Subscribe to

Blogs

Worst ever reference to the DHS

 - 
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Okay, maybe I'm feeling a little salty today, but for some reason I just couldn't let this article pass without comment. Does it have anything to do with security? Um, not really. Actually, it's about protecting your lawn from pests. However, bear with me as far as reading the opening paragraph: Most of us have heard of the Homeland Security Act. This legislation protects us from undercover plots to undermine security at home and abroad. Homeland Security agents watch for subversive influences and seek to stop them in their tracks. Actually, no, the Homeland Security Act of 2002 was largely a bureaucratic maneuvering to bring together a number of smaller agencies into one super agency, the newly created Department of Homeland Security. But, whatever. This is a bad lead for an article about protecting your lawn. It just is. I guess I more dislike these next paragraphs: Though not nearly as vital to public security, perhaps it would be nice to have a HomeYard Security Act. These agents would look for threats to the security and health of home yards. If there was a HomeYard Security Act, this might be one of their recent reports: What on earth are "home yards?" In order for this excruciating metaphor to work, there has to be someone in the world who talks about things called home yards. Otherwise the simile Homeland Security is like HomeYard security doesn't really work, does it? I'm not sure why this bothers me so much, but it does. Now let's read the report: Recently, HomeYard Security Agents have uncovered an underground plot to destroy central Georgia lawns! This is a covert action, going on immediately under our feet, though few know about this planned invasion. As you read this communique, two major lawn enemies may be making plans now to destroy area turf in fall 2008 and spring 2009. Investigators have identified two major threats: mole crickets and white grubs. These are recurring security threats. They typically begin their life cycle quietly in May through July with the major lawn damage occurring in the fall and spring. Once they are in major attack mode, they are hard to combat. Ha, ha! That is so incredibly funny! I love it when people take a very serious situation, like people dying in horrible bombing attacks, and use it to waste space in an article about something utterly mundane, like your lawn, that they don't really have anything to say about. Because, of course, these mole crickets and white grubs are totally new things that have never existed before and this article is of vital importance to people everywhere who care about their lawns. You know what would be an appropriate lede (that's journalism spelling) for this story? Having trouble with patchy areas in your lawn? Maybe you've got mole crickets and white grubs. But don't worry, they're pretty easy to get rid of. Here's how. But instead we get 200 words of garbage about HomeYard security. Why? I weep for the state of modern newspapers. You may now return to whatever important thing you were doing.

George Jetson redux

 - 
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
The inventor of this contraption said he's not sure how it might be used in the future. Couldn't it have some security/fire applications? It's jetpack, like George Jetson's, and it's going to be unveiled today at an airshow in OshKosh, Wisconsin. It's the brainchild of inventor Glenn Martin, who hopes to be selling these this fall for around $100,000 apeice. Here's a NYT piece about the jetpack. The reporter got a chance to try out the rig and here, in part, is how he described the experience: "the jetpack jumped off the ground as if impatient to get moving, scattering a cloud of dirt and grass clippings. With the startling power of its twin rotors and its 200-horsepower engine behind my shoulder blades screaming like an army of leaf blowers, it felt almost as if I were doing the lifting myself, with muscles I did not know I had. It felt like living in the future..." Here's a UTube video of the Martin jetpack. How fun is that? Sign me up for the home security jetpack beta test.

Purchase price released for AlliedBarton

 - 
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
According to this Reuters article, the Blackstone Group will pay $750 million for AlliedBarton. Further: The purchase price for AlliedBarton includes a maximum potential earn-out payment of $50 million, based on the company achieving certain profit targets for 2009, AlliedBarton said in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing. The agreement can be terminated under certain circumstances, including if the merger does not occur by October 10, it said. But the companies expect the acquisition to close in August. The deal, which was announced last week, while not comparable to the mega-billion-dollar buyouts of a year ago, was noteworthy amid a dearth of private equity buyouts. For some reason, I can't find that filing. Usually Yahoo has a link to at least the summary, but it's not there. Either way, I think this is good news for the security industry in general. In a time when deals are not happening, people are willing to finance security deals and take chances on the security industry in general. That can't be bad. As for the price tag, if this New York Times blurb is right, Blackstone is paying about .5 trailing revenues, considering AlliedBarton pulled in about $1.5 billion last year. It's not a bad deal for the previous owners, MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings. According to the Times, they paid $263 million for AlliedBarton in 2003, so they saw a good return, even considering the purchase of Initial's guarding properties in the meantime. Another interesting thing to think about: Consider that AlliedBarton employs 52,000 and generated $1.5 billion. So, they're only generating $28,846 per employee? Wow. Talk about thin margins. How does that business model work for an equity firm that wants to slim things down even more and pull out profits?

