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Sonitec Corp. to offer PERS via SafetyCare

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Thursday, January 22, 2009
Sonitec Corp. on Jan. 20 announced it had become a SafetyCare Authorized Partner and would soon begin the roll-out of SafetyLink, the company’s new personal emergency response system. I spoke with SafetyCare general manager Mike Bodnar last year on the growth coming in the PERS industry. SafetyLink customers in metropolitan New York will have the benefit of access to a 24-hour-a-day safety and security system at the push of a button. Unlike other PERS systems, the owner of a SafetyLink system gains instant two-way voice contact with a certified emergency medical technician at the National SafetyCare Response Center, based in Reading, Pa. Leslie Lief, president of Sonitec Corp., believes the partnership with SafetyCare will benefit end users and Sonitec dealers immensely. “We've chosen to make a strategic and substantial investment in the SafetyCare product,” Lief said in a statement. Lief also said that a comprehensive website and a sales staff are being dedicated to SafetyLink now. Bodnar said Sonitec brought a strong industry reputation as well as a 33-year record of service in the New York area to the table. “We're pleased that Sonitec recognizes the unique product offerings at SafetyCare, as we work to steadily revamp and improve the security industry in this country,” Bodnar said in a release. Sonitec is the most recent addition to a growing stable of security companies taking advantage of the growing PERS industry through the SafetyCare Authorized Partner Program. Other recent Authorized Partners include LifeCall, LLC, Independent Living Solutions, and Eastern Distributing, among others. Pictured below are SafetyCare general manager Mike Bodnar (left) and Leslie Lief, president of Sonitec (right). [caption id="attachment_1661" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="SafetCare general manager Mike Bodnar and Sonitec president Leslie Lief"]SafetCare general manager Mike Bodnar and Sonitec president Leslie Lief[/caption]

Mace now has more cash on hand

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Mace continues to sell off its car washes, which gives the company cash with which to grow its security business, whether through sales and marketing spend or through acquisition. Considering leadership's recent comments, I'd be shocked if they don't buy somebody this year. The question is whether they're looking to add technology or a dealership base or a customer base. Obviously, all three wouldn't be bad. The way I read the release, they're adding about $3.5 million in cash to the reserves right away. Eduardo Nieves, Mace VP, made a point in a recent interview of noting Mace's cash reserves and pointing out that this allows the company to eye acquisitions as part of its growth strategy, with a central station being a possible addition. Look for an interview with new Mace security division president John O'Leary in our February issue.

Who won't be at ISC West?

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Following up on last month's posts about the big shows feeling the bad economy pinch, I got an interesting note from Denise Gadowski at Johnson Controls this morning, in response to a call for ISC West new product information. She says: [W]e will not be exhibiting at the ISC West show this year. There are many reasons for this decision: 1) our dedicated resources that are traveling around the globe to ensure everyone is trained are the same staff that run the booth (I'm running the risk of stretching everyone too thin) 2) the ASIS show is on the west coast as well this year 3) budget constraints force us to look at other ways to market ourselves. We will have representatives at the show and we are working with the show management on other marketing opportunities. Maybe this is just a random occurrence. Johnson Controls is in the middle of a big upgrade in security capability and is focusing much more on their integration business, for example, so they're a little bit of a company in flux and I can see why they'd want to take a year off from ISC West. But I didn't hear anyone complain in 2007 when both ISC West and ASIS were in Vegas in the same year. And Johnson Controls has never been shy at ISC West in my experience. They could have easily just downsized a bit and saved a bunch of cash. I think the "other ways to market ourselves" gets at a growing feeling in the industry that the big shows just don't deliver as much bang for the buck as they used to and I think we would be seeing them start to wane regardless of the economy. They'll continue to have their place, but won't be as "must-attend" as they've been in the past. I'll keep you posted on other ISC West developments.

