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AMS '09 Dealer Conference a success

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009
The Alarm Monitoring Services 2009 Dealer Conference exceeded expectations as AMS dealers gathered together in New Orleans for three education-filled days, according to a release from Richard Hahn and Associates. I think it's a good sign that conferences appear to continue to do well, despite a poor economy. An industry needs investment in the form of educational endeavors, of which there were many at the 09 AMS Dealer Conference. Conference speakers included AMS' dealer services manager Brad O'Malley, Stiel Insurance's Marvin Brosset, C.J. Bruno of Compass Capital Management, industry lawyer Ken Kirschenbaum of Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum, PC, Roger Wahden of Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc., Louisiana-based CPA Pat Buckley, OzVision's Stan Silberstein, and AMS' own Rick and Dera Jolet I've written about it before: Keep participating, keep learning and continue to be good stewards of the industry. Plans are already in motion for next year's event, which will also celebrate Alarm Monitoring Services' 30th anniversary.

TSA: Out with the puffers!

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Not that I find this remotely surprising, but those puffer machines some of us have had to stand in at airports are no longer. Does this have anything to do with GE Security's decision to sell its Homeland business to SAFRAN? Hmmmm. TSA says the puffers were a pain. Yeah. No kidding. 94 machines were deployed, at $160,000 each, and managed to wrack up $6 million in maintenance just since 2005. $6 million/94=$63,830 per machine=holy crap! I love how sanguine Smiths Detection is:
"They got frustrated with the technology and moved on to something else — I think is the short story," Smiths Detection vice president Brook Miller said of TSA. Miller said the puffers had maintenance issues early on because they puff air and then suck it into the system to analyze it. "It just wasn't to be in the airport environment," he said. Puffers are still used at facilities with less human traffic to detect drugs, he said. Smiths Detection, which is based in England, is one of the manufacturers of the full-body imaging machines that will replace the puffers.
Oh well. You don't like our $160,000 machines? I guess they just weren't meant to be. Who really could have predicted that? Certainly not us, who make them and tested them extensively. We had no idea they'd crap out in an airport environment. But, here, we've got some other machines you can buy. We're pretty sure they'll work. And don't mind that privacy stink people are putting up. We're sure that won't be a problem. We'll even give you a deal: 10 percent off if you buy 200. As a frequent traveler, I'm not sure which is worse: Having to stand in an enclosed tube and be puffed or knowing that some TSA employee is staring at my junk.

Special delivery for ASG's Bob Ryan

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Friday, May 22, 2009
Big news this week out of super-regional ASG. Yeah, they acquired another company. Here's that newswire story. The bigger news, though, is that ASG's marketing guy, Bob Ryan, (and his wife Angele) this morning welcomed their twin daughters to the world. Elizabeth and Ava are beautiful! (I'd post the picture, but you know the deal, our techies can't figure out how to get me permission to do that.) Congratulations Bob and Angele!

New 5D disks the future of storage?

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Friday, May 22, 2009
I just came across this story from ScienceDaily, and I thought I'd put a link up. The story cites security as one of the potential benefactors of the new storage medium: "They would be valuable for storing extremely large medical files such as MRIs and could also provide a boon in the financial, military and security arenas." Storage is becoming such an issue in the security industry with the continuing conversion to IP, I thought security readers at SSN might find it interesting. Maybe advances such as this will help bring the high price of video storage down. I can't imagine: 2,000 times the storage capacity of a normal DVD. Wow. That's a whole lot of archived video on one disk.

Doug Marman crushes compression questions

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Friday, May 22, 2009
He's on the blog roll, but because he posts only once a month or so and doesn't have an RSS feed, I don't always get to Doug Marman's posts right away. Thus, I'm only now reading this very good treatise on the ridiculousness of court admissibility problems with compressed video. Make sure you read the comments because he provides more evidence for his arguments there. It's especially heartening because the session we had at TechSec tackling this very same issue traveled along the same lines. The video expert we had there, who works often with the Dallas prosecutor's office, didn't care a whit about compression, etc. All he cared about was whether the image was good enough to see what was happening. Sure, watermarking was important, but way more important was chain of custody, just like any other piece of evidence. If the gun that was used in the murder just happened to take a swing through Burger King, where it was left on a table, forgotten, and retrieved later, then it's going to be a problem when it's submitted as evidence. Same with video. You have to know where it's been and who's handled it. But, big deal. That should go without saying. There's some good stuff from Doug about the differences in compression types in general, too. The whole thing is a must-read for people selling video systems where the video will likely be used in court.

