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Axis grabs Steve Surfaro

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008
If you've been to an industry show in the past 10 years, you likely know Steve Surfaro, Panasonic's long-time technical liaison, who has led countless training spots and seminars, all of them informative and entertaining. The guy's got a smile three feet wide. So, good for Axis in grabbing him to be their new strategic channel manager and security industry liaison. I don't have a link, but here's the press release: Axis Communications Names Steve Surfaro Strategic Channel Manager and Security Industry Liaison High-Profile Former Panasonic Exec Brings More Than 20 Years of Industry Experience An excellent start. No all-capped headline. Those Swedes are so reserved. CHELMSFORD, Mass. – August 26, 2008 – Axis Communications, the global leader in the network video market, today announced that it has named Steve Surfaro as strategic channel manager and security industry liaison. Surfaro will work with industry organizations such as ASIS, BICSI and SIA, as well as Axis’ software and hardware partners to raise the awareness of network video solutions in the industry. He will also work to expand Axis’ technology partnership program to ensure the availability of best-of-breed network video solutions. He will report to Dr. Jumbi Edulbehram, director, strategic channel. Sounds like he'll basically be in that same evangelist role he had at Panasonic. It suits him. If you can't get excited about a topic after talking it over with Surfaro, you're probably a dead person. Surfaro has more than 20 years of security industry experience. Prior to Axis, Surfaro served for 12 years at Panasonic as group manager, strategic technical liaison. In that role, he served as the public face of the company to the security industry. Before that, he was an account manager for Wells Fargo Alarm Services. He is a member of the ASIS Physical Security Council, chairman of that council's education subcommittee and is responsible for consistent workshop content. Surfaro is regular contributor to BICSI as well as SIA's Digital Video Standards. He holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering from The Cooper Union. “Steve brings tremendous knowledge and energy to Axis, and is a well respected educator and speaker in the security industry,” said Fredrik Nilsson, general manager of Axis Communications, Inc. “We are very excited to have Steve join Axis and look forward to his important upcoming work with industry organizations as well as partners and customers.” I think sometimes people still think of Axis as a small company. That Surfaro would take essentially the same job at Axis that he had at Panasonic is an indication of just how big people think Axis might get.

Fraternizing between pollworkers and voting machines banned

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Monday, August 25, 2008
I've had this one sitting on my desk top for a few days: Did you know that sleepovers involving poll workers and voting machines have been banned in Ohio? Here's an AP story on the ban It seems that 24 of the 88 counties in this state—remember the one with the questionable results in the past couple presidential elections?—have allowed its pollworkers to take voting machines home for a sleepover the night before the election. This practice makes it easier, they say, to get the machines to the polling place in a timely manner. Not this year. The practice has been deemed an unacceptable security risk. Here's a quote from the Globe story: "We want Ohio's voters and the rest of the nation to see that we have prepared a transparent process of transporting voting equipment, ballots, and supplies," said Brunner, a Democrat elected in 2006 with a promise to reform a system criticized for scattered problems of long lines and poorly trained poll workers. Here, here. Seems sensible to me. And there may even be an upside for my fire friends. Yes. One pollworker's banned sleepover may be another fire installer's business opportunity. The voting machines will be delivered to polling places the election eve, provided the polling place has adequate security and fire protection in place.

"Surveillance Society"