NFPA goes to Chicago

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009
09conf60The National Fire Protection Association's Conference & Expo is going to be in Chicago this year from June 8-11, with pre-conference meetings the few days before that. I was checking out the lodging for the event and learned that the main hotel, at McCormick Place where the event is being held, is already sold out. In fact, it's been sold out since November. I'm hoping that's because registration is way up, rather than because it was only a small block of rooms. I've got a call in to Lorraine Carli, the press person at NFPA to find out. I spoke to one of the event organizers and she said there will be shuttle buses running from the other conference hotels. There are six other official conference hotels. The bad news is that they're all at least three or four miles away from McCormick Place. Here's the good news: They're in a much more fun part of town. McCormick Place is kind of off by itself, while the other hotels are further north, within the "loop" near restaurants, Millennium Park, the Art Institute, you know, near all those other fire-related activities you'll be doing while you're at the conference.hotels-nfpa There will be two Behind-the-Scenes fire tours on June 6, one to the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, and one to Underwriters Laboratory. I think I might go to Fermi since I toured UL a couple years ago. I'd highly recommend a visit to U.L., it's a very cool facility, where you get to see all the ways they think up ways to set things on fire. Here's the link to the NFPA conference info

Frost & Sullivan briefing tomorrow

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009
While you could surely wait for my report on it, you might want to throw this webcast by Frost & Sullivan into your Outlook calendar for tomorrow. The short description: Michael Suby, Director of Stratecast (a Division of Frost & Sullivan), has completed extensive analysis for the Business Security Services market. The research expert will lead a short teleconference about new findings that affect the market, followed by a live question and answer session. Whatever your opinion of Frost & Sullivan, this seems like a good free opportunity to gain some market data and analysis. There's a Q&A session that follows, as well, so you can use it as a research opportunity if you're so inclined. This may end up being IT security heavy, but, if so, you can always close the window.

What legend would you ask to lunch?

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009
One thing I've learned about business after covering the security world for the last three years is that the good managers always steal from other people. I think some people have the idea that successful business people are just visionaries who have great ideas strike them like lightning, mavericks (oh, how that word has been degraded) who don't need anybody's help. But I don't think that's often true. Sure, there are some people who follow pretty much exclusively their own path and strike gold, but I haven't met many of them. Most of the smart people I know have a mentor they often talk about, or have a few authors they admire, or are just generally on the lookout for good ideas they can steal. That's why I love this op-ed that came across my desk, written by Mark Thompson, owner of a security firm in Plano, Texas, called Smith Thompson Security. It's a great story about how he admired Southwest honcho Herb Kelleher so much that he decided to write him a letter and ask him to lunch. Lo and behold, Kelleher accepted and the two of them ended up talking for two hours over lunch. That must have been a blast. So, who would you love to have lunch with from the business world? My pick would have to be Black Swan author Nassim Nicholas Taleb. There aren't many people out there I'd label as geniuses without ever meeting them, but this guy really changed the way I think on a regular basis, right down to common every day occurrences. He basically posits that trying to predict the future is pointless because it's always the unpredictable occurrence that shapes the future, and, further, the way we predict the future (based on history) is fundamentally flawed. My favorite example of this is when something breaks around the house. Recently, our beloved waffle maker just decided one day, after nine years (it was a wedding present), that it didn't want to get hot anymore. My wife lamented, "It's worked every time we've plugged it in for nine years, why would it just stop working?" Well, it's exactly because we've used it so often for nine years that it stopped working. Each day it became more likely that it would stop working, not the other way around. It's the most sensible thing in the world that a relatively cheap waffle iron would crap out after about 2000 waffles. But that's not the way we think. We think, "Well, because it's worked every other day, it will work today." When we should be thinking, "Well, it's worked every day so far. Maybe this will be the day it fails." When you begin to think like that, you're much more flexible and ready to adapt to change because you're not surprised by it, you're expecting it. I'm not surprised at all, by the way, that Taleb has made huge bank on the recent financial crisis. Rather than expecting the market to continue to soar, he expected that it would eventually fail and was ready for it. So, yeah, I'd like to have lunch with Taleb. In fact, I wouldn't mind being offered the opportunity to intern for him for free (and I don't work for free). Who'd you want to take to lunch? Is there someone in the industry you'd like to have a couple hours with? Is there someone you're hoping to seek out at a show and get a drink with? What about outside the industry? Who's a businessperson who, like Thompson, you definitely steal ideas from?

