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ASIS, day 1

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Monday, September 15, 2008
Grrr. Blogger is being more than a little wonky and has twice wiped out all of the brilliant content I've been trying to offer. Very frustrating. Anyway, here's the rundown of today's salient points: 1. Johnson Controls isn't messing around. They've committed to doubling their security workforce organically in the next year, and they'll be buying people left and right. If you're ready to get our, and you've got a fairly sophisticated local integration firm, give JCI a call. 2. People are talking more about fire systems here than they have in years. It's the new leader for security sales. It's almost impossible to escape. Last ASIS I didn't hear word one about it. 3. This show floor configuration is more than a little not good. It's just not okay to have a straight line for a show floor, so that you're constantly traveling a mile at a time to go from booth to booth. 4. Stanley's new eVideo and eAccess offerings are game changers. There's no one who understands RMR better than them. 5. Uninterruptible power supplies are more interesting than you thought. What happens to your awesome security system when the power fails? That's what I thought. 6. No one actually cares all that much about standards. I asked five different IP video companies today if standards were important and not one said yes. I'm getting the feeling that the hard standards push is coming from under-funded start-ups who need to get their stuff out there right away, and don't have the time to be integrated by the major players. Thus, standards are important. Most of the integrators I talked to today said standards weren't that big of a deal and they weren't really paying much attention to what was going on with that. 7. Why am I writing like Larry King?

ASIS, day 5

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Monday, September 15, 2008
Okay, so there are all kinds of things working against me as this big ASIS show starts up. First, my favorite writer of all time, David Foster Wallace, has killed himself. I won't go into the whys and wheres, but this is an unbelievable loss for people who care about writing. It's my opinion that there wasn't anyone alive with a better command of the English language than Wallace. Second, I've managed to come down with my daughter's first kindergarten cold and I feel like someone just ran through my sinuses with a pipe cleaner. Third, we're in Atlanta. I'll leave it at that. Finally, my Internet connection here at the Georgian Terrace (don't ask) completely stinks. Slow as death. However, I won't be remiss in my blogging duties, I promise. I've already met up with fellow blogger Shawn Flaugher, and he's all up with the Twitter stuff here, so there are high standards to be met and I won't be outdone (okay, maybe I will be out done - depends if everyone's party is as good as the HID gig last night. Have you seen the Georgia Aquarium? The place is flat-out rad). Anyhoo, the schedule's packed today. Here's whom I'm meeting with: Johnson Controls IQinVision Verint Pacom Dedicated Micros Entrance Controls Arecont Vision Stanley Pixim Alpha Technologies (This would be an impressive list, but that Geoff Kohl dude is probably going to twice as many booth visits, thanks to the time machine he owns that allows him to somehow do twice as much work as everyone else - knock if off, Geoff!*) Then I think I'm going to the Smartvue and GE receptions. We'll see. I might actually just fall over and die at some point on the show floor and then, well, there won't be much action on this blog for a while and you can send flowers to my family. It's unfortunate that I'm mostly meeting with manufacturers here, where there are so many integrators with booths, but it's hard to say no to all the booth visit requests without seeming like a jerk (and we wouldn't want people thinking I'm a jerk (huh? What's that? Oh, ha, ha. Everybody already thinks I'm a jerk. That's real funny)). So, say hi if you see me frantically running the show floor, and put anything you'd like me to ask of the people I'm meeting with in the comments below. I know the comments are scary, but you can do it. I believe in you. *Hey Geoff, is it okay if we're arch enemies? We don't have to try to kill each other or anything, but I think it would be kind of fun. If you're like me, you've already got a dartboard at home set up, so it shouldn't be much of a stretch for you, either. Great. That's settled then. Next time you see me at a reception or something, just dump a drink on my pants and pretend it was a mistake, but then make it clear that it WASN'T a mistake. Everybody will get the idea.

How is this helpful?