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Monday, August 25, 2008
A nice article in am New York over the weekend, looking at the growing number of cameras in New York City. It's a well balanced piece and raises a number of points of discussion, including some great commentary from Desmond Smyth, president of SecureWatch 24. First, the issue: They're everywhere and they're watching. New York has become Camera City as our every coming and going is recorded. Dropping off at the dry cleaners? Getting a cup of coffee at Starbucks? Crossing the street? Smile, for better or worse you're on someone's security camera, whether it's the city's, shopkeepers' or some nutjob's. A single busy block in Manhattan can contain hundreds. "You don't know who's watching you," said Nicole Labruto, 24, of Woodside, Queens. "You don't even know if there's a tape in there. It's creepy." For other New Yorkers it's added security. "Unless you're doing something wrong, you shouldn't worry," said Tracy Sugalski, 28, who lives near Union Square. "It sounds like a lot, but in New York City aren't we always being watched?" I think it's unfortunate that they lead with the idea that New York has become "Camera City," and that's "creepy," then get around to the rejoinder, but I guess that's to be expected. I mean, New York also has more cabs than anywhere else. Is it "cab city"? If you're going to do a thought piece, which isn't actually generated by a news event, I think you should start off a little more neutral and philosophical. Especially considering the results of their poll, which showed when I voted that just 20 percent of respondents were made "nervous" by the video surveillance. Anyway, they get on to some meatier stuff: Placement of cameras is governed by the reasonable expectation of privacy, which does not extend far beyond one's home, hotel rooms, bathrooms, gyms, and changing rooms. Streets, stores, and the workplace are not private. For security and surveillance experts, the real question privacy starts after the images are taken. "I go into hotels all the time, I see digital video recorders with burners in there," said Desmond Smyth, president of SecureWatch 24, a Manhattan-based security company with some 11,000 cameras. "It's just amazing to me. That's where their liability is. Who's to say these guys aren't just watching pretty girls?" This, for me - and I've written about it before - is the real issue with video surveillance: We do not yet have appropriate legislation governing the use of recorded video. Who gets to view it? How long is it kept for? How is it stored? How is it compressed? I think it's definitely shady that a hotel could theoretically record you falling down in their lobby and then post it to YouTube as a gag video. How would I ever know it was there? I've got to agree with the NYCLU on this point: The NYPD's recently released plan to protect the city by installing some 3,000 additional cameras in the city raised concern at the NYCLU because it takes a new step in surveillance by creating a database of license plates and people's movements. The police said the images, including license plate captures, would be erased after 30 days. The NYCLU's concern is they have not seen any written policy that described how the images would be protected and if they would be shared with other agencies. It's not about the surveillance, it's about how the surveillance is used, and it's about avoiding ambiguity. As long as everyone sees the policies, they can either agree or disagree, and use our democratic process to do something about something they disagree with. But if there's no written policy, it creates suspicion and skepticism and makes thoughtful people uneasy. What if it was up to the police officer how much to fine you for speeding, sometimes docking you $10, sometimes $500? You'd flip out. Well, what if sometimes the video of you walking down the street was erased in one day, and sometimes it was posted online to make fun of your outfit? Or, less hyperbolically, what if it was passed around the police station internally, commenting on your physical assets? Don't think that doesn't happen.

Power over wireless?

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Friday, August 22, 2008
I know at least a couple industry smarty-pantses who use power-over-wireless as a joke, seeing if they can find a sucker. Well, who's a sucker now? This is real, this is cool, and this is definitely a game-changer if the technology is made widely available. Except maybe it's still a ways off? It's hard to tell from the article. At one point, they're talking about how they're wirelessly powering a lamp right in front of the audience, and then we get this part, which is very exciting: "Initially it eliminates chargers and eventually it eliminates batteries all together," analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group said of Intel's wireless power system. "That is potentially a world changing event. This is the closest we've had to something being commercially available in this class." Sign me up! But wait. Smith says Intel's wireless power system is still in an early stage of development and much research remains before it can be brought to market. Rattner spoke of technological transformations he expects by the year 2050. Huh? 2050? I'll be really old by then. Aren't we supposed to have flying cars that run on hydrogen by then, and nuclear batteries that run forever? That's what Isaac Asimov promised me. But maybe the article is just poorly written, and the transformations the writer is referring to are different than this wireless power stuff. I'll keep you posted.

Guiliani keynotes ISC East and elsewhere

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Thursday, August 21, 2008
So I was wondering this week, when Reed Exhibitions announced that former N.Y. Mayor Rudy Guiliani would deliver the keynote address at this year's (Oct. 29-30) ISC East, which personality Guiliani would be sporting: his super conservative primary personality which we saw during his spectacularly disastrous bid for the Republican nomination? or, since we'll be in Manhattan, the more socially liberal personality we saw during his tenure as mayor of New York? My guess, of course, given the security audience at this event, would be the former. Either way, Reed made a good choice, and I think people will be interested to hear and see Guiliani at ISC East. This morning I saw that we'll get a pre-ISC East view of the mayor speechifying at this year's Republican National Convention in Minnesota. It was announced this morning that he'll be keynoting there as well. Here's a CBS story with a Q & A with Guiliani about the presidential race and his RNC keynote.