Should IT take over?

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Monday, January 19, 2009
Yet another good discussion going on over at John Honovich's site, this time regarding the impending/never-gonna-happen takeover of security operations by the world of IT. Here's the nugget of John's take: I believe it would be dangerous for IT to take over physical security. If IT did take over, this would increase security and liability risks. Which is a little bit of a "no, duh!," but is also right, in my opinion. Here's the comment I left, below. Feel free to comment here or at John's place. Would love to hear the opposite view point. I think the analogy with HR or sales is apt. Obviously, both departments need IT to function, and some of their old duties have transferred to IT, but you wouldn't consider scrapping HR or sales entirely just because some of the functionality has been moved to IT. I think the IP telephony analogy is also apt, if in a different and not-bad way. Phones don't really have a department that manages them. The move to IP just shifted maintenance work from one person to another. Similarly, the maintenance of the security system will shift from one person to another. But the operation, installation, and upgrading of the system will still reside with security. The security department will still operate the system in the same way that HR operates the HR database/payroll/everyone's benefits. But when it breaks, they'll call IT, which can fix many, but not all, of the problems. When a specialized HR software program craps out, you call the HR software maker. When the security software/system craps out, you'll call either the integrator or the manufacturer. As for IT's increasing role in security decision-making, I liked something I heard recently on the Pelco-Cisco webinar: IT won't be the guys who say yes, they'll be the guys who say no. Security will select a product and bring it back to IT for vetting. If it's copacetic with the network, they'll approve, but not really care what you selected. If it's not going to be a good network citizen, they'll veto and the security guy will keep looking. So, for the integrator and the manufacturer, the idea is not to get veto'd.

Video monitoring pays off

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Saturday, January 17, 2009
I just got this news alert in my inbox. Entertainingly accurate, if somewhat journalistically-questionable transcription aside, it's a pretty cool testament to the power of having your premises protected by video monitoring. It's nice to see the security industry doing it right, helping people out, being a powerful tool to help police stop the bad guys, and reducing false alarms. Keep up the good work guys!

Where is the security industry?