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Thursday, September 11, 2008
Any number of stories are on the wire today about the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. I understand the impulse. It's important to remember the people who died in those attacks, both former schoolmates and perfect strangers. It's important to remember that the United States is not as invulnerable as we would sometimes like to believe. It's important that we maintain a sense of history in a world that's increasingly focused on the micro news cycle, and a time when truth and reality are so malleable on the Web. But when people are constructing these 9-11-related stories, I have to wonder what the point is. Take this one, which I link to on Newsday, but ran in many places, about DHS chief Michael Chertoff's remarks to the National Press Club yesterday. Here it is in its entirety: WASHINGTON (AP) _ The nation's top domestic security official said Wednesday aviation remains vulnerable to terrorist attack seven years after 9/11. How is that news? And what purpose does it serve for Michael Chertoff to say that out loud? Anyone with half a brain can see numerous vulnerabilities. Wouldn't it be news if aviation was deemed invulnerable? Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the al-Qaida terrorist network continues to focus on the aviation system as a target. He said that the Bush administration has made strides in reducing the nation's vulnerability but that the risk remains. Glad the AP has crack reporters to cover this stuff. I'm shocked by that news. Shocked. Chertoff was speaking at the National Press Club. Thursday is the seventh anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, in which terrorists crashed hijacked airplanes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field. Space filler. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the president thinks about 9/11 every day and is always concerned about another attack. "The terrorists are very determined, and they have to be right only once, and we have to be right every single time," she said. A: I wonder if the AP even actually called Perino or if they just have those two paragraphs on file to stick in any time they're writing about 9-11. B: If they did actually put in a call, or if Perino was at the same event as Chertoff (it's not clear), I'd love to know how that conversation went. Did somebody ask, "Um, does the president still think about 9-11?"? C: Aren't "the terrorists" (as though they're a giant group who all work together, and have business cards) right pretty often, as when they blow up troops in Iraq on a regular basis? How is it that when American troops die - and it happens all the time - it's not newsworthy. But if five people were to die in a terrorist attack on a Target, it would be the biggest story since 9-11? I just can't stand the public perception of "security." That all of these people feel like someone else should be taking care of them and keeping them from harm, but if that is in any way inconvenient, then it needs to be justified with some grand statement from someone "in charge." And every time something horrible happens, everyone acts like they never could have seen it coming. What? Someone shot up a class at a university? I'm shocked! How could this happen?!? Yes, aviation is vulnerable. You know what else is? EVERYTHING ELSE. Aviation is actually probably the least vulnerable of all of the modes of transportation. Every tunnel is vulnerable. Drive a car full of explosives completely unfettered into a major tunnel in Boston at rush hour and create chaos. That's impossible to prevent. Get on any bus or train in the United States with a bomb in your backpack and create chaos. Right now, you can pretty much do that any time you want. Walk into any mall, movie theater, etc., with a bomb strapped around your waist and create chaos. Nothing would prevent that right now. Think about what a bomb would do on a subway car at 8:15 a.m. in New York, Chicago, Boston, etc. And we're talking about aviation being vulnerable? That's news? I'd say it's considerably safer than just about every other way of getting around.

The serial CEO

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008
In the short time I've been in the security industry (well, three years now, but "short" is a relative term in an industry where everyone seems to have been here since the Carter administration), few executives are more well traveled than Dieter Kondek. Word comes today that he's the new head of U.S. operations for German video analytics firm via:sys (and you thought you knew all 100 of the video analytics companies...). No link to the announcement, but here's a taste of the release: ViaSys Names Former Agent Vi CEO Dieter Kondek Head of US Operations Kondek to Lead US Business Development for Video Analytics Software Company Hmm, seems the full colon comes and goes in the name of the company. On their web site, it seems pretty clearly to be all lowercase, with that colon in the middle. But in the release, we've got caps for the V and the S. This is the sort of thing that keeps an editor up at night. What's AP style on this? Frankfurt, Germany and Cape Coral, Florida - September 9, 2008 – ViaSys, developers of intelligent video analytics software for the mass-market, announces today the appointment of Dieter Kondek as head of the newly formed US Operations for the German based company. Kondek, together with Anson Moran, based in ViaSys’ California office, will build, lead and direct the company’s US channel & OEM partner efforts and related programs in North, Central and South America. Dieter always finds a way to be based in Florida. He's got a sweet boat that he spends a lot of time on. I don't blame him. He's a guy who loves to have fun. I met him at our second TechSec event, the one held in Savannah, and let's just say we painted that town all sorts of colors. At the time, he was head of DynaPel. Then he moved over to become head of Aspectus/Agent Vi, overseeing the name change and helping to put together a nice little manufacturers alliance. From talking to him, I know he loves the challenge of building a company up, but isn't a company maintenance type. Kondek joins ViaSys from Agent Vi where he served as President and CEO. While at Agent Vi, Kondek and his team designed, launched, and enhanced Agent Vi’s worldwide reseller and OEM program. His efforts included the management of several large OEM and systems integrator relationships in the US, Europe and Asia. Kondek brings 35 years of experience with technology, business and video security to ViaSys. Previously, he served in top management positions at companies including DynaPel, Dell, Computer 2000, Linotype-Hell, MetaCreations and IBM. Dieter has some good stories about Bill Gates, if I remember right. Catch him at around midnight during a show and you'll get some good stuff. “I am very exited to join this young and enthusiastic team”, said Dieter Kondek, “and I know that many customers, integrators and OEM’s are looking for an entry level video analytics solution which runs at the edge, is easy to integrate and affordable.” ViaSys’ next generation motion detection is focusing on the mass market to deploy video intelligence into every IP camera for a very competitive price. The software plug-in has been widely deployed by leading network/IP camera manufacturers and VMS platform developers like Axis, IQInvision, Milestone and OnSSI. “We’re excited about the technology industry experience he brings to the table, and as this new era of video analytics drives the market, we expect his insight, track record and leadership to be critical success drivers as we execute our market strategy in the US,” said Dirk Owerfeldt, VP Business Development of ViaSys. “ViaSys software plug-in gives system integrators and OEM technology partners a new level of flexibility to deploy this solution to existing edge devices without any hardware upgrades,” said Kondek. ViaSys core competence is the smallest and fastest field proven IV algorithm worldwide. Focused on intruder detection, perimeter protection and alarming which comprise 70% of the security market, by far the biggest segment of all IV applications. Comparable solutions in this segment require 5 to 20x more memory capacity and CPU power. Hmm, this seems to be Agent Vi's pitch almost to a T. They may or may not be pleased to have Dieter working for the competition. I'm going to lean toward may not.

