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Another good way to use the web

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Friday, November 21, 2008
I don't know a lot about Homeland Integrated Security Systems, other than the fact that their name seems a bit foolish and opportunistic and that they make a product called the Cyber Tracker that's a GPS-based fleet management tool. There are some security applications, sure, and I think there's a resell opportunity for both the integrator and the central station, but that's mostly irrelevant to what I'm interested in here. What I like is their new ROI calculator. It's just the way to use the web, much like IQinVision's "pixels per foot" tool, for example. Get people using your web site to help solve their problems, not just find contact information and read product specs. Here, with the ROI tool, you fill in the number of vehicles in your fleet, what you're paying in gas, etc., and the calculator shows how much you'll save with the Cyber Tracker. For dealers, this would be a place to send your end users: "Wow. I'm going save $1,000 a day and only pay $500 a day? That's a no brainer." Whether the ROI calculator is accurate or not is another question. You sort of have to take their word for it. Still, if you can get something like this going on your site (and it's pretty simple to set up), or encourage your vendor partners to get it going on their sites, it's a very helpful thing to have. Selling biometric access control? Why not an ROI calculator showing how much will be saved in not having to invest in smart cards (or cards of any kind, if you go with single authentication)? Selling HD cameras? Have a calculator that shows how many analog cameras will be negated and show how one more expensive camera is actually cheaper than x number of inexpensive cameras. ROI right now is the crucial sell. Yes, keeping people safe remains important, but in this climate, if you can show the cost-benefit comes out in their favor in real-dollar terms, that's huge.

What's an "IT security company"?

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Thursday, November 20, 2008
This seems interesting. Network World has released its "10 IT security companies to watch" list for 2008. Now, one would think that "IT security companies" are companies that provide IT security - protecting the network, spam filtering, firewall stuff, that kind of thing. However, there's notably a few companies that I would consider physical-security companies. What makes them IT? Let's look. First up is at the top of the list, BRS Labs. I wrote about them when they launched back in September. Focus: AISight is video-analytics technology that can convert images captured by a camera into machine-readable output that provides real-time intelligence about the surveillance to generate an alert. Why it's worth watching: As use of video-monitoring grows, business and government may want to automate surveillance to be warned of unexpected events. AISight can be used with existing video-monitoring systems. Um, yeah. Don't a lot of companies do this sort of thing? It may be true that BRS can do some things (learn, basically) that other analytics companies can't, but you wouldn't know that from this write up. So why does Network World single them out? How company got its start: Founder Ray Davis saw a gap in the effectiveness of video surveillance systems and backed a team of scientists working on artificial-intelligence recognitions systems for video. How company got its name: The BRS artificial-intelligence technology uses adaptive learning to anticipate behavior based on knowledge it accumulates over time. CEO: Davis is an entrepreneur involved in technology start-ups from the '90's, including SimDesk, CyNet and OnDisk. Ah-ha. Because Davis if one of their own. This is interesting to note. Because "IT" has come to mean "wicked smart guys," and IT publications are inherently the ones who've created this glow around IT guys, physical security companies with executives with IT backgrounds will get bonus points from these kinds of publications, but also from IT directors who are part of security buys much more often now. Here's the next one, Envysion. We're written about them here and here. I like this company's model, and I think video as a service is a great RMR generator for integrators. But how is it "IT security"? It's the classic physical security solution of preventing theft and damage and physical harm, like any CCTV system, it's just done remotely and over the network. Focus: Its managed video-surveillance services include installation of cameras in business locations, then remotely managing them through the Denver-based data center. Envysion can also enable detection of theft through correlating sales data generated electronically through cash registers and bar-coding with video-surveillance recordings of activity. Why it's worth watching: IP-based digital-surveillance systems are becoming more popular in business, but not every organization wants to install and manage them. Envysion's approach provides businesses with a managed service that has Internet and Web-based access to live and stored video feeds. Again, other companies do this. We wrote about another company getting into it just this month. Maybe they're the best at it. Maybe they're not. But why did Network World take notice? How company got its start: The company, now with 35 employees, was founded by CEO Matt Steinfort, Chairman Dan Caruso and CTO Rob Hagens. All were formerly with Level 3 Communications, where they saw growth in business video surveillance occurring and became convinced a managed service would prove popular. Yep. They're "IT guys," so, smarter than everyone else. Still, they do have good customers, I have to admit. Customers: About 40, including Chipolte, IHOP, and Captain D’s seafood chain. Have you had Chipotle? (There's a typo from Network World's write-up above. I left it in because I'm petty.) Their burritos are amazing. We don't have any in Maine, unfortunately. Anyway, all the other companies on the list do thinks like analyze data packets or detect malware or keep bad stuff from being done on desktops, etc. Those are "IT security companies." Envysion and BRS Labs are physical (or "electronic," maybe) security companies that just happen to have been launched by IT guys. I don't think this is just an exercise in semantics. I think it's important for traditional security players to watch out for this and raise red flags with a media that tends to lionize IT vendors and pooh-pooh traditional security guys as guns-and-fences types. There's plenty of sophisticated technology in physical security, and not all of it was created by IT guys with lots of "start-ups" on their resumes.