In odd Twitter speak, Air Force says GPS is fine

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Friday, May 22, 2009
This is one of the strangest stories I've ever come across - and only emboldens my extreme dislike of Twitter (despite the fact that I use it regularly). So, people are rightly concerned about the GPS satellite system because the GAO, a pretty respectable body, issued a report saying the GPS system was in danger of failing, at least in part, because the Air Force was way behind and over budget in its satellite upkeep and repair schedule. And what does the Air Force do to reassure people? They tweeted, or twittered, or whatever the past tense is of acting like jackasses. To quote (and I had to retype this because ABC has figured out a way to make it so you can't copy text from its web site - how very convenient): "Agree w/ GAO thr's a potential risk, but GPS isn't falling out of the sky--we have plans 2 mitigate risk & prevent a gap." Oh, well, if you tweet so... Seriously, is no one else offended by the fact that the Air Force is answering these very serious (for business and common usage) issues with 140-character asinine tweets? Who said GPS was falling out of the sky? The GAO indicated there could be gaps in service. Maybe the Air Force doesn't think a few gaps in service is a big deal, but I'm thinking that if I'm tracking my child with GPS and all of a sudden she disappears off my map, I'm going to think that's a pretty big deal. The dismissive tone, the dismissive medium, the lack of attention shown by using the number 2 as a frigging preposition pisses me off, quite frankly, especially coming from an agent of the government whose salary I pay with my tax dollars. (You can check out the whole Twitter conference here.) I'm sorry you're being held accountable for your terrible planning and budgeting in the past, Colonel, but the least you could do is take the situation seriously. I love mealy-mouthed statements like this: "Since 1995, GPS has never failed to exceed performance standards." This is like when an employee calls in hungover and says, "I've been on time every day this month." Good for you! You've been doing your job! Huzzah! How many medals have they pinned on your chest for making sure you don't suck at your job, Colonel? Or here's a great tweet: "Good article in terms of the risk...very, very low. However, one of the best things about GPS is it's free to the world!" So, Space Command, you pay for all these satellites with the gold you found at the end of the rainbow? I thought you used billions of dollars in tax money collected from people like me. How silly. Look, I know a bunch of you are thinking about how magnanimous the Air Force is for opening themselves up to the public and answering questions from the average Twitter Joe, but don't be fooled. In these forums they control the message, they control the questions they answer and don't, and they love that they can't write more than 140 characters because it's impossible to say anything of substance in 140 characters, therefore they can't be accused of not saying anything of substance. It's a bunch of PR-orchestrated crap, and a way to avoid actually addressing the issue. They've got GAO egg on their faces and they don't like it so they hit the web for a counter offensive. Good plan by them, but I'm not buying it.

Analytics poll

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Thursday, May 21, 2009
Here's a somewhat random poll of random linkedIn members regarding where best to host video analytics. Take the results for what they are. It was set up by Mate's Alon Blankstein - Mate might be the largest "analytics company" I didn't include in my virtual roundtable. I didn't intentionally exclude them. They just weren't someone I've talked to in the last couple months.

More bad PR for municipal video (or is it?)