Clear scores $44.4 Million in funding

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Thursday, August 21, 2008
Well, I guess the money people aren't too upset about that laptop snafu: Clear announced today $44.4 Million in venture funding. Apparently, some rich people think this Registered Traveler thing has legs. I'm not totally sure I agree, after having covered many of the baby steps the various contenders have taken. This is the part that's supposed to convince me it all makes sense: Clear's annual membership fee is $128. The Clear concierge service alone has made Clear lanes 30 percent faster than regular security lanes and Clear plans to improve that even more through enhanced technology which, once approved by the US Government, could allow cardholders not to have to remove shoes, outer garments or laptops as they pass through the security checkpoint. Clear was recently featured in a Conde Nast Traveler story which reported that there are an estimated 8 million fliers who take at least two trips per month and who are Clear's target market. Okay, let's do a little math, then. Say there are 8 million people who might be interested (I sort of doubt it, actually, since 8 million is almost 3 percent of the entire U.S. population, and that seems high to me). I would count myself among them, even though I don't travel quite that often. However, I doubt I will be joining Clear anytime soon because I find it highly unlikely my home airport, Portland, Maine, is going to get a Clear lane anytime soon. Maybe I'm wrong. Either way, Clear is going to have to up its amount of airports with lanes in a major way. They say it takes about $1 million per lane, per airport. So, to get a large percentage of those 8 million people interested, they're probably going to blow all of that venture funding on 50 or so new lanes, not to mention all the registration stations with iris technology, etc., they need to buy, which will probably run them another $1 million per airport. So, say, ballpark, they need about $100 million to get to the point where they've got great U.S. coverage (but still probably not at Portland or Hilton Head airport, or very many regional airports at all). Now, what's the cash flow? $128 per member, per year? Say a quarter of that 8 million people make the plunge (that would be a huge amount to do it - people are cheap, and security really isn't that bad). And say 60 percent of that half go with Clear and not the FLO Alliance (who are doing some interesting things with non-airport security access). That would leave you with 1.2 million buyers of a $128 membership each year, in the best-case scenario. So that's a pot of about $150 million. And what's the net margin on a membership, after you've paid people to man the lanes and staff the registration stations and made the cards and done the paperwork and advertised, etc.? In a perfect world, maybe 20 percent? So, you're bringing in about $30 million in net income each year in the very best case scenario, which couldn't possibly be realized for about two years (and that would be very quick)? And you've got to pay back $44 million in investment, so say $60 million minimum, at some not too distant date? And you've got to make $100 million in investments to even get to that $30 million in net income? I don't know. Back of the envelope, it just doesn't make that much sense to me. Maybe there are a bunch of sponsorships they could sell - advertising in the lanes and partnerships with hotels and car rental joints, etc. But I think the average security experience is going to get better, not worse, as fewer people will fly now that it's more expensive and those fewer people flying will be more experienced. Plus, the laptop and shoes and jacket things will go away fairly soon for most people as technology is developed. So I'm not even sure they would ever get a quarter of their target market to sign up. Maybe I'm wrong. Steven Brill is a smart guy, and the investors aren't dummies, but it seems like irrational exuberance to me.

The weight of responsibility

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008
This article is a tragic reminder that the security business is often a matter of life and death and that mistakes, even small ones, can have serious consequences. The widow of a firefighter killed in a house fire is suing two security companies, Pinnacle Security of Utah and Security Associates International of Illinois, alleging that the companies mishandled a fire alarm signal that led to the deaths of not only the widow's husband, but another firefighter and the two occupants of the house. Mistakes by an alarm company representative led to a nearly 10-minute delay from the moment the homeowners' fire alarm alerted her to when the first firefighter was dispatched, according to the lawsuit and a 122-page report by the Contra Costa Fire District, reported the Contra Costa Times. Here is more from the Contra Costa story: On the night of the fire, homeowner Grace Moore told a Pinnacle alarm company representative that there was an active fire in the their house over a two-way intercom system. The alarm representative called the Contra Costa fire nonemergency dispatch line and told an operator there was a fire alarm report instead of relaying that she had spoken to the homeowner and was told a fire was burning. The wrong terminology and incorrect phone line sent the call plummeting down the priority list. It's a sad situation all around. From that article it does seem like the operator mishandled the dispatch and highlights a point I made in an earlier blog about the importance of knowing local information as well as having well-trained operators who understand the severity of their job. I will be curious to see how this plays out in court and there could be a potential precedent set determining exactly how liable security companies are for their actions (or mis-actions, I guess).