Raefield following through on Mace promises

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Looks like Dennis Raefield is following through on his promise to re-shape Mace. Word went out today that Mace has replaced Security division head Devin Benjamin, who was only back with Mace a short time, with John O'Leary, who worked with Raefield at Rosslare and Honeywell, from what I can tell, and who comes from a most-recent position as Security and Privacy Leader of IBM Global Services. I can't tell if he was under Julie Donahue there or not. I'm putting in a request for an interview, so hopefully you'll hear from John relatively soon.

CSAA Fall Operations Management Seminar

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Friday, November 14, 2008
I had a chance to go to the last day of the CSAA Fall Operations Management Seminar on Nov. 11 at the Boston Marriott Peabody in Peabody, Mass. It was nice to meet so many of you upon whom I report, and to get a chance to learn a little more about the industry and its concerns. The opening segment on day three, a talk about liability issues and how to avoid sticky situations, was delivered with a little fire and brimstone by Jeffrey Zwirn, president of IDS Research. Pictured above is Zwirn speaking to about 75 attendees at the morning's opening session. Around midday, attendees were bussed out to Wayne Alarm Security Systems, Inc. in nearby Lynn, Mass., for a tour of the Wayne Alarm facility. Wayne Alarm founder and president Ralph Sevinor was on hand to start the tour off right with a stop by a table laden with fresh fruit, doughnuts, cookies and other pastries, bottled water, coffee, and soda before visiting the station's Antique Corner. Sevinor, showing off his extensive, pristine collection of all things security, obviously has a passion for the security industry. Of Wayne Alarm, Morgan Hertel of The Command Center, Inc., said "That guy's got the greatest museum in the industry. Nice clean facility. It was a nice tour." Pictured above is Hertel setting up for his talk, the last of the day before the closing Open Forum. Overall, attendees seemed pleased at what they found at the CSAA's Fall Ops Seminar. Loretta DiVincenzo of Cleveland, Ohio-based Gillmore Security Systems (in the video clip below) was especially impressed with the sense of camaraderie and honesty that seemed to pervade the weekend's sessions, as potential competitors came together to discuss and perhaps help each other solve common problems. video CSAA education committee co-chair Pam Petrow, chief operating officer at Vector Security would have made Phil Donahue proud, roving from one corner of the banquet room to the other to provide her microphone to each and every attendee who desired to speak and contribute. There was no constricting format, and some of the topics discussed were absent/tardy policies, and the enforcement thereof, as well as creative interviewing/hiring practices, and where to go to find staff when you were starting a new central from scratch. Pictured at the right is Pam Petrow and her microphone facilitating discussion.