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Saturday, January 17, 2009
Most of us have seen stories like this, where it's reported that shoplifting or retail theft is on the rise. Here's another similar local story about burglaries being on the rise that I just found today. I come across them all the time. What I continue to notice, though, is that the security industry is completely absent from them, as are any real hard numbers to back up the claims. Why is this? Look at the USA Today story (it's from June, but it's typical, I assure you). Here are the people quoted as experts: • Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial • Richard Hollinger, professor of criminology at the University of Florida who compiles the annual National Retail Security Survey • Joe LaRocca, vice president of loss prevention at the National Retail Federation • Bruce Hutchinson, professor of economics at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga • Sgt. Alfred Pratt of the Shrewsbury, Mass., Police Department • Samyah Jubran, a Knox County assistant district attorney general • Mike Keenan, director of loss prevention at Mervyns department stores • Paul Jones of the Retail Industry Leaders Association • Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Economy.com That, in the business, is what we call a well-sourced story. Nine people contributed their thoughts to why shoplifting might be tied to the economy and what we could do about it. Exactly none of them was an installer or monitorer (is that a word?) of security systems. Why is that? Who would know more about whether retail theft was increasing than someone like Niscayah that has a large retail security system monitoring center? Do they get more calls now than they did in the past? That would seem to give a big-picture view of what's happening, rather than a lot of empty theorizing, a la the last guy quoted: "When the economy is down, shoplifting and other crime go up," says Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Economy.com. "People are losing jobs or moving from a full-time to a part-time job. But they still have the mortgage to pay and the credit cards to pay. When we were kids, that would have drawn a: "No shit, sherlock." But the question still kind of remains as to whether that's actually happening. There's virtually no hard data in that story. Here's what's supplied: When 116 retailers were surveyed recently about shoplifting, 74% said they believed that shoplifting incidents last year had risen from 2006, according to the National Retail Federation. They "believed" shoplifting incidents had risen? Huh? Did they, or didn't they, or can't you actually track them? That doesn't make much sense to me. Did you shrink increase or not? All told, retail theft is estimated to cost about $40.5 billion a year. Okay. In the United States? In the world? In North America? I'm going with the U.S., though it's not clear. This is important for later. Look at these statements: "In general, the shoplifter of the past was mostly trying to fuel a drug habit," says Sgt. Alfred Pratt of the Shrewsbury, Mass., Police Department. "But we've seen a change as the economy has declined. More common, everyday items are being stolen, such as groceries." Okay, that's interesting. But isn't this something you could actually quantify? And does that mean there are fewer people stealing to support drug habits? And has Shrewsbury, Mass., been hit with a bunch of layoffs and such that would correlate with this? This just smells to me like self-validating. He thinks it's going to happen, so he notices it more when it does happen. The district attorney's office in Knoxville, Tenn., says it's seen a similar change. "We get a lot of shoplifters, and I see the trend upward," says Samyah Jubran, a Knox County assistant district attorney general. Okay. Again, got any numbers to support that? It's not like this is a breaking story. He could have taken his time, had a clerk do a find for shoplifting in 2007 and 2008 and seen if there actually was an uptick. I'm skeptical. This next one is mind-blowing: Gangs of professional thieves account for $15 billion to $30 billion in retail losses every year, the FBI and the retail federation estimated in 2005. Somewhere between $15 and $30 billion? Am I the only one who thinks those are really, really different numbers? So, it accounts, using the above figure for total loss, for somewhere between 37 and 74 percent of all the shoplifting? How is that a remotely useful stat? That's like me estimating that Manny Ramirez will hit between 15 and 30 home runs next season. The first would be an utter disaster for the team that signed him. The second would be pretty good. If ORC accounts for 37 percent of retail loss, that seems kind of reasonable to me. If it accounts for 74 percent, well, then, holy crap is that a big problem. Anyway, moving on: "In 1991, when we started this process," Hollinger says, referring to his National Retail Security Survey, "it was like root canal." I can't even believe this is so far down in the story. So, we've been tracking shoplifting numbers since 1991. Well, then maybe we could look and see if an increase in shoplifting correlates positively with the gross domestic product? Or the wholesale price index? Or inflation? No, why bother with that? It's much more fun to pontificate as to whether shoplifting is increasing right now because of the economy. As I recall, the economy was pretty crappy in 1992, which is why Clinton got voted in. Was shoplifting higher then than it was in 1998, during the dot-com boom? Eh. Why bother asking that question? It might actually be relevant. The security industry has stats, has expertise, has valuable insight into trends and stories like these, but it has no visibility. Someone's got to make some friends at USA Today, the New York Times, ABC News, and the like, so that these mainstream crime stories include not only the industry's knowledge, but also its solutions.

UTC makes big buy

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Saturday, January 17, 2009
The folks at UTC are excited about a big acquisition they completed on New Years Eve and announced a few days ago. It's a fire services company based in California called Detection Logic Fire Protection, a $100 million dollar company that's been built up over the past few years, though a series of acquisitions. Terms weren't released, but it's been hailed as a very smart move for UTC by the industry insiders I've talked to. Here's the newswire story I wrote, and at some point in the next day or so, there will be a little video on ssnTVnews (located on our home page, upper right hand corner) of Sam and I talking about this story. Please keep in mind this is my first foray into video, and there's probably a good reason why I haven't ventured into this medium before. I'm expecting to get some tips from SSN's associate editor, Dan Gelinas. (You'll be able to see the video of Dan and Sam talking about a new partnership between ADT and iControl on ssnTVnews as well.) In addition to being a great reporter and new maven of monitoring, Dan's done a bunch of theater. There may be hope for me. Look how far Sam's come from his debut a few weeks ago. Below is that pièce de résistance, a promo he made for the ssnTVnews reader video contest.

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