Moonlighting in Chicago

 - 
Friday, July 25, 2008
Just spoke with the Larry Langford, Chicago Fire Department public information officer, about the eight fire inspectors who were moonlighting on weekends inspecting fire-sprinkler systems in high-rise buildings. The allegation is that building owners were paying these inspectors above and beyond what the city pays them for conducting these inspections on weekends. The building owners were doing this because the testing involves a loss of water pressure, something they’d rather not have happen during the workweek. Why is this all so bad? Langford explained that the building owners pay a fee to the city that covers the cost of the inspections and that if they want to arrange to have an inspection done on a weekend, there is a legitimate way to do this working with the city. “Someone could be scheduled to work on a Saturday, and if there is great demand we could establish a regular Saturday shift. [What we] can’t have is people freelancing and setting their own rates for city services,” he said. The fact-finding part of the investigation, which was launched by Fire Commissioner Raymond Orozco, is complete, and the disciplinary measures will be announced within the next 10 days or so. Discipline could range from “a verbal reprimand to termination, but the commissioner made it clear that if the facts bore out the allegations, that the discipline would be toward the severe end,” Langford said.

Blackstone buys up Allied Barton

 - 
Friday, July 25, 2008
Interesting news hitting my email box this morning: AlliedBarton Security Services and The Blackstone Group today announced a definitive agreement under which the private equity fund, managed by The Blackstone Group, will acquire AlliedBarton. Bill Whitmore, Chairman, President and CEO of AlliedBarton Security Services, the industry’s premier provider of highly trained security personnel, said, “This transaction is a tremendous opportunity to fuel our continued growth. We have transformed ourselves into the country’s leading physical security company in a few short years and our relationship with The Blackstone Group demonstrates our management-led commitment to continued dynamic growth which will energize our investment in our people, technology and training.” I love this kind of grandstanding. "The industry's premier provider"; "The country's leading physical security company." What do those modifiers even mean? I'd like to live in a world where such modifiers are dispensed with. Chinh Chu, Senior Managing Director with The Blackstone Group said, “Blackstone is attracted to AlliedBarton’s leading market position and the strong fundamentals of the sector. We look forward to working with AlliedBarton’s outstanding management team to help them pursue their exciting growth strategy both organically and via acquisitions.” I'm a little surprised by the "strong fundamentals" comment (well, not surprised that they said it; surprised if they really think it). It seems like the margins on guarding are just razor thin. With the prices of labor, health care and energy all rising, the guarding market does not seem like a VC's dream come true to me, but I haven't studied AB's financials, obviously. Peter Wallace, Managing Director with The Blackstone Group, added, “AlliedBarton has a tremendous franchise and sets the industry standard for professionalism. We look forward to supporting the strong management team during the next phase of the Company’s evolution.” The transaction is expected to close in August subject to certain government approvals and other customary conditions. We'll get you some more on this deal. Edit: Here's what Allied's been up to recently: Their buy of Initial's guarding operations in North America Their buy of a little residential guarding firm, the Fox Group

DeFina retires from Panasonic

 - 
Friday, July 25, 2008
It's an old trick to release big news at the end of the day on a Friday. Well, Panasonic is old school: They've just announced that Frank DeFina has retired as president of Panasonic System Solutions Co. A J.M. Allain will take over for DeFina. He was most recently head of Duos Technologies, a company I don't know well. I also didn't know DeFina well, but I did have a really cool conversation with him at the most recent ISC West. I was waiting around for Julianna Benedick, Panasonic's head of marketing, and Frank just walked up beside me and we started talking about how really cool the giant-screen TV was that people could win from their booth. Then we talked about the Super Bowl (he's a Giants fan). He was a normal guy in a way that many high-level execs aren't. I hope he enjoys retirement. I'll try to drum up an interview with Allain. Probably won't come soon. Edit: Okay, so now I know more about who J.M. Allain is. For example, his LinkedIn page is here. Turns out he was a VP with Adesta for a year, preceding Rob Hile, from what I can tell, then GM with NetVersant for a year before coming on as VP of operations for Duos just about a year ago. That makes him a bit of a job-jumper, no? Though I suspect president of Panasonic is a gig he'd be slightly more likely to keep. Still, I love seeing quotes like this: “J.M. Allain’s expertise in seamless and timely deployment of comprehensive security systems and existing system upgrades will be an invaluable resource for our company and our clients,” said Gianni B. Arcaini, Chairman and CEO of duostech. “I expect J.M. to play a significant role in our company’s growth.” How'd that work out for you, Gianni? I hope you grew in a hurry.