First night at Honeywell's First Alert Professionals conference

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Thursday, November 13, 2008
The first night of the First Alert conference is always a casual buffet dinner with music. Normally it's outside, but apparently they were forecasting thunderstorms tonight in Orlando. It was a very nice event, and since this is my fourth FAP conference, and I've been reporting on this group for a while, some of the faces are very familiar. The folks from Georgia, whom I sat with while I was eating, didn't seem to mind being inside. I sat next to Chris Nisinger, who was there with five others, including president and owner Judy Randle from Central Monitoring of Albany, Ga. They get the warm weather all the time though. It was those of us from New England who wanted to be outside. I was talking to one of my FAP favorites, the folks from HB Alarm in Cranston,R.I. , John Bourque, his wife, Nancy, daughter Andrea, nephew Mike Bourque, and Helder Silveira, a very interesting sales guy, who John hired, in part, for his language skiils. He's tri-lingual in Portuguese, Spanish & English. I'm looking forward to attending an educational session on Saturday, led by one of the Bourques, about dealing with AHJs, something HB is well acquainted with. Here's John and Leo Guthart at the Ademco/Honeywell Museum opening last spring. And speaking of nice families, have I got some news for you. You know Bob Ryan, sales & marketing guru extraordinaire for ASG? Here he is: Feel like you're seeing double? There are more double-Ryans on the way. I saw Bob and his wife Angele tonight and learned that they're expecting--twins--late spring. Bob and Angele said it's not a huge surprise. Bob has an identical twin, and Angele has twins in her family as well. Congratulations Bob and Angele!

First Alert bound

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Thursday, November 13, 2008
On my way to the Honeywell First Alert Professionals conference and killing a little time before boarding my flight from NY to Orlando. It's my first time in the new Jet Blue terminal, which just opened in October. Too early in the day to try out any of the many dining options, but I like the looks of the places, and the mod seating options in and around the terminal in particular. I read that the architect for the project, David Rockwell (who is also a set designer), collaborated with broadway choreographer Jerry Mitchell in the design. I wouldn't say I was dancing through the place this morning, but I was perhaps a little more fleet-footed than usual cause it's an easy space to navigate. So I'll be hanging out with some of the top security dealers in the country for the next couple days. I expect to post some entries here and I'm hoping to talk to some dealers on camera too. We're launching SSNTVNews in January, so I've been charged with helping to come up with some content. Who knew I was not only a blogging expert, but a videographer as well? Gonna have to get myself some square glasses and maybe I'll start calling people Dude as well. I've got my daughter's digital camera, and I'm going to track down David Gottlieb, the global marketing guy for Honeywell, cause I know he's a video expert, and hopefully he can show me how to use the thing. In the meantime, watch Sam's promo for our video contest. And then send him a note telling him to stick to writing. If you want to see some better YouTube video, check out this. It's of the May opening of the Honeywell/Ademco museum at the new Honeywell headquarters. I was there, but make no cameo in this video. http://www.securitysystemsnews.com/index.php?p=blogs

A fully converged security company?

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Busy, busy today, but here's something you'll see on our newswire this week: Entrance Controls to Purchase Portland, Ore.-based 1Pointe Acquisition to Create Leading West Coast Security Applications, Equipment and IT Company You might remember an interview I did with Entrance's Scott Ferguson where he said this would be happening. Still, this is an interesting development, and the first time I've heard of a traditional security integrator actually just buying a traditional IT networking firm outright. Very cool, in my opinion. SEATTLE--Entrance Controls, a security-focused information technology company that provides comprehensive security management systems for business has acquired Portland, Ore.-based 1Pointe, a network monitoring, security, and information technology company. The transaction, which closed Nov. 4, makes 1Pointe a solely owned independent company of Entrance Controls. Good marketing speak, there: "a security-focused information technology company." That's nice. The combined organization creates one of the largest comprehensive security-focused companies on the West Coast and will be one of the only companies in the nation to offer the full spectrum of physical, logical and virtual security solutions. This includes, access control, video surveillance, monitoring, storage, gate and perimeter protection, and IT security solutions for business. I'll have more for you on the wire on Thursday. I met with David Pelkey, the Entrance Controls president, at ASIS, and we had a great discussion. He's really got a great vision for where he's taking his company and where the industry is headed.

