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ESX day 3 (with more blurry photos)

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Friday, June 27, 2008
Whoo-ee. Things are getting started a little later all over the conference today after the damage done on the Club Crawl sponsored by the Tennessee BFAA last night. People were having all kinds of fun listening to music, enjoying frosty beverages, and, of course, riding a mechanical bull. Don't believe me? Here's a bad photo of Security Partners' Kerry Egan trying not to get thrown: But people deserved a night out on the town after yet another day of success here at ESX's first go round. I won't say the exhibit hall, which opened yesterday, was packed. It wasn't. But the conversations people were having were very meaningful, and I think that manufacturers who understood the opportunity best will find the show was well worth their while. I was speaking with Keith Jentoft at RSI Alarm, who's done some very innovative things with supplied marketing materials for dealers, and up walks Wells Sampson from American Alarm. Wells has an opportunity at a car dealership, but he's getting 20 false alarms a night because he's trying to use video motion detection. Can Keith help? Well, sure, since his video is triggered by a motion sensor, not pixel change, etc. Then Keith's showing Wells the marketing materials and talking about how he's getting great leads for dealers that he's sometimes having a hard time converting because he doesn't have enough dealers yet. Hmm, says Wells, got any leads up in Massachusetts? See what I'm saying? Deals are getting done. Whereas at ISC West or ASIS, it's just product pitch after product pitch. I know ESX doesn't aspire to being a "smaller" show, but the really motivated industry members are here, and I've got to think people who are looking to professionalize their staff and become more involved in the industry associations make for prime customers for manufacturers. There may be fewer of them, but the quality is first rate when it comes to integrators and installers I'm looking to talk to for the paper, that's for sure. Also, the first of the two luncheon events I'm hosting went really well. I have a photo of the event, but Blogger's being finicky and not letting me upload it. Maybe I'll add it later. But the gist of the first luncheon was that the industry needs new leaders in the pipeline, and those people under 40 who've already made it to leadership positions have some insight on how we attract good new people. Here are some boiled down recommendations that came out of the event, which featured Mike Meredith of Security Equipment, Brett Bean (not related to Bob Bean) of F.E. Moran, Tony Byerly of Stanley, and the aforementioned Kerry Egan: 1. We need some kind of formalized mentoring program, whether through the associations or at individual companies, so that new people to the industry can quickly get up to speed and feel like a part of something. Byerly and Bean, specifically, said a mentor was vital in keeping them motivated in the industry. 2. Don't be afraid to hire outside the industry. Egan noted when she was looking for an IT professional, she was worried that she'd need someone with security experience, but she hired a talented person without any security background and is happy with the hire. She said many in the industry are reluctant to do that. 3. Train your people once you hire them, and keep training them. The more people feel like their being invested in, the more likely they are to stick around. 4. Try to provide flexibility for younger workers to take care of their kids and lives while still being productive. There's been a lot of talk here at the show about moving to 12-hour shifts, say, and eliminating a day of work, or just providing results-based incentive plans that don't care whether you spend 40 hours a week in the office or not. There was more, but those were the big points. Cris Carter, the keynoter, was great, by the way, as was his brother John, who came up for the Q&A session. They made a major commitment to being more involved in the industry as a whole and you can be sure you'll see their faces more at industry events in the future. Carter made a point of saying he's more proud of Carter Brothers than he is of his football accomplishments, which I think says a lot. Also, props to Mike Keegan of Watchguard Security for showing up to the address in a Cris Carter Vikings jersey and getting it signed. Brilliant. As for the music last night, it was first-rate. No beating around the bush. First, Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives put on a great show in the ESX-sponsored event here at the hotel. For whatever reason, Blogger is liking the cheap cell phone images I've sent to myself, so I can post this blurry photo, too: Unfortunately, Marty opened with his electric pop-country stuff, which was excellent, but not as much my bag. I was eyeing his mandolin behind him, hoping he'd bust it out before I had to leave to see Earl Scruggs, but no such luck. Jim Taylor of Integrator Support told me later that he brought it out for three songs to finish his set and was excellent. Beyond excellent was Earl Scruggs. Wow. What an American icon. Here's a bad photo of his band, which was seven strong and included two of his sons: They played a bunch of my favorites, including "Foggy Mountain Breakdown," probably Earl's most famous song, and even the theme song from the Beverly Hillbillies, which Early wrote and played. They had great set management, putting in slow tunes that allowed the 84-year-old Scruggs to sit down and rest, then bringing him back standing for full-bore treatments of ancient standards like "Soldier's Joy." Scruggs had a good line for that one. His son introduced the tune by saying it goes back to the Civil War era and Earl cracked, "yeah, I wrote it." The show was in Ryman Auditorium, which was the original home of the Grand Ole Opry and, we learned, the site where Earl met his wife. Actually, he noted, it was in the parking lot they met, but he wasn't going to quibble with a good story. The place was amazing, with chuch-pew seating, a large balcony, and some of the best sound I've heard. There were lots of kids and families there, and the opening band, the Infamous Stringdusters, who were outstanding in their own right, noted that their folks were in attendance - they didn't want to miss Earl Scruggs either. So, of course, I'm looking forward to a final day here - I'm hosting another luncheon and then hopping on a plane home - but I'm disappointed in at least one piece of news coming out of the show: Next year, it's in Baltimore. I say we get a petition going to keep it in Nashville.