Are you biking?

 - 
Thursday, July 24, 2008
There is an upside to rising oil prices. People are thinking about conservation (I'm writing a story this month about Pat Egan of Select Security buying 13 new fuel efficient trucks that get double the gas mileage of his previous vehicles); they're using public transportation, and best of all, they're even riding bikes. I was listening to an NPR story yesterday about efforts in Portland, Oregon to expand the network of bike paths/lanes and making biking to work safer, and more convenient. Click here to listen to the story. Six percent of Portland residents commute to work and the number of bikers has doubled since 2001, this story said. This is nice, you say, but what does this have to do with security? Well I'm wondering if any of you are biking to work? Encouraging your employees to bike? Supporting efforts in your community to build bike paths or set aside bike lanes? In Portland, authorities said they're emulating the bike-friendly culture found in many European cities. American cities and employers could definitely take a cue from them on this. All new employees at Axis Communications are given a bike. (At least at their Lund, Sweden HQ; not sure if the employees in Chelmsford, Mass., get bikes as well?) I was in Lund and Copenhagen last year for an Axis event and I was struck by the number of people—old and young—riding bikes at all hours. In both cities, bikes, cars and pedestrians all coexisted effortlessly. (see photo above) It's healthy, it's green, and there's another benefit to this pro-biking culture: I didn't see anyone in Lund or Copenhagen who was overweight.

Fake iris scans?

 - 
Thursday, July 24, 2008
A loyal reader of the blog in Taiwan alerted me to this article from Arabian Business: Dubai arrests three for fake iris-scan smuggling I know: Fake iris-scan smuggling? What's that? For some reason, I was under the impression that iris readers were pretty fool-proof unless you were doing that whole Minority Report thing, where you rip out people's whole eyeballs. But get a load of this: The Naturalisation and Residency Department in Dubai (DNRD) has referred three people - two Russians and a Moldovan - to Dubai International Airport police, on suspicion of smuggling forged eye biometrics recognition stamps" with intent to facilitate the entry to the UAE of previously-banned individuals, it said. I still kind of don't know what that means. "Eye biometrics recognition stamps"? What are those? And how can they be put in a bag, which is how the Russians were carrying them? And then there's this: A third suspect, a 21-year-old Moldovan woman, was arrested at the airport with a laptop and five ink pads and later she admitted that she had intended to deliver them to the first suspect, it added. The report said that number of individuals arrested through the Iris Scan System at the airport amounted to 1,325 in 2006, 3,626 in 2007 and 4,382 in the first half of 2008, according to Major-General Mohammed Ahmed Al-Marri, DNRD director. So, ink pads are involved in the iris stamping? How does that work? And they've arrested 4,382 people at the Dubai airport just via iris scanning? How do they have everyone's iris already on file to know that they're bad guys when they come back through? And how are the bad guys so dumb that they don't see this whole iris scanning coming. I'm very confused. Please, someone, enlighten me on how this all works.

Labels:

Fire inspectors in hot water

 - 
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
I'm waiting to hear back from the press person at the Chicago Fire Protection Bureau about the eight fire inspectors who are in deep trouble for working on weekends. Here's a Chicago Tribune story , but it doesn't give much detail. Seems these inspectors were coming in on weekends to test sprinkler systems in several of this city's big buildings. They were paid by building owners to do this, that report said, instead of by the fire department. (The report does not say how much they were paid.) Building owners were doing this because it's more convenient for them. Apparently, testing involves taking the water pressure away from the building, and that's something owners want to avoid during the work week.

Taking the taser

 - 
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Remember my taser guy? Well, apparently tasers aren't as tough to take as you thought. I'm guessing lots of crazy stuff goes on in NFL locker rooms. Not sure I'd want to be a team's security director, that's for sure: Offensive tackle Marshal Yanda is No. 4, but could easily be No. 1. Word has it -- and there is truth to it -- that teammates bet Yanda last season that he couldn't handle getting hit by a taser gun. Not only did Yanda handle it once for three seconds, but two more times afterwards before finally collecting $1,500 from some of his teammates. "You got to have those kind of crazy people on your team," said Rolle. "Yanda is nuts." And, yes, I was just looking for an excuse to link back to the taser video. It's my favorite.

Pages