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Wow, is this a bad idea

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Monday, November 10, 2008
This is a little bit outside my normal focus on physical security, but I wanted to post something about this just to show you the kind of crazy ideas that are being proposed in the name of "safety." On the newswire today, a professor from Millersville University (where's that?) posted a press release calling for a "Universal ID" on the Internet, similar to a universal driver's license. Millersville University of Pennsylvania computer science professor Dr. Nazli Hardy says it is no longer okay to be anonymous on the Internet. She is calling for a Universal Personal ID to restore safety on the Internet. "Imagine people owning homes and cars and working at jobs under aliases where they create a fantastical identification for themselves - there would be utter security chaos," explains Hardy. "The current state of Internet security is really a misnomer. There is no security. However, there is a way to make using the Internet safe again, a Universal Personal ID." Wow, if that analogy held any weight, it would be really scary. Unfortunately, it doesn't. This woman wants to stop criminals from doing bad things on the Internet. Sounds good. Does she think that when people rob banks, they have a giant ID on their chest that tells people their name and where they live? Does she think that respectable businesses on the Web don't make it very clear who they are and where they do business? Does she think that spammers would comply with the universal ID law? People who buy cars and steal identities certainly don't comply with laws about providing real IDs when they make purchases. I absolutely can imagine people owning homes and cars and working under aliases. It happens all the time. They're criminals! Further, when we go about our daily lives, it's not like we have our drivers' licenses strapped to our chests in large letters. We have all kinds of anonymity in our normal day. When I go to a Sox game and yell absurd things at the batter, I'm fairly certain no one actually knows who I am - that's kind of the point. People love the anonymity of crowds. When I'm at a concert dancing around like a freak show, I'm pretty happy people can't identify me and then post pictures of the editor of Security Systems News making an ass of himself. When I'm at the toy store buying my fifth Wiffle bat of the summer, and I pay in cash, I'm kind of glad no one knows I don't have any kids old enough play Wiffle ball and the game if for me and my buddies. Further, further, this would only give criminals and people with bad intents more ammunition: "Hey, that guy said something I don't agree with online. I have his ID, which gives me his address, I think I'll go knock on his door and give him a piece of my mind. And, what's that, he's got a daughter that goes to school with mine? Well, I'll tell my daughter to tear her hair out!" Etc., ad nauseum. This constant inclination by well meaning people to strip rights and privileges from the law-abiding in an attempt to cut down on crime just doesn't make any sense to me. It strikes me as incredibly cynical: Let's punish everyone because it's impossible to simply punish the bad guys. Well, I say, "no." Let's get better at finding the bad guys and punishing them, and keep the Internet free for open discussion and anonymity where it's appropriate. People who want to build their reputations and make successes of themselves with the power of the Internet will certainly make their identifications known, and people who have something to hide because of their nefarious intent will continue to hide themselves, just as they do outside of their Internet activities.