ESX day 2 (with blurry photos)

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Thursday, June 26, 2008
As everyone in Nashville surely knows, if the room is packed, you've done alright for yourself. By that reasoning, ESX is thus far a wild success. On the first full day of educational programming, every room I was in was standing-room-only, with at least 75 people crowding into the smaller rooms to see speakers, and the larger rooms (generally used by the central station operator crowd) holding more than 125. And people weren't even complaining about having to stand. Wild success, right? The programming was above average, too, just about all of it focused on the business aspect of the industry, with a little technology thrown in for good measure. With everyone picking up CEUs, there was generally a line at the end of each session of people waiting to get their certificates signed. As you'll see in some of the stories we post later today, RMR creation was a big theme of the seminars, with at least three dedicated to that subject alone. Even the session on accounting for alarm companies, led by Michael Marks, head of Sedona Office, spent a lot of time on how to create metrics that let you accurately judge your RMR creation multiple. I've gotta say, if I was opening a business in the security industry, I'd be doing high-end residential and light commercial alarm work, without a doubt. The number of services you can offer for incrementally more money per month is exploding right now, with people getting $30 a sensor per month for GPS, or $10 a month to send out weather alerts, for goodness' sake. That seems like a lot better way to make a buck than trying to navigate the government bid process for a highly technical job that doesn't pay you for two years or something. I doubt it surprises anyone that I'd go for the easier buck... I also enjoyed Eric Pritchard's "art of the deal" presentation. Most of it was pretty common sense (don't try to lie, cheat, or steal in the process of selling/buying accounts, basically), but there was also a good deal of information on which type of corporation to be (S or LLC, definitely not C) and why it's better to buy accounts than to buy whole companies. That's a point I think I've reported incorrectly in the past, implying that stock was bought when really it was just an account transaction. Now I understand why some companies emphasize that they've just purchased the assets of another company. There is a difference. The toughest thing about programming an event like this is the wide range of knowledge base you've got to try to satisfy. In one session, you've have a guy like Pat Egan, who's bought all kinds of account bases and has a fairly large operation (and is a Weinstock award winner, to boot) alongside any number of people who simply manage a small central station (or maybe even just lead a shift at one). How do you make a presentation relevant to both? Though there is a kind of "track" system to the seminars, I think it could be more clearly defined and I think there could be larger differences between a kind of introductory seminar on exploring your first account purchase, say, and a presentation that gets into the finer points of how to rook the IRS on your 10th purchase. That said, I'd have to say the programming is the best I've seen at an industry event. Today, I'm looking forward to seeing keynoter Cris Carter, the most famous person in the security industry, and hitting the Marty Stuart-headlined Big Bash tonight. Oh, and hosting my first luncheon forum. People are ribbing me about the under 40 aspect of the deal, but that's because they're over 40 - I can't trust them anyway. But I promised you blurry pictures. If you don't like at least a little country in your music, don't bother going out in Nashville, because that's pretty much all you're going to hear. Maybe you'll catch a straight blues act, but let's just say all three of the bands we heard last night busted out Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues." These guys know their audience. I was hoping that Layla's Bluegrass Inn would actually have a bluegrass band, but not so much. Instead we got these guys: They were alright (SIA's Richard Chase and Honeywell's Gordon Hope held down the back of the room for a while), but I can assure you that bluegrass bands do not have low-slung electric basses. The frontman looked like he hadn't eaten in about 2 days, so I gave them a big tip. We stayed for a couple of beers and then headed into Robert's, next door, where there was a closer approximation of a bluegrass band (they played a version of "Ida Red" that wasn't half bad), and the version of "Folsom" included two verses of "Pinball Wizard." Pretty sharp. The place has been chosen as one of the best bars in America by Esquire, though, and it wasn't that great. Just another PBR-serving dive with dollar bills on the walls. Whoopty-doo. Finally, we hit Tootsie's, which might be the most famous honky-tonk on the strip and was definitely packed shoulder to shoulder in a way that neither of the other bars were. For the second night in a row, Cher was there, too. She sat in a corner (which happened to be in the window - she wasn't shy about letting people know she was in the house), and didn't fraternize with the hoi polloi. My goodness does she look strange in person. Her face is all smooth like the Newcomers from Alien Nation. I can't say I was blown away by the Tootsie's experience, but it was alright. Cool photos on the walls of all kinds of country legends (and not) and a decent layout that went straight back and up a floor so you could catch a band at either end of the bar, and the one at the back was elevated in a weird way so that the singers were up high but the band was kind of down in a pit, so that for a while I actually thought it was karaoke (the singers weren't that bad, but they weren't that good, either). Anyway, the band at the front was pretty good - lots of George Jones and Merle Haggard (who a lot of people went and saw last night - the CAA's Jerry Lenander said it was great). They could really play their instruments, the frontman had a legitimately professional voice, and they looked like this: That blurriness has to do with the quality of the image sensor in my camera phone and not my level of intoxication, I can assure you. I mean, hey, I'm posting before 8 a.m., so I must have been fairly responsible, right? Tomorrow, look for notes on the exposition floor here and the Earl Scruggs show. I'm pretty geeked about the latter.