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Thursday, May 21, 2009
This column in the Philly Daily News is a good window onto how the public sees, and what the public expects of, municipal video systems (about which we've got a special report on our main page right now). Basically, people are upset because a jogger out at 6:45 a.m. on a bridge was mugged and the image captured of the attacker is all grainy and it's hard to make out who he is. Ok, sure, it would be great if the image was clear and we could make out the attacker, but think about that for a second: People are mad because they couldn't get a crystal-clear image of someone at 6:45 a.m., outside, on a bridge? I mean, couldn't they just zoom in one of their magic cameras in space? I think on the one hand, this is bad PR, since the image seems to be unusable, and what's the point of putting cameras up if you can't use the images? But, on the other hand, isn't it a good sign that society now expects there to be a video image of just about anything that happens anywhere? If this jogger had been attacked and there had been no video image at all, would there have been a clamor: Why wasn't there a video camera on the bridge? I think maybe yes, judging by the rest of the article, and it seems like that might be good for business. Also, I love the comment at the bottom: "I have to agree that any cameras installed should produce CLEAR and SHARP images." Well, yeah... I've got to think an article that thinks this kind of investment in security cameras isn't enough is also good for business. Check this out:
On May 12, he says, the agency underwent a massive switchover from analog to fancy digital technology on the existing cameras that survey the area's four bridges and the PATCO train line, allowing DRPA to capture and store more images. The agency will also "phase in" another 220 high-tech cameras throughout the system in 2009, bringing to more than 300 the number of lenses trained on the system's users and infrastructure. Matheussen said that "no less than eight" of those cameras dot the Ben Franklin Bridge. None of them are trained specifically on the walkway, however. Instead, they provide a sweeping view of the walkway, roadway and PATCO line (which runs alongside the bridge) and allow DRPA police to zoom in, pan out and swivel to and fro as needed. As for the quality of the image caught on tape of Weighnecht's attacker, all Matheussen will say is that "we have an image" and that the agency is working with law enforcement on both sides of the river to make an arrest.
Exactly how much money do you want to spend on IP video, columnist? And why is "phase in" in quotes? Do you think they can install all of them simultaneously? Like with a magic wand? In the end, I think these high expectations for video systems are good, as they create an expectation that video will be there, and that it serves a purpose. Living up to those expectations can be hard, but it's worth the effort if it means municipal video becomes virtually universal.

GVI makes a buy

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Thursday, May 21, 2009
GVI announced today the acquisition of some VMS technology from a company I've never heard of called PacketNVR. From the Web site, it looks like they've mostly been OEMing software for other people. Likely, instead of OEMing for GVI, GVI just said, "Why don't we buy you so you don't create software for our competition at the same time?"
GVI Security Solutions, Inc., (OTC Bulletin Board: GVSS), a leading provider of video security surveillance solutions featuring the complete Samsung Electronics line of products, has acquired a suite of Video Management Systems (VMS) software and related technology from software provider PacketNVR, LLP. The acquisition was effected through GVI's wholly-owned subsidiary, GVI Video Management Solutions.
So, basically, GVI is getting into the software game. You'll see in the release that they picked up some talent in Tom Galvin, who'll now run their VMS business going forward. I've got an interview request in, so I'll see what more I can learn, if anything.

GPS fails, what happens to security?

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Thursday, May 21, 2009
I'm sure many of you saw this story, about the GPS system potentially failing, come across various news wires, though it hasn't yet really hit the mainstream. And maybe it's much ado about nothing. The GAO is sort of famous for warning that things are going to happen, but then they don't happen by virtue of the strenuous warning that was issued. But here's how Information Week puts it:
The global positioning system could fail next year and repairs aren't moving quickly enough to prevent failure, according a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office. It's unclear whether the U.S. Air Force will be able to acquire new satellites in time to prevent disruption in GPS service for military and civilian users, according to the report.
So, I'm thinking that could be bad, if GPS systems just stopped working all of a sudden. I've got a call in to confirm this, but I'm pretty sure that StarTrac service that Centra-Larm puts out would just stop working, leaving a lot of customers pretty angry and drying up some serious RMR. And that's just one very small example. Guardian Mobile would certainly be hosed, as well. Here's what their head honcho told us:
John Tedesco, president and chief executive officer of Guardian, said, "Marketing up to this point has been done primarily via word of mouth, but we've gotten some early adopters. Now that GPS is mainstream and there are exciting new products, we need to market to the industry and let it know that we are the leading provider," said Tedesco.
That's right, GPS is now mainstream: In your iPhones, Blackberries, and, yes, a bunch of security products. Is this a big deal? It seems like it could be. More from Information Week:
"If the Air Force does not meet its schedule goals for development of GPS IIIA satellites, there will be an increased likelihood that in 2010, as old satellites begin to fail, the overall GPS constellation will fall below the number of satellites required to provide the level of GPS service that the U.S. government commits to."
So, maybe not a widespread black-out of GPS, but spotty and intermittent service? That might be almost as bad. Those security applications pretty much have to be up and running all the time or they're not much good.

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