All mashed-up: Cisco and IBM

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Friday, November 7, 2008
Hip-hop fans (hi, both of you) in the security industry should be familiar with the concept of the mash-up, where a DJ takes tracks from, say, the Beatles and Jay-Z, and layers them on top of one another and splices them up to create a whole new song that may or may not be enjoyable. Now, IBM is allowing users to do something similar with web applications. These mash-ups take two different applications, like Mapquest and a restaurant reviewing site, for example, and provide you with a combination that gives you something new, like a site that not only reviews the restaurant, but shows you where it is and provides directions. This week, Cisco and IBM built a video surveillance mash-up: Cisco Systems used IBM's Mashup Center to build a mashup that lets users convert feeds from a physical video surveillance camera into an app that security personnel can manipulate by clicking a mouse. I prefer mash-up to mashup. The latter reads like a Massachusetts-based Native American tribe, but maybe that's just my New England roots. Anyway, this kind of IP surveillance design on the fly is pretty intriguing, no? The IBM-Cisco mashup, which took eight hours to build, also enables users to execute instant messaging chats via IBM Lotus Sametime so that security workers can communicate in real time. In short, Cisco exposed an API to its devices, IBM created a widget representation of it and put it into Mashup Center. The idea, which IBM and Cisco landed on a month ago, is to take something from the physical realm, digitize it and render it more actionable in a business context via a mashup, a composite app made up of other apps. IBM happens to have a boatload on such technologies and is widely considered a mindshare leader in the space. Mindshare, not market share, because the enterprise market for mashups has yet to take off. To wit, there are no current plans to productize the mashup. One wonders whether there is even a call for such technologies in the surveillance industry. What would 007 say? Well, 007 really doesn't have anything to do with modern security, of course, but I guess there is a new Bond movie coming out (love the new theme song, actually - that Jack White can do no wrong), so maybe that's a product placement? Anyway, if integrators get hip to this kind of customization, just think of the way they can solve problems for end users and tie themselves to their customers. "What's that? You wish you could have something pop up in this situation that would demand the operator send a message to his superior? Yeah, I can make that happen." It would take away the need for manufacturers to put so much time into functionality ahead of time, and just leave open lots of possibilities for what the end user actually wants to be able to do. It's a very cool concept.