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ESX day 1 (with gory photo)

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008
The first annual Electronic Security Expo got off to a rousing start yesterday, as the NBFAA and CSAA have collaborated on a first-rate event in a first-rate (if underappreciated) city. First, the gory stuff. I, and my fellow editors Martha and Leischen, participated in the Tennessee BFAA-sponsored skeet shooting event yesterday, and it was (get ready for it) a blast! Having never shot a shotgun before, I have to say my performance of nailing 28 out of 50 clay pigeons is quite impressive, but I was also impressed with the way Kerry Egan, of Security Partners, handled a gun - her Pennsylvania roots clearly came to the front as she blasted orange discs out of the sky - and the way Dave Koenig, of Capital Fire, was the only other of our group of five to stick out the shooting to the bitter end. Our guide Eddie was right: Never leave shells in the box. Unfortunately, all that shooting left a mark (avert your eyes if pale white skin is abhorrent to you): You should see the damage done to Leischen's shoulder, though. I'm guessing she won't post photos, but will at least post video of her shooting on her blog. The shooting done, everyone headed over to the Country Music Hall of Fame for a reception that would honor the Sara Jackson and Morris Weinstock award winners. It was somewhat ironic that Frank Burke, of USA Alarm Systems, was cajoling us into attending on the bus ride back from the skeet shooting, telling us what high and illustrious awards they were, only to find him stepping up to receive the Jackson award with tear-filled eyes. He was also talking about how great it was to work with his sons, and then there they were to surprise him upon receiving the glass trophy. Great moment for him. Note also that Burke won the CAA's George Weinstock award in 2006. He's piling up the hardware. Also a nice moment for Scott Colby, president of the Louisiana BFAA, who took home the Weinstock award. Unfortunately, his wife is ill and wasn't able to be with him, but you could tell he was extremely moved by the award. The one thing I can unequivocally say for this industry is that it's a tight-knit one. In some ways, it can seem like a throwback to the 1950s, with so much grey-haired, white-male involvement, but you can't deny that people make you feel welcome here and know how to put on a great party. In the Hall of Fame, with the busts of Johnny Cash and Hank Williams and Dolly Parton surrounding us, there was a palpable feeling of good will and friendship that went beyond a business association. I think that's the kind of emotion that doesn't come through during an ISC West or ASIS show and what makes this new ESX event so important.

