each other. It’s not going to do the industry any good. It’s not going to do our customers any good. We all realize our customers are demanding standards. So I think you’ll see a lot more cooperation. Zivney: I think you might be able to say for TechSec, that this was the first time that the standards bodies came together in one group and actually started talking about some of that cooperation. Knight: I actually have to take some exception to some of that. As an ANSI SDO, we’re subject to some very rigorous rules, or otherwise we’ll lose our charter. We’re not a pass-through organization. There’s a very rigorous set of rules that we need to follow. Which are good rules. Open, public, consensus-based standards development. I look forward to a time when ONFIV and PSIA will make some technical submissions to SIA for consideration, we also do calls for comment. I should point out there’s some news, it’s not out there but it’s new. There’s actually some nitty little details that get blown out of proportion and they’re called bindings. And the group working on bindings has made some tactical changes about how it’s been done, and we’ve identified a binding call SOAP, a binding called SIP – sounds kind of weird, like a beer commercial maybe – and then a pair of bindings called RTP and RTSP, that’s for video, the one in the middle is for audio, and the first one is for non-streaming data. And they’re probably going to be the initial industry standards for bindings, setting up the communication path. There’ll be a press release next week or something, but I can say that. I happen to be the chair of the committee that did that. There’s going to be some work to validate these initial selections, and the follow on with a bunch of calls for comment. But we can’t just take a PSIA standard and they say, ‘hey, here, pass this on to ANSI.’ It has to go into project and it has to go through the mill. I’m sympathetic to people who have multiple products, and who have to participate in a lot of these things. Last year I spent $42,000 attending these meetings. So I understand the cost. But what I will tell you is that if you want to position your company at the front of the line for being able to reach out and get into other spaces and get into new markets, then you’re foolish if you don’t get in and participate in an open standards process. Zivney: I’m going to take one more question here, and I’ll ask the panelists to answer it in writing and ask the panelists to submit it to the publications. What if you guys are all successful, can our industry comply with all of the standards? Are we looking at a new kind of crisis? We go from zero standards to too many to possibly comply with? What do we do? Knight: I can tell you what the federal government is going to do. Public law Number 4, which is an amendment to some other thing, creates a requirement on the part of the federal government, using federal money, that they must go out and buy things using consensus-based open standards, as a basis for the acquisition of products. By the way this is one of the reasons we focused on them early in trying to build a consensus. Therefore SIA made the decision to work only on ANSI standards, because those standards would have the force of law, in some sense, for the federal acquisitions of products. Now I don’t think that’s going to be a day or night thing, I think it will be gradual. But that’s there, so anybody in the federal government that wants to go out and buy something that doesn’t conform to those standards is going to find that their boss has to go to the secretary of commerce and explain why he didn’t follow the rules. That’s an annual requirement in the federal government. How effective that will be? It’s been effective in other industries, but we’ll see. Because those standards are now coming out of SIA, and we did that because it creates value for our members, because the work that they did on standards has a better defined pay off. there’s a big market segment that’s out there that’s going to create value. Roehr: As a smart card alliance, we’re not an SDO, so what we see is that standards are out there, and if you have a wide variety of standards, it does allow you to choose the standard that will work for your implementation. I talked a little bit about what the federal government did with their PIV effort, and they accepted multiple standards and encompassed more than one and then chose a path in some other places. I think at the end of the day, the good thing about standards is that it’s a consensus of a lot of smart people, and there’s a lot of thought that goes into that, and it’s not something that’s just someone’s off the cuff thought. You have a pretty good chance of getting something that gets you down the road to interoperability, and has some pretty good thought behind it as to how to implement your solution. Andersson: I don’t think you should exaggerate that you’ll get several standards. It’s just as Rob said earlier, there’s been a lot of communication between organizations here, between SIA, and ONVIF, and PSIA, and as Hunter mentioned earlier, you need to formalize this specification, as it should rightfully be called, into a more formalized standard before you can start using them. And this is quite early days for standards, even though there’s been quite a lot of work being done by SIA for a long time, and getting all the companies involved, and now there’s more and more discussion between organizations and we’ll wait and see if there are several standards. Hile: No, I agree. It’s interesting. I keep hearing this over and over again, and, Rob, I think it’s just an excuse: ‘Oh, my God, we’ve got all these specifications and standards now!’ We had none. We had none a couple years ago. And now we’ve got four people sitting up here, four groups that are passionate about standards. Okay, so we get our specification approved, and it’s based on REST for its architecture. And you (turning toward Jonas) get your specification published and it’s based on web services. We have another one that’s based on SOAP. Okay, we’ve got three! I’m damned excited about that! I had none! When you look at all of those specifications and architecture styles, you can specifically see those architecture styles. If you’re doing host-level integration between two disparate computer networks, SOAP might be the best choice. If I’m doing edge-level integration, I might want to use web services or REST. So you’re going to have a lot of tools. Don’t get wrapped up in if you have a lot of standards it’s a bad thing. A lot of industries there’s two or three, and you use those tools when you get to specific integration challenges. And as an integrator I’m really, really happy about that. And I think the manufacturers will be, too, because they’ll have choices, they’ll be able to take their features and benefits of their system and they’ll be able to design it around an architecture style that fits their features and benefits best. Roehr: I think the market’s going to drive it at the end. If you look at the IT community, there’s 802.3 and 802.5, token ring and Ethernet, you’d be really challenged to see anyone using 802.5. The market said, ‘hey, we like this standard better than that.’ Multiple standards can be out there, but the market’s going to decide. Zivney: I think the lesson here is, if you are a manufacturer or an end user making a selection, a specifier, one thing that comes across with all the buzzwords and acronyms, the numbers, you’ve got to do your homework on these things. You’ve got to understand what these standards bodies are building on and the new ones they’re introducing, and it’s all part of the IT progress of the IP technology that we’re basing our industry and products on. So, I’ll end this with an old saying, which you can see here, “The nice thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from.” Thank you all for coming.