NY Times buys what InGrid's selling

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Thursday, November 6, 2008
It's becoming pretty clear that InGrid possesses one of the savvier marketing departments in the industry. I showed you over the summer how they weaseled their way into all kinds of newspapers with free "editorial." (Good for them. I admire weasels.) Now they've landed themselves a story in the New York Times that isn't exactly complimentary to the alarm industry as a whole. As you might expect in what appears to be a planted sort of story, it's sort of riddled with inaccuracies. I'm not one who slags the New York Times as a rule, but there's some pretty embarrassing stuff here, and I don't think John Biggs is a frontline NYT reporter. Wirelessly, Home Security Becomes a D.I.Y. Project By JOHN BIGGS WHEN Ken Jongsma built his new house, he found that the builders had already installed a basic security system — sometimes called a prewire. A tinkerer and engineer, Mr. Jongsma, 50, decided to upgrade and monitor the system on his own. “What most people do not understand is that a residential alarm prewire is a come-on by alarm companies to get you to sign up for their — usually expensive — monitoring,” he said. A "come-on." Or, a sales tactic. Or, a value-add installed by the builder. Why is this article so combative toward the alarm industry from the get-go? Until recently, Mr. Jongsma’s attempt to install and maintain his own security system would have been impossible. Now, however, with a little knowledge, even nonengineers can add a security system to their homes for less than a standard prewired installation by a professional. Most security systems consist of two parts: the hardware and the monitoring service. For decades, the hardware (window and door sensors and motion detectors, for example) was often installed by professionals, as it required some wiring and cabling. And while those sensors may have been connected to a siren or flashing lights, the real benefit to having an alarm has always been that someone will call the police when it goes off. For many years, that was also something the alarm companies were happy to provide — witness the countless television ads that have featured thoughtful and hyper-competent people staffing an alarm company’s command HQ, ready to call the police and offer reassurance to the homeowner. Hmm. I must have missed those "countless" ads. And is it bad to be hyper-competent? It's a benefit, right? As King Gillette discovered with razors and cellphone providers have popularized with monthly fees, the real money to be made in alarms is not in the hardware — it’s in the monitoring. The hardware can be subsidized by the security company almost to the point where it is free, but paying an alarm service about $30 a month for years and years to watch over your system more than makes those companies whole. Okay. Nothing new there. What's the point? People aren't supposed to try to make money in this country. We should be trying to build business plans that fail and don't make money? Newer systems, however, can reduce the total cost of alarm ownership. Instead of relying on installers to rewire the house, new “security systems in a box” use a combination of battery, wireless and cellular technology to make installation simple and quick for most homeowners. Some systems can even bypass monitoring firms directly and contact the owner instead of a third party when the alarm is set off. One such system is sold by InGrid Home Security. The basic package, available for $199 at ingridhome.com, includes an alarm console, a phone that doubles as an alarm control and three window or door sensors. The entire kit fits in a box about as big as a shoebox. The sensors stick to doors and windows with sticky tape and are completely wireless. They are powered by tiny watch batteries and connect automatically with a few taps on the cordless handset. You can monitor the system online, even taking video and images using an optional video camera. The system took about an hour to install in a two-story home. No tools were necessary but there were a few snags while activating sensors and base stations. And that would be better than someone else installing the alarm system wirelessly for a $99 initial fee why? It's better to do the work yourself and pay $100 more? What am I missing here? It's pretty clear that all of this guy's information is being supplied by InGrid. How is the total cost of ownership less, exactly? The monitoring service costs $20 a month and discounts are available with a yearly contract. What? I thought we were getting rid of the monitoring service. And where did that magical $30 a month figure come from before? It's a total straw-man argument. Set up some mythical $30 a month standard, then - WOW - InGrid is $10 a month cheaper than that! This is absurd. There are plenty of places the reporter could have acquired an industry standard for a monitoring fee (the CSAA comes to mind), and then maybe there could have been some discussion of what that monitoring fee gets you. And InGrid isn't using some kind of special monitoring service. They use Guardian Protection! What, do they charge old dummy alarm customers $30 a month for monitoring, but new self-install smarty-pants $20 a month? This is the height of crappy reporting. How much does Guardian charge if they install an InGrid system and then monitor it? How much does ADS charge when they install an InGrid system and then monitor it? Then we might have a real total cost of ownership discussion that made at least some sense. Right now? Not so much. A video camera costs $130 and temperature and water sensors — for basements or unattended summer homes — cost $60 each. The service offers 24-hour monitoring as well as access to video feeds over the Internet. Smoke and siren detectors cost $100 and $50 respectively. LaserShield, another company offering a monitoring and hardware package, focuses more on motion detectors in the home. The starter kit, which costs $200 and is available at lasershield.net, includes a motion sensor and keychain remote. It requires a standard telephone connection for monitoring and for sending alerts; monitoring costs an additional $20 a month. You can control the system through a Web site. Again, why do you want to pay more to install the system yourself? And why do you want to be the one installing your motion detectors, etc., when you have no clue about range and sensitivity and whether your dog is going to set them off? This is an option, sure, but not the obvious choice it's being made out to be. Within a few weeks , the company will release the LaserShield Pro, a professional grade security system that is designed for easy do-it-yourself installation. For under $300, the new pro kit includes a motion detector, control panel, and two door or window sensors. For an extra charge, LaserShield will also