Sleepover security nightmare

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Monday, June 23, 2008
Sometimes it's fun to laugh at other people's security ignorance, especially when no one gets hurt, but in this case we can only chuckle a little because it sounds like this dad just got lucky. This article (which was sent to me by a reader, and yes, I do have readers) is about a father who was awoken at 3 a.m. one morning by two police officers standing in his bedroom. Turns out this dad wasn't so vigilant about security and not only was the front door left ajar, but so was the garage door AND he had left the keys in the ignition of his truck. The police officers were apparently conducting a "public service campaign to remind residents to secure their homes to prevent thefts" and this was likely one of the grossest lack of security these officers had seen (hence it making the local paper). Oh, the article also notes the TV was left on, but that was probably because this dad was hosting a sleepover and there were four kids under the age of seven sleeping in the living room, so not only was he endangering his own kids, he was also risking someone else's offspring. The father said he feels violated by the police officer's intrusion, but he's probably just pissed that he got publicly outed as an incompetent parent. Further indication of this guy's character is in the paragraph noting that the kids were too scared to wake him up. Chances are that would be true of a lot of kids (a steadfast childhood rule is that you don't wake dad), but they were likely scared to death when two adults appeared in their living room after they had spent all night watching Freddie Krueger go on a murdering spree or whatever horror movies kids are watching these days. I bet those kids are catching some flak at school, too, since they'll never host a sleepover again, as no sensible parent would ever let their kid stay the night there. Poor kids, they can't help it if their dad is completely and utterly security-challenged.

Changing the home security equation

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Monday, June 23, 2008
A new law in Ohio changes the home burglary dynamic more than a little. Before, residents who defended themselves in a potentially deadly way had to prove they feared for their lives. Now, burglars have to prove they didn't intend to harm the residents. Um, hard to prove you weren't going to harm anybody from six feet underground. Normally, I'd side with the crowd who argues that if you don't want to get shot, don't break into anyone's house, but I do sympathize with the great number of meth addicts, for instance, that clearly aren't in their right mind when they commit crimes, and I know that desperate children make extremely bad decisions. Further, this article notes that the Ohio Chiefs of Police don't agree with the law change either. Here are some good points: Galion police Chief Brian Saterfield said he sees no need for the law. "I don't see how it wasn't working," he said. "I hate to say this creates a free-for-all, but it changes the scenarios. (Before) you had to be in fear for your safety or physical harm (to use deadly force). Now you can think it. I'm not sure that's a good thing." ... Local defense attorney Ralph Bove said there are different kinds of burglaries, that they don't always involve a masked man entering a house under the cloak of darkness. "In juvenile court, you have kids going through windows in the middle of the day," he said. "I am concerned about how homeowners would view that and if they would feel they could do whatever they wanted." When you couple this kind of law with the nascent push for self-monitored systems, I think you start getting into a weird place. So, you get a video clip of some kid breaking into your house. You're at work, just down the street. You're angry, because this is the second time this month someone's broken in, so you grab your gun. Arriving home, you sneak in the door and corner the kid. He's scared and lashes out. Bam. Maybe that's overstating things, but I think law enforcement should be left to professionals whenever possible and a law like this shifts public thought in a meaningful way, not necessarily for the better.

More on gov's mansion

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Friday, June 20, 2008
Texas Department of Public Safety officials talked about their investigation into the blaze at the Texas governor's mansion yesterday and said: Only 13 of 20 security cameras were working; although two troopers were requested to be on duty, only one had been assigned; the trooper on duty was not adequately trained to monitor the security system. He happened to be looking away from the monitor, using a computer, when the arsonist torched the mansion.