Will computers replace human operators in central stations?

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Friday, March 6, 2009
I was emailing with Dice Corporation business development EA Melissa Roedel recently, and she was all excited about a new branding initiative Dice is ready to throw into high gear. Dice, a provider of security industry dispatch software, in February unveiled its newest offering, Quantum Operator, a software system designed using advanced human-like voice technologies to make calls on alarms. The system can handle 12 to 100 calls at a time, depending on how it is configured, and can allow human operators to concentrate on higher-level alarms. Dice president Mike Simpson said Quantum Operator is just one of more than 75 upcoming Dice products and services that will bear the Quantum branding. New York, N.Y.-based Statewide Monitoring recently installed Quantum Operator, and company president Steven Coppola said he has been pleased with the results. Simpson claimed the next few releases of the product may include such services as Collection Calls, Service Appointment Notification, Installation Quality Inspections, Sales Appointment Reminders, and Sales Presentation Calls. Stay tuned for updates as they become available.

ADT lays off 500

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Thursday, March 5, 2009
I've got a call into my contacts at ADT for more details on this story which says that ADT has laid off 500 workers. It appears from this story that they were employed in the commercial and retail divisions of ADT.

JC lands a $5b contract (yep, that's a b)

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Thursday, March 5, 2009
Okay, so it's not security-related necessarily, but if you don't think the energy conservation/building controls market is a growing one, take a look at this release from Johnson Controls:
MILWAUKEE (March 4, 2009) - A new national appetite for energy efficiency and renewable energy – especially within federal government buildings – means Johnson Controls is well-positioned to expand its leadership in the marketplace. The company was recently awarded two federal contracts that could result in more than $5 billion over the next five years according to Iain Campbell, vice president and general manager – North America, Johnson Controls. Campbell testified this week in Washington, D.C., at the House Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment hearing, “Energy Efficiency: Complementary Policies for Climate Legislation.”
Five billion dollars? That's a pretty decent contract, I'd say. Isn't that, like, the entire market for security product sales in the world?
“These contracts, along with the recently passed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, increase the nation’s focus and investment in energy efficiency, especially in federal, state and local government facilities,” said Campbell, “Energy efficiency should be the first priority in addressing climate change as a way of containing the cost of climate protection policies and creating new jobs.”
And I'd say energy efficiency is a good market to work your way into if you're doing security system integration.

Viewpoint CRM ready to open new facility

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Thursday, March 5, 2009
Perhaps you caught this story a couple weeks ago in the Boston Globe. It did my heart good to read it. It's about a security company, Viewpoint CRM, that's projecting growth despite the economic turmoil the rest of the world is experiencing. Viewpoint CRM is a video surveillance company based in Lowell, Mass. One of their strong points is that in a tough economy, it makes more sense to use technology to make surveillance intelligent, and real time rather than dull, expensive and reactionary the way actual human guard services can be. I wrote a story on a similar company Virtual Guard Services a few months ago. According to Viewpoint CRM vice president of channel sales & marketing Michael Hanlon, the center will be up and running "in a couple weeks." Tune back in then for an update on this new advanced video monitoring facility, a couple pictures of which I've included below. viewpoint12 viewpoint21

How are your project management skills?

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009
In a scramble now getting ready to head back to Maine. I have reams of notes from the AMAG Technology event, had a chance to talk to a bunch of partners, as well as AMAG execs, including Matt Barnette and Bob Sawyer. I've got details about AMAG's plans for the next year (things are looking good, revenue and growth are steady--isn't that nice to hear for a change?). I heard lots of good news from the consultants here as well. Some have the biggest backlog of jobs they've ever had. I also got an earfull about how consultants work with you all. A common complaint from consultants about some of you is that you need to work on your project management skills. What do you have to say to that? I'll do some blogging while I'm waiting for planes in the long day ahead. It's 75, the sun's coming up over mountains, there are rabbits all over the lawn (I'm not kidding) the desert landscape is spectacular (Frank Lloyd Wright thought all the cacti and desert scrub it looked like the bottom of the ocean, and imagined his winter home as a ship sailing through that ocean.) So, it's beautiful here and I look forward to returning, but I can't wait to get back to my frozen home in Maine.

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