offer a flood detector, a glass-break detector and a wireless siren. The starter kit is fairly easy to install. You simply place the motion sensor in one room and the base in another, near the Internet or telephone lines. The alarm announces when it has been tripped and begins by calling your own phone number and then notifying the police if there is no reply. It took about 10 minutes to set up the hardware and activate the system. So, the inexpertly installed motion detector calls you on your cell phone when your dog sets it off. You're in a meeting and the phone is off. Next call is to the cops! I doubt there will be any false alarms generated there. Did anybody clue this guy into the false alarm problem at all? Doubtful. (Also, this guy can't decide if LaserShield is one word or two, but we'll let that slide.) For an additional $230 you can buy Laser Shield’s Cyclone, a stand-alone cellular transmitter that provides a connection to the company’s monitoring station even if phone lines are cut. Adding the Cyclone increases the monthly monitoring fee to $30. Those without landline telephones or VoIP services like Vonage will have to purchase Laser Shield’s Sparrow for an additional $130 (plus an extra $10 a month), which allows the alarm system to work over the Internet. What? Now we're back to $30 a month? That's what those old-school guys charge, right? So, I do all the work myself, I pay more for the initial package, and then I pay the same for the monitoring? Wow. That's a way better deal. Where do I sign up? Look, I'm being overly dramatic and I know that monitoring fees are all over the map in terms of what you pay for what types of service, etc. And that's my point. This isn't an in-depth exploration of whether you should DIY your alarm system or not. This is just a long (and it is long, so he did have the space to actually call someone from the industry - or call anyone, for that matter; the only quotes in here are from some random guy who self-installed a system, and he's an engineer!) advertisement for InGrid and LaserShield. What's the point of writing that? There's a reason LaserShield and InGrid are courting alarm dealers to install their products: People don't want to install their own security systems. And why should they? Look, I could install my own brand-new washer if I wanted to, but why would I? If I buy it from Sears, they come and do it for me, and then I get a service plan and all kinds of add-ons if I want them and that's where Sears makes their buck. Good for them if my washer never breaks. Good for me if (and of course, it does, generally when I'm on the road and the kids are sick) breaks and doesn't work. Of course, I could buy it online somewhere and have it appear at my door and lug it around and screw everything in and then fix it myself when it breaks, but why would I want to do that? I've got two freakin' kids that keep me plenty busy. Couldn't there be some discussion of the fact that InGrid and LaserShield products are both also sold by traditional alarm dealers? That this wireless thing is indeed cool, but mostly because it brings down the cost of professionally installed alarm systems? I just feel like this is a really pointless article to be in the New York Freakin' Times. Even big telecommunications companies are getting into the D.I.Y. security game. Steve Loop, director for business development at AT&T, says that home security has benefited from wireless connections. That is what prompted AT&T Wireless to offer AT&T Remote Monitoring. Originally aimed at small-business owners, the AT&T products do not contact the police in an emergency but instead send cellular text and e-mail messages to the homeowner when something is amiss. The basic kit starts at $299 and $25 a month. It includes one door sensor, a system controller and a remote camera. It also includes a system for transmitting video over home power lines. The kit also supports add-ons like temperature, motion and water sensors. Mr. Loop said he would not call AT&T remote monitoring a fully fledged security system. The system is truly D.I.Y. because the owner has to follow through when the alarm is set off. “The system lets you keep in touch with locations that matter to you when you’re not there,” he said. Mr. Loop said that some AT&T employees used the system to keep track of dogs and cats and even keep an eye on a babysitter while at work. The additional sensors act as triggers, allowing homeowners to keep track of sump pumps, heaters or air conditioners remotely. The installation and activation took about 30 minutes. I can't even get into how silly this part about AT&T is. For one, they charge a monthly fee for what's not even, by their own definition, a security system (wasn't that what we were trying to avoid?). For another thing, there is a monitored service you can get from AT&T as well, and it's run through C.O.P.S. And, finally, why are we talking about AT&T employees who use the system? Are there no AT&T customers? Not everyone, however, wants to go the D.I.Y. route. Dave Simon, spokesman for Brink’s Home Security, pointed out that many installations benefited from having a local expert installer. Experts can help decide which windows and doors to arm and which add-ons to include. Mr. Simon estimates that a full-service installation would cost about $200 for a basic system and a few hundred more for a more complex system. Brink’s also offers a monitoring service for $30 a month. “Brink’s installs the systems and monitors as well. Not every company does that,” he said. Most companies, he said, hire outside contractors to plan and install security systems using their products. This is classic. I expect this was the conversation in the news room: Editor: Dude, John, this story is utter crap. You didn't even talk to anyone in the security industry. What, did you do this whole story last night? Call some alarm company and get a quote or two for Christ's sake! John: Okay, hold on a minute. 10 minutes pass John: Okay, I'm all set. I talked to this guy at Brink's and he gave me some stuff we can just tack on the bottom. No sense actually incorporating it up into the story where it would have made sense. And get this? They charge $30 a month for monitoring, so we're totally all set! Editor: Sweet. Let's grab a drink. But let's go back to the central premise here: You can install your own system if you want. And how much did it cost? $199 for InGrid. So, let's see, I could install the system myself, pay $199, and have it monitored for $20 a month. Or I could have a professional person come to my house, install the system for $199 (I'm guessing Dave's rounding up), and have it monitored for $30 a month, but also have a service plan in case anything breaks, have an actual person to call if there are false alarm issues, etc. That's a no-brainer if you ask me. DIY, baby!

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