Untitled

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Friday, June 20, 2008
I'll probably post once or twice more before I head down for ESX in Nashville, but I thought I'd take some time today to get you people pumped up for the trip (assuming you're going - and why wouldn't you?). Basically, this is the first major event on the security calendar that's been in a city I actually care to go to since I've been working here at the paper. So far, I've been here for shows and events: Las Vegas: horrible, horrible place where I get into way too much trouble. San Diego: nice weather and all, but pretty boring as a city goes. New York: obviously, great place to visit, but I go there all the time, so not as cool a place to go on business. Chicago: if PSA-TEC was actually in Chicago, this might be cool, but it's a 45-minute drive outside the city. West Palm Beach: is there anyone under the age of 50 that actually goes there for anything other than business? Dallas: actually, it's getting better and better, but pales in comparison to Austin, so seems lamer than it is. Baltimore: whoops! Didn't actually go there ... Orlando: especially fun in June! Glad I'm not going to that NRF show ... Miami: see above, although Americas Fire & Security makes it even better and runs the show in July! DC: unless you're a history junky, not much to do there and it's kind of hard to get around. So, you get my point. Hence, me being totally geeked to go to Nashville, aka music city, where there's a club on every corner and a band in every window. Let me expound. First of all, people who aren't excited about Marty Stuart playing the Big Bash the NBFAA and CSAA are putting on need to watch the following. Marty rips up the guitar with Earl Scruggs and Roy Husky (and he's even better on the mandolin). I have no idea what he'll be playing at the Bash, whether new-school electric guitar country or his bluegrass stuff, but I'm hoping for the latter. Then there's the pub/clubs. If you want to know what's going on, the Nashville Scene is the place to look. It's an arts paper that really knows what's up. Check all the music listings here. Some things that look appealing: Tues., June 24, Grand Old Opry Cherryholmes, fantastic bluegrass band, headline the show. Steep at $36, but worth it. Wed., June 25, Ryman Auditorium Merle Haggard. Seriously. He's getting a bit up there in years, but he's a classic. Wed., June 25, 3rd and Lindsley the Wooten Brothers. Victor Wooten has been Bela Fleck's sideman on the bass for years and these guys together bring the funk. Thurs., June 26, Wildhorse Saloon the Gin Blossoms. I'm actually kind of amazed this band is still together, but for power pop, they do a nice job. Thurs., June 26, Ryman Auditorium Earl Scruggs! The father of modern banjo playing teams with the Infamous Stringdusters. If you've to a chance to get away for this, do it. Fri., June 27, Exit/In Same as it Ever Was, a Tribute to the Talking Heads. There's actually a lot of great music happening tonight, including Marty Stuart playing with Trace Adkins, but I love the Talking Heads, and these kinds of tributes are usually really good, with a bunch of pro musicians playing their favorite band. So, Thursday's looking like a barn burner, hitting the Big Bash with Marty at 5, then jetting over to Ryman to catch old Earl, then teaming up with the TBFAA for the pub crawl. Whoo! That's a long night.

Monitoring in the spotlight

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Thursday, June 19, 2008
So, for those loyal readers out there who were likely missing my posts last week, I was off partying at Bonnaroo in Tennessee. That's right, I drove from Portland, Maine to Manchester, Tennessee despite current gas prices just so I could hang out with thousands of people under the blazing Tennessee sun. The music was great, the people watching even better. I was seriously 50 yards from Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam under the clear night sky and a nearly full moon. It was an amazing moment. Funny though, I'll be heading back to Tennessee, this time to Nashville for the ESX show, but for that trip my expenses will be on the company card, so hopefully I won't be sleeping in a tent and paying $10 for a 15-minute cold shower (I mean, really). Anyway, it's back to work and our August edition is all about central stations and the monitoring industry. So, as the monitoring maven, it's my responsibility to get all you folks to contribute our Source Book listing which will be a resource for dealers and integrators to find providers of contract monitoring services. And, it's free. Yup, that's right. If you're a contract or third-party monitoring station, follow the link to fill out a survey so you can be included: Central Station Survey link The deadline is June 26, so no procrastination.

Is this exhibit for you?

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Are your summer travels taking you to Washington DC? Do you like modern architecture and cool furniture? And most important, do you like to do security-related stuff while on vacation? If you answered yes to ALL these questions--or just the first two, I have just the activity to add to your itinerary. It's a new Eero Saarinen exhibit showing now through the end of August at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. Saarinen designed some classic modern furniture such as the womb chair, but this show is focused on his architecture. Here are some fun examples of that: the TWA terminal at JFK (does it say flight to you?) and the St. Louis arc, the "gateway to the West." Here's the security-related part: the global sponsor of this exhibit is Assa Abloy. I like any company that supports the arts like this, so I'll include the promotional blurb that Assa Abloy sent me: "Like Saarinen we too believe in utilizing the newest technologies, materials and aesthetics available in our products to enhance the safety, security and the “living” experience for the people who inhabit buildings. We believe that all of a building’s parts, including the door opening, contribute to this bigger experience especially as seen in technology and access control." And here's the National Building Museum's Web site with more information.

Sex and security systems

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008
LaserShield's massive marketing campaign hit daytime television audiences recently when it was featured on The View as one of several products promoted by Dr. Gadget (you know, that slightly crazed, high energy product promotion guy). Here's the YouTube link: Other than the star power of Dr. Gadget, I'm sure the ratings for that particular episode was fairly high as Sarah Jessica Parker was the featured guest and the Sex and the City movie was hot! So now stay-at-home moms, retired folks and Sarah Jessica Parker fans all over the country will be wanting a LaserShield system. Or that's the hope anyway. And, in typical daytime talk show fashion, everyone in the audience went home with a LaserShield system, too. LaserShield is all over the place lately. I heard an advertisement on XM Radio a few weeks ago and I'm sure they're using all sorts of other advertising channels, too. You don't typically hear about security in your day-to-day activities, but then again, LaserShield isn't exactly typical.

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