Get famous "hacking" the Olympics

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Well, this is pretty marginally security related. But it proves that you need to work hard to keep things secret. Remember how everybody questioned the ages of the Chinese gymnasts? Well, somebody googled their way to the truth. I'm totally convinced. Guess maybe the Chinese government should put some official documents behind a firewall or something if they want to keep them secret?

Getting famous hacking RFID

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008
I come across stories about computer nerds hacking RFID and MIFARE systems from time to time and don't think much of them, really, but maybe I should be paying more attention. In the latest case making the rounds of the Internet, three MIT students hacked the MBTA's (that's the T, in Boston) RFID-based ticketing system and made it so they could ride for free - then looked to publish a paper about how they did it. The MBTA sued to stop them, but lost. The thing is, no one else seems to be taking this overly seriously either: Located across the Charles River from Boston, MIT's students are known for their love of pranks -- "hacks" in the school's vernacular -- that show off their engineering skills. Among the most famous was a 2006 incident in which students placed a 25-foot (7.6-meter)-long fire truck atop the dome of a campus library building. So, Reuters is equating hacking into an access control system with practical jokes? Is Reuters so clueless that it thinks a "hack" is a prank? First, just this simple hack, while not a major security threat, could mean a ton of lost revenue for the MBTA if it became widely used. Second, this type of technology is the basis for a number of access control systems. Could this same hack allow access to restricted areas at other locations? Could the wrong people get into sensitive areas for reasons of theft or violence? One of the reasons I tend to not take these things seriously is that I think I naively assume that people smart enough to figure this stuff out aren't likely to engage in terrorist acts or other violent acts. These guys are nerds, right? Nerds are nice. Nerds are benevolent. They're interested in the pursuit of knowledge, not blowing people up. But I actually know some nerds who aren't all that nice. And I'm sure Al Qaeda, etc., have plenty of nerds on staff. I think it's important that we pay more attention to these security vulnerabilities, whether in IT/IP-based systems or otherwise, and not make light of the victims of such "hacks."

What's Apple up to?

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008
So, some of you out there may have been invited to a forum that videoNEXT is putting on at ASIS. At first glance, it's the same-old, same old: "The Future of Video Surveillance." Ho, hum. And look at the panelists: Steve Hunt, CPP, CISSP, Founder, Hunt Business Intelligence I think he's actually cloned himself so he can speak more often. Fredrik Nilsson, General Manager, Americas, Axis Communications Always enjoyable, but you can catch him pretty often, too. John Honovich, PSP, Founder of the popular www.ipvideomarket.info Good new voice in the marketplace, but, hey, you can read what he thinks pretty much any time you want. Peter Michael, P.E., PMP, Principal Engineer, Surveillance, SAIC Don't know this guy at all, but SAIC is a high-technology integrator. Should be pretty interesting if Hunt lets him talk. Christopher C. Gettings, Founder & Chairman, videoNEXT Well, videoNEXT is hosting the thing, so not surprising they're involved. Hmmm, let's see who's moderating this thing: Moderator: Garrett Rice, Sr. Manager, Enterprise Sales, Apple Inc. Um, what? It's funny, because you'd think that computer company Apple would get mad that there's a security firm out there calling themselves Apple Inc. I'd have thought that was a trademark infringement or something. What's that you say? It's the same company. Like the Apple that recently decided it would completely dominate and take over the worlds of recorded music, wireless phones, and cool commercials? Now they're interested in video surveillance? (They're sort of modestly included on videoNEXT's partner page. I've never seen Apple on a security company's partner page.) I hope you people are paying attention. Steve Jobs and Apple do not enter marketplaces half-assedly. They enter marketplaces with the idea of completely changing the way people do business. Let me be clear: The iPod radically changed my life for the better. There are millions and millions of people who agree with that statement. There's no reason Apple couldn't figure out a way to change a security installer's life for the better. Oh, and Apple has $20 billion in cash on hand. $20 billion. Like, just about the same amount as Microsoft. I find Apple's interest in surveillance and security very interesting and I'll have a report with some of the players very soon. In the meantime, if you're looking for a good download to the iPod, grab the new Dr. Dog disc. Bad name, great band.

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