ASIS news starting to leak out

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Monday, September 8, 2008
It's been pretty quiet lately, as people save up their big news for next week's ASIS show, but some of the big news is starting to leak out. I'll keep you posted as I learn things, but here are a couple of solid items: 1. Bosch, Sony and Axis announced a little of what their standards forum is going to look like. They're calling it the ONVIF (for Open Network Video Interface Forum) and you can find it at www.onvif.org. Read the press release about what you might find there, here. This is something to watch closely. As for whether ONVIF rolls off the tongue? I'm thinking not. I've been trying desperately for 10 minutes to think of a funny acronym that would have worked, but I'm coming up empty. Post anything interesting in the comments. 2. ObjectVideo announced today an OEM agreement with Pelco, whereby they'll be embedded in the brand-spanking Pelco Sarix technology based cameras scheduled for release in early 2009. You can read the full story here. As much as their competitors love to slag OV, you've got to admit they keep landing big agreements. Their OV-Ready slate of partners is impressive, and I can't imagine Pelco made their analytics-partner choice lightly.

DFW awards $5m camera deal

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Monday, September 8, 2008
Well, the guys at SecureNet must have had a nice weekend. DFW Airport announced Friday they're awarding SecureNet a $4.98 million job to upgrade the facility's camera systems over the next three to five years. The article is a little confusing, but it seems like that number should grow, too: The appropriation doesn't include the closed-circuit cameras, which still have to be purchased. And the first paragraph has this part: ... a $4.98 million contract to increase the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport's capacity to gradually add 1,975 security cameras. So, they're adding 1,975 cameras to the 1,590 they already have? That kind of seems impossible, but maybe it's true. If so, there's plenty more margin to be had for SecureNet, unless DFW has some direct-to-manufacturer deal, and SecureNet's just doing the install, but that seems hard to believe. Great get for a regional integrator like SecureNet. They're Microsoft certified and seem in general to be a really progressive outfit.

I want an electric car

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Friday, September 5, 2008
Sorry about the lack of posts this week. For one thing, everybody's holding onto their big news until ASIS, which means there's nothing coming across the wire. For another thing, I spent Wed. and Thurs. in Chicago checking out a new internal training program that Stanley's putting together to more aggressively tackle IP-based security systems and fire installations. It's very progressive and I'll get into it with a story for the October paper, but suffice it to say that they're trying to get out ahead of the market and their employees are lapping up the free training and certification. They're seeing positive early sales returns from the investment, too, so the business case for it is solid. But that's not what I'm here to blog about, people. I'm here to blog about green cars. They're hot in the security world nowadays. Check out this story from California about a security guarding firm that's gone electric. Good for them. They're saving money and get to be proud of their environmental stance. Plus, great press: And as if saving money and helping the environment aren't enough reasons to have an electric car, Maxwell said the low-noise car enhances crime-fighting. "It's quiet. You can sneak up on people," he said. Still, there are some drawbacks: Scruggs said the fuel costs for his two fuel-powered patrol cars have also gone down since they are only used during the day when it is too hot to drive the electric cars which don't have air conditioning. Yeah, I'm guessing if you're driving around in Palm Springs, air conditioning might be a necessity. They may want to address that in the next line of electric cars. I, of course, drive around in a car with no air conditioning, but I live in Maine, where you need heat in July half the time, so it's not a problem. I want one of these electric cars very badly, but I'm guessing they would suck more than a little in the snow, and that would definitely be a problem. Anyone know if they come with three-wheel drive and studded tires?

Local Chamber of Commerce fetes Apx

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Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Congratulations to APXAlarm—a residential security company that's pioneered the successful summer sales model, and along the way has become one of the largest companies in the country—for being named Business of the Year by a Utah Chamber of Commerce. Here's the Aug. 31 press release. (You have to scroll down a bit to read it.) I do a lot of reporting on Apx, and it's one of the companies that I find the most interesting. Everyone's got an opinion about APX. They're wildly successful, and they certainly manage to piss off lots of local alarm companies. Now, I've got no doubt that there are many legitimate complaints out there, but it seems to me that where there are problems, it has much to do with the nature of the business—door-to-door salespeople can be very annoying. (Double the annoyance factor when the person doing the knocking is a 20-something know-it-all.) Apx is also experiencing some normal growing pains, figuring out the best ways to manage its enormous sales force. That's something they've got a responsibility to do, and Apx execs appear to be taking that responsibility seriously. In fairness, there are also several other summer-sales model companies (and traditional-sales-model alarm companies) that are out there knocking doors. They're not all Apx employees. I wondering though, does it ever seem like some of the local companies who complain about Apx are doing a lot of, as my mother would say, bellyaching? Like they just don't like the competition? Like they think they own the customers in their town or region? However you feel about Apx, you've got to admit, it's a remarkably successful sales model, managed by a smart group of people. Add the timing of this release to a list of their smart moves. It appears from my online searching that they were given the award in May...but, looking for some positive ink, they just made the announcement Aug. 31.

Taking security too far

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Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Here's a bizarre story that found its way into my inbox over the long holiday weekend. According to this news source, the co-owner of Milwaukee-based Wisconsin Security Solutions is accused of taking security into his own hands by making homemade explosives (or at least purchasing the supplies and equipment to do so) in an effort to blow up some people he didn't like.

Police said he planned to target homes of local gang members he came across in the course of his job. "It appears the motivation was some intimidation by what he perceived as gang members against employees of his company," Smith said. ...

Police said Leyer admitted to talking about making bombs to blow up gang houses, but he said he never intended to actually do it.

Uh huh. I mean who doesn't regularly purchase test tubes, rubber tubing, galvanized pipe, flares and shotgun shells? Police are just so keyed up these days.

Anyway, I did a quick Google search for Wisconsin Security Solutions and only came up with an address listing and brief description. Looks like this company is mostly in the guarding business rather than electronic security, which I imagine is a relief to most of you (the description even says this company rents guard dogs, which is a first for me).

I'd say that if this situation were an episode of Little House on the Prairie and there needed to be a moral lesson learned, Half Pint (that's Laura's nickname, for those of you who weren't adolescent girls in the 80s) would need to be reminded that there are just some things you shouldn't take into your own hands (even if security is your business). It also goes to show that every industry has its crazies.

Why you should care about passwords

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Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Lately, people have been sending me any number of articles about the importance of passwords, whether it's this bit about making sure your password can't be easily guessed or today's article from Ars Technica about the likelihood that a fired systems administrator will steal your passwords and use them against you maliciously. Why is this a physical security problem? Well, obviously, as physical security systems move increasingly onto the network, we've heard lots of talk about how integrators need to work with and sell to the IT department. Well, maybe there isn't exactly the same moral certitude in the IT department as there might be in the security department. Maybe there is. But it's at least something that isn't often talked about when we talk about "selling to IT," etc. That Ars Technica article reports these findings: The results of the Trust, Security and Passwords study are based on a survey of 300 system administrators at the Infosecurity 2008 event in Europe. Of the study respondents, 88 percent admitted they would take sensitive data with them when leaving their current place of employment, and approximately one-third said that they would abscond with company password lists. Of course, IT departments already have vital roles in the protection of data, which can be more valuable that physical assets, but before physical security systems were networked, they didn't exactly have the power to risk people's lives. Now, increasingly, they do. If, out of spite, a fired employee builds a hidden doorway into your access control software on his way out the door, that could be very bad, indeed. As systems integrators, it's vital that you make management aware of who should be privy to which passwords involved with the security system, and why. Especially if the head of security comes from a physical background, and is particularly reliant on the IT department for help in administering the system, you need to provide that person with the particulars of what to look for should an IT employee with access to the system be replaced. And you should make certain that final access authority resides with the security department and not with the IT department, to make sure accountability is where it ought to be. Anyone else have the experience of a supposedly "nice" guy wiping his hard drive clean on the way out the door? If so, you know how important it is to manage employees who've been let go. Emphasize this to your customers and make sure the security system is prepared for vindictive attacks. Oh, and don't use your cat's name as your password. I would never do that. Rather, I combine the name of my old, dead cat, with the name of my all-time favorite prog rock album. That